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Thermonuclear Arecibo Message

Can you hear us now?
  (+28, -2)(+28, -2)(+28, -2)
(+28, -2)
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The SETI project revolves around the major question, "Is there anybody out there?" personified by the Fermi Paradox. If you have not read this most depressing concept, it boils down to Dr. Enrico Fermi saying that according to the raw math, the universe is large enough to promote the seemingly random conditions required for intelligent life. If that is the case, "Where are they?" The paradox goes on to answer this question like this:

1. They do not exist. We are alone.

2. They do exist, but for whatever reason we are not able to communicate with or detect them.

There are a multitude of reasons for the second postulate, and Fermi explored many of them. I want to focus on the issue of communication. In 1974, the Arecibo Radio Observatory beamed a message containing a variety of basic information about us (DNA structure, math, location in space, etc), arranged in 1679 binary digits. It was beamed out to the globular star cluster M13, and will take a long time to get there. One of the major questions in the Fermi Paradox concerns whether or not radio emissions are used by any ET lifeforms. If radio is not used, then we may be whispering into the wind.

I suggest that we put the "enduring stockpile" of American nuclear weapons to good use. According to available data, there are over 5,000 strategic warheads in the stockpile without delivery mechanisms, having been torn out of missile installations, etc.

We build a spaceprobe, load it up with the spare nukes, and call it "Superman 4". But instead of launching it into the sun, we launch it in such a way that it leaves our solar system in a couple of decades. Once far enough away, the probe releases the nuclear weapons, dropping them one after another and spacing them out according to minimum safe distances. When the last warhead is released, onboard atomic clocks synchronize and detonate the bombs in a _very specific_ sequence, effectively encoding the Arecibo message in a series of megaton thermonuclear explosions.

What will this achieve? Aside from the nifty fireworks, it will release a large radio pulse, as well as light (if anyone is looking for that). There may be effects of atomic detonations we haven't discovered yet, effects that if manipulated deliberately, might raise a few eyebrows elsewhere. If they even have eyebrows. Either way, it would be a much better use of the nukes than what they were intended for, kinda like Ulam's Project Orio

tourist, Mar 20 2006


       Whew - that's long winded enough to be the politician's speech to announce the program :) But stated briefly - use old nukes to encode explosions for SETI in deep space.   

       Cool idea - I like it. [+]   

       Heck - I'd like the idea of just setting off a bunch of nukes in deep space for the fireworks effect. It would be cool to see.
rossgk, Mar 20 2006

       "Commander, we have detected evidence of a deep space battle in the Terran system".   

       "Ready the battlewagons, we must make a preemptive strike to protect our peaceful society from those warlike monkeys".
normzone, Mar 20 2006

       Shades of the season finale of Battlestar Gallactica.
DrCurry, Mar 20 2006

       I like this idea in so many different ways. You actually had me with the title.
bungston, Mar 21 2006

       "Holy buckets, I knew those Earthlings were nuts, but this takes the cake! Nonintervention smonintervention, we need to sterilize that planet before it's too late!"   

DarkEnergy, Mar 21 2006

       "hMM - them humans like big talk. Let us send same message back with series of generated supernovas! Ha Ha!"
bungston, Mar 21 2006

       Is that what's going on at the galactic core?
normzone, Mar 21 2006

       Instead of a carefully encoded binary message, can we just write very slowly: "HELLO! YOU SPEAKY ENGLISH? WE NO UNDERSTANDY!"
wagster, Mar 21 2006

       / Is that what's going on at the galactic core? /   

       I am sure the codebreakers were all over it when they detected pulsars back in the (1980s?). I wonder what sort of signals they hand over to the codebreakers. Freeform pattern recognition is a tough task for artificial intelligence. This topic made me think of that great scene in Contact when the blind scientist realizes there is a different pattern beneath the series of prime numbers they detected, and they start trying to deciper it.
bungston, Mar 21 2006

       That film was *such* a copout. The hero deciphers the secrets of the universe, then gets nothing but an alien disguised as her *dead father*?! Give me a break!
DrCurry, Mar 21 2006

       Will it not create a black hole? I don't know much about black holes, so I'm just asking. As long as it does not create a black hole, you have my approval to go ahead with this.
django, Mar 24 2006

       In that case we have your approval.
wagster, Mar 24 2006

       thats good news!
po, Mar 24 2006

       Horton hears a... HOLY XXXX!!!
James Newton, Mar 24 2006

       //Will it not create a black hole? I don't know much about black holes, so I'm just asking. As long as it does not create a black hole, you have my approval to go ahead with this.//   

       No danger of a black hole. Our sun won't even end up as a black hole, and a few thousand nukes are just a drop in the ocean compared to that.
DarkEnergy, Mar 25 2006

       Damn, I had this idea as well, I had this idea to make a story where Aliens saw the nuclear blasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that is how they located earth, and are invading Earth now, because it took all that time for the light to reach them, and them to travel here. :P   

       Good idea :D
EvilPickels, Mar 25 2006

       All I saw was a cloud over the explosion. What makes you think there was any discernable light escaping into the universe? I would grant you that electromagnetic pulses might be another matter.
jurist, Mar 26 2006

       /All I saw was a cloud over the explosion. What makes you think there was any discernable light escaping into the universe?/   

       that bright flash does not sit around twiddling its thumbs while the cloud forms.
bungston, Mar 26 2006

       Right, [bungston]. Who could argue with that?
jurist, Mar 26 2006

       Am I old enough to swear, [jurist]?
wagster, Mar 26 2006

       There's been no comment here on whether or not an atomic flash would even be visible, on the planet or off it. Given that I've heard people talk about a hurricane releasing more energy than a nuclear bomb, I'm not so sure that the blast itself would be visible from a planet.   

       Shoemaker Levy crashing into Jupiter released 750 times the worl'd nuclear arsenal, but it wouldn't likely be visible from outside the solar system.
theircompetitor, Mar 26 2006

       I have read that the significance of a radio signal hinges more on how artificial it is, not the size of it. So for example, the many mercury vapor lights we have are a sign of intelligent life, because the generated spectrum has no natural parallel. I am sure signals comparable to the impact of a comet happen all the time.
bungston, Mar 26 2006

       oh, yeah, comet impacts happen. As does nuclear fusion, in those bright objects in the middle of their solar systems :)   

       In all seriousness, IF the blasts are detectable, then having multiple ones in any kind of short term (i.e. not a billion years) sequence from the same spot would have already been noticed, since at least the Bikini experiment, and the aliens are already on the way
theircompetitor, Mar 26 2006

       Boom! Yay! Aliens! Yay!   

       How old is young master Pickels?
notmarkflynn, Mar 27 2006

       //can intelligent lifeforms only be detected between the time they invent computers to the time they invent strong cryptography ...//   

       The other theory is that aliens can only be detected from when they invent radios to not very long after they invent really big bombs.
spidermother, Mar 27 2006


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