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Weekend Feature: A "Third Realm" --Alien Technology Could Exist That's Beyond Matter

Lores
Much of the current thinking about advanced extraterrestrial life that may be a million to a billion years more advanced that the human species, depicts life forms that have evolved into intelligent AI-powered machines. Even Stephen Hawking has recently asked "Why isn't the Milky 

SETI chief astronomer, Seth Shostak says: "If you look at the timescales for the development of technology, at some point you invent radio and then you go on the air and then we have a chance of finding you," he told BBC News."But within a few hundred years of inventing radio - at least if we're any example - you invent thinking machines; we're probably going to do that in this century. So you've invented your successors and only for a few hundred years are you... a 'biological' intelligence."

But what if advanced super-intelligent life is no longer matter based? What id they exist at a higher level concept than matter. Are matter and information all there is? asks Paul Davies, physicist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University. Five hundred years ago,he says, the very concept of a computer, a device manipulating information, or software, would have been incomprehensible. Might there still be a higher level he asks as yet outside all human experience that organizes information in the same way that information-processing organizes electrons."

Davies envisions an alien technology that: Is not made of matter; has no fixed size or shape; has no well-defined boundaries or topology; is dynamical on all scales of space and time; or, conversely, does not appear to do anything at all that we can discern; does not consist of discrete, separate things; rather, it is a system, a subtle higher-level of things.

This alien technology is "nature plus." Technology is in the broadest sense according to Davies, mind or intelligence or purpose blending with nature. It's technology that harnesses the laws of physics; it does not override them. To say that a radio or a laser or a monolith on the Moon is "unnatural," doesn't mean it isn't part of nature; it's nature plus.

Just as quantum weirdness is detected only with special apparatus, so alien technology might go undetected and unsuspected --it may exist in a realm beyond current human capabilities and evolution. A third, or fourth, or fifth realm millions of years evolved beyond the age of homo sapiens.
The image at the top of page shows the nuclear region of the galaxy NGC 4151 about 1000 light-years across. Blue is radio emission, green is optical emission from ionized oxygen as seen with the Hubble Space Telescope, and red is X-ray emission as seen by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The X-ray data represent the first such fine-scale X-ray imaging of an extreme galaxy nucleus.

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