Fast Radio Bursts: Signature of Distant Technology?

by Paul Gilster on March 13, 2017

We have a lot to learn about Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), a reminder that the first of these, the so-called Lorimer Burst (FRB 010724) was detected only a decade ago. Since then we’ve found 16 others, all thought to be at cosmological distances. The 2015 detection of FRB 150418, at first thought to have left an afterglow, has now been traced to an active galactic nucleus powered by a supermassive black hole. FRB 121102 appears to be a rare case of a repeating FRB (about which more a bit later). The distances involved and the brightness of the FRBs have led to source hypotheses ranging from gamma ray bursts to massive neutron stars.

ET2

But as Avi Loeb (Harvard University) speculates in a new paper slated to appear in Astrophysical Journal Letters, we could conceivably be dealing with an engineering phenomenon rather than a natural one. What Loeb and Manasvi Lingam, a Harvard postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s School of Engineering, discuss is whether FRBs could be interpreted as artificial beams set up as an infrastructure for pushing lightsails.

Analyzing the distance of the beam sources through their dispersion measures — the delay of radio frequencies as they sweep through charged particles between the Earth and the source — Loeb and Lingam go on to look at the spectra of FRBs and find them consistent with an artificial origin. Indeed, FRBs can be analyzed as the result of energetic natural processes, but we can equally well work out their parameters in terms of engineering requirements.

Image: Harvard’s Avi Loeb. Credit: Kris Snibbe (Harvard Staff Photographer).

If an extraterrestrial civilization were using the energy of a star to power these beams, and if water were being used as a coolant, such beamers, though enormous, would not violate known physics. The paper extracts a minimum aperture diameter to maintain the operation, finding it to be roughly twice the diameter of the Earth, meaning that the beamer would be an object on the order of a planet, a large ‘super-Earth’ or even a ‘mini-Neptune.’ And in keeping with the speculative nature of the inquiry, the authors point out that we can also consider beam emitters along the lines of the Stapledon-Dyson spheres that have been postulated to use stellar system materials to build artifacts surrounding and enveloping the host star.

(Let me digress to note approvingly the authors’ use of ‘Stapledon-Dyson spheres’ in place of the more common ‘Dyson spheres.’ I heartily approve of this tribute to the great philosopher and science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon, who developed the idea in works like Star Maker (1937), and think I will start using the term on Centauri Dreams).

The power involved in such a beamer could push a payload of a million tons, and the paper speculates that if a beam were indeed being used to power a spaceship, it would have to be a large one, perhaps the kind of ‘worldship’ imagined in science fiction, though not one as large as some of the worldships that have been discussed in the interstellar literature. As to what we would see of this operation on Earth, the motion of the beamer relative to the receding sail would be changing relative to the observer, which means we would detect no more than a brief flash, although powering a lightsail would require the transmitter to focus its beam continuously.

base

Image: An artist’s illustration of a light-sail powered by a radio beam (red) generated on the surface of a planet. The leakage from such beams as they sweep across the sky would appear as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), similar to the new population of sources that was discovered recently at cosmological distances. M. Weiss/CfA.

These are fascinating speculations, but what can we do to delve further into the origin of FRBs? The paper offers multiple ways into the problem:

It should be possible to distinguish between FRBs of natural and artificial (light sail) origin based on the expected shape of the pulse, as the beam sweeps by to power the light sail (Guillochon & Loeb 2015). More specifically, the sail would cast a moving shadow on the observed beam, thereby leading to a diffraction pattern and multiple peaks in the light curve based on the sail geometry (Manchester & Loeb 2016). A series of short symmetric bursts would be observed as the beam’s path intersects with the observer’s line of sight (Guillochon & Loeb 2015). Hence, looking for similar signatures in the signal could help determine whether FRBs are powered by extragalactic civilizations (although the use of a broad range of frequencies might smear these signals).

Here, then, is a target for Breakthrough Listen or other SETI initiatives, which Loeb and Lingam advocate should direct their attention toward the repeating FRB 121102, the only source known to repeat. Continuing study of this source is reasonable because we would expect astrophysical explosions of the kind advanced by some theorists to be single events, while artificial sources like lightsail beamers or beacons can repeat in the course of their normal operations.

