UFO UpDates
A mailing list for the study of UFO-related phenomena
'Its All Here In Black & White'
Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 17

Kaku - The Physics Of Extraterrestrial

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 09:36:12 -0500
Archived: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 09:36:12 -0500
Subject: Kaku - The Physics Of Extraterrestrial

Source: Michio Kaku's Website - New York, New York, USA


The Physics Of Extraterrestrial Civilizations
How advanced could they possibly be?

by Michio Kaku

The late Carl Sagan once asked this question, "What does it mean
for a civilization to be a million years old? We have had radio
telescopes and spaceships for a few decades; our technical
civilization is a few hundred years old... an advanced
civilization millions of years old is as much beyond us as we
are beyond a bush baby or a macaque."

Although any conjecture about such advanced civilizations is a
matter of sheer speculation, one can still use the laws of
physics to place upper and lower limits on these civilizations.
In particular, now that the laws of quantum field theory,
general relativity, thermodynamics, etc. are fairly well-
 established, physics can impose broad physical bounds which
constrain the parameters of these civilizations.

This question is no longer a matter of idle speculation. Soon,
humanity may face an existential shock as the current list of a
dozen Jupiter-sized extra-solar planets swells to hundreds of
earth-sized planets, almost identical twins of our celestial
homeland. This may usher in a new era in our relationship with
the universe: we will never see the night sky in the same way
ever again, realizing that scientists may eventually compile an
encyclopedia identifying the precise co-ordinates of perhaps
hundreds of earth-like planets.

Today, every few weeks brings news of a new Jupiter-sized extra-
 solar planet being discovered, the latest being about 15 light
years away orbiting around the star Gliese 876. The most
spectacular of these findings was photographed by the Hubble
Space Telescope, which captured breathtaking photos of a planet
450 light years away being sling-shot into space by a double-
 star system.

But the best is yet to come. Early in the next decade,
scientists will launch a new kind of telescope, the interferome
try space telescope, which uses the interference of light beams
to enhance the resolving power of telescopes.

For example, the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), to be
launched early in the next decade, consists of multiple
telescopes placed along a 30 foot structure. With an
unprecedented resolution approaching the physical limits of
optics, the SIM is so sensitive that it almost defies belief:
orbiting the earth, it can detect the motion of a lantern being
waved by an astronaut on Mars!

The SIM, in turn, will pave the way for the Terrestrial Planet
Finder, to be launched late in the next decade, which should
identify even more earth-like planets. It will scan the
brightest 1,000 stars within 50 light years of the earth and
will focus on the 50 to 100 brightest planetary systems.

All this, in turn, will stimulate an active effort to determine
if any of them harbor life, perhaps some with civilizations more
advanced than ours.

Although it is impossible to predict the precise features of
such advanced civilizations, their broad outlines can be
analyzed using the laws of physics. No matter how many millions
of years separate us from them, they still must obey the iron
laws of physics, which are now advanced enough to explain
everything from sub-atomic particles to the large-scale
structure of the universe, through a staggering 43 orders of

Physics of Type I, II, and III Civilizations

Specifically, we can rank civilizations by their energy
consumption, using the following principles:

1) The laws of thermodynamics. Even an advanced civilization is
bound by the laws of thermodynamics, especially the Second Law,
and can hence be ranked by the energy at their disposal.

2) The laws of stable matter. Baryonic matter (e.g. based on
protons and neutrons) tends to clump into three large groupings:
planets, stars and galaxies. (This is a well-defined by product
of stellar and galactic evolution, thermonuclear fusion, etc.)
Thus, their energy will also be based on three distinct types,
and this places upper limits on their rate of energy

3) The laws of planetary evolution. Any advanced civilization
must grow in energy consumption faster than the frequency of
life-threatening catastrophes (e.g. meteor impacts, ice ages,
supernovas, etc.). If they grow any slower, they are doomed to
extinction. This places mathematical lower limits on the rate of
growth of these civilizations.

