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Water Detected At Record Distance From Earth

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the a-long-time-ago-in-a-galaxy-far-far-away dept.

Space 104

Matt_dk writes with news that scientists have detected water in a galaxy 11.5 billion light-years from Earth. Evidence came in the form of emissions from water masers around a quasar at the center of the galaxy. Detection at such a large distance was made possible by a closer, intervening galaxy which acted as a gravitational lens. "'We were only able to discover this distant water with the help of the gravitational lens,' said Violette Impellizzeri, an astronomer with the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. 'This cosmic telescope reduced the amount of time needed to detect the water by a factor of about 1,000,' she added. The astronomers first detected the water signal with the Effelsberg telescope. They then turned to the VLA's sharper imaging capability to confirm that it was indeed coming from the distant galaxy. The gravitational lens produces not one, but four images of MG J0414+0534 as seen from Earth. Using the VLA, the scientists found the specific frequency attributable to the water masers in the two brightest of the four lensed images. The other two lensed images, they said, are too faint for detecting the water signal. The radio frequency emitted by the water molecules was Doppler shifted by the expansion of the Universe from 22.2 GHz to 6.1 GHz."

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One Million Dollars (1)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191469)

If you don't give me *one million* dollars, I'll use my *maser* on all of mankind. (evil laugh)

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26191471)

Wake me up when they detect booz.

Re:Meh (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191881)

Wake me up when they detect booze.

Come fly with me, let's fly let's fly away,
If you can use some exotic booze, there's a bar in a far galaxy.

Re:Meh (3, Funny)

pohl (872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192339)

Wake me up when they detect booz.

Pssst....hey...wake up! [harvard.edu] .

Get some priorities! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26191483)

Filthy, barbaric Muslims are killing good, honest Christians right here on this planet, and all you can think about is water being found billions of miles away? Get some priorities!

Re:Get some priorities! (3, Insightful)

seededfury (699094) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191671)

Filthy, barbaric Christians and Muslims are killing good, honest Humans right here on this planet, and all you can think about is water being found billions of miles away? Get some priorities!

Fixed that for you asshole.

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192015)

Idiot jew, please refrain from corrupting slashdot with inane, idiotic, insipid insinuations about religions. keep to the science. This is a great discovery!

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26196379)

"Idiot Jew?"

You're doing nothing but proving his thesis.

His timing might not have been great but the biggest tragedy in all of this is that you were born.

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192059)

Filthy, barbaric Humans are killing good, honest Humans right here on this planet, and all you can think about is water being found billions of miles away? Get some priorities!

Fixed that for you asshole.

Fixed that for you asshole.

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26193649)

Filthy, barbaric Humans are killing good, honest Humans right here on this planet, and all you can think about is water being found billions of miles away? Get some priorities!

Fixed that for you asshole.

Fixed that for you asshole.

Fixed your asshole for you. Wait.. what?

Re:Get some priorities! (1)

rutter (1430885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195063)

Can someone explain to me why this was modded insightful on slashdot?

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26195467)

Because it isn't obvious enough that Muslims aren't the only murderers around. This eye-opening thought struck a chord in whomever modded insightful.

Re:Get some priorities! (2, Insightful)

Samah (729132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197141)

Filthy, barbaric Humans are killing good, honest Humans right here on this planet, and all you can think about is water being found billions of miles away? Get some priorities!

Fixed again. People of other faiths (and those with none) are just as guilty. Violence and barbarism are human nature, despite best intentions.

Re:Get some priorities! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199217)

That's simple. It's because "faith" is another word for a kind of mild but generally accepted schizophrenic disease. It spreads especially well in a combination of a environment that is too horrible to accept, and stupid minds.

Be aware that those Humans are victims themselves. The causes are mostly wars and poverty.

The reasons for wars and poverty come from the basic struggle for limited resources, in order to win in natural selection.
So if you want to stop wars, you either have to add nearly unlimited resources, or stop natural selection.
Latter would be a very bad thing, because this would mean no further evolution / development.

Be aware, that resources, struggle, wars and so on can still exist in other contexts. For example: We already have a context. The context of our thoughts. These are so complex, that ideas and concepts fight for mind space, and can be seen as life forms on a different level.

Maybe one time, when we travel the galaxies, only our minds, ideas and concepts will do so, and this will be, what science-fiction authors meant, when they wrote about the ascension of a species.
I, for one, want to welcome myself as a free-mind-overlord, as soon as possible! :D

It is a priority (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26204935)

Filthy, barbaric Christians and Muslims are killing good, honest Humans right here on this planet, and all you can think about is water being found billions of miles away? Get some priorities!

