Is this ET? Mystery of strange radio bursts from space

Mysterious radio wave flashes from far outside the galaxy are proving tough for stronomers to explain. Is it pulsars? A spy satellite? Or an alien message?


BURSTS of radio waves flashing across the sky seem to follow a mathematical pattern. If the pattern is real, either some strange celestial physics is going on, or the bursts are artificial, produced by human – or alien – technology.

Telescopes have been picking up so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) since 2001. They last just a few milliseconds and erupt with about as much energy as the sun releases in a month. Ten have been detected so far, most recently in 2014, when the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, caught a burst in action for the first time. The others were found by sifting through data after the bursts had arrived at Earth. No one knows what causes them, but the brevity of the bursts means their source has to be small – hundreds of kilometres across at most – so they can’t be from ordinary stars. And they seem to come from far outside the galaxy.

The weird part is that they all fit a pattern that doesn’t match what we know about cosmic physics.

To calculate how far the bursts have come, astronomers use a concept called the dispersion measure. Each burst covers a range of radio frequencies, as if the whole FM band were playing the same song. But electrons in space scatter and delay the radiation, so that higher frequency waves make it across space faster than lower frequency waves. The more space the signal crosses, the bigger the difference, or dispersion measure, between the arrival time of high and low frequencies – and the further the signal has travelled.

Michael Hippke of the Institute for Data Analysis in Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany, and John Learned at the University of Hawaii in Manoa found that all 10 bursts’ dispersion measures are multiples of a single number: 187.5 (see chart). This neat line-up, if taken at face value, would imply five sources for the bursts all at regularly spaced distances from Earth, billions of light-years away. A more likely explanation, Hippke and Lerned say, is that the FRBs all come from somewhere much closer to home, from a group of objects within the Milky Way that naturally emit shorter-frequency radio waves after higher-frequency ones, with a delay that is a multiple of 187.5.

They claim there is a 5 in 10,000 probability that the line-up is coincidence. “If the pattern is real,” says Learned, “it is very, very hard to explain.”

“Perhaps extraterrestrial civilisations are flagging us down with basic multiplication”

Cosmic objects might, by some natural but unknown process, produce dispersions in regular steps. Small, dense remnant stars called pulsars are known to emit bursts of radio waves, though not in regular arrangements or with as much power as FRBs. But maybe superdense stars are mathematical oddities because of underlying physics we don’t understand.

It’s also possible that the telescopes are picking up evidence of human technology, like an unmapped spy satellite, masquerading as signals from deep space.

The most tantalising possibility is that the source of the bursts might be a who, not a what. If none of the natural explanations pan out, their paper concludes, “An artificial source (human or non-human) must be considered.”

“Beacon from extraterrestrials” has always been on the list of weird possible origins for these bursts. “These have been intriguing as an engineered signal, or evidence of extraterrestrial technology, since the first was discovered,” says Jill Tarter, former director of the SETI Institute in California. “I’m intrigued. Stay tuned.”

Astronomers have long speculated that a mathematically clever message – broadcasts encoded with pi, or flashes that count out prime numbers, as sent by aliens in the film Contact – could give away aliens’ existence. Perhap extraterrestrial civilisations are flagging us down with basic multiplication.

Power source

But a fast radio burst is definitely not the easiest message aliens could send. As Maura McLaughlin of West Virginia University, who was part of the first FRB discovery points out, it takes a lot of energy to make a signal that spreads across lots of frequencies, instead of just a narrow one like a radio station. And if the bursts come from outside the galaxy, they would have to be incredibly energetic to get this far.

If the bursts actually come from inside the Milky Way, they need not be so energetic (just like a nearby flashlight can light up the ground but a distant light does not). Either way, though, it would require a lot of power. In fact, the aliens would have to be from what SETI scientists call a Kardashev Type II civilisation (see “Keeping up with the Kardashevs” below).

But maybe there’s no pattern at all, let alone one that aliens embedded. There are only 10 bursts, and they fit into just five groups. “It’s very easy to find patterns when you have small-number statistics,” says McLaughlin. “On the other hand, I don’t think you can argue with the statistics, so it is odd.”

The pattern might disappear as more FRBs are detected. Hippke and Learned plan to check their finding against new discoveries, and perhaps learn something about the universe. “Science is the best game around,” says Learned. “You don’t know what the rules are, or if you can win. This is science in action.”

If the result holds up, says Hippke, “there is something really interesting we need to understand. This will either be new physics, like a new kind of pulsar, or, in the end, if we can exclude everything else, an ET.”

Hippke is cautious, but notes that remote possibilities are still possibilities. “When you set out to search for something new,” he says, “you might find something unexpected.”

