How to Find Alien Life? Look for Nuclear Weapons Blasts.

Researchers are looking for signs of life in different places: in their destruction, like that of a nuclear apocalypse.

It's hard to believe we're alone out here in this endless universe. But, in such a vast expanse, there's a chance it may all end without us ever meeting another intelligent civilization. Until we become more of a spacefaring civilization, able to explore the universe, we're left to merely look at the stars to find what could be or what could have been a civilization.

Astronomer Jason Wright has already searched 100,000 galaxies for waste and heat signatures emitted by “supercivilizations,” but his team of scientists has come up empty-handed so far. The search is still on, but recently another group of researchers has turned to look for simpler signatures indicating life... or what used to be life.

Astronomer Jason Wright has already searched 100,000 galaxies for waste and heat signatures emitted by “supercivilizations,” but his team of scientists has come up empty-handed so far.

Researchers are looking for signs of life in different places: in their destruction, like that of a nuclear apocalypse. A planet undergoing one nuclear explosion wouldn't be enough to send a discernible heat and light signature light-years away — at least not enough for our telescopes to detect. There would need to be a multitude of blasts, so this civilization would probably be dead.

These researchers have crafted a paper devising several apocalyptic scenarios that could produce a heat and light signature strong enough to be detected by us. These scenarios would have to produce “significant changes in atmospheric composition,” they write. This might include decimation by atomic bombs, pathogen, or pollution. Even the destruction of the planet itself could tell researchers if it once held an intelligent civilization. By looking at production of debris through the explosive disc rings, they “may indicate signs of artificial construction in their chemical composition.”

Is there intelligent life out there in the universe? Theoretical physicist Brian Greene says it's complicated.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less