Category Archives: astro-archeology

The Invisible Invaders

From starpod.us:

(STARpod.us) — Imagine this, then pretend it isn’t real.

Professor Stephen Hawking was right, contact with an extraterrestrial alien civilization might be the end of us — but he was wrong about one thing: it is too late to avoid contact with ultra-intelligent extraterrestrial aliens.

They are here, now, and living with you, perhaps within you, in your home.

And their actions are utterly invisible.

Worse still, every human thought, every human response to this invisible terror is already known and is shared across an intergalactic telepathic mind-to-mind based Internet.

The above may sound like a science fiction tale, however the reality may be worse than our most feared imaginings.

To enter into this “Twilight Zone” of darkness we simply accept that the brief history of human scientific and technological evolution points to an ever-greater penetration of the human mind — and the probability, given the unfathomable vastness of eternity currently predicted by our best theories of the universe and beyond, of intelligent minds beyond our own.

Our deepest, inner thoughts and experiences are going to be turned inside out upon the world.

We enter this virtual reality with an understanding that an encounter with alien intelligence beyond our own is something we may not even recognize, if and when it happens.

And according to sources, some who have held high positions within the U.S. government, close encounters have already taken place.

It is this unseen, largely unheard and secret presence that haunts us like a secret society from the great beyond. Probing our actions — even before they are taken — the vast and disturbingly alien mind behind this unstoppable terror of invisible things surrounds us, watching and waiting, like an invisible guardian in a cosmic conspiracy written eons before our time.

The cover story for contact with this deeply disturbing intelligence was written in Hollywood: extraterrestrial biological entities arrived on Earth in flying saucers and maybe they even crashed a disk or two, which were later recovered by the government.

It is this wrap-over story that has been spread by a handful of former CIA-types including the recent revelation by Chase Brandon. According to Brandon, bodies and wreckage (presumably of an extraterrestrial alien origin) were indeed recovered in Roswell, New Mexico. Others have hinted of some deeply buried truth underlying the saucer tales, based upon hearsay from their more senior colleagues in intelligence. And this, so we are told, goes all the way to the top, coming from at least a handful of former CIA Directors.

But is there really any truth in the tales? At a minimum, we should begin our exploration of the unstoppable terror of invisible things with a brief examination of down-to-earth technologies from human sources. We will, for the time being, ignore that other Hollywood-inspired meme claiming the most advanced human technologies of the 21st century owe their existence to reverse engineered extraterrestrial technology.

There are other stories of possible relevance, tales of invisible things that sometimes show their face  in brief and mysterious ways. They sometimes seem to speak to select groups of human beings, in particular scientific types, using a form of direct mind-to-mind communication.

Mental radio has been an essential element of the pop culture for decades, and once again appears to be just another meme invented in the fantasy of a Hollywood writer’s imagination. The situation is further complicated by the countless number of persons who have self-experimented on the core physical structure of the human mind — the brain — by ingesting a wide variety of chemical substances known to create hallucinatory effects.

Invisible things do not always remain visible: there are other stories and sometimes grainy and poorly photographed images of manifestations of unusual phenomena popping in and out of our consensus reality. Other highly questionable reports include observations of ordinary material objects moving under the force of an unseen source. Several persons I know have related to me stories of so-called psychokinetic motion, including one person who told me of a misadventure involving knives that were picked up off of a table and flung with extreme force into the wall. In this particular story, it was reported that the environment changed mysteriously prior to the psychokinetic event, and even space and time seemed distorted in some inexplicable manner.

Psychokinesis was once a concern for American intelligence agencies and their political handlers in Congress (and this is confirmed within the declassified government record). Once upon a time they even feared psychokinetic hacking of America’s missile arsenal launch codes.

Invisibility is no longer bound to the imaginative world of sorcerer Harry Potter. As physicists look deeper into the nature of quantum reality they are gradually realizing new and clever ways around what was once assumed to be insurmountable obstacles. The late Arthur C. Clarke, author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” is often referenced for having said any sufficiently advanced technology appears (on the surface to those who do not understand it) to be magic.

Cracking through the barriers of human ignorance and human fantasy does not come easily. But if we are indeed facing an unstoppable terror of invisible things — real, physical forces under intelligent guidance — then we need to prepare a response.

We are challenged in this effort by the anthropocentric nature of the human mind: Is is really possible to envision truly alien sources and methods? Or are we confined to describing the extraterrestrial alien droning of America?

Bekkum makes many valid points about possible alien interference with we human beings on Earth; the most important point is the immaterial way the interference would take place. No flying saucers, triangles or spheres need apply.

Remote control of human beings, i.e., possession, ( or avatars ) via of “mental telepathy” for lack of a better term, would be preferable to outright invasion and destroying turf. Especially if proxy colonization or species manipulation is part and parcel of the alien’s overall strategies.

Unstoppable terror of invisible things

The Empty Horizon

From Aeon Magazine:

Pont-de-Normandie-bridge

The Pont de Normandie bridge over the Seine estuary. Photo by Jean Gaumy/Magnum

Marek Kohn is an author and journalist. His most recent book is Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles will Change as the World Heats Up.

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Make a model of the world in your mind. Populate it, starting with the people you know. Build it up and furnish it. Draw in the lines that connect it all together, and the ones that divide it. Then roll it into the future. As you go forward, things disappear. Within a century or so, you and all the people around you have gone. As things go that are certain to go, they leave empty spaces. So do the uncertainties: the things that may not be things in the future, or may take different forms — vehicles, homes, ways of communicating, nations — that from here can be no more than a shimmer on the horizon. As one thing after another disappears, the scene fades to white. If you want a vision, you’ll have to project it yourself.

Occasionally, people take steps to counter the emptying by making things that will endure into the distant future. At a Hindu monastery in Hawaii, the Iraivan Temple is being built to last 1,000 years, using special concrete construction techniques. Carmelite monks plan to build a gothic monastery in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming that will stand equally long. Norway’s National Library is expected to preserve documents for a 1,000-year span. The Long Now Foundation dwarfs these ambitions by an order of magnitude with its project to build a clock, inside a Nevada mountain, that will work for 10,000 years. And underground waste disposal plans for the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland have been reviewed for the next 250,000 years; the spent fuel will be held in copper canisters promised to last for millions of years.