Keeping up with the Kardashevs

THE first search for extraterrestrial intelligence, Frank Drake’s Project Ozma, looked for radio broadcasts from hypothetical aliens in the 1960s.

Around the same time, cosmologist Nikolai Kardashev began to wonder what a truly advanced civilisation’s radio messages might be like. His main conclusion: more powerful than ours. In a 1963 paper called “Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations”, he grouped ETs into three categories according to how big their broadcasts could be. The labels stuck, and SETI scientists still use them today.

A signal from a Kardashev Type I society uses a planet’s worth of energy, pulling from all its resources – solar, thermal, volcanic, tectonic, hydrodynamic, oceanic, and so on.

A Type II civilisation has a star’s worth of output at its disposal. It would have to capture all its sun’s radiation, throw material into a black hole and suck up the radiation, or travel to many planets and strip them of resources.

A Kardashev Type III civilisation controls the power output of a galaxy like the Milky Way. If a galaxy was home to just one Type III society, it would be completely dark except for the waste infrared radiation (heat) blowing from their massive engineering projects.

How Samsung missed out on buying Android

Before being acquired by Google, Andy Rubin’s Android team pitched to Samsung at some point in late 2004, looking for further funding. However, Samsung did not see the potential in Android at the time, preferring to pass on the opportunity to invest in the startup. When the eight people Android team flew to Samsung’s headquarters in South Korea, “instead of enthusiasm and questions, the only response [Rubin got was] dead silence,” from the 20 Samsung executives that attended the meeting, Phone Arena writes, citing as reference the “Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution” book by Fred Vogelstein.

“’You and what army are going to go and create this? You have six people. Are you high?’ is basically what they said. They laughed me out of the boardroom,” Rubin later said. “This happened two weeks before Google acquired us.”

In early 2005, Google purchased Android for $50 million, in what was to become one of the most important purchases the Search giant made. Rubin and his team further developed Android in the years that followed the Google acquisition, even though that meant redesigning the OS for touchscreen devices to better take on the newly launched iPhone.

Now, Rubin is heading Google’s robotics division, while Android is the dominant smartphone operating system, with Samsung being the top Android device maker. Google and Samsung have recently inked a partnership that will see the two company working together in following years, putting an end to speculation that Samsung may be more interested in developing its own Tizen OS than working with Android.

Aluminum Extraction – Once an extremely rare and valuable metal

20 times more efficient to recycle aluminum. Almost 31% of aluminum production is recycled aluminum.

of course this doesn’t even compare to steel which is almost entirely recycled. Each ton of steel recycled saves 63% of a ton of coal, which would otherwise be used to remove oxygen from the iron ore. Steel is usually made at two plants, with blast and crucible furnaces (and often then to a third plant to be cast). Recycling skips the first (less efficient, much dirtier, more expensive) plant entirely.

One thing I’m curious about is in the film they showed them dumping byproduct from the process in some man-made reservoir “protected” by a plastic underlay.

I wonder how harmful that actually is to the environment. They sort of just sidestepped it.

While both are environmental threats, fracking is in a league of its own. They’re forcing a sludge into the ground, through (sometimes several) water tables. This by itself is bad, but it can cause earthquakes, change sheer pressures, and just generally screw with the local geology.

Even assuming the cementing is effective at preventing any groundwater contamination, the drilling companies dump the recovered toxic fluid somewhere, and it ends up back in the ground water eventually.

I don’t necessarily think fracking should be stopped, but posting a propaganda video produced by an oil company as proof that it’s safe or enviromentally friendly is laughable.

Most wellbore cement jobs are defective. In the first place, it’s probably impossible to create a leak proof cement job. Pressurized water will always find a way. Even if it were possible to make a leak proof wellbore lining, it would be so prohibitively expensive that no for-profit corporation would actually do a proper job.

We’re going to end up with a decade of cheap natural gas, followed by a lifetime of undrinkable water because trying to clean aquifers after they have been polluted is an exercise in futility.

Let’s assume everything goes perfectly during production. After the well is abandoned and your company goes out of business or is bought out by incompetents (e.g. Halliburton), who is going to maintain all of these abandoned wells and make sure that there isn’t fracking chemicals leaking into aquifers? Earthquakes could dramatically alter groundwater pressure and could cause the cement lining to fail.

Beyond monitoring pressure, what other quality assurance are you doing to ensure that the cement lining has been done properly?

I really don’t think you’d like paying $8 a gallon had it not been for stimulation. Enjoy the low gas prices until oil companies manipulate it back to $110 a barrel. It is the end of the year and they are getting their tax break.

This assumes the primacy of extracting and burning as much oil as possible and maintaining the lowest possible gasoline prices. Many modern countries get along fine with $8 gasoline and we’d be better served to stop externalizing the costs of the fossil fuel industry.