In a seminal paper published in 1964 in the Journal of Soviet
Astronomy, Russian astrophysicist Nicolai Kardashev theorized
that advanced civilizations must therefore be grouped according
to three types: Type I, II, and III, which have mastered
planetary, stellar and galactic forms of energy, respectively.
He calculated that the energy consumption of these three types
of civilization would be separated by a factor of many billions.
But how long will it take to reach Type II and III status?

Shorter than most realize.

Berkeley astronomer Don Goldsmith reminds us that the earth
receives about one billionth of the suns energy, and that humans
utilize about one millionth of that. So we consume about one
million billionth of the suns total energy. At present, our
entire planetary energy production is about 10 billion billion
ergs per second. But our energy growth is rising exponentially,
and hence we can calculate how long it will take to rise to Type
II or III status.

Goldsmith says, "Look how far we have come in energy uses once
we figured out how to manipulate energy, how to get fossil fuels
really going, and how to create electrical power from
hydropower, and so forth; we've come up in energy uses in a
remarkable amount in just a couple of centuries compared to
billions of years our planet has been here... and this same sort
of thing may apply to other civilizations."

Physicist Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study
estimates that, within 200 years or so, we should attain Type I
status. In fact, growing at a modest rate of 1% per year,
Kardashev estimated that it would take only 3,200 years to reach
Type II status, and 5,800 years to reach Type III status. Living
in a Type I,II, or III civilization

For example, a Type I civilization is a truly planetary one,
which has mastered most forms of planetary energy. Their energy
output may be on the order of thousands to millions of times our
current planetary output. Mark Twain once said, "Everyone
complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it."
This may change with a Type I civilization, which has enough
energy to modify the weather. They also have enough energy to
alter the course of earthquakes, volcanoes, and build cities on
their oceans.

Currently, our energy output qualifies us for Type 0 status. We
derive our energy not from harnessing global forces, but by
burning dead plants (e.g. oil and coal). But already, we can see
the seeds of a Type I civilization. We see the beginning of a
planetary language (English), a planetary communication system
(the Internet), a planetary economy (the forging of the European
Union), and even the beginnings of a planetary culture (via mass
media, TV, rock music, and Hollywood films).

By definition, an advanced civilization must grow faster than
the frequency of life-threatening catastrophes. Since large
meteor and comet impacts take place once every few thousand
years, a Type I civilization must master space travel to deflect
space debris within that time frame, which should not be much of
a problem. Ice ages may take place on a time scale of tens of
thousands of years, so a Type I civilization must learn to
modify the weather within that time frame.

Artificial and internal catastrophes must also be negotiated.
But the problem of global pollution is only a mortal threat for
a Type 0 civilization; a Type I civilization has lived for
several millennia as a planetary civilization, necessarily
achieving ecological planetary balance. Internal problems like
wars do pose a serious recurring threat, but they have thousands
of years in which to solve racial, national, and sectarian

Eventually, after several thousand years, a Type I civilization
will exhaust the power of a planet, and will derive their energy
by consuming the entire output of their suns energy, or roughly
a billion trillion trillion ergs per second.

With their energy output comparable to that of a small star,
they should be visible from space. Dyson has proposed that a
Type II civilization may even build a gigantic sphere around
their star to more efficiently utilize its total energy output.
Even if they try to conceal their existence, they must, by the
Second Law of Thermodynamics, emit waste heat. From outer space,
their planet may glow like a Christmas tree ornament. Dyson has
even proposed looking specifically for infrared emissions
(rather than radio and TV) to identify these Type II

Perhaps the only serious threat to a Type II civilization would
be a nearby supernova explosion, whose sudden eruption could
scorch their planet in a withering blast of X-rays, killing all
life forms. Thus, perhaps the most interesting civilization is a
Type III civilization, for it is truly immortal. They have
exhausted the power of a single star, and have reached for other
star systems. No natural catastrophe known to science is capable
of destroying a Type III civilization.

Faced with a neighboring supernova, it would have several
alternatives, such as altering the evolution of dying red giant
star which is about to explode, or leaving this particular star
system and terraforming a nearby planetary system.

However, there are roadblocks to an emerging Type III
civilization. Eventually, it bumps up against another iron law
of physics, the theory of relativity. Dyson estimates that this
may delay the transition to a Type III civilization by perhaps
millions of years.

