back to article Boffins closer to solving what causes weird radio bursts from space

A neutron star or a massive black hole may be the source of mysterious and highly energetic radio pulses that light up skies across the universe. A paper published on Wednesday in Nature describes a particular fast radio burst (FRB) source. Scientists have spied about 30 FRBs so far, but FRB 121102 is the only signal source …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    Alien? Unlikely

    I'm happy to be convinced that there are intelligent species somewhere other than earth, but these FRB's seem to me to be an unlikely candidate for a deliberate signal.

    Whatever is producing them appears to be of such intensity that any lifeform within light years of the source would be destroyed, so I can't see that they would be deliberately instigated.

    The only other possibilities would be a nasty accident (some major failure of a power source, perhaps) or a byproduct of some conflict (like nuclear explosions but raised to the nth power) but the fact that they repeat, apparently from a similar source, would argue against either of those being likely.

    1. Bangem

      Re: Alien? Unlikely

      That is the point of this article.

    2. Kane Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Alien? Unlikely

      "Whatever is producing them appears to be of such intensity that any lifeform within light years of the source would be destroyed, so I can't see that they would be deliberately instigated."

      Well, if you had the ability to produce FRB's, would you be anywhere near the source?

    3. handleoclast Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Alien? Unlikely

      Hmmm, you think it's unlikely to be aliens?

      I remember (in the dim and distant past) being at university (studying pinball). Back in those days, roadworks had flashing yellow lamps (simple circuitry, big 9V battery, and no security on the mounting). I remember the night we'd been drinking and several of those lamps appeared in somebody's room, facing ceilingwards, flashing away while we sat there in the dark looking upwards enjoying the show.

      Just sayin'.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Alien? Unlikely

        So, warning lights for roadworks on an interstellar bypass?

        1. Rattus Rattus

          Re: Alien? Unlikely

          Great. So aliens exist, but it turns out they're Vogons.

    4. dan1980

      Re: Alien? Unlikely

      ". . . or a byproduct of some conflict (like nuclear explosions but raised to the nth power) but the fact that they repeat, apparently from a similar source, would argue against either of those being likely."

      As I understand it (imperfectly - corrections always welcome), while each burst likely comes from a region of around 100 km - based on the very short duration - they each originate from a different 100 km region and the pinpointing is really just that those bursts all come from a 4,400 ly region of the galaxy.

      There are 45 stars within 15 ly of us on Earth (sphere of 30 ly diameter) so, using the principle of mediocrity, we can estimate some 140m stars within a sphere of diameter 4400 ly.

      Thus, it seems perfectly possible that these bursts could represent an alien civilisation at war over a large area. Or, perhaps, destroying worlds for a hyper-space bypass. Perhaps they are destroying stars using a method and technology that somehow funnels the blast in a particular direction - to avoid damaging themselves - which might explain the odd polarisation.

      Well, it's unlikely because the particular area is a stellar nursery so there are better explanations but my point is that the apparently restricted area of the emissions is not, in itself, a counter argument to it being aliens destroying stuff.

    5. Astrophiz podcast

      Re: Alien? Unlikely

      When you say 'any lifeform within light years would be destroyed', aren't you assuming that life forms are all earth like?

      Is it not possible that life forms could exist that were immune to the effects of FRBs?

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge

    OTT

    "We can not rule out completely the ET hypothesis for the FRBs in general."

    Surely a civilisation capable of generating such massive amounts of power could find better things to do with its time.

    Maybe the ET hypothesis can't be ruled out completely (in the sense that absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence), but the odds against it being correct here are, well, astronomical.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: OTT

      A civilisation capable of generating massive power and then letting unbelievable shitloads of it escape into space. Doesnt sound likely.

      A teenager from an advanced civilisation on bonfire night?

      1. Blofeld's Cat

        Re: OTT

        "A teenager from an advanced civilisation on bonfire night?

        Possibly the same on a stag night...

        "Hold my Djinnant Onyx and watch this!"

      2. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: OTT

        A civilisation capable of generating massive power and then letting unbelievable shitloads of it escape into space. Doesnt sound likely.

        Wireless charging standards wars?

        1. Paul Kinsler

          Re: Wireless charging standards wars?

          Roadside picnic?

