Dyson Spheres and other important matters

Chaos Manor View, Friday, October 16, 2015

I’ve been overwhelmed with stuff, all urgent in the sense that it can’t be ignored. And now it’s past time for lunch. The Dyson’s Sphere speculation is fun, but hardly urgent…



Dyson Sphere on Space?

While it’s still too early to tell, and we had similar speculation when neutron stars were discovered, we may have confirmation that we’re not alone. I read many articles about this, and I plan to follow this closely:


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

large structures orbiting a star

Eric Gilmer

“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”



Roland Dobbins

There’s been a lot about the discovery of a Dyson Sphere, or an “Alien Object” by the Kepler telescope.

The following is a series of emails tracking this story. Participants are an electrical engineer, a physicist and Stephanie Osborne, Interstellar woman of mystery and more relevantly retired NASA rocket scientist. It won’t settle the matter because it isn’t settled, but here’s what rational discussion brings us so far. It started with a note from a Ph.D. Physics friend:

From: Physicist

To: steph-osborn@sff.net (Stephanie)
Subject: Wow
Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2015 17:06:20 +0000

Please forward (removing my work email) to the usual suspects


– – –

Which is worthy of a wow to be forwarded to the usual suspects like me.

– – –

From: Stephanie [mailto:steph-osborn@sff.net Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2015 12:10 PM
Subject: RE: Wow

When I click on the link it gives me a page not found.

If it’s the same as this, it’s already all over Facebook:

and the probability is high that it is simply some very large stuff left over from system formation. Dyson spheres, it is now realized, take more material to build than is found in a typical stellar system, excluding the central star. Ringworlds aren’t a lot better. The article I listed actually proposes several different natural phenomes for the observations.
Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

– – – –

Stephanie’s link led to

Did Astronomers Just Find Evidence of an Extraterrestrial Dyson Sphere?


The star, called KIC 8462852, experiences dips in its brightness, which is nothing unusual on its own. The Kepler Space Telescope has found thousands of exoplanets by observing their transits across neighboring stars, which causes their brightness to dim briefly. However, the dips are too extreme and too erratic to be the result of run-of-the-mill transiting exoplanets. A transit usually causes a star’s brightness to dim by less than one percent, and on a periodic basis, as the exoplanet orbits the star regularly. But this star has experienced huge dips in brightness, up to 22%, which simply could not be the result of a planet, and it doesn’t seem to be occurring on any kind of cyclical basis.
There are several explanations that are somewhat plausible, but none are perfect. It would make sense if there were some kind of massive planetary collision in the recent past that caused huge chunks of debris to surround the star, causing transits with no apparent rhyme or reason. But we would expect the dust created in a huge collision to emit excess infrared light, which hasn’t been observed in the area surrounding the star. The best explanation is a series of comets circling the star, but even then it’s difficult to explain such a huge blockage of light.

– – – –

That’s pretty intriguing, and is actually worth reading.

Next came the physicist, who is usually pretty skeptical:

From: Physicist

Subject: RE: Wow
Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2015 17:14:05 +0000

Boyajian, who oversees the Planet Hunters project, recently published a paper looking at all the possible natural explanations for the objects and found all of them wanting except one – that another star had pulled a string of comets close to KIC 8462852. But even this would involve an incredibly improbable coincidence.

Paper at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1509.03622v1.pdf

– – – –

I guarantee you will not read all of this paper; here are the summary and conclusions:



In this paper, we have shown that KIC 8462852 is an unique source

in the


field. We conducted numerous observations of the

star and its environment, and our analysis characterizes the object

as both remarkable (e.g., the “dipping” events in the



curve) and unremarkable (ground-based data reveal no deviation

from a normal F-type star) at the same time. We presented an ex-

tensive set of scenarios to explain the occurrence of the dips, most

of which are unsuccessful in explaining the observations in their en-

tirety. However, of the various considered, we find that the break-up

of a exocomet provides the most compelling explanation.

