He’s done: Rebecca Watson takes on Avi Loeb


Loeb gets a quick filleting from Rebecca.

I know exactly how Loeb would respond, if he were to even notice, because he posted a rant 4 days ago.

The culture of superficial toxicity poses an existential threat to curiosity-driven innovation in science. This culture is fueled by social-media mobs, whose members use the megaphone of blogs and tweets to amplify hate towards professional scientists who are following the traditional practice of evidence-based research. Why would the critics do that? Because of jealousy at the public’s attention to novel ideas.

One might naively argue that there is nothing to worry about because scientific innovation was always about “survival of the fittest” in the realm of ideas. However, the professional test of innovative ideas is empirical evidence, and following it requires extensive work. In contrast, the opinion of superficial critics is easier to come by. It involves raising ash and claiming that they do not see anything. Toxic critics often use personal attacks to nip innovation in the bud. They poison the well of novel ideas by creating fear among young scholars who, as a result of witnessing trauma, hesitate to come up with new ideas because of the damaging repercussions to their job prospects.

Snrk. The traditional practice of evidence-based research and empirical evidence — things Loeb does not have. Evidence always has a context and a theoretical foundation. You can’t just pull something out of your ass, hold it up, and claim you’ve found evidence for your astonishing radical idea, and that’s basically what he’s got: he pulled up some tiny metallic spheres from the sea floor, and is claiming that they came from a meteor that wasn’t even of extrasolar origin, and he can’t even say with confidence that they came from a meteor at all, especially given that expert analysis suggests that it’s from terrestrial coal ash.

Man, I suspect that every night Loeb goes to bed angry and has a tough time getting to sleep because he’s busy building resentful retorts in his head.

Comments

  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    “Why would the critics do that? Because of jealousy at the public’s attention to novel ideas.”

    Right, their criticism has nothing to do with the veracity of your claims or the strength of what you laughably call “evidence.” They just hate you because they’re big, meany, poopy-heads who envy all your cool, neato ideas.

    Also, novel? Loons like you have been babbling about ancient aliens for decades. They’ve all been debunked just as easily as your bullshit. It’s not new. It’s just sad and disgusting that anyone still takes this pseudoscientific nonsense seriously.

    Face it Avi, you’re no Galileo. Hell, you’re not even Fleishmann and Pons!

  2. fusilier says

    @Akira MacKenzie #1

    Face it Avi, you’re no Galileo. Hell, you’re not even Fleishmann and Pons!

    VERY well said, very well said. (I wish to steal that, if you don’t mind.)

    fusilier

    James 2:24

  3. raven says

    The culture of superficial toxicity poses an existential threat to curiosity-driven innovation in science.

    Avi Loeb is safe then.

    He isn’t a curiostiy-driven innovator in science.
    He is a routine, generic crackpot.

    What he is doing here is what every crackpot does.
    He is claiming to be persecuted.

    No Avi, you aren’t being persecuted.
    You are being called out for presenting idiotic ideas without any evidence whatsoever and expecting people who know as much and usually a lot more than you, to take you seriously.

    Seriously, you are not a good scientist doing good science here. We aren’t persecuting you. We are laughing at you.

  4. raven says

    However, the professional test of innovative ideas is empirical evidence, and following it requires extensive work.

    As PZ states, Avi Loeb has neither empirical evidence nor has he done extensive work on any of his claims.

    The asteroid that passed through our solar system has zero data that says it is an alien spaceship, derelict or not.

    The same goes for his microspheres from the deep ocean.
    There is zero evidence that they are remnants of alien technology and his study wasn’t done well enough to conclude much of anything.
    The most obvious lack was a good control group.

    The same for Permian civilizations that left no trace except that their 250 million year old UFOs are still flying around.
    All the UFO aliens I know, just roll their eyes (they have many) and laugh at him

  5. whywhywhy says

    Man, I suspect that every night Loeb goes to bed angry and has a tough time getting to sleep because he’s busy building resentful retorts in his head.

    You might be giving Loeb too much credit. I think he spends about as much time on his retorts as does on his science.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    The clip of Loeb in some sort of meeting is interesting. Note how he screams “Let me finish! Let me finish!” whenever someone tries to respond, and compare that to the deference he grants other speakers.

    I also thought his comparison to String Theory was interesting. String Theory has been criticized for failing to produce results that can be verified by experiment, so it’s not a good rejoinder to criticism that your claims are exceeding your evidence.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    Loeb is like a lot of pseudoscientific cranks I come across: They really think that their notions of flying saucers and bug-eyed aliens are just too cool NOT to be true.

