Alien Super-Civilizations Playing Great Game of Hide & Seek
Scientists have taken a hard look at 100,000 galaxies and have determined that none of them contain obvious heat signatures that might be produced by a super advanced alien civilization.
That’s a helluva bummer isn’t it?
This latest bit of alien bad news comes from Penn State University Researchers in a paper from the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series called “Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey”
The idea and the assumptions behind this is that some super-advanced aliens would spread throughout their home galaxy. Such an advanced culture would likely be able to harness vast energies to support this widespread colonization and other geeky things that such societies are wont to do. This is typical of what’s called Type III civilizations on the Kardashev scale. They could support their pursuits using the energy of an entire galaxy ( in case you were wondering, Humanity is a Type 0.724…lame right?)
One obvious source of energy they could potentially mine would be the tremendous radiant energy emitted by stars. One specific method to accomplish this was codifed by Freeman Dyson in 1960 with his Dyson Sphere idea. This imagines an amazingly advanced society building a swarm of innumerable solar collectors that orbit a star and collect an appreciable fraction of its 400+ septillion watts per second of emitted power.
Of course, harnessing vast amounts of energy could be accomplished in many ways that we simply can’t conceive of yet but one fact is inescapable. Thermodynamics says there’s no way around avoiding inefficiencies which create mid-infrared waste heat. If you want a common example, consider how hot your lap gets while your laptop rests on it. This waste heat is exactly what these scientists looked for.
To search for this waste heat, researchers leveraged the immense database of galaxy information that NASA’s WISE satellite accumulated during its run starting in 2009. WISE stands for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer and it was designed to find a specific kind of light that also happens to be the kind of radiation that might be emitted in huge amounts by super hi-tech aliens. WISE’s findings then would obviously be an excellent resource to use to search for unusual heat signatures.
And search they did. WISE had over 100 million discrete detections in its catalogue. Of these, 100,000 were identified as good galaxy candidates and were thoroughly vetted for unusually large mid-infrared emission signatures.
Of the 100,000 galaxies that were looked at, precisely none of them showed clear evidence of an alien super-civilization. In terms of the study that was carried out, that means that none of the galaxies examined had 85% or more of its starlight apparently converted to mid-infrared wavelengths.
Yes, I know…I was disappointed as hell too. I’ll give you a few minutes to gather yourself………
In many ways, I would not have been incredibly surprised if they actually had found something. Why?
- The building blocks of life have been found throughout the universe
- Planets appear to be more common than we thought. Some estimates have our own galaxy hosting more than a whopping 100 billion planets. If only a tiny tiny fraction are capable of supporting life then many thousands could exist in our galaxy alone.
- Not only were a huge number of galaxies studied, these galaxies are many billions of years old. That’s plenty of time for a highly advanced space-faring society to evolve.
- It’s feasible that such a society could fill much of their host galaxy in only a few million years which is nothing in the cosmic scheme of things.
- And finally, this type of study had never been done before. The closest one looked at only 100 galaxies and they didn’t even examine their heat signatures.
THE GOOD NEWS
The study didn’t actually come up with Nothing encouraging. 50 galaxies were found emitting somewhat unusually high amounts of heat energy. Many of those were found to have natural explanations but a half-dozen or so are true mysteries with no cause yet determined. Sure, these will most likely have a natural origin and, if we’re lucky, they will be caused by entirely new astronomical processes. Still, it is possible that…these are the aliens we’re looking for. Only time will tell (maybe).
Another angle worth considering is that we’re talking about super-advanced aliens here. We may find that even the way they brush their teeth is unfathomable let alone how they power their civilization. Perhaps they developed a way to utilize much of the waste heat such that only the wastiest of waste heat is released. If they emitted radiation similar to the cosmic microwave background radiation, we’d never be able to distinguish it from the background noise. On the other hand, who the hell knows what kind of exotic powersource they’d use and what kinds of waste it would produce. Maybe they tap into other universes for energy and spit the unusable remnants into a garbage reality. Perhaps using stars as a power-source is considered low-tech and totally silly.
Yet scientists are still hopeful that as our technology improves, we will become even more adept at finding these kings (and queens) of alien buggers. Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who developed and kicked-off this research said the following:
“As we look more carefully at the light from these galaxies, we should be able to push our sensitivity to alien technology down to much lower levels, and to better distinguish heat resulting from natural astronomical sources from heat produced by advanced technologies. This pilot study is just the beginning.”
Just the beginning indeed. This study did examine a whopping 100,000 galaxies but that really is a pittance compared to the 100 billion galaxies that are estimated to exist in the visible universe. That means we’ve only made a first pass at 0.000001% of the universe.
No need feeling really lonely just yet
Image Credit: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/peqCfW8hSzQ/maxresdefault.jpg