Alien Hunters Still Thinking Inside The Box (or Dyson Sphere)

As those who are familiar with my writing already know, I have long thought that the SETI program was highly illogical, for a number of reason, some of which are outlined here and here.

To summarize, it is the height of anthropomorphic and unimaginative thinking to assume that ET will evolve just like we did and develop radio technology at all.  Even if they did, and followed a technology evolution similar to our own, the era of high-powered radio broadcasts should be insignificant in relation to the duration of their evolutionary history.  In our own case even, that era is almost over, as we are moving to highly networked and low-powered data communication (e.g. Wi-Fi), which is barely detectable a few blocks away, let alone light years.  And even if we happened to overlap a 100-year radio broadcast era of a civilization in our galactic neighborhood, they would still never hear us, and vice versa, because the signal level required to reliably communicate around the world becomes lost in the noise of the cosmic microwave background radiation before it even leaves the solar system.

So, no, SETI is not the way to uncover extraterrestrial intelligences.

Dyson Sphere

Some astronomers are getting a bit more creative and are beginning to explore some different ways of detecting ET.  One such technique hinges on the concept of a Dyson Sphere.  Physicist Freeman Dyson postulated the idea in 1960, theorizing that advanced civilizations will continuously increase their demand for energy, to the point where they need to capture all of the energy of the star that they orbit.  A possible mechanism for doing so could be a network of satellites surrounding the solar system and collecting all of the energy of the star.  Theoretically, a signature of a distant Dyson Sphere would be a region of space emitting no visible light but generating high levels of infrared radiation as waste.  Some astronomers have mapped the sky over the years, searching for such signatures, but to no avail.

Today, a team at Penn State is resuming the search via data from infrared observatories WISE and Spitzer.  Another group from Princeton has also joined in the search, but are using a different technique by searching for dimming patterns in the data.

I applaud these scientists who are expanding the experimental boundaries a bit.  But I doubt that Dyson Spheres are the answer.  There are at least two flaws with this idea.

First, the assumption that we will continuously need more energy is false.  Part of the reason for this is the fact that once a nation has achieved a particular level of industrialization and technology, there is little to drive further demand.  The figure below, taken from The Atlantic article “A Short History of 200 Years of Global Energy Use” demonstrates this clearly.


In addition, technological advances make it cheaper to obtain the same general benefit over time.  For example, in terms of computing, performing capacity per watt has increased by a factor of over one trillion in the past 50 years.  Dyson was unaware of this trend because Moore’s Law hadn’t been postulated until 1965.  Even in the highly corrupt oil industry, with their collusion, lobbying, and artificial scarcity, performance per gallon of gas has steadily increased over the years.

The second flaw with the Dyson Sphere argument is the more interesting one – the assumptions around how humans will evolve.  I am sure that in the booming 1960s, it seemed logical that we would be driven by the need to consume more and more, controlling more and more powerful tools as time went on.  But, all evidence actually points to the contrary.

We are in the beginning stages of a new facet of evolution as a species.  Not a physical one, but a consciousness-oriented one.  Quantum Mechanics has shown us that objective reality doesn’t exist.  Scientists are so frightened by the implications of this that they are for the most part in complete denial.  But the construct of reality is looking more and more like it is simply data.  And the evidence is overwhelming that consciousness is controlling the body and not emerging from it.  As individuals are beginning to understand this, they are beginning to recognize that they are not trapped by their bodies, nor this apparent physical reality.

Think about this from the perspective of the evolution of humanity.  If this trend continues, why will we even need the body?

Robert Monroe experienced a potential future (1000 years hence), which may be very much in line with the mega-trends that I have been discussing on “No sound, it was NVC [non-vocal communication]! We made it! Humans did it! We made the quantum jump from monkey chatter and all it implied.” (“Far Journeys“)

earthWe may continue to use the (virtual) physical reality as a “learning lab”, but since we won’t really need it, neither will we need the full energy of the virtual star.  And we can let virtual earth get back to the beautiful virtual place it once was.

THIS is why astronomers are not finding any sign of intelligent life in outer space, no matter what tools they use.  A sufficiently advanced civilization does not communicate using monkey chatter, nor any technological carrier like radio waves.

