(Discover Magazine) There’s an old saying: “Great discoveries don’t begin with ‘eureka!’; they begin with ‘that’s funny…’” I’ve long attributed the quote to the renowned science popularizer Isaac Asimov. Jason Wright gently corrects me. He has researched the line, he explains, and could find no evidence that Asimov ever spoke or wrote those words. It was a tidy encapsulation of what Wright is about. He is attracted to the peculiar side of science, and he is also a relentless sleuth.
Wright, an astronomer at Penn State, is one of the lead researchers investigating the decidedly peculiar flickering object commonly known as Tabby’s Star or, in the popular press, as the “alien megastructure star.” The star’s behavior is so puzzling that Wright included among the possible explanations that a huge construction project is orbiting around it. (Note that he never suggested aliens were the best explanation, merely that the hypothesis could not yet be ruled out.) Lately Tabby’s Star has been acting up again, providing intriguing new data but, so far, still no definitive answers.