The Latest Scientific Hunt: Intelligent Life That Eats Stars

January 7, 2015 | Rhett Jones

The search for intelligent life has mostly focused on what we know life to be based on, such as looking for carbon, oxygen, water etc. But some theorists are taking up a new approach to break out of the box. One theory is that it’s possible an entire star system could be a macroscopic living thing, feeding on the energy of the star itself.

Dr. Clement Vidal, who’s a researcher at the Free University of Brussels, has put forth this theory in a paper he produced in 2013. Now, Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick, futurist John Smart, and nanotech entrepreneur Robert Freitas have joined Vidal in exploring the possibility of what Vidal calls “Starivores.” They’re asking for scientific proposals to begin research.

Vidal tells Motherboard:

“Newton did not discover new gravitational bodies: He took a different perspective on a phenomena and discovered new things exist,” Vidal told me. “It might well be that extraterrestrial intelligence is already somewhere in our data. Re-interpreting certain star systems as macroscopic living things is one example.”

Simple forms of life may be strewn all over universe, but if we ever discover intelligent aliens, they’ll probably vastly outstrip us in technology and intellect. It’s impossible to say exactly how a hyper-advanced civilization would live, but one very likely feature—according to the handful of scientists who ponder such matters—is their ability to harness tremendous quantities of energy.

Stars have a quantity of energy that could be characterized as tremendous. Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard University’s astronomy department says that “the difficulty with this idea, like any other idea for advanced intelligence, is in finding signals. If we knew what to look for, we would have found it already.”

One starting place though is binary stars. Some types of these star pairs are definitely feeding off of each other, but Motherboard says, “certain semi-detached binary systems, energy flows from one star to another in a controlled manner, while gas is expelled regularly via novae or jets.” In other words, this could indicate a theoretical Starivore that we’ve never understood is actually a sentient being.

The primary need right now is a group of experts who can keep an extremely open mind in figuring out a way for us to confirm the existence of life on a plane that we’ve never even conceived of.

(Photo: Marvel Promo)