Contact? Not so fast…

A little rambling for your Friday morning…

This is a false-color image of the mid-infrared emission from the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, as seen by NASA's WISE space telescope. The orange color represents emission from the heat of stars forming in the galaxy's spiral arms. The G-HAT team used images such as these to search 100,000 nearby galaxies for unusually large amounts of this mid-infrared emission that might arise from alien civilizations. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team
This is a false-color image of the mid-infrared emission from the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, as seen by NASA’s WISE space telescope. The orange color represents emission from the heat of stars forming in the galaxy’s spiral arms. The G-HAT team used images such as these to search 100,000 nearby galaxies for unusually large amounts of this mid-infrared emission that might arise from alien civilizations. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

I’ve re-watched the movie Contact with Jodie Foster several times lately. It’s been running on HBO, and I love anything about space, so of course I’ll let it run as many times as possible in the background while I’m doing my work or art. I like to think that we’re not all alone in the Universe. As they say in the movie, “If it’s just us… seems like an awful waste of space.”

So imagine my surprise when I came across this new research yesterday. The tagline reads, “Search for advanced civilizations beyond Earth finds nothing obvious in 100,000 galaxies.”

Nothing obvious? Only 100,000 galaxies? While that may seem like a lot, let me tell you here and now, it’s merely a drop in the bucket.

According to Space.com, “All in all, Hubble reveals an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe or so, but this number is likely to increase to about 200 billion as telescope technology in space improves.”

Sky & Telescope goes on to say that, “The best estimate from a 1999 study set that number at about 125 billion galaxies, but a 2013 study indicated that there are 225 billion galaxies in the observable universe.

“It’s important to understand that the number of galaxies in the universe hasn’t doubled in the past decade—these estimates represent the number of galaxies we can detect, given the power of our current telescopes, our observing time, and the wavelength of light we are observing. If we had larger telescopes and more observing time, we would be able to detect even fainter galaxies. Because of the finite age of the universe, even with the most powerful telescopes we could ever create, we would eventually run out of galaxies to count in the observable universe.”

In the new study, researchers explain that after searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life, they found no evidence of advanced civilizations.

“The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization’s technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths — exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes,” said Jason T. Wright,  assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who conceived of and initiated the research.

“Whether an advanced space-faring civilization uses the large amounts of energy from its galaxy’s stars to power computers, space flight, communication, or something we can’t yet imagine, fundamental thermodynamics tells us that this energy must be radiated away as heat in the mid-infrared wavelengths,” Wright said. “This same basic physics causes your computer to radiate heat while it is turned on.”

My question is this: If there are advanced civilizations out there, wouldn’t they by now have figured out an alternative form of power or energy that is much less detectable? I like to think extraterrestrials would have surpassed our knowledge by now to use something entirely different. I envision all kinds of weird, otherworldly creatures floating around on their own power, communicating through their minds, etc. You know, real science fiction-type stuff. Who needs an external energy source when you’re an awesomely cool alien?

While I know beans about thermodynamics, I do know that it is a science of our own making. Factual and/or theoretical, it works for our minds. It makes complete and total sense to mankind. But to an alien? Really? Perhaps to an ethereal wisp of a being, we’re in kindergarten still.

Surely they’re out there. I refuse to believe otherwise. So perhaps we should think of other ways to find and/or contact them. And at least expand your search to include the ENTIRE known Universe.

Just a thought.

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