No, Harvard scientists have not announced the imminent arrival of an alien armada.

2 of them have revealed that we could have found electricity columns pushing against mild sails. I believe they might be correct, but like among them mentioned, “it’s an issue of signs.”

Fast Radio Bursts: Looking For an Explanation

“It’s a Matter of Evidence”

Churchill and Extraterrestrial Intelligence

“Either Way …”

This is among the most clear-headed things I’ve read on the topic:

“I been readin bust how perhaps they is planets peopled by people with complex brains. On the flip side, perhaps we got the brains our minds is the cosmos’s most complex. Either way, it’s a powerful soberin’ idea.”(Porky Pine, in Walt Kelly’s Pogo (June 20, 1959) via Wikiquote)

I’ve quoted Walt Kelly’s Pogo before. (December 2, 2016)

I don’t “believe in” extraterrestrial intelligence. I won’t insist that we must be alone in the universe. It’s not my decision. (July 29, 2016)

I trust we do have neighbours, those who are spirit and issue; like us in some methods, but distinct because their house is just another world. (December 2-3, 20-16)

Using Our Brains

Ancient Mesopotamian cosmology is “Biblical” in the sense that its imagery is in Sacred Scripture.

I’ve talked about pillars of the earth in 1 Samuel 2:8 and Job 9:6, and the dome of heaven in Psalms 150:1, before. (December 2, 2016; August 28, 2016)

Taking the Bible seriously is a good idea. So is “frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101133)

Rejecting everything we’ve learned since Job’s time, not so much. God gave us brains. Using them is a good idea. (Catechism, 35, 50, 159, 22922296)

Examining this question-filled development cannot intrude with the enlightened religion, because “the matters of the planet as well as the things of faith derive from an identical God.” (Catechism, 159)

That gets me Anaxagoras. He wasn’t a scientist. The word goes back to 1833, when William Whewell wrote a review for Quarterly Review.

I’ve talked about his sectors before. Anaxagoras, that's, not William Whewell. The majority of us had come to grips with all the theory that World goes by the early 1800s, around our sun, not the other way around. (December 2, 20-16)

Anaxagoras wrote that life On The Planet may have began elsewhere. That was the time Magadha was dominated by Bimbisara, and Goujian was clearing up chaos in Yue.

God’s God, and I’m Okay With That

Aristotle came along a few centuries later. He was Alexander the Great’s tutor, a very smart man, and interested in just about everything: including metaphysics and logic.

Aristotle was rediscovered by scholars, beginning around 1100. It’s about when St. Hildegard of Bingen wrote “Physica” and “Causae et Curae.” St. Albertus Magnus arrived along a bit afterwards. Both were experts back when science was called philosophy.

Aristotle’s emphasis on observation and logic arguably encouraged natural philosophy’s morphing into science, and that’s another topic.

Some scholars got too-excited, insisting that World was the sole planet: because Aristotle said thus. In 1277, the Bishop of Paris set down his foot. If God determined there are several other worlds, what Aristotle stated won’t alter the facts.

God’s God, Aristotle’s not, and I’m okay with that. (December 2, 2016)

I guess the idea that religion, particularly Christianity, is against scientific discipline got began simply when Aristotelianism caught on in 12th century Europe. It’s difficult like almost everything anything else concerning individuals.

Aristotelianism influenced Scholasticism, a method of learning that leans heavily on dialectical reasoning: emphasis on reasoning, I think.

St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Summa Theologica” is probably Scholasticism’s high point, and anything but terse.

Logic applied to faith, scientist-Saints? What could possibly go wrong?

Basically, European politics.

Faith, Reason, and an Overdue Reform

Over-simplifying the situation, southern Europe was profiting from reopened trade routes. So was northern Europe, but wealth wasn’t trickling north nearly as fast as northern princes liked.

In 1517, someone copied and printed a list of topics for academic discussion. The list gave folks who wanted reform, leaders who wanted more power, and just about anyone else, access to what we call talking points.

The northern talks turned right into a firestorm. Within my language 16th century reforms are known as the Counter Reformation since they were began to the Re-Formation in answer”.

