Look to the Stars: Harvard Scientist Says Humans Need to Make Intergalactic Migrations to Avoid Extinction

Tuesday, 26 June 2018 - 12:11PM
Space
Astrophysics
Alien Life
Tuesday, 26 June 2018 - 12:11PM
Look to the Stars: Harvard Scientist Says Humans Need to Make Intergalactic Migrations to Avoid Extinction
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Image Credit: Composite created from Unsplash
Last week, we reported on a new study that claimed that the only way advanced civilizations would be able to survive in the distant future (roughly 100 billion years from now) would be to collect stars and harvest their energy by using devices similar to Dyson Spheres. The reasoning behind this was that, over time, the force of dark energy upon the expanding universe would cause the distance between galaxies and nearby stars to increase, effectively stranding alien civilizations and leaving them with only the resources contained in their galaxy. It turns out there's another option, however: migration.



Dr. Avi Loeb, a Harvard astrophysicist who was one of the authors of the previous study, has actually written several papers on the long-term survival of civilizations, and points out that any advanced society (whether human or alien) would eventually turn to stars as the only source of of fuel large enough to sustain them. Luckily for us, much of the universe's matter has grouped up into massive galaxy clusters, which contain huge quantities of stars. In email correspondence to Universe Today, Loeb notes:

Opening quote
"...I point out that mother Nature was kind to us as it spontaneously gave birth to the same massive reservoir of fuel that we would have aspired to collect by artificial means. Primordial density perturbations from the early universe led to the gravitational collapse of regions as large as tens of millions of light years, assembling all the matter in them into clusters of galaxies–each containing the equivalent of a thousand Milky Way galaxies."
Closing quote


If a civilization can't bring the stars to them, then the next logical option would be to go where the stars are. Because these galaxies are so dense with matter, their gravity allows them to resist being pulled apart by the expansion of the universe, making them oases of potential fuel. In "Finding Fuel for Our Frigid Cosmic Future," a blog published today on Scientific American, Loeb writes that "Once settled in a cluster, a civilization could hop from one star to another and harvest their energy output just like a butterfly hovering over flowers in a hunt for their nectar."

Even more exciting, however, is the fact that alien civilizations may follow the same line of reasoning and end up heading toward these clusters. Loeb explained to Universe Today:

Opening quote
"If traveling civilizations transmit powerful signals then we might be able to see evidence for their migration towards clusters of galaxies. Moreover, we would expected a larger concentration of advanced civilization in clusters than would be expected simply by counting the number of galaxies there. Those that settle there could establish more prosperous communities, in analogy to civilizations near rivers or lakes on Earth."
Closing quote


If human civilization lasts long enough to migrate to a rich galaxy cluster and start harnessing the power of stars, the next question will be what will happen when we deplete their energy. For Isaac Asimov, that was "The Last Question."


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