A Matrioshka Brain Is A Computer The Size Of A Solar System


Imagine a computer the size of a solar system. For power, it would use a Dyson sphere—a solar array that completely surrounds the host star to collect almost all of its energy. That energy-collecting sphere would double as an ultra-powerful computer processor. Once the sphere had collected all the energy it needed, it would pass the excess to another larger Dyson-sphere processor that completely surrounded the first, repeating the process until all of the energy was being used. That’s why this theoretical computer is called a Matrioshka brain: the nested Dyson spheres would resemble matryoshka dolls, or Russian nesting dolls.

Of course, if you surround your star with Dyson spheres, it would be difficult for life on your planet to continue. That’s kind of the point: this Matrioshka brain would be so powerful that a species could upload their entire consciousness into it and live within an alternate universe simulated by the computer. The species itself could die and its planet could be destroyed, but the civilization would live on in a digital world identical to the one it left behind. In fact, many people, including Elon Musk, believe we’re living in a simulation like that at this very moment. This provides one answer to the Fermi Paradox—that is, the question of why we haven’t encountered aliens despite the likelihood that they’re out there. It’s possible that any civilization advanced enough to find us has already decided to abandon reality entirely and upload themselves to a Matrioshka brain. Delve deeper into megastructures and theoretical tech with the videos below.

 How To Turn The Solar System Into A Computer

What’s a Matrioshka brain, and how would it work?

Watch the video. URL:

What Is A Dyson Sphere?

Find out whether this theoretical megastructure is even possible.

Watch the video. URL:

  1. In the future, we’ll build larger and larger solar arrays until we enclose the entire sun in a cloud of solar satellites. This “cloud” is known as a Dyson sphere.00:25
  2. In 1960, physicist Freeman Dyson theorized that if future civilization could enclose our star in a rigid shell, we could generate 384 yottawatts (384 x 10^24 watts) of energy.01:00
  3. There are many problems with the concept.
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3,000 of the World’s Smartest Minds Have Come Together to Ban Nuclear Weapons


IN BRIEF

This week, over 3,400 scientists came together in support the United Nations’ nuclear ban negotiations, signing a document by the Future of Life that calls for a total disarmament. Notable signees include Freeman Dyson, Stephen Hawking, and Daniel Dennett.

Vital Partners

Science and politics are irrevocably intertwined. From whether or not we should conduct research using embryonic stem cells to whether or not the nation should take action against climate change, science and politics are in an eternal dance.

Given that so many scientific conversations are becoming increasingly debated topics, such as climate change, the role of scientists in these debates cannot be overstated. Ultimately, while politicians can discuss how research should or should not be used, experts are the only individuals who truly have the qualifications to speak about what the research itself says. To put it simply, politicians need the expertise of scientists in order to do their jobs properly.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. We need scientists. Knowing the facts is the minimum we need for a sensible approach to negotiations. -David Donoghue

Monday, more than 3,480 scientists came together to meet this need and to support the United Nations’ nuclear ban negotiations. The individuals – who came from more than 80 countries and included 28 Nobel Laureates and a former US Secretary of Defense – signed a letter that was delivered to Her Excellency Ms. Elayne Whyte Gómez from Costa Rica, who is presiding over the negotiations.

The goal was to urge the UN to stigmatize nuclear weapons like biological and chemical weapons, with the ultimate mission being to create a “world free of these weapons of mass destruction.” The United States and a number of other nations that actually have nuclear weapons boycotted the talks, saying that “the time was not right and that a ban would be ineffective.

That said, the talks are supported by 120 nations.

At an event held yesterday at the U.N., Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, David Donoghue, noted that these exchanges between scientists and diplomats are incredibly important:

Reading the [letter] left no one in doubt about the unimaginable damage that would be done to human health, to animal health, and to the health of the planet if nuclear weapons were to explode. We see the scientific community as vital partners in what we are doing.