Observations of KIC 8462852 should continue to aid in un-

raveling its mysteries. First and foremost, long-term photometric

monitoring is imperative in order to catch future dipping events. It

would be helpful to know whether observations reveal no further

dips, or continued dips. If the dips continue, are they periodic? Do

they change in size or shape? On one hand, the more dips the more

problematic from the lack of IR emission perspective. Likewise, in

the comet scenario there could be no further dips; the longer the

dips persist in the light curve, the further around the orbit the frag-

ments would have to have spread. The possibility of getting color

information for the dips would also help determine the size of the

obscuring dust. On the other hand, following the prediction in Sec-



, if a collision took place, we should see re-occurring dip-

ping events caused from debris in 2017 May. Unfortunately, the

2015 April event likely went unobserved, as all available photo-

metric archives we checked came up with nothing. In collabora-

tion with the MEarth team (PI, D. Charbonneau), monitoring of

KIC 8462852 will thankfully continue from the ground beginning

in the Fall of 2015. This will enable us to establish a firm baseline

of its variability post-



Several of the proposed scenarios are ruled out by the lack of

observed IR excess (Section


), but the comet scenario requires

the least. However, if these are time-dependent phenomenon, there

could be a detectable amount of IR emission if the system were

observed today. In the comet scenario, the level of emission could

vary quite rapidly in the near-IR as clumps pass through pericen-

ter (and so while they are transiting). The WISE observations were

made in Q5, so detecting IR-emission from the large impact sce-

nario, assuming the impact occurred in Q8 (D800, Section



is also a possibility. We acknowledge that a long-term monitoring

in the IR would be demanding on current resources/facilities, but

variations detected in the optical monitoring could trigger such ef-

fort to observe at the times of the dips.

Our most promising theory invokes a family of exocomets.

One way we imagine such a barrage of comets could be triggered

is by the passage of a field star through the system. And, in fact,

as discussed above, there is a small star nearby (


AU; Sec-



) which, if moving near to KIC 8462852, but not bound to

it, could trigger a barrage of bodies into the vicinity of the host

star. On the other hand, if the companion star is bound, it could

be pumping up comet eccentricities through the Kozai mechanism.

Measuring the motion/orbit of the companion star with respect to

KIC 8462852 would be telling in whether or not it is associated, and

we would then be able to put stricter predictions on the timescale

and repeatability of comet showers based on bound or unbound

star-comet perturbing models. Finally, comets would release gas

(as well as dust), and sensitive observations to detect this gas would

also test this hypothesis.

Our physicist friend said the explanations given were fairy improbable; Stephanie said “Even so; I find that far more likely than the notion of a Dyson sphere.” I went off to LASFS having run out of time yesterday.

There came from our good friend the electrical engineer

Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2015 14:28:24 +0000
From: engineer
To: steph-osborn@sff.net
: usual suspects

Subject: Re: Wow

Randy Bovell just sent to me and I thought you all might find this interesting concerning the conversation.

Alien technology possibly spotted orbiting a distant star

Scientists recently identified an irregular mess of objects orbiting a distant star that defies most natural explanations.


Nestled between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra sits what might be the strangest, most mysterious star in our galaxy. This star, designated as KIC 8462852, is not particularly unusual in and of itself. What’s odd is what astronomers have spotted orbitting it: an irregularly-shaped mess of objects that appear unnatural, possibly even alien, reports The Atlantic.

The star was first flagged by amateur astronomers in 2011 for its peculiar dimming pattern, as detected by the Kepler Space Telescope. By themselves, dimming patterns in distant stars are not that usual. In fact, they are what Kepler scientists look for in their hunt for faraway planets. As planets pass in front of their stars, they momentarily block out a portion of the light being emitted by the star, thus revealing themselves. Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered this way in recent years.

PHOTO BREAK: 12 out-of-this-world observatories

The dimming pattern identified in KIC 8462852, however, was unlike any discovered among the over 150,000 stars that have been analyzed by the Kepler Space Telescope. The pattern suggested that KIC 8462852 was surrounded by a whole jumble of objects in extremely tight formation. Such a pattern might be expected from a young star, with a solar system that was first forming. Young solar systems are typically characterized by a messy field of debris, which eventually coalesces into a system of planets as the star’s gravity molds and shapes them. But KIC 8462852 is not a young star. A field of dust surrounding a young star would give off infrared light, and excess infrared light is not observed here.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” explained Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoc at Yale. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”

It should be reiterated that this mess of objects is irregularly shaped. It’s not something that should form naturally, not given a sufficient amount of time, anyway. So it’s likely that it was deposited there recently, because otherwise such a field of objects would have been shaped into a more regular pattern or swallowed up by the star’s gravitational field by now.

