They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

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They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Zor » 2017-04-25 02:28am

In this scenario at some point in the next few months the NASA guys announce that they found something, and that something is big.

Basically they've detected an infrared signature about 800 light years away and after doing some research with some other labs based around some other factors they found what they believe to be a large swarm of metal objects around a Star and the surrounding star systems within about 10 light years apparently have a low metalocity. They're not saying for sure that it is this, but they generally believe that this thing is a Dyson Swarm. The Europeans, Chinese, Japanese and Russians confirm this.

What would be your response?

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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-04-25 03:15am

Jubilation at finding aliens, profound irritation that it happened by chance to occur under the Orange One's watch so he'll get the historical credit/legacy, and frustration that its too far away to travel to or meaningfully communicate with without finding a new loophole in physics?
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Tribble » 2017-04-25 10:32am

I expect the findings to be promptly challenged and dismissed by many conservatives. Especially religious groups. I imagine the debate would be even worse than the one on climate change, if that's possible.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Iroscato » 2017-04-25 11:11am

My personal reaction? A dull, sick, aching terror as I plunge into an existential crisis. Science fiction has just become a reality. I am now aware that we are indeed not alone in the universe, and that the only other life that we know of was powerful and advanced enough to create something that gargantuan.

I mean, I'd be incredibly excited as well, once I'd gotten past the terror. But yeah, mostly terror.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Tribble » 2017-04-25 11:21am

If we can see them, can they see us? Presumably they would have picked up our radio signals for some time? Could they have already launched something like a projectile at high speed to take us out?
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Darth Tanner » 2017-04-25 11:33am

Tribble wrote:If we can see them, can they see us? Presumably they would have picked up our radio signals for some time? Could they have already launched something like a projectile at high speed to take us out?


Not for quite some time, the Dyson Sphere is 800 years old at this point atleast, they won't be picking anything up for atleast 730 years.

Iroscato wrote:I mean, I'd be incredibly excited as well, once I'd gotten past the terror. But yeah, mostly terror.


Why Terror? This is so far away and so long ago its impact on human civilization is going to be limited unless the sphere builders have figured out ftl in the mean time.

It's a great scientific discovery, possibly one of the largest we could make short of aliens actually landing and saying hello in person... its impact on day to day life will be none past that marker point though.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Tribble » 2017-04-25 11:46am

Darth Tanner wrote:Not for quite some time, the Dyson Sphere is 800 years old at this point atleast, they won't be picking anything up for atleast 730 years.


Ah, sorry, I just saw the 10ly figure lol.

Still, I imagine that a society which can build a Dyson Swarm would at least have the tech required to spot Earth and perhaps deduce that it is capable of / already supports life. They could be on the way for all we know.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby SolarpunkFan » 2017-04-25 12:03pm

Iroscato wrote:My personal reaction? A dull, sick, aching terror as I plunge into an existential crisis. Science fiction has just become a reality. I am now aware that we are indeed not alone in the universe, and that the only other life that we know of was powerful and advanced enough to create something that gargantuan.

I mean, I'd be incredibly excited as well, once I'd gotten past the terror. But yeah, mostly terror.


Then there's the Manifold: Space possibility to worry about.

What I'm going to say after this sentence is spolerish for this book.

Why have we only found a Dyson sphere now, of all times? The Milky Way galaxy is pretty old, so it stands to reason that civilizations this advanced should have existed and colonized the galaxy before we entered the age of telescopic astronomy.

So either it takes a really long time to get to Dyson sphere stage, or something... or someone destroys civilizations with alarming frequency and efficacy.

And don't even get me started on one of the Blindsight possibilities:

Once there were three tribes. The Optimists, whose patron saints were Drake and Sagan, believed in a universe crawling with gentle intelligence — spiritual brethren vaster and more enlightened than we, a great galactic siblinghood into whose ranks we would someday ascend. Surely, said the Optimists, space travel implies enlightenment, for it requires the control of great destructive energies. Any race which can't rise above its own brutal instincts will wipe itself out long before it learns to bridge the interstellar gulf.

Across from the Optimists sat the Pessimists, who genuflected before graven images of Saint Fermi and a host of lesser lightweights. The Pessimists envisioned a lonely universe full of dead rocks and prokaryotic slime. The odds are just too low, they insisted. Too many rogues, too much radiation, too much eccentricity in too many orbits. It is a surpassing miracle that even one Earth exists; to hope for many is to abandon reason and embrace religious mania. After all, the universe is fourteen billion years old: if the galaxy were alive with intelligence, wouldn't it be here by now?