I guess that we’d have cleaned home fairly soon anyhow, although that’s exact. The reforms were late. We’ve experienced tough places that are related without really so much fuss. The 9 10 Cluniac Reforms and 1962-65 Second Vatican Council spring to mind.

We were in another rough patch in the 5th century, I think. But the western Roman Empire’s collapse took care of it; and that’s yet another topic.

Where was I? Faith, reason, politics, the Defenestration of Prague. Right.

Copernicus and Vulcans

The Catholic version of faith is a willing and conscious “assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.” (Catechism, 142150)

Truth is important, and beautiful — whether it’s expressed in words, “the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality;” or “the order and harmony of the cosmos;” or in other ways. (Catechism, Prologue, 27, 74, 2500, more under Truth in the index)

Noticing God’s infinite beauty reflected in “the world’s order and beauty” helps us learn about God. It should, at least. (Catechism, 3132, 341)

A thirst for truth and happiness is written into each of us. It’ll lead us to God, if we’re doing our job right. (Catechism, 27)

Faith isn’t reason: but it’s reasonable, and certainly not against an honest search for truth. (Catechism, 3135, 159)

So how come Third Order Dominican Nicolaus Copernicus delayed printing of “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” until after his death in 1543? Like I said earlier, European politics. Also badly-overdue reforms in the Catholic Church.

Can’t say that I blame Copernicus for delaying publication.

His newfangled ideas upset some folks with an apparently-shaky grasp of distinctions between poetry and science. And like I said, politics didn’t help. (November 6, 2016; October 30, 2016)

A few centuries later, Albertus Magnus is the patron Saint of scientists, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has hosted a study week on astrobiology, and some Catholics still don’t like science. I’m not one of them.

I think my insistence that what I believe must make sense, no matter what my emotions are doing at the moment, helps. And that’s yet again another topic.

“…The Catholics were unsentimental when I heard them talk about love. How could my flinty stoic heart not leap for joy in reply?“If Vulcans had a church, they’d be Catholics.”(John C. Wright, (March 21 2008)))

1. Fast Radio Bursts: Looking For an Explanation

(From WochIt Media, via, used w/o permission.)

Scientists Ponder Whether Fast Radio Bursts Power UFOs (March 11, 2017)

“One of the most bizarre happenings astronomers have find before decade is some thing called ‘ radio explosions that were rapid.’ They’re milli-second- flashes of radio signals that don’t have an apparent source. Potential causes include bursting magnetars, black holes and blitzars …”

“But now, Harvard scientists have run the numbers on the most intriguing potential explanation: ginormous transmitters powering alien starships….”

I loved the brief special effects movie embedded in the post: but it's just about nothing related to the Harvard scientists’ guess. On the flip side, that saucer” picture was too great to avoid. also mentions a number of the matters scientists believe might cause rapid radio blasts (FRBs). That gives me a reason and exactly why questioning if they’re man-made makes sense, and to speak about FRBs.

Beyond Our Galaxy

Folks at the Parkes radio dish in Australia don’t always “see” data as it’s coming in. It’s archived and passed around for later study.

Data collected and stored on July 24, 2001, eventually reached a West Virginia University undergraduate, David Narkevic, in 2007. He was looking for pulsars.

He found an odd burst of radio waves.

It came from a spot in the Tucana constellation near the Small Magellanic Cloud. Different frequencies in the burst arrived at different times.

That wasn’t odd, by itself. Radio waves from very distant sources, like other galaxies, get spread out that way.

Astronomers can use the spread to work out roughly how far away something is.

Plugging in numbers for this source, researchers — more folks had joined the undergrad at this point — got a distance of roughly 1,600,000,000 light-years. That’s not odd, either. Most of the universe is more than 1.6 billion light-years away.

But it meant the burst came from outside our galaxy.

The distance and strength of the pulse let scientists estimate how much energy it started with. Whatever produced the burst released as much energy in under five milliseconds as our sun puts out in a month.

Light travels at roughly 1,500 kilometers in five milliseconds: which means that the burst’s source is almost certainly less than 1,500 kilometers across.

That is very odd indeed. Pulsars are about that big, but they pulse at regular(ish) intervals. FRBs only happen once, which means they’re probably caused by something that can’t repeat: like merging neutron stars.

