Thursday, September 11, 2008

How would alien civilizations communicate with us?

Shaun Saunders sends in an article from NewScientist space online that speculates on ways advanced civilizations might communicate over long distances or with us. John Learned of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu have focused their their research on a type of star called a "Cepheid variables". these stars are so bright they can be seen as far away as 60 million light years and vary their brightness in regular intervals. Learned and his colleges speculate that by shooting a beam of high-energy particles called neutrinos into the cores of these stars – it might speed up the pulsations by causing its core to heat up and expand. By adding and subtracting energy you could simulate digital 1 and 0 and thereby send send information across the galaxy by using these Cepheid variables as a network.

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Now as grand as this sounds, I have to take issue with this proposal. The very first thing that comes to mind is that it's wildly inefficient. 1s & 0s are fine to consider for digital transfer, but as it happens, even computers need more than 1s and 0s to gather digital information. Yes, bits of information are your 1s & 0s but data comes in bytes which are 8 bits of data. Even Morse code is more efficient than that. How can that be you ask, well consider the morse A - a short followed by a long - a dit dash if you would. That's brightening and darkening the Cepheid once. That very same letter in digital would need 4 times the energy.


S.M.D. said...

You have to admit that that would be a very impressive way of sending information though, right? Sure, a bit illogical, but still awesome.

"So, how did you communication with the Andromedans?"
"Oh, we just threw a bunch of neutrinos and other junk into a variable star and sent them a lot of 1s and 0s. Took 60 years before they caught on, but hey, what do you expect from a bunch of slugs with no eyes?"

Beam Me Up said...

LMAO! Yeah, that eye thing, pretty big flaw once you consider the ramifications. Of course it's easy to be smug when we view the past's future through today's eyes - as the article's detractors said that early Macconi spark gap users envisioned a future with huge spark gap machines and so the mondo spark gap is a variable. The problem is that most people see implementation as being synonymous with efficient when in fact the form is set by necessity. We use 8 base because switches have only 2 states not because it has anything intrinsically special to offer.