Feb 20, 2023 I Paul Seaburn

Aliens May Be Using Black Holes to Power Quantum Computers and This is How We'll Find Them

Black holes are perhaps the most misunderstood objects in the world of astronomy. While their very existence is still questioned by some, others see black holes as the solution to all of the mysteries of the universe – from time travel to the source of dark matter. Another example of what black holes might be capable of is proposed in a new paper which posits that black holes are actually repositories for storing quantum data and the entities doing the depositing and using black holes as quantum computers are extraterrestrials. If true, this could solve Fermi’s paradox about where all of the aliens are by showing that it is our fault – we’re looking for the wrong technology signatures. This is a discussion well beyond most of our pay grades but let see if we can put it into simpler terms … and find out of we should be excited or worried.

Are quantum computers powered by black holes the key to finding extraterrestrials? 

“We explain that black holes are the most efficient capacitors of quantum information. It is thereby expected that all sufficiently advanced civilizations ultimately employ black holes in their quantum computers.”

Gia Dvali, a theoretical physicist with the Max Planck Institute for Physics and the physics chair at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, and Zaza Osmanov, a professor of physics at the Free University of Tbilisi and a researcher with the Kharadze Georgian National Astrophysical Observatory and the SETI Institute, obviously have the credentials to author “Black holes as tools for quantum computing by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations,” a paper being reviewed for publication in the International Journal of Astrobiology. They begin with the widely accepted idea that any advanced extraterrestrials would have technology far beyond that of we mere humans. While we can’t compete with that technology, we should at least be able to detect signs of it with our own science. However, that leads to the assumption that, if the signal traveled for many light years, it must be pretty massive. Unfortunately, the best our puny little minds can manage to come up with to do this is the Dyson sphere - Freeman Dyson’s idea that advanced alien civilization could be capable of building a spherical structure around its star to capture its energy … and that massive machine would be visible in the infrared spectral band. According to Dvali and Osmanov, Dyson had the right idea but the wrong phase of a star’s life and the wrong machine.

"A whole "spectrum" of technosignatures might be much wider: for instance, the infrared or optical emission from megastructures also built around pulsars, white dwarfs, and black holes. A completely new "direction" must be the search for an anomalous spectral variability of these technosignatures, which might distinguish them from normal astrophysical objects."

How does one look for something that one can’t understand, comprehend or even imagine? That challenge has driven many in the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) to move to METI – messaging extraterrestrial intelligence