Why have a bunch of good honest Christians and decent Muslims killing a bunch of barbarians on just the earth, when there is a whole universe to conquer? Now that we know that water is everywhere, its a good sign when we travel to the edge of the universe, we will be able to be baptised again as we refocus our zeal to continue the slaughter of the pagans anew!

Re:Get some priorities! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26191683)

Idiot, if we don't find new sources of water how are we supposed to continue the waterboarding?

Re:Get some priorities! (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26193975)

Which begs the question, are any galaxies emitting spectra characteristic of plastic wrap?

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26195641)

RAISES THE QUESTION

Re:Get some priorities! (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195933)

Yeah, its "raises" the question too be precise.

Re:Get some priorities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26196277)

Yeah, it's "to be precise," to be precise.
-
|> der

Umm... (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196367)

I guess that joke was a little to subtle...

Re:Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26203559)

Ohhh. Der's on me, friend. Der's on me.

The H2O in All of Us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26191509)

"Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink."

Re:The H2O in All of Us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192013)

Ya fucked it up stupid.

That's nice (0)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191583)

but my refrigerator is closer if I want a drink.

Water means life? (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191605)

We try to think about life as it may exist outside of our planet and solar system, but we always run into the problem of defining the term life. Because of our limited understanding, we search for pockets of water, which ought to at least provide a certain frame of reference close to our own in which we could find something that resembles life as we know it.

But we may also be overlooking life that we just don't understand and haven't the means to detect yet. Life as a system of planets, taking millenia to process a single thought. Life as rapidly integrating and disintegrating iron meshes on the surface of stars, communicating electrically and going through thousands of generations in seconds.

Finding water at these distances isn't so much the search for alternate worlds to habitate when we lose our Earth, it is much more a search for life similar to ours. But perhaps, I wonder, we are missing a whole range of other life in the universe due to our lack of capacity to imagine other types of life.

Re:Water means life? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26191783)

Not really. Our understanding of life is grounded firmly in chemistry and physics, which are literally universal. You science-fiction wankery is entirely beside the point.

Re:Water means life? (1)

lazynomer (1375283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191867)

And your understanding of chemistry and physics is such that you know for certain that no chemical and physical processes are possible that give rise to mechanisms unlike any on Earth, though we might still call them life? If you know all humans are based on DNA, which has universal rules, do you know every person on Earth?

Yes to your first question. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199099)

Our of knowledge and physics has a foundation in mathematics, mathematics concepts do not change just because you relocate to other parts of the Universe.

As for the second, I don't know what you are smoking, but seems to be very good.

Re:Water means life? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191895)

You science-fiction wankery is entirely beside the point.

Naive people who are threatened by science and therefore revel in fantasies of its ignorance will mod him up. That is the point.

Re:Water means life? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192467)

Naive people who are threatened by science and therefore revel in fantasies of its ignorance will mod him up.

Well, I'm a PhD student in bioinformatics -- are you going to tell me that I'm "naive" or "threatened by science?" And I though what he had to say was pretty interesting.

Re:Water means life? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192981)

Yes.

By all means, add your supposed credibility to the orignal poster's handwavium. Why don't you explain how such things might come about?

Re:Water means life? (1)

weetabeex (1065032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194211)

I don't mean to be captain obvious, but just because one understands fenomena one way, it surelly doesn't mean there is no other way to perceive it.

My whole point being, the current state of science may allow us to understand biology, chemistry, physics in such a way we verify it as being universal, but nevertheless, what we perceive as universal may only be a subset of each field. One should not label something as impossible just because the current state of science does not contemplate it.

Re:Water means life? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194985)

Having fun moving those goalposts around?

You wrote specifically of "naive people threatened by science." I am neither naive nor threatened by science, and most likely, neither are the people who modded OP up. If you claim otherwise, you need to back it up. Neither I nor anyone else is obliged to get into a specific discussion of possible mechanisms until you justify what you wrote.

Re:Water means life? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199377)

Goalposts? This is Popperball and you joined the losing team.

Until you can establish any scientific credibility for the OP's sci-fi cliches, I say you're a Romantic who values mystery over certainty, awe over understanding, a jealous non-rationalist who hates how scientific knowledge is immune to rhetorical attack and how it relentlessly shatters all your cozy wish fulfilling fantasies born of ignorance.

Falsify or GTFO. Your every whine is evidence for my assertion.

Re:Water means life? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195027)

Dark matter couples to regular matter only gravitationally, so we know next to nothing about it. For all we know dark matter might couple to itself with its own forces analogous to electromagnetism etc. so that it can "see" itself in ways we cannot. If that were the case and "dark matter life" were possible, it would be on a separate channel of sorts and we wouldn't be able to observe it.

