Space exploration and the search for alien life have been responsible some of the most impressive technological advances on the planet. This is because we want the truth; we want to know what’s really out there, and except for physical limitations, there’s nothing that can stop us from reaching our goals.
But as many sci-fi novels, shows, and even living astrophysicists have repeatedly warned, it might not end so well for us. For one, we can’t know whether alien civilizations are peaceful or if they have the same mindsets as European colonists that first reached the Americas in 1492. And one of the most brilliant minds of our generation, Stephen Hawking, is one of those who warned against making out location known to aliens.
So, a team of researchers from Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy decided to take matters into their own hands and came up with a paper explaining how we could use lasers to hide from malicious aliens. The paper is actually quite interesting, managing to make some pretty compelling points.
The team of scientists is actually made out of just two researchers, Professor David Kipping and graduate student Alex Teachey. Their paper was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and it explains how laser technology can be used to accomplish many different things in the field, including cloaking our planet, making it more visible, and even communicating with other worlds.
Taking advantage of how we search for other planets, the team suggested using lasers to hide the dip in light that occurs when a planet is directly between its star of origin and the planet which is looking for it. Of course, this would allow hiding from one planet at a time, but the team took that a few steps further.
By emitting a continuous laser beam of 30 MW for 10 hours once a year, the transit signal would be eliminated, making it impossible to find out planet in regular light. If we want to emit a fully functional cloak, across all wavelengths, we would need a wide array of lasers that would consume some 250 MW.
A different option would be to cloak the evidence suggestive of life on the planet, like oxygen. This would take some 160 kW, making it seem like life never appeared on the planet. But hiding isn’t the only thing the two researchers documented in their paper.
Lasers could also be used to modify the light from the sun, making it look obviously artificial. This would instantly draw attention that we are here… as long as someone out there is looking. The team also went into a little bit of detail explaining how the same lasers could be loaded with information, allowing a quick means of communication.
Meanwhile, SETI is still continuing its task of attempting to find intelligent life in the universe. Whether their quest will come to fruition, with either positive or devastating results, still remains to be seen.
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