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Space Archaeology » Entries tagged with "Xenoarchaeology"

Review: ‘Footprints of alien technology’, by Paul Davies

Since the search for extraterrestrial intelligence began, astronomers have been trying to answer the question “Are we alone in the universe?” in two ways: by listening for deliberate messages, and by looking for physical evidence – the products and byproducts – arising as a consequence of extraterrestrial civilization. The latter search, called xenoarchaeology on this site, has explored a number of strategies such as hunting for orbiting probes, artificial structures on planetary surfaces, and astroengineering projects such as Dyson spheres. Paul Davies of the Beyond Center at Arizona State University has just published a paper in Acta Astronautica promoting the search for more subtle traces of nonhuman civilization, and asking that the entire scientific community be on the lookout. His paper covers a number of astrobiological issues such as the need to refine the … Read entire article »

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Review: ‘Response to Ben McGee’ by Linda Billings

Linda Billings states bluntly that Ben McGee’s “call for proactive xenoarchaeological guidelines” is not “a productive contribution to the scientific search for evidence of extraterrestrial life or efforts to communicate clearly about it.” Much of her criticism is of terminological imprecision. I agree with her about the way the term “astrobiology” is used by McGee: at different times referring broadly to extraterrestrial life, and narrowly to intelligent extraterrestrial life. On the other hand, her apparent dismissal of the term “xenoarchaeology” for not appearing in dictionaries fails for several reasons: McGee had himself defined the term in his initial paper; such a prescriptive approach would stymie neologisms of all kinds; the use of the prefix xeno- to refer to extraterrestrial specialisations is uncontroversial – Billings would surely be aware of the term xenobiology, a less common … Read entire article »

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Xenoarchaeology and the Hierarchy of Exclusion

Xenoarchaeology is the study of past alien cultures from their physical remains.  The prefix xeno- is from the Greek xenos, ‘stranger’. Alien, in this instance, refers to members of any species other than that of the hypothetical xenoarchaeologist.  A human studying martian ruins is a xenoarchaeologist, as is a martian studying human ruins. The term ‘alien’ always sounds a little pejorative to me (how about non-human person?), but I use it here instead of ‘extraterrestrial’ which could be taken as a spatial designation, and because in the future there could conceivably be terrestrial nonhuman cultures (say, from uplifted animals or artificial intelligences). Despite its connotations, the word ‘alien’ conveys the otherness of the culture to be studied. … Read entire article »

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Review: The Prospect of Astro-Palaeontology, by John Armitage

Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, vol. 30, pp. 466-9, 1976. After it was published this paper seems to have fallen into utter obscurity. It was pure serendipity that led me to stumble across it. All that I can determine about John Armitage is that he became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 10 December 1976[1], and that the paper was also presented at the Second British Interplanetary Society Conference on Interstellar Travel and Communication, 4-5 April 1977. In it the author argues, as I have, that it seems likely that the number of galactic extinct civilizations is greater than the number of galactic extant civilizations. Armitage makes the distinction that detectable civilizations are only apparently extant, given the relativistic gap between signal transmission and detection. … Read entire article »

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Space Archaeology: Definitions

I’m beginning the wonderful Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage and thinking about the definition of space archaeology. In the introduction to the book, Ann Darrin and Beth O’Leary define it as: …the archaeological study of material culture relevant to space exploration that is found on earth and in outer space (i.e., exoatmospheric material) and that is clearly the result of human behavior. This is problematic in the use of the term ‘exoatmospheric’ to encompass the entirety of human material culture off-planet (I would have used extraterrestrial, or extra-terrestrial). The second concern is that it limits the purview of the field to human behaviours when in fact the book itself contains articles dedicated to nonhuman archaeology. … Read entire article »

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Space Archaeology turns 400!

Astronomy recently celebrated the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations with a telescope.  His discoveries, including four moons of Jupiter, were published in a sensational treatise, Sidereus Nuncius (The Sidereal Messenger), in 1610. German astronomer Johannes Kepler received a copy of the Sidereal Messenger in early April that year.  His response, the ‘Conversation with the Sidereal Messenger’, was completed and sent to Galileo on 19th – 400 years ago next month. A slightly revised version was published on May 3. In it, Kepler made the first observation of extraterrestrial artificial structures – circular fortresses on the moon!  Galileo had remarked upon these features, but it was left to Kepler to argue that because of their geometrical perfection, they must be artificial. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Theory