Simply look for their junk in orbit
Now that's down to earth thinking! Get this man a beer!
A physicist at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in the Canary Islands has proposed a way by which planet hunters might detect advanced alien technology. Simply look for their junk in orbit. Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered in recent years, and huge observatories such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope ( …
It's an interesting theory. The problem with it, of course, is that it means looking for a civilisation that is at *exactly* the same stage of development as we are. Any earlier (even a couple of decades) and there won't be anything significant in orbit; any later (even just a few decades), and they'll either have triggered Kessler syndrome or they'll have worked out how to clean things up.
"Socas-Navarro calculates that at the current rate of exponential growth..."
sigh... No product continues on an exponential growth curve continuously. It might grow exponentially at the start, but it will eventually slow down as saturation is reached. To assume something will continue on an exponential growth curve, especially something like satellite launches, is utter bollocks...
It's the sort of thinking that comes from the same people who predicted that smart phone growth would continue to grow at 200% per year forever and failed to take into account the realities of product saturation and the reduction in improvements per lifecycle over time... in other words, bullsh%t artists and muppets...
Anybody up to calculating. The probable mass of an opaque satellite belt around the Earth?
Geosynchronous circumference is about 226000 km.
Say we've gotten *good* at parking and maintaining orbit you may get as far as one satellite per 10 km. Anything closer strikes me as ..not enough elbow room.. But I may be wrong there.
That gives us 22600 satellites in a ring.
However geo is not a single line, but a zone where you can park several rings adjacent to each other and still do the equator-zoomy bit. Ignoring the toroïd , (https://i.stack.imgur.com/xzORe.jpg), signal blocking and other Stuff, I'd guess you can get about 10 rings in either side from the center before moving out of true geo territory. That makes for 20 feasible orbits ( 200 km orbit definition), containing roughly 450.000 satellites.
now comes the question: how much does the average geosat weigh? The thing there is that while still the heaviest birds around, their mass has been declining over the years, (https://blog.forecastinternational.com/wordpress/average-commercial-communications-satellite-launch-mass-declines-again/). Now there's only so much you can strip, and you need some serious tech in space, so they can't drop *that* far in weight. So let's assume a 3.500kg standard mass to allow for future tech.
The Napkin says that amounts to a total mass of 1.6*10^9 kg.
Which, for comparison, would be 2.15*10 ^ -14 the mass of the moon.
Worse.. the mass would be evenly distributed around the equator, so there'd be no wobble to detect. Albedo? You'd have to know what it would have been before the whole ring got up. Spectrography? Possibly a bit more metal, but that would be a hell of an assumption. Radiation? At that density you'd need *very* tight beams out, and the satellites themselves beam down.... Visual? at the right angle... That would mean whoever is looking at us can achieve a resolution high enough that they can also see our continents/major cloud patterns. Who cares about satellites at that point?
ok. It's no XKCD , but I've done my best. Thank the damn Flu and the resulting Boredom.
That would be stars disappearing from observations, not planets, considering how Dyson spheres are supposed to work. So they should be ridiculously easy to detect even if we aren't aware of exoplanets in orbit. That said, I only remember a single instance of this being investigated recently (star going through odd luminosity changes) with the conclusion being that it's much more likely to be caused by another phenomenon, not the building of a sphere.
Nobody has shown that a species that leaves junk all over its planet survives for very long.
I wonder how many silent planets out there had a flash of life before choking on seas full of plastic and agricultural chemicals.
Why don't we look for planets that have too little pollutant in the atmosphere. They may be stewarded by species that actually survive
I have an annoying suspicion that most life will look the same as us.
Life is very good at finding the optimal balances - oxygen stores a delightful amount of energy and is easily transportable and reasonably stable. Atmospheric processing will be the best medium for the common energy cycle. Taking is more efficient than making. i.e. Omnivores rool. Omnivore consumption/excretion strategies are pretty much all the same. Binocular sensors planted close to the processing core just works (unless you're a crayfish, 12 colour polarisation-detecting, sheesh). Bipedal locomotion is an excellent <pun>balance</pun>.
The only thing we're really missing is chlorophyll skin.
If some other life found a different photon-combining energy trapper than chlorophyll, things might be very very different.
Bipedal locomotion is an excellent
Hmm, quadrupeds seem to outnumber bipeds on earth I think for complex organisms anyway (not including birds, insects and others).
Intelligent life, maybe. I you might need an extra set of appendages not otherwise needed for locomotion for development of technology.
"And one species' pollutant may be another's breathing mix"
The indicator of life in a planetary atmosphere is likely to be an unexplainable oxidising agent - on the basis that these can generally only exist if something is maintaining production.
Oxygen is the logical one but there are other candidate gases and even if the life isn't air-breathing it's likely that such gasses will build up anyway. (eg, diffusing from oceans into the air, as probably happened on Earth)
The oxygenation of our atmosphere was definitely a case of the statement above, being a byproduct of plant activity and highly toxic to just about everything that existed at the time (causing the first great extinction).