Another interesting thought: Other models of FRBs that assume natural phenomena like gamma-ray bursts would have an FRB occurrence rate determined by the formation rate of the massive stars that produce the bursts. If, on the other hand, FRBs really are artificial and have a planetary origin, then their rate would be set by the number of planets with advanced civilizations (this draws on an interesting discussion in the paper on the upper bound of extraterrestrial civilizations — fewer than 104 FRB-producing civilizations in a galaxy like our own). Complicating this, however, is the issue of whether all FRBs have the same origin — perhaps we should focus only on repeating FRBs as possibly artificial.

For that matter, as Loeb and Lingam point out, a given civilization could set up more than one beamer, especially if it had reached a state as advanced as Kardashev II or III. As we continue investigating FRBs, it’s worthwhile remembering that 104 FRBs are now thought to occur in our sky each day. Working out detection rates for galaxies within 100 Gpc3, the authors calculate that each galaxy has a probability of 10-5 FRBs per day. We might expect one from within our own galaxy every 300 years or so, a spectacular event if it occurred anywhere within 20 parsecs, and one that could “…reveal everything that can be known about the true origin of FRBs, and thereby settle this FRB origin debate once and for all.”

It’s a fascinating discussion, and one that makes me wonder whether other signals in our astronomical data at different wavelengths might be similarly interpreted. As to the nature of such investigations, Avi Loeb makes this statement in a CfA news release:

“Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence. Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge.”

A sound reminder indeed of how to proceed in such speculative realms. The paper is Loeb and Lingam, “Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails,” accepted for publication at The Astrophysical Journal Letters (preprint).

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

DJ Kaplan March 13, 2017 at 12:22

I am glad that people are not afraid of wondering.

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Douglas Dwyer March 13, 2017 at 12:55

A clue to the origin could be the inferred spectral purity of the burst prior to the dispersion resulting from millions or more light years travel. It will require an energy storing resonator, a cosmic version of such a maser oscillator could be a plasma cavity surrounding and taking its energy from a supernova. Another version of the resonator could use the curvature of space around a mini black hole. If aliens are to be involved think of smoke signals to convey information which in this case would be on the FRB side-bands generated by plasma generating fireworks placed in line with the origin and the target star system

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Harry R Ray March 13, 2017 at 15:20

Sadly, a very important window for additional major dips in the light curve of KIC8462852(i.e. Boyajian’s Star AND its putative M dwarf companion) seems to have closed. This is the one that WOULD HAVE FAVORED a non-natural solution(ANOTHER window opens in May, but THAT one was put forwared by Boyajian et al, and would favor a natural solution). So it seems we are stuck for the time being with FRB’s and the 234 SDS halo stars as the BEST hopes for ETI(unless Dan Wertheimer can come up with something interesting in the TRAPPIST-1 system indicative planet-planet communication). I expect Wright et al’s paper on Green Bank observations of KIC8462852 to be out any time now with NULL results, since NO OTHER RADIO TELESCOPES JOINED the observations, as would have been expected if a POSSIBLE positive result were in the Green Bank REAL-TIME data, and the generally accepted protocols were put in place. One thing puzzles me, however: The SAME software package used at Green Bank was installed at Parkes for the sole purpose of observing Proxima b. Nothing has been published from these observations which happened JUST AFTER the first of THREE KIC8462852 observation runs at Green Bank(i.e. sometime in late October and early November). Usually a SETI paper on a high-priority target such as this comes out in WEEKS AFTER the observations were made. I am hoping that the reason for this is POSSIBLE detection of NATURAL radio signals eminating from the planet ITSELF as a result of some PHYSICAL PROPERTY OF THE PLANET(such as aurorae, water maser activity, etc.).

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Harry R Ray March 16, 2017 at 10:50

I MIGHT add “Shibilski’s Star(in quotations because this is NOT the proper spelling of it. I fear the proper spelling of it may be EVEN TOO MUCH FOR ET’S) to the list but I need a lot more information on it first. For the sum total of what we know NOW go to the AstroWright blog.