They use consciousness.

So will we, some day.

Is Cosmology Heading for a Date with a Creator?

According to a recent article in New Scientist magazine,  physicists “can’t avoid a creation event.”  (sorry, you have to be a subscriber to read the full article.)  It boils down to the need to show that the universe could have been eternal into the past.  Not eternal and there needs to be a creator.  Even uber-atheist Stephen Hawking acknowledges that a beginning to the universe would be “a point of creation… where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.”

Apparently, there are three established theories for how to get around the idea of a creator of the big bang.  But cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin demonstrated last week how all of those theories now necessitate a beginning:

1. The leading idea has been the possibility that the universe has been eternally expanding (inflating).  Recent analysis, however, shows that inflation has a lower limit preventing it from being eternal in the past.

2. Another possibility was the cyclic model, but Vilenkin has shot a hole in that one as well, courtesy of the second law of thermodynamics.  Either every cycle would have to be more disordered, in which case after an infinite number of cycles, our current cycle should be heat death (it isn’t), or the universe would have to be getting bigger with each cycle, implying a creation event at some cycle in the past.

3. The final hope for the atheistic point of view was a lesser known proposal called the cosmic egg.  But Vilenkin showed last year that this could not have existed eternally due to quantum instabilities.

Is science slowly coming to terms with the idea of an intelligent designer of the universe?  The evidence is overwhelming and Occam’s Razor points to a designer, yet science clings to the anti-ID point of view as if it is a religion.


Could Gliesians be Watching Baywatch?

[Note: Click here for a more thorough treament of the viability of SETI and the (high) likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence]

Gliese 581g is an earthlike planet orbiting the star Gliese 581, 20.3 light years away from us.  Discovered just last week by astronomer Steven Vogt, he announced that the odds of life on this exosolar planet are 100%.  That’s a pretty bold statement, even for a planet thought to be in a habitable zone of a star a little smaller and cooler than our sun.  Most astronomers are attributing his statement to being a little overexcited with his discovery.  But it got me wondering – if there were technologically advanced lifeforms on this planet, is it possible that they would be able to receive our radio or TV transmissions?  And, remember that when Gliese 581g might be receiving from us today is what we broadcast 20.3 years ago, such as episodes of Baywatch.  Alternatively, can we hear them, as SETI has been attempting to do for the past 30 or so years?

As it turns out, there isn’t much to worry about, unless we decide to send a very high-powered narrow directional message to a planet that just happens to be at the perfect level of technology which also just happens to have outpaced their social evolution dramatically.  Not likely there either, for reasons that I will discuss in an upcoming post (sorry, Stephen Hawking).

Here’s the deal.  Let’s take a typical TV broadcasting station operating 50000 watts on Channel 2.  Because radio waves attenuate proportional to the square of the distance from the transmitter, this signal will be pretty miniscule by the time it gets to the edge of our solar system.  In fact, by the time this 6 MHz wide signal at 60 MHz gets about 1.4E+11 km away, its power density will be at the same level as the corresponding power density of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation in that frequency band (feel free to check my math – it’s a little rusty).  In addition, the signal will be an indecipherable mess because it will be intermixed with all of the other TV stations broadcasting on Channel 2.  So how far out exactly is 1.4E+11 km?  Turns out this is past Pluto, but barely the beginning of the Oort cloud in our own Solar system, or .015 light years.  That is .00075 of the distance to Gliese 581, across which distance the signal will be attenuated by a further factor of 1.8 million and CMB background noise will completely swamp out the signal.

So, zero chance of Gliesians kicking back and enjoying an interstellar episode of Baywatch.  And not much chance of us hearing accidental radio waves generated from their planet, even assuming they followed a similar technological evolution at the exact same time as us.  Sorry, SETI.
 radioastronomy200 baywatch200

Your Universe is Different than Mine

We used to be taught that the universe was everything there is.  But, over the past few years, it is beginning to have a new meaning.  The universe is now meant to be everything that we can possibly see or experience.  Let me illustrate with a story.  Imagine our protagonist Jack happily living in his little universe.  His astronomer buddies have used their most advanced equipment to peer into the deepest depths of space and have detected things a few billion light years away in all directions.  There could be things beyond that “practical observational horizon”, but we are limited by the state of the art of equipment in the year 2010.