But even with the light barrier, there are a number of ways of
expanding at near-light velocities. For example, the ultimate
measure of a rockets capability is measured by something called
"specific impulse" (defined as the product of the thrust and the
duration, measured in units of seconds). Chemical rockets can
attain specific impulses of several hundred to several thousand
seconds. Ion engines can attain specific impulses of tens of
thousands of seconds. But to attain near-light speed velocity,
one has to achieve specific impulse of about 30 million seconds,
which is far beyond our current capability, but not that of a
Type III civilization. A variety of propulsion systems would be
available for sub-light speed probes (such as ram-jet fusion
engines, photonic engines, etc.) How to Explore the Galaxy

Because distances between stars are so vast, and the number of
unsuitable, lifeless solar systems so large, a Type III
civilization would be faced with the next question: what is the
mathematically most efficient way of exploring the hundreds of
billions of stars in the galaxy?

In science fiction, the search for inhabitable worlds has been
immortalized on TV by heroic captains boldly commanding a lone
star ship, or as the murderous Borg, a Type III civilization
which absorbs lower Type II civilization (such as the
Federation). However, the most mathematically efficient method
to explore space is far less glamorous: to send fleets of "Von
Neumann probes" throughout the galaxy (named after John Von
Neumann, who established the mathematical laws of self-
 replicating systems).

A Von Neumann probe is a robot designed to reach distant star
systems and create factories which will reproduce copies
themselves by the thousands. A dead moon rather than a planet
makes the ideal destination for Von Neumann probes, since they
can easily land and take off from these moons, and also because
these moons have no erosion. These probes would live off the
land, using naturally occurring deposits of iron, nickel, etc.
to create the raw ingredients to build a robot factory. They
would create thousands of copies of themselves, which would then
scatter and search for other star systems.

Similar to a virus colonizing a body many times its size,
eventually there would be a sphere of trillions of Von Neumann
probes expanding in all directions, increasing at a fraction of
the speed of light. In this fashion, even a galaxy 100,000 light
years across may be completely analyzed within, say, a half
million years.

If a Von Neumann probe only finds evidence of primitive life
(such as an unstable, savage Type 0 civilization) they might
simply lie dormant on the moon, silently waiting for the Type 0
civilization to evolve into a stable Type I civilization. After
waiting quietly for several millennia, they may be activated
when the emerging Type I civilization is advanced enough to set
up a lunar colony. Physicist Paul Davies of the University of
Adelaide has even raised the possibility of a Von Neumann probe
resting on our own moon, left over from a previous visitation in
our system aeons ago.

(If this sounds a bit familiar, that's because it was the basis
of the film, 2001. Originally, Stanley Kubrick began the film
with a series of scientists explaining how probes like these
would be the most efficient method of exploring outer space.
Unfortunately, at the last minute, Kubrick cut the opening
segment from his film, and these monoliths became almost
mystical entities)

New Developments

Since Kardashev gave the original ranking of civilizations,
there have been many scientific developments which refine and
extend his original analysis, such as recent developments in
nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum physics, etc.

For example, nanotechnology may facilitate the development of
Von Neumann probes. As physicist Richard Feynman observed in his
seminal essay, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," there is
nothing in the laws of physics which prevents building armies of
molecular-sized machines. At present, scientists have already
built atomic-sized curiosities, such as an atomic abacus with
Buckyballs and an atomic guitar with strings about 100 atoms

Paul Davies speculates that a space-faring civilization could
use nanotechnology to build miniature probes to explore the
galaxy, perhaps no bigger than your palm. Davies says, "The tiny
probes I'm talking about will be so inconspicuous that it's no
surprise that we haven't come across one. It's not the sort of
thing that you're going to trip over in your back yard. So if
that is the way technology develops, namely, smaller, faster,
cheaper and if other civilizations have gone this route, then we
could be surrounded by surveillance devices."

Furthermore, the development of biotechnology has opened
entirely new possibilities. These probes may act as life-forms,
reproducing their genetic information, mutating and evolving at
each stage of reproduction to enhance their capabilities, and
may have artificial intelligence to accelerate their search.