An empty horizon matters. How can you care about something you can’t imagine?

A project can also reach out to the distant future even if it doesn’t have a figure placed on its lifespan. How many blueprints for great works, such as Gaudí’s Sagrada Família cathedral in Barcelona, or Haussmann’s Paris boulevards, or even Bazalgette’s London sewers, were drawn with the distant future in the corner of the architect’s or the engineer’s eye? The value of longevity is widely taken for granted: the 1,000-year targets for the Iraivan Temple, the new Mount Carmel monastery and the National Library of Norway are declared with little explanation as to why that particular round number has been chosen.

Instead, they play to intuition. A 1,000-year span has an intuitive symmetry for nations such as Norway that have a millennium of history behind them: it alludes to the depth of the nation’s heritage while suggesting that the country has at least as much history yet to come. For spiritual institutions, 1,000 years is short enough to be credible — England, for example, is dotted with Norman churches approaching their millennium — and long enough to refer to a timescale that extends beyond normal human capacities, thus pointing to the divine and the eternal.

People don’t generally reach out to the distant future for the future’s sake. Often what they chiefly want to reach is a contemporary audience. Going to extreme lengths to prevent vestigial nuclear hazards the other side of the next ice age is a demonstration of capacity, commitment to safety, and attention to detail. If this is what we’re doing for the distant future, it says to an uneasy public, you can be absolutely sure that we’ve got every possible near-term risk covered, too.

At the ultimate extreme, the Voyager space probes are carrying samplers of human culture, on golden disks, out of the solar system and on into infinite space. The notional beneficiaries are life forms that are not known to exist, from planets not yet detected, at distances the probes will not reach for millions of years. But the real beneficiaries were the people who reflected on our species and its place in the universe as they assembled the records and their content. The golden disks were mirrors of the culture that made them.

Any project with a distant time-horizon can be explained away as an exercise that invokes the future in the pursuit of immediate goals. But even if such a project is all about us, that doesn’t mean it’s not about the future too. The Long Now Foundation is an attempt to cultivate a consciousness that expands the horizons of the present. (Its name emerged from Brian Eno’s observation that in New York what people meant by ‘now’ was markedly shorter than what people meant by it in Europe.) By expanding ‘now’ to multi-millennial proportions, it makes us part of the future, and the future part of us.

The Great Cathedrals of the Middle Ages ( and of course, The Great Pyramids millenia earlier ) fit into this category also. Whole families were employed for generations constructing these great pieces of archecture and art.

It has been proposed that future interstellar missions to Alpha Centauri, Gliese and Tau Ceti could be considered long-term multi-generation projects also ( barring invention of a warp drive ). Such projects could only happen if Earth like worlds are confirmed by advanced telescopes inspecting these stars in order to justify the expense of these missions.

Either way, future projects of this magnitude aren’t strangers to Mankind. Maybe the  horizon isn’t quite so empty?

The thousand-year stare

Slow Galactic Colonization, Zoo Hypothesis and the Fermi Paradox

I couldn’t resist posting this today after reading it at Centauri Dreams. It’s extremely mainstream, by which the papers Paul Gilster discusses uses geological travel times for interstellar travel and the effects on the Fermi Paradox.

But he talks about the “zoo” hypothesis for our supposed lack of contact with ETIs ( no discussion of UFOs what-so-ever of course ) and I find that fascinating:

[…]

Many explanations for the Fermi paradox exist, but Hair and Hedman want to look at the possibility that starflight is so long and difficult that it takes vast amounts of time (measured in geologic epochs) to colonize on the galactic scale. Given that scenario, large voids within the colonized regions may still persist and remain uninhabited. If the Earth were located inside one of these voids we would not be aware of the extraterrestrial expansion. A second possibility is that starflight is so hard to achieve that other civilizations have simply not had time to reach us despite having, by some calculations, as much as 5 billion years to have done so (the latter figure comes from Charles Lineweaver, and I’ll have more to say about it in a moment).

Image: A detailed view of part of the disc of the spiral galaxy NGC 4565. Have technological civilizations had time enough to spread through an entire galaxy, and if so, would they be detectable? Credit: ESA/NASA.

The authors work with an algorithm that allows modeling of the expansion from the original star, running through iterations that allow emigration patterns to be analyzed in light of these prospects. It turns out that in 250 iterations, covering 250,000 years, a civilization most likely to emigrate will travel about 500 light years, for a rate of expansion that is approximately one-fourth of the maximum travel speed of one percent of the speed of light, the conservative figure chosen for this investigation. A civilization would spread through the galaxy in less than 50 million years.

These are striking numbers. Given five billion years to work with, the first civilization to develop starfaring capabilities could have colonized the Milky Way not one but 100 times. The idea that it takes billions of years to accomplish a galaxy-wide expansion fails the test of this modeling. Moreover, the idea of voids inside colonized space fails to explain the Fermi paradox as well:

…while interior voids exist at lower values of c initially, most large interior voids become colonized after long periods regardless of the cardinal value chosen, leaving behind only relatively small voids. In an examination of several 250 Kyr models with a wide range of parameters, the largest interior void encountered was roughly 30 light years in diameter. Since humans have been broadcasting radio since the early 20th century and actively listening to radio signals from space since 1960 (Time 1960), it is highly unlikely that the Earth is located in a void large enough to remain undiscovered to the present day. It follows that the second explanation of Fermi’s Paradox (Landis 1998) is not supported by the model presented.

There are mitigating factors that can slow down what the authors call the ‘explosively exponential nature’ of expansion, in which a parent colony produces daughter colonies and the daughters continue to do the same ad infinitum. The paper’s model suggests that intense competition for new worlds can spring up in the expanding wavefront of colonization. At the same time, moving into interior voids to fill them with colonies slows the outward expansion. But even models set up to reduce competition between colonies present the same result: Fermi’s lunchtime calculations seem to be valid, and the fact that we do not see evidence of other civilizations suggests that this kind of galactic expansion has not yet taken place.

