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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Kardeshev 1.5?

I am sure most of you have by now heard at least a garbled version of the discovery of a very unusual object in the skies, a possible alien mega-structure. I have not been following the mass media but they probably went for the spectacular in their reporting.

Well, it could be spectacular, but only if after a few years or even decades of hard science it does not turn out to be something else. Some science news outlets have compared it to the discovery of the pulsar by Jocelyn Bell. There was no known explanation at the time for something in the heavens that could generate a pulse train that was so precise you could set your time standard to it.

Still, an alien civilization is a candidate explanation, even if the only thing we can say is “We’ve got something we’ve never seen before and some of our wild ass guesses, including an alien civilization, have not yet been ruled out”. I want to make this absolutely clear before I get to the fun stuff.

Now… what if it turns out to be true and we find we have a neighbor who is building structures in space large enough to obscure up to 20% of its sun’s output for significant periods of time? That is one serious civilization, one that is well on its way to becoming a Kardeshev Type II.

But let us turn things around. If they exist, what do they know about us?

The star in question is about 1400 light years away from us. That means what we are seeing happened back in the dark ages, back in an era oft written of in books by Dr. Sean Gabb in his historical novels. Whatever we are detecting now of their technology happened that long ago. Fourteen Hundred Years of advancement beyond what we can see. One and a half millennia. Just imagine it.

Lets go further. Fourteen hundred years ago they were building structures that could block 20% of their star’s light when passing in front of it. That is not the capability of a new space faring civilization. In our terms, it is probably several millenia beyond where we are in our space capabilities, possibly even more.

So how many thousands of years ago did they map a lovely little life bearing world? They almost certainly have thousands of years of data on our star and planets. But their data shows no sign of civilization because their most recent data about us comes from our 600AD.

Unusual situation then. We would know there is a space faring civilization out there… and they would only know there was a life bearing world with no signs of a technological civilization here.

So… I wonder when the generation ships of the colonists will show up?

I’m just having a bit of fun. But What If?

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66 comments to Kardeshev 1.5?

  • George Atkisson

    An excellent post that includes an intelligent discussion of the time element in discussing this discovery. Most media apparently thinks that what we are looking at and analyzing is in real time. Sigh.

  • Darin

    Well, it could be spectacular, but only if after a few years or even decades of hard science it does not turn out to be something else.

    Why? These few years or decades can be spent in productive discussion whether the aliens are Democratic or Republican, Capitalist or Communist, Sunni or Shiite, and whether they want to liberate us or eat us.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    A friendly warning… I intend to keep discussion focused on the discovery.

  • “I wonder when etc generation ships of the colonists will show up?”

  • konshtok

    depending on how close a look they took(take?) at the solar system it might be possible for them to detect signs of civilization like changes in the atmosphere or albedo

  • “I wonder whet the generation ships of the colonists will show up”

    This was an excellent premise behind an alternate history science fiction series by Harry Turtledove, “WorldWar”.

    Ships come to colonize Earth. It’s lizard like race came based on intelligence gathered about eight centuries prior to their actual arrival, and are suprised to find a planet far more technologically advanced than they expected, and in the middle of World War II.

    (okay, technically these weren’t generation ships, as actual generation ships could have monitored Earth and its development as they approached over the years.)

    (sorry about the earlier one-line post, I mistakenly hit “Post”)

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    I don’t think there was all that much change in albedo by human activities up to 600 AD. There weren’t that many of us around either. Roughly a 200 million global population. 2/3’s of the current US population spread over the entire world. That’s not very dense.

    We might have added a bit of wood smoke, but compared to forest fires? Probably not a big deal.

    There was some change due to agriculture taking hold, but that took thousands of years and was a relatively small effect.

    So I’m skeptical of our (or their) ability to detect a pre-tech civilization.

  • Darin

    “I wonder whet the generation ships of the colonists will show up”

    life bearing world based on alien biochemistry is the absolutely last place in the universe you would want to settle.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    Yes, I love that series. However their information was based on scout ships that visited here and then went home, and they had the presumption that all sentients developed as glacially slowly as they did. That doesn’t hold in this case. I’m not even assuming visits because 1400 light years even at velocities reachable by fusion ships would be well up into the thousands of years of travel time. To actually get a generation ship here, they would have needed to head here early in their space faring days. If we assume they could build ships that get up to .25C, they’d require about 6000 years to travel here. That’s probably in the range of an advanced antimatter ship. So if they left in 4000 BC, they’d be arriving here about now.

