posted on Feb, 19 2006 @ 07:23 PM
This whole business of 'looking for ET' puzzles me.
There's a rather good (if, IMHO, flawed) book called 'The Talk of The Galaxy' by Paul LaViolette. He bangs on a bit about how all the pulsars in
the sky are beacons pointing at us and alerting us to a coming cosmic catastrophe. In some respects I find his logic less than compelling. I think
this is a rather insignificant planet and the thought that some benevolent space brothers are arranging engineering projects of enormous power to try
and bring us a message we are too stupid to understand doesn't hold water for me.
HOWEVER. There is a great deal to be recommended in this book when he gets down to the nuts-and-bolts stuff about pulsars, the technical details of
which he explains rather well. It seems to be entirely possible, from reading this book, that pulsars actually form some sort of navigation beacon
system through the galaxy and possible form communications hubs somehow.
It might have been Frank Drake who said something like, if you want to find evidence of ETs, look for really large-scale engineering projects, things
that just don't seem natural. Where LaViolette scores big is in pointing out the scores of things about pulsars that do NOT seem natural, at all.
1. When you look at the oscilloscope read-out of a pulsar signal, what you see is a time-averaged profile. Individual pulses may look nothing like
this, but the average is very, very constant, whether over relatively few or very many pulses. Such invariance seems not at all natural.
2. This constancy of the time-averaged profile works at no matter what range of frequencies you look at. Some pulsars, for example, might have
slightly different profiles at x-ray and visible light wavelengths: yet the consistency of each will be incredibly constant.
3. The frequency of the pulses themselves is far more accurate than anything in nature.
4. More than this, each pulsar is slowing down, and the rate of this decay is again far more consistent and accurate than any known natural
phenomenon. La Violette makes the (to me) highly agreeable case that by matching output and decay rate, they could be used as navigational beacons
even by craft moving at close to lightspeed. While the apparent frequency of the pulses may change due to time dilation effects, combining output,
apparent frequency and rate of decay would allow a relativistic traveller to identify each star and use it as a navigation beacon.
5. Moreover, some pulsars have SEVERAL DIFFERENT pulse profiles, and exhibit a GRAMMAR (as he terms it) of switching between them. Let's say you
have a pulsar with profiles A, B and C. You might find, consistently, that the star switches between profiles A and B, and then occasionally switches
to profile C, but NEVER changes from C to B, only from C to A.
6. Pulsars have been known to go 'offline' for a while - up to eight hours - and emit at a much, much lower level of output; then seemingly come
back 'online' and take up again at normal output levels.
7. Some pulsars appear to have planets in orbit around them. Not only does this kick a rather large hole in the idea that pulsars exploded at some
stage in the distant past (which would tend to blast their planetary companions away from them) but many of these orbits are circular to an
extraordinary degree of accuracy, which pretty much rules out the idea of the subsequent capture of a planet. A planet falling into the gravity well
of a pulsar from outside would have a much more elliptical orbit, let alone a circular orbit precise to hundredths or even thousands of a percent
8. Some few pulsars are so-called 'millisecond' pulsars, emitting thousands of signals per second. For the standard pulsar model to be correct,
the equator of the star would need to be rotating at close to lightspeed for this to be the case.
It's also true that the first person to observe a pulsar (a woman, as I recall, which is kind of interesting as I remember a BBC program which did a
reconstruction of the moment of discovery involving two blokes in thick horn-rims and knitted jumpers with nary a female scientist in sight) nicknamed
the anomaly 'LGM-1', which stands for 'little green men'. Of course, by the time they were going to submit their paper for peer review and
publication (in Nature, if memory serves) they realised that they had to downplay the possible ET implications and came up with a model that
has been going ever since... and struggling to cope with all the extra data subsequently amassed (as in points 1-8 above).
It's a book worth checking out, I think. I know there are more points about the anomalous/artificial nature of pulsars I've missed, but I hope this
gives people some food for thought.