Temporal Dispersion into the Galaxy

I can’t discuss Hair and Hedman’s work without reference to Hair’s earlier paper on the expansion of extraterrestrial civilizations over time. Tom had sent me this one in 2011 and I worked it into the Centauri Dreams queue before getting sidetracked by preparations for the 100 Year Starship symposium in Orlando. If I had been on the ball, I would have run an analysis of Tom’s paper at the time, but the delay gives me the opportunity to consider the two papers together, which turns out to work because they are a natural fit.

For you can see that Hair’s spatial analysis goes hand in glove with the question of why an extraterrestrial intelligence might avoid making its presence known. Given that models of expansion point to a galaxy that can be colonized many times over before humans ever emerged on our planet, let’s take up a classic answer to the Fermi paradox, that the ‘zoo hypothesis’ is in effect, a policy of non-interference in local affairs for whatever reason. Initially compelling, the idea seems to break down under close examination, given that it only takes one civilization to act contrary to it.

But there is one plausible scenario that allows the zoo hypothesis to work: The influence of a particularly distinguished civilization. Call it the first civilization. What sort of temporal head start would this first civilization have over later arrivals?

Hair uses Monte Carlo simulations, drawing on the work of Charles Lineweaver and the latter’s estimate that planets began forming approximately 9.3 billion years ago. Using Earth as a model and assuming that life emerged here about 600 million years after formation, we get an estimate of 8.7 billion years ago for the appearance of the first life in the Milky Way. Factoring in how long it took for complex land-dwelling organisms to evolve (3.7 billion years), Lineweaver concludes that the conditions necessary to support intelligent life in the universe could have been present for at least 5.0 billion years. At some point in that 5 billion years, if other intelligent species exist, the first civilization arose. Hair’s modeling goes to work on how long this civilization would have had to itself before other intelligence emerged. The question thus has Fermi implications:

…even if this first grand civilization is long gone . . . could their initial legacy live on in the form of a passed down tradition? Beyond this, it does not even have to be the first civilization, but simply the first to spread its doctrine and control over a large volume of the galaxy. If just one civilization gained this hegemony in the distant past, it could form an unbroken chain of taboo against rapacious colonization in favour of non-interference in those civilizations that follow. The uniformity of motive concept previously mentioned would become moot in such a situation.

Thus the Zoo Hypothesis begins to look a bit more plausible if we have each subsequent civilization emerging into a galaxy monitored by a vastly more ancient predecessor who has established the basic rules for interaction between intelligent species. The details of Hair’s modeling are found in the paper, but the conclusions are startling, at least to me:

The time between the emergence of the first civilization within the Milky Way and all subsequent civilizations could be enormous. The Monte Carlo data show that even using a crowded galaxy scenario the first few inter-arrival times are similar in length to geologic epochs on Earth. Just what could a civilization do with a ten million, one hundred million, or half billion year head start (Kardashev 1964)? If, for example, civilizations uniformly arise within the Galactic Habitable Zone, then on these timescales the first civilization would be able to reach the solar system of the second civilization long before it evolved even travelling at a very modest fraction of light speed (Bracewell 1974, 1982; Freitas 1980). What impact would the arrival of the first civilization have on the future evolution of the second civilization? Would the second civilization even be allowed to evolve? Attempting to answer these questions leads to one of two basic conclusions, the first is that we are alone in the Galaxy and thus no one has passed this way, and the second is that we are not alone in the Galaxy and someone has passed this way and then deliberately left us alone.

The zoo hypothesis indeed. A galactic model of non-interference is a tough sell because of the assumed diversity between cultures emerging on a vast array of worlds over time. But Hair’s ‘modified zoo hypothesis’ has great appeal. It assumes that the oldest civilization in the galaxy has a 100 million year head start, allowing it to become hugely influential in monitoring or perhaps controlling emerging civilizations. We would thus be talking about the possibility of evolving similar cultural standards with regard to contact as civilizations follow the lead of this assumed first intelligence when expanding into the galaxy. It’s an answer to Fermi that holds out hope we are not alone, and I’ll count that as still another encouraging thought on the day the world didn’t end.

I have a problem with this simply because of the economics involved; what is the motivation for ETIs to expand into the Universe to begin with?

Like, are they like humans in the sense that we go because “it’s there?”

Or are there more practical impulses involved like “can we make money” on these endeavors?

A commentor to this particular post wrote that before we colonize ( if we ever do ) the Moon, Mars and other planets in this Solar System ( and perhaps the closer stars ) that it’ll be cheaper to shoot small probes with micro cameras to these places ( NASA is already proposing sending tele-operated probes to the Lunar surface instead of astronauts ) and sell virtual reality tours. Expanded versions of Google Earth and Google Mars!

In other words, it’s cheaper to build Universes that have Star Trek and upload your mind into it than actually building such things as star-ships!

Could this be an answer to the Fermi Paradox?

New Models of Galactic Expansion

Future Interstellar Voyages

From Centauri Dreams:

Stretch out your time horizons and interstellar travel gets a bit easier. If 4.3 light years seems too immense a distance to reach Alpha Centauri, we can wait about 28,000 years, when the distance between us will have closed to 3.2 light years. As it turns out, Alpha Centauri is moving in a galactic orbit far different from the Sun’s. As we weave through the Milky Way in coming millennia, we’re in the midst of a close pass from a stellar system that will never be this close again. A few million years ago Alpha Centauri would not have been visible to the naked eye.

The great galactic pinball machine is in constant motion. Epsilon Indi, a slightly orange star about an eighth as luminous as the Sun and orbited by a pair of brown dwarfs, is currently 11.8 light years out, but it’s moving 90 kilometers per second relative to the Sun. In about 17,000 years, it will close to 10.6 light years before beginning to recede. Project Ozma target Tau Ceti, now 11.9 light years from our system, has a highly eccentric galactic orbit that, on its current inbound leg, will take it to within the same 10.6 light years if we can wait the necessary 43,000 years.

And here’s an interesting one I almost forgot to list, though its close pass may be the most intriguing of all. Gliese 710 is currently 64 light years away in the constellation Serpens. We have to wait a bit on this one, but the orange star, now at magnitude 9.7, will in 1.4 million years move within 50,000 AU of the Sun. That puts it close enough that it should interact with the Oort Cloud, perhaps perturbing comets there or sending comets from its own cometary cloud into our system. In any case, what a close-in target for future interstellar explorers!