  • Darin

    “This was an excellent premise behind an alternate history science fiction series by Harry Turtledove, “WorldWar”.”

    Most realistic science fiction alien invasion is from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, where Earth is bulldozed for materials to make interstellar highway, as easily as bulldozer sweeps away anthill.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Darin, I just scheduled a visit to my town hall planning office, where I plan to find the basement, ignore the large feline, and dig thoroughly through any file cabinets I find there.
    Oh, wait, that scenario only applies to the destruction of my own house. OK, then. Never mind…

  • Darin

    “So I’m skeptical of our (or their) ability to detect a pre-tech civilization.”

    if they are observing, they are aware that Earth is living world for about 600 million years

    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sauerstoffgehalt-1000mj2.png

  • staghounds

    If we can’t give them diseases, kill them and eat them.

    It worked for West Africa.

  • Laird

    Kardedshev 1.5? Perhaps 1400 years ago they were 20% finished in building themselves a Dyson Sphere. By now they could be fully up to Type II.

    Given all the exoplanets we’re discovering with our relatively crude technology, it’s not unreasonable to assume that habitable worlds (i.e., those at a temperature where water is generally in liquid form, and where the gravity isn’t too extreme) are fairly common. If that’s true, I would expect these folks to be colonizing nearer worlds than setting out for one 1400 light years away. Eventually those colony worlds would in turn establish their own colonies, so the species would gradually expand its range. This “hopping” minimizes the need for “generation ships”, or at least keeps the number of generations required to reach any given destination relatively small. (And of course, you’re assuming that they haven’t developed something like the Alcubierre Warp Drive, which would throw your time scale out the window. It that’s even possible I would expect a Type II civilization to have figured it out.)

    Of course, they might have begun that colonization process millennia ago, in which case they could show up here tomorrow. But I wouldn’t expect it to be after a 6,000 year journey. And I would expect that they would have at least some idea of our technological level, if they (a) started out only a hundred or so light years away, and (b) kept observing our EM transmissions during their journey.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    If they’re building something like a Dyson sphere, why send ships? Of course, the obscuring matter could be some of their ships already on the way here…
    Dale, what news can you tell us about the EMdrive? I hope someone, somewhere is doing more research on it! If it does work, I suspect that it simply creates an inertia shield. Ernst Mach, the physicist, thought that inertia was gravity from everywhere. So a shield would stop it on one side, allowing gravity from the other side to pull on the motor and give the appearance of thrust. So no need to rewrite the rulebooks.
    And any aliens could also use this system, so they might be able to reach close to light-speed cheaply!

  • A great post Dale that is really thought-provoking. The question (one of them) is if they wondered if we showed “promise” all those years back? Promise enough to attempt first-contact (for whatever reasons) with what they imagined might be our future.

    If one, as I have, studied astrophysics, you do all this thinking in terms of how you see things as they were but you got me thinking of looking through the other end of the telescope so to speak. There is an idea in there for a SF story at the least.

    Have you read “The Paradigm of the Light-bulb by Brian Aldiss?” It deals with something not dissimilar.

    PS I have met Jocelyn Bell acouple of times. She’s quite impressive.

    PPS I have just logged off from playing Sid Meier’s SmaX so am very tired but oddly synchronous.

  • Barracoder

    If you want to try to help find more systems like this then join up at , where this star’s weird signature was first spotted.

  • Barracoder

    That was a rubbish attempt at providing a link. Try here.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    Do realize that I am not claiming the validity of anything or making any big assumptions other than the first one (unlikely enough for anyone), which is that ‘they exist’. If you then take pessimistic extrapolations and the fastest travel time allowed within known technology, you get a best case travel time of perhaps 6000 years. If you posit the short haul colonize and expand concept, they would not arrive here for tens of thousands of years. The civilization might have stayed in one system and might be dead by now. Or it might have gone into uploaded life using the vast solar power arrays to power them up their own navels into virtual worlds. They might be post-singularity and all we see are the energy resources for their post-whateverist existence. With zero information we can posit anything at all except violations of natural law. For my thought experiment I simply took a conservative look at one of the limits.

