(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Aliens

“In the deepest sense the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves”*…

Will the monumental moment of first contact fuel division among war-hungry humanity, or will it inspire our better angels and unite us? Becky Ferreira considers…

Do intelligent aliens exist somewhere out there in the universe? It is a grand mystery that has captivated humans for generations, fueling ever-more sophisticated searches of the skies for signs of advanced civilizations. But while aliens have taken many forms in our imaginations—from hostile invaders to inscrutable ciphers—we have absolutely no idea what extraterrestrial life-forms might look like, how they would communicate, or even if they exist at all.

We can, however, make some assumptions about the only intelligent space-faring species that we know of—humans—and how we might react to contact with an alien civilization. Indeed, people have spent decades developing protocols that attempt to anticipate this momentous event and all of the extraordinary potential consequences it could have on our civilization. It’s an especially important question now, as the world appears more strongly divided than at any time in recent memory, with major powers taking on increasingly antagonistic stances toward each other. 

In 2020, a pair of researchers dug into this question in an article in Space Policy by suggesting that humans might pose as big a risk to ourselves in the aftermath of alien contact as any extraterrestrial species…

The potential consequences of first contact: “Scientists Are Gaming Out What Humanity Will Do If Aliens Make Contact,” from @beckyferreira in @VICE.

* Carl Sagan

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As we listen carefully, we might note that today is the (fictional) birthday of ALF (Alien Life Form), from the 1980s TV series of the same name; he was born on this date in 1756 on the planet Melmac. ALF follows an amateur radio signal to Earth and crash-lands into the garage of the Tanners, a suburban middle-class family who live in the San Fernando Valley area of California. While largely a sit-com, it wove thematic threads (that echo that echo films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and ET) to explore exactly the issues raised in the piece linked above.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 28, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live”*…

A new kind of matter?…

In a preprint posted online… researchers at Google in collaboration with physicists at Stanford, Princeton and other universities say that they have used Google’s quantum computer to demonstrate a genuine “time crystal.” In addition, a separate research group claimed earlier this month to have created a time crystal in a diamond.

A novel phase of matter that physicists have strived to realize for many years, a time crystal is an object whose parts move in a regular, repeating cycle, sustaining this constant change without burning any energy.

“The consequence is amazing: You evade the second law of thermodynamics,” said Roderich Moessner, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany, and a co-author on the Google paper. That’s the law that says disorder always increases.

Time crystals are also the first objects to spontaneously break “time-translation symmetry,” the usual rule that a stable object will remain the same throughout time. A time crystal is both stable and ever-changing, with special moments that come at periodic intervals in time.

The time crystal is a new category of phases of matter, expanding the definition of what a phase is. All other known phases, like water or ice, are in thermal equilibrium: Their constituent atoms have settled into the state with the lowest energy permitted by the ambient temperature, and their properties don’t change with time. The time crystal is the first “out-of-equilibrium” phase: It has order and perfect stability despite being in an excited and evolving state…

Like a perpetual motion machine, a time crystal forever cycles between states without consuming energy. Physicists claim to have built this new phase of matter inside a quantum computer: “Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real.”

See also: Time Crystals #1 (source of the image above).

And for a not-altogether-apposite, but equally mind-blowing read, see “Scientist Claims That Aliens May Be Communicating via Starlight.”

* Albert Einstein

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As we push through purported paradoxes, we might send accomplished birthday greetings to James Bowdoin II; he was born on this date in 1726. A successful businessman who was a political and intellectual leader during in the decade after the American Revolution (for a time, as Governor of Massachusetts), he was also an important experimental scientist. His work on electricity with his friend Benjamin Franklin earned him election to both the Royal Society of London and the American Philosophical Society. He was a founder and first president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, to whom he bequeathed his library. Bowdoin College in Maine was named in his honor after a bequest by his son James III.

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“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”*…

 

astrobiology

Astrobiology – the study of life on other planets – has grown from a fringe sub-discipline of biology, chemistry and astronomy to a leading interdisciplinary field, attracting researchers from top institutions across the globe, and large sums of money from both NASA and private funders. But what exactly is it that astrobiologists are looking for? How will we know when it’s time to pop the Champagne?…

Find out at “Proof of life: how would we recognize an alien if we saw one?

[Image above from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute]

* Carl Sagan

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As we look for life, we might send inventive birthday greetings to William “Willy” A. Higinbotham; he was born on this date in 1910.  A physicist who was a member of the team that developed the first atomic bomb, he later became a leader in the nuclear non-proliferation movement.

But Higinbotham may be better remembered as the creator of Tennis for Two, the first interactive analog computer game and one of the first electronic games to use a graphical display, which he built for the 1958 visitor day at Brookhaven National Laboratory.  It used a small analogue computer with ten direct-connected operational amplifiers and output a side view of the curved flight of the tennis ball on an oscilloscope only five inches in diameter. Each player had a control knob and a button.

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The 1958 Tennis for Two exhibit

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Higinbotham source

 

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 25, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth”*…

 

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If the range of habitable radii is sufficiently broad, most inhabited planets are likely to be closer in size to Mars than the Earth. Furthermore, since population density is widely observed to decline with increasing body mass, we conclude that most intelligent species are expected to exceed 300kg…

From the summary of University of Barcelona cosmologist Fergus Simpson‘s paper, “The Nature of Inhabited Planets and their Inhabitants” (which can be downloaded as a PDF here).

* Stephen Hawking

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As we phone home, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that the first weather satellite, TIROS I, was launched from Cape Kennedy (or Canaveral, as then it was) and sent back the first television pictures from space. The first in a long series of launches in the TIROS program (Television Infrared Observation Satellite), it was NASA’s initial step, at a time when the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven, in determining if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth.  In the event, TIROS I and it successors proved extremely useful in weather forecasting.

TIROS I prototype at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

Burying the lead…

source: Getty Images, via the Telegraph

Bulgarian government scientists are in communication with aliens, reports the (London) Telegraph.

Aliens from outer space are already among us on earth, say Bulgarian government scientists who claim they are already in contact with extraterrestrial life.

Work on deciphering a complex set of symbols sent to them is underway, scientists from the country’s Space Research Institute said.

They claim aliens are currently answering 30 questions posed to them.

Lachezar Filipov, deputy director of the Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, confirmed the research.

The story continues here, concluding,

The publication of the BAS researchers report concerning communicating with aliens comes in the midst of a controversy over the role, feasibility, and reform of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Last week it lead to a heated debate between Bulgaria’s Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, and President Georgi Parvanov.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

As consult the entry requirements for the Golden Fleece Awards, we might raise a glass to the end of one of the most costly failed experiments in enforced morality in U.S. history:  Prohibition.  On this date in 1933, Utah (!) became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus creating the three-fourths majority of states necessary to repeal the 18th Amendment (which had taken effect in 1920).  (Lest some perverse sort of jingoism lead us to think of Prohibition as an exclusively American phenomenon, we might note its history in other nations as well.)

A different kind of keg party: NY police dispose of bootlegged beer during Prohibition

Your correspondent is headed so far west as to be Far East, thus these missives will resume their regular rhythm on his return across the Dateline.

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