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Joe March 13, 2017 at 15:57

Based on this article, it seems pretty clear that the laser array that will be used in the Breakthrough Initiative will also serve as an inadvertent METI device.

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David March 13, 2017 at 22:49

It will. And if one of these things occured 20 parsecs or heck anywhere in our arm of the galaxy….it would be a……wow

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Geoffrey Hillend March 13, 2017 at 16:21

Radio beams cannot be used to power a light sail. Due to the inverse square law, the beam spreads out too fast like a flashlight shined towards the Moon and you have only a few photons hitting it with the rest spreading out over half the sky. Masers or microwave lasers would work. The problem is that there are too many FRB’s. The sail would have to be heading straight for Earth in order to detect any of the radio wave that escapes past or moves around the outer edges of the sail due to the fact that lasers and masers don’t spread out very much because the waves are all in the same direction, and they are at the same phase, energy, wavelength or frequency.

This idea is also limited to the box of today’s technology or what is available now. Rocket scientists don’t make this speculation because they already want to build a faster world ship than a solar sail and I find it hard to believe that ET’s are limited to that technology. There might be one out there. Good luck in finding it.

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James Benford March 13, 2017 at 16:47

The scale of the sailships they estimate is quite amazing. The largest cargo ship in this world, has a so-called ‘deadweight tonnage’ (their cargo and fuel mass), is now about 0.5 million tons, a quarter of the standard size of the sailship payload in this paper! That’s not to say that this is impossible, just to give some idea of how advanced such as civilization would be!
I have some thoughts about the nomenclature Lingham & Loeb and others are using. To call beam-driven sails “light sails” is a bit misleading. Certainly they are ‘sails’ but ‘light’ has two meanings, neither of which apply to the sails that they are describing. The first meaning for light, low mass, certainly can’t apply to a sailship with a mass of several million tons. The other meaning, ‘light’ being the visible spectrum with wavelengths on the order of micron, certainly doesn’t apply here because you’re talking about frequencies of ~1GHz. That’s so ‘light sail’ is really not a useful descriptive term here. I call these devices ‘beam-driven sails’ or simply ‘sailships’.

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Ron S March 14, 2017 at 13:10

I think the estimated size of the starship is an argument that strongly favors a natural explanation rather than an advanced civilization. Their description bring to mind an analogy: a 6-axle fully-loaded transport being hauled down the highway with ropes and 10,000 slaves. As another commenter already said, it is far more plausible that an advanced civilization would use a similarly advanced propulsion technology, one that is currently speculative for us.

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Michael March 14, 2017 at 14:41

It maybe better to call them photonic sails as beam and sailships imply particle involvement.

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Rajasun March 13, 2017 at 22:49

First off, I’m not physicist, not even someone with an extensive background in the sciences. I’m but a astronomy buff with a deep interest in areas as diverse as the Solar System and immediate neighborhood; brown dwarfs; extrasolar planets; alternative energy e.g. vacuum, antimatter, blackholes or specifically the radiation and pressure produced by them as a viable , sustainable energy source; large scale structures; the multiverse theory and beyond. So do pardon me if I get some my basics wrong or come across as a unrealistic nutter.

I agree with consensus that that are 2 classes of FRBs that we may be dealing with. One, natural and of an astrophysical origin. The other, artificial and to do with advanced civilizations. Where the latter is concerned, and in particular the subject matter of this article i.e. that the recent spate of FRBs detected are extraordinarily powerful beams powering mega worldships, here are some thoughts I have.

Referring to the image above, could that beam not have originated from as outbursts from some sort of post-main sequence stellar remnant e.g. pulsars or even supermassive black hole i.e. energetic jets that are then captured and stored by a Stapledon-Dyson sphere or similar structure functioning like a energy storing capacitor that can be released on demand i.e. to propel a lightsail starship? Your thoughts please. Thank you.

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David March 13, 2017 at 22:55

I also noted that the paper said the energy level could indicate INTER GALACTIC Travel….this would be a civilization that could colonize the universe al a Tipler. Maybe its good they are at a cosmological distance….though if we could see one in a nearby galaxy we would still be at a safe distance …just in case.