    Now if you want to posit things that are beyond current engineering extrapolation, like the Alcubeirre drive, go ahead. I happen to like it, but it is far from a done deal in Physics yet. Might be possible or might not be, but a ship using it requires extrapolation into the deep unknown.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    EMDrive. I retain a big dose of skepticism. I know they have some seemingly good results, but until they test one in space and see it accelerate with nothing attached, I will retain that skepticism. Note that I am not saying “NO”. I am saying I neither believe nor disbelieve. I consider it a pure unknown.

    I’m actually more hopeful about the drive explored by Dr. Woodward which has shown interesting if tiny results and has been replicated. It also relies on the Mach principle but has the advantage of coming complete with a viable theory which does not violate any known physical laws. The theory is tricky, it is not necessarily going to work out, but at least there is one to falsify.

    It’s hard to falsify the theory behind the EMDrive because to my knowledge there isn’t one. It ‘just works’ is great… if true. Show me it accelerating away in vacuum and I’ll agree we’re are missing something in our Physics.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    Darin. Even at our technological level, we are able in some circumstances to see what the major constituents of an extrasolar planet are. Within a decade or three we might well be able to find a world at 1400 LY’s distance and see if its atmospheric chemistry is nonequilibrium. That is a more general way of framing the statement. We breath O2; O2 is not in equilibrium without life to generate it; if other forms of life use other chemistry’s, we might see that strange life exists simply because the gases involved could simply not exist in those proportions without life driving the chemical equations away from their static (non-life) equilibrium point.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Our own attempts to locate planets seems to show that earthlike worlds are very rare. A lot of systems seem to be unstable, with Jupiter-type worlds upsetting orbits in many of our neighbours. So aliens might be coming here just to see if life like their own is established here, as other systems might literally not have ecosystems.
    Perhaps hundreds, or thousands, of lightyears will always separate life-friendly systems, so our nearest neighbours are not within talking distance.
    Still, if they do get here, will they be polite enough to know English, and use the metric system? All aliens on TV shows seems to do so.

  • Regional

    What I find intriguing is that on giant space ships all these people stand around looking at benches covered in lights yet in our times the two divers of big planes look at a couple of plasma screens.

  • Mr Ed

    I wonder when the generation ships of the colonists will show up?

    Perhaps they have, and are in a cloaked orbiter, waiting to land, but are rehearsing the line ‘Take me to your leader‘ and, having figured out who that signifies, are trying to suppress their sniggering as they search for a suitable spot to land.

  • Phil

    Is this, “Cognitive ability and the light bulb,” the Brian Aldiss story?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    I have just read up on Dr. Woodward, and his machine. He describes it as a capacitor. A firm here in Australia claims to be able to use graphene in capacitors in such a way as to replace batteries, and have 6 times the charge! It may soon be a lot easier to do such experiments. Interesting times ahead!

  • Frankly, who cares about habitable worlds? Given a reasonable level of technology, which anyone capable of constructing a Dyson sphere like satellite swarm would have, by definition, why not just build your own? Thousands and thousands of O’Neill habitats, or variations thereof, each containing between hundreds to hundreds of billions of sentient beings.

    It matters not if local stars have habitable planets in that case, as long as there is an Oort cloud, or a Kuiper belt, or some other source of mass just floating there in space, just build your own perfect environment.

    Truly, I think a Mars colony is a waste of time, the industrial centres of the solar system will be based in the Trojans and Greeks, Jupiter orbit, or anywhere else there is terratons of free floating mass.

  • CaptDMO

    “Etc. etc., …well on its way to becoming a Kardeshev Type II.
    I think you misspelled Kardasian Type Butt.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    For the first half of my life, any evidence, however slight, that sentient aliens might exist would have filled me with excitement and wonder. But as I get older I find it more worrying. If we find one civilization out there, then it’s reasonable to assume there are more. Infinitely many more, including those with infinitely more power than us. Even if most of them are thoroughly nice beings it only takes one bad bunch coming to our solar system for some purpose incomprehensible to us to flatten us as we would flatten an anthill in the way of a bulldozer.

    Still, that possibility makes it all the more urgent to know the facts.