Or maybe these guys are thinking of "organisms" millions of light years across based on gravitational interactions between galaxies or black holes instead of atoms and molecules. My imagination is getting taxed at this point; I'm sure someone can think of something even more bonkers.

Science fiction is very interesting. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199111)

But I think sane people understand the word fiction pretty well...

Re:Water means life? (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192007)

Not really. Our understanding of life is grounded firmly in chemistry and physics, which are literally universal.

That statement suggests an ignorance of the fundamentals of science. Our understanding of chemistry and physics is indeed used to describe the life we observe on Earth. There is nothing in that understanding that suggests what properties of chemistry or physics might be employed by life off the earth, or how similar or dissimilar it might be to life on the earth.

We look for water-based life, because we have an idea what it might look like. We expect we would recognize it if we see it. But it is irrational to assume that all or most life must be water-based. There is no factual evidence to make such conclusions from. In the observation of life, we thus far have one single planetary data point.

Re:Water means life? (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192233)

But it is irrational to assume that all or most life must be water-based.

I wouldn't say that. Water's pretty handy when it comes to making stuff. Same with carbon. Read all about it here. [wikipedia.org] I'm not saying lifeforms based on something else are verifiably impossible, but if there's life out there, odds are it is water and carbon based. Of course, some electric lifeform or black cloud or whatever could be common outside our little system, but at this point that's even more speculative.

Re:Water means life? (2, Insightful)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194183)

You can surmise a lot about what's possible elsewhere by what's possible here. Unless there's some other periodic table when you get far enough away, there's not much you can do without carbon. No other element has its propensity to share electrons instead of stealing them; molecules composed of other atoms (like silicon, the most plausible replacement) don't get very complex before they start falling apart. And we see interstellar spectra of complex molecules with C-C and C=C bonds everywhere.

Water may or may not be essential but its ubiquity probably renders the question moot. Its only real competitor is ammonia, but ammonia is a liquid at such low temperatures that biochemical reactions would be reduced to an absolute crawl.

Re:Water means life? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192435)

Our understanding of life is grounded firmly in chemistry and physics, which are literally universal. You science-fiction wankery is entirely beside the point.

Our understanding of the life we have observed to date is grounded in a very specific type of chemistry and physics. Sneer at it as "science-fiction wankery" all you want (and really, a phrase like that is a pretty strong indicator that you have nothing useful to say on the topic) but there is nothing in our understanding of chemistry and physics -- both of which go well beyond biochemistry and biophysics, BTW -- which rules out the types of life GPP has proposed.

Re:Water means life? (1)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194597)

While yes, you could imagine other forms of biochemistry out there, the fact that we are focusing efforts on forms of life as we know it isn't a lack of imagination, it's just good scientific practice. You work with the data you can get. It just so happens that the most common elements [wikipedia.org] in the universe interact in productive ways that we know about based on the liquid state of water, itself comprised of the first and third most common elements in the whole shebang. That's the stuff of science, not fiction. Hey, I love science fiction, but it's the hard work to get tested observations and reproducible results to then draw conclusions that separates scientists from, say, "intelligent design" hacks.

Re:Water means life? (2, Insightful)

beh (4759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194869)

Two issues here - looking for water is a good thing because we KNOW that water is important for a whole lot of lifeforms that we happen to know (i.e. all life on earth).

What we do NOT know is whether a planet with water will automatically 'produce' life in some form or other.

Separately, we do not know, whether other chemical compounds can also give rise to life - but in that case, life that isn't based on water and light - both of which are important to the human existence.

Your 'science-wankery' aside - up to a few years back, we thought we 'knew' that life needs both light and water - because all life on earth that we knew about needed both. We also 'knew' that a temperate climate is important for life...

Strangely enough, since then, mankind has found life near hydrothermal vents in deep sea that defy our picture of what's needed - there's still water around, but it's very very sulfurous - too much so for our tastes (or even our survival) and these are too deep to get any light at all.

The fact these creatures are just 'worms' and 'crabs' doesn't automatically preclude evolution to sentient beings further down the line either, because we simply do not know when and how sentience forms...

Science can help us explain certain things that we observe, and can help us speculate about things we have not (yet) observed - but simply saying 'anything but light and ph-neutral water and a limit temperature span precludes life' isn't more than unfounded rants against SF either - science fiction can't prove the existence of say 'silicon' based creatures or gas based creatures, but science can't 'prove' they're absolutely impossible either. The only thing it can do is rule out that certain combinations of it aren't 'alive' (e.g. just a block of pure iron with nothing else, isn't alive - I would tend to think that is likely a universal truth; but, heck, depending on what combinations of materials will come together in whatever circumstances that we just haven't witnessed in our solar system)

Re:Water means life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26200619)

Not really. Our understanding of life is grounded firmly in chemistry and physics, which are literally universal. You science-fiction wankery is entirely beside the point.