I'd be happy if we picked up possible life signatures. Even assuming a CEB would be visible around any exoplanets, the odds of a spacefaring civilisation being within the range that we've seen exoplanets so far seems pretty unlikely. We can (so far) only detect exoplanets out to about 600 light years and the galaxy is over 100,000 light years across, so searches are par with being in a large dark room with a feeble flashlight only able to illuminate things a couple of feet away, looking for a black cat.
The show was set on a United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol Cruiser, an interstellar garbage scow operating out of United Galaxies Space Station Perma One in the year 2226. Adam Quark, the main character, works to clean up trash in space by collecting "space baggies" with his trusted and highly unusual crew.
Please forgive my ignorance, but is the feasibility of a space elevator not inversely proportional to the amount of junk you have in orbit?
Would a space elevator not basically mean that a certain point above the surface of the earth is always occupied, and so nothing else lower than or equal to geosynchonous (ie pretty much everything) can ever pass through that column?
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Given quite plausible trajectories of civilisations then their end points are perhaps quite often full-scale nuclear wars. I suspect there aren't that many ways of putting together fission or fusion weapons given their physics (this might be made more complicated if they set off salted bombs as their might be more kinds of those).
So I wonder if the aftermaths of those are detectible, characteristic enough, and long-lived enough to be worth looking for on exoplanets? It would be kind of a depressing search but if we found them it would answer several interesting questions: in particular it might help with the Fermi paradox.
"This might be made more complicated if they set off salted bombs "
Salted bombs are more-or-less a way of ensuring that an area is uninhabitable for decades/centuries.
I suspect that they're more of a science fiction plot device playing on unreasonable fear of radiation than an effective one. Little Boy had around 40kg of uranium. Only 0.7g was actually converted. The rest was vaporised and dispersed on the wind, which is what would happen to anything like cobalt unless you used several tens of tons of it and that's kind of hard to mount on the end of a missile or carry in a bomber.
Here are some plausible reasons for this approach not to work.
Let's say we have planet X, with intelligent life on it. Let's list some ways they might not show up on this scan.
1. People on planet X haven't gotten things to space yet.
2. People on planet X got things to space, and they cleaned up so now you can't see a giant cloud of junk.
3. Planet X is small, so satellites that orbit about are less useful for communications than ground-based radio equipment. The same for navigation satellites. Much less stuff to be in orbit and thus visible.
4. Planet X has a nearby moon or moons, and equipment lasts longer when they go and put it there. Depending on the location of the moon, this might work much better than on earth. At least their space stations won't be crashing back down if they were safe on the lunar surface.
5. People on planet X have focused on travel rather than tech without travel. They live on a few planets and it is easier to communicate between planets X, Y, and Z with devices placed in orbital paths of the star instead of around a planet in particular. Good luck determining whether those are communication satellites or tiny asteroids.
6. People on planet X have technology that doesn't produce opaque junk belts. Not that I'm suggesting transparent or gaseous tech (although that'd be cool), but how about tech that contains light-transmission tech so that they don't have a lot of satellite junk blocking energy from their planet (maybe they have the opposite climate change problem).
7. Access to space on planet X is limited by some control system. Satellites that are of use can go up, but they have to be brought back at some point. Even if they aren't, people can't deliberately send perfectly useful cars up just because they feel like wasting them.
8. Satellites on Planet X that are useful are expensive. In order to avoid breaking them, junk in orbit is brought down automatically if telemetry remains, or shocked out of orbit using ground-based devices to affect their paths. Failing that, ground-based or satellite-based lasers would make a nice light show if they did it at night.
9. Planet X has an extreme orbital path. Satellites must be brought down to avoid damaging them (E.G. by bringing them too close to the sun without atmospheric protection).
Come on, add yours.
Don't forget that most exo-planets are only detected via indirect observation, for example, how much the exo-planet makes the light of its star drop off as the planet passes between us and the star (transit method). Transit drop offs are in the magnitude of a hundreth of a percent (IIRC correctly - but very small any way) and this is only good for certain combinations of stars and planets. The chances of actually being able to tell that you have an opaque shell of space junk as opposed to just a physical planet is going to be incredibly small if not impossible because the drop off in brightness just tells you something is there, not what is there.
As dubious as I consider this proposal, I'm quite certain that it is being proposed as _a_ way to detect alien life--not _the_ way.
The point that I feel needs to be made in support of this is that convergent (intelligent) evolution suggests that there is a good chance that aliens will put up a lot of satellites, and that these satellites will tend to be composed of a lot of highly refined metals with sharp edges. But unless these structures are large enough to cause detectable interference patterns, I'm having a hard time seeing how you can detect this.
But yeah, if they transition to a ringworld, we might just detect that...
The chances such a belt of cupboard-sized appliances will become dense enough to be visible at those distances is rather small I guess.
If we have instruments that good it would be easier to detect the illumination of night side of the planet (absence of infrared would allow to eliminate volcano activity), wouldn't it?
Try my suggestion, look for high-frequency gravitational wave pulses along a flight path. Such as the ones produced by a warp drive with a slight imbalance. Normally if they are tuned correctly the fields line up, but mess around with it or suddenly change direction and you'd see all sorts of strange distortions.
Gravitational lensing caused by a warp field might also explain certain kinds of short duration radio anomalies, the good thing is that it can be tested experimentally.