  8. raven says

    Avi Loeb Says Meteor Analysis Shows It Originated …

    Slashdot https://science.slashdot.org › story › avi-loeb-says-met…
    Sep 17, 2023 — Researchers on the team say the composition of beryllium, lanthanum and uranium, labeled as a “BeLaU” composition, does not match terrestrial …

    Loeb claims his most unusual metallic microspheres are insterstellar because they contain uranium, beryllium, and lanthanum.

    That combination looks more like nuclear fallout from our hydrogen bomb tests near that area.

    .1. Those multi-megaton bombs contained a lot of uranium as the initiator and second stage blasts.
    .2. They also contained beryllium, as a neutron reflector.

    Thermonuclear weapon Wikipedia

    A basic diagram of a thermonuclear weapon.
    Note: some designs use spherical secondaries.
    fission primary stage
    fusion secondary stage
    High-explosive lenses
    Uranium-238 (“tamper”) lined with beryllium reflector
    Vacuum (“levitated core”)
    Tritium “boost” gas (blue) within plutonium or uranium hollow core
    Radiation channel filled with polystyrene foam
    Uranium (“pusher/tamper”)
    Lithium-6 deuteride (fusion fuel)
    Plutonium (“spark plug”)
    Radiation case (confines thermal X-rays by reflection)

    These fusion weapons also used beryllium as a neutron reflector.
    3. Lanthanum is a common fission product of uranium.

    Further testing on those spheres should be able to rule the nuclear fallout idea in or out.

    Castle Bravo

    Castle Bravo’s yield was 15 megatonnes of TNT (63 PJ), 2.5 times the predicted 6 megatonnes of TNT (25 PJ), due to unforeseen additional reactions involving lithium-7,[3] which led to radioactive contamination in the surrounding area.

    One of our tests in the south Pacific, was an accident that released a huge amount of fallout.

  9. says

    However, the professional test of innovative ideas is empirical evidence, and following it requires extensive work.

    Neither of which Loeb has produced, as raven @7 already pointed out.

    In contrast, the opinion of superficial critics is easier to come by.

    In this case, “superficial critics” are all that’s needed to debunk such obviously bogus claims as Loeb is making.

  10. says

    Part of the problem here is psychological: Loeb is unable to distinguish among criticism of — for lack of a better term — individual ideas he has presented (to criticism and laughter), the corpus of ideas he has presented (to criticism and laughter), his standing in a field of scientific inquiry as a consequence of the first two items (mostly laughter), and his worth as an individual (mostly cringing due to inferences from his methods of presentation, as distinct from the content thereof). His proposed “solution” to his perceived Lack of Appreciation of the Great Man is, in essence, to take the ball and go home, all the while proclaiming that his own backyard — and not the public playground — is the only legitimate place to play Calvinball. (And, by the way, his backyard does not have and never will have girl cooties.)

    If this sounds like I’m criticizing Loeb for acting like a third-grade playground bully of minimal skill with the ball — one who can “win” only by redefining the rules midgame — congratulations: You’ve demonstrated greater reading comprehension (and understanding of the scientific method, not to mention basic research skills, see @11) than has Loeb. And hopefully greater maturity, not to mention acceptance of girl cooties.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    “…goes to bed angry…”
    As he deals in fiction, it would be more entertaining if he started to “Drive Angry”. Come on, you can easily be more outrageous than Nicholas Cage.

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    I am writing a science fiction story in which a SETI researcher screams that he should have 1000x funding for SETI research. He gets his finding from a demented billionaire, he discovers aliens; then they come and eat his head.

  13. Doc Bill says

    I guess if your only tool is an alien hammer, everything looks like an alien nail.

    Too bad he doesn’t have a Sonic Screwdriver!

  14. unclefrogy says

    I think the problem is that for him and a lot of the cranks I have ever met it the “HE” or “I” in his work that is the most important when he is just some guy who followed some path that yielded new understanding. That truth was there all the time and the “first guy” is very much less important.
    His thirst for fame and celebrity is apparent but he sounds like he will probably be remembered if at all for his foolish delusional speculations and misinterpretation of his evidence

  15. says

    So…once upon a time there was an “advanced” technological civilization on Earth, ~250 million years ago, and they built a whole bunch of UFOs that just whizzed around on autopilot doing absolutely jaque merde, possibly to keep their impoverished masses distracted from the destruction they were causing their environment, rather than make any sacrifices to stop or reverse said destruction. And because they spent most of their wealth and skill making reliable distracting UFOs, that’s the only artifact of theirs that managed to outlast them. (And maybe those UFOs, plus their makers’ laughable incompetence in the face of easily-avoidable extinction events, convinced any aliens to to think “On second thought, let’s not conquer the Earth — it is a silly place.”)

