For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, suggesting that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe. In fact, it probably means that the building blocks of life are very widely spread. This, combined with the recent discovery that planets are commonplace, raises the likelihood that life may be abundant. Just how abundant cannot be known, but it is now all but certain that there is life out there. But is it intelligent? If intelligent life was commonplace, then we would have seen more obvious signs, probably in the radio background noise. However, given the sheer size of the cosmos, it is all but inevitable that ET exists.
Over 50 years ago, the theoretical physicist and mathematician Freeman John Dyson – an expert in astronomy, nuclear engineering, solid-state physics and quantum electrodynamics – theorized that a highly advanced “extraterrestrial civilization would harvest most of its energy from their star, which would both limit the amount of visible light expelled outward and increase the levels of infrared radiation.” It was a fascinating idea but not one that could be put to the test – until now.