In an article to appear on May 10, the New Scientist carries a fascinating answer to the problem of why we never -- yet -- caught any signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. Here is a link to a preview of this article.
Two physicists have come up with an intriguing solution. They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background noise. Messages sent by this method could be criss-crossing our Galaxy without us ever knowing.
How is this possible?
The signaller splits the message into two parts, so that the photons are sent in opposite directions to mirrors located far from the home planet. The mirrors redirect the signals to the intended receiver, who recombines the photons to reconstruct the message.
Please note that the article to come will include graphics showing the process.
The key idea is that the message is encoded not by the pattern or sequence of photons sent over time, but by their positions in space.
According to the article (and to the Heisenberg's uncertainty principle), even if we could detect such messages, we would not be able to find where they come from.
So, these researchers came with an ingenious hypothesis, but why people, even from other civilizations would employ such a method? And what would be a potential usage?
Paul Shuch, director of the SETI League in New Jersey, points out that being able to disguise a sender's location would be extremely useful for secure military communications here on Earth. "In a few decades, when it's declassified, we may well find that such a technique is already in use."
Source: Marcus Chown, New Scientist, May 10, 2003 (Preview released by EurekAlert! Science News, May 8, 2003)
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