Sunday November 6, 2011 12:42 am
City lights could reveal E.T. civilization.
This has to be one of the most naive notions I’ve come across from a serious scientist in recent years.
How long have our cities been visible from, say, 10 light years plus? At most a century.
How long do you think we’re going to be that ludicrously wasteful of energy? At most another century.
So, assuming, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that we’re a typical Level 1 species, there is likely to be a 200 year window of opportunity during which anyone who has a telescope pointed in our direction, and happens to be looking for such evidence, might notice the excess and apparently artificial light emerging from the 3rd planet of a rather ordinary star in an outer spiral arm of the galaxy.
The chances are about even that there are potential observers who will, one day, pick up our own electric blip, some time in the next few million years. And there’s a similar chance that we’ll spot at least one neighbour going through the stage we’re currently passing through. In a few million years…
More generally the chances of any level 1 species spotting any other level 1 species are truly astronomical. Spotting a level 2 species, on the other hand, assuming they wish to be spotted, will, I suspect, be a whole lot easier. They’ll put up a sign that can be identified unequivocally as an artifact by anyone with the technology to capture the data within a couple of billion light years.
The artifact will be so obviously artificial and so obviously huge that there will be no room for doubt that we are seeing the product of an advanced intelligence with effortless control of their environment on an astronomical scale.
For examply, they might arrange an arbitrary bunch of stars by nudging them out of their natural orbits and into a mathematically meaningful pattern indicating some universal constant like pi, or perhaps something more exotic, which takes us years to decode and teaches us what it takes to marry relativity to quantum mechanics.
Now that kind of ET might we worth looking for…