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Space Science

Astronomers Search For Dyson Spheres of Alien Civilizations 686

Posted by Soulskill
from the scotty-might-be-trapped dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "An article by Ross Andersen makes note of Freeman Dyson's prediction in 1960 that every civilization in the Universe eventually runs out of energy on its home planet, a major hurdle in a civilization's evolution. Dyson argued that all those who leap over it do so in precisely the same way: they build a massive collector of starlight, a shell of solar panels to surround their home star. Last month astronomers began a two-year search for Dyson Spheres, a search that will span the Milky Way, along with millions of other galaxies. The search is funded by a sizable grant from the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds research on the 'big questions' that face humanity, questions relating to 'human purpose and ultimate reality.' Compared with SETI, a search for Dyson Spheres assumes that the larger the civilization, the more energy it uses and the more heat it re-radiates. If Dyson Spheres exist, they promise to give off a very particular kind of heat signature, a signature that we should be able to see through our infrared telescopes. 'A Dyson Sphere would appear very bright in the mid-infrared,' says project leader Jason Wright. 'Just like your body, which is invisible in the dark, but shines brightly in mid-infrared goggles.' A civilization that built a Dyson Sphere would have to go to great lengths to avoid detection, building massive radiators that give off heat so cool it would be undetectable, a solution that would involve building a sphere that was a hundred times larger than necessary. 'If a civilization wants to hide, it's certainly possible to hide,' says Wright, 'but it requires massive amounts of deliberate engineering across an entire civilization.'"
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Astronomers Search For Dyson Spheres of Alien Civilizations

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:23AM (#41559051)

    Dyson assumed that all alien civilizations are stupid enough to believe in infinite growth, much like humanity.

    I don't believe this. I think the most advanced aliens have probably realized that there isn't much point of growth after a certain threshold.

    • by alvinrod (889928) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:31AM (#41559131)
      It also assumes that there aren't any energy advancements that are so far out of our understanding right now that they wouldn't seem like magic if we possessed them. Our assumptions are limited by our current understanding. In the next thousand years we could see all kinds of advancements that render building a Dyson sphere completely unnecessary.
      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:38AM (#41559245)

        It also assumes that there aren't any energy advancements that are so far out of our understanding right now that they wouldn't seem like magic

        Which is a reasonable assumption. Advanced civilizations will certainly have more advanced technology, but basic laws of reality will still apply. There is no reason to believe that the second law of thermodynamics can be violated, and overwhelming evidence that it cannot.

        • by zifn4b (1040588) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:44AM (#41559345)
          Basic laws of reality? Isn't science about increasing our understanding of reality? Many theories and ideas have come and gone and been replaced by more refined ones. We would be extremely naive to think our current understanding is even remotely close to all there is to know and completely correct. There is much to learn my friend.
          • by Thud457 (234763) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:50AM (#41559441) Homepage Journal
            Against Stupidity, even the gods themselves labor in vain. [wikipedia.org]


            lets see how many mods perceive the relevance to the reference
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

            Indeed. Shakespeare said it first: "there are more things in heaven and earth than exist in your philosophy." Science is just how we're trained to look at reality, It doesn't explain love or spirituality. How does science explain psychics? Auras, the afterlife, the power of prayer?

            • by deoxyribonucleose (993319) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:24AM (#41559847)

              How does science explain psychics? Auras, the afterlife, the power of prayer?

              Easily. [merriam-webster.com]

            • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:31AM (#41559949) Homepage

              For those who don't get the reference it's a beat poem called Storm by Tim Minchin
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U [youtube.com]
              He's very much being derisive of that sort of viewpoint.
              Sorry to spoil the joke.

            • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:33AM (#41559971)

              How does science explain psychics? Auras, the afterlife, the power of prayer?

              Science also fails to explain unicorns. And don't get me started on Santa Claus. How does he deliver toys to over a billion homes in one night? Science offers no plausible explanation for that.

              • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:46AM (#41560131)

                And don't get me started on Santa Claus. How does he deliver toys to over a billion homes in one night? Science offers no plausible explanation for that.

                Relative velocity time dilation has been understood for years. Please leave your geek card at the door on the way out.

                • by DRJlaw (946416) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:34PM (#41561459)

                  And don't get me started on Santa Claus. How does he deliver toys to over a billion homes in one night? Science offers no plausible explanation for that.