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Michael Michaud March 14, 2017 at 10:58

Many thanks for calling attention to Stapledon’s far-sighted ideas. In addition to searching for signs of astroengineering, he described migration in interstellar arks, the potential for conflict among expanding civilizations, and the possibility of a galactic society of worlds.
Many people have quoted physicist Steven Weinberg’s 1977 statement that “The more our universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.” Stapledon had anticipated this forty years earlier when he wrote that “As our experience of the destruction of worlds increased, we were increasingly dismayed by the wastefulness and seeming aimlessness of the universe.”

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Paul Gilster March 14, 2017 at 11:57

Interesting Stapledon quote, and one I hadn’t seen. Thanks, Michael!

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DJ Kaplan March 14, 2017 at 12:46

If you were cannibalizing your home star for any purpose, wouldn’t you be choosing the most efficient method to achieve your ends? Converting a star’s energy to radio waves probably wouldn’t be the most efficient way of producing thrust, I’m guessing. Would they have chosen that frequency of radio waves for some other purpose?

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Jim Strom March 14, 2017 at 13:49

Same thought as Geoffrey, above: an isotropic power signal would be wasteful and subject to 1/r^2 law and therefore unlikely and/or undetectable. A power signal would only be a beam. Wouldn’t the odds of the beam intersecting a sensor on/near Earth be practically zero. Even in the unlikelihood that a sailship were being pushed to Earth, the beam would still be incredibly unlikely to intersect Earth ever. If the beam has even the slightest spread (i.e., a cone, not a beam of perfectly parallel photons), then the beam/cone would still become too disperse for travel or detection over interstellar distances.

Are Geoffrey and I missing something obvious? Light sails seem viable, but has anyone tried to compute the odds of an Earth-beam intersection?

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ljk March 14, 2017 at 14:15

How Stable is a Light Sail Riding on a Laser Beam?

By Susanna Kohler on 13 March 2017

The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative made headlines last year when the plan was first announced to send tiny spacecraft to our nearest stellar neighbors. But just how feasible is this initiative? A new study looks at just one aspect of this plan: whether we can propel the spacecraft successfully.

The goal behind the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative is to build a fleet of tiny, gram-scale spacecraft to travel to the Alpha Centauri star system — a system in which a planet was recently discovered around Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to us.

To propel the spacecraft, the team plans to attach a reflective sail to each one. When a high-power laser beam is pointed at that sail from Earth, the impulse of the photons bouncing off the sail can accelerate the lightweight spacecraft to a decent fraction of the speed of light, allowing it to reach the Alpha Centauri system within decades.

Among the many potential engineering challenges for such a mission, one interesting one is examined in a recent study by Zachary Manchester and Avi Loeb of Harvard University: how do we keep the spacecraft’s light sail centered on the laser beam long enough to accelerate it?

Full article here:

http://aasnova.org/2017/03/13/how-stable-is-a-light-sail-riding-on-a-laser-beam/

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Michael March 14, 2017 at 16:59

If the material is retroflective the incoming beam gets reflected back where it came from, this will allow more time for reactions to correct it’s atitude. Also we can use total internal reflection if pyramids are used which can lower mass and increase reflectivity.

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ljk March 14, 2017 at 15:00

The future looks small:

http://www.universetoday.com/134327/are-you-ready-for-the-nanoswarm/

This includes interstellar probes.

To quote:

NanoSWARM would have a mission architecture referred to as “mother with many children.” The mother ship would release two sets of CubeSats. One set would be released with impact trajectories and would gather data on magnetism and proton fluxes right up until impact. A second set would orbit the Moon to measure neutron fluxes. NanoSWARM’s results would tell us a lot about the geophysics, volatile distribution, and plasma physics of other bodies, including terrestrial planets and asteroids.

Space enthusiasts know that the Voyager probes had less computing power than our mobile phones. It’s common knowledge that our electronics are getting smaller and smaller. We’re also getting better at all the other technologies necessary for CubeSats and NanoSats, like batteries, solar arrays, and electrospray thrusters. As this trend continues, expect nanosatellites and cubesats to play a larger and more prominent role in space exploration.

