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?
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.”
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
Maybe Sir Ridley Scott wasn’t too far off the beam?
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?
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
Rendevous With Rama, a 1972 novel written by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, is about an asteroid sized alien starship that enters the Solar System in the 22nd Century. A human spaceship crew enters and explores the huge vessel and has to leave when the crew discovers the ship is heading toward the Sun, apparently toward its doom.
The ship doesn’t destroy itself however. Instead it extends a filament into the Sun’s corona and draws the Sun’s material into itself; thus rebuilding losses incurred while traveling immense distances between the stars.
Below is a supposed photo by the NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory of a phenomenon doing just that. And it’s not just a Rama-sized asteroid object, it’s a stellar sized Death Star object!
Stellar Filament or Death Star Refueling?
Paul Gilster of Centauri Dreams continues the discussion of the below light-speed seeding of Intelligence in the Galaxy from the paper that Robert Freitas wrote in the 1980s and the prospect that such an intelligence ( or future “human” descended intelligence ) could seed the Galaxy over a period of 1,000,000 years:
It was back in the 1980s when Robert Freitas came up with a self-reproducing probe concept based on the British Interplanetary Society’s Project Daedalus, but extending it in completely new directions. Like Daedalus, Freitas’ REPRO probe would be fusion-based and would mine the atmosphere of Jupiter to acquire the necessary helium-3. Unlike Daedalus, REPRO would devote half its payload to what Freitas called its SEED package, which would use resources in a target solar system to produce a new REPRO probe every 500 years. Probes like this could spread through the galaxy over the course of a million years without further human intervention.
A Vision of Technological Propagation
I leave to wiser heads than mine the question of whether self-reproducing technologies like these will ever be feasible, or when. My thought is that I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility for cultures significantly more advanced than ours, but the question is a lively one, as is the issue of whether artificial intelligence will ever take us to a ‘Singularity,’ beyond which robotic generations move in ways we cannot fathom. John Mathews discusses self-reproducing probes, as we saw yesterday, as natural extensions of our early planetary explorer craft, eventually being modified to carry out inspections of the vast array of objects in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud.
Image: The Kuiper Belt and much larger Oort Cloud offer billions of targets for self-reproducing space probes, if we can figure out how to build them. Credit: Donald Yeoman/NASA/JPL.
Here is Mathews’ vision, operating under a System-of-Systems paradigm in which the many separate systems needed to make a self-reproducing probe (he calls them Explorer roBots, or EBs) are examined separately, and conceding that all of them must be functional for the EB to emerge (the approach thus includes not only the technological questions but also the ethical and economic issues involved in the production of such probes). Witness the probes in operation:
Once the 1st generation proto-EBs arrive in, say, the asteroid belt, they would evolve and manufacture the 2nd generation per the outline above. The 2nd generation proto-EBs would be launched outward toward appropriate asteroids and the Kuiper/Oort objects as determined by observations of the parent proto-EB and, as communication delays are relatively small, human/ET operators. A few generations of the proto-EBs would likely suffice to evolve and produce EBs capable of traversing interstellar distances either in a single “leap” or, more likely, by jumping from Oort Cloud to Oort Cloud. Again, it is clear that early generation proto-EBs would trail a communications network.
The data network — what Mathews calls the Explorer Network, or ENET — has clear SETI implications if you buy the idea that self-reproducing probes are not only possible (someday) but also likely to be how intelligent cultures explore the galaxy. Here the assumption is that extraterrestrials are likely, as we have been thus far, to be limited to speeds far below the speed of light, and in fact Mathews works with 0.01c as a baseline. If EBs are an economical and efficient way to exploring huge volumes of space, then the possibility of picking up the transmissions linking them into a network cannot be ruled out. Mathews envisages them building a library of their activities and knowledge gained that will eventually propagate back to the parent species.
A Celestial Network’s Detectability
Here we can give a nod to the existing work on extending Internet protocols into space, the intent being to connect remote space probes to each other, making the download of mission data far more efficient. Rather than pointing an enormous dish at each spacecraft in turn, we point at a spacecraft serving as the communications hub, downloading information from, say, landers and atmospheric explorers and orbiters in turn. Perhaps this early interplanetary networking is a precursor to the kind of networks that might one day communicate the findings of interstellar probes. Mathews notes the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, which has used a near-infrared laser ranging system to link the vehicle with the NASA Goddard Astronomical Observatory at a distance of 24 million kilometers (0.16 AU) as an example of what is feasible today.