                  Relative velocity time dilation has been understood for years. Please leave your geek card at the door on the way out.

                  Reltive velocity time dilation only theoretically solves the time aspect of the problem, and only if you neglect the fact that at least the delivered presents have to STOP in my frame of reference..

                  I don't care how damn amazing a Wii U is supposed to be, when 1.5 kg of mass rips to a halt under my Christmas tree from, let's be generous here, 0.9c, the resulting vaporization of my house (k.e. ~ 0.5mv^2, or 1.09*10^17 joules, or 26.06 Mt of TNT) is going to result in a very unhappy Christmas.

                • by TeknoHog (164938) on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:08PM (#41562347) Homepage Journal
                  And that's why it's called Rudolf the Redshift Reindeer.
              • by pastafazou (648001) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:35PM (#41561479)
                that's easy. His requirements to make the "good" list are so unrealistic, he doesn't have to make any deliveries. Guilty parents then buy gifts for their brats, and Santa collects the glory!
            • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:51AM (#41560193) Homepage

              How does science explain psychics?

              It doesn't have to. Science doesn't have to deal with fairy tales.
               

              Auras

              If you mean Auroras, we've got you covered. If you mean the fuzzy, ill defined fields that come up when you overexpose film or electronic sensors, well, we've got that covered as well.
               

              the afterlife

              What afterlife? Before it needs explaining, it needs existing.
               

              the power of prayer?

              What "power of prayer"? The non existent causal relationship between other people praying for someone and having an outcomes change? That doesn't happen. The ability of the plastic human mind to influence the rest of the body (to which it's intimately connected)? May I introduce you to the concept of neurobiology in all it's complexity and splendor?

              • by maxwell demon (590494) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:28PM (#41561383) Journal

                The "power of prayer" goes not only against science, it even goes against true faith. If god is all-knowing and good, then he must know what is best for the people even without the people praying for it. If he needs to be told what to do, he's not all-knowing. If he does the good only if someone prays for it, he's not good. And if he does something which is not good because someone prays for it, he's even less good. Therefore we find that an all-knowing and good god cannot be influenced by prayers, and therefore the believe that prayers have objective effects (other than the normal psychological effects) shows a lack of faith.

                • Presuppositions (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by gottabeme (590848) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:23PM (#41566053)

                  You build a box and try to fit God inside it. When he doesn't fit, you conclude he doesn't exist. The irony is that God created the one who created the box in which God does not fit. I find that you are not even aware of your own presuppositions, therefore you cannot reach a reasonable conclusion. You have been so heavily influenced by atheists and scientism (which is practically worshipped as a religion unto itself) that you have confined your own thinking to a box which you are unwilling to exit, and perhaps even unaware of.

                  1. You presuppose that if God acts on a prayer, it indicates that he was previously unaware of something.
                  2. You presuppose that if God is all-knowing and good that he must necessarily enforce what is best for people.
                  3. You presuppose that, as a finite, relatively insignificant human being, you could possibly know whether and when God intercedes in our world and to what ends.
                  4. You presuppose that you could even know what is "good" or "best" from the perspective of an all-knowing, all-powerful, universe-creating, life-breathing entity beyond our comprehension.

                  Your conclusion ("Therefore we find that an all-knowing and good god cannot be influenced by prayers...") is a non sequitur. It's not even a logical conclusion from your assertions. And your assertions are unsubstantiated, anyway.

                  The very nature of an omnipotent, omniscient entity who exists outside of our plane of existence means that we cannot completely comprehend him; we may only do so to the extent he chooses to reveal himself to us. What you have done is set forth arbitrary specifications for God, and if it seems to you that he does not meet your criteria, you conclude that he must not exist. This is nothing short of absurd. If God exists outside of or above our universe, if he created you and the universe and the very nature of our existence, how could you possibly define the means by which he may exist?

                  N.B. I am not even arguing that God does exist--I'm simply arguing that your logic is fundamentally flawed because of your presuppositions. Either God is an all-powerful, all-knowing entity--and therefore beyond our comprehension--or he is finite, like us, but with advanced technology--and therefore, presumably, ultimately understandable--or he does not exist at all. If you are arguing based on the presupposition that he is all-powerful and all-knowing, then you must argue that he is far beyond any of your reasoning or standards, and therefore you cannot logically define criteria for proving his existence.