Regardless of the issues are, they’re birds that are unusual. We’ve found 17 so far, counting the clumps of 2015 as well as FRB 121102 . I’ll get straight back to that.

The known FRBs are scattered across the sky, not concentrated in our galaxy’s plane. That seems to confirm that they’re very far away.1

FRB 121102

Every FRB found so far has pulsed once, and then been quiet. Except for FRB 121102.

The Arecibo radio telescope detected an FRB November 2, 2012, in the constellation Auriga, very roughly between the stars Capella and Elnath.

That’s Beta Tauri and Alpha Aurigae, for people who enjoy Bayer designations, which don't have anything related to acetylsalicylic acid. And that’s another matter.

Scientific researchers known as the busted held discussing what might be causing these matters, and FRB 121102. FRB 121102 is seemingly well outside our galaxy: about three-billion light years away.

Heino Falcke and Luciano Rezzolla showed how FRBs could be Blitzars, a still-hypothetical object that happens when a rapidly-spinning pulsar collapses.

Subsequently, in an identical direction, star gazer picked up 2 more blasts on May 17, 2015 and in the exact same space. Because no FRB had pulsed over once, that has been really strange.

June 2, 2015, they detected eight more bursts coming from the same spot.

That’s extremely strange. The newest bunches, ten explosions — 11, for instance, one that is first — give more information to assess to researchers. FRB 121102 likely isn’t created with a one time occurrence.

Cataclysmic events, like merging neutron stars, happen only once. Stars can’t ‘un-merge.’

Investigators say it may be a magnetar, a neutron star with very magnetized pulsars; or an extraordinarily powerful magnetic field shifting through belts; or another thing.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’s Avi Loeb and Manasvi Lingam say “something else” might be very powerful solar-powered radio transmitters.

2. “It’s a Matter of Evidence”

(From Harvard-Smithsonian Center forAstrophysics, used w/o permission.)

Could Fast Radio Bursts Be Powering Alien Probes?
Megan Watzke, Peter Edmonds; press release, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (March 9, 2017)

“The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has looked for many different signs of alien life, from radio broadcasts to laser flashes, without success. However, newly published research suggests that mysterious phenomena called fast radio bursts could be evidence of advanced alien technology. Specifically, these bursts might be leakage from planet-sized transmitters powering interstellar probes in distant galaxies.

“‘Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence,’ said theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. ‘An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.’…

“… Loeb acknowledges this work is notional. ‘Science isn’t a question of opinion, he answered, when questioned whether he actually believes that any rapid radio explosions are due to extraterrestrial beings, it’s a question of signs. The chances are limited by determining what’s probably ahead of time. It’s worth allowing the information function as judge and putting thoughts out there.’…”

Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb’s paper reviews what we know about FRBs, and what other scientists have said might cause them.

They weren’t the researchers indicating that FRBs may be man-made. California Institute of Peter Goldreich and Technology’s Jing Luan mentioned the the chance that that they’re slim-ray signals fond of us.

It makes sense, assuming that upwards of a dozen different folks in our corner of the galaxy decided to ping us, with the signals arriving within the last 16 years.

Luan and Goldreich’s proposition presumes that FRBs are from transmitters about as strong as we are able to get now.2 I believe that’s potential, but I also believe it’s improbable.

Back to Loeb and Harvard’s Lingam. They wondered if FRBs could be columns from a scaled-up edition of Robert L. Forward’s fictional light-sail propulsion system.3

Forward’s 1982 “Rocheworld” is fiction. The physics behind his laser-pumped light sail spacecraft isn’t.

I mentioned the Breakthrough Starshot project a couple weeks ago. (March 3, 2017)

Today: Solar Sailing Ships

Today’s light sail spacecraft are more like sailboats than Starshot’s proposed Starchips. They get thrust by reflecting sunlight off large mirrors.

I think mostly-successful flights by JAXA’s interplanetary IKAROS and NASA’s Earth-orbit NanoSail-D2 show that light sails work.4

They also give real-life data for scientists like Lingam and Loeb.

Several ‘coincidences’ showed up when the Harvard researchers started doing the math.