Tomorrow’s ENET would be, in the author’s view, a tight-beam communications network. In SETI terms, such networks would be not beacons but highly directed communications, greatly compromising but not eliminating our ability to detect them. Self-reproducing probes propagating from star to star — conceivably with many stops along the way — would in his estimation use mm-wave or far-IR lasers, communicating through highly efficient and highly directive beams. From the paper:
The solar system and local galaxy is relatively unobscured at these wavelengths and so these signaling lasers would readily enable communications links spanning up to a few hundred AUs each. It is also clear that successive generations of EBs would establish a communications network forming multiple paths to each other and to “home” thus serving to update all generations on time scales small compared with physical transit times. These various generations of EBs would identify the locations of “nearby” EBs, establish links with them, and thus complete the communications net in all directions.
Working the math, Mathews finds that current technologies for laser communications yield reasonable photon counts out to the near edge of the Oort Cloud, given optimistic assumptions about receiver noise levels. It is enough, in any case, to indicate that future technologies will allow networked probes to communicate from one probe to another over time, eventually returning data to the source civilization. An extraterrestrial Explorer Network like this one thus becomes a SETI target, though not one whose wavelengths have received much SETI attention.
SETI as it is set up now does not concentrate its observations or detections on possible physical artifacts, just radio transmissions at certain frequencies.
Personally I think advanced civilizations (cultures?) would be evolved more than the mere “biological”, but would be cybernetic in nature and thus would be beyond “god-like” in nature and would’ve figured out a way past the light-speed barrier.
That would put the possiblity of old fashion radio transmission on the back burner, other than the construction of radio “beacons” as proposed by the Benford Brothers.
Interstellar Galactic Federations and Empires not withstanding, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativty still rules.
However, Paul Gilster posts on his blog Centauri Dreams that below light speed colonization of the galaxy can have a normal, more organic method of colonizing the galaxy by human, or alien intelligences:
Imagine a future in which we manage to reach average speeds in the area of one percent of the speed of light. That would make for a 437-year one-way trip to the Alpha Centauri system, too long for anything manned other than generation ships or missions with crews in some kind of suspended animation. Although 0.01c is well beyond our current capabilities, there is absolutely nothing in the laws of physics that would prevent our attaining such velocities, assuming we can find the energy source to drive the vehicle. And because it seems an achievable goal, it’s worth looking at what we might do with space probes and advanced robotics that can move at such velocities.
How, in other words, would a spacefaring culture use artificial intelligence and fast probes to move beyond its parent solar system? John Mathews ( Pennyslvania State) looks at the issue in a new paper, with a nod to the work of John von Neumann on self-reproducing automata and the subsequent thoughts of Ronald Bracewell and Frank Tipler on how, even at comparatively slow (in interstellar terms) speeds like 0.01c, such a culture could spread through the galaxy. There are implications for our own future here, but also for SETI, for Mathews uses the projected human future as a model for what any civilization might accomplish. Assume the same model of incremental expansion through robotics and you may uncover the right wavelengths to use in observing an extraterrestrial civilization, if indeed one exists.
Image: The spiral galaxy M101. If civilizations choose to build them, self-reproducing robotic probes could theoretically expand across the entire disk within a scant million years, at speeds well below the speed of light. Credit: STScI.
But let’s leave SETI aside for a moment and ponder robotics and intelligent probes. Building on recent work by James and Gregory Benford on interstellar beacons, Mathews likewise wants to figure out the most efficient and cost-effective way of exploring nearby space, one that assumes exploration like this will proceed using only a small fraction of the Gross Planetary Product (GPP) and (much later) the Gross Solar System Product (GSSP). The solution, given constraints of speed and efficiency, is the autonomous, self-replicating robot, early versions of which we have already sent into the cosmos in the form of probes like our Pioneers and Voyagers.
The role of self-replicating probes — Mathews calls them Explorer roBots, or EBs — is to propagate throughout the Solar System and, eventually, the nearby galaxy, finding the resources needed to produce the next generation of automata and looking for life. Close to home, we can imagine such robotic probes moving at far less than 0.01c as they set out to do something targeted manned missions can’t accomplish, reaching and cataloging vast numbers of outer system objects. Consider that the main asteroid belt is currently known to house over 500,000 objects, while the Kuiper Belt is currently thought to have more than 70,000 100-kilometer and larger objects. Move into the Oort and we’re talking about billions of potential targets.
