New Study Finally Reveals the Secret Behind Dark Matter—Alien Civilizations
Even with ambitious projects like the Breakthrough Listen initiative, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has come up empty so far. Some of the major theories about the reason behind this cosmic silence say that life is either rarer than we thought, that alien life is trapped in deep oceans, or that we're just not scanning in the right radio frequencies.
A new study, published in Acta Astronautica, has a different perspective: Maybe signals from alien civilizations take the form of dark matter or dark energy...or maybe the aliens themselves are based on dark matter.
The new study is the work of neuropsychologists Gabriel de la Torre and Manuel García, of the University of Cádiz, who are interested in finding the blind spots in human thought surrounding extraterrestrials (or, as they like to call them, "non-terrestrials"). They key concept of their research is that humans' search for alien life may be foiled by our own narrow views of what life can be and how it can communicate.
According to De la Torre:
"When we think of other intelligent beings, we tend to see them from our perceptive and conscience sieve; however we are limited by our sui generis vision of the world, and it's hard for us to admit it. What we are trying to do with this differentiation is to contemplate other possibilities, for example, beings of dimensions that our mind cannot grasp; or intelligences based on dark matter or energy forms, which make up almost 95 percent of the universe and which we are only beginning to glimpse. There is even the possibility that other universes exist, as the texts of Stephen Hawking and other scientists indicate."
To investigate the flaws in human perception, de la Torre and García showed aerial photos to 137 people that depicted either natural geographic features (rivers, mountains, etc.) or artificial features (like buildings and roads). Secretly, however, they inserted a small image of a gorilla in some of the photos. The researchers found that those with more intuitive mindsets, rather than rational or analytical ones, were able to spot the gorilla with more frequency.
"If we transfer this to the problem of searching for other non-terrestrial intelligences," says de la Torre, "the question arises about whether our current strategy may result in us not perceiving the gorilla. Our traditional conception of space is limited by our brain, and we may have the signs above and be unable to see them. Maybe we're not looking in the right direction."
De la Torre and García might be on to something. In his famous book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn claims that major shifts in scientific understanding don't happen from a gradual accumulation of knowledge—they come from the sudden introduction of wholly new ideas, often introduced by scientists who break from the traditional way of thinking. So even if aliens aren't made of dark matter, simply changing the way we think about alien life may help us find it.