The G infrared search for extraterrestrial civilizations with large energy supplies. I. Background and justification

J. T. Wright, B. Mullan, S. Sigurdsson, M. S. Povich

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58 Scopus citations

Abstract

We motivate the G infrared search for extraterrestrial civilizations with large energy supplies. We discuss some philosophical difficulties of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and how communication SETI circumvents them. We review "Dysonian SETI," the search for artifacts of alien civilizations, and find that it is highly complementary to traditional communication SETI; the two together might succeed where either one alone has not. We discuss the argument of Hart that spacefaring life in the Milky Way should be either galaxy-spanning or non-existent, and examine a portion of his argument that we call the "monocultural fallacy." We discuss some rebuttals to Hart that invoke sustainability and predict long Galaxy colonization timescales. We find that the maximum Galaxy colonization timescale is actually much shorter than previous work has found (<109 yr), and that many "sustainability" counter-arguments to Hart's thesis suffer from the monocultural fallacy. We extend Hart's argument to alien energy supplies and argue that detectably large energy supplies can plausibly be expected to exist because life has the potential for exponential growth until checked by resources or other limitations, and intelligence implies the ability to overcome such limitations. As such, if Hart's thesis is correct, then searches for large alien civilizations in other galaxies may be fruitful; if it is incorrect, then searches for civilizations within the Milky Way are more likely to succeed than Hart argued. We review some past Dysonian SETI efforts and discuss the promise of new mid-infrared surveys, such as that of WISE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume792
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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