1. Subscribersonhouse
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    03 Dec '12 16:00
    So I am holding in my hands a small furnace temperature controller made by Omega Engineering. It is about 16 years old and surprisingly enough, in spite of a lot of design changes, advances in materials and so forth, they still sell this exact model and not terribly expensive either, about 3 bills.

    So I was thinking, what if a box like this ended up in the hands (Tentacles?) of aliens who are a lot more advanced than us.

    Doesn't matter how they get it, they got it.

    So they are on their star cruiser and they are looking at this little box, about 2X2 inches by about 5 inches long.

    It is a wonder of what to us would be considered large scale integration, 4 little circuit boards fastened together and an LED display of temperature and other data.

    Now, suppose everything on their cruiser is done with photons instead of electrons or Neutrino's for that matter. Very advanced in any case.

    How would they be able to test it to determine what the function was?

    They may have gone so far from the concept of like us, requiring electrons for power, AC, DC and so forth they might not be able to even test it.

    They could scan it maybe and see the internal circuitry of each IC, some of which contains millions of individual transistors ( the newest CPU's contain BILLIONS of transistors) but could they put two and two together with just that info to suss out the function of this controller? Could they even know it ran on electrons?
  2. Cape Town
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    03 Dec '12 17:18
    If you found a device that ran entirely on photons, would you be unable to work out at least some of its functions?
    I realize neutrinos would be hard to detect but even a neutrino based device would have neutrino emitters and absorbers and we would probably figure out quite soon what they were.
    I just cant quite imagine an intelligent life form with space ships that don't at least know what electricity is even if they do not use it for anything.
  3. Subscribersonhouse
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    03 Dec '12 17:48
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    If you found a device that ran entirely on photons, would you be unable to work out at least some of its functions?
    I realize neutrinos would be hard to detect but even a neutrino based device would have neutrino emitters and absorbers and we would probably figure out quite soon what they were.
    I just cant quite imagine an intelligent life form with space ships that don't at least know what electricity is even if they do not use it for anything.
    Yeah but suppose the alleged aliens had been photon or neutrino based data processing for say 5,000 years. They may not have anything in their database for something as gross as electron based electronics.

    They may be able to put photons down some kind of fiber optic cable that would be their equivalent of our superconducting cable, carrying real power so if you want a light at home, you hook up your light to the cable connector and light comes out, not needing the conversion from electrons to light.

    They may have the means to convert photon power to physical motion, a photon controlled motor, feed in X amount of photon watts, get X amount of rotation power, etc.

    Obviously using technology we can only dream about at our stage of the game. So how would they figure out something as primitive as our technology would be?
  4. Cape Town
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    03 Dec '12 19:51
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Obviously using technology we can only dream about at our stage of the game. So how would they figure out something as primitive as our technology would be?
    Are you saying that you couldn't figure out how to use iron and flint and a candle? Could you not figure out the purpose of a bow and arrow?
    Yes, there are a few items in archaeology whose use we have been unable to determine, but I do not think it is because they are too primitive for us, but simply that we do not have enough information about them.
    So in your example the aliens may figure out how the device works but could not guess that its intended function involves a furnace.
  5. Subscribersonhouse
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    03 Dec '12 23:582 edits
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Are you saying that you couldn't figure out how to use iron and flint and a candle? Could you not figure out the purpose of a bow and arrow?
    Yes, there are a few items in archaeology whose use we have been unable to determine, but I do not think it is because they are too primitive for us, but simply that we do not have enough information about them.
    So ...[text shortened]... ure out how the device works but could not guess that its intended function involves a furnace.
    Especially since it is a general purpose device that can control anything that makes heat, it could control a damper for instance, or a heater coil or maximize the output of a solar PV cell bank, any number of ways of using that device.