I’m pulling all this from Erik Anderson’s new book Vistas of Many Worlds, whose subtitle — ‘A Journey Through Space and Time’ — is a bit deceptive, for the book actually contains four journeys. The first takes us on a tour of ten stars within 20 light years of the Sun, with full-page artwork on every other page and finder charts that diagram the stars in each illustration. The second tour moves through time and traces the stars of an evolving Earth through text and images. Itinerary three is a montage of scenes from known exoplanets, while the fourth tour takes us through a sequence of young Earth-like worlds as they develop.

Anderson’s text is absorbing — he’s a good writer with a knack for hitting the right note — but the artwork steals the show on many of these pages, for he’s been meticulous at recreating the sky as it would appear from other star systems. It becomes easy to track the Sun against the background of alien constellations. Thus a spectacular view of the pulsar planet PSR B1257+12 C shows our Sun lost among the brighter stars Canopus and Spica, with Rigel and Betelgeuse also prominent. The gorgeous sky above an icy ocean on a planet circling Delta Pavonis shows the Sun between Alpha Centauri and Eta Cassiopeiae. Stellar motion over time and the perspectives thus created from worlds much like our own are a major theme of this book.

From Epsilon Eridani, as seen in the image below, the Sun is a bright orb seen through the protoplanetary disk at about the 4 o’clock position below the bright central star.

Image: The nearby orange dwarf star Epsilon Eridani reveals its circumstellar debris disks in this close-up perspective. Epsilon Eridani is only several hundred million years old and perhaps resembles the state of our own solar system during its early, formative years. Credit: Erik Anderson.

Vistas of Many Worlds assumes a basic background in astronomical concepts, but I think even younger readers will be caught up in the wonder of imagined scenes around planets we’re now discovering, which is why I’m buying a copy for my star-crazed grandson for Christmas. He’ll enjoy the movement through time as well as space. In one memorable scene, Anderson depicts a flock of ancient birds flying through a mountain pass 4.8 million years ago. At that time, the star Theta Columbae, today 720 light years away, was just seven light years out, outshining Venus and dominating the sunset skies of Anderson’s imagined landscape.

And what mysteries does the future hold? The end of the interglacial period is depicted in a scene Anderson sets 50,000 years from now, showing a futuristic observation station on the west coast of an ice-choked Canada. The frigid landscape and starfield above set the author speculating on how our descendants will see their options:

Will the inhabitants of a re-glaciating Earth seek refuge elsewhere? Alpha Centauri, our nearest celestial neighbor, has in all this time migrated out of the southern skies to the celestial equator, where it can be sighted from locations throughout the entire globe. It seems to beckon humanity to the stars.

And there, tagged by the star-finder chart and brightly shining on the facing image, is the Alpha Centauri system, now moving inexorably farther from our Sun but still a major marker in the night sky. Planet hunter Greg Laughlin has often commented on how satisfying it is that we have this intriguing stellar duo with accompanying red dwarf so relatively near to us as we begin the great exoplanet detection effort. We’re beginning to answer the question of planets around Alpha Centauri, though much work lies ahead. Perhaps some of that work will be accomplished by scientists who, in their younger years, were energized by the text and images of books like this one.

What I find facinating is a comment by a reader ( kzb ) of this post concerning the Fermi Paradox:

One frequently-seen explanation of the Fermi paradox is that interstellar travel is just too difficult: the distances are so great that no intelligent species has ever cracked the problem.

This article highlights an argument against this outlook.  One scale-length towards the galactic centre, and the space density of stellar systems is 2.7 times what it is around here.  Two scale lengths in and the density is 7.4 times greater.  The scale-length of our galaxy is around only 2.1-3kpc according to recent literature.

Intelligent species that evolve in the inner galactic disk will not have the same problem that we have.  Over galactic timescales, encounters between stellar systems within 1 light-year will not be uncommon.

I think you can see what I am saying, and I think this is one aspect of the FP discussion that is poorly represented currently.

And Erik Anderson’s response:

@ kzb: I give an overview of the Fermi Paradox on page 110 and I didn’t miss your point.  It was definitely articulated by Edward Teller, whom I explicitly quote: “…as far as our Galaxy is concerned, we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metropolitan area of the Galactic center.”

Of course this precludes the explanations that there is no such thing as speedy interstellar travel ( be they anti-matter or warp drives ) and UFOs are really just mass hallucinations.

However Anderson’s book is novel in its’ treatment of interstellar exploration over vast timescales and that closer to the Galactic Center, possible advanced civilizations could have stellar cultures due to faster stellar movements and much shorter distances between stars. And I find that novel in an Olaf Stapledon kind of way!

That and the fact as we are discovering using the Kepler and HARP interstellar telescopes multiple star systems that have their own solar systems and many of them could have intelligent life lends credence to Mr. Anderson’s themes.

So I might treat myself to an early Christmas present by purchasing Anderson’s book!

Images of Exoplanetary Journeys

Hunting Dyson Spheres With Kepler Data

From kurzweilai.net:

med_fractaldyson_bowers

Geoff Marcy has received a grant from the UK’s Templeton Foundation to look for Dyson spheres, Paul Gilster writes on Centauri Dreams, the news forum of the Tau Zero Foundation.

Freeman Dyson hypothesized the vast structures over fifty years ago that could ring or completely enclose their parent star. Such structures, the work of a Kardashev Type II civilization — one capable of drawing on the entire energy output of its star — would power the most power-hungry society and offer up reserves of energy that would support its continuing expansion into the cosmos, if it so chose.

Marcy’s plan is to look at a thousand Kepler systems for telltale evidence of such structures by examining changes in light levels around the parent star.

Interestingly, the grant of $200,000 goes beyond the Dyson sphere search to look into possible laser traffic among extraterrestrial civilizations. Says Marcy:

Technological civilizations may communicate with their space probes located throughout the galaxy by using laser beams, either in visible light or infrared light. Laser light is detectable from other civilizations because the power is concentrated into a narrow beam and the light is all at one specific color or frequency. The lasers outshine the host star at the color of the laser.