And get ready for the NanoSTORM.

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Michael March 14, 2017 at 15:18

Mind you photons have that anoying duel particle-wave property.

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DJ Kaplan March 14, 2017 at 15:58

I think we should be concentrating on whether there is data hidden in the FRBs.

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ljk March 15, 2017 at 10:55

Good idea, but who are we going to get to do this search? I doubt the “professional” astronomers will attempt such a thing, just as I know the ones who man the neutrino observatories are not looking for intelligent patterns in their data – unless a few are conducting such a search on their off hours in secret.

I want and hope to be proven wrong here, but I was at a meeting last year about Tabby’s Star and there were more than a few astronomers who were turning themselves into pretzels trying to say anything but the words aliens and Dyson Shell. I get why they might do that, but this is the year 2017 and such concepts should no longer be either shocking or frightening. There may be no aliens anywhere but since we do not know either way they are still a more than plausible scientific concept.

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DJ Kaplan March 14, 2017 at 16:33

For the FRBs with “Dispersion Measures” in multiples of 187.5, could it be possible that these are not really DMs, which should be expected to be random? Is it possible to send out a closer signal with artificially generated “DMs”, giving the impression that you are much more distant?

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Harry R Ray March 15, 2017 at 9:43

Only the first eleven FRB’s had dispersion measures NEAR(i.e not anywhere NEAR exactly)multiples of 187.5. SEVERAL more recently discovered FRB’s have dispersion measures NOT ANYWHERE NEAR to being even near to multiples of 187.5. What I would like to see is a FOLLOW-UP paper by Michael Hippke on this subject. In his ORIGINAL paper, he stated that FRB timing could somehoe be related to UTC times for tjhe original eleven. Is this ALSO THE CASE for the most recent ones?

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DJ Kaplan March 15, 2017 at 12:26

The data seems to be publicly available.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_radio_burst#List_of_bursts

Isn’t the 187.5 figure dependent on the units used?

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Harry R Ray March 16, 2017 at 9:44

Thanks for the tip. In the comments section: “10 repeat bursts at FRB 121102 location: 2 bursts on May 17 and 8 bursts on June 2”.(re 2015 “unnamed” burst). It must have been a VERY VERY BUSY DAY INDEED for interstellar and intergalactic travel on June 2, 2015!!!

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Michael March 14, 2017 at 17:08

There may be little or no leakage of light if we say used a laser that is surrounded by a large thin lens. The laser fires on the probe sail accelerating it, the beam is reflected back through the large lens to hit another reflective sail going the other way and back and forth using photomultiplication advantages. The reaction sail can be a heavier solar lens communicator or even sails that will observe the universe on their way out, there are also a few stars systems that are in opposite directions to take advantages of alignments.

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ljk March 15, 2017 at 16:10

March 14, 2017

If Fast Radio Bursts are beamed solar sail propulsion then they are powering one million ton spaceships for up to ten thousand Kardashev 1+ alien civilizations

http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/03/if-fast-radio-bursts-are-beamed-solar.html

To quote:

IF each civilization broadcasts only a single beam, this allows us to place a bound on the number of technologically sophisticated civilizations. Using this value in conjunction with the fact that there are∼10 billion habitable Earth-size planets in our Galaxy leads us to the conclusion that there are less than 10,000 FRB-producing civilizations in a galaxy similar to our own. These civilizations must belong to the Kardashev I class at a minimum.

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ljk March 16, 2017 at 17:05

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170315000740

Korean space institute details interstellar journey to ‘Earth-like’ planet

Published : 2017-03-15 14:58
Updated : 2017-03-15 14:58

A South Korean space institute said Wednesday that one of its astrophysicists has suggested a way to protect a nano-sized spacecraft during an interstellar voyage project that was unveiled last year.

In April 2016, tech investor Yuri Milner announced the so-called “Breakthrough Starshot” initiative to send nanocrafts to a small rocky “Earth-like” planet that might exist in the nearest star system to the sun, Alpha Centauri. The billionaire said he will inject $100 million to fund scientists and engineers to test the feasibility of sending a spacecraft on the 20-year journey. The craft will be designed to travel at 20 percent the speed of light.

