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.

Abiotic Oil or Panspermia – Take Your Pick

Astronomers from the University of Hong Kong investigated infrared emissions from deep space and everywhere they look they find signatures of complex organic matter.

You read that right.  Complex organic molecules; the kind that are the building blocks of life!

How they are created in the stellar infernos is a complete mystery.  The chemical structure of these molecules is similar to that of coal or oil, which, according to mainstream science, come from ancient biological material.

So, there seem to be only two explanations, each of which has astounding implications.

One possibility is that the molecules responsible for these spectral signatures are truly organic, in the biological “earth life” sense of the world.  I don’t think I have to point out the significance of that possibility.  It would certainly give new credence to the panspermia theory, suggesting that we are but distant relatives or descendents of life forms that permeate the universe.  ETs are our brothers.

The other possibility is that these molecules are organic but not of biological origin.  Instead, they are somehow created within the star itself.  Given that they resemble organic molecules in coal and oil, it would seem to indicate that if such molecules can be generated non-biologically in stars, and the earth was created from the same protoplanetary disk that formed our sun, oil and coal are probably also not created from biological organic material.

In other words, this discovery seems to lend a lot of support to the abiotic oil theory.

That or we have evidence that we are not alone.

Either way, a significant find.

Buried in the news.

Would it really be that bad to find life in our Solar System?

Nick Bostrom wrote an interesting article for the MIT Technology Review about how he hopes that the search for life on Mars finds nothing. In it, he reasons that inasmuch as we haven’t come across any signs of intelligent life in the universe yet, advanced life must be rare. But since conditions for life aren’t particularly stringent, there must be a “great filter” that prevents life from evolving beyond a certain point. If we are indeed alone, that probably means that we have made it through the filter. But if life is found nearby, like in our solar system, then the filter is probably ahead of us, or at least ahead of the evolutionary stage of the life that we find. And the more advanced the life form that we find, the more likely that we have yet to hit the filter, which implies ultimate doom for us.

But I wonder about some of the assumptions in this argument. He argues that intelligent ETs must not exist because they most certainly should have colonized the galaxy via von Neumann probes but apparently have not done so because we do not observe them. It seems to me, however, that it is certainly plausible that a sufficiently advanced civilization can be effectively cloaked from a far less advanced one. Mastery of some of those other 6 or 7 spatial dimensions that string theory predicts comes to mind. Or invisibility via some form of electromagnetic cloaking. And those are only early 21st century ideas. Imagine the possibilities of being invisible in a couple hundred years.

Then there is the programmed reality model. If the programmers placed multiple species in the galaxy for “players” to inhabit, it would certainly not be hard to keep some from interacting with each other, e.g. until the lesser civilization proves its ability to play nicely. Think about how some virtual reality games allow the players to walk through walls. It is a simple matter to maintain multiple domains of existence in a single programmed construct!  More support for the programmed reality model?…

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