                  The argument boils down to whether anything can exist beyond our understanding or comprehension: if we can comprehend God, then nothing is ultimately beyond our understanding, and--eventually, perhaps far beyond our lifetimes--we can "find" him, understand him, and even possess similar powers (note that this implies being able to create an entire universe of our own, from nothing). In this case, it's simply a matter of time until he is "discovered"--until then, he either does not exist or we have yet to find him (a conclusion which does not answer the questions, "How?", "Why?", and "From what?"). But on the other hand, if things may exist beyond our understanding, then we can never expect to meet God on our terms, and trying to do so is naive and futile.

                  I like the fishbowl analogy. (It's not perfect, of course.) The fish's entire universe is inside his fishbowl. He knows nothing outside of it (perhaps it would be useful to declare the fishbowl to be opaque, or at least barely translucent). Now and then something from outside his universe seems to interact with his world--perhaps a hand reaches in, but he cannot discern the source of the hand. The fish cannot comprehend existence outside of his bowl, or outside of water, the very fabric of his existence. Therefore, to him, nothing must exist outside of his world, and nothing must exist outside of water--which, to him, isn't even water, just reality as he knows it. But to the human, clearly the fish is limited

            • by Genda (560240) <(mariet) (at) (got.net)> on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:26PM (#41560603) Journal

              I dunno, let's give it a try...

              Love; the evolutionary behavior surrounding mating and parenting designed to ensure members of your gene pool proliferate.

              Spirituality, the embrionic cognitive appreciate of a finite being and its relationship to a virtually infinite universe.

              Science doesn't explain psychics, the Amazing Randy explains psychics.

              Auras look up "Phosphenes."

              Hhhhmmm, After life there is what? Decomposition? Tea and crumpets with St. Peter?

              The power of prayer? Seeing as the Amygdala is the part of the brain doing the heavy lifting during a prayer, let's say the power of a prayer is 15-45 microwatts depending on how hard you pray and whether you are concentrating.

              I know I'm being sarcastic, but you just said it yourself, Science doesn't dabble in unreality. That would be the realm of mystics and metaphysicists. I'm not even saying none of these thing may exist. I'm saying that until you can separate the magical thinking from some describable real world phenomenon, there's nothing for science to do, but nod its head and thank you for sharing.

          • by Bengie (1121981) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:18AM (#41559799)
            As far as we can tell, no macro-level system can violate thermodynamics, so the postulate should hold true. There should be IR energy given off anywhere energy is consumed as IR is the end result of an system that is not 100% efficient.
            • by HiThere (15173)

              The real question is, what is the lowest level of energy difference that can be profitably collected. When you decide that, you've decided on the band of em-radiation that will be radiated. I'm not convinced that we can yet say what that would be, so it's possible that we should be looking for radio-waves. OTOH, mid-low infrared is certainly plausible. (Even if you *could* collect a tiny bit more, you've already extracted most of the energy, and building the collector would require a LOT of work. But i

        • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:52AM (#41559473) Journal

          Well, the second law is more of a statistical observational law than one deduced from higher principles. Its really good at predicting things and seems really reliable and is tied into all kinds of other areas of physics. I would be shocked to near death if we found a repetable, observable violation.

          But the science fiction lover in me would prefer to think of it a just a setting in the universe that could be switched off when convineint. Its also linked to time, so if we can just step out of the stream of time then we're good and possibly gods.

        • by rhsanborn (773855) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:29AM (#41559927)
          If I've read my recent physics correctly, 95% of the energy in our universe is in a form we don't know much about (dark matter/energy). If a sufficiently advanced civilization could harness that, they are likely going to do something to target that, instead of star light.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:06AM (#41559655)

        I can't recall who said it but someone (more famous than myself) put the idea out there that if you had the resources to build a Dyson sphere you wouldn't need to build one. Makes sense to me but I'm not an engineer.

    • by Guido von Guido II (2712421) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:31AM (#41559141)

      Dyson assumed that all alien civilizations are stupid enough to believe in infinite growth, much like humanity.

      I don't believe this. I think the most advanced aliens have probably realized that there isn't much point of growth after a certain threshold.

      But where is that threshold? Is it before or after they build a Dyson sphere?