The topic of Dyson spheres calls Richard Carrigan to mind. The retired Fermilab physicist has studied data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) to identify objects that radiate waste heat in ways that imply a star completely enclosed by a Dyson sphere. This is unconventional SETI in that it presumes no beacons deliberately announcing themselves to the cosmos, but instead looks for signs of civilization that are the natural consequences of physics.

Carrigan has estimated that a star like the Sun, if enclosed with a shell at the radius of the Earth, would re-radiate its energies at approximately 300 Kelvin. Marcy will turn some of the thinking behind what Carrigan calls ‘cosmic archaeology’ toward stellar systems we now know to have planets, thanks to the work of Kepler. Ultimately, Carrigan’s ‘archaeology’ could extend to planetary atmospheres possibly marked by industrial activity, or perhaps forms of large-scale engineering other than Dyson spheres that may be acquired through astronomical surveys and remain waiting in our data to be discovered. All this reminds us once again how the model for SETI is changing.

For more, see two Richard Carrigan papers: “IRAS-based Whole-Sky Upper Limit on Dyson Spheres,” Journal of Astrophysics 698 (2009), pp. 2075-2086 (preprint), and “Starry Messages: Searching for Signatures of Interstellar Archaeology,” JBIS 63 (2010), p. 90 (preprint). Also see James Annis, “Placing a limit on star-fed Kardashev type III civilisations,” JBIS 52, pp.33-36 (1999).

A recent Centauri Dreams story on all this is Interstellar Archaeology on the Galactic Scale but see also Searching for Dyson Spheres and Toward an Interstellar Archaeology .

The Dyson Sphere Hypothesis is an extrapolation of 1950s technologies and theories that claim that advanced societies will need more and more energy, spouting radiation and radio waves all over the place. Dyson theorized that civilizations as they grew should be detectable in the infrared radiation range, the waste heat being the thing that is the signature of a Kardashev II civilization.

Little did we realize then that as our technology advanced, it required less and less energy to supply it, and that’s not counting digital technology that doesn’t broadcast out into the Cosmos!

So is looking for Dyson Spheres/Swarms a waste of time? I don’t think so. Simply because of the fact that aliens by large might not think like humans and some might prefer a brute force approach of providing their civilizations the energy they require.

Plus stellar archaeology is cool!

Dyson sphere hunt using Kepler data .

Red Ice Creations: “Clouds of alien life forms are sweeping through outer space…”

From YouTube via Red Ice Creations:

“Clouds of alien life forms are sweeping through outer space and infecting planets with life — it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX0Y0glCjUQ&feature=youtu.be

_________

Red Rain in India
The Extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials


Also tune into Red Ice Radio:
Michael Mautner – Panspermia, Seeding the Universe with Life
Lloyd Pye – Human Origins, Intervention Theory & Genetic Experimentation
Mike Bara – Dark Mission, The Occult NASA Moon Mission
Marcel Kuijsten – Julian Jaynes, the Bicameral Mind & The Origin of Consciousness

Susan Joy Rennison – A New Cosmic Age, Space Weather & Cosmic Radiation

The theory of Panspermia is also advocated by mainstream scientist Chandra Wickramasinghe and supported by the late Sir Fred Hoyle .

Maybe Sir Ridley Scott wasn’t too far off the beam?

Horizon: We Are The Aliens

The Transcension of ET Civilizations

For some reason, 60 years seems to be enough time for SETI to scan the local star neighborhood for radio signals, a sign mainstream science believes will be the way we’ll prove there’s ET intelligence in the Universe.

And as Mankind hasn’t received any radio signals from Out There yet, the famous “Fermi Paradox” is invoked.

The following abstract gives yet another possible explanation of the “silence” and one I have heard of before, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it tossed out into the mainstream:

The emerging science of evolutionary developmental (“evo devo”) biology can aid us in thinking about our universe as both an evolutionary system, where most processes are unpredictable and creative, and a developmental system, where a special few processes are predictable and constrained to produce far-future-specific emergent order, just as we see in the common developmental processes in two stars of an identical population type, or in two genetically identical twins in biology. The transcension hypothesis proposes that a universal process of evolutionary development guides all sufficiently advanced civilizations into what may be called “inner space,” a computationally optimal domain of increasingly dense, productive, miniaturized, and efficient scales of space, time, energy, and matter, and eventually, to a black-hole-like destination. Transcension as a developmental destiny might also contribute to the solution to the Fermi paradox, the question of why we have not seen evidence of or received beacons from intelligent civilizations. A few potential evolutionary, developmental, and information theoretic reasons, mechanisms, and models for constrained transcension of advanced intelligence are briefly considered. In particular, we introduce arguments that black holes may be a developmental destiny and standard attractor for all higher intelligence, as they appear to some to be ideal computing, learning, forward time travel, energy harvesting, civilization merger, natural selection, and universe replication devices. In the transcension hypothesis, simpler civilizations that succeed in resisting transcension by staying in outer (normal) space would be developmental failures, which are statistically very rare late in the life cycle of any biological developing system. If transcension is a developmental process, we may expect brief broadcasts or subtle forms of galactic engineering to occur in small portions of a few galaxies, the handiwork of young and immature civilizations, but constrained transcension should be by far the norm for all mature civilizations.

The transcension hypothesis has significant and testable implications for our current and future METI and SETI agendas. If all universal intelligence eventually transcends to black-hole-like environments, after which some form of merger and selection occurs, and if two-way messaging (a send–receive cycle) is severely limited by the great distances between neighboring and rapidly transcending civilizations, then sending one-way METI or probes prior to transcension becomes the only real communication option. But one-way messaging or probes may provably reduce the evolutionary diversity in all civilizations receiving the message, as they would then arrive at their local transcensions in a much more homogenous fashion. If true, an ethical injunction against one-way messaging or probes might emerge in the morality and sustainability systems of all sufficiently advanced civilizations, an argument known as the Zoo hypothesis in Fermi paradox literature, if all higher intelligences are subject to an evolutionary attractor to maximize their local diversity, and a developmental attractor to merge and advance universal intelligence. In any such environment, the evolutionary value of sending any interstellar message or probe may simply not be worth the cost, if transcension is an inevitable, accelerative, and testable developmental process, one that eventually will be discovered and quantitatively described by future physics. Fortunately, transcension processes may be measurable today even without good physical theory, and radio and optical SETI may each provide empirical tests. If transcension is a universal developmental constraint, then without exception all early and low-power electromagnetic leakage signals (radar, radio, television), and later, optical evidence of the exoplanets and their atmospheres should reliably cease as each civilization enters its own technological singularities (emergence of postbiological intelligence and life forms) and recognizes that they are on an optimal and accelerating path to a black-hole-like environment. Furthermore, optical SETI may soon allow us to map an expanding area of the galactic habitable zone we may call the galactic transcension zone, an inner ring that contains older transcended civilizations, and a missing planets problem as we discover that planets with life signatures occur at a much lower frequencies in this inner ring than in the remainder of the habitable zone.

