Using Gravitational Lensing To Transmit Power And Detect Aliens

Most of us will have at some point have bought a long power cable to charge the bike on the deck, but [Slava G. Turyshev] has a slightly more ambitious idea. In this recent paper, he outlines how an advanced civilization could use a star or two to transmit power or send signals over an interstellar distance. And his idea is also simple enough that we could do it right now, with existing technology, or detect if someone else is doing it.

Gravitational lensing is where a large mass (such as, say, a star) bends the path of light around it. That can act like a lens in a telescope, focussing light that would otherwise be impossible to see. Imagine, say, a very, very distant star and a cluster of galaxies: if things line up just right, you could see the light of a star from early in the life of the universe. [Turyshev] speculates that this effect could be used on a smaller scale to transmit power. Well, a smaller scale involving a couple of stars, that is.

The idea [Turyshev] ponders here is that if you plonked a giant laser at the right distance from a star, you could use the gravity of the star to direct the beam, creating a focus point at a certain distance. The gravity of the star acts to focus the beam. According to his work, the system gets more efficient if you take the next step and use a couple of stars to focus the beam, rather like using multiple lenses to improve a telescope, because the spreading of the beam gets smaller with multiple elements. However, [Turyshev] calcuates, this might not work because the second star also lenses the light from the first, so it would be more difficult to filter out the wanted radiation from the background noise of the first star.

The paper also raises the idea that someone might be already doing this out there, and he speculates that this might be an interesting way to contact or detect aliens. If someone is doing this to send signals or energy, then it would be possible to detect with even a moderately sized telescope. The technology is also not particularly difficult: we could, with existing technology put a signal source at the right distance from our own sun to send a message:

Concluding, we would like to mention that the results obtained here, could have a profound effect for applications aiming at interstellar power transmission. Not only we can look for transmitted signals using modern astronomical techniques, we may also transmit such signals with space-based platforms in the focal region of the solar gravitational lens (SGL) using technologies that are either extant or in active development.

[Via Universe Today]

Header: NASA Goddard Photo and Video, CC BY 2.0.

17 thoughts on “Using Gravitational Lensing To Transmit Power And Detect Aliens

    1. (Paraphrased from Mork and Mindy)… Mork – I once got pulled over for doing the Speed of Light in a Speed of Sound Zone. I would have stopped but I didn’t hear the siren until after they arrested me.

  1. From the opposite perspective, It reminds me one of the possible methods to produce the alien signal retrieved from space on the novel “his master’s voice” from Stanislaw Lem, which is similar to Seagan’s “Contact” but it was written two decades earlier and has a better ending.

  2. Why are we trying to contact the Alien Space Brothers?
    How long will it take?
    How long for a reply?
    No one’s going to be where they were at the start of this, in fact no one was where they thought they were at the start of it.
    Back to square one: WHY?

  3. “Most of us will have at some point have bought a long power cable to charge the bike on the deck”

    I must admit I have no idea what Richard is trying to say here. What bike and what deck?

  4. There was a trilogy of books featuring variations of a theme – this theme, I don’t recall by who, two of which were “Time” and “Space”… in one of these books alien artifacts were found at the gravitational focal points of the lensing phenomenon, like 1000AU out, opposite what ended up as destination stars for a Stargate-like transport network that disassembles the original…. traveler and sends them to another device similarly located in another star system as information. This of course didn’t violate light speed, so travelers ended up skipping forward in time as they were “transmitted”, eventually to the “heat death” of the Universe.

    This premise of course falls apart in reality by the logic that stars are all moving relative to each other and the network nodes in each system would have to maintain position at the focal points opposite their targets in a non-orbital manner without propulsion.

    1. I don’t know your books. But in my head-cannon for them now the travelers are initially devastated realizing they have reached the heat death of the universe and there is nothing left for them. Then they realize they can keep going. They do so. There is another big bang. They keep going. Everything repeats. They end up back in a repeat of the very time they started the journey with all their loved ones, acquaintances and everything just like they remember.

      Maybe they briefly contemplate whether this is their real home, their real loved ones, etc.. or if they are even farther from home than ever. But they quickly realize even thinking about that is pointless and just go on with their lives.

      Basically it’s Futurama.

  5. We will never be able to contact anyone more advanced than us.
    Any advanced aliens will absolutely not want to associate with a primitive undeveloped mass of beings.
    They will simply not pick up and send it to spam.
    We will only be able to make contact with similar level aliens.

    1. That’s not true of humans, so why would it be true of aliens? For instance, more developed countries use less developed countries for raw materials and unskilled labour. We also use lower life forms for food and beasts of burden.

      None of these scenarios are pleasant for humans, ht they don’t entail that we won’t be able to contact aliens.

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