    Some analogies I can think of: Suppose you come across an 8 track cassette, a kid just in college and wants to hear it. What kind of hoops would he have to go through to be able to hear what is on that tape? Or an MD player tape, since they are way out of style now with newer technologies eclipsing the old. How would a kid who never heard of MD recorders go about playing that? How would a kid stuck in the woods be able to make fire when the technique has been around for thousands, hundreds of thousands of years, rubbing sticks together, or the string and stick method for instance, he comes across a string and stick, how is he supposed to know it is for making fire when all he has thought of all his life is cigarette lighters, matches, even lenses to concentrate light from the sun and of course he has none of those. So how will he make fire?

    It's easy to think of people from the past, say Isaac Newton, one smart dude.

    He gets caught in a time tornado and what whirls into his hands is a fully charged laptop with relativity equations and the work leading up to it and all the work on electromagnetic theory of the 19th century and the theory of radio including the early work on making transmitters and receivers and such inside if he can only make it work.

    Would he be able to figure out an HP laptop especially if it was asking for a password just to fire up XP?
  6. Subscriberjoe shmo
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    04 Dec '12 01:43
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Especially since it is a general purpose device that can control anything that makes heat, it could control a damper for instance, or a heater coil or maximize the output of a solar PV cell bank, any number of ways of using that device.

    Some analogies I can think of: Suppose you come across an 8 track cassette, a kid just in college and wants to hear it ...[text shortened]... able to figure out an HP laptop especially if it was asking for a password just to fire up XP?
    The kid stuck out in the woods would have a portable computer, i-phone, etc... He/she would simply use the device as it is intended ( an external memory)and retrieve the pertinent information. As for the child developing an 8 track player...unless this kid is of the future where said device is more than just an external memory (way more that is) the child will not have the skill to build one, no matter how well he knows their purpose.

    As for the alien race, I'm sure that they would have developed a similar device at some point in their past, and would have both the external memory and skill to identify, and build it.
  7. Cape Town
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    04 Dec '12 06:06
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Would he be able to figure out an HP laptop especially if it was asking for a password just to fire up XP?
    I see you have switched from 'advanced race looking at primitive technology' to 'primitive person looking at advanced technology'.
    The origional question was not whether an individual child would be able to figure something out, the question was whether a team of alien scientists would be able to figure something out.
  8. Subscribersonhouse
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    04 Dec '12 11:37
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I see you have switched from 'advanced race looking at primitive technology' to 'primitive person looking at advanced technology'.
    The origional question was not whether an individual child would be able to figure something out, the question was whether a team of alien scientists would be able to figure something out.
    Yes but both seem somehow related. I was just thinking if an alien civilization is way way advanced they might not even have the information about our kind of technology, electrons and so forth. Suppose that civilization is a million years old and it has been 900,000 years since they worried about such effects as electron clouds and quantum jumps. The records might not even exist.
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    04 Dec '12 12:45
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    So I am holding in my hands a small furnace temperature controller made by Omega Engineering. It is about 16 years old and surprisingly enough, in spite of a lot of design changes, advances in materials and so forth, they still sell this exact model and not terribly expensive either, about 3 bills.

    So I was thinking, what if a box like this ended up in t ...[text shortened]... t info to suss out the function of this controller? Could they even know it ran on electrons?
    Odds are that the alien's bodies would be electricity based just like ours. In that case they would have the ability to test the device. Besides, if they are traveling to search for life on distant worlds they would be prepared for electricity based devices and life forms like ourselves.
  10. Cape Town
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    04 Dec '12 12:46
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Yes but both seem somehow related. I was just thinking if an alien civilization is way way advanced they might not even have the information about our kind of technology, electrons and so forth. Suppose that civilization is a million years old and it has been 900,000 years since they worried about such effects as electron clouds and quantum jumps. The records might not even exist.
    I find it improbable that science will ever be so advanced that we stop worrying about things like electricity or light. We may come to a new understanding of them, but they will still be relevant. Your suggestion is like saying that today's scientists can now ignore gravity, or basic chemical reactions, because we have got past that mundane stuff.
  11. Subscribersonhouse
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    04 Dec '12 15:30
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I find it improbable that science will ever be so advanced that we stop worrying about things like electricity or light. We may come to a new understanding of them, but they will still be relevant. Your suggestion is like saying that today's scientists can now ignore gravity, or basic chemical reactions, because we have got past that mundane stuff.
    Yeah, I guess I am projecting too much advancement into an alien civilization.