Equidistant to the other two tribes sat the Historians. They didn't have too many thoughts on the probable prevalence of intelligent, spacefaring extraterrestrials — but if there are any, they said, they're not just going to be smart. They're going to be mean.

It might seem almost too obvious a conclusion. What is Human history, if not an on going succession of greater technologies grinding lesser ones beneath their boots? But the subject wasn't merely Human history, or the unfair advantage that tools gave to any given side; the oppressed snatch up advanced weaponry as readily as the oppressor, given half a chance. No, the real issue was how those tools got there in the first place. The real issue was what tools are for.

To the Historians, tools existed for only one reason: to force the universe into unnatural shapes.


And that book manages to imagine something even worse than that scenario (but it's too integral to the plot, so I won't post it).

If a Dyson sphere was found, then sweet dreams everyone. :shock:
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Zixinus » 2017-04-25 12:23pm

This has arguably happened with Tabby's star.. The actually listened for radio signals from it but didn't find any.

If it is really a Dyson swarm of some kind (and this is really the best possible explanation that fits the data, not just the most appealing), that indicates that there is a large, terrifying powerful civilization out and one that has possibly become interstellar. If they can construct even meager Dyson clouds, they can construct interstellar spaceships. If they wanted to. We should probably pick up their radio noise too.

There will be the world-changing realization that not only are we not alone in the universe, but that the other side is [b]way[/url] ahead of us. There will be those in denial or overly skeptical because they do not want to handle implications that we are not special and blessed. There is another species out there that has greater power than us, if nothing else. NASA and the rest will be quite happy of course because they now have a reason to ask for more funding: hey, we could catch up with them if we funded more space research and infrastructure!
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby K. A. Pital » 2017-04-26 01:28pm

There's nothing that can be done about it.

I would be glad that mankind discovered a superior civilization, but it is a mostly-useless discovery that is unlikely to change the world within my lifetime. Decline of religion? Already happening. More money to space agencies? That's good, but won't bring us to where the aliens are at (not in way more years than human lifetime).

It might be more important to humans who come after us, in that they might live long enough for biological immortality to be a practical thing, and then launch their exploration missions towards the object. But for me? Us? Slim hopes at best.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Zixinus » 2017-04-26 04:15pm

The changes would be palpable, just not from a practical standpoint. The aliens don't need to do anything or we do anything to them to leave a strong imprint of change upon us. If for one thing, it should really be a kick in the balls regarding human arrogance about our own supremacy. There is even less room for the illusion that we are alone and the center of things.

There is also the bit of existential crisis they represent, unlikely that may be.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Esquire » 2017-04-26 08:14pm

SolarpunkFan wrote:Why have we only found a Dyson sphere now, of all times? The Milky Way galaxy is pretty old, so it stands to reason that civilizations this advanced should have existed and colonized the galaxy before we entered the age of telescopic astronomy.

So either it takes a really long time to get to Dyson sphere stage, or something... or someone destroys civilizations with alarming frequency and efficacy.


Or, more plausibly, we a) haven't been looking for aliens very long in historical terms, even less of which has been with the power to accurately observe extrasolar bodies, and b) colonizing the galaxy would take absolutely mind-boggling vast amounts of time and resources while providing no direct benefit* to anyone involved in the absence of FTL travel. Most wouldn't attempt it, fewer would keep on past one or two worlds - or, more likely, space colonies in their own star system. The difficulties are literally astronomical, and the potential benefits are infinitesimal at the levels you're apparently worried about.

Both of these boil down to nothing more complex than Adams' "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is;" the key is that the 'you won't believe' bit is not an exaggeration - nobody except astronomers have the intuitive mindset for considering an area large enough that Euclid doesn't seem entirely correct about how geometry works.

*That is, no economic return on investment; species-survival or scientific grounds remain valid up to a point, if your species cares deeply about that sort of thing.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-04-27 12:51am

I do think it would have a profound effect (I hope) in showing humanity what is really possible for a spacefaring civilization, and inspiring us to finally get our asses moving on space colonization.

Edit: Hell, I think that for many, for better or worse, human ego would demand that we try to catch up with these aliens, rather than be forced to consider ourselves a second-rate civilization. :)
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Zixinus » 2017-04-27 07:24am

Solarpunkfan, you should take a look at this video series about the Fermi paradox, as it explicitly deals with this question.

Esquire wrote:Most wouldn't attempt it, fewer would keep on past one or two worlds - or, more likely, space colonies in their own star system. The difficulties are literally astronomical, and the potential benefits are infinitesimal at the levels you're apparently worried about.


