Tech-Advanced Alien Life: Evidence in Fast Radio Bursts?

Aliens might be out there, creating technologically-advanced radio transmitters that would account for the fast radio bursts we witness on Earth on rare occasions, suggests a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Artist’s concept of an alien planet’s radio beam (red) powering a light-sail. These beams would appear as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) to inhabitants of the Earth. Photo credits: M. Weiss/CfA.

Humans have looked for alien life for as long as one can remember. Scientists have searched for possible evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence by investigating radio waves and laser flashes, but in vain. Maybe, nothing was found because researchers did not look into the phenomenon of fast radio bursts (FRBs)?

The new study focuses on FRBs being potential proof of technologically-advanced alien life. The team behind this paper suggests that the bursts might be coming from enormous transmitters of interstellar probes (light-sails) from far-away galaxies.

Why are FRBs a possible candidate for signs of alien life? Mostly, because their origin remains unknown. What is known about FRBs is that they are bright flashes of radio pulses that last for mere milliseconds only. They have been found in regions beyond our galaxy (the Milky Way), billions of light years away from us. So far, fewer than 12 have been identified by researchers. Hence, only very little information about this astrophysical phenomenon has been gathered, and we do not know their true source.

FRBs are described as being extremely bright because they are short-lasting, says one of the authors, Avi Loeb from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; he also explains that we have not spotted a source for FRBs “with any confidence”. According to Loeb, “artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking”.

Therefore, with the aim of testing this, Loeb and his colleague, Manasvi Lingam from Harvard University, set out to find out whether a radio transmitter powerful enough could be a possible source. Can one create such a device that could be detected from incredibly long distances? The results show that a solar-powered transmitter, with an area twice the size of our Earth receiving sunlight, could give off the required amount of energy.

If such a device exists beyond our world, for what purpose would its engineers (aliens!) use it? According to the authors, it would possibly drive interstellar light sails; the power would be enough to fuel these vehicles which would be around 20 times the size of cruise ships on Earth.

“That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances,” says Lingam.

This transmitter would have to focus a beam on the light sail—something which the inhabitants of Earth would be able to see as a brief flash. This would be so because the sail, and the planet from where it was powered would all in movement relative to us, and hence the beam would move across the sky.

Such a device would, of course, have to be the product of advanced technology. Loeb and Lingam believe that this would be within the laws of physics. On the other hand, Loeb adds that their findings are speculative in nature.

Does Loeb really believe aliens are behind the FRBs?

“Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence. Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge,” says Loeb.

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