A wave of self-reproducing probes (with necessary constraints to avoid uninhibited growth) could range freely through these vast domains. Mathews projects forward not so many years to find that ongoing trends in computerization will allow for the gradual development of the self-sufficient robots we need, capable of using the resources they encounter on their journeys and communicating with a growing network in which observations are pooled. Thus the growth toward a truly interstellar capability is organic, moving inexorably outward through robotics of ever-increasing proficiency, a wave of exploration that does not need continual monitoring from humans who are, in any case, gradually going to be far enough away to make two-way communications less and less useful.
Paul calls robotic networks “organic” in the way they might grow, but there is a commenter on the post who disagrees with it and I might agree with that.
But that doesn’t discount a more “cybernetic” approach in which the combination of machine with organic technology is the more “natural” extension or evolution of intelligent lifeforms.
I would look for rigidly constructed organic molecular structures in the interstellar medium as materials for Bracewell Probes.
It seems that Dr. Hawking’s statements about nomadic ETIs being voracious hunters has created quite a stir in the mainstream science community.
Especially the crowd Uncle Seth Shostak is in charge of at the recent SETIcon in California:
Even if humanity could reach out to an intelligent alien civilization, scientists are polarized over whether we should.
“No one can say that there is no risk to transmitting,” John Billingham, former chairman of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics, said via a statement read at the convention Sunday. “Personally, I agree with Hawking and think it may be unwise to transmit.”
However, Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the SETI Institute, said of aliens: “Even if they tend to be hateful, awful folks, can they do us any harm at interstellar distances?”
Up to now, the efforts of SETI have concentrated on receiving and recognizing signals from non-natural sources in space.
Hawking, 68, claimed that any civilization with which humanity could communicate is likely to be much older and more technologically advanced than ours. So they would probably have the ability, and possibly the motive, to eradicate humanity and strip-mine our planet for parts. It would be safer not to actively broadcast our presence, he said.
Billingham said listening for signs of life is safe, but sending out signals of our own could be asking for trouble. He recommended establishing an international conference to decide whether the whole world supported “active SETI,” or METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence).
Canadian science-fiction author Robert Sawyer agreed that international opinion should be consulted before a small group of scientists made any “arrogant” choice on behalf of the planet.
“We’ve got to stop and think about this, whether this is a wise thing to do,” Sawyer said.
But Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, said such a conference is unlikely to be productive. “The idea that we can solve this problem with international consultation strikes me as naivete of the first order,” Shostak said.
He argued that the whole issue is moot because Earth has been radiating signals into space for decades.
Every radio and television broadcast in history has beamed out electromagnetic radiation to the cosmos — an effect scientists refer to as leakage. While these signals haven’t been particularly powerful or targeted to extraterrestrials, a sufficiently advanced civilization would have no trouble detecting them, Shostak said.
“This horse has left the barn,” he said. “Any society that could possibly be a threat to us can easily know at least that we’re here. There’s no point in losing sleep over this.”
Furthermore, he and other experts questioned the logic of an alien civilization wanting to attack Earth.
Vakoch said it would take quite a lot of time and energy for extraterrestrials to come all the way to Earth to wage war or try to extract resources from our planet. The cost of traveling here to collect them, not to mention transporting those resources back to the aliens’ home, would far outweigh the benefit, he said.
There’s a point missing about all the pros and cons of sending out strong beacon like signals into the Universe to draw attention to ourselves and I’m surprised these scientists haven’t even thought of it; Survival of the Fittest.
Yes, that old Theory of Evolution Paradigm in which the strongest of tooth, claw, nail and guile gets to continue to eat, breath, sleep and screw.
If the Universe is part of Nature, wouldn’t that rule apply?
Advanced aliens, presuming that they haven’t attained a technological singularity, but have technology of a Kardashev Type 1 civilization have indeed been observing us through nano-Bracewell type interstellar probes at a distance of say…four light years. Time enough to be real time, but a safe enough distance where they know we can’t get at them. Just yet.
All they would have to do is shoot a “relativistic missile” at us, like an asteroid, or Oort Cloud object that could be a “planet killer.”
The only reason they would need is to preserve their own safety; to kill a potentially powerful competitor before we could out compete them on the evolutionary stage.
Nothing personal. “It’s either us or you.”
IMO, Hawking’s close, but his reasons are wrong.
A Bracewell probe is an interstellar probe theorized by Ronald Bracewell in 1960 that is sent to prospective nearby solar systems to study for life, or primitive civilizations.
If the probe finds either, they (it) sends a message back to its parent civilization.
Are we being scanned by a Bracewell probe?
Well, on May 25th, an object the size of a truck passed by Earth in a solar orbit at the distance of the Moon. Verdict?
