Astrobiology and SETI

The Zoo Hypothesis as Thought Experiment

June 26, 2015

Imagine a civilization one million years old. As Nick Nielsen points out in today’s essay, the 10,000 year span of our terrestrial civilization would only amount to one percent of the older culture’s lifetime. The ‘zoo hypothesis’ considers extraterrestrials studying us as we study animals in controlled settings. Can a super-civilization study a planetary culture […]

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Enter the ‘Warm Titan’

May 20, 2015

Our definition of the habitable zone is water-based, focusing on planetary surfaces warm enough that liquid water can exist there. New work by Steven Benner (Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution) and colleagues considers other kinds of habitable zones, specifically those supporting hydrocarbons, which can be liquids, solids or gases depending on the ambient temperature and […]

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SETI and Stellar Drift

May 13, 2015

It was natural enough that Richard Carrigan would come up with the model for what he called ‘Fermi bubbles,’ which I invoked in Monday’s post. A long-time researcher of the infrared sky, Carrigan (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, now retired) had mined data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) in 2009 to mount a search for […]

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SETI: Are ‘Fermi Bubbles’ Detectable?

May 11, 2015

I’m enough of a perfectionist that when I get something wrong, I can’t rest easy until I figure out how and why I missed the story. Such a case occurred in an article I wrote for Aeon Magazine called Distant Ruins. The article covered the rise of so-called ‘Dysonian SETI,’ which is adding an entirely […]

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SETI: The Black Hole Alternative

May 8, 2015

Our speculations about advanced civilizations invariably invoke Nikolai Kardashev’s scale, on which a Type III civilization is the most advanced, using the energy output of its entire galaxy. Given the age of our universe, a Type III has seemingly had time to emerge somewhere, yet a recent extensive survey shows no signs of them. All […]

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Transient Listening: A Caution

April 20, 2015

by James Benford Searching for the faintest of signals in hopes of detecting an extraterrestrial civilization demands that we understand the local environment and potential sources of spurious signals. But we’ve also got to consider how signals might be transmitted, the burden falling on SETI researchers to make sense out of the physics (and economics) […]

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G-HAT: Searching For Kardashev Type III

April 16, 2015

A new paper out of the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies search (G-HAT) at Penn State is packed with fascinating reading, and I’m delighted to send you in its direction (citation below) for a further dose of the energizing concepts of ‘Dysonian SETI.’ Supported by a New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology grant funded by […]

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New Horizons Message Update

April 14, 2015

If you want to send a message to the stars, Jon Lomberg is the man to consult. A gifted artist and creator of the gorgeous Galaxy Garden in Kona, Hawaii, Lomberg may be most famous for his frequent work with Carl Sagan, including the celebrated Cosmos series. But it’s his involvement with the Voyager Interstellar […]

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Puzzling Out the Perytons

April 6, 2015

Recently we looked at Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and the ongoing effort to identify their source (see Fast Radio Bursts: SETI Implications?) Publication of that piece brought a call from my friend James Benford, a plasma physicist who is CEO of Microwave Sciences. Jim noticed that the article also talked about a different kind of […]

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Fast Radio Bursts: SETI Implications?

April 1, 2015

With SETI on my mind after last week’s series on Dysonian methods, it seems a good time to discuss Fast Radio Bursts, which have become prominent this week following the appearance of a new paper. A New Scientist piece titled Is this ET? Mystery of strange radio bursts from space is also circulating, pointing out […]

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