The mention of inner rings or zones smacks of the Anthropic Principle, so I’m not too impressed with this abstract, but it looks like it’s a very well written hypothesis.
But my question is this; “Why does the mainstream consider 60 years enough search time for ET activity to be detected?”
Are we really that convinced we’re on top of the local Galactic food-chain?
And where does that leave the issue of UFOs? Are they possible manifestations of civilizations who have attained Technological Singularity status?

Convince me.

The transcension hypothesis: Sufficiently advanced civilizations invariably leave our universe, and implications for METI and SETI

Hat tip to the Daily Grail.

Year Six, and the Future

As this blog enters its sixth anniversary this month, I have never given much thought of it lasting this long. In fact, it almost ended last year when I took a long hiatus due to health issues; both for myself and my wife.

But as time went on and both my wife and I slowly recovered, I discovered I still had some things to say. And I realized the world never stopped turning in the meanwhile.

________

As I started to post again, the personal site Facebook became a semi-intelligent force unto itself. I say ‘semi-intelligent’ because it is spreading exponentially due to its posting of its games and constant proliferation of personal info unannounced and unapproved by individuals. And people, especially young folks don’t care this happens.

Distributed networks, mainly Facebook, Google and the World Wide Web in general are forms of distributed Artificial Intelligence. Does that mean we are in the early throes of the Technological Singularity?

I think we are IMO.

_______

And if we are in the early upward curve of the Technological Singularity, how would that affect our theories of ancient intelligence in the Universe?

Well, I think we should seriously rethink our theories and consider how the Fermi Paradox might figure into this. Thinkers such as George Dyvorsky have written a few treatises on the subject and I believe they should be given due consideration by mainstream science. (The Fermi Paradox: Back With a Vengeance).

Speaking of mainstream science, it is slowly, but surely accepting the fact the Universe is filled with ancient stars and worlds. And if there’s a possibility the Universe has ancient worlds, there’s a chance there might be anicent Intelligences inhabiting these worlds:

Ancient-world

The announcement of a pair of planets orbiting a 12.5 billion-year old star flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the earliest stars to be born in the Universe shouldn’t possess planets at all.

12.5 billion years ago, the primeval universe was just beginning to make heavier elements beyond hydrogen and helium, in the fusion furnace cores of the first stars. It follows that there was very little if any material for fabricating terrestrial worlds or the rocky seed cores of gas giant planets.

ANALYSIS: Most Ancient, ‘Impossible’ Alien Worlds Discovered

This argument has been used to automatically rule out the ancient and majestic globular star clusters that orbit our galaxy as intriguing homes for extraterrestrials.

The star that was announced to have two planets is not in a globular cluster (it lives inside the Milky Way, although it was most likely a part of a globular cluster that was cannibalized by our galaxy), but it is similarly anemic as the globular cluster stars because it is so old.

This discovery dovetails nicely with last year’s announcement of carbon found in a distant, ancient radio galaxy. These findings both suggest that there were enough heavy elements in the early universe to make planets around stars, and therefore life.

Sweeps

PHOTOS: Top Exoplanets for Alien Life

However, a Hubble Space Telescope search for planets in the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae in 1999 came up empty-handed. Hubble astronomers monitored 34,000 stars over a period of eight days. The prediction was that some fraction of these stars should have “hot Jupiters” that whirl around their star over a period of days (pictured here in an artist’s rendition). They would be detected if their orbits were tilted edge-on to Earth so the stars would briefly grow dimmer during each transit of a planet.

A similar survey of the galactic center by Hubble in 2006 came up with 16 hot Jupiter planet candidates. This discovery was proof of concept and helped pave the way for the Kepler space telescope planet-hunting mission.

Why no planets in a globular cluster? For a start, globular clusters are more crowded with stars than our Milky Way — as is evident in the observation of the dwarf galaxy M9 below. “It may be that the environment in a globular was too harsh for planets to form,” said Harvey Richer of the University of British Columbia. “Planetary disks are pretty fragile things and could be easily disrupted in such an environment with a high stellar density.”

ANALYSIS: Many Dwarfs Died In the Making of This Galaxy

However, in 2007 Hubble found a 2.7 Jupiter mass planet inside the globular cluster M4. The planet is in a very distant orbit around a pulsar and a white dwarf. This could really be a post-apocalypse planet that formed much later in a disk of debris that followed the collapse of the companion star into a white dwarf, or the supernova explosion itself.

M9

Hubble is now being used to look for the infrared glow of protoplanetary disks in 47 Tucanae. The disks would be so faint that the infrared sensitivity of the planned James Webb Space Telescope would be needed to carry out a more robust survey.

If planets did form in the very early in the universe, life would have made use of carbon and other common elements as it did on Earth billions of years ago. Life around a solar-type star, or better yet a red dwarf, would have a huge jump-start on Earth’s biological evolution. The earliest life forms would have had the opportunity to evolve for billions of years longer than us.

This inevitably leads to speculation that there should be super-aliens who are vastly more evolved than us. So… where are they? My guess is that if they existed, they evolved to the point where they abandoned bodies of flesh and blood and transformed themselves into something else — be it a machine or something wildly unimaginable.

However, it’s clear that despite (or, because of) their super-intelligence, they have not done anything to draw attention to themselves. The absence of evidence may set an upper limit on just how far advanced a technological civilization may progress — even over billions of years.