So what is it? Scientists have considered a number of scenarios, from instrument defects, to an asteroid belt pileup, to planets crashing into one another. But at this juncture the list of possible explanations has been narrowed to two. First, it’s possible that the debris field could be a sea of comets, recently yanked inward into the solar system by the gravity of another close-passing star. This sort of event would represent an extraordinary coincidence, though — a rare event, one not observed in any other star ever observed.

The second possibility that can’t be ruled out is a wild one, an explanation that scientists don’t put forward lightly. It’s possible that there is no natural explanation for the objects circling KIC 8462852 at all. It’s possible they are alien.

Makes me think of the dude that looks like a Centauri off of Babylon 5 and how much I want to throw something at the screen when he’s on. About all those shows are good for is getting ideas for SF stories.

Look, guys. Lemme give y’all a f’r-instance. Last night I had to comment and make corrections on someone else’s Facebook post, because the person was saying that the “new” coronal hole was a hole straight into the core of the Sun, and the solar wind from it was going to blast our atmosphere from pole to pole (not just AT the poles) and create all this horrid radiation. And it was getting shared fairly widely.

The LAST thing I look forward to is handling the misinformation caused by the complete distortion of an astronomical paper by the mainstream media. They do plenty enough of that in meteorology/climate research as it is. And yes, I HAVE already been dealing with it, starting along about Tuesday or Wednesday, when the first article came out.
Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

From: engineer
Subject: Re: Wow

Sounds like how much I love the Chariots of the Gods on the history channel. It makes me smile but it also makes me think.

From: “Stephanie”

Subject: RE: Wow

that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about, and it’s pretty much impossible. But every last media report has had something along that line for a headline. Tiny fractions of a percent probability that it is alien tech of ANY sort, next to impossible for it to be a Dyson sphere because it takes more material than is found in a planetary system (outside the star itself) to build one; most probably an accretion disk of some sort. But wow! Let’s make people read us! We’ll make the headline be about aliens! SMH. Shades of The History Channel.

Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

And there, I think, we have about all we’re going to know about this for from months to years. I got to thinking about it: is it easier to make a Dyson sphere or Ringworld than to travel to another star?

The reason I ask that is that this is the only Dyson Sphere we’ve observed even if you assume that’s what we see. Yet what is the probability that such a thing was built recently? Isn’t it likely that if you can build one, you’d build a lot of them? You’ve had millions of years to do that. The probability that you invented it in the last couple of thousands of years is infinitesimal.

On the other hand, if you can go star faring, would you build a Dyson Sphere at all? And if you can’t, where did you get all that mass to build it out of? Maybe your sun used to have a companion you could just get to and start taking it apart, and you’re not done yet? But then I’m a science fiction writer. This looks like a job for Niven and Benford…

I’m enjoying this, but I am not sure where it leads

dyson sphere dilemma 
Dr. Pournelle;
Your comment that finding only ONE dyson sphere seemed a bit odd, that any super-civilization capable of making such a beastie would probably make many, seems, unsurprisingly, spot-on. However, would it not be difficult to detect a fully enclosed dyson sphere? Might there be hundreds or even thousands of them littered throughout space and they are simply too faint of an infrared signature to see? The star in the news recently might just be the only UNFINISHED dyson sphere floating around.
Speculating gleefully,
Eric Gilmer

Gleefully indeed; and of course I don’t know.


Google Book Scanning Ruled Fair Use
Appeals court rules that Google book scanning is fair use.
You probably have seen this 100 times already. I look forward to your comments.
My $0.0000002 (inflation!)
Just as Apple’s iTunes Match program brought in otherwise unrecoverable money from people who pirated music for years, I think having out of print materials available in Google searches can bring in (at least some) money to writers of otherwise lost works. Sell advertising against the searches and Google Ads in the display of the text, hand 70% to the writer. (just a suggestion on how it could work)

This is just out; there is a lot of discussion in author associations about it. Nothing urgent.


U.S. confirms Iran tested nuclear-capable ballistic missile

The United States has confirmed that Iran tested a medium-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, in “clear violation” of a United Nations Security Council ban on ballistic missile tests, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

“The United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s recent ballistic missile launch,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in a statement.

