Saturday, October 17, 2015
exotic space Crow
Crow, having all the advantages of being either a material or immaterial being depending on his mood, recently sojourned to one of the more exotic locales in our galaxy. You can see him here in the company of an otherworldly friend enjoying the sights on a moon of a gas giant planet that circles a star a few parsecs away from Betelguese - which is not the name the locals happen to know it by.
On his return he was amused to see the news that a strange phenomenon has been discovered by scientists monitoring the Kepler Space Telescope. The light pattern they saw seemed to indicate a big mess of matter circling the star (KIC 8462852 in astronomer speak) in tight formation. This would be no big deal for a young star – things get pretty messy during the early stages of solar system formation. The problem is that KIC 8462852 is not a young star, it's much older than our Sol and considerably larger too, and scientists seem to agree that all the potential explanations in terms of conventional physics and natural phenomena are found wanting. One astronomer, Jason Wright of Penn State University, blithely noted that the light pattern observed was consistent with a “swarm of megastructures”, and after examining the data more closely cautioned, “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”
Oops. That was the point where lots of people began to remember the Kardashev Scale* - the classification of possible civilizations depending on energy usage that basically looks like this:
Type II civilizations control all available energy in a solar system (for example, using Dyson spheres).
Type III civilizations control use all available energy in an entire galaxy.
I'm pretty sure we can't build a Dyson Sphere yet but surely that will come soon now we've got Google Glass and the i-Phone 6S.
Crow: Hold on just a moment there. Your Earth doesn't even count as a Type I civilization yet. You can scarcely predict the weather more than a few days in advance, never mind control it. The only space travel humans have done is a couple of brief forays to the moon decades ago and every so often one of you goes to sit in the Space Station. You spend incredible amounts of energy and resources bickering over idiotic political boundaries and ideological differences. Environmental problems and global resource depletion are beginning to wreak havoc with our climate and infrastructure. In 1965, Buckminster Fuller said that you had all the necessary technical knowledge then to create a globally sustainable civilization for everyone on the planet to live like billionaires. So why haven’t you?
Ah well, it's more likely than not the scientists haven't discovered a Type II civilization. Who says beings so far beyond human would even want to spend the time and energy to convert the power of an entire sun, never mind using up every scrap of material in the solar system and beyond as raw material for such a construct? Humans can only think like humans, after all, and you lot have barely begun to communicate with the other sentient beings that share the place with you. If you think about it for a moment there's a distinct possibility that advanced civilizations could decide that moving out into space in the traditional expansive convert-the-universe-into-computronium agenda is not be the best way to go.
Maybe they all got smart enough to enjoy the worlds where they evolved. Cold, dark, airless, vast and empty space may not be the right environment for living beings of any category. So far the machines you make seem to be much better at exploring and sending back news of what has been found. How likely is it anyway you will find a place better suited to you and us, your friends and co-residents?
Perhaps there is an advanced alien race that is enclosing their local star. If they plan on coming here next you people might be best off turning off the lights and staying very quiet.
God thought to hide his secrets in a secure place. ‘How about on the moon’ he reflected. ‘But then, one day human beings could get there, and it may be that those who arrive there would not be worthy of such knowledge. Maybe in the ocean or deep underground?’ But that again was dismissed for the same reason. Then the solution occurred to him – ‘I shall put my secrets in the inner sanctum of their own minds. Then only those who really deserve it and seek it will be able to find it.' **
*Nikolai Kardashev, Russian astrophysicist, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and is the deputy director of the Russian Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
Not Kardasian - an entirely different kind of scale.
**Told by a tribal ayahuasca user.