However, there is another horizon beyond “a” which denotes the point at which it would be impossible to see beyond, due to the speed of light.  The light from objects at that distance has been traveling toward us since the beginning of the big bang.  This is our theoretical horizon, beyond which we can never see or detect anything no matter how advanced our equipment becomes.  It should be noted, that this statement presumes that nothing travels faster than the speed of light and even if it did, we would not be able to detect it.  Despite a century of hard evidence supporting Einstein’s famous assumption regarding the limitations of the speed of light, there are a number of physicists who don’t rule out the possibility that this barrier could someday be broken.  But that’s a topic for another post.  Setting such arguments aside, there is then a “theoretical observational horizon,” also known as the Hubble Volume, which is generally accepted to be about 42 billion light years in diameter.  But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing beyond the Hubble Volume.  In fact, the inflationary theory of the big bang allows for quite a bit of the material from the big bang to exist beyond that horizon because the inflationary period was superluminal. (We were just saying…?)  But, for all practical purposes, the Hubble Volume contains all that you can ever know about.  By convention, astronomers call that “The Universe.”

By definition, a Universe depends on what is identified to be its center.  So, for example, Jill, standing on a planet 1 light year away from Jack, actually lives in a slightly different Universe.  One which has one horizon one light year further away from Jack’s in the opposite direction and another horizon one light year closer than Jack’s in the direction toward Jack.  So Jack has some stuff in his Universe that Jill doesn’t have and vice versa.


The choice of a light year between Jack and Jill’s positions was arbitrary.  They could be standing next to each other and still have slightly different Hubble Volumes.  In fact, when you get down to it, we all live in different Universes.

Royal Astronomers Figure Out What Sci-Fi Writers Have Known for Years

Last month, Lord Martin Rees, the president of Britain’s Royal Society and “astronomer to the Queen of England”, hosted the National Science Academy’s first conference on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, which was attended by such scientific illuminaries as physicist Paul Davies, SETI founder and astrophysicist extraordinaire Frank Drake.  And the resulting sound bite of the week is “World-Leading Physicist Says ‘They Could Exist in Forms We Can’t Conceive'”?

Really?  That’s it?  That’s news?  That’s what we get from the world’s leading thinkers on cosmology?

Sorry for my tone, but it’s about time these guys got caught up with science fiction writers from 50 years ago.  Check out a 1959 movie called “Invisible Invaders.”  Or at a minimum, take Carl Sagan’s brainchild from the late 70’s, “Contact” (film treatment in 1979, book in 1985, and movie in 1997) featuring a highly advanced extraterrestrial race who can appear to us in any form they want.  I’m sure there were many other writers who considered that a civilization advanced enough to cross millions of light years of space, might be advanced enough to learn how to cloak.  I certainly pondered that idea as a kid.

No doubt, these guys are a bright bunch.  But not necessarily seeing the forest for the trees.  Take SETI, for example.

We tend to assign attributes of our own civilization and our own values to other potential civilizations.  But there is really no reason to assume that once life forms on a particular planet that it will evolve into a life form that is eager to communicate.  One could argue that the intelligence of dolphins, elephants, and humans are roughly equivalent (turn the clock back 50,000 years and look at what we assume about the behavior of each species; is there much difference?)  We don’t see dolphins building SETI dishes.  Using Drake’s own equation for counting the number of ET civilizations that we might be able to communicate with, we need to consider the duration of a civilization communicating with electromagnetic radiation in the radio spectrum.  One can make the assumption that it might be similar to ours and in the range of 50-100 years.  But this is a big assumption.  Maybe ET modulates magnetic fields, or seismic waves, maybe they got fully wired for broadband internet before discovering radio wave propagation, maybe they communicate via telepathy, or entanglement, or some form of communication that is completely unknown to us.  Expecting them to have a period of radio wave technology that just happens to overlap ours is probably quite unlikely.  When I made reasonable assumptions for the factors in the Drake Equation in my book “The Universe – Solved!“, I got the result of .08 overlapping radio wave civilizations per galaxy, making it unlikely that SETI will find anything before funding dries up.