    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:32AM (#41559155) Journal

      There's the /civilization's/ recognition of the limit, vs. the individual's desire to procreate, in the battle of need vs. freedom/rights.
      I recognize that humanity has overpopulated the earth, that does not diminish my desire to have a child at some point.

      Also, as for remaining hidden, a race may decide instead of building a Dyson sphere which radiates over it's whole surface, to instead radiate over a smaller portion of the surface, and at a narrower angle. While you could be detected from the right angle, if you point it the right way, the closest thing that could bother you, probably wouldn't be close enough to care about.

      Then again, the amount of mass needed for a Dyson sphere would be insane, if you have that level of tech, to acquire that mass, you probably have other solutions to the problem (direct matter->energy conversion perhaps?)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:41AM (#41559299)

        I recognize that humanity has overpopulated the earth

        What do you base that on? Humanity may have overpopulated Calcutta, or Sao Paulo.
        We haven't overpopulated Wyoming.

      • There's the /civilization's/ recognition of the limit, vs. the individual's desire to procreate, in the battle of need vs. freedom/rights.
        I recognize that humanity has overpopulated the earth, that does not diminish my desire to have a child at some point.

        Humanity has done no such thing. Certain societies have lead to overpopulation of particular regions of our planet. Have you ever heard of the concept that you are responsible to your fellow man but not "for" them? You cannot take responsibility for the actions of others. Humanity is single homogeneous society.

        You and like minded people in the "west" are doing our species more harm than good by limiting your choices and contributions to the human gene pool based on the irresponsible actions of other nations

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:44AM (#41559333)

      Dyson assumed that all alien civilizations are stupid enough to believe in infinite growth,

      No, he didn't assume that all civilizations would take this path, just some of them. The Universe should contain billions of civilizations. If even a tiny fraction of them build Dyson Spheres, then this search may find something.

      Alien civilizations are likely products of the same kind of Darwinian process that produced humans, so the desire to expand and grow will be innate, because species which lack that desire are replaced by those that possess it.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:30AM (#41559937) Homepage Journal

      I don't believe this. I think the most advanced aliens have probably realized that there isn't much point of growth after a certain threshold.

      It's funny how these armchair physicists who got their education from bad science fiction are so adamant that we can't possibly know what magical technology we might invent that will get us around the laws of thermodynamics, so capturing starlight is crude and stupid and this project is obviously a waste of time.

      But boy do they sure know the motivations of future humanity, the path of technological and societal growth, and the psychology of hypothetical aliens, and that knowledge also tells them that this project is a waste of time.

    • by ChronoFish (948067) on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:15PM (#41560467) Journal
      <quote>Dyson assumed that all alien civilizations are stupid enough to believe in infinite growth....</quote>

      I don't know anything about Dyson, but based on our "civilization" we don't "believe" in infinite growth... we just grow to point where our growth is no longer sustainable. There is no belief or consciousness involved. Sure you you may have individuals warning about the "tipping point" of the world the civilization lives in... but until the tipping point is reached there is little the civilization can do to stop its growth. That's life in general. Every population grows until it can't. When it's over populated it shrinks. When no resources can be consumed, it dies. Populations growth will always be towards equilibrium with what-ever its surrounding can support.

      If a population is advanced enough to build a a dyson sphere, and a dyson sphere is the only way to survive, then a dyson sphere will be built or the population will decrease towards 0 until the population stabilizes (which very well may be at "0").

      But regardless there is no belief here. There is no concerted attempt to grow infinitely. Just ask a deer or fruit-fly. They have no clue what you're asking...but their population will certainly increase when it can and decrease when it has to.

      -CF
  • by alen (225700) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:24AM (#41559057)

    i'm sure an advanced civilization will master Star Trek type fusion tech before doing something ridiculous like building a starlight collector.

    the earth compared to the sun is like a grain of sand to a beachball. where would you get enough matter to build something around a star if the same or similar size ratio will exist in other star systems?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:27AM (#41559085)

      where would you get enough matter

      Obviously harvested from the home planets of other civilizations they've destroyed. What a silly question.

