Scientists could use 'epsilon machines' to hunt for alien life
By T.K. Randall
March 1, 2022 · 6 comments
Can alien life be detected based purely on its complexity ? Image Credit: NASA
The search for alien life in the universe is ramping up thanks to new, more powerful computers and techniques.
According to reports, scientists at the California Institute of Technology have been working together with their counterparts at Sony Computer Science Laboratories in Tokyo to find new and improved methods for detecting signs of life on distant worlds using state-of-the-art computer solutions.
Key to their efforts are 'epsilon machines' - which, despite their name, are not actually machines at all but complex mathematical algorithms that work by analyzing complexity.
In the context of seeking out signs of alien life, these algorithms make it possible to identify complexity potentially indicative of life in data collected about distant extrasolar worlds.
Since we don't know exactly what to look for, identifying general complexity - rather than any specific chemical indicator - could help to find life where other methods have failed.
To test out these ideas, the researchers analyzed images of the one place in the universe we know that is home to life - the Earth - and found that their algorithms were able to identify our home as approximately 50% more complex than any other planet in the solar system.
"Despite the challenges of data acquisition and processing, [our analysis suggests] that Earth's planetary complexity is higher than that of Jupiter... the present results are at least consistent with the hypothesis that planetary complexity correlates with the presence of life," they wrote.
One the James Webb Space Telescope starts making observations of distant extrasolar planets, it should be very interesting indeed to see what the team will find.
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