A team of scientists has proposed that we could use existing Earth-based observatories to hunt for advanced alien life forms by seeking out the activity of their hypothetical warp drives.
In a recent paper, which according to Universe Today is scheduled to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the team of researchers from UCLA, Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere argues that looking for particularly types of gravitational wave signals could reveal the existence of advanced technologies capable of producing them.
Sure, it's a serious stretch — but it's nonetheless a fascinating potential new way of probing the cosmos for life.
Gravitational waves, unlike electromagnetic signals, can be detected across vast distances, as Science Alert points out, meaning that we could scan the deepest depths of the cosmos for them.
So far, the gravitational waves we've detected are believed to have been created by the collisions between black holes and neutron stars. These powerful events send out massive ripples in space and time, which have been picked up by observatories such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States.
But this paper argues that alien civilizations could be creating similar ripples with warp drives, which are a purely hypothetical propulsion systems that would allow spacecraft to travel extremely close or even faster than the speed of light, since any mass can produce such an effect if it accelerates fast enough.
Despite the astronomical uncertainties involved, the researchers are optimistic.
"Our study of warp drives has paved the way for gravitational wave detection," said the paper's coauthor Gianni Martire, who's the CEO of Applied Physics, an independent group of scientists and engineers which has published a series of papers on the topic of warp drives, in a press release about the work.
"This new method is not limited to the traditional range of electromagnetic signals; thus we already have the ability to probe all 10¹¹ stars in the Milky Way for warp drives, and soon, the ability to probe thousands of other galaxies," he added.
Applied Physics has already teamed up with Carnegie Mellon to develop "the first machine learning-based model that will be sensitive enough to detect these warp drive signals and distinguish them from background noise," according to the statement.
But before we can start hunting for alien warp drives, our human technologies have some catching up to do.
"Gravitational wave detection is still in its infancy," admitted Manfred Paulini, professor of physics and associate dean at Carnegie Mellon University, in the statement. "Future experimental improvements will open the gates for new discoveries."
READ MORE: Wild New Paper Suggests We Could Detect Gravitational Waves From Alien Megacraft [Science Alert]