Re: HISTORY: Dyson Shells

Robert J. Bradbury (
Thu, 26 Aug 1999 11:41:12 -0700 (PDT)

On Thu, 26 Aug 1999, Amara Graps wrote:

> You missed my point. It was about your use of "seriously"
> in the context of scientific observational experiments.

Ok, I take that back. All of the searches were "serious", in the sense of "scientific". I was using "serious" in the subtle sense that something cannot be serious (real?) if the assumptions on which it is based are faulty (perhaps unknown to the individuals involved).

Many astronomers conduct work claiming non-biases. But this implicitly has to be questioned because their education and the respected "authorities" inherently build in such biases. The evidence suggests that there are ~20 "large" gravitational masses in orbit around other stars. Almost universally these are labeled "planets" (because that is what our education says they are most likely to be). They could be dust clouds around black holes or superintelligent computers or probably a host of other things, but almost universally they are called planets by serious astronomers in spite of precious little evidence that that is in fact what they are!

> The scientists had their own assumptions and premises that they were
> testing *regardless of your opinion of the outcome of such a
> scientific experiment*.

True. And as Dyson and Kardashev have pointed out numerous times there are plenty of good reasons in fundamental astronomy to go looking for infrared objects. But given the effort which has gone into SETI searches vs. Dyson Shell searches, it is clear that there are many assumptions are being made.

> For these scientists, going through the process of finding funding
> sources, building the equipment, travelling to the telescope and
> spending the time making the observations, and analyzing the data was
> considered by them to have "seriously looked" for Dyson spheres.

I agree, the primary point of my initial letter was to point out some of the problems that have arisen in such searches due to what might be faulty assumptions. The fundamental assumption regarding SETI@home which may be faulty is the assumption that an ETC must *never* enclose its star in an eveloping shroud.

> Of course others could always do better, and in time, but that's the
> nature of scientific progress.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in "science" is to question the assumptions. To get the funding, equipment time, etc. that you mention is unlikely if it requires the approval of people with a big investment in having built the foundation (or who simply have strong beliefs that it is correct). I've had an astronomer say to me -- "If what you are saying is true we would have to go back and reinterpret all of the data in light of the activities of such ETC!" (Obviously not questioning the assumptions is much easier).

What is the probability for getting funding "to look at dark patches" in space? Astronomy, at least initially, rested on the study of stars. To suggest one study !stars or engineered-stars that would be heresay. The examples that I can think of (i.e. the Hubble Deep fields) were justified on the basis of "looking back in time", not "a search for Dyson shells".

> I would not consider your review to be a balanced and scientific
> historical review of a several decade long research effort by a number
> of scientists doing good scientific ("serious") work.

I would agree. I did not intend it as such. My discussion was intended primarily to show how some of the misconceptions have arisen with the ideas so that if someone mistakenly asserted that either (a) "Dyson spheres cannot exist" or (b) "Scientific searches have been done and have found nothing"; could be responded to with some counterarguments.

> I suggest a better way to give a balanced review is to state the
> problem, the experiments done, and then give your critique and opinion
> and leave out the weighted adjectives such as "seriously".

Ah, but I didn't say "SCIENTIFIC REVIEW: Dyson Shells", I said "HISTORY: Dyson Shells" (and we know that the writers of history may put their own spin on the material :-)). In thinking about this some more I agree that a scientific review would be nice. I do have the material to do this and may try to work on this.