Keep in mind that most of the universe would be hidden from beings living inside of a globular star cluster. The sky would be ablaze with so many stars that it would take a long time for alien astronomers to simply stumble across the universe of external galaxies — including our Milky Way.

There will be other searches for planets in globular clusters. But our present understanding makes the question of a Methuselah civilization even more perplexing. If the universe made carbon so early, then ancient minds should be out there, somewhere.

Methuselah civilizations eh?

Sure. If there are such civilizations out there, it is because they wish to remain in the physical realm and not cross over to the inner places of shear mental and god-like powers.

The problem is; are they altruistic like Iain Banks’ “Culture” or are they like civilizations Dr. Stephen Hawking warned us about?

As with all things ‘Future’, the answer could come crashing down upon us faster than we are prepared for.

Could Ancient Aliens Live On Methuselah Planets?

As usual, thanks to the Daily Grail.

NASA’s Big Announcement

When it comes to NASA, I go by the maxim “Not A Straight Answer”, which I followed since 1977 when NASA denied finding life via the Viking Landers.

And I’m not going to mention The Face on Mars, that’s a totally different subject altogether.

So when they announced November 29th, 2010 there was a big to-do that would affect astrobiology, well, I went ho-hum.

But as usual, my natural nosiness won out and I started keeping track of the mainstream news feeds spewing the propaganda just on the off chance there was something to this:

Science fans across the Internet are eagerly awaiting an announcement from NASA’s astrobiology team planned for Thursday. All NASA will say about the press conference is that it will “discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

Evidence of Life on Mars?

While many are hoping that NASA will announce that extraterrestrial life has been discovered, this seems like a near impossibility. If this were the case, the best prospect for this might be from Mars. The Exploration Rover Spirit has been stationary for just about a year after getting stuck in some soft sand. That would give it an opportunity to study that patch of sand over a long period of time, during which it might perceive chemical changes attributable to life processes. It’s a long shot at best, but remember that in the spot where it is stuck, Spirit was looking at layered sulfate salts associated with ancient thermal vents that could have been a prime location for bacterial life at some point in the Red Planet’s distant past.

A New Chemical Basis for Life?

More likely is that a group of NASA astrobiologists has discovered a chemical model for life based on something other than oxygen and water. Such a discovery might open up the number of potential sites where extraterrestrial life might be found and would be a major breakthrough in the field. Looking at the team of scientists that NASA lists as attending the press conference, perhaps we can gain some further insight.

Dr. James Elser

The biography of Dr. James Elser at his Arizona State University webpage, describes his work as “the study of balance of energy and multiple chemical elements in living systems.” His inclusion might suggest an exotic chemical basis for life is being announced.

Dr. Stephen Benner

Dr. Stephen Benner. A professor of Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, describes his work in astrobiology as working “to identify molecular structures that are likely to be universal features of living systems regardless of their genesis, and not likely products of non-biological processes… As part of the team defining the architecture of the Mars landing missions, the Benner group will have the opportunity to test these as part of a search for life on Mars.” This might lend some credence to the notion that the press conference will announce evidence of past life on Mars.

Dr. Pamela Conrad

NASA’s Pamela Conrad has co-authored “The Bread-crumb trail: distribution of organic chemical biosignatures from cryptoendolithic communities on the surfaces of Arctic and Antarctic sandstone rocks.” This again would support the idea that evidence of past life may have been discovered in the Martial soils.

Dr. Felisa (IronLisa) Wolfe-Simon

Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the U.S. Geological Survey, also working with the NASA astrobiology team, says on her website that she is working “as part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute we are examining arsenate-rich environments to hunt and enrich cultures for organisms utilizing arsenate in novel and unique modes.” She also mentions that this work involves Dr. Stephen Benner. Her inclusion strongly suggests that a chemical model for arsenic based life has been discovered, and perhaps, in looking at the other specialties involved, they have found a way of identifying unique chemical signatures left by this type of organism that would rule out non-living origins for these materials. This would provide a new way to search for signs of life on other planets.

Dr. Mary Voytek

The team leader is NASA’s Dr. Mary Voytek. NASA says her work is in the area of “environmental controls on microbial transformations of nutrients, xenobiotics, and metals in freshwater and marine systems.” This might support the idea of a new identifiable chemical signature which might be left behind by certain types of bacterial or prebiotic life.

The Best Guess about the NASA astrobiology announcement

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that a new chemical basis for life has been modeled resulting in the discovery of a unique chemical signature that, if found in an extraterrestrial rock (or a terrestrial rock, for that matter), would be a smoking gun for the past presence of this type of life. Perhaps, they have even actually found such evidence, either with a visual examination of martial soils by the rovers, or in meteorite fragments found in the arctic.

I won’t be able to listen to NASA’s news conference at 2:00 p.m. today, but hopefully I can get the gist of it later on tonight.

Maybe NASA will prove me wrong this time.

What is NASA’s Secret Astrobiology Announcement?

hat tip

Another take on SETI and the Fermi Paradox

SETI and the Fermi Paradox has had it’s share of mainstream media attention lately, usually via the ruminations of Dr. Stephen Hawking.

That can be a good thing, because Hawking has basically taken it upon himself to educate the great unwashed masses that human-kind probably aren’t the only “intelligent” *cough* life in the Universe.

Now David Tow of the Future of Life Research Center contends that SETI should by all means shift their search paradigm to other means than radio telescopes.

And why their search methods are failing.

[…]

Over the past 50 years SETI has focused primarily on radio frequency transmissions, while also dabbling briefly with the optical spectrum, searching for laser pulses from outer space. A number of more radical approaches have been canvassed, including infrared transmissions, gravity waves and neutrinos, but these appear to be infeasible at present.
In the meantime the SETI Institute continues to apply its Allen Telescope Array, an array of 42 small dishes, to the search, now introducing a new project– setiQuest, designed to open up its search algorithms to the public, providing a new source of computational power and innovation.

Over time, a number of additional powerful instruments and techniques have been deployed by the astronomical community, to probe the mysteries of other candidate star systems across the galaxy, including searching for signs of life. Discoveries of other solar systems similar to our own, including those that may harbor earth-like rocky planets are becoming increasingly likely, with some predictions of up to 100 million earths in the galaxy.
The glittering prize therefore seems tantalizingly close.