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: OTT

        A teenager from an advanced civilisation on bonfire night?

        Aye, something close. The more adventurous go buzzing other planets, wearing silly antennae and making 'beep beep' noises, others just stay in their cellar with their computers, and there's now one botnetting a cloud of dark matter around a powerful star and making it go 'blip' to annoy the neighbour alien teenager who's just returned home with a gorgeous bombshell who was sufficiently impressed with his antennae and the beeping, and who are now trying to sleep in after some utterly extended interspecies sex.

        In other words, juvenile jealousy.

  3. James 51 Silver badge
    Alien

    Or list humans building a chain of suns in Strata, just for the hell of it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "like a laser"

    Then the most plausible answer then would be alien sharks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      like a laser

      As I was reading the article I was thinking to myself that this sounds like it may be a maser (essentially, an RF laser). No mention of the bandwidth of the signal in the article (a maser would be narrow-band) although mention of lasers and polarisation hints at it and would fit with a maser. Astrophysical masers, as they are known, are quite common but I don't know how they compare in terms of power.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: like a laser

        "(essentially, an RF laser)"

        But but but lasers ARE RF...!

  5. Marcus Fil
    Alien

    or ..

    there is an occassional glitch in the aim of their Death Star? [A long time ago in a galaxy far far away]

  6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Megaphone

    If they are aliens

    <LOUD>

    THEY ARE APPARENTLY TRYING TO COMMUNICATE IN BRIAN BLESSED'S STYLE

    </LOUD>

  7. Nik 2
    Mushroom

    Easily understandable quantities

    It can apparently release 10 million trillion trillion joules of energy in less than a millisecond during a single pulse.

    For the benefit of those of us who struggle to comprehend numbers as vast and abstract as this, I estimate that this is roughly the energy content of a doner kebab scaled up to be around 150 miles across.

    1 FRB = 1.2 exa-Doners

    HTH :-)

    [Icon: Hold the chilli sauce]

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Easily understandable quantities

      How do they work out the total power? Are they assuming it's spraying power in all directions?

      If it's actually a narrow beam then the power could be much less.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it's probably that guy in spain you hear on 80m running several kw

  9. Dr. G. Freeman

    I thought it was Radio stars causing the FRBs

    But they were all killed off in the 80s.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ---> thought it was Radio stars causing the FRBs

      But they were all killed off in the 80s.

      -------------------------------------------------

      What? Someone has found Video Stars?

  10. Roger Kynaston
    Mushroom

    It's obvious

    They are being generated by Hoolovoos - superintelligent shades of the colour blue having sex.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how do I tap into this energy source to mine my NeutroCoins?

    I'll be mining for FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  12. SVV Silver badge

    Plus ca Change....

    1960s : strange regular radio signals found originating in deep space. Cue feverish newspaper headlines about "Little Green Men" . Eventually turn out to be pulsars.

    2018 : different type of strange radio signals found originating in deep space. Cue feverisn newspaper headlines about extraterrestrial life. SETI professor goes gushing excitedly to media about this, even though a few seconds thought lead to the obvious conclusion that this is obviously some natural cosmic cataclysm due to energies involved......

    2019 : SVV retracts sarcastic Reg comment, as scientists decode information in energy blast, discover it's an extraterrestrial "tweet" saying "Humanz got small dickz and small brainz LOL"

  13. strum Silver badge

    "It can apparently release 10 million trillion trillion joules of energy in less than a millisecond during a single pulse."

    It better fucking not be aliens.

  14. Mike 125

    "We can not rule out completely the ET hypothesis..."

    Also, "Nigel Farage suggests UK may need second Brexit referendum to settle question of EU membership...."

    Can this really be anything-can-happen Thursday?

  15. Sceptic Tank
    Alert

    No relax! It's just a bit of RF interference from my old Nokia 3310.

  16. Dagg
    Alien

    Interstellar Bussard ramjet

    What would you see if you were behind one of these? Would it be a laser like beam? A quick blip might just mean the exhaust just flashed by. You never know....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE. Re. aliens

    Has anyone considered that it might be aliens making a star go hypernova on purpose to extract useful energy from it to power their space folding hyperdrive?

    Makes sense, look at the energy distribution.

    2018 31/10 at 6.39 pm UTC.

    Aliens show up

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