    Realistically speaking, there is probably a maximum number of years a civilization can be viable anyway, no matter where they are. That could be one of the problems with SETI. If in the future we find a general guide where galactic civilizations last only so long maximum, say 10,000 years, that means when they are active in the RF bands, when they first blast RF into space and the last transmission would be a wavefront 10,000 light years deep which would propagate as a whole, a slice of time 10,000 years deep. But the galaxy it more like 100,000 light years across. That means there is room, physical room, for a 10,000 light year wide wavefront ten times over.

    So we could by chance be in the middle years of such a 'broadcast', but statistically it would be more likely we would have to wait 90,000 years for the beginning of that wavefront to get here or maybe 20,000 years if it was relatively close.

    Or that entire wavefront may have passed us by and is now on its way to Andromeda galaxy or whatever.

    In that case we are a day late and a dollar short. Not the hope of a frog in hell of catching THAT signal. So there could be signals all over the place in the galaxy but we are in the wrong part of it to hear that signal, no matter how sensitive or powerful our antennae, receiver's, or analyzing software.

    If there is no signal there is nothing to analyze. But that alone does not rule out the possibility of signals right now but we are not in a position to hear them.
  12. Cape Town
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    04 Dec '12 17:52
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Realistically speaking, there is probably a maximum number of years a civilization can be viable anyway, no matter where they are.
    I totally disagree. I believe there is probably a bell curve type graph for viability with no maximum.
    As for SETI, I don't think our instruments are yet sensitive enough to detect very much unless we get lucky.
  13. Subscribersonhouse
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    04 Dec '12 18:59
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I totally disagree. I believe there is probably a bell curve type graph for viability with no maximum.
    As for SETI, I don't think our instruments are yet sensitive enough to detect very much unless we get lucky.
    I agree it would be some kind of bell curve, if we had an encyclopedia galactica as Carl Sagan talked about and could make a prado chart of all the civilizations ignn the galaxy, it would of course be some kind of bell curve but it would seem reasonable to think there would be a maximum limit, if nothing else evolution would make the species into something new in a few hundred thousand years.

    Actually, our technology is sensitive enough to detect US on the other side of the galaxy if the signals were present there. The main problem is software and the speed of hyper computers sifting through and analyzing the data which comes in sizes smaller than one hertz, so you have a signal that is say 100 mhz in bandwidth, that your system is working on, so say it is looking at +/- 50 mhz of the hydrogen watering hole, 1420 Mhz, at 100 megahertz in one half hertz slices means every sample is 200 million deep and every one of those half hertz slices have to be analyzed for signs of modulation and such. That is a daunting task and scopes like the Allen array has dozens of supercomputer to analyze the data that comes screaming in.

    For instance, one of the first tasks they did with the Allen array which att was only 1% of the total scopes constructed but even with that small number they were able to pinpoint the Voyager spacecraft sending out just a few watts back to Earth and show the change in received data and such.


    There have been tremendous strides in the technology of making noise free or close to noise free amplifiers so you can get gain with very little payment in added noise which of course makes the system incredibly powerful.
  14. Subscribercoquette
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    06 Dec '12 23:53
    you need to read some history. start with Alan Turing and decoding in WWII.
  15. Subscribersonhouse
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    09 Dec '12 09:32
    Originally posted by coquette
    you need to read some history. start with Alan Turing and decoding in WWII.
    I assume you are referring to the "Turing test". That has been worked over a lot!
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