As our planet makes more and more noise, we can’t help but wonder why no one is paying attention. Are we alone in the universe? Or alone in our desire to discover new worlds? PZ Myers says “Spaceship building is never going to be a selectively advantageous feature — it’s only going to emerge as a spandrel, which might lead to a species that can occupy a novel niche.” Humanity could tread that path, following our dreams to the stars. But even then, we might only find extraterrestrials in the form of well-adjusted slime blobs, content in their otherworldly ecosystems.
If there are other tech-savvy lifeforms in the galaxy, would they communicate with lasers instead of radio waves? This could explain our apparent isolation, because the civilized worlds are narrow-beaming communications to their neighbors and leaving us in the dark. Chad Orzel explains how it would work, with a possible assist from a ‘magic compact fusion reactor.’ That device is still on our to-do list.