Microbot Interstellar von Neumann Explorers

An interesting speculation on how aliens might explore the galaxy has been presented in a new paper by Zara Osmanov of the School of Physics, Free University of Tbilisi, 0183, Tbilisi, Georgia.

The basic idea is that rather than using large self-replicating spacecraft, as described by John von Neumann, to explore the galaxy, it might be more sensible to use tiny microbot spaceships. Not only are they easier to construct, you can build them in the interstellar medium or dust clouds, and not need to find asteroids or planets with large amounts of materials.

We have considered self replicating Von-Neumann probes to study their observational characteristics. By examining the micro robots, it has been shown that typical timescales of replication might be several years and even less.

Considering the micro robots with sizes of the order of 0.1µm we have found that the total number of robots after traveling ∼ 1pc might be of the order of 1033 and even higher depending on the density of the medium.

Temporal evolution of total luminosity has been estimated and it was shown that the increment might correspond to timescales of the order of a month or several years implying that detection is quite realistic. Regarding the spectral feature, it has been argued that emission will take place at least in the infrared energy band.

We have analysed efficiency of micro scale Von-Neumann probes versus macro robots and we found that the former might efficiently selfreproduce in the interstellar media whereas the large scale automata can replicate only on rocky planets, requiring additional manoeuvring.

All the aforementioned results indicate that if one detects a strange object with extremely high values of luminosity increment, that might be a good sign to place the object in the list of extraterrestrial Von-Neumann probe candidates. In the framework of the paper we have considered the scenario when the Type-II civilization needs to ”invade” the interstellar clouds by means of the self-reproducing robots and it has been shown that this process will inevitably lead to the observational consequences.

(On the interstellar Von Neumann micro self-reproducing probes)

What would it be like to encounter these tiny nanobots?

In her 1940 short story Devil's Pocket, F.E. Hardart describes explorers in the Coal Sack region. They are trying to salvage a ship known to have wrecked there. They found what appeared to be tiny lights all over the ship.

Using the maneuverable test box, they were able to capture a few of the lights, subsequently making an astonishing discovery!

Four faintly visible lights, dimmer now in the brilliantly lit interior of our ship, beat against the quartz sides of the box. We could see no material bodies no form whatever, only four unblinking disembodied pin points of light...

"These lights are living entities of phosphorus. This hellish black cloud has been their home for lord knows how many thousands of years..."

"Evidently they have never had a planet of their own..."

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