I’m not saying it was aliens – but it may have been aliens. Excerpt:
In August 2017, the Breakthrough Listen team discovered 21 fast radio bursts from FRB 121102 during five hours of observations made by a radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia. In their latest study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, the researchers deployed a specialized AI technique known as deep learning to see if any signals had been overlooked in their initial research.
Siemion gave Yunfan “Gerry” Zhang, a doctoral student at Berkeley, the job of training a deep learning algorithm to hunt for the additional bursts. The trained AI was turned loose to sort through 400 terabytes of observational data — a huge trove containing about as much data as is contained in 40,000 hours of 4K video.
After a month of work, Zhang strolled into Siemion’s office and told his stunned mentor that he had discovered about 100 previously undetected bursts. To be sure Zhang was right, the researchers used standard computer software to clean up the messy signals — and confirmed the existence of at least 72 additional bursts.
The same AI approach could help astronomers find new repeating sources of fast radio bursts closer to Earth than FRB 121102. If closer repeater sources do exist, astronomers might be able to get a better look at them using optical and X-ray telescopes, says Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, the science theory director for all initiatives funded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.
Here’s the catch: The FRB’s they have detected left their points of origin millions of years ago. So if these are somehow signals from an alien civilization, then it’s highly probable that the civilization that produced them has either died out or grown to become so advanced as to be beyond our comprehension.
I suspect that there will be some natural explanation uncovered for fast radio bursts. But if they do turn out to be produced by some alien intelligence, one that lived a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – I wonder what they’ll be saying? It would be disappointing to have the first message from an alien intelligence be their equivalent of a cat meme.