Then you need to explain how we didn't believe life could be found in "extreme environments" because of the "chemistry and physics".. and wa-la! Thriving biospheres in the harshest of places, with environments thought by the "chemistry and physics" of the day to be poisonous to all life.

Simply put, the explanation is that humans DO need to EXPERIENCE things and then put their marvelous minds to work to EXPLAIN WHAT THEY ARE SEEING. After awhile, humans can use their "chemistry and physics" to predict things very accurately, but there will always be a need to OBSERVE the EXPERIENCE, MEASURE, ANALYZE, TUNE the numbers... "rinse lather repeat".

This is doubly so when it comes to life. Science-fiction "wankery" indeed. Ask someone just 20 years ago if bacteria could live inside a nuclear reactor. Until people LOOKED, the "chemistry and physics" said that this was impossible.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,894282,00.html?promoid=googlep

Re:Water means life? (1)

lazynomer (1375283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191829)

Stanislaw Lem said it best (regarding SF). And it was something like this: When we look for alien life far away we are really looking for life similar to us, because we want to extend the boundaries of Earth. The aliens could be a little different from us, so we have something to look up to/down on, but we are only interested in what is basically our mirror. He also said truly alien life would be completely unfathomable. If someone can do a better job quoting him, feel free to correct me.

I guess there are similarities to the basic premises in real-life science you mentioned.

Re:Water means life? (1)

explodymatt (1408163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191873)

If it's that close to a quasar I don't think it's gunna have much in the way of life. At least no life based on water.

Re:Water means life? (3, Insightful)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192613)

Anything is possible.

In very broad terms I'd guess that the folks looking for life would be starting with a baseline of what we know today..or at least what can be extrapolated from what we know today.

I'm not a PhD, or a scientist by any means. Just a simple software developer. But having a logical thought process I know that in an investigation, you need to start somewhere. And that somewhere is with us, and how we exist.

 

Re:Water means life? (5, Interesting)

bradbury (33372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192839)

The points here are valid. Robert Freitas wrote a book (Xenology) nearly 30 years ago which explored how other life forms might develop and evolve. I am sure that an even more expansive discussion on the topic could be written now. The "water" phase period for intelligent life forms may well vary, but it is not a requirement for non-water based start-ups (covered in Xenology) or post-water based existences, e.g. Dyson shells or their more sophisticated derivatives (Matrioshka Brains).

It is a shame that current physicists are using valuable resources to search for "life" within such a limited framework. When we have available concepts of non-water-staged life and post-water-staged life upon which we can draw. It can even be argued that the "water-state" basis of life is a minimal state in the Universe. (Given that Matrioshka Brains have lifetimes that may exceed even those of stars.)

Re:Water means life? (2)

Smauler (915644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26193109)

All ideas about non-water based life is pure speculation. There is absolutely 0 evidence for it. Water based life is fact. The very fact that we cannot produce life in a lab ourselves kind of precludes us from speculating with any authority in which environments life could be created, I think. All we know is that it can be created in water... that's why we focus on water.

Re:Water means life? (1)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 5 years ago | (#26193725)

The parent is right, and certainly not a troll!

  We still don't know all of the details of how life emerged on earth, but it appears to have required some very specific chemistry. Something-like-RNA bases meet the requirements for abiogenesis (a non-biological origin for life):
* capable of catalyzing it's own reproduction
* versatile enough to adopt novel catalytic activity and replicate *with the novel activity intact* (by base pairing)
* produced in fair abundance in the chemistry seen on a young planet

  It's *possible* that something other than carbon aromatics in a polar solvent might fit the bill, we certainly don't know enough physical chemsitry to rule it out. But to the extent that we have any evidence on this topic at all, RNA appears to be unique. So we are we looking for (liquid) water.

  I also have a question - is this *liquid* water we're talking about, or ice or water vapor? Under what conditions does water mase? Because finding H2O in some form in distant galaxies is not particularly surprising - it's cool that we can confirm it's there, but hydrogen and oxygen aren't exactly rare, on a galactic scale.

Re:Water means life? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194909)

Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) has been hypothesized as an alternative to RNA for abiogenesis. Personally I don't buy it; the RNA world hypothesis looks more plausible. We don't find PNA in any living thing anywhere.

Re:Water means life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26199089)

All ideas about non-water based life is pure speculation. There is absolutely 0 evidence for it.