However, the project — backed by Stephen Hawkings and Facebook Inc. co-founder Mark Zuckerberg — faces many challenge including gas atoms and dust grains that the spacecraft could encounter on its interstellar journey.

Thiem Hoang, a Vietnamese theoretical astrophysicist from the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, has detailed a way to shield the spacecraft from gas and dust during the journey.

“In this paper, we quantify the interaction of a relativistic spacecraft with gas and dust in the interstellar medium,” the scientist said.

The theoretical astrophysicist suggested putting on a “bumper” and 1mm-thick graphene foil, as well as a double shield that can protect the craft as it travels through space.

“We suggested a practical strategy to protect the nanocraft,” Thiem said, adding that the question “Are we alone” could be answered through the project.

The findings were published in the latest edition of the journal “The Astrophysical Journal.” (Yonhap)

The paper is online here:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1608.05284

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Ronald March 17, 2017 at 11:55

I think I mentioned this before, but I am not very optimistic about the existence of K3 civilizations, not intergalactic travel. We have a rather good test case ‘nearby’: the Andromeda galaxy, the largest galaxy of our local group by far.
It contains about a trillion (10 ^12) stars, probably also many solar type.
According to Tamm et al., 2012, ‘Stellar mass map and dark matter distribution in M31’, the mean age of stars in Andromeda significantly higher than in our own MW galaxy, quote: “Stellar population synthesis models suggest that M31 is dominated by old ( > = 7 Gyr) stars throughout the galaxy”.
In other words, Andromeda has had plenty of opportunity, both in number of stars and in time, to produce a K3 civilization. And yet there are no (clear, artificial) signs of this at all. Neither have they reached and colonized us.
K2 may be the highest level to search for and expect.

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hiro March 18, 2017 at 16:55

It means more advanced civilizations have goals that are too difficult to understand, Dr. Vinge did mention something similar…
Anyway, some children think adults like to rob their “plastic action figures” and they have no clue about some adults enjoying playing “future derivatives”, this difference is nothing comparing to the boundaries of physical reality.

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ljk March 18, 2017 at 13:34

More Unusual Light Curves from Kepler

By Susanna Kohler on 17 March 2017

Twenty-three new objects have been added to the growing collection of stars observed to have unusual dips in their light curves. A recent study examines these stars and the potential causes of their strange behavior.

An Influx of Data

The primary Kepler mission provided light curves for over 100,000 stars, and its continuation K2 is observing another 20,000 stars every three months. As we enter an era where these enormous photometric data sets become commonplace — Gaia will obtain photometry for millions of stars, and LSST billions — it’s crucial that we understand the different categories of variability observed in these stars.

After filtering out the stars with planets, those in binary systems, those with circumstellar disks, and those with starspots, a number of oddities remain: a menagerie of stars with periodic variability that can’t be accounted for in these categories. Some of these stars are now famous (for instance, Boyajian’s star); some are lesser known. But by continuing to build up this sample of stars with unusual light curves, we have a better chance of understanding the sources of variability.

Building the Menagerie

To this end, a team of scientists led by John Stauffer (Spitzer Science Center at Caltech) has recently hunted for more additions to this sample in the K2 data set. In particular, they searched through the light curves from stars in the ρ Oph and Upper Scorpius star-forming region — a data set that makes up the largest collection of high-quality light curves for low-mass, pre-main-sequence stars ever obtained.

In these light curves, Stauffer and collaborators found a set of 23 very low-mass, mid-to-late-type M dwarfs with unusual variability in their light curves. The variability is consistent with the stars’ rotation period where measured — which suggests that whatever causes the dips in the light curve, it’s orbiting at the same rate as the star spins.

Full article here:

http://aasnova.org/2017/03/17/more-unusual-light-curves-from-kepler/

To quote:

Causes of Variability?