Optimum frequency to get a ray shoving against a sail that is light is quite close to frequencies for FRBs. The beam would want about just as much energy as you’d get using a solar energy collector about World’s diameter, assuming the method used water 56

We can’t construct anything that large. Not yet. However, I believe the scientists are correct: it’s also many coincidences to dismiss without reason that is good.

If they’re appropriate, if the autos shoved with these systems and that’s nevertheless “ will be enormous. Taking the International Area Station’s typical density, as well as values for now’s lightsails, Loeb and Lingam stated the payload might be something similar to a hundred meters across.

That’s big.

Tomorrow: Direct Impulse Beam Propulsion, Maybe

(From “Optics and Materials Considerations for a Laser-propelled Lightsail,” Geoffrey A. Landis (1989), used w/o permission.)

Besides the coincidences they found, what impressed me about Lingam and Loeb’s paper was what they assumed about extraterrestrial intelligence.

More accurately, what they didn’t assume:

“… The most immediate, and first, chance is they serve the function of beacons that are ‘ ’, and so are therefore meant to air the existence of alien cultures. But, why would a culture need to air its existence? … Although these chances cannot (and should not) be eliminated, there are several constitutional problems. They depend on on sophisticated (anthropocentric) grounds to some level, and therefore are therefore not readily testable….”(“Rapid Radio Fits from Extra-Galactic Mild Sails, Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb (February 27, 20 17)5)

Hats off to Loeb and Lingam. They understand that people who aren’t human might not feel like people. As they explain, that’s a great deal of energy to pour in to a milli-second one time sign.

It's, nevertheless, about what you’d need if you're pushing up a big payload using a light-sail to speeds. It ’s an interesting coincidence.

In addition, I like Loeb’ and Lingam s planned explanation for FRBs. Closely-targeted radio beams as the spacecraft went direction would shift.

Meanwhile, the beam’s source and Earth would be moving relative to each other.

Beams crossing across room, passing briefly through our part of the galaxy — it’d if among them lasted more than several minutes, be astonishing.

Perhaps it’s less of an ego-booster than picturing that we are being pinged by more than twelve cultures. However , I do believe it’s a tad more realistic.

Loeb and lingam go several steps farther. This can be much more speculative, but I believe they’re correct in supposing that stargazers aren’t finding every FRB ‘ ’ that is visible from Earth.

Anyway, they came up with a ballpark estimate that there are fewer than 10,000 FRB-producing civilizations, on average, in a galaxy like ours.

That might seem like a lot, but this is a big galaxy, and that’s a maximum count.

Just how many cultures besides the FRB- ones that are generating is less specific. “… as the researchers stated These cultures must fit in with the Kardashev I type (Kardashev 1964) in the minimal, as observed in the feature power needed….”5

As I mentioned before, constructing something such as Loeb transportation program and the Lingam is beyond that which we are able to do now. We've, nevertheless, resolved the physics of large scale immediate pulsation column propulsion.4

“Recognizably Like,” Probably Not “Identical”

I’ve mentioned this before: people are creatures that are chatty. When it seemed like there may be a few other people living on Mars among the primary things we did, was begin making strategies for indicating them. (December 16, 20-16)

Maybe we’ll find neighbors who are as gregarious as we are. Or not.

I believe Brother Consolmagno is correct if we do discuss this universe with people who aren’t human. We’ll discover they have “ a will as well as a consciousness recognizably like ours.”

We’ll quite likely also learn that “recognizably like” isn’t “identical.”7 (December 23, 2016)

3. Churchill and Extraterrestrial Intelligence

(From Hulton Archive/Getty Images, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Churchill wrote the first draft in 1939, as Europe headed towards war”
(BBC News)

Winston Churchill’s views on aliens revealed in lost essay
Paul Rincon, BBC News (February 15, 2017)

“A newly unearthed essay by Winston Churchill reveals he was open to the possibility of life on other planets.

“In 1939, the year World War Two broke out, Churchill penned a popular science article in which he mused about the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life.

“The 11-page typed draft, probably intended for a newspaper, was updated in the 1950s but never published.

“In the 1980s, the essay was passed to a US museum, where it sat until its rediscovery last year….”