Hear, hear.

While we're at it, let's all remember that things like Dyson spheres and Matrioska brains are ALSO pure speculation; the idea that they're necessarily possible is nonsensical already (they may well be, but they just as well may not - we have absolutely none of the knowledge that'd be required to even so much as make an educated guess), but to assume, as many seem to do, that they are not only necessary but that any advanced civilisation will NECESSARILY use technology like that is absolutely harebrained.

Re:Water means life? (1)

vinlud (230623) | more than 5 years ago | (#26200045)

It is a shame that current physicists are using valuable resources to search for "life" within such a limited framework.

Its a shame somebody gets modded up that much on /. for such an unconstructive post, not giving any idea how the very scarce resources of our physicists should be assigned and what your framework in such a quest would be.

Re:Water means life? (1)

bradbury (33372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26202347)

There are at least 3 ways to search for Matrioshka Brains.

1. Mid-to-Far IR surveys. But they require liquid He cooling and don't last very long. The last good survey that was done was with the IRAS satellite in 1983. I first started to look at that data about 7 years ago but had to set it aside for more pressing priorities. Richard Carrigan, is a Physicist at Fermilab and has recently done the work of going through the data and has some interesting candidates [1]. But he is searching for Dyson Shells (improperly named "Dyson Spheres") and is using somewhat different parameters for his search (Matrioshka Brains do not have "liquid water" and Earth like temperatures that the habitats envisioned by Dyson need.) A very mature Matrioshka Brain can be very large and have a temperature approaching the ambient environment (in most of the universe ~3-20K). The IRAS data was obviously not intended for reconstructing black body curves of objects. To improve this physicists could put more effort into the development of massive IR detector arrays (bolometers or similar) with millions of "pixels" and launch a "permanent" IR survey satellite (or plan a "permanent" IR observatory, perhaps on the back side of the moon).

2. Convince the gravitational microlensing astromers that some of the microlensing events they are observing could be caused by Matrioshka Brains (or Dyson Shells). I went to 2 international microlensing conferences in an attempt to do this and the microlensing physicists would hear none of it. (Whatever is causing the events must be "natural" and it must be something we have encountered before (K or M class stars for example) it *certainly* can't be the result of intelligent life forms from civilizations much older than ours.)

3. Start using the data from any of the surveys being done to do "occultation astronomy". This will kind of fall out of the searches for exoplanets as well as searches for near earth asteroids. But nobody to my knowledge is pooling information from multiple surveys over time to either track MBrains through a galaxy or determine the rate at which stars go dark (which sets limits on the abundance of civilizations making the transition from our (water phase based on "natural" evolution) state of development to a post-nanotechnology, largely machine/AI/uploaded phase where the civilization has a whole different set of constraints from what we typically consider. If my current efforts to produce pristine stem cells are as successful as I hope, then I may retire again and work on this part of the problem (by then open access to the astronomy databases and computers fast enough to deal all of the data may be available to make this work).

Another useful activity would be to get the "old school" SETI proponents together and convince them that the primary basis for most of their ideas (radio or optical signals) are completely out-of-date with the technologies that we know advanced civilizations will have (molecular nanotechnology and a huge amount of computational capacity at their disposal). Until one gets more people thinking along those lines then much of the efforts of SETI researchers and many astrobiologists may be misdirected. Milan Cirkovic is a physicist/astronomer from Yugoslavia who has published several papers over the last couple of years (one with me) attempting to promote re-thinking the "old" SETI perspective but its like trying to paddle against the current of a rather fast river.

Does that provide enough meat to allow me to keep the modded up status? :-)

Also, of interest for people might be Damien Broderick's collection of provocative papers "Year Million" loosely organized around what life might be like in the year 1,000,000. Several of the chapters, including one by myself, deal with the topic of Matrioshka Brains. I did not write the Wikipedia page on Matrioshka Brains, but have offered a few "steering" comments. That page has a link to my site which has the original ideas as well as a number of related sites.

References:
1. http://arxiv.org/abs/0811.2376 [arxiv.org]

Re:Water means life? (1)

BradleyAndersen (1195415) | more than 5 years ago | (#26201783)

Since the referenced text was not publicly distributed until recently, this link might be helpful for anyone interested in it: http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm [xenology.info]

Re:Water means life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26202443)

Normally I don't post but this is a getting a little silly. I wasn't aware what a "Matrioshka Brain" was so I went to wikipedia to take a look. Are you seriously suggesting that we should spend our limited resources looking for hypothetical star sized brain with a lifetime in the billions of years? Even such a thing exists, which is pure unadulterated dreaming, it seems logical to think it A) doesn't care or B.) doesn't want to be seen. I love sci-fi as much as the next guy, but come on! -- Esteban

Re:Water means life? (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26204987)

It is a shame that current physicists are using valuable resources to search for "life" within such a limited framework. When we have available concepts of non-water-staged life and post-water-staged life upon which we can draw.