  • Paul Marks

    No – I was unaware that any alien civilisation had been discovered in outer space.

    Yes light that took over a thousand years to get here would mean that what we “see” (if anything) is from over a thousand years ago.

    However, what is the advert for Dr Gabb about?

    Yes he writes novels about the late Roman – Byzantine period. Although with an “English” hero – which is odd as England did not exist at the time, and what limited links the Byzantines had with this island in the 6th and early 7th centuries were mainly with the Romano British in the west, not the Germanic tribes in the east.

    But I certainly do not see a connection between Sean Gabb and space aliens.

    I repeat that I am puzzled as to why this claim of the discovery of alien civilisation has not been reported in the news.

    I will check again to see if a missed a BBC headline.

  • Andrew Duffin

    They’re probably trying to blot out their sun because they’re worried about global warming.

  • Paul Marks

    No nothing on the BBC service – even in the science section.

    I will try Fox News.

  • Paul Marks

    No nothing about the discovery of an alien civilisation on Fox News either.

    As for Sean Gabb – the only connection I can think of is his admiration for the collectivist totalitarian Francis Bacon – of “The New Atlantis”.

    Thomas Hobbes (the anti libertarian determinist and defender of tyranny – who was the secretary of Francis Bacon, and like him was a passionate enemy of the basic principles of the limited government Common Law) is also admired by Dr Gabb.

    The regime of “The New Atlantis” was supposed to use its development of technology (and its total control of society) to produce wonders.

    “Alien mega structures”?

  • Greytop

    Alien: “I come Earthlings, to laugh at your puny Climate Change and allied futile predictions. Also, am not fussed about most of your religions.”

  • Darin

    “No nothing about the discovery of an alien civilisation on Fox News either.”

    Yes there is.

    Sign of alien life? Kepler telescope spots strange star

    Daily Mail also noticed the most important news of all history (if the alien origins are proven, a big IF)

    The search for an alien MEGASTRUCTURE

    “Alien mega structures”?

    KIC 8462852

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    1. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 2. Self replicating probes can map the entire galaxy in not much time. They are already here and they are undetectable.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Darin wrote: “life bearing world based on alien biochemistry is the absolutely last place in the universe you would want to settle”. It depends what you are made of. Assuming they don’t just fail to notice we are here, I’d like to think there are no resource shortages and that we will at least be valuable to them as entertainment.

    NickM wrote: “The question (one of them) is if they wondered if we showed “promise” all those years back? Promise enough to attempt first-contact”. I think there is nothing stopping them from mapping the entire galaxy. So if they are at all interested in interstellar exploration, they’ll show up eventually whether they detected us advance or not, and whether they find us particularly interesting or not.

    Dale: “If you posit the short haul colonize and expand concept, they would not arrive here for tens of thousands of years.” What if you posit a simulated civilisation inside a tiny probe? And send millions out in all directions? And I wonder how long ago they might have been able to start doing this.

    Andrew Duffin: “They’re probably trying to blot out their sun because they’re worried about global warming”. They’re probably controlling our climate. To help us…or for some other reason.

    Counting Cats: “Thousands and thousands of O’Neill habitats, or variations thereof, each containing between hundreds to hundreds of billions of sentient beings.” — This is pretty interesting. Would our current planet hunting efforts find these?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I suspect that once physics has come up with a logical-sounding theory of how faster-than-light travel is possible, the Universe will oblige us by permitting it.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    Dale,

    A mind-boggling possibility. But we can accept we’re observing the effects of an alien civilisation only after all other possibilities have been completely disproven.

    My biggest concern is that we’re trying to extract too much information from very scant data. (Indeed, this can be said of the whole quest to find extrasolar planets and determine their characteristics.) Mars and Venus were studied for about three hundred years, using progressively more powerful telescopes. Then, in the 1960s, they received flyby missions which showed, in the space of a few hours, that just about everything we thought we knew about both planets was wrong. Is there any reason to believe we’re not making the same mistakes now?

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    You do the best you can at any particular time with what you’ve got. One of my personal mantras is:

    “Start from where you are”.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    In addition, the extrasolar planet data is pretty solid and keeps getting better. More advanced techniques are still iffy but we’ve been doing spectra for a very long time. As to the issue in question, no one serious thinks we have identified an alien civilization. We have identified a star at which we cannot yet eliminate an alien civilization as a possible explanation.

