October 6, 2012
Grants To Fund Alternate Universe, Dyson Sphere Research
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Their projects might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a pair of University of California, Berkeley scientists have been awarded grants to aid in their study of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations and alternate universes, the school announced on Friday.
Astronomer Geoff Marcy, who intends to review information from the Kepler Space Telescope in the hopes that he can find evidence of otherworldly beings capable of constructing massive orbiting solar power stations, and theoretical physicist Raphael Bousso, who is attempting to discover a way to detect universes other than our own, were among 20 researchers awarded a combined $4 million in New Frontiers in Astronomy & Cosmology International Grants from the University of Chicago on Thursday.
The awards, funded by the UK-based Templeton Foundation, are meant to "encourage scientists and students worldwide to explore fundamental, big questions in astronomy and cosmology that engage groundbreaking ideas on the nature of the universe," according to a UC Berkeley statement. Marcy will join several of the other winners at a conference at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on October 12 and 13
“Through these awards, the program aims to support bold, innovative research with the potential to expand boundaries and catalyze breakthrough discoveries, as well as inspire students to pursue scientific knowledge and become original, forward-looking big question thinkers of tomorrow,” Donald G. York, the head of the competition and a University of Chicago astronomy and astrophysics professor, said in a statement.
Marcy, a member of Kepler, believes the data collected by the telescope could also reveal stars with massive orbiting power stations known as Dyson Spheres. These structures, first discussed by physicist Freeman Dyson half a century ago as a way for technologically advanced cultures to obtain power, capture energy from the star while orbiting it.
The UC-Berkeley astronomy professor plans to study 1,000 extrasolar systems in the hopes of finding "solar arrays that pass in front of stars and make them wink on and off," the university explained. He will receive a $200,000 grant over the next two years, some of which will be used to purchase time at the Hawaii-based Keck telescopes, where he will take spectra of 1,000 planet-hosting stars in search of laser emissions.
“Technological civilizations may communicate with their space probes located throughout the galaxy by using laser beams, either in visible light or infrared light,” Marcy said in a statement. ”Laser light is detectable from other civilizations because the power is concentrated into a narrow beam and the light is all at one specific color or frequency. The lasers outshine the host star at the color of the laser.”
Meanwhile, Bousso -- who has previously proposed that string theory "implies that the universe is comprised of possibly an infinite number of multiverses, each with its own physical characteristics but operating under the same laws of physics," according to the statement -- has been awarded a two-year $125,000 grant in order to further pursue study into the matter. While it is unlikely that said universes would be observable with even the most powerful telescopes, the university said the professor believes he will be able to test his hypothesis.
“People were initially skeptical of Einstein´s general theory of relativity, but now, decades later, your GPS runs on it and it has led to incredibly profound questions in physics, such as how the universe began and what happens inside a black hole,” Bousso said. “We are just at the early stages of this multiverse theory, but it is a very serious, plausible proposition that we have to take seriously and test -- and try to shoot down as hard as we can.”