    There’s no evidence to support such a story, but it does sound kinda plausible, especially if that earlier high-tech species evolved from the same slime-mold that later gave us fascists, advertisers, denialists, Tories and Republicans.

  16. wzrd1 says

    Raging Bee, but wouldn’t that ineptitude explain the invisible crashed all over the place flying saucers too?
    Yeah, I’ll just get my coat…

    OT: Henry Kissinger is dead.

  17. chrislawson says

    ‘Curiosity’ is usually taken to mean wanting to find new things, not making absurd inferences to support pre-existing beliefs.

  18. StevoR says

    Key quote for me comes at around the 9 mins 30 seconds mark of the OP RW video :

    “..rather than say we need we need extraordinary evidence, and then step on the grass and not allow it to grow which is currently the case we need extraordinary evidence but anyone that mentions this possibility is ridiculed by some, er, blogger that doesn’t even write a single paper in a decade.”
    – Avi Loeb to Jill Tarter

    Emphasis added.

    Now as Rebecca Watson pointed out Loeb was being rude and disrespectful and inaccurate about Jill “Ellie Arroway” Tarter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jill_Tarter#Honors_and_awards ) here.

    But also note how Loeb conflates asking for hard evidence – a totally reasonable demand here to meet the Sagan standard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagan_standard) with being ridiculed for raising a possibilty. Two very difefrent things that Loeb seems to be combing ans if they are the same.

    Extraordinary sugegsted possibilities (eg advanced Permian eon intelligences on Earth, Oumuamua being an alien craft) should be considered sure but not exempt from ridicule as Loeb demands. Yes, we do need hard evidence and extraordinary compelling evidence for extraordinary claims – and teh mroe extraordinary the cliam the more extraordinary the evidence required. If you make a silly suggestion that goes against everything we know then, yeah, you are going to need the evidence to back it up and its reasonable to expect people pointing out flaws, criticising and even ridiculing it. The way to convince them is to provide the extraordinary evidence or show good reasons why the suggestion is more plausible and less ridiculuous than it sounds. (“Now befroe you laugh, look at /think about this..)

    Fiabnlly here, “stepping on the grass and not allow it to grow which is currently the case” – is it? I don’t think so. Seems Loeb has been giving a lot of publicity and attention and had his claims discussed and then generally rejected with solid reasons given for that rejection. What exactly is meant by that grass, what species is it and is it a good species that helps the ecosystem and soil or one that’s spiky, weedy, and noxious? Is it, in the Australian context something like Themdea triandra (Kangaroo Grass*) or Chilean Needles grass? (See : https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds/weeds-information/chilean-needle-grass)

    It seems that demanding unquestioned respect and reverence for at best unsupported wild speculations and at worst psueduoscientific cult fantasies is more like the latter than the former.

  19. StevoR says

    Finally here, “stepping on the grass and not allow it to grow which is currently the case” – is it? I don’t think so. Seems Loeb has been giving a lot of publicity and attention and had his claims discussed and then generally rejected with solid reasons given for that rejection.

    For example astronomers did check Oumuamua for radio signals and took seriously the sepoculation about it possibly beingan alien craft :

    “If advanced civilizations do exist elsewhere in our galaxy, we can speculate that they might develop the capability to launch spacecraft over interstellar distances and that these spacecraft may use radio waves to communicate.”

    “Whilst the possibility of this is extremely low, possibly even zero, as scientists it’s important that we avoid complacency and examine observations and evidence without bias.”

    John Curtin Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)

    &

    Professor Tingay said the research team was able to look back through all of the MWA’s observations from November, December and early January, when ‘Oumuamua was between 95 million and 590 million kilometres from Earth.

    “We found nothing, but as the first object of its class to be discovered, `Oumuamua has given us an interesting opportunity to expand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence from traditional targets such as stars and galaxies to objects that are much closer to Earth.

    Source : https://www.icrar.org/interstellar/

    So they took the idea Loeb proposed and looked and found no evidence he was right but rather it was most likely a natural object. But we did check just in case. Is that really what “stepping on the grass and not allow it to grow”looks like?

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