Future of Life

Beyond ‘Rock-Solid’ Deterrence

Despite the Pentagon’s assertion that a few hundred nuclear weapons would suffice for “rock-solid deterrence,” the United States and Russia are in possession of a combined 14,000. As the Future of Life Institute notes, many of these are on “hair-trigger alert and ready to be launched on a minute’s notice.”

In 2011, global annual expenditures on nuclear weapons were estimated to be $105 billion – or $12 million an hour.  Many scientists believe these funds should be redirected toward meeting human needs. For example, official development assistance – the money given by developed nations to developing nations – totaled $128.7 billion in 2010. Current nuclear weapons spending is equal to 80% of this sum.

Physicist Freeman Dyson, who is credited with conceiving of what is known as the “Dyson Sphere,” is one of the many notable scientists who signed the Future of Life’s letter supporting the stigmatization of nuclear weapons.

He explains, “scientists are supposed to be interested in bombs because we learned how to make bombs. I don’t think that that’s the main qualification for scientists to be concerned now.” He continued by noting that scientists’ familiarity with collaboration puts them in a unique position to negotiate and support talks, “We are running an operation that works, and we are accustomed to working as friends with people all over the world in all kinds of countries with all kinds of religions and political systems. That’s why we are useful in dealing with problems of weapons.”

Freeman Dyson On Nuclear Weapons: “We Don’t Need Those Damn Things”
Freeman Dyson. 

Although he doesn’t believe the UN will decide anything during these specific talks, he notes that the important thing is starting conversations and taking a stand, “somebody’s going to take a big step then the rest of the world will follow.”

The first step, of course, is bringing people together who have the opportunity to influence people or governments on a larger scale. Dyson believes that eradicating nuclear weapons will be easy—or at least, much easier—once those in power come together and stand their ground: “I think that it will be, of course, an easy thing to do once you’ve made up your mind. It turned out the important step is to say ‘we don’t need those damn things,’ and actually, you don’t.”

We don’t need those damn things.But what about once we do ban nuclear weapons? How do we verify that they really are gone? Experts, says Dyson, work out elaborate systems to verify that there aren’t nukes “lying around” (through the detection of radioactive particles, for example), but he doesn’t believe those verification systems are necessary. In fact, in the case of biological weapons, a good verification system doesn’t exist. To Dyson, the verification isn’t important or necessary.

“You won’t get rid of them all together right away,” he notes, “but it’s important countries announce publicly to get rid of them. That’s already a big step….you want big steps, and not small steps.”

Source:futurism.com

New Evidence Threatens To Crush The Dreams Of Alien Megastructures


A Dyson Sphere under construction, which could theoretically cause large flux dips and progressively dims the star over time. This Alien Megastructure idea, however, should only be taken seriously when all other natural explanations are ruled out. Image credit: public domain art by CapnHack, via http://energyphysics.wikispaces.com/Proto-Dyson+Sphere.

A Dyson Sphere under construction, which could theoretically cause large flux dips and progressively dims the star over time. This Alien Megastructure idea, however, should only be taken seriously when all other natural explanations are ruled out. Image credit: public domain art by CapnHack, via http://energyphysics.wikispaces.com/Proto-Dyson+Sphere.

When it comes to the hunt for extraterrestrial life, perhaps the biggest dream we have isn’t to encounter a civilization like our own, but one far more advanced. Rather than seeking radio signals, electromagnetic beacons or chemical signatures, perhaps we could look for something far more advanced than anything we’ve done here. Perhaps looking for large-scale planet or solar system modifications — evidence that aliens had altered an entire world or the space around a star — would be the miracle signal we’ve been longing for. If you ever encountered a case where all the natural explanations you could come up with for your observations failed, the idea of Alien Megastructures might be the ultimate dream come true.

The infrared (L) and ultraviolet (R) emissions from Tabby's star: KIC 8462852. They show no evidence of a great many of the natural explanations for the flux dips observed. Image credit: Infrared: IPAC/NASA (2MASS), at left; Ultraviolet: STScI (GALEX), at right.