It’s an old Soviet interplanetary rocket booster.
But is it really?
The unknown visitor came from deep space. It passed nearly as close to the Earth as the moon on May 21st. Its spectrum didn’t match any known asteroid. At a feeble absolute magnitude of +28.9, the traveler must have only been about the size of a truck.
Object 2010 KQ, what are you?
Is this a scouting ship for Stephen Hawking’s hypothesized evil aliens planning a mass invasion of Earth?
No, more likely it is a discarded interplanetary rocket booster abandoned in solar orbit.
The detection is tantalizing nevertheless because we can identify space objects down to a few feet across. That’s the scale of what you might expect any alien probe might be, assuming their technology is comparable to ours. (Forget about those huge motherships in the 1996 film “Independence Day,” the fuel costs are astronomical.)
On the hypothesis that we might have been visited long ago, could there be alien artifacts left behind, perhaps abandoned in solar orbit too?
The fact that we haven’t found anything yet makes it clear that any visiting aliens didn’t do anything obvious to say they came by. But I can make a few cautious extrapolations from how they might have conducted the exploration of our solar system– that is, if they think like us!
That’s the key; if they think like us.
There’s little evidence to suggest that any alien culture would think like us.
But that’s because we only have a sample size of one, us, to go by.
In his famous lecture on Life in the Universe, Stephen Hawking asks: “What are the chances that we will encounter some alien form of life, as we explore the galaxy?”
If the argument about the time scale for the appearance of life on Earth is correct, Hawking says “there ought to be many other stars, whose planets have life on them. Some of these stellar systems could have formed 5 billion years before the Earth. So why is the galaxy not crawling with self-designing mechanical or biological life forms?”
Why hasn’t the Earth been visited, and even colonized? Hawking asks. “I discount suggestions that UFO’s contain beings from outer space. I think any visits by aliens, would be much more obvious, and probably also, much more unpleasant.”
Hawking continues: “What is the explanation of why we have not been visited? \One possibility is that the argument, about the appearance of life on Earth, is wrong. Maybe the probability of life spontaneously appearing is so low, that Earth is the only planet in the galaxy, or in the observable universe, in which it happened. Another possibility is that there was a reasonable probability of forming self reproducing systems, like cells, but that most of these forms of life did not evolve intelligence.”
We are used to thinking of intelligent life, as an inevitable consequence of evolution, Hawking emphasized, but it is more likely that evolution is a random process, with intelligence as only one of a large number of possible outcomes.
Intelligence, Hawking believes contrary to our human-centric existece, may not have any long-term survival value. In comparison the microbial world, will live on, even if all other life on Earth is wiped out by our actions. Hawking’s main insight is that intelligence was an unlikely development for life on Earth, from the chronology of evolution: “It took a very long time, two and a half billion years, to go from single cells to multi-cell beings, which are a necessary precursor to intelligence. This is a good fraction of the total time available, before the Sun blows up. So it would be consistent with the hypothesis, that the probability for life to develop intelligence, is low. In this case, we might expect to find many other life forms in the galaxy, but we are unlikely to find intelligent life.”
Dr. Hawking isn’t popular with the UFO crowd, no doubt about that.
And he doesn’t even entertain the possibility that whatever advanced intelligence might supercede our type, it might not be even in our dimension nor physical at all.
But he is considered the premier scientist of our time, so he gets most of the attention.
It just goes to show the old maxime that, “Science advances not from new discoveries being accepted, but from the death of the previous generation who hold to the old paradigm…”
More Roswellian reverse engineering?
The direct connection between the Roswell debris and the Battelle studies is revealed in a material known as Nitinol.
Nitinol is a specially processed combination of Nickel and Titanium, or NiTi. It displays many of the very same properties and physical characteristics as some of the crash debris materials that was reported at Roswell. Both are memory metals that “remember” their original shape and both are extremely lightweight. The materials are reported to have similar color, possess a high fatigue strength and are able to withstand extreme high heat.
Today Nitinol is incorporated in items as far-ranging as medical implants and bendable eyeglass frames. It is produced in many forms including sheet, wire and coil. Newer “intelligent metal” systems are being studied by NASA in the creation of bendable or flappable wings, as self-actuators and as a “self-healing” outer hull “skin” for spacecraft. It is believed that the memory metal found at Roswell came from the outer structures of a downed extraterrestrial spacecraft.