“After reviewing the available information, we can confirm that Iran launched on Oct. 10 a medium-range ballistic missile inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon,” she said. “This was a clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929.”

SEE MORE: Iran says Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian convicted

The United States is preparing a report on the incident for the Security Council’s IranSanctions Committee and will raise the matter directly with Security Council members “in the coming days,” Power said.

Council diplomats have told Reuters it was possible to sanction additional Iranian individuals or entities by adding them to an existing U.N. blacklist. However, they noted that Russia and China, which have opposed the sanctions on Iran’s missile program, might block any such moves.

“The Security Council prohibition on Iran’s ballistic missile activities, as well as the arms embargo, remain in place,” Power said. “We will continue to press the Security Council for an appropriate response to Iran’s disregard for its international obligations.”




algae for the poor
Dr. Pournelle,
Soylent green isn’t people (yet):

We feed it to astronauts. And I’d rather eat green slime than my boots


: Drone Assassination Leak

We have more Snowdenesque disclosures; these concern the drone assassination program. The disclosures seem to include information about JSOC and TF 48-4. I see nothing new or eye opening, but I’ve researched these programs run by CIA and JSOC for several years and I’m as about as surprised as I was by the Snowden disclosures — I wasn’t.


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


“Without answers to these fundamental questions, the Air Force nuclear enterprise remains on the same trajectory as it has been for the last two decades – in ever-increasing decline.”


“If the practice continues to be to demand that the troops compensate for manpower and skill shortfalls, operate in inferior facilities and perform with failing support equipment, there is high risk of failure.”



Roland Dobbins

Both articles are very much worth reading. Overseas adventures are possible only if the nation is secure. We still live in a nuclear age, and there are those who believe that End Times are worth bringing about.


Income Inequality: New problem, the rich get better breakfast sandwiches buffy willow

I read your post about income inequality yesterday evening. Excellent. I had read an “article” earlier in the day about the new serious problem, inequality of breakfast sandwiches. It is in the Washington Post, and titled “Inequality in Everything: The Rich get Better Breakfast Sandwiches, too.”

Link, should you care to click: Inequality in everything: The rich get better breakfast sandwiches, too


Inequality in everything: The rich get better breakfast …

Things are getting a little awkward.

View on www.washingtonpost…

Preview by Yahoo

Well. My first thought was that it was a satirical article. But, alas, apparently not. I am stunned, and quite depressed, that there are people who can even conceive of such a thing, make it a problem and that a paper generally recognized as a major news outlet would print it. We are in a stage in our society where reality sounds like satire, and satire is mistaken for reality.

Better sandwiches, in my humble opinion, means that many people can afford a better meal than can be had at McDonalds, and that enterprising entrepreneurs are more than happy to provide them. Does this not help the economy just a bit? What’s wrong with having choices, and being free to make those choices, and having a little disposable income to allow one to make different choices? Apparently, we are all (except the elite rulers who will tell us what our choices are) to live in a gray and drab completely equal existence. Heaven forfend that some of us might be able to enjoy some nicer things as a result of our labors and decisions.

I very much agree with your points regarding income inequalities, and counting our blessings: Yes, there are income discrepancies, and vast inequalities; but perhaps we should once in a while count our blessings, and contemplate the requirements of keeping what we have, and adding to the real opportunities we all are given, rather than resenting what we don’t have and the rich can afford.

I, too, have an example of the blessings of technology. I noticed a distortion in the vision of my left eye last summer, and visited my optometrist very shortly after. He referred me to a retianal specialist, we saw me two days later. I have a condition that was untreatable 10 years ago, and I would have lost my vision in that eye. However, it was fairly easily treated and I have no discernable effect to my vision. A blessing, indeed.

Cheri Rohrer

>Pleasant Hill, California

The possibility that we can all get richer without inequality in income has not been demonstrated.



Bill Whittle: It’s the steel



re: 5TB drives used in disk
re: your comment of “Wow!” with respect to 5TB drives to be used in a RAID disk system.
Something to consider (that often isn’t) is the RAID rebuild time of a failed drive. a 5TB drive in a RAID[anything] would take a LONG, LONG time. I prefer smaller 1-2TB drives particularly in a small office or home system for just that reason.
Just my opinion, but borne out by many hours spent in a computer room waiting for rebuilds to complete.