    Any discussion here is purely for fun and about something that is probably going to turn out to be something else that we never imagined. New types of objects, new physics, new whatever. Megastructures? Probably not.

    But speculation is fun. What If’s are fun. That’s all there is to this posting.

  • Watchman

    Dale,

    Just as a thought, by 600 AD humanity would be detectable by sufficiently acute sensors, as across China, much of Europe and the Middle East and sections of Africa we had radically changed the landscape. Probably also in much of the Americas, perhaps including bits that are today rain forest. Although there were a lot less humans then, they used the space to live extensively – large fields, plenty of grazing and woodland management, and even pastoral societies tend to change landscapes, especially as they often favour goats.

    So if there was a roughtly parallel development in terms of society and their use of the land, we would have been detectable (Rome and other cities would even have notable heat signals at times). Of course, if the planet was occupied by aliens with different social or biological backgrounds, even if they had monitored the changes, they might not be able to identify them as the work of intelligence, because it was not what they would expect a historical signature to look like.

  • Incunabulum

    “Lets go further. Fourteen hundred years ago they were building structures that could block 20% of their star’s light when passing in front of it. That is not the capability of a new space faring civilization. In our terms, it is probably several millennia beyond where we are in our space capabilities, possibly even more.”

    Actually, its probably closer to 250 years – or less – more advanced than us. We have a decent grasp on what’s needed to do this already.

    1. They’re likely (well, actually there’s likely *no one there* in the first place, but assume there is for the sake of argument) not building a Dyson *sphere* (a one piece object – which has problems maintaining a stable position as any movement away from perfectly centered gets amplified by gravitational attraction along with needing materials strong enough to withstand the compressive forces is not even *theoretically possible* as far as we know) but a *bubble* – multiple overlapping statites relying on light pressure to keep them stationary above the star. Much easier to make this. Unobtanium needed to do so is even in the ‘reasonable for something that we can’t get within an order of magnitude of yet’ range.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

    2. More likely to be turning into a Matryoshka Brain – a vast number small pieces of networked computronium in orbits around the star, arranged in concentric shells, each layer powered by the waste heat of the inner layers. They ‘live’ as construct minds in virtual reality running inside the computronium.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrioshka_brain

    3. Self-replicating infrastructure greatly reduces the time-frame needed for the dis-assembly of the system’s planets and other large object – which will provide the materials for the shell’s structures.

    *Personally* – I’d say 250 years tops before we have both the tech and sufficient industrial might to be able to start such a project and around another 250 to complete it. Maybe double those numbers for a pessimistic outside time-frame.

    Pluses and minuses – this would have happened 1,500 years ago. Assume an average 10%c expansion rate and they’ll be here in force in, oh – 13,500 years. probably still be another millennia before their first probes, launched 1500 years ago, get to us.

    When that probe gets here, we’ll likely be on parity, technologically, with it.

    OTOH, when *they* do get here, they’ll still be as gods to us – so far advanced they might not even be able to recognize our post-human descendants of 13 millennia from now as *intelligent*.

    Oh, and that Dyson shell only 1500 light years away is a gun pointed straight at us.

    Imagine using the outer shell as a phased laser array, powered by the entire output of a star. Focus on an object only 7,000 miles in diameter. Could make your target spot that small if your laser is in the upper microwave band (or higher). Given that we can phase array microwaves *now* . . . ]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Nicoll#Nicoll-Dyson_Laser

    These things are why some people are hoping we never find intelligent life. Even a headstart of only a single century can bloom into an unstoppable technological lead.

  • Laird

    SETI announced yesterday that they will begin aiming the Allen Telescope Array at KIC 8462852. So perhaps we’ll have some more useful data in the near future.

  • Incunabulum

    “Watchman
    October 20, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Just as a thought, by 600 AD humanity would be detectable by sufficiently acute sensors, as across China, much of Europe and the Middle East and sections of Africa we had radically changed the landscape.”

    Couple of problems with this.

    Diffraction limits the resolution of sensors based on frequency and receiver diameter.