We have available concepts of exotic forms of life, yes. Speculation on paper. Science fiction. Who knows, they might work out. On the other hand, we have a working example of water-based life. We know that plan works.

If exotic life exists in the Galaxy, what should we be looking for? We know how Earth chemistry works, so we know what chemicals to look for in the spectrum of a planet's atmosphere - we'll know such a living planet when we see one. But let there be a planet bearing replicating structures - life - so alien that they don't use water or oxygen or carbon dioxide. How will we recognise its signature in the sky? Where do we even begin?

As for any Kardashev 2+ civilisation: they should be obvious. They're capturing the full power of their sun, so they have a star's worth of heat to radiate away. Then you're looking for something with the luminosity of a main sequence star, but in the infrared, diffused around the outer radiating surface of whatever megastructure that civilisation uses, and lacking the distinctive spectroscopic fingerprint of a stellar atmosphere. As a matter of fact, there's a whole lot of infrared astronomy going on at the moment; lot of data being gathered, mass surveys of large slices of sky. I wonder if it might be worth programming something to troll through all the raw images for such an object, if only as a cool hacker project?

Re:Water means life? (1)

Haoie (1277294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26193273)

That's as limited as our perception of the universe gets.

We can only describe [and ascribe] life in terms of what we can experience.

The water is probably gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26191623)

If the galaxy was 11.5 billion light years from earth, water existed there 11.5 billion years ago. The galaxy may not even exist now.

Re:The water is probably gone (1)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191709)

Ah, that's a good point. And to think, I was only minutes away from pressing the big, red "launch" button on my spacecraft to fly myself over there for a drink.

Re:The water is probably gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26193657)

So what you're saying is it's a mirage.

Radio Telescope Effelsberg (2, Interesting)

lazynomer (1375283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191725)

You might wonder why TFA calls a 100m-radio telescope 'giant'. That's because the radio telescope Effelsberg [wikipedia.org] is fully steerable and was/nearly is the largest such telescope.

It's also a pretty cool sight when you drive through this quaint hilly region and suddenly come across this friggin' huge satellite dish. (Pic in German version of article gives better overview.)

Re:Radio Telescope Effelsberg (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194547)

It's also difficult to make such a dish that's suitably strong; the American one built in the 1950s collapsed in 1988. Here's a photo [nrao.edu] .

This just in: chemistry still works (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191739)

If you were paying any attention at all in high school chemistry, you know that hydrogen and oxygen like each other quite a lot. Next we'll be getting all excited because we found table salt at interstellar distances.

Re:This just in: chemistry still works (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191803)

Finding table salt would be a huge step in our understanding of the universe. Not only would finding an actual table be indicative of intelligent life, but finding the salt in those little glass bottles would be frankly amazing.

Re:This just in: chemistry still works (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192025)

Well, if it's iodized table salt, that would be something.

Re:This just in: chemistry still works (1)

Dolda2000 (759023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192677)

To be honest, that in itself is probably worthy of notice. It is not a self-evident truth that all the laws of physics work exactly the same throughout the entire universe. There have, for example, been quite a few theories that have postulated that some of the fundamental constants may vary over space and/or time.

Therefore, just the confirmation that chemistry actually does seem work the same 11 billion years ago on the other side of the known universe is certainly not worthless knowledge. It may also have provided some knowledge about how long it takes for oxygen to accumulate in the evolution of a galaxy (though that may well have been known previously).

Furthermore, of course, it is a great verification of our observational capacity. Though the existence of water may not have been unexpected, our ability to observe it is quite something to marvel at, if I may say so.

How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191863)

The radio frequency emitted by the water molecules was Doppler shifted by the expansion of the Universe from 22.2 GHz to 6.1 GHz.

Okay, this is what I've never understood. We're sitting here on Earth and we see through our telescopes an electromagnetic wave at frequency X. If you're told, "Actually the galaxy that emitted that wave is moving away from us at Y km/s." Then I get how you can use that to figure out the original "real" frequency of that wave... But if the only information you have here on Earth is X, how can you use that to figure out both how fast the source is moving away from us and what the original frequency was?

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

lazynomer (1375283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191915)

IANAP, but I guess the answer is hydrogen. You can pretty much count on it, whereever you look. You know the hydrogen spectrum, which is like fingerprint, without Doppler shift, so if you see a distorted version, you can determine the distortion, i.e. Doppler shift. When you know this, you can transform the distorted signal into undistorted information, and then recognise water and what have you.

