The Key to Finding Alien Life? Harvard Astrophysicist Says We Should Look for 'Technosignatures'

Thursday, 05 April 2018 - 1:52PM
Thursday, 05 April 2018 - 1:52PM
The Key to Finding Alien Life? Harvard Astrophysicist Says We Should Look for 'Technosignatures'
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To the disappointment of pretty much everyone on Earth, it turns out that alien life is nowhere near as common, nor as easy to spot, as we'd like to believe.

As it turns out, this isn't Star Trek—an advanced alien species isn't going to drop down onto our doorstep to welcome us with open arms into a burgeoning galactic civilization. All things considered, we'll be lucky if alien life even uses the same fundamental chemicals in its genetics that we use in our own DNA.

As such, the goalposts for discovering alien life have shifted somewhat. Instead of keeping a close eye out for UFOs and advanced alien species, many scientists are instead content to find anything alien, even if it's simply bacteria. So long as we're not completely alone, these experts will be happy.


According to some scientists, though, such as Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, we shouldn't necessarily be too quick to discount the possibility of finding aliens that are even more technologically advanced than humanity.

Looking for microscopic life signs across the entire cosmos is kind of like trying to find a bacteria in a haystack if the haystack exists outside our solar system. We simply don't have the equipment necessary to take such a detailed look at foreign worlds.

Instead, Loeb, suggests, we should be looking for so-called "technosignatures": proof that aliens are exploring their own corner of space, and leaving junk floating in orbit around their planets.

According to Loeb, objects that our species have launched into space (for example, Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster) are "messages in a bottle"—key signs of our own activity in space, and, therefore, our existence. Other alien species with a similar technological prowess would logically be able to send up their own space junk, which could help to make them easier to spot against the black background of the universe.


These technosignatures won't be particularly visible at present using the technology that we currently have at our disposal—heck, we're only able to spot an alien planet outside this solar system if it passes in front of its star, leaving a shadow. Spotting teeny tiny artificial objects in space is probably beyond our capabilities at present.




That said, as our technology advances, we'll have a much better chance of getting a good look at the equivalent of a car in orbit around an alien world than we will of noticing bacteria on the planet's surface. While simple life forms are probably more common across the universe, technologically advanced aliens should logically be putting forth more of an effort to make their presence known.

This kind of thinking gives hope to those who believe that the Fermi Paradox precludes the existence of advanced alien species. It could simply be the case that our ability to spot alien technology isn't quite as advanced as we'd like to believe.

Either way, we live in a pretty big universe. If some kind of Federation of sentient species doesn't exist already, perhaps we need to form one ourselves.

We already have a universe-wide beauty pageant, so why not a system of government?

Science
Alien Life