Rule Five Friday

2016_04_22_Rule Five Friday (1)Of all the trillions of planets around billions of stars in our stellar neighborhood (the Virgo Supercluster) it seems likely that there are other thinkin’, ponderin’ critters out there somewhere.  Ever wonder how to get them to notice us?  Here may be some answers.  Excerpt:

Using the example of a hypothetical planet the same size as Earth and orbiting a star like our Sun, Kipping and Teachey show how a technologically advanced civilization on this planet could alter the light-curve that other (hypothetical) Keplers would observe.

To escape detection, Kipping and Teachey propose a cloaking method in which residents of this planet could potentially counter-act the dip in the observed light curve by using a system of lasers. That may sound fantastical (and complicated), but it turns out to be more feasible than you would think.

2016_04_22_Rule Five Friday (2)To cancel the light blocked by an Earth-like planet passing in front of a Sun-like star, it would only take a 30 megawatt (MW) laser pointed at us for 10 hours in order to fool Kepler into thinking the planet didn’t exist. Thirty megawatts is roughly equal to what 6,500 American homes use in a year (compared to more than 100 billion homes nationwide). It’s also equivalent to the amount of power the solar arrays of the International Space Station collect in a year. This hypothetical civilization would be well aware of the all the potentially habitable planets nearby that lie close to the ecliptic plane of its star system. Thus, they could easily determine when and where to point their laser.

Now think about that for a moment.  Clashes of civilizations often end badly for one or the other of the civilizations in question – sometimes for both.  And when you consider the vast reaches of space, the vast time spans involved, the unimaginably advanced 2016_04_22_Rule Five Friday (3)technology an alien world would have to reach to perfect interstellar travel – it gives one pause.

Maybe advertising our presence isn’t such a good idea.  Maybe hiding our planetary light under a bushel isn’t such a bad idea.

Then again, maybe some alien civilization is out there wigwagging at us.  The linked article concludes:

The amazing thing about astronomy is that we can’t go out and manipulate the objects we want to study, yet we can deduce so much about them just 2016_04_22_Rule Five Friday (4)from the smallest fractions of light that reach us. What if other planets are broadcasting their existence to us? There’s a nonzero possibility that we’ve already gotten the message, but we just didn’t recognize it for what it was. It gives a whole new meaning to the old phrase “hello world.”

My big desktop computer at the home office runs the SETI screensaver.  With this little gizmo, when my computer is idle, it downloads a little packet of SETI signals and uses my processor to analyze the signals using algorithms developed by the high-forehead 2016_04_22_Rule Five Friday (5)types at SETI.  The chances of finding anything are… well, astronomically small.

But they aren’t zero.  And the idea that it might just be my computer that detects the next WOW! signal is really just pretty cool to contemplate.

It’s far more likely that we’ll find (non-intelligent) alien life right here in our own Solar System – under the icepacks of Europa, for example.  But they won’t be little green men, or even smokin’ hot space chicks – more likely some little green bacteria.

But when I spend a summer night in the mountains, away from the lights of the city, I like to look up at the panorama of endless stars – and it’s fun to think that up there somewhere, someone is looking back.

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