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

lazynomer (1375283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191963)

I forgot: So it's like a known plaintext attack: Detected spectrum=encrypted message, redshift=encryption algorithm, known plaintext=hydrogen spectrum in laboratory/inertial frame of reference, full spectrum in lab=plaintext

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

explodymatt (1408163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191985)

That's a pretty good analogy really. Also, your encryption algorithm is (original frequency) x z.

I think I'm on to something here, I'm going to enter that SHA-3 competition

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

lazynomer (1375283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192109)

Excellent. Let me contribute the abstract for your paper: Imagine two unseen cars in a race are moving towards you. You recognise the unmistakeable sound of a Porsche, even when it's doppler-shifted. Now you can calculate what the other car must sound like when you drive beside it.

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191937)

Because the universe is expanding in all directions at the same rate, the further away something is, the greater its relative velocity away from you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_redshift [wikipedia.org]

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192787)

Because the universe is expanding in all directions at the same rate, the further away something is, the greater its relative velocity away from you.

Actually, the wikipedia article on the Doppler effect [wikipedia.org] says:

Among the nearby stars, the largest radial velocities with respect to the Sun are +308 km/s (BD-154041, also known as LHS 52, 81.7 light-years away) and -260 km/s (Woolley 9722, also known as Wolf 1106 and LHS 64, 78.2 light-years away). Positive radial velocity means the star is receding from the Sun, negative that it is approaching.

So not everything is moving away from us at the same velocity. But the other replies (and the nice picture on that article of the light spectrum) do explain how you can look for known gaps or spikes in the electromagnetic spectrum to see how much it's been shifted.

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

explodymatt (1408163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191943)

It comes from having a few other pieces of information. The main one is: Most of the universe is made of hydrogen.

We know some stars fall within a certain range of temperatures, we also know of a few events (such as hydrogen falling into a white dwarf or neutron star) that seem to be almost exactly the same, no matter where they happen, and can give an independent estimate of distance based on brightness.

So the key is, we look for some spectral lines (plural) that are a set fraction apart, or come from a known object. We use that to find the distance, then we can use that information to find other chemicals.

It's a bit hard to explain without a picture, but imagine you see a sequence of bright lines at 1, 2, 5, 7. Then another at 3, 6, 15, 21. (They're usually 335nm, vs 337nm etc, but the distinction is clearer with integers.

If you have enough other information/reasons to believe it to be consistent you can assume the second sequence is 3 times the first and thus is red-shifted by a factor of 3.

As you said/questioned this cannot be done with one frequency, but with many(or a single known source) you can figure out both distance and chemical makeup.

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192177)

You are right, but the spectral signature of water is not the only thing present in the radio emission from a galaxy. Together with other signatures e.g. Hydrogen, CO etc., it is possible to work out a big picture.

How we do it at the UA (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192199)

I work in this field, so I can answer.

The first item is how to know what frequency the material emits. We have a laboratory that contains radioastronomy equipment of the same type that is used to detect the signals from space, but it operates on samples in a vacuum chamber in the lab. So the Doppler shift on these samples is zero. We then take a spectrum of the material, noting the main spectral line frequencies.

The frequency shift to be expected (a function of the object's distance from Earth) is usually known at this point by other observations performed in the visible or infrared. Its a lot easier to measure the visible spectrum than the radio spectrum.

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192609)

It's not just a single frequency. Water (and all molecules/elements) emit a pattern of frequencies. The astronomer searches for this pattern.

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192675)

It is rarely one line that is detected, emission lines often occur in sets, and these sets have known spacing, when this spacing is detected we can then determine the shift.

Often it is even more confusing as the part of the galaxy that is spinning toward us is slightly blue shifted (add freq, to the red shifted fundamental) and the side that is spinning away is red shifted (subtract even more from the red shifted fundamental)

Re:How can you detect the Doppler shift? (1)

Nautical Insanity (1190003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192767)

When matter emits electromagnetic radiation, it doesn't emit continuously over all wavelengths. Instead, it emits electromagnetic radiation at only a few frequencies. (This corresponds to the different energy levels of electrons...) For example, one most noticeable bands (and most frequently used to measure the relative velocity of distant objects) is emitted by Hydrogen with a wavelength of 21 cm.

You can tell how fast something is moving by taking a spectrograph of the light emitted from it and then measuring the emission lines. The difference in wavelength between the observed emission bands and the known elemental emission bands (Such as the Hydrogen 21 cm) yields the redshift or blueshift of whatever you're observing.

