Filed under: Astronomy, Brave New World, Connections, Fermi's Paradox, Galaxy Zoo, General Musings, New Horizons, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, tech, Universe Today | Tags: Aliens, blogging, Communion of Dreams, exoplanets, HD164595, jim downey, Kardashev scale, Paul Gilster, radio astronomy, Science Fiction, SETI, space, technology, Wikipedia, Zelenchukskaya
An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.
The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”
Even if it is a signal directly beamed at us, it would require a Kardashev Type I civilization (about 200 years beyond where Earth is currently). If it is just beaming off in all directions, it’s another whole magnitude of power — about a Kardashev Type II.
Yeah, I’d say it warrants paying attention to.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Astronomy, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Fermi's Paradox, Gardening, Habanero, J. Michael Straczynski, Man Conquers Space, Marketing, Promotion, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, Survival, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Babylon 5, Bad Astronomy, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, Dukhat, feedback, free, gardening, Glen Tickle, Habaneros, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, Kurzgesagt, Laughing Squid, Mother's Day, promotion, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
(Does not contain spoilers for Communion of Dreams. 😉 )
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Been a busy week. Part of it was putting in my garden:
(That’s just the tomato plants — the super-hot peppers will go in next week.)
Part of it was a MASSIVE job converting a 16 x 16 storage space into the beginnings of a workshop:
(There’s still lots to do, but man, what a change from being hip-high in grungy boxes and scattered junk!)
And part of it was we have a new addition to the family:
(He’s just 6 weeks old, entirely too cute, bold & adventurous, and tiny. For now. No name yet, though given his grey color I suggested perhaps we should go with Dukhat … )
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I’m just now finishing up the first major revision to the working copy of St Cybi’s Well. I already have a couple of people lined up to take a look at it with fresh eyes, but if anyone else is interested also having a preview, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you.
Lastly: for Mother’s Day weekend, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year will be available for free. Check it out, download it, share it with others!
Filed under: Astronomy, Fermi's Paradox, Humor, NYT, Privacy, Science, Science Fiction, Seth Shostak, SETI, Space, Survival, tech, Website .. end .. Universe, Writing stuff | Tags: astronomy, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Drake Equation, Fermi's Paradox, humor, jim downey, New York Times, science, Science Fiction, Seth Shostak, SETI, space, Stephen Hawking, technology, writing
A better approach is to note that the nearest intelligent extraterrestrials are likely to be at least dozens of light-years away. Even assuming that active SETI provokes a reply, it won’t be breezy conversation. Simple back-and-forth exchanges would take decades. This suggests that we should abandon the “greeting card” format of previous signaling schemes, and offer the aliens Big Data.
For example, we could transmit the contents of the Internet. Such a large corpus — with its text, pictures, videos and sounds — would allow clever extraterrestrials to decipher much about our society, and even formulate questions that could be answered with the material in hand.
While I still agree with Stephen Hawking on the idea of ‘active SETI’, I think that there’s merit in the idea of exposing other nearby civilizations to what we’re really like, warts and all. Because as soon as they decoded our transmissions well enough to understand the comments section of pretty much any major site on the web, they’d either completely wall off our solar system* and post warnings around it or just trigger our sun to go supernova. Either way, we’d never know what happened, and the rest of the galaxy would be safe …
*gee, that’d make an interesting premise for a SF novel, doncha think?
Filed under: Astronomy, Fermi's Paradox, General Musings, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, Survival | Tags: astronomy, blogging, Drake Equation, exoplanets, Fermi's Paradox, gamma ray bursts, Harvard, Hebrew University, jim downey, life, physics, Raul Jimenez, science, Science Fiction, SETI, space, survival, Tsvi Piran
It really does seem to be a pretty universal law:
As a copious source of gamma-rays, a nearby Galactic Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) can be a threat to life. Using recent determinations of the rate of GRBs, their luminosity function and properties of their host galaxies, we estimate the probability that a life-threatening (lethal) GRB would take place. Amongst the different kinds of GRBs, long ones are most dangerous. There is a very good chance (but no certainty) that at least one lethal GRB took place during the past 5 Gyr close enough to Earth as to significantly damage life. There is a 50% chance that such a lethal GRB took place during the last 500 Myr causing one of the major mass extinction events. Assuming that a similar level of radiation would be lethal to life on other exoplanets hosting life, we explore the potential effects of GRBs to life elsewhere in the Galaxy and the Universe.
What that means is summed up in this article. Here’s the conclusion:
Astronomers have long known that the Earth occupies a unique position in the solar system that allows life to flourish. This idea of a habitable zone now allows them to focus search for exoplanets that might also have conditions that are right for life. Now they can take this further by excluding inhospitable regions of the galaxy, and searching only those stars and galaxies that exist in the universe’s habitable zones.
Of course, that’s just for life as we know it …
Filed under: Astronomy, Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, NPR, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, tech, Titan | Tags: Arecibo, astronomy, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Duncan Lorimer, jim downey, Joe Palca, NPR, Parkes Observatory, predictions, radio astronomy, Robert Gish, Science Fiction, SETI, space, Titan
Interesting news item on NPR this morning:
Astronomers have a mystery on their hands. Two large radio telescopes, on opposite sides of the planet, have detected very brief, very powerful bursts of radio waves.
Right now, astronomers have no idea what’s causing these bursts or where they’re coming from. And nothing has been ruled out at the moment — not even the kind of outrageous claims you’d expect to see in tabloid headlines.
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As you would imagine, there’s been lots of speculation about what’s behind these mysterious bursts. Some astronomers think they’re caused by blitzars, pulses of energy from a supermassive star collapsing into a black hole. Others think they may be caused by power solar flares coming from stars nearer by.
And Lorimer says he has to mention it: “There’s even been discussions in the literature about signatures from extraterrestrial civilizations.”
From Chapter 1 of Communion of Dreams when news of the discovery of an evidently alien artifact on Titan is being discussed:
The man sitting next to him got up, stepped up to the holo of the artifact still rotating there in the center. Robert Gish was a little unkempt, his beard untrimmed, his dark hair matted. He was out of shape, almost flabby in appearance. His scientific reputation was as unconventional as his looks. More so. He had been responsible for the radical change in long-range sensing which led to the development of the Advanced Survey Array. Nobel Prize stuff. A true genius, not just brilliant but able and willing to make leaps that took others years to understand. Which was why Bradsen had him here: Gish had been saying for decades that there was other intelligent life among the stars. Saying it so loud and so often that he was considered a crank, since he had no proof and couldn’t even really explain why he believed it to be so, at least in a way that others could accept.
Reaching out as though he was going to touch the object, he said quietly “We know what it is. It is a crack in our shell.”
Interesting news, indeed.
Filed under: Astronomy, Connections, Fermi's Paradox, National Geographic, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, tech | Tags: astronomy, blogging, Drake Equation, Fermi's Paradox, jim downey, National Geographic, predictions, science, Science Fiction, space, technology
It’s this kind of guesswork that tends to inflame the Drake equation’s critics, those who complain that the equation isn’t predictive, is too open-ended, and doesn’t provide any answers. But “predictive” isn’t really what Drake ever intended.
“It’s a way to frame the problem,” says MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager, about the equation. “In science, you always need an equation—but this isn’t one you’re going to solve. It just helps you dissect everything.”
Definitely worth reading, as well as thinking about.