Recently at my university Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first radio pulsars, gave a lecture on pulsars.
The LSUS College of Sciences invites you to attend "Tick, Tick, Tick Pulsating Star..." by Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell on Thursday, February 12,
2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Theater.
She concluded the lecture with the idea that one day pulsars could easily be used as a GPS, but on a galactic scale.
When I got home I decided to see if there was any info on the web about the idea. I found this: X-ray pulsar based navigation or XNAV, which is being
developed by DARPA.
X-ray Pulsar-based Navigation and Timing (XNAV) is a navigation technique whereby the periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to
determine the location of a spacecraft in deep space. A spacecraft using XNAV compares received X-ray signals with a database of known pulsar
frequencies and locations. Similar to GPS, this comparison allows the spacecraft to triangulate its position accurately.
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory to Apply Space Research Expertise to Develop Deep Space Navigation Network
The other thing that was interesting about the lecture, were the pulsars themselves. They have beams of emission just like lighthouses and the
pulsation is the most perfect clock in nature and beyond any human technology. She did note researchers are working to change that though.
When they were intially discovered people thought it might be signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.
One really fascinating thing is the size of them. Apparently they have a radius measured under 20 kilometers.
This means they are the size of an asteroid.
She also mentioned that apparently one of them, PSR B1257+12, has planets. She also mentioned they shouldn't be there. The planets shouldn't have
survived the star's expansion, especially when the star went supernova.
Between the oddities and the idea of a Galactic Positioning System, I begin wondering what if Pulsars are not natural? What if someone or something
deliberately made them?
One of the first parallels I thought of was between Neutronium, the most dense material in the universe that composes pulsars, and Computronium.
Computronium is a theoretical material that would be used in hypercomputation and the construction of theoretical stellar megastructures like Jupiter
brains (a planet sized computer) and Matrioshka brains ( a Dyson sphere sized computer).
A cold degenerate star could conceivably be used as a giant data storage device, by carefully perturbing it to various excited states, in the
same manner as an atom or quantum well used for these purposes. Such a star would have to be artificially constructed, as no natural degenerate stars
will cool to this temperature for an extremely long time. It is also possible that nucleons on the surface of neutron stars could form complex
"molecules" which some have suggested might be used for computing purposes, creating a type of computronium based on femtotechnology which
would be faster and denser than computronium based on nanotechnology.
Note the last bit about using neutron stars to create a computronium faster and denser than any using nanotechnology. Pulsars are a type of Neutron
Wouldn't it be absolutely bonkers to think this whole time the scientists were right when they discovered the first pulsars? Meaning they were right
about thinking the emissions are of extraterrestrial origin.
A galactic network of asteroid sized objects composed of a neutronium based computronium wouldn't just be fancy galactic satellites or galactic
internet nodes. The processing and memory power they would have would be far beyond any human mind or hypercomputer we could build on earth.
The craziest part of all of this is the fact that even if the pulsars are just bizarre natural objects, we, the human race, will one day use them in
the manner described above.
edited to add info about the lecture.
[edit on 28/2/09 by MikeboydUS]