All true, and thanks.


Inside Saturn V in cross sections

Dear Jerry:

In your InfoWorld column for 9/17/1990, you described the “… Saturn V rocket, the most powerful machine ever built, set on its side as a lawn ornament for the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.”


Especially your younger readers might like to see the glory that was the Saturn V in these beautiful cross section drawings.


Best regards,

–Harry M.


: Even more Syria

Dear Dr. Pournelle, 
What road was it good intentions was a paving material for?
So the US has been supplying anti-Assad rebels with weaponry — but NOT enough to win.  I quote:
“The plan, as described by administration officials, was to exert sufficient military pressure on Assad’s forces to persuade him to compromise — but not so much that his government would precipitously collapse and leave a dangerous power vacuum in Damascus.”

Does anyone in the administration realize that insurgency is not a cake that you bake at just the right temperature? That a dictator who will almost certainly be hung for war crimes is not going to “negotiate” any kind of exit unless he is compelled to leave with overwhelming military force?   And that , so long as he can call on Iran and Russia, it is going to be very hard to develop and project that level of force? 
As it is, think of this like a poker game:  The Americans raised the stakes by pushing TOW missiles onto the board. They expected (I don’t know why) Assad to fold. Instead, he went to his friends and raised the stakes himself with direct Russian military intervention.
So what’s the next step? Call or fold? 
Regardless, we have officially stepped into a time warp and are engaged in a proxy war with Russia, to the extent that weapons WE supply are being used to kill Russians. And if we continue to supply weapons, knowing that is going to happen , that will make the current accidental proxy war a deliberate one. 
Whose imbecilic idea was it to get us into a shooting war with the Russians, anyway? 
I am utterly flabberghasted. This sort of consequence should be obvious to any academy graduate. Heck, if you just ask a teenager who has played Civilization 5.  What the devil do we have a Joint Staff for, if they are willing to approve a plan like this, as opposed to resigning en masse?


Brian P.

The Commander in Chief approves it…


“The bottom line was that there would be a supernova close enough to the Earth to drastically affect the ozone layer about once every billion years.”



Roland Dobbins


So, ‘global warming’ will cause the next ice age, which will then cause more ‘global warming’.


Sounds a lot like . . . I don’t know, variations in solar output, vulcanism, and albedo over time?


Roland Dobbins


And if you still haven’t had enough about the Dyson Sphere:

From Hot Air: http://hotair.com/archives/2015/10/15/by-the-way-scientists-might-have-discovered-a-gigantic-alien-megastructure-in-deep-space/

By the way, scientists might have discovered a gigantic alien megastructure in deep space

posted at 10:01 pm on October 15, 2015 by Allahpundit

Just a little news tidbit I thought I’d slip in between the more important stuff, like Jeb Bush’s third-quarter fundraising haul and whether that aunt who sued her nephew has hugged it out with him yet.

You are much, much better off using the time you’d devote to reading this post to reading someone else’s far more intelligent treatment of the subject instead. In particular, I’d recommend Slate, The Atlantic, and, for a more skeptical view, the New Scientist. Since clicking a link is too much effort for some readers, though, here’s the bottom line. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (actually, it’s our galaxy, but whatever), roughly 1,481 light years from Earth, something strange started happening to a star known as KIC 8462852. You can’t see it with your naked eye; we know it exists only because the Kepler Space Telescope picked up the light coming from it, along with light from many thousands of other stars. One way astronomers can tell if there are planets orbiting a distant star is by tracking the brightness of the light the star emits. If a star’s light dims a tiny bit at regular intervals, that’s evidence that something is passing between it and the telescope. For a star the size of KIC 8462852, which is around one and a half times as big as our own sun, having a planet the size of Jupiter pass in front of it should dim the light by around one percent.

Since scientists began watching KIC 8462852, they’ve found that its light does dim — but not at regular intervals. And it doesn’t dim by one percent. It dims by … 15 percent. And 22 percent. The dimming doesn’t happen symmetrically, with a slight, gradual fade followed by a slight, gradual brightening. It can dim slowly and then rapidly brighten. Per Slate, “There’s also an apparent change in brightness that seems to go up and down roughly every 20 days for weeks, then disappears completely.” This is not the way stars normally behave. In fact, after having looked at thousands of other stars captured by the Kepler, this is the only star known to astronomers to behave this way. They’ve rechecked their data to see if there’s an error in the math or some sort of flaw in the lens, but if there were, you would expect to see the same sort of error in other stars’ measurements. Again: This is the only star that seems to operate this way.