    • by Shrike82 (1471633) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:32AM (#41559159)
      The energy output of a star is going to be many orders of magnitude higher than what you'd get from fusion technology. The sun is a giant fusion plant itself! A sufficiently advanced technological civilisation may very well find itself bound only by the amount of energy it could produce or harness, and getting every last scrap of energy from a star is a massive boost to an energy based economy.
      • by seven of five (578993) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:18AM (#41559795) Homepage
        Although a star has a large net output, it's only because it's so big. Proton-proton fusion has a very low energy density. Though barely conceivable by today's technology, you could theoretically produce the Sun's output in a powerplant a few km across going to D-D or P-11B fusion fuel. No stars are therefore necessary. Matter-antimatter reactions would be orders of magnitude better still.
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:46AM (#41560129)

          Matter-antimatter reactions may have extremely high power density, but there's a big problem: where do you get the antimatter from? It's unlikely there's large naturally-occurring deposits of it available anywhere, since it annihilates itself when it contacts matter. M-A energy sources really only make sense as a way of storing energy, not producing it. Even Star Trek takes this position: the starships use antimatter for propulsion, but only because of the energy/power density it offers, and it's produced artificially specifically for this purpose, probably using solar energy production.

          Energy is a primary need of any civilization. Every civilization has to get it somewhere. Back in the early days, we got our energy from the sun solely: we used it to grow crops (for food) and feed our animals (for transportation), and to power our ships (for water-based transportation; we used the sun to produce wind to power these ships; luckily, we didn't have to produce the wind ourselves, as natural processes had already done this for us, but we took advantage of it). These days, we largely get our energy from hydrocarbons created millions of years ago by solar-fueled processes, though we're getting some power from nuclear fission (where we break apart large atoms that were created in stars long ago). In short, we get energy where we can find it naturally-occurring. A more advanced civilization will probably be no different: though it may convert energy from one form to another, it'll have to mine that energy from somewhere, and the most obvious source is a nearby star which is giving off lots of energy for free already. Of course, if they figure out how to get energy directly from quantum fluctuations, or by mining antimatter from a parallel universe or something, then they might not need stars any more, but that sounds even more advanced than a Kardashev Class II civilization which we're talking about here.

      • I've read about Dyson Sphere's being equipped with stellar engines. Basically, it's now a giant starship (in the true meaning of the word) built around a core source of power. A star.

        If you though taking an international flight from halfway around the world was a bitch, imagine taking a trip from one side of the starship to the other. Perhaps they will have the whole teleportation thing figured out by then.

    • by Nemyst (1383049) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:38AM (#41559253) Homepage

      A star is a fusion reactor. In fact, if you need the kind of power that's given out by a Dyson sphere, then a Dyson sphere is by and large the most efficient method for generating it, especially for long periods of time.

      The question should be whether any civilization would require so much power in such a static and concentrated way (as opposed to dispersed across hundreds of planets across thousands of lightyears), and where they'd find the materials required to build it (we're speaking about transforming entire planets from crust to core, or harvesting dozens more in a less destructive fashion).

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        Constructing a massive shell of computing substrate around a star to contain the uploaded consciousnesses of a whole civilization might be a very good reason to have a static fusion plant at the center. Such a shell could make an efficient use of what solar energy it gets in its local area without having to transmit that energy to other sections of the shell. You just have to make sure that the individuals do not clump in a small area or if they do, they clump infrequently in a a relatively few zones whi

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:02AM (#41559615) Homepage Journal

      For fuck's sake, people, read a god damn book. Star Trek is make-believe bullshit.

      If you're completely ignorant about a subject, is it too much to ask that you remedy the situation before farting an opinion? There are four links in the post for your education!

      I mean, sure, the Templeton Foundation are a bunch of religious loons, but do you actually think you know better than Freeman Dyson and the actual physicists, astronomers, and engineers who consider the idea plausible? If so, you'd better tell them why it can't work, before they waste all that money! Your paper on the subject will make you famous!

    • Actually I'd argue that if you have the tech to build a Dyson sphere you've the technology to dismantle the star and make much more efficient use of the matter than merely burning it to helium.
      You'd want to dismantle the star and use it as a matter source for fuel and construction, the alternative is to leave it wastefully burning and then eventually exploding. What a waste when there's all that entropy there that can be used.

  • Let me predict.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashping (2674483) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:25AM (#41559071)
    They'll find nothing.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:45AM (#41559363) Journal

      They'll find nothing.

      Probably, but the issue is whether it's worth looking. If there was a detectable civilization in our range, and it later was discovered that we could have detected it much earlier via a relatively small expenditure, we'd be kicking ourselves in the ass.

