An astronomer searched the universe for a possible message from his creator

An astronomer searched the universe for a possible message from his creator

The universe is a mysterious place. We don’t know why it exists, and there are a lot of unanswered questions about how this happened. But what if it was intentionally created by an intelligent entity? Is there a way we can find out?

In 2005, a couple of physicists suggested that if there had been a creator, they could have encoded a message in the background radiation of the universe, which left it when light was first unleashed to flow freely through space. This light is called the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

Now, astrophysicist Michael Hibeck of the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany and Breakthrough Listen searched for this message, translating the temperature changes in the CMB into a binary bit stream.

What he restored seemed to make no sense at all.

Hippke’s paper describing his methods and results was uploaded to the arXiv server prior to printing, (and thus has not yet been peer-reviewed); The work includes an extracted bit flow so that other interested parties can study it for themselves.

The cosmic microwave background is an incredibly useful remnant of the early universe. It dates back to about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Before that, the universe was completely dark and opaque, so hot and dense that atoms could not form; The protons and electrons were volatilized in the form of ionized plasma.

As the universe cools and expands, these protons and electrons can combine to form neutral hydrogen atoms in what we call the recombination era. Space became clear, and light could move freely through it for the first time.

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This first light is still detectable today, and albeit very weak, it suffocates all known space. This is the CMB. Since the early universe was not uniform, density differences in the recombination era today appear in very slight fluctuations in the temperature of the CMB.

Because of this widespread prevalence, theoretical physicists Stephen Hsu of the University of Oregon and Anthony Zee of the University of California, Santa Barbara have argued – in theory completely – that the CMB would make the perfect billboard leaving a message that would be visible to all technological civilizations in the universe.

They write in their 2006 paper: “Our work does not support the intelligent design movement in any way,” but they ask, and try to answer, the perfectly scientific question of what the medium and message would be if there really was a message.

They suggested that a binary message could be encoded in the temperature changes in the CMB. This is what Hippke tried to find – first by processing the claims made by Hsu and Zee, then using the data to try to find a message.

“[Hsu and Zee’s] The assumptions were, first, that a superior being created the universe. Second, that the Creator really wanted to notify us that the universe was created on purpose, “wrote Hippek.

“So, the question is: How are they going to send a message? The CMB is the obvious choice, because it is the largest billboard in the sky, and visible to all technological civilizations.” Hsu and Zee continue to say that a message in the CMB will be identical to all observers across space and time, and it can be The information content is reasonably large (thousands of bits). ”

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Hibeck found that there were many problems with these claims. The first is that the CMB is still cooling down. It started at around 3000 K. Now, 13.4 billion years later, it is 2.7 Kelvin. As the universe continues to age, the CMB will eventually become undetectable. It could take another 10 twenty million years (1040), But the CMB will fade away.

Regardless, in 2006 physicists found, in response to Hsu and Zee’s paper, that it is extremely unlikely that a CMB would appear exactly the same in the sky to different observers at different locations. Additionally, Hippec says, we cannot fully see the CMB due to a forward emission from the Milky Way. And we only have one sky to measure, which presents the statistical uncertainty inherent in every cosmic observation we make.

Based on these limitations, Hippke estimates that the information content will be much less than what Hsu and Zee have suggested – only 1000 bits. This gave him a good framework for actually searching for the message.

The Planck satellite and the Wilkinson Microwave Variation Probe (WMAP) both observed and recorded temperature fluctuations in the CMB. From these data sets, Hippke extracted its own bit stream, and compared the results from each data set to find matching bits.

The first 500 bits of the message are pictured below. The values ​​in black were identical in both Planck and WMAP datasets, and are believed to be accurate with a probability of 90 percent. Red values ​​skew; Hippke chose Planck’s values, and they are only accurate with a probability of 60 percent.

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(M. Hippke, arXiv, 2020)

It was found that changing the values ​​did not improve the situation. Searching for an online “Encyclopedia of Correct Sequences” did not yield convincing results, and the data was not converted to approximate the infinite future.

Hibeck wrote, “I don’t find a meaningful message in the actual bitstream.”

“We may conclude that there is no clear message in the sky of the CMB. However, it is still unclear if there was a creator, whether we lived in a simulation, or whether the message was printed correctly in the previous section, but we failed to understand it.”

Whether or not any of these options is the case, the CMB has a lot to tell us, as nicely noted in the 2005 response to Hsu and Zee.

“The CMB does indeed symbolize a wealth of information about the structure of the universe and perhaps the nature of physics at its highest energy levels,” wrote physicists Douglas Scott and James Zibin of the University of British Columbia.

“The universe has left us a message of its own accord.”

Hippke’s article can be read in full on arXiv.

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