The infrared (L) and ultraviolet (R) emissions from Tabby’s star: KIC 8462852. They show no evidence of a great many of the natural explanations for the flux dips observed. Image credit: Infrared: IPAC/NASA (2MASS), at left; Ultraviolet: STScI (GALEX), at right.

The Kepler spacecraft was remarkable for its ability to observe and monitor the brightness of more than 100,000 stars at once over timescales of multiple years. If a star brightened or dimmed, temporarily or permanently, once or periodically, we could determine all sorts of natural causes. Transiting planets that dipped behind or passed in front of their parent star were revealed; hundreds of eclipsing binary stars were uncovered; intrinsically varying stars were found. Practically all of the variations seen were regular, periodic and predictable. But there’s one star that stands out from all the others: KIC 8462852, known as Tabby’s star for the leader of the team studying it, Tabetha S. Boyajian. Its flux drops off by incredibly large amounts, larger than any conceivable planetary transit could cause, and it does so with no discernible period, with varying drops by varying amounts.

The flux, including the dips, in KIC 8462852, exhibiting unprecedented dimming and rebrightening. These unique features aren't seen anywhere else. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user JohnPassos, under c.c.a.-s.a.-4.0 international.

The flux, including the dips, in KIC 8462852, exhibiting unprecedented dimming and rebrightening. These unique features aren’t seen anywhere else. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user JohnPassos, under c.c.a.-s.a.-4.0 international.

There are a few stars that have been discovered that do something similar, but all of them are part of a class of objects known as YSOs: Young Stellar Objects. The other stars are very young, having not finished forming yet. They all exhibit protoplanetary disks and give off large amounts of infrared radiation. In particular, their light curves — including the shapes of their dips — also differ from that of Tabby’s star. Out of over 100,000 stars imaged by Kepler, Tabby’s star is unique. For one, it has the hallmarks of an older star, one only slightly more massive than our Sun but that’s hundreds of millions years old, rather than just a few million like YSOs. No infrared radiation means no protoplanetary disk around it. Large, ringed planets give the wrong signal shape to block that much light. Colliding, massive planets have been disfavored by follow-up studies looking for warm dust as a result. Even dusty, swarming comets would have infrared radiation, but none beyond what’s localized in the central star system is seen.

A dusty debris disk either around the star itself or the planets that orbit it would emit infrared radiation, where none is seen. Image credit: ESA, NASA, and L. Calcada (ESO for STScI).

A dusty debris disk either around the star itself or the planets that orbit it would emit infrared radiation, where none is seen. Image credit: ESA, NASA, and L. Calcada (ESO for STScI).

And unlike all the other stars, Tabby’s star has controversially been slowly but consistently changing in brightness, with a net dimming, over the past 120 years. When all the seemingly natural, expected explanations fail, whatever is left, no matter how unlikely, must be the truth. Would that mean alien megastructures? Not so fast!

In the past 48 hours, two new, independent studies have come out, each one offering up a possible explanation that might be consistent with all of the data so far. And neither one invokes aliens. The first one theorizes that these unique variations come from dimming “outbursts” originating from the star itself.

A solar flare from our Sun, which is far lower in magnitude and light-blocking capabilities than needed to explain Tabby's star. Image credit: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory / GSFC.

A solar flare from our Sun, which is far lower in magnitude and light-blocking capabilities than needed to explain Tabby’s star. Image credit: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory / GSFC.

The method involves looking, in gory detail, at all the small dips in brightness coming from the star itself as well as the large, aperiodic ones. The smaller dips are also non-periodic, but are thought to represent the underlying activity — likely caused by outbursts that then block the light — from the star. These are frequent, and they occur on all scales: at the 1% level, the 0.1% level, the 0.01% level, etc. By modeling the frequency and intensity of these outbursts, they can construct a mathematical model for the large outbursts, which they dub statistical avalanches. As Mohammed Sheikh, leader of the study, says,

“Once the light curve drops below the threshold, we consider such an event the start of an avalanche. While the light curve remains below the threshold the avalanche continues, and it stops when it increases again to a value above the threshold.”

