It’s been a long time since we read about the Kardashev scale. According to Wikipedia, it was proposed in 1964 by the Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. His scale describes the level of energy a civilization can utilize. A Type I civilization uses all available resources on its home planet. We haven’t achieved that yet. Type II harnesses all the energy of its star, and Type III harnesses all the energy of its galaxy.
To our great surprise, the Kardashev scale is in the news. Ignoring a few newspapers that have attempted to cover the story, we’ll go to PhysOrg, which just posted this: Advanced alien civilizations rare or absent in the local universe. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Sensitive new telescopes now permit astronomers to detect the waste heat that is expected to be a signature of advanced alien civilizations that can harness enormous energies on the scale of the stellar output of their own galaxy. Professor Michael Garrett (ASTRON General & Scientific Director) has used radio observations of candidate galaxies to show that such advanced civilizations are very rare or entirely absent from the local universe.
This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that there’s nobody out there who may be wildly superior and potentially dangerous to us. The bad news is that we’re unlikely to encounter anyone from whom we can learn a great deal.
If you want to read the published paper about this, you’ll have to register at Astronomy and Astrophysics. Here’s a link to the paper: Application of the mid-IR radio correlation to the Ĝ sample and the search for advanced extraterrestrial civilisations. Okay, back to PhysOrg:
Advanced civilizations harnessing energies on galactic scales (so-called Kardashev Type III civilizations) are expected to be detectable in the mid-Infrared part of the spectrum via the emission of significant waste heat products.
Professor Michael Garrett (ASTRON & University of Leiden) has used radio measurements of the very best candidate galaxies and discovered that the vast majority of these systems present emission that is best explained by natural astrophysical processes. In particular, the galaxies as a sample, follow a well-known global relation that holds for almost all galaxies — the so-called “mid-infrared radio correlation.” The presence of radio emission at the levels expected from the correlation, suggests that the mid-IR emission is not heat from alien factories but more likely emission from dust — for example, dust generated and heated by regions of massive star formation.
There’s also the possibility that a civilization advanced enough to reach Level III would be able to disguise its energy emissions so that they appear natural, but let’s not get carried away. On with the PhysOrg story:
As Professor Garrett explains: “The original research at Penn State has already told us that such systems are very rare, but the new analysis suggests that this is probably an understatement, and that advanced Kardashev Type III civilizations basically don’t exist in the local universe. In my view, it means we can all sleep safely in our beds tonight — an alien invasion doesn’t seem at all likely!”
Maybe not — but a Type II civilization could still give us problems. For that matter, uncivilized maniacs right here on Earth give us plenty of problems. Anyway, the news continues:
Joking aside, Professor Garrett is still looking at a few candidate galaxies that lie off of the astrophysical correlation: “Some of these systems definitely demand further investigation, but those already studied in detail turn out to have a natural astrophysical explanation too. It’s very likely that the remaining systems also fall into this category, but of course it’s worth checking just in case!”
Your Curmudgeon isn’t too worried about an invasion from another galaxy — unless they’re already on the way. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine what we could do to prepare for the invasion. Here’s more:
The technique applied by Professor Garrett can also be used to help identify less advanced (Kardashev Type II) alien civilizations that command more limited resources on sub-galactic scales. Such civilizations are still considerably more advanced than our own (Earth is not yet on the Kardashev Type I scale) but they might be more common as a result.
That’s the news. Make of it what you will. We don’t want to appear provincial, but it seems to us that if one is seriously worried about an alien invasion, it makes sense to focus on finding lower level civilizations in our own galaxy. Nevertheless, if we could actually detect a distant Level III civilization, it would certainly be interesting.
Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.