Also, information theory modifies the original Kardashev
analysis. The current SETI project only scans a few frequencies
of radio and TV emissions sent by a Type 0 civilization, but
perhaps not an advanced civilization. Because of the enormous
static found in deep space, broadcasting on a single frequency
presents a serious source of error. Instead of putting all your
eggs in one basket, a more efficient system is to break up the
message and smear it out over all frequencies (e.g. via Fourier
like transform) and then reassemble the signal only at the other
end. In this way, even if certain frequencies are disrupted by
static, enough of the message will survive to accurately
reassemble the message via error correction routines. However,
any Type 0 civilization listening in on the message on one
frequency band would only hear nonsense. In other words, our
galaxy could be teeming with messages from various Type II and
III civilizations, but our Type 0 radio telescopes would only
hear gibberish.

Lastly, there is also the possibility that a Type II or Type III
civilization might be able to reach the fabled Planck energy
with their machines (10^19 billion electron volts). This is
energy is a quadrillion times larger than our most powerful atom
smasher. This energy, as fantastic as it may seem, is (by
definition) within the range of a Type II or III civilization.

The Planck energy only occurs at the center of black holes and
the instant of the Big Bang. But with recent advances in quantum
gravity and superstring theory, there is renewed interest among
physicists about energies so vast that quantum effects rip apart
the fabric of space and time. Although it is by no means certain
that quantum physics allows for stable wormholes, this raises
the remote possibility that a sufficiently advanced
civilizations may be able to move via holes in space, like
Alice's Looking Glass. And if these civilizations can
successfully navigate through stable wormholes, then attaining a
specific impulse of a million seconds is no longer a problem.
They merely take a short-cut through the galaxy. This would
greatly cut down the transition between a Type II and Type III

Second, the ability to tear holes in space and time may come in
handy one day. Astronomers, analyzing light from distant
supernovas, have concluded recently that the universe may be
accelerating, rather than slowing down. If this is true, there
may be an anti-gravity force (perhaps Einstein's cosmological
constant) which is counteracting the gravitational attraction of
distant galaxies. But this also means that the universe might
expand forever in a Big Chill, until temperatures approach near-
 absolute zero. Several papers have recently laid out what such
a dismal universe may look like. It will be a pitiful sight: any
civilization which survives will be desperately huddled next to
the dying embers of fading neutron stars and black holes. All
intelligent life must die when the universe dies.

Contemplating the death of the sun, the philosopher Bertrand
Russel once wrote perhaps the most depressing paragraph in the
English language: "...All the labors of the ages, all the
devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of
human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of
the solar system, and the whole temple of Mans achievement must
inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in

Today, we realize that sufficiently powerful rockets may spare
us from the death of our sun 5 billion years from now, when the
oceans will boil and the mountains will melt. But how do we
escape the death of the universe itself?

Astronomer John Barrows of the University of Sussex writes,
"Suppose that we extend the classification upwards. Members of
these hypothetical civilizations of Type IV, V, VI,... and so
on, would be able to manipulate the structures in the universe
on larger and larger scales, encompassing groups of galaxies,
clusters, and superclusters of galaxies." Civilizations beyond
Type III may have enough energy to escape our dying universe via
holes in space.

Lastly, physicist Alan Guth of MIT, one of the originators of
the inflationary universe theory, has even computed the energy
necessary to create a baby universe in the laboratory (the
temperature is 1,000 trillion degrees, which is within the range
of these hypothetical civilizations).

Of course, until someone actually makes contact with an advanced
civilization, all of this amounts to speculation tempered with
the laws of physics, no more than a useful guide in our search
for extra-terrestrial intelligence. But one day, many of us will
gaze at the encyclopedia containing the coordinates of perhaps
hundreds of earth-like planets in our sector of the galaxy. Then
we will wonder, as Sagan did, what a civilization a millions
years ahead of ours will look like...

[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



[ Next Message | Previous Message | This Day's Messages ]
This Month's Index |

UFO UpDates Main Index

UFO UpDates - Toronto - Operated by Errol Bruce-Knapp

Archive programming by Glenn Campbell at Glenn-Campbell.com