Churchill’s science writing doesn’t make much of a showing in Wikipedia’s Winston Churchill as writer page. My guess, from what the BBC News and Nature articles said, is that the Wikipedia “…writer” page focuses on his books, not newspaper and magazine articles.8

I recommend reading the Nature article. It’s around 2,000 words, and non-technical. I particularly like these bits, near the start and end:

“… A trade in regards to using data to combat with German Uboats captures his approach. Air Chief Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris whined Are we fighting this war with slide guidelines or arms?’ Churchill responded, ‘ Let ’…

“…he was additionally concerned that without comprehending the humanities, scientific researchers might work in a vacuum. ‘We want scientific researchers on the planet but perhaps not an environment of of scientific researchers,’ he stated. In order for science to be ‘ not and the servant the master of guy’, he believed that proper policies that drew on principles have to be in place. We shall all be responsible: ‘If, with the resources of contemporary science, we find ourselves not able to avert world famine, as he set it in a 1949 tackle to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s convocation.’…”(“Winston Churchill’s essay on alien existence discovered,” Mario Livio, Character (February 16, 20 17))

I’ve discussed life, war, and acting like people matter, before. (January 22, 2017; February 5, 2017; January 11, 2017; October 30, 2016)

Yet another thing, about principles.” I’ve run into people who believe that someone can be a humanist or a hate- fueled nutjob.

Coming from a different direction, some -spiritual people appear to believe that humanism is a few sort of scheme that is Satanic and anti American. A few of these seemingly possess exactly the same view concerning Islam and the Catholic Church. (February 1, 2017; November 29, 20-16)

Me? I’m a Catholic, and that I love to understand what words imply. Turns out, humanist” that is “ often means quite lots of matters, and therefore can “ ” that is humanistic

I’m quite sure the “humanistic principles” Churchill recommended were the kind held by “a man having a powerful interest in or concern for human wellbeing, worth, and dignity.” (

That works for me, which is just as well: as a Catholic, having “a strong interest in or concern for human welfare” and so on, is a requirement. (Catechism, 1929–1933)

But what about extraterrestrial intelligence? Like I said earlier, I hope we learn that we have neighbors. But it’s not my decision.

Studying the Universe

(From Jpl/NASA, via Wikimedia Commons, employed w/o permission.)(PlanetQuest illustration demonstrating where all the planets we’ve identified so far are.)

About engineering and science, some Catholics are a bit like Air Chief Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris: less than confident with with we’ve discovered over the previous couple of centuries.

We’re assumed to be interested; although a dynamic curiosity about science isn’t essential to my beliefs, as I keep saying. Truth can not contradict reality, and scientific discoveries are chances for higher admiration of God’s development. (Catechism, 159, 214–217, 283, 294, 341)

Engineering and Science, using that which we understand and examining the cosmos, is part of being human: and ethics issue in equally, just as they do for the rest we do. (Catechism, 2292–2296)

A lot of the science I learned in school that is high is obsolete. The amount of universes that are known is in the hundreds, and our first interstellar probes have been in the development and the study stage.

I like living in a time when our knowledge of God’s creation is rapidly expanding.

Even if I didn’t approve of reality, my opinion wouldn’t make much difference:

“Our God is in heaven; whatever God wills is done.”
(Psalms 115:3)

More, mostly about looking for neighbors:

1 What we know, and don’t know, about FRBs:

2 Signals, maybe:

Physical Constraints On Fast Radio Burst
Jing Luan, Peter Goldreich; abstract, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, via Cornell University Library (Submitted on 8 January 8, 2014 (v1), last revised 22 March 22, 2014)

3 Fiction, but well-researched:

4 Speculation and research:

5 Several ‘coincidences:’

6 I’ve talked about scale before. (September 16, 2016)

I agree with people who say the Kardashev scale is beneficial because people who aren’t that is human — might not become us. In addition, I agree with people who say because people who aren’t human might not behave like us, the Kardashev scale is beneficial.

Having said that, Kardeshev’s scale is a useful method to take into account what kind of cultures could exist. Hypothetical cultures are sorted by it by just how much electricity they use and can keep. With this scale, we’re working our way as much as Type I:

Type I
All energy reaching their planet from their sun
Type II
Energy of the entire star
Type III civilization
Energy on the scale of its entire host galaxy


7 I’ve quoted him before:

8 Churchill, history, science, and technology:

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