Two of the planet’s leading astrophysicists, Columbia University’s Caleb Scharf and Harvard’s Lisa Randall speculate about the possibility of the dominant dark side of our universe harboring advanced life.
“It’s a thought-provoking idea,” said Scharf, about the possibility that perhaps some advanced life five billion years ago figured out how to activate dark energy via the symmetron field, which is said to pervade space much like the Higgs field, speculates Columbia University’s Caleb Scharf in Nautil.us. Scharf’s speculative conjecture is an idea for the mechanism of an accelerating cosmic expansion called quintessence, a relative of the Higgs field that permeates the cosmos.
The Dark Energy Unknown
One of the great known unknowns of the universe is the nature of dark energy, a force field making the universe expand faster. Current theories range from end-of-the universe scenarios to dark energy as the manifestation of advanced alien life.
On March 2, 2019, The Daily Galaxy posted “Dark Energy –“New Exotic Matter or ET Force Field?” describing a new, controversial theory that suggests that dark energy might be getting stronger and denser, leading to a future in which atoms are torn asunder and time ends.
Strange New Energy Field Switches On
“Long, long ago, when the universe was only about 100,000 years old — a buzzing, expanding mass of particles and radiation — a strange new energy field switched on,” writes Dennis Overbye for New York Times Science. “That energy suffused space with a kind of cosmic antigravity, delivering a not-so-gentle boost to the expansion of the universe.”
Then, after another 100,000 years or so, the new field simply switched off, leaving no trace other than a speeded-up universe says a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University led by Adam Riess, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate. In a bold and speculative leap into the past, the team has posited the existence of this field to explain a baffling astronomical puzzle: the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be.
“What we think might be the effects of mysterious forces such as dark energy and dark matter in the Universe, could actually be the influence of alien intelligence – or maybe even aliens themselves,” suggests Scharf in “Mind-Bending” –‘Hyper-Advanced ET May Be What We Perceive to Be Physics’ posted on The Daily Galaxy on Mar 1, 2019.
“If machines continue to grow exponentially in speed and sophistication, they will one day be able to decode the staggering complexity of the living world, from its atoms and molecules all the way up to entire planetary biomes,” continues Scharf, author of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities, in Nautil.us.
Life’s Extreme Possibilities
“Presumably life doesn’t have to be made of atoms and molecules,” Scharf speculates, “but could be assembled from any set of building blocks with the requisite complexity. If so, a civilization could then transcribe itself and its entire physical realm into new forms. Indeed, perhaps our universe is one of the new forms into which some other civilization transcribed its world.”
After all, with our universe 13.5 billion years old, the cosmos may hold other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond ours in terms of complexity and technology, adds Scharf. “We should be considering some very extreme possibilities. Today’s futurists and believers in a machine “singularity” predict that life and its technological baggage might end up so beyond our ken that we wouldn’t even realize we were staring at it. That’s quite a claim, yet it would neatly explain why we have yet to see advanced intelligence in the cosmos around us, despite the sheer number of planets it could have arisen on—the so-called Fermi Paradox.”
“Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence,” says Scharf, a research scientist at Columbia University and director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center. “What we think might be the effects of mysterious forces such as dark energy and dark matter in the Universe, could actually be the influence of alien intelligence – or maybe even aliens themselves.”
Once we start proposing that life could be part of the solution to cosmic mysteries, Scharf concludes, “Although dark-matter life is a pretty exotic idea, it’s still conceivable that we might recognize what it is, even capturing it in our labs one day (or being captured by it). We can take a tumble down a different rabbit hole by considering that we don’t recognize advanced life because it forms an integral and unsuspicious part of what we’ve considered to be the natural world.”
Scharf points out that Arthur C. Clarke suggested that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic. “If you dropped in on a bunch of Paleolithic farmers with your iPhone and a pair of sneakers,” Scharf says, “you’d undoubtedly seem pretty magical. But the contrast is only middling: The farmers would still recognize you as basically like them, and before long they’d be taking selfies. But what if life has moved so far on that it doesn’t just appear magical, but appears like physics?”
If the universe harbors other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond our own waypoints of complexity an technology, Scharf proposes that we should be considering some very extreme positions.
Dark Matter Life
Meanwhile up at Harvard, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall, speculates that an invisible civilization could be living right under your nose. In Does Dark Matter Harbor Life she observes that dark matter is the “glue” that holds together galaxies and galaxy clusters, but resides only in amorphous clouds around them. “But what.” asks Randall, “if this assumption isn’t true and it is only our prejudice—and ignorance, which is after all the root of most prejudice—that led us down this potentially misleading path?”
The Standard Model, Randall points out, contains six types of quarks, three types of charged leptons (including the electron), three species of neutrinos, all the particles responsible for forces, as well as the newly discovered Higgs boson. What if the world of dark matter, which matter interacts only negligibly with matter, harbors “a small component of dark matter would interact under forces reminiscent of those in ordinary matter. The rich and complex structure of the Standard Model’s particles and forces gives rise to many of the world’s interesting phenomena. If dark matter has an interacting component, this fraction might be influential too.”
No one had allowed, Randall asserts, for the very simple possibility that although most dark matter doesn’t interact, a small fraction of it might.
Shadow life,” exciting as that would be, won’t necessarily have any visible consequences that we would notice, making it a tantalizing possibility but one immune to observations. In fairness, dark life is a tall order. Science-fiction writers may have no problem creating it, but the universe has a lot more obstacles to overcome. Out of all possible chemistries, it’s very unclear how many could sustain life, and even among those that could, we don’t know the type of environments that would be necessary.
Nonetheless, dark life could in principle be present—even right under our noses. But without stronger interactions with the matter of our world, it can be partying or fighting or active or inert and we would never know. But the interesting thing is that if there are interactions in the dark world—whether or not they are associated with life—the effects on structure might ultimately be measured. And then we will learn a great deal more about the dark world.
Randall suggests that “if we were creatures made of dark matter, we would be very wrong to assume that the particles in our ordinary matter sector were all of the same type. Perhaps we ordinary matter people are making a similar mistake.
“Given the complexity of the Standard Model of particle physics, she observes, which describes the basic components of matter we know of, it seems very odd to assume that all of dark matter is composed of only one type of particle. Why not suppose instead that some fraction of the dark matter experiences its own forces?”
The image at the top of the page shows dark matter filaments bridge the space between galaxies in this false colour map. The locations of bright galaxies are shown by the white regions and the presence of a dark matter filament bridging the galaxies is shown in red. ( S. Epps & M. Hudson / University of Waterloo)