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Dark Matter & Our Future Selves

LET’S say life has arisen somewhere in the universe and that it has been very successful – so successful that it has ventured out into space. Let’s also say that we know nothing about it, and that this birth and maturation all happened so long ago that there has been time long enough for the beings to travel throughout the vast known universe.  And finally, assume that these beings want to hang out in the galaxies (for the cuisine, or any other reason) while remaining hidden to us.

Given our current understanding of the physics of information, there’s likely a universal limit to the amount of computational power in a given amount of matter – you can only cram so much information and processing mechanism into your CPU/grey matter.  So, assuming this limit is reached, the only way for an enterprising entity to add more intellectual capability is to add more mass. Ergo, our hypothetical superintelligent spacefaring lifeforms  are likely to be fairly massive. But all this mass presents a problem – we stipulated that these beings want to keep us in the dark as to their existence, and no matter how clever you may be at concealing your matter (i.e. by ‘cloaking’ or via some other camouflage), gravitational lensing will give you away.

So what’s an alien to do?  Well, one way to avoid the gravitational lensing effects would be to become less dense. Light rays would then deflect less, and an extended body could remain undetectable as long as the constituent mass has no apparent absorption or emission of light. (This argument also holds for a being of pure energy, as per Einstein’s relativity it would also produce a gravitational field.)

But there’s one clue that even the most superintelligent of superintelligent life would find difficult to conceal – their large scale effect on the dynamics of galactic material.  If these beings became really massive (in summation on the scale of many multiples of stars) they would produce large gravitational effects that would alter the paths of the other (visible) objects in the galaxies they inhabit, effects  that are inexplicable in the absence of the extra mass. It may be possible to counteract these effects through compensatory motion, but the energy cost would be so enormous as to be unsustainable. The large scale qualities of the galaxies themselves would tell the tale of their inhabitants presence.

In review, here’s our list of qualities for hidden supermassive superintelligence that like to live in galaxies:

•  Undetectable

•  Diffuse

•  Result in galaxies with strange behavior

Interestingly, these are all qualities of “dark matter”, the invisible stuff that comprises 84% of the matter in the universe and was first detected indirectly by observations of galactic rotation rates.



The end of the world – the destruction of human civilization and perhaps the planet – is a terrifying and sad but-not-so-unlikely possible outcome of history. But even if it were inevitable, there are ways by which I can talk myself out of believing the death/fail of humanity is the end of everything. Life might arise on other planets. Perhaps the majority of those instances also end in apocalypse, but only one needs to survive long enough to fulfill the potential of the exploration of space and time for life to be considered a success. However, even if life arose on every planet and all life were to lead to an immortal spacefaring race of beings, there would remain what strikes me as the grimmest of eventualities: The decomposition of the order of the universe and destruction of all that the past amounts to by some basic feature of the universe.

Astrophysics provides a few such theories of eventual universal annihilation: The cold death, the big crunch, and the isolation of all particles.

In the cold death, all matter eventually settles into its lowest energy state, perhaps after being sucked into black holes and regurgitated through Hawking radiation as they evaporate.

The big crunch (which has been decreasing in popularity for a long time) posits that the energy density of the universe is great enough that gravity is able to pull all matter back on itself, with everything getting smashed together in the end.

The last possibility hinges on the existence of the “dark energy” force that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. If it does exist as we theorize, it may very likely cause all the bits of matter to accelerate away from each other, with the furthest bits going first; The galaxies that the Hubble can just barely see disappear, then the closer galaxies. For a time it would be just our galaxy in the universe, then our solar system, then just the inner planets, then just the earth and the moon, then just the earth, then just us floating in space, then just our molecules, then just our atoms, and finally just their constituent particles, each locked away in their own eternal solitary universe.

So even if we were to solve the problems of today, there lies a distant hurdle that any part of the universe would have to clear in order to avoid the fate of death.


Clear Magnetar

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Quote of the Day

Reflecting on the state of the world economy I was reminded of the March 10th speech by economist and lecturer Sergio Broadleaf given a few years ago at Springfield and which produced this quote:

Having a lot of money is like having shampoo – it’s nice when you have it but you can get by without it. On the other hand, not having any money is like not having any water in the shower.,r:7,s:33&biw=1280&bih=671

Miss Springfield



July 2018
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