    Rs = (.61 * D * L)/Rt

    where:

    Rt = beam radius at target (m) >> 100 m
    D = distance from laser emitter to target (m) >> 1.411 x 10^19 m
    L = wavelength of laser beam (m) >> 2.5 x10^-6 m
    Rs = radius of sensor lens or reflector (m)

    To get 100m resolution in the near IR range, from 1500 light years away, you’d need a mirror with a radius of 215,025,000 km (1.44 AU).

    Secondly – you have the problem of recognizing what those changes *mean*. This planet’s gone through some pretty dramatic climate changes. From mostly tropical to ice-ages and in between. Is the loss of forest cover in one region due to *intelligent* action or through some natural mechanism like disease or failure to adapt to some minor climate shift?

  • Incunabulum

    “Rob Fisher (Surrey)
    October 20, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Darin wrote: “life bearing world based on alien biochemistry is the absolutely last place in the universe you would want to settle”. It depends what you are made of. Assuming they don’t just fail to notice we are here, I’d like to think there are no resource shortages and that we will at least be valuable to them as entertainment.”

    1. You wouldn’t come *here* to fix a resource shortfall. There’s nothing here that you can’t find in abundance in any other solar system. Even the idea of an alien coming to Earth for water is ludicrous. There’s a mass of water far greater than that of the whole Earth available in the cometary cloud – and you don’t have to lift it off Earth’s surface against a 1g pull. Its 40,000 kph to break Earth orbit.

    2. Even failing to notice us, they won’t settle here. A life-bearing world is filled with machines that exist solely because they are the fittest remains of countless generations of ruthlessly brutal evolution. They *eat* anything that can’t stop them from doing so. Mars is a cakewalk compared to Brazil – the challenges on Mars do not change unexpectedly like micro-organisms.

    An alien may find that some (to us) harmlees, or even benign organism both finds them amazingly delicious and that they have no defense against it. And vice-versa.

    3. If they find us entertaining, they can subscribe to PPV and get all the reality TV they can handle without ever having to leave home.

  • Paul Marks

    O.K. Darin.

  • Maximo Macaroni

    I’m quite satisfied to explore the implications of the supposition that Man on Earth is the first and only intelligent life in the Universe and that Earth is the only life-bearing planet anywhere.

  • Barry

    Do you think they might want to invest in the Northern Powerhouse? 😉

  • PaulM

    I’m 3/4 of the way through a book called Alien Base by Timothy Good (1998 I think).
    He seems to have done a great deal of sensible investigation into the UFO “situation” on Earth.
    Anybody else here read anything by Good? His output on this subject seems to extensive.

  • Darin

    Incunabulum

    There’s nothing here that you can’t find in abundance in any other solar system.

    There is abundance and abundance. One for resupplying a ship , another for building megastructures.

    For the latter, terrestrial planets are concentrated source of iron, just waiting to be cracked open.

    Earth-Destruction Data

    Maximo Macaroni

    I’m quite satisfied to explore the implications of the supposition that Man on Earth is the first and only intelligent life in the Universe and that Earth is the only life-bearing planet anywhere.

    Yes, no one will ever come to exterminate us, we have to do the hard work all alone.

  • bloke in spain

    Some thing is interposing itself in the line of sight to a star 1400 lightyears away & reducing the apparent luminosity by 20%. Is there anything there to say the something is 1400 light years distant? Couldn’t it be a something a lot closer, coming directly down that line of sight? But far enough away, there’s no immediately detectable parallax due to the earth’s orbital position.
    It could be a much smaller than stellar sized. And due to arrive much sooner.
    Exhaust plume from some sort of drive?
    Light sail?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    To Personfromporlock,
    I came up with a semi-sensible explanation allowing faster-then-earthlight travel a while back, explaining that photon speed is a function of particle width, so that we can’t interact with tachyons, nor they with us, because we can only interact with particles of the same size as the ones that make us up. The reason that all electrons seem the same size is because we can only exchange photons which match our size, a wave-width barrier, like wave-length interference. If we could change the width of every particle in our bodies in a non-lethal way, then we would emit and absorb photons that are wider and faster than earth-type photons, but we should also be living at a faster rate!

