22 by Richard Cooke LOSING THE PLOT Across America in the shadow of the midterms is, or was, an interstellar body of unknown origin that permeated our solar system in 2017. It was detected by chance on the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii, but it was not until November 2018, immediately before the United States midterm elections, that two Harvard scientists released a paper describing the cigar-shaped object’s unique properties. One explanation for the Oumuamua’s unusual flight, they suggested, was that it may be an alien probe or craft originating in a two-starred system of impossible distance. It has been said that America now produces more news than it can consume, so this potential milestone in humanity’s lonely journey through the universe was only half-heralded. Some gee-whiz headlines disappeared into an undifferentiated slurry of events, ever moving, like a spill. If there was any reaction to the UFO at all, it seemed more like embarrassment than wonder. Godlike visitors in the neighbourhood had not seen us at our best. My own trans-civilisational probe was only into the American elections, but it too took on a strange trajectory. The midterms are enormous, too big for one person to take in. They encompass not only the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, but governorships The Oumuamua the monthly — essay © Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images
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