You would go on colonizing other solar systems for the same reason you would colonize your own solar system: increased resources, even more living space, increasing survival of species, etc. To a K1- civilization going to another solar system is near-impossible, but one that is roughly K2 (since we are talking about a Dyson sphere), one that already settled and colonized its own solar system? They have vastly more resources to do it and already the essentials of the technology to do it, so the resources required would not be necessarily mindbogglingly expensive. They would increase the power their civiilization has from one sun to another.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby LaCroix » 2017-04-27 12:40pm

Especially since once you reached K2, levels, most of your people will be living in space habitats, anyway, and planets become a luxury bonus, but not a necessity for colonization. You get your raw materials from asteroids, planets are for recreation.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby SolarpunkFan » 2017-04-27 02:02pm

Esquire wrote:Or, more plausibly, we a) haven't been looking for aliens very long in historical terms, even less of which has been with the power to accurately observe extrasolar bodies,


You might right, but I do have a possible caveat I'd like to state. A Dyson Sphere does cpautre a lot of a star's energy, but not all of it. Any Dyson Sphere would glow (to one extent of the electromagnetic spectrum or other) because if all of the star's energy was captured, then instead of radiating away and keeping things in an equilibrium, the energy would just build up inside of the Dyson Sphere until either the structure(s) fails catastrophically or the star evaporates.

Now, we're not given many constraints on star type, extraterrestrial biology, etc. So I'll use the hypothetical superhabitable criteria here. A K-type star (between red dwarf stars and sun-like stars in energy output and spectrum) with the species biology based on liquid water as a solvent.

Habitable zones for K-type stars range from one-tenth to slightly less than one and one third of an astronomical unit. I'll be generous and assume the one-tenth AU figure. That gives a Dyson Sphere with a diameter of one fifth of an AU, about 18.6 million mi/~30 million km.

So what we'd see is an infrared source far larger than the star itself. I don't know how to calculate how much of the stars energy would be bled out for equalization, but the fact that there's an infrared source much wider than the sun would be rather suspicious.

That said, IR-spectrum astronomy is difficult due to isolating the equipment from heat leakage from the surrounding environment (so we haven't done much of it, yet). I also don't know how obvious such an object would be considering that it's 800 ly away.

And all of this could be moot if the civilization re-engineered itself or even went post-biological.

So you could be right, but I have a slim chance of being right. :P

Esquire wrote:and b) colonizing the galaxy would take absolutely mind-boggling vast amounts of time and resources while providing no direct benefit* to anyone involved in the absence of FTL travel. Most wouldn't attempt it, fewer would keep on past one or two worlds - or, more likely, space colonies in their own star system. The difficulties are literally astronomical, and the potential benefits are infinitesimal at the levels you're apparently worried about.

*That is, no economic return on investment; species-survival or scientific grounds remain valid up to a point, if your species cares deeply about that sort of thing.


Maybe, maybe not. There's a fair amount about physics we still don't know about. Warp drive may not be off the table (though I'm skeptical as I've heard about possible violations with something called the weak energy condition).

Or maybe more exotic ideas aren't possible, but would they need to be possible to begin with? With stellar-level energies to play with you could make a lot of antimatter.

Or why bother with inefficient rockets at all? Why not just focus a portion of the star's radiation on a sail? You could get a nicely sized cargo moving at a decent clip with a high amount of tightly-focused starlight. And things get even more interesting (and easy!) with sleeper ships or embryo ships or even upload ships.

So colonizing the galaxy might not be as insurmountable as you might think. :wink:

Maybe alien populations wouldn't want to leave the bulk of their civilization behind, but who are we to say what their motives are? Especially considering that they've evolved from a biosphere completely separate from Earth life, they could think and behave very differently from us.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Esquire » 2017-04-27 02:18pm

I never said it was impossible, I said:

a) it would take a really long time, both in travel and in running out of space on your new planet (because if you send a thousand people to start a new colony, they're not going to have any kind of population pressure to expand further for a longtime at anything like the reproduction rates you'd expect in a society advanced enough to consider such a thing);

b) it would cost a lot - this is in absolute terms, not relative, but even if a giant solar laser-sail represents .005% GDP, that's still a lot of money/time/material that isn't being used for anything else; and

c) you don't get anything back materially, barring development of FTL drives. This isn't a 4x game where your whole civilization has one resource pool; if I send a colony off, I lose all the resources required to send them and a chunk of presumably my best and brightest, all while creating a new civilization with equivalent technologies to my own. Why would I want to sacrifice anything at all just to create something that could be a peer competitor in a few centuries? Sure, you can say 'discovery,' but anybody who can build a Dyson sphere probably knows more-or-less how the universe works already, and 'species survival' doesn't really make any sense either for anything less than solar collapse, since that same laser-sail could also vaporize anything that might be a threat to your (already massively distributed across the entire solar system) population. Humans mostly explored Earth for trade purposes; this will not be a motivator if you can synthesize whatever you like from raw atoms and any trade mission would take two hundred years and require the whole crew to give up on ever seeing their families again.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2017-04-27 07:16pm

While there is the natural sense of dread at this sort of discovery, this is probably the best possible way to see aliens, as it means there at least one notable bit of good news as opposed to if we found life younger than us.