These plots show how the properties of these 23 stars compare to those of the rest of the stars in their cluster (click for a closer look!). For all but the rotation rate, they are typical. But the stars with scallop-shaped light curves have among the shortest periods in Upper Sco, with some near the theoretical break-up for stars of their age. [Stauffer et al. 2017]

The authors categorize the 23 stars into two main groups.

The first group consists of 19 stars with short periods; more than half of them rotate within a factor of two of their predicted breakup period! Many of these show sudden changes in their light-curve morphology, often after a stellar flare. The authors propose that the variability in these light curves might be caused by warm coronal gas clouds that are organized into a structured toroidal shape around the star.

The second group consists of the remaining four stars, which have slightly longer periods. The light curves show a single short-duration flux dip — with highly variable depth and shape — superposed on normal, spotted-star light curves. The authors’ best guess for these four stars is that there are clouds of dusty debris circling the star, possibly orbiting a close-in planet or resulting from a recent collisional event.

Stauffer and collaborators are currently developing more detailed models for these stars based on the possible variability scenarios. The next step, they state, is to determine if the gas in these structures have properties necessary to generate the light-curve features we see.

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Harry R Ray March 21, 2017 at 9:24

The light curves of the 4 longer period stars are probably what the light curve of KIC12557548 is going to look like AFTER Kepler 1520b has COMPLETELY EVAPORATED!

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Michael Fidler March 23, 2017 at 1:52

Funding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with a lottery bond.
https://arxiv.org/abs/1311.2467
“I propose the establishment of a SETI Lottery Bond to provide a continued source of funding for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The SETI Lottery Bond is a fixed rate perpetual bond with a lottery at maturity, where maturity occurs only upon discovery and confirmation of extraterrestrial intelligent life. Investors in the SETI Lottery Bond purchase shares that yield a fixed rate of interest that continues indefinitely until SETI succeeds—at which point a random subset of shares will be awarded a prize from a lottery pool. SETI Lottery Bond shares also are transferable, so that investors can benefact their shares to kin or trade
them in secondary markets. The total capital raised this way will provide a fund to be managed by a financial institution, with annual payments from this fund to support SETI research, pay investor interest, and contribute to the lottery fund. Such a plan could generate several to tens of millions of dollars for SETI research each year, which would help to revitalize and expand
facilities such as the Allen Telescope Array. The SETI Lottery Bond is a savings product that only can be offered by a financial institution with authorization to engage in banking and gaming activities. I therefore suggest that one or more banks offer a lottery-linked savings product in support of SETI research, with the added benefit of promoting personal savings and intergenerational wealth building among individuals.”

How about buying the Arecibo radio telescope, I’m sure it would sell for a much higher price when they find a signal!!!
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/worlds-largest-radio-telescope-faces-retirement/
World’s largest radio telescope faces retirement due to stagnant funding.

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ljk March 23, 2017 at 13:50

Three new SETI related items here:

Reaching out to E.T. is a numbers game

Scientists are using math to find aliens — and talk to them

ILIMA LOOMIS

MAR 23, 2017 — 7:10 AM EST

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/reaching-out-et-numbers-game

MAR 22 2017, 10:10 AM ET

Are the Aliens Already Chuck Berry Fans?

by SETH SHOSTAK

http://www.nbcnews.com/mach/space/are-aliens-already-chuck-berry-fans-n736901

A Mistranslated Word Led To Some Of The Best Fake News Of The 20th Century

By Walt Hickey

Published Mar. 21, 2017

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-mistranslated-word-led-to-some-of-the-best-fake-news-of-the-20th-century/

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Michael Fidler March 26, 2017 at 22:55

Quantum Communicating with the Extraterrestrial Intelligence
“Humanity is facing now the dawn of a new technological era involving quantum mechanics in almost all aspects of social life, from computation to communication. It might be natural to ask if we shouldn’t consider search for quantum messages from extraterrestrial intelligence.”
http://www.astrowatch.net/2017/03/quantum-communicating-with.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+AstroWatch+%28Astro+Watch%29

Maybe we already have the key, we just do not recognize it for what it is?