On the other hand, modifying the Drake Equation to estimate the likelihood of ET visitation, I came to the following conclusion: If 50% of intelligent life forms can make it to Type III status, there should be thousands of migrating/colonizing/traveling species in our neighborhood.  On the other hand, would they even care about us?  When we take a walk through a field, do we attempt to communicate with the ants in an anthill?  If the field is ready to be leveled in order to make room for a housing development, do we attempt to save the ants?  No.  Why not?  Because they are so far beneath our intellect level or our perceived level of net worth, that such endeavors are simply not worth our time.  Now imagine what a Type II or III civilization might be like.  Consider how far we have progressed (some might say, regressed) as a society since the hunter/gatherer stage of human evolution 10,000 years ago.  Further, consider that we are accelerating in this progression exponentially.  So, for all practical purposes, it is impossible to even imagine where we might be in 10,000 years.  Telepathic communication, control of time and space, simultaneous access to parallel universes, full merge with AI?  Some futurists predict these things in hundreds of years, not 10,000.  Furthermore, since 100 million years represents less than 1% of the lifetime of our galaxy, it is not unrealistic to assume that Type III civilizations may be 100’s of millions of years advanced compared to our own society.  Given the foregoing discussion, it is easy to make an argument that it is highly unlikely that ETs are zipping about in our atmosphere in vehicles that appear to be no more than 50 years ahead of our technology (they supposedly crash, after all).  The only possible “True ET” explanation is that extremely advanced species either intentionally appear in a form that makes us realize that they are here (not unlike the father figure in the Carl Sagan movie “Contact”) or they don’t appear to us at all.  The above section was taken from my book and written in 2007.

Lord Martin Rees, you should have saved yourself the expense of a conference and picked up a copy of “Contact” and “The Universe – Solved!


Just when you thought Physics couldn’t get any Stranger

Tachyons, entanglement, cold fusion, dark matter, galactic filaments.  Just when you thought physics couldn’t get any stranger…

– THE VERY COLD: Fractional Quantum Hall Effect: When electrons are magnetically confined and cooled to a third of a degree above absolute zero (See more here), they seem to break down into sub-particles that act in synchronization, but with fractional charges, like 1/3, or 3/7.

– THE VERY HIGH PRESSURE: Strange Matter: The standard model of physics includes 6 types of quarks, including the 2 (“up” and “down”) that make up ordinary matter.  Matter that consists of “strange” quarks, aka Strange Matter, would be 10 times as heavy as ordinary matter.  Does it exist?  Theoretically, at very high densities, such as the core of neutron stars, such matter may exist.  A 1998 space shuttle experiment seems to have detected some, but repeat experiments have not yielded the same results.

– THE VERY LARGE DIMENSIONAL: Multidimensional Space: String theories say that we live in a 10-dimensional space, mostly because it is the only way to make quantum mechanics and general relativity play nicely together.  That is, until physicist Garrett Lisi came along and showed how it could be done with eight dimensional space and objects called octonions.  String theorists were miffed, mostly because Lisi is not university affiliated and spends most of his time surfing in Hawaii.

– THE VERY HOT: Quark-Gloun Plasma: Heat up matter to 2 trillion degrees and neutrons and protons fall apart into a plasma of quarks called quark-gluon plasma.  In April of 2005, QGP appeared to have been created at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).

My view on all this is that it is scientific business as usual.  100 years ago, we lived in a smaller world; a world described solely by Newtonian Mechanics, our ordinary everyday view of how the world works.  Then, along came relativity and quantum mechanics.  Technological advances in laboratory equipment and optics allowed us to push the limits of speed and validate Relativity, which ultimately showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Relativity at slow speeds.  Similarly we pushed the limits of probing the very small and validated Quantum Mechanics, which showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Quantum Mechanics at large scales.  In the 1960’s, we pushed the limits of heat and energy, discovered  and found that our Quantum Mechanical / Relativistic Theory of the world was really just an approximation at low temperatures of a larger theory that had to encompass Quantum Chromodynamics.  Now, we are pushing the limits of temperature, or the slowing down of particles, and discovering that there must be an even larger theory that describes the world, that explains the appearance of fractional charges at extremely low temperatures.  Why does this keep happening and where does it end?

