Drake equation as applied to alien artifacts

(ORDO NEWS) — Extraterrestrial space archeology is engaged in the search for relics of other technological civilizations. It’s like looking for plastic bottles in the ocean as they keep piling up over time.

The senders may not be alive when we find the relics. These circumstances are different from those faced by the famous Drake equation, which quantifies the probability of detecting radio signals from aliens.

This case resembles a telephone conversation in which the interlocutor must be active when we listen to him. But not so in extraterrestrial archeology.

What can replace the Drake equation for space archeology? If our instruments examine volume V, then the number of objects we find in each image will be equal to,

where n is the number of relics per unit volume. Suppose, on the other hand, that we have a fishing net of area A, like the Earth’s atmosphere when catching meteors. In this case, the rate of passage of new objects through the study area per unit time is:

R = n*v*A,

where v is the characteristic one-dimensional velocity of the relic along the direction perpendicular to this area. Both n and v can be a function of the size of the objects. NASA has launched far more small spacecraft than large ones. And to launch faster objects, more energy is required.

All this assumes that we are searching. But there is a possibility O that some scientists or politicians might behave like an ostrich and evade the search altogether. So the final equations are:

N = n * V * (1 – 0)

R = n * v * A * (1 – 0)

The likelihood that we will find extraterrestrial technological objects depends on our willingness to look for them, and not just on whether aliens sent them.

An interstellar object of interest could be studied by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as it passes nearby.

Because the JWST is a million miles from Earth at the second Lagrange point L2, it will observe the object from a completely different direction than telescopes on Earth. This will allow us to display the object’s 3D trajectory with high accuracy and determine any unusual forces acting on it in addition to the Sun’s gravity.

In addition, JWST will be able to determine the spectrum of infrared radiation and reflected sunlight from the object, which will allow to make a potential conclusion about the composition of its surface.

To obtain more accurate evidence, it would be useful to bring the camera closer to the object during its approach, as planned by the Galileo project.

Even better would be to land on the object and take a sample from it to Earth, as the OSIRIS-REx mission did with the asteroid Bennu. Another opportunity to have a hand in such an object would be to study the remains of interstellar meteors of technological origin.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the WORLD.MINDS forum with Paula Antonelli, Senior Curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Forum host Rolf Dobelli asked me: “Would you expect to find art in interstellar extraterrestrial objects?”

My response was simple: “What we consider modern art may be old fashioned for them. If they have been in existence for a billion years, then the relics may represent art that is much more advanced than what is shown at MoMA. We should watch into new telescopes without prejudice and enjoy what they present to us.”

We know that the laws of physics are universal and should be the same for us and aliens. But it is quite possible that we do not share the same laws of aesthetics. However, a sense of awe and inspiration can come from a complex technological device, whether or not it was designed to be functional.

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