Their analysis shows that the avalanche model is extremely consistent with what’s observed. In other words, this could just be a star that’s intensely active in some poorly understood way, giving off periodic massive outbursts that cause a dimming of the light. And the fact that stars like this are rare is what’s been fooling us all along.

Originally, a scenario of a shattered comet was considered to explain Tabby's star. Instead, a series of long-period comet-like objects with massive dust halos could cause these temporary, transient flux dips. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Originally, a scenario of a shattered comet was considered to explain Tabby’s star. Instead, a series of long-period comet-like objects with massive dust halos could cause these temporary, transient flux dips. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The second paper hypothesizes a new class of object: a massive object surrounded by a dust cloud. This would sound insane except we already have objects that do this in our Solar System: comets. If they start a long distance from the star, start emitting a tail and a coma, and then transit in front of the star, they could cause these large flux dips. The signal would also be aperiodic. By simply setting up this hypothesis and fiddling with a few free parameters, they can easily fit all four of the largest flux dips fairly well, showing that there is another potential path to solving this problem other than aliens.

The red lines (models) and the green lines (data) can be matched very well from a massive object-with-a-dust cloud model with very few free parameters, but it will take detailed follow-up observations to confirm this picture. Image credit: L. Neslusan and J. Budaj, via https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.06121.

The red lines (models) and the green lines (data) can be matched very well from a massive object-with-a-dust cloud model with very few free parameters, but it will take detailed follow-up observations to confirm this picture. Image credit: L. Neslusan and J. Budaj, via https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.06121.

It’s only human nature to want the most fantastic of our dreams to come true. To discover an alien species much more advanced than our own would certainly meet that criteria, and would revolutionize how we view our place in the Universe. But before embracing anything along those lines, all the natural explanations need to be ruled out. This includes large-perihelion comets, which could block a large amount of the star’s light in a temporary, transient way, and the statistical avalanche theory, which might hold a clue. As physicist Steinn Sigur∂sson states:

The large brightness variations cannot be explained with simple astrophysical models. Normal middle-aged main sequence stars do not exhibit large spontaneous brightness variations. While other stars have been seen to dim by comparable amounts and durations, they were all much younger—in or near the star-forming phase. [Tabby’s] star would be a one-in-a-million anomaly.

It’s already a one-in-100,000+ anomaly, and everyone agrees that further follow-up observations are mandatory for uncovering the root cause. No matter what the solution, we’re bound to learn something new about the Universe. The revolution is at hand. The only question is whether it will be a revolution for stellar astrophysicists, planet hunters, or the entire human race.

Researchers just found a second ‘Dyson Sphere’ star


When astronomers discovered a strange pattern of light near a distant star called KIC 8462852 back in October, it was like nothing anyone had observed before.

When a planet passes in front of star, the star’s brightness usually dips by around 1 percent, but KIC 8462852 has been experiencing dips of up to 22 percent, suggesting that something huge is zooming past. And now a second star with strange dips in brightness has been identified.

Named EPIC 204278916, the star is estimated to be about the size of our Sun in diameter, but has only half its mass.

It was discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft in 2014, and ever since, a team of astronomers led by Simone Scaringi from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany have been keeping tabs on its dips in light, or ‘light curves’.

And this thing is even stranger than KIC 8462852.

The researchers report that over 78.8 days of observations, EPIC 204278916 displayed irregular dimming of up to 65 percent for around 25 consecutive days.

As we mentioned above, something as huge as a planet orbiting a star will cause it to dim just 1 percent, so what could possibly be big enough to cause a dimming of 65 percent?

Back when researchers were trying to explain the irregular and large dips in brightness of KIC 8462852 – also known as Tabby’s star – they came up with two plausible explanations and one… not-so-plausible explanation.