Programmed Reality provides an explanation.  In fact, it actually provides two.

In one case, the programmers of our reality created a complex set of physical laws that we are slowly discovering.  Imagine a set of concentric spheres, with each successive level outward representing a higher level scientific theory of the world that encompasses faster speeds, higher temperatures, larger scales, colder temperatures, higher energies, etc.  How deep inside the sphere of knowledge are we now?  Don’t know, but this is a model that puts it in perspective.  It is a technological solution to the philosophy of Deism.

The second possibility is that as we humans push the limits of each successive sphere of physical laws that were created for us, the programmers put in place a patch that opens up the next shell of discovery, not unlike a game.  I prefer this model, for a number of reasons.  First of all, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun and interesting to interact with your creations, rather than start them on their evolutionary path and then pay no further attention?  Furthermore, this theory offers the perfect explanation for all of those scientific experiments that have generated anomalous results that have never been reproducible.  The programmers simply applied the patch before anyone else could reproduce the experiment.

Interestingly, throughout the years, scientists have fooled themselves into thinking that the discovery of everything was right around the corner.  In the mid-20th century, the ultimate goal was the Unified Field Theory.  Now, it is called a TOE, or Theory of Everything.

Let’s stop thinking we’re about to reach the end of scientific inquiry and call each successive theory a TOM, or Theory of More.

Because the only true TOE is Programmed Reality.  QED.

Mysteries of the Moon Explained

Think we understand that big object in the night sky?  Guess again.  The moon is full of mysteries, some of which baffle scientists more the more we learn about it.  Admittedly, the source of many of these reports has not been fully verified, and I don’t have the time to do the full research.  But hey, this is a blog and by definition, I can take liberties with my sources and talk about whatever I want, right?

For example, rocks from the moon and the earth reportedly have very different minerals; the earth has high concentrations of iron, the moon does not.  This implies that they were not formed from the same source, nor was the moon once part of the earth, as previously thought.

Some lunar rocks supposedly contain brass (a man-made alloy not found naturally), mica, and pure titanium.  Stranger still, Uranium 236 and Neptunium 237, elemental isotopes not found in nature on earth, have been found in rock samples.

The solar system is known to be about 4.5 billion years old, the oldest earth rock is 3.7 billion years old, yet some lunar rocks have been dated to an ages ranging from 4.5 to 5.3 billion years.  The lunar soil is a billion years older than its rocks and of a different composition.

Instruments left behind from Apollo missions detected a “wind of water” in 1971.

Some moon rocks are magnetized, although the moon has no magnetic fields.  Where did the magnetic property of the rocks come from?

Measurements indicate that the moon is less dense at the core than at the crust, which is counter to conventional “geo-logic.”

No one really understands where the moon came from.  Due to differences in composition, it can’t have come from the earth, nor from the same material from which the earth was created. Impacts on the moon (meteors or artificial objects crashed into the surface) have resulted in the measurement of a “ringing” reverberation, sometimes for hours before dying down.  Such an effect typically only occurs in a hollow object, leading some to speculated that the moon is hollow at its core.  No cosmological process can explain this.

The moon is the only satellite to revolve around its planet in a near circular orbit where one side always faces it.

The moon takes up the same angular size in the sky as the sun; hence the possibility of perfect solar eclipses.  No other planet-moon combination comes close.

Most all other satellites orbit their planet in line with the planets ecliptic plane.  But the moon is off by 5 degrees.  Why?

The scientific community has been struggling with these anomalies for many years.  A little internet research and one can easily find creative scientific explanations for most of the above anomalies. Unfortunately, they do not all peacefully coexist.

Programmed Reality has another explanation.  The moon is simply a programmed part of our reality, like everything else.  Its size was selected to create eclipses, its distance to facilitate exploration and generate tides and resultant tidal tables to make boating courses a little more complex.  Reasons for other anomalies have yet to be discovered, but serve to provoke investigation and discourse.  And, of course, without its beautiful prominence in the sky, we might never have known Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade”, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and the name of Frank Zappa’s daughter.

Moon Apollo mission