Re: MEDIA: NOVA on Gamma Ray Bursters

From: Spike Jones (
Date: Fri Jan 11 2002 - 21:08:04 MST

"J. R. Molloy" wrote:

> From: "Spike Jones" <>
> > This isn't at all clear to me. Consider the possibility that the universe
> >is a dangerous place. Advanced technology societies may not wish to
> > announce their presence... With sufficiently advanced technology, they
> > may be able to make theselves nearly invisible.

> Do you suppose,
> Spike, that people may want to believe in ETs for the same kind of reasons
> that they want to believe in deities, ghosts, and goblins?

Yes, I suppose thats why some people believe in ETs, but
my line of reasoning goes thus:

There are exo-planets, evidently jillions of them. Since life
evolved here, its likely life has evolved elsewhere. Since
intelligent life evolved here, its likely intelligent life evolved
elsewhere. But we cannot see them or hear them. Why?

We have kicked around some ideas on how to accomplish
interstellar travel, and Science Fiction Inc. has suggested
many schemes, but many of us agree that we have not really
yet heard a very convincing notion of how this would be
done. We have various matter-antimatter propulsion systems,
multigeneration ships, etc, but we may eventually conclude that
interstellar travel is *inherently difficult*, a counter example of
Ray Charles' notion: this task may just be hard, even *after*
we know how to do it.

Nowthen, suppose nanotech comes along (it now appears
inevitable) and we can use that technology to turn the planets
to M Brains. Has anyone here any reason to believe that
Bradburyesque M Brains are inherently impossible? I dont
see any reason to think them impossible, not one flimsy
reason. But I can think of a lotta reasons why civilizations
would make them, if they can. They can.

If we had orbiting nodes in the form of jillions of flat plates,
we could arrange to reflect photons all in the same direction,
instead of radiating in all directions as a star does. This results
in a very small but steady thrust. It also makes the star invisible,
unless of course one is in the path of exhausted photons.

Work out the orbit mechanics, observe that one could produce
a very small but steady acceleration of the entire star, a few
centimeters per second per year. It doesnt get you anywhere
very quickly, but whats the hurry? Multiply three cm per second
per year by 10 million years and you have 0.001 c. You can
really go places once you get to a milli-c. Dont build a ship,
drag the whole continent.

Your civilization continues on for millions of years, using the
energy from the star and all the matter available for
computronium, all the while gently steering a course for...
where? Where else but the nearest visible star, particularly
if that star has metals. Recall that at 1 milli-c the nearest star
is only a few thousand years away, a heartbeat in interstellar

Nowthen, suppose you are an intelligent lifeform. Then
you reason that you want to get to the nearest visible star,
to use its metals and energy. But you also know that other
intelligent lifeform may be using the same line of reasoning
and have similar technology, and so is gently accelerating
itself toward you. You do not wish to encounter another
lifeform or civilization, because you realize that if the two come
in contact they must fight. So you cloak your star as
quickly as possible. With advanced nanotech, it wouldnt
even take that long to do, a few centuries perhaps. Your
star would appear to wink out. Poof! Here one millennium,
gone the next.

After you mask your star and start gently accelerating toward
the most desirable nearby star, the neighbors will not even
know for sure in which direction you have begun to move.
Furthermore, those intelligent lifeforms that evolve after you
winked out will not even know you are there at all, so would
not start steering toward you.

I agree that this scenario has some direct counter evidence,
such as the existence of *any* visible stars, this long after
the big bang. But suppose there is some yet-unknown reason
for leaving *some* stars uncaptured and uncloaked. I cannot
imagine why that would be, however I must take into account
the fact that I am looking at the question from the point of view
of a human, a wildly rapacious and aggressive species that only
very recently became sentient.

This whole notion sounds very post-Singularity. In fact it is
about the only thing post-Singularity that *is* within my very
limited imagination.

In any case, I suggest we build our M Brains quickly and get
sailing towards the next star, before some other extraterrestrial
yahoo beats us to it. spike

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:34 MST