This week, mass media, social media, online forums, and chats, are talking about the mysterious repeating deep-space radio burst signals we are receiving from outer space. Many assumed or were hoping that these signals are messages from some alien civilisation. Finally, we are no longer alone.
Or, are we still?
The answer is, yes, we are still very much alone because these mysterious repeating deep-space radio burst signals will never be a message from an alien civilisation. Okay, fine, it could be, but it will be obsolete and thus useless to us. Why?
Messages from outer space are obsolete and useless
Light is the fastest “object” that we know of. Radio signals and other similar signals and wavelengths are almost at the same speed as light. Nothing is faster-than-light. Remember what we were told when we were kids? When we look at the stars at night, we are looking in the distant past when that light first traveled towards us.
Any messages we may receive were sent hundreds, thousands, millions, and even billions of years ago. The alien civilisation that sent it probably are extinct already, were conquered and are now slaves, ascended to some higher form of existence, or moved on elsewhere. The local star from where the message originated from could have gone supernova thousands of years before we received their message that sent millions of years ago.
It does not end there.
The message could be dangerous
Here on planet Earth, we think of Einstein’s formula as the gold standard of an advanced civilisation as faster-than-light travel is in Star Trek (specifically warp technology). However, it does not mean that other alien civilisations will arrive at the same assumption of what is the gold standard of an advanced civilisation.
If we do receive a message, it probably will contain such a formula and explanation of what it is. At the time the message was sent, this alien civilisation think it is safe. However, a few centuries later, this same formula resulted in their homeworld imploding. Another possible scenario, their science is different from our science. The underlying laws are the same bu the branches of science and our understanding of the universe are different. If our scientists try, and they will, this alien science, we might accidentally create a singularity here on Earth instead of the intended result of that alien formula.
Let’s reverse the situation. We’ve sent and are broadcasting Einstein’s formular for decades. A hundred or thousand years later, an alien civilisation without such knowledge, yet are even far more advanced than us, received our message. They tried it, experimented with it, and they enter a nuclear winter. An episode in Star Trek: Voyager tackled this scenario and it was ugly. Earthlings were seen by these people as malevolent, sending a formular disguised as “hello” but hoping that they destroy themselves in the process so when we arrive, we take their planet for ourselves.
“Normal spacetime” is not the way
“Normal spacetime” is not the way for any interstellar communication and travel. The larger the distance between the parties involved in a communication, or the target destination, the longer it takes for messages to arrive. Let’s assume that there is an alien civilisation in Proxima Centauri, the closest planetary system to our own. We know that it takes 4 lightyears for light to travel from Proxima Centauri to reach planet Earth.
We received a message from them. It means they sent it 4 years ago, Earth time. We asked them a question, “how are you?” It will take 4 years for it to reach Proxima Centauri. If you think even for a second that “four years is nothing”, you are gravely mistaken. For us here on Earth, we are actually going to wait for a total of 8 years to receive a reply. Four year for our message to reach them, and then four years for their reply to reach us.
Eight years? Manageable? But how about an alien civilisation that is 10 LY away from us? How about if they are 10,000 LY away from us? What if a billion lightyears?
A wise civilisation will look elsewhere…
By now, we all should have realised that any communication and travel done through “normal spacetime” is futile. It takes tens, hundreds, thousands, millions, and even billions of years for anything to be accomplished, and have any meaning and value to both parties. A wise civilisation will look elsewhere.
Thus, if we do receive a message from some alien civilisation out there, they already moved on from communicating and perhaps traveling through “normal spacetime”. The message is useless. We will not become a member of the galactic civilisation. No one will hear us because no one’s listening.
Any advanced civilisation who has achieved our current level of knowledge and technology would have by now unlocked a way to communicate and possibly travel outside of “normal spacetime”. This is the gold standard in determining if a civilisation is truly advanced enough to warrant communication from the galactic community (if it even exist).
Quantum Physics is the answer
I believe that this communication and travel outside of “normal spacetime” lies in quantum physics. We have barely scratched the surface of quantum mechanics and we are already witnessing major changes in our knowledge of the universe. It is only a matter of time before we start concrete applications of these newfound knowledge.
One day, we will unlock the knowledge on how to communicate through another dimension through, let’s call it, “quantum spacetime”. Or maybe, through quantum physics, we will be able to unlock wormhole technology; or even some new type of singularity that we can use for instant communication and travel.
When that day arrives, that is when we will truly know if we are alone. If there are alien civilisations out there, for their own protection, they will only communicate with us once we unlock this knowledge, build a technology based on this knowledge, and send our first communication attempt, or accidentally travel.
Faster-than-light travel through “normal spacetime” is impossible. Even if it becomes possible, it is still bound by time. The larger the gap in distance, the longer the travel will take. Meaning, it will never be instantaneous. In the vastness of the universe, instant communication is very important. Travel follows. We know how fast our own planet changed once communication became instantaneous. We may not have unlocked the same in travel but we have seen and read science-fiction where instantaneous travel dramatically changed planet Earth beyond our wildest dreams.
The Final Frontier
Communication and travel in “normal spacetime” is not the way. We need to unlock the knowledge and build technologies which will allow us to communicate and travel outside of “normal spacetime”. That is when our journey to the final frontier will truly begin. Are we ready for it? Are you excited to meet this future?
Is a self-confessed bibliophile and technophile other than being an early adopter, an avid gamer, a geek, nerd, role-player, anime otaku, and trekker.
His first online project was in 1998 when he launched the unofficial website for Ansalon MUD (a text-based, telnet online game) and his own community forums Laibcoms.Community. By 2003 he created his work blog GM-Yukino which grew into gameshogun™, Snoworld™, and techmagus™ over the years.
Yuki’s latest project is Verses.Space™, a Free Culture / Creative Commons, collaborative, and shared-world, worldbuilding and writing project.
The Mysterious Repeating Radio Signals Are Not Alien Messages by Yuki (雪亮) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.