It serves as evidence that we are less likely to wipe ourselves out, that it is more likely that most of the various filters on intelligent life are behind instead of ahead of us. It is the exact opposite of if we found evidence of primitive life on Mars, Titan, or Europa, indicating that intelligent life can in fact survive at least to the level needed to build a Dyson Sphere.

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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-04-27 11:37pm

I don't think I would feel dread about it. The odds of them actually being a threat to us, at least within my life time, would likely seem fairly minuscule.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby K. A. Pital » 2017-04-30 05:32pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:I don't think I would feel dread about it. The odds of them actually being a threat to us, at least within my life time, would likely seem fairly minuscule.

Unless they can operate in higher dimensions, in which case humanity has no clue as to their actual 3D-space transit speed and capabilities.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2017-05-01 06:56pm

The good news is that there is no way for them to know where we are at this point, as there is almost no way our transmissions have reached them, though if they have something that exotic we are almost certainly screwed whatever we do.

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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-05-01 07:49pm

Adam Reynolds wrote:The good news is that there is no way for them to know where we are at this point, as there is almost no way our transmissions have reached them, though if they have something that exotic we are almost certainly screwed whatever we do.


This presumes they are automatically hostile. Why would they even care about attacking us, barring malevolence for the sake of malevolence?
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2017-05-02 06:03am

Because they see us as a potential threat. The problem is that the only rational act for an alien race is to remain undetected, in the event there is someone else somewhat stronger than them who thinks the same way. Going by the apes or angels concept, given the inevitable difference in power between any two alien groups that encounter each other, hiding is the only rational decision.

The fact that they are powerful enough to build a Dyson Sphere in the first place is problematic, as it means this alien race is not concerned about announcing their presence at light speed. If we are lucky, it means they don't consider us or others around them a threat and will leave us alone. If not, hopefully FTL really is impossible.

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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-05-02 06:24am

Adam Reynolds wrote:Because they see us as a potential threat. The problem is that the only rational act for an alien race is to remain undetected, in the event there is someone else somewhat stronger than them who thinks the same way. Going by the apes or angels concept, given the inevitable difference in power between any two alien groups that encounter each other, hiding is the only rational decision.


This presumes a lot about the psychology of hypothetical species we've never met. It also presumes that their knowledge of the variables is similarly limited to ours', which seems to me unlikely if they can build a fucking Dyson Sphere.

Most likely, either practical FTL travel is impossible (in which case, we are likely no more than curiosities to each other for the foreseeable future) or they have already expanded to multiple systems (or have the capacity to easily do so) and would have a better idea of who to fear, and little to no reason to fear sudden destruction due to the strategic depth such an arrangement would create.

But of course, this is all speculative.

And frankly, if they're building Dyson Spheres, they're clearly not worried about staying hidden.

The fact that they are powerful enough to build a Dyson Sphere in the first place is problematic, as it means this alien race is not concerned about announcing their presence at light speed. If we are lucky, it means they don't consider us or others around them a threat and will leave us alone. If not, hopefully FTL really is impossible.


A is likely true, for reasons stated above.

Edit: And, frankly, if they can get any significant data about us beyond the fact that we exist, they'll see that we are no threat whatsoever to them, except very long-term. That doesn't necessarily preclude destruction, but to declare war on us would likely make about as much sense for them as for America to declare war on a tribe of chimps.
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Re: They find a Dyson Sphere (RAR!)

Postby Zixinus » 2017-05-02 06:49am

Because they see us as a potential threat.


If they have a dyson sphere while we have barely left the planet, odds are that they will still have massively one-sided advantage when a radio message to them gets to them.

The problem is that the only rational act for an alien race is to remain undetected, in the event there is someone else somewhat stronger than them who thinks the same way. Going by the apes or angels concept, given the inevitable difference in power between any two alien groups that encounter each other, hiding is the only rational decision.


Except this isn't the only rational act and if they were trying to remain hidden, building a dyson sphere is the exact opposite tactic. Dyson spheres stand out like a scacraper in a forest.

Hiding also doesn't work. A technological civilization produces tell-tale signs of themselves by accident, as we have done with radio and TV signals. If the hypothetical enemy is more advanced, the more they are able to tell even if the there is effective hiding in place.
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