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Asteroid Mining: A Marker for SETI?

4 Apr 2011, 17:48 UTC
Asteroid Mining: A Marker for SETI?
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Having just finished Iain Banks’ The Player of Games, I’m thinking about the ‘orbitals’ he describes in his series of novels about the Culture, a vast, star-crossing civilization that can build space habitats in the form of massive rings. Orbitals are smaller than the kind of ‘ringworld’ Larry Niven envisioned, but huge nonetheless, bracelets of super-strong materials housing billions who live on their inner surfaces as they orbit a parent star. The visual effects Banks pulls off in describing these habitats are spectacular. And now a new paper by Duncan Forgan (University of Edinburgh) and Martin Elvis (Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) has me wondering about the kind of mining activities it would take to produce the raw materials for such constructs.
Forgan and Elvis are interested in what they describe as a multi-wavelength, multi-signal approach to SETI. We’re used to the idea of huge radio dishes listening for extraterrestrial signals, but SETI is evolving through the use of optical methods, and moving in another tangent into ways of searching for extraterrestrial artifacts on the grand scale, like Dyson spheres. Throw in our ongoing hunt for terrestrial-class exoplanets through missions like Kepler and you have a broadly based strategy open ...

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