The earliest known combination of Titanium and Nickel reported in the scientific literature was in 1939 by two Europeans. However, this crude sample was a “by-product” of research entirely unrelated to the study of Nitinol. Its “memory metal” potential was not sought or noted. The scientists would have been unable to purify Titanium to sufficient levels at that time-and they would not have known about the energy requirement needed to create the “morphing” effect.
“Memory metal” wasn’t the only technology that was supposedly reverse engineered from material left over from the Roswell crash.
Stuff that looked like “circuitry”, fiber-optic cable and material like kevlar was recovered.
There is much debate about this however and many scientists and other critics denounce the theory; http://www.seti.org/Page.aspx?pid=839 .
As always, Roswell leaves us with more questions than answers!
However, is no one, or no thing immune to skepticism?
For a decade, the computer program has searched the skies for extraterrestrial voices. Hundreds of thousands of volunteer home computers have analyzed the data, according to a news release.
But no alien signals have been heard in the 10 years SETI@Home (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been operating.
SETI uses the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico to record radio signals from the sky. Those signals are broken down and sent to home computers, which help analyze the data.
Here’s more on how the project works, from the SETI@Home Web site:
One approach, known as radio SETI, uses radio telescopes to listen for narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space. Such signals are not known to occur naturally, so a detection would provide evidence of extraterrestrial technology.
Radio telescope signals consist primarily of noise (from celestial sources and the receiver’s electronics) and man-made signals such as TV stations, radar, and satellites. Modern radio SETI projects analyze the data digitally. More computing power enables searches to cover greater frequency ranges with more sensitivity. Radio SETI, therefore, has an insatiable appetite for computing power.
In the 10 years that SETI has been active not a single extraterrestrial signal has been heard.
This could lead us to believe that maybe we are truly alone in this vast universe. No one knows for sure, of course. The debate has intensified since the Roswell incident of 1947.
Tsk, that damn Roswell thing keeps rearing it’s ugly mug, ruining any credibility SETI might have!
That’s what Shostak and others say anyway.
IMHO, SETI proponents shoot their own credibility through the brain-pan simply by ignoring work such as this:
And now we’re off to the races, for as Koester noted in his email to me, a small interstellar probe could theoretically create a molecular computer which could then, upon arrival, create electronic equipment of the sort needed for observations. Think of a probe that gets around the payload mass problem by using molecular processes to create cameras and imaging systems not by mechanical nanotech but by inherently biological methods.
A Von Neumann self-replicating probe comes to mind, but we may not have to go to that level in our earliest iterations. The biggest challenge to our interstellar ambitions is propulsion, with the need to push a payload sufficient to conduct a science mission to speeds up to an appreciable percentage of lightspeed. The more we reduce payload size, the more feasible some missions become — Koester was motivated to write by considering ‘Sundiver’ mission strategies coupled with microwave beaming.
The question becomes whether molecular computing can proceed to develop the needed instrumentation largely by tapping resources in the destination system, a process John Von Neumann called ‘interstellar in-situ resource utilization.’ The more in-system resources we can tap (in the destination system, that is), the lighter our initial payload has to be, and yes, that raises countless issues about targeting the mission and the flexibility of the design once arrived to conduct the needed harvesting.
What an interesting concept. It’s fascinating to see how far the notion of self-replication has taken us since Robert Freitas produced a self-replicating interstellar probe based on the original Project Daedalus design. That one, called REPRO, would mine the atmosphere of Jupiter for helium-3, just like Daedalus, and would use inertial confinement fusion for propulsion. But REPRO would carry a so-called SEED payload that, upon arrival on the moon of a gas giant, would produce an automated factory that would turn out a new REPRO every five hundred years.
But REPRO would have been massive (each SEED payload would weigh in at close to five hundred tons), with all the challenges that added to the propulsion question. Freitas later turned to nanotech ideas in advocating a probe more or less the size of a sewing needle, with a millimeter-wide body and enough nanotechnology onboard to activate assemblers on the surface of whatever object it happened to find in the destination system.
Now we’re looking at a biological variant of this concept that could, if extended, be turned to self-replication. Rothemund says that he wants to write molecular programs that can build technology. A probe built along these lines could use local materials to create the kind of macro-scale objects needed to form a research station around another star, the kind of equipment we once envisioned boosting all the light years to our target. How much simpler if we can build the needed tools when we arrive?
If we can come up with such ideas now, imagine what we could come up with in 10 to 20 years if these concepts were given the proper funding?
And why for crying out loud, wouldn’t civilizations thousands, or tens of thousands of years ahead of ours use such methods even more esoteric?
Maybe we should call SETI on lack of imagination also?