      Plus, it may lead to the discovery of a new unexpected natural phenomenon.

      - Sara N. Dipity.

      • by interval1066 (668936) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:54AM (#41559499) Homepage Journal
        Perhaps. You seem to be making an assumption that many naysayers make, that is we've made a huge effort in detecting exo-planetary intelligence and come up with nothing. Let me add that our efforts so far have been miniscule when campared to the real relative distances involved in the search. Meaning that a real search effort with the given technology may be a bit beyond our current economic and technical ability.
    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:06AM (#41559647)

      They'll find nothing.

      Which would be an interesting result.

      Experiments don't have to be "successful" to have an impact. Michelson and Morley [wikipedia.org] failed to detect ether, yet their failed experiment revolutionized physics.

      If the search finds nothing, does that mean the Rare Earth Hypothesis [wikipedia.org] is correct? Or maybe advanced civilizations find a way to hide their energy consumption, or maybe they don't grow or don't need the levels of energy that we think they do. A null result from this search leads to many interesting questions.

  • by Koreantoast (527520) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:30AM (#41559127)
    Wouldn't a civilization advanced enough to pull off an engineering feat like a Dyson Sphere also have advanced their engineering sufficiently to find more efficient power sources?
    • by camperdave (969942) on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:50PM (#41560909) Journal
      We build taller and taller skyscrapers. Why? There are more efficient structures, and it's not like they are there to harvest resources unavailable at ground level. Besides, some peasant can build a mountainside hut that is at a higher altitude than the highest skyscraper. So, maybe it's not about the energy. Maybe it's a statement of prowess, or art.
  • I was watching that Riddick movie with the Necromongers the other day and I realized that the concept was actually very realistic. What kind of society would get into space first? The ones that put a high priority on space exploration. And what kind of civilization would do that just for the heck of it before any others? The ones that have some irrational reason to do it driven by some kind of religious fervor. While the "Star Trek like" science-driven societies pace themselves in a sensible manner, the religious nutjobs would throw every single resource their entire civilization could at getting into space to please their space deity or whatever. If there's an advanced space-faring race out there you probably want to steer clear of them.

    See also: The Irkens from Invader Zim

    • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:39AM (#41559269)

      That's only given all civilizations started at roughly the same time. However, this isn't Civilization V. A space-faring race could have formed a contigous civilization several hundred thousands or millions of years ago, not a couple thousand years like ours. It might be the natural evolution of things at that point.

      • by sinij (911942) on Friday October 05, 2012 @11:13AM (#41559751) Journal
        Actually, chances are that not only civilizations started and finished at different times, but also that

        Assuming current predictors of life-supporting planets are at least within ballpark, each space-faring civilization existed, prospered and dyed off before running into any other civilization.

        What more reasonable assumption is that WE are product of such advanced civilization, that is some form of life-seeding DNA-based life that originated on some planet elsewhere produced advanced civilization and they realized that due to scale of our universe they will never get to explore most of it and just seeded universe with life.
    • So you're saying that at least one alien theology states that their deity will be found in a human's anal cavity?

      • Hey who knows :-P

        "Go forth and insert the blessed rods of Glarznaks into the primary solid waste excretion orifice of the beings in the sky, for it is good and will save them from damnation."

    • Yeah, that makes sense, until you look at reality. The European drive to colonize paid a lot of lip service to religion, but in the end it was the almighty gold piece that drove the conquest. How do we justify the cost of putting a person on the moon? By the economic benefits of the scientific discoveries and the resulting technology created.

      Economics drives our pushes forward, not religion. Scarcity is the underlying force.

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      While the "Star Trek like" science-driven societies pace themselves in a sensible manner, the religious nutjobs would throw every single resource their entire civilization could at getting into space to please their space deity or whatever. If there's an advanced space-faring race out there you probably want to steer clear of them.

      What makes you think "Star Trek like" societies are science-driven? Remember the Enterprise, in all its incarnations, is a military vessel.

      One of the revolutionary aspects of TOS is the purely scientific nature of their mission--they're not looking for a new home, they're not on the run from the law or some other force, they're out there just to see what's out there. But they (the crew from TOS and most every recurring character from all the other series) are members of the military.