  • thefrollickingmole

    Surely most space exploration would follow the same sort of pattern, lots of unmanned probes, possibly self directed scattered towards promising targets initially, followed by any actual attempts at contact?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    I read a book, years ago, which claimed that some strange radio events (obselete radio programs suddenly being broadcast from an unknown base) might have been attempts by a robot probe from Somewhere Else to start talks going with earth authorities. Does anyone else know anything about this, or similar happenings?

  • Tedd

    Schrodinger’s Dog:

    I’m not an astronomer, but I have been a space nut since before any of the Venus or Mars fly-bys and I’m pretty sure you haven’t characterized the situation quite correctly. There was certainly plenty of speculation about certain observations whose meaning was unclear, such as the “canals” on Mars. But the distinction between speculation and knowledge was always pretty clear (to astronomers, if not to lay people). Actual measured data about Venus and Mars — their masses, the chemical composition of their atmospheres, their approximate temperatures — have not been refuted by what we’ve learned from the fly-bys and landings. Only speculation has been debunked, which should surprise no one. Likewise, there’s no reason to think that the similar kinds of measurements we’ve made of exoplanets aren’t correct, to a reasonable degree of accuracy.

  • I am reminded here of Arthur C. Clarke’s quote:

    Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

    What I do like the thought of is an alien civilisation keeping an eye on earth when Krakatoa went up. Perhaps they wrote Wow! beside their readout, and decided to keep their distance from us for a while.

  • obselete radio programs suddenly being broadcast

    No, they were just Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign speeches.

  • Dr. Toboggan

    Well, if they know all that, then they’ll know that the situation here could be totally different by the time they arrive. A cautious approach would be best. Most likely they would come secretly and conduct clandestine research on any sentient populations they found – with a particular focus on anal cavities, naturally.

  • Laird

    Tedd, the Mars probes may have debunked some of the speculation, but certainly not all of it!

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    As for resources, we’ll be able to make all we want from the Sun. All that plasma could be cooled (using Solar power), and the particles turned into hydrogen, at the first stage. Then learn how to build up complex atoms by cryogenic fusion, and gradually let them get to room temperature. Violin- atoms made to order! You could even experimentally build atoms that have not yet been found, and see how explosive they are.
    So even rare resources should not be a problem for a race that can go around its’ own star system.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    I read a short story which set me thinking- if an alien ship did drop in, and a shuttle came down, and a non-human-looking alien stepped, would I be breaking any laws if I shot the alien, and killed it, and took it home to add to my trophy collection?
    Do our laws automatically cover aliens, or are we just assuming they do?

  • Paul Marks

    Nicholas.

    Common Law is the effort to put into practice the principles of justice (of natural law) into effect in the circumstances of time and place.

    So if you killed an intelligent alien you would be up for murder (even if all the statutes say “human” or whatever) so fast your feet would not touch the ground.

    Assuming the aliens did not literally pull your feet off the ground first.

  • Mr Ed

    Nicholas,

    Per Wikipedia, Blackstone’s description of the offence of murder at common law, reportedly citing Coke (I writing waving a red rag to the Bull of Kettering), is as follows:

    when a person, of sound memory and discretion, unlawfully kills any reasonable creature in being and under the king’s peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied

    An ominous definition for the unreasonable amongst us.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    So the law is vague enough that some soft-hearted juries might be mean to their own human kind. Let us hope that PETA doesn’t find out about this! Pigs might be described as intelligent and/or reasonable, so bacon might be outlawed!

  • Laird

    I don’t think that resorting to Coke (through Blackstone) is likely to be dispositive of the issue of the killing of a sentient alien; more modern statutes would be applied. But if we are going back to Blackstone, Mr Ed’s reproduction of Blackstone’s quote is accurate. However, that citation was in a section discussing the history of the crime of murder. Blackstone himself, who devotes an entire chapter of his Commentaries* to homicide (Book IV, Chapter 14), describes murder as one subset of homicide (the three subsets being justifiable, excusable, and felonious), and he defines “homicide” generally as “the killing of any human creature.” (My emphasis.) And he goes on to define “felonious homicide” as “the killing of a human creature, of any age or sex, without justification or excuse.” (Again, my emphasis.) So Blackstone is not quite so broad in his definition and the Coke quote would suggest.

    * Yes, I have a complete set in my library. A foolish extravagance, no doubt, but there it is.