And the aliens' message is in (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191967)

Smile, maser loves u! [today.com]

(That's actually the work of a Dublin graffiti artist, quite a clever one. "maser" stuff is all over Dublin. You need to look through his website [maserart.com] and Flickr stream [flickr.com] .)

And how did it get there? (1)

LunarEffect (1309467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26191969)

World's largest supersoaker?

Re:And how did it get there? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194233)

More like out-of-this-world's largest.

Priorities (-1, Troll)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192031)

How about we solve water problems in Africa rather than 11.5 billion lightyears away. ... I can hardly see how those "technical advancements" help the common good of humanity.
Even the ISS, I can see some good in it, but this...? Sounds like a bunch of crazy scientists needing a budget adjustement. (read: cut)

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192067)

Or scientist who lose the budget if they don't use it.

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192285)

Maybe the people in Africa should solve their own water problems. You know, like the rest of the world.

I mean, look at how much good all of the world's handouts have done in Africa so far.

Re:Priorities (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192497)

Attention, parent poster and everyone who thinks like him: please immediately stop living without any of the technological advances which have been made possible by basic science which had no immediate an obvious practical advantage when it was first being done. This means, pretty much, going back to a mid-19th-c. standard of living, and certainly means that you need to get the hell off the net. Let us know how it works out for you, perhaps by carrier pigeon.

Re:Priorities (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192555)

How about just leaving them alone for once? You know, Africa might not have been the richest area of this planet, but it surely got worse the moment "we" started messing with them. In all our good intentions. First to "bring the light of Our Lord to them", then to "civilize" them, then to "help them develop", and with every incarnation it got worse. For $deity's love, leave those people alone! Every time you pour money or other "development aid" into the continent, some dictator gets richer and the people there suffer more.

Btw, I'm not alone with that sentiment [wordpress.com] . Unfortunately the story is too old to be covered by the papers anymore that carried it.

Re:Priorities (1)

endymion.nz (1093595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194965)

Actually, Africa is one of the richest areas on the planet. Diamonds, coltan, oil and numerous other natural resources are taken from there by western companies under the eyes of well paid dictators.

Really so Surprising? (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192037)

Hydrogen is the most abundant element, and Oxygen isn't far behind, relatively speaking. The two combine easily to form H2O. So it shouldn't be so surprising that we find water everywhere we look, assuming that the physics that works here is the same everywhere else in the universe (and we'd have to throw out most of astrophysics if that weren't true).

Re:Really so Surprising? (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192269)

Much more complex molecules have been discovered in outer space. Indeed water isn't something fascinating compared with these ones [wikimedia.org] . The cool thing here is about the sensitivity of the hardware, which is able to identify the faint signals from a very distant object.

you insensitive Zclod! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192039)

are the important world's Gay Nigger time I'm done here, development models project somewhere feelow travellers?

It's about time... (2, Funny)

senor mouse (1227452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192299)

So the water was there 11.5 billion years ago, right? I wonder if any of it, like, evaporated and stuff?

Re:It's about time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26193069)

I was just gonna bring this up, but I looked for someone else to do so first. Somehow, whenever something is detected light years away, they always imply that it *is* there. I would kind of like to know if that water is still there, myself. Unfortunately, I ain't got a time machine to take me 11.5 billion years into the future to find out. And our Sun is supposed to burn out in about half that time, anyway, according to what I've read.

Hm. I guess, when one thinks about it, one finds that we will never really know if there is actually water there.

Oil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26192455)

Water, water everywhere, but how about finding oil over yonder?

Spurious argumenting (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192589)

And if they find some phosphoric acid in there, too, we'll get to hear that there be aliens because they already have Cola.

Water may be a necessity for life (at least the kind we know about), but it is no sign whatsoever that there is any. And at that distance, it doesn't matter for us either because we can't even get people to the next planet in our solar system, much less to the next solar system in our galaxy, so looking at water in some far away galaxy is pretty pointless.

Let's try to focus here, people. Let's get to Mars. Get something going there. And work from there. There's little use in looking for far away water when we can't even use the one that's just around the corner, universally speaking.

Really Folks (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#26192699)

We've detected hydrogen and oxygen in a distant galaxy, and they actually combined when given the chance. Surely such a rare event was never suspected before and requires our confirmation. Now go have a beer.

moYD up (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26194327)

and has instead DistHended. All I ME! It's official Get tough. I hope how it was su4posed implementation to

In other unrelated news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197689)

...Still no cure for cancer...

There is a void in the force... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26200457)

Does an anonymous coward have to say it?

I, for one, welcome our Water Maser Wielding Overlords.

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