  • energy leakeage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demonbug (309515) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:40AM (#41559283) Journal

    If Dyson Spheres exist, they promise to give off a very particular kind of heat signature, a signature that we should be able to see through our infrared telescopes. 'A Dyson Sphere would appear very bright in the mid-infrared,' says project leader Jason Wright.

    Right, because there's no way a civilization advanced enough to build 282743338860000000 square kilometers of solar panels is going to be able to build solar panels capable of absorbing and using mid-infrared light (heat). If the supposition is that they inevitably build Dyson spheres to capture all of the available energy coming off their star, why would they let a whole bunch of it escape as heat?

    Seems like a giant waste of time and money, but I suppose they will be generating useful data while they look. Still, their chances of finding one are likely ludicrously close to zero even if one does exist. I also find the whole premise to be rather poorly thought out, I have to admit; even if a civilization is capable of building a Dyson sphere, I'm not sure it makes any sense to actually do it.

  • XKCD (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shompol (1690084) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:43AM (#41559325)
  • by Troyusrex (2446430) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:46AM (#41559373)
    The Templeton Foundation [wikipedia.org] that funded this research is often highly criticized for religious bias. It's kind of like oil companies providing money for research. It might be good in that it provides research funding but there's always a worry that the money from an organization with a particular point of view might skew the science.

    I'm not saying that this invalidates the research, but it does cast some doubt on it and the reasons it is being done.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:52AM (#41559459) Journal

    Ok so somehow you get enough materials and energy to shape it into a sphere. That's an impossible task, but then it's somehow even more impossible that they use radiators to disperse the heat? I mean when you're talking about impossibility, it doesn't matter if it's squared or cubed. Then once you have this shell of solar collectors, how do you get the energy inside of it? You basically have a Faraday cage.

    Also, why the fuck? Any significantly advanced civilization would use gravitational engines. That is either under direct or natural control, they would set up a oscillation system between multiple orbiting bodies where they can harvest energy without needing fusion. Instead of lighting up the solar system, they'd go invisible, detectible only via gravity waves which to date, are impossible to detect. At a minimum, significantly harder to detect.

  • Silly waste of time. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:52AM (#41559463) Homepage

    First off a dyson sphere does not take into account the MASSIVE amount of praticle energy that is coming off the star. the Stellar wind on that scale would be immense. Secondly, Orbits are not magical. a dyson sphere is unstable and will either wobble and start to collapse into the star, or rip apart due to the uneven gravity well. Just the technology to even be able to have the ability to think of building a Ringworld, something far, far, FAR easier than a Dyson sphere is so mind bogglingly compex that it collapses in upon it's self.

    Sorry but it's a waste of time we might as well look for civilizations that are harvesting black holes to power their space ships.

  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgwNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:53AM (#41559485) Journal

    Quick! Let's build a giant IR emitter w/ some filters to produce the same spectral curve as a Dyson sphere. All those not-quite-advanced societies out there will detect it and run screaming from our perceived galactic-overlordishness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:57AM (#41559549)

    I don't understand this nonsense of astronomers searching the galaxy for Dyson Spheres. I had no trouble finding and buying one off Amazon. The design is revolutionary, and it's very powerful. It gets pet hairs out of my carpet with ease. Highly recommended!

  • Once you have self-replicating, "intelligent" machines to do the job?
    Assuming you could keep them interested in building your sphere, of course!

    You just create your first self-replicating solar-powered Dyson-sphere builder, and then sit back and watch it and its scions build for the next hundred million years or whatever. Or maybe nowhere near that long, assuming exponential growth (to some limit) of the builder-bots.

    Another example of the power of the Singularity?

    --PM

  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday October 05, 2012 @12:37PM (#41560733)

    A ringworld is a lot easier to build than a Dyson Sphere, you could do it with the material from one solar system. And you can spin it for gravity.
    For a dydson sphere you need to invent some sort of artificial gravity (even a sphere made of a thin layer of neutronium isnt going to work

    Books to read:
    Orbitsville , Orbitsville Deoarture by Bob Shaw

    Ringworkd , Ringworld Engineers, Ringworld Throne by Larry Niven

    Anyway a Dyson Sphere is an example of a type 2 civilization (one that utilizes the entire resources of its star
    A type 1 civilization utilizes the entire resources of its planet and we have only scratched the surface of this one - just think how many zigawatt millenia of energy lies in the molten rock just a hundred km below your feet and all the way to the core

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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