One possibility is that it’s a young star, (relatively) recently formed, with lots of dust and debris still circling around it in the aftermath. That would explain the irregular dimming — except that the dust that surrounds young stars typically leaves a signature of infrared light, and KIC 8462852 doesn’t have that. Same goes for the idea of a nearby planetary collision. Lots of dust should mean lots of infrared reflections, but KIC 8462852 is emitting just the right amount of infrared light you’d expect from a normal star its size. The working hypothesis for now on what’s behind the strange dimming phenomenon is that it’s actually an enormous swarm of comets that were somehow sucked towards the star, possibly by the gravitational pull of another nearby star in transit, and are now burning off like fireworks all around it. That would explain the irregular, unpredictable dimming coupled with the lack of elevated infrared. The New Scientist explains:

Having worked through the other possibilities, the team concluded the most likely explanation is a family of exocomets that veered close to the star and were broken up by its gravity, producing huge amounts of dust and gas in the process. If the comets are on an eccentric orbit passing in front of the star every 700 days or so, further breaking up and spreading out as they go, that could explain all the dips in the data.

KIC 8462852 is about 50 per cent larger than our sun, so if this comet explanation is correct, the dust cloud would be pretty big. It would be an impressive sight up close, says Boyajian. Something that size in our solar system would blot out a significant amount of sunlight. When Earth passes through the debris clouds left in interplanetary space by passing comets, we get meteor showers. There’s no evidence of a planet in the KIC 8462852 system, but someone standing on such a world as it passed through the dust cloud would see quite a light show, says Boyajian. “The scale of the meteor shower would be huge, like cosmic-scale fireworks.”

Here’s where a more intelligent commentator would be useful because I don’t understand why the dust generated by an enormous storm of comets disintegrating around the star wouldn’t also generate an elevated infrared reading. I’m also having trouble conceptualizing the scope of a storm that could dim the light of the star by 22 percent when a mass the size of Jupiter could only manage one percent. And scientists have another problem with the theory: It seems remarkably coincidental that KIC 8462852 would be in the process of devouring a massive comet cluster just at the moment that we happened to point our telescope at it — the blink of an eye cosmically. How long would the heat and gravity from the star realistically take to suck a belt of comets into it? And we somehow caught that on the Kepler, in progress, in the few years that the telescope was functioning properly? That’s some luck.

Which brings us to the other theory. The Atlantic:

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

The theory, in other words, is that the energy from KIC 8462852 is being harnessed by some sort of planetary-sized structure of solar panels or something akin to that — a “Dyson sphere,” named after Freeman Dyson, who imagined that alien civilizations would figure out a way to satisfy their energy needs by milking local stars for it. A star’s just a big nuclear reactor, right? Might as well hook up some power lines to it and enjoy the juice. How a Dyson sphere would explain the data from this star isn’t clear to me, except as the end of a “no other theory works” process of elimination. Any sort of technology we can imagine, however massive, that’s pumping energy from KIC 8462852 would be in orbit around it, no? That means, I would think, that we should be seeing regular dimming intervals, not irregular ones, as the Dyson sphere transits around the star. The answer to that, I guess, is that maybe the dimming isn’t the product of a shadow passing in front of the star but the star itself actually temporarily losing luster as energy is drained from it, like the lightbulbs in a home momentarily dimming when there’s a sudden surge of demand on the grid. That’s hard to conceptualize too, but that’s the beauty of this theory, I guess. Whatever’s happening is so freaky deaky weird that you can indulge whatever flight of fancy you like in imagining how this technology would work. Who knows? Maybe it’s a giant Death Star and dims whenever it’s firing at Alderaan or whatever the aliens’ latest target is.

The Kepler telescope no longer works so astronomers don’t know what’s been happening with KIC 8462852 lately. The next step now is to point a giant antenna at the star and see if any unusual radio signals come back. If they do, hoo boy.

Blair Shorney



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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