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Michael Fidler March 26, 2017 at 23:31

The Possibility of Detecting a Signal from ET Civilization(s)
using Quantum Super Luminal Communications.
March 3,2017
Eamonn Ansbro – Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

“Communications with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
The inherent nature of Quantum Super Luminal communications
(QSC) opens up the possibility for contact.”

http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/media/eps/jodrell-bank-centre-for-astrophysics/news-and-events/2017/uksrn-slides/Eamonn-Ansbro—UK-SETI-RN-2017-transfer-.pdf

:-)

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ljk March 27, 2017 at 13:39

So will we have TWO billionaires searching for ETI…

https://www.inverse.com/article/29514-drake-equation-elon-musk-intelligent-aliens

To quote:

Musk, as both a scientist and an entrepreneur, is in a position to understand somewhat best of all that investing in space science and exploration could seriously pay off in the most important discovery ever made. He is able to peruse through the data collected by astronomers and SETI researchers and make sense of it and carry that understanding forward in a way that bolsters those investigations both financially and scholarly.

So when Musk asks, “Where are the #%*> aliens?” he really means it. And he’s encouraged to see a Drake Equation that suggests he might be onto something.

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Harry R Ray March 31, 2017 at 10:01

Paul Gilster: Check this out on http://www.voxcharta.org! The first interferometric detection of Fast Radio Bursts, by Caleb et al(CURREBTLY astro-ph#9)ASAP!!! Three MORE FRB’s have just been discovered at 843 MHz with the UTMOST array. After you read the entire paper,please ask Loeb and Lingham the following two questions: ONE, is 843 MHz an OPTIMAL frequency for pushing lightsails? TWO, what does THIS mean? “The measured rate of FRB’s at 843 MHz is of order two times higher than we expected, scaling from the FRB rate at the Parkes radio telescope, assuming that FRB’s have a flat spectral index and a uniform distribution in Euclidian space. We examine how this can be explained by FRB’s having a steeper spectral index and/or a flatter LogN-Log F distribution than expected for a Euclidian universe.”

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Harry R Ray April 2, 2017 at 13:30

What prompted me to post the above comment in the way that I did was the TIMING of it. April 1’st was on a Saturday, and therefore all of the inevitable ArXiv “April Fools” papers were posted a day early. I did some hecking, however, and UTMOST is, indeed, a REAL telescope, and a paper apeared in 2016 indicating that a search for 843 MHz FRB’s was indeed underway. So, despite the hilarity of the concepts, we may indeed either have ET’s pushing lightsails with 2Re megastructures emitting 843 MHz microwaves OR be living in a NON-EUCLIDIAN universe.

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ljk April 6, 2017 at 13:14

Understanding life, here, there, and everywhere

In 10 years, initiative has grown astronomically (but not just)

April 5, 2017 | Editor’s Pick Popular

By Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer

Ten years ago, Dimitar Sasselov worried that his graduate students studying the origins of life might have trouble finding jobs after leaving Harvard.

The past decade, however, has seen an explosion of exoplanet discoveries, rising excitement about the prospect of finding extraterrestrial life, and advances in understanding of life on Earth. Needless to say, those early worries have mostly vanished.

Sasselov is Phillips Professor of Astronomy and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, which hosted a two-day symposium this week marking 10 years since the initiative’s founding in 2006. The project has grown along with the fledgling field, fed by a flood of data from telescopes probing the skies, fieldwork exploring early life on Earth, and labs investigating the chemistry of that all-important transition from primordial soup to first life.

The symposium, held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, featured lectures and panel discussions about recent discoveries and included comments by founding faculty members Sasselov, Professor of Genetics and of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Jack Szostak, Flowers University Professor George Whitesides, and Andrew Knoll, Fisher Professor of Natural History and professor of Earth and planetary sciences.

Full article here:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/harvard-origins-of-life-initiative-rings-in-10-years-with-a-trip-to-the-stars/

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Robert Clark June 12, 2017 at 12:06

Loeb and Lingam theorize planetary-scale lasers might be detectable at galactic distances.

I wonder if the effects of lightsail propulsion through the interstellar medium might be detectable in our own galaxy. The lightsail moving at relativistic speeds should accelerate the interstellar plasma. This should generate EM waves that might be detectable by us.

Bob Clark

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