Perhaps, because of our nature as social animals, we human beings long to know whether or not we are alone in the universe. While the score has yet to be settled, a leading astronomer has recently concluded that advanced civilizations are either incredibly scarce or worse, non-existent.
According to the Fermi paradox, the universe should be crawling with intelligent life; yet, they remain nowhere to be found. The most recent revelation to suggest we are alone comes from sensitive telescopes, which are designed to detect waste emitted by galaxies that could only be produced by intelligent life.
Scientists rank how technologically advanced a civilization is according to types. As an advanced technology grows, its demand for energy increases. A type one civilization harnesses some of its energy from a neighboring star, a type two civilization harnesses all of its energy from a neighboring star and a type three civilization harnesses energy from its entire galaxy.
Scanning the abyss
While searching for intelligent extraterrestrial life, Professor Michael Garrett, scientific director of Astron, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, was keen on finding a type three civilization. In particular, Dr. Garrett was seeking to detect signals from the mid-infrared part of the spectrum, which could only be produced by an advanced civilization harnessing energy on a galactic scale.
Our civilization is a type zero civilization, meaning, we harness energy from the planet itself. The leap from a type zero civilization to a type one civilization carries the most risk. In an effort to colonize the planet, civilization could teeter on the brink of self-destruction in the process.
A type three civilization can most likely travel long distances across the landscape of space and time. Consequently, a team of astronomers, led by Dr. James Wright from Penn State, contrived a list of nearly 100,000 neighboring galaxies that are likely to be home to type three civilizations.
The abyss stares back in silence
Unfortunately, the researchers found no signs of type three civilizations among neighboring galaxies. Most of the energy emitted by the galaxies could be accounted for by purely natural processes. Specifically, the energy emitted by the galaxies was attributed to dust and heat triggered by star formation. Apart from our own pocket of the universe, the rest of the cosmos seems to be devoid of intelligent life.
“It’s not what we would predict from the physical laws that explain so well the rest of the physical universe. We’re missing an important part of the jigsaw puzzle here,” Dr. Garrett told sources.
This isn’t the first time such an endeavor to find extraterrestrial intelligent life has been contrived. Earlier this year, research scientists from The Open University devised a similar scheme to find traces of extraterrestrial life.
In their paper, “Observational Signatures of Self-Destructive Civilizations,” the team argues that intelligent life dotted throughout the universe would develop technologies similar to our own, including nuclear weapons. In the event of self-annihilation, remnants of a lost civilization from a galaxy far, far away should be detectable by telescopes on Earth.
The results of the study don’t rule out the possibility that lower forms of life exist. Surely, type one and type two civilizations may very well be out there. However, the research suggests that intelligent extraterrestrial life may self-destruct before they even get the chance to advance to a type three civilization.
Scientists face the same challenge searching for aliens as theologians do, searching for God. If extraterrestrial life does exist, then these creatures have definitely taken great strides to make its existence hidden from us.
Meanwhile, our own echoes into the void continue to be met with silence.