But something’s missing from the project. Under the invisibility cloak of eternal optimism there are growing doubts about SETI’s methodology. After 50 years there should have been something to show- some hint of intelligent life or even a reason for the lack of it – and there was. For a fleeting moment back in the seventies an unusual spike in the spectrum appeared- the Wow signal. But then disappeared just as quickly as it arrived. With hindsight however it might have provided a clue to the mindset of other civilisations.

Conservative estimates of life in the galaxy point to the existence of a spectrum of evolutionary outcomes, based on the large number of probable earth-like planets that almost certainly harbor microbial populations.

A few like our own civilization will have achieved the ability to infer the existence of other life forms by codifying the laws of nature and the physics of the electromagnetic spectrum. A larger number, able to grasp and walk upright, may be on track to harness the early technologies of tool-making and agriculture. And of course many more will be at the beginning of their evolutionary cycle, like salmon swimming upstream against the current; tiny animals with proto-brains and nervous systems desperately trying to reach the calmer waters of survival.  And many more proto-civilisations that went extinct before they could realize their full potential.

And then just perhaps, a handful of super-civilisations- SCs may have evolved; those with technologies well in advance of our own- capable of sending and receiving powerful messages across the galaxy and even universe. These would possess the ability to harness the inexhaustible power of clean fusion energy and overcome the threats of dangerous climate change and global conflict.

Regardless of the probabilities, which currently the best science is unable to credibly quantify, super-civilisations are our best hope of making meaningful contact. But in order for SETI to achieve this objective it must factor in a big chunk of crucial science that’s currently missing from its strategy.
It must incorporate the social dimension.

Super-Civilizations are not only likely to have already discovered our existence, but they will have a much deeper understanding of the universe at large – not only at the technological level but also at the social and ethical level. (Ref SETI and Alien Ethics blog)

Meanwhile on planet Earth, our culture of aggression and killing continues to dominate. We are a civilization that is still largely intent on solving conflicts by force, although a smarter way is on the horizon (Ref Future of War blog). And because of their advanced observational technology, SCs would be fully aware of this risk factor.

No doubt they have the scientific capability to monitor our progress and are doing so already. It is not that hard to sense and analyse chemical emissions spectra in our atmosphere, while also inferring our progress along the  evolutionary path of social development.
They would long ago have mapped the 400 billion star systems in our galaxy and determined their planetary composition- selecting the most likely earthlike planets to monitor for intelligent life. This is likely to be achieved here on earth within the next hundred years or so if we survive our current chaos.

A super-civilization with a mere 500 year head start on us technologically- just a fleeting moment in the history of the universe- would also possess the capability of communicating and travelling over vast distances in the cosmos, possibly at greater than the speed of light. Perhaps this would be achieved through new physics such as short cuts through spacetime or quantum teleportation.
They will also have overcome their aggressive evolutionary legacy and advanced light years beyond this barbaric bottleneck. All life on earthlike planets with environments similar to our own will highly likely have followed similar evolutionary trajectories. Such a conclusion is strongly supported by current biological Convergence Theory.

As for the mythology that suggests SCs are likely to covet our planetary resources- simple logic suggests the opposite.
Any advanced society would have long since had access to unlimited energy supplies by harnessing green power sources or nuclear fusion. On an earth-like planet an SC would also have been able to exploit similar material resources as well as quantum, electronic and chemical processes, synthesizing its own meta-materials as we are beginning to. Plant and animal ecosystems would also be similar to ours (Ref Convergence Theory) and no doubt fully conserved and sustainable because of their mastery over the entire biosphere.

The fact is that at this stage in our society’s development we would have virtually nothing of any substance to offer them.

Any similar or less developed civilizations will almost certainly be as aggressive and acquisitively territorial as us, but in any case would not have the technological capability to reach our planet by any form of space travel, just as we could not reach them. It is unlikely that we will be capable of exploring beyond our own solar system for another 100 years and then mainly by deploying robotic probes.

But above all SCs would have developed an extremely high level of ethical and moral legitimacy, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to overcome the enormous challenges involved in creating an advanced society. They would have been forced long ago to subsume their naturally basic aggressive tendencies, and cooperate as one species living on one planet, in order to overcome the massively complex issues of poverty, justice, global warming and conflict, that we as a species are just coming to terms with.

SCs, if they exist, are no doubt waiting for us humans to reach the minimum threshold of maturity as a civilization; just as candidate European nations must reach a satisfactory level of democracy, human rights and financial governance before being accepted into the EU family of nations. Our threshold must include requisite non- warring, ethical and human rights solutions, the sustainability of our critical ecosystems as well as technological and computing capability. The emergence of Web 4.0 and 5.0 will help meet those criteria and threshold as early as 2050. (Ref The Future of the Web blog)

Then and only then will they deem it timely to communicate with us and begin to share their knowledge and perhaps acceptance into their federation of other super-civilisations.

Imagine if we knew of the existence of another civilization that had warred for centuries, almost wiped out its civilization by nuclear weapons, which they still retained, and was well on the way to global greenhouse armageddon, in addition to reaching breaking point in its democratic institutions. Would we want to communicate with them? I doubt it.
We should not the ones worried by unfriendly overtures from an advanced alien culture. It is they who would be extremely wary of us. As with a parent and child relationship, they cannot save us from our own mistakes. They will wait and watch.

I am not convinced of the so-called “higher ethics” of potential super-civilizations. Sure, they might’ve out-grown their own species territorial tendencies, but unless they’ve totally re-engineered their genome, they merely transferred  their aggressions to other goals.

In Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stephen Baxter’s ‘Time’s Eye‘, the enigmatic “First Born” (the Universe’s first intelligences) go out of their way to snuff out other primitive civilizations in order to preserve the ‘energy’ of the Universe in order to stave off the Great Entropy at the End of Time.

In my view, the top dogs don’t get to be top dogs by being weak, survival of the fittest goes beyond the top rung.

And if a culture like ours happens to survive its troubles, we just might be paranoid enough to snuff out competitors in their cribs.

So I agree with Dr. Hawking and Greg Bear about not broadcasting our baby bird cheepings.

Future of Life- The Future of SETI

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