What Really is Magnetism? : Documentary on the Science of Magnetism

Education is a fundamental and importan part of today’s society and is becoming increasingly more accessible and convenient online. The availability of information which is also entertaining helps us grow as people both individually and as a whole. Documentaries are the resource of choice of the new generation of students around the world. The documentary here along with the other documentaries on this channel relate to important times and people in history, historic places, archaeology, science, conspiracy theories, and education.

The topics covered in these video documentaries vary and cover about everything you could possibly want to know including ancient history, Maya, Rome, Greece, The New World, Egypt, World wars, combat, battles, military and combat technology, current affairs and events, education, biographies, news and current events, Illuminati, Area 51, crime, mafia, serial killers, paranormal, supernatural, cults, government cover-ups, the law and legal matters, corruption, martial arts, space, aliens, ufos, conspiracy theories, Annunaki, Nibiru, Nephilim, satanic rituals, religion, strange phenomenon, origins of Mankind, monsters, mobsters, time travel, planet earth, the Sun, The planets, the solar system, the universe, modern physics, String Theory, the Big Bang Theory, Quantum Mechanics, television, archaeology, science, technology, nature, plants, animals, endangered species, wildlife, environmental concerns and
issues, global warming, natural disasters, and many other educational and controversial topics. Please enjoy and Learn Responsibly!

I’m currently working on my PhD with a focus on electromagnetism. I know Maxwell’s equations by rote; I can derive the wave equations, vector potentials, equations governing resonant cavities and the interaction of electromagnetic waves with materials. But ask me what an electric or magnetic field actually is and I will tell you: I have no fucking clue. The physics answer is that fields arise due to the exchange of virtual photons, because the math behind that works. But what does that even mean? What is a virtual photon? And how does it actually produce a force that will attract or repel two parallel wires with current passing through them?

you could call the “little kicks” “differential changes”, and now you’re talking about an integral. If you wanted to talk about all of the loops individually, you’d write a system of differential equations. If you wanted to solve such a system, you could treat it like a control system with negative feedback. If you’re doing that, you’d almost HAVE to move into the laplace domain… which is literally complex in the sense of complex numbers.

Or you could use the simpler models in your average undergraduate physics textbook, and leave the systems of differential equations to computers that can do numeric approximations.

HOW IT WORKS: The International Space Station (2015)

I wonder if anybody in the ISS ever became so overwhelmed with claustrophobia that they had a panic attack and freak out. I’m sure there are psychological tests to evaluate if somebody has a propensity for such things before actually going up, but damn if I didn’t start feeling a little sick just watching for 30 minutes. Hopefully NASA provides ample Xanax as a contingency.

These are the videos i love to look at. Not a brushed and staged “photo-up” but raw life as it is. They all look dead tired and yet are able to hold themselves under control and put up with the circus. IMO, 99% of their training must be to maintain self-control under any and all circumstances, quick thinking and working through any problems that might arise with an alert mind.

Suni actually ran the Boston marathon from space and I think she did a triathlon when she was there last time, she rowed instead of swimming. When they named the treadmill after Colbert she got to go on the show since she’d already gotten so much press for running in space. They exercise a ton!

That’s why NASA landings were pretty private- the astronauts can’t walk after being on the space station but it’s kinda freaky to see even though you know they’re okay, just the affects of being in space. When she came back in the Soyuz though the press is all up in your face and they put you in like a la z boy chair so people don’t see you on a stretcher.

They purposely make the modules fairly small because, as I recall, the original skylab had a module so large it was possible to get ‘stuck’ in the middle and have no way to grab a side or change your rotation to get to an edge.

Each sleeping pod has independent air flow systems because CO2 will pool around your heard in zero gravity as you sleep and can asphyxiate you – so they need constant slow new air moving around them at all time. That is such a crazy thing to think of as a safety measure.

I’d love to go up and hang out in the ISS for a couple of weeks, but the thought just reminds me of the simpsons when homer goes into space. I imagine they have a ton of work to do while they’re there, and most of that work probably involves things that are way over my head. Not to mention, I picture the culture as overlapping with military culture in terms of discipline and etiquette.

Quantum Mechanics Series by the Cassiopeia Project

No Science Teacher Left Behind

The Cassiopeia Project is an effort to make high-definition science education videos available to anyone who wants them.
If you can visualize it, then understanding is not far behind.
Making Science Simple.

About the Quantum Series:

Once you get past existence coming and going… and virtual particles… and uncertainty… and exclusion, then you are ready to enjoy the REALLY weird stuff in the quantum world. This series eases you into quantum reality with answers to simple questions like -How do we measure the temperature of the Sun?-

Then it quickly gets into the fun stuff like electrons canceling each other out. And finally, quantum entanglement takes the stage as the potential future of computing, cryptography and even teleportation.