AE 122

Interstellar Travel and Straw Men

KSR

Kim Stanley Robinson talks about his novel Aurora on YouTube

A bizarre article appeared on the Scientific American website on 13 January under the byline of well-known science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, entitled What Will It Take for Humans to Colonize the Milky Way? Bizarre, because it shows a failure of imagination from someone whose imagination is his main professional skill, contains factual errors, and discusses only the Earth-to-Earthlike-exoplanet model of interstellar travel despite the fact that the literature, going back to the 1984-1985 worldship papers in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, shows this to be a straw man.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 118

Does Intergalactic SETI Make Any Sense?

The Breakthrough Listen project is proposing to extend its search for artificial radio and optical signals to include the 100 nearest galaxies.

The 70-metre radio telescope at Yevpatoria, Crimea

The 70-metre radio telescope at Yevpatoria, Crimea

But should we expect to find a beacon from a technological civilisation that is bright enough for us to detect over intergalactic distances?

The Andromeda Galaxy, number 31 in Messier’s catalogue, will be a good test case. It is the brightest of those shown within the 100 nearest galaxies, hence is presumably the largest, has a good line of sight from the Solar System, and is only one quarter of the distance of the most distant of the 100 to be observed in the Breakthrough Listen programme. It is closely similar to our own galaxy. If we can’t find extragalactic aliens in M31, we’re not likely to find them anywhere else.

Let’s ask what sort of transmitter power levels are expected of our alien pen-friends…

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 117

SETI and Sanity

What are the chances for Breakthrough Listen?

On 20 July 2015, Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist Yuri Milner announced that he was putting $100 million over ten years into the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) in the form of two initiatives: Breakthrough Listen and Breakthrough Message.

alien_angel

With such a major injection of funding, SETI science will receive a tremendous boost. People the world over will be inspired to look up at the skies, and those elusive beacons announcing the presence of ET will surely soon be found. What’s not to like?

Agreed: any project which spreads public awareness that humans are a very small part of an overwhelmingly vast universe is to be applauded. We need that perspective when addressing mundane problems on Earth, if those problems are not to overwhelm us.

But what about the specific search for beacons or signals from alien civilisations which are aimed at attracting our attention? Is it in fact reasonable to expect any to exist?

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 105

Exponential Growth for Another Thousand Years

Growing into an Interstellar Civilisation: Can It Be Done, and If So, How?

Presented at LonCon3, ExCel Centre, London, 15 August 2014

Addressing the BIS session at LonCon3

Addressing the BIS session at LonCon3

Between the old Limits to Growth argument and the massive but far-flung resources of our Solar System, is it possible to chart a trajectory of growth for human civilisation? How do we answer the critics who say that a technological lifestyle is unsustainable and that exponential growth cannot continue forever?

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 104

Down with the Fermi “Paradox”!

Messages to Aliens, the Drake Equation and the Fermi Paradox

Presented at the BIS Space History Conference, Charterhouse, 25 July 2014

The 70-metre radio telescope at Yevpatoria, Crimea

The 70-metre radio telescope at Yevpatoria, Crimea

Is it a good idea to transmit messages out into the Galaxy to nearby stars in the hope of making first contact with an alien civilisation?

Is it a bad idea to draw attention to ourselves, in case there are dangerous predators out there which have not yet discovered us?

Or is it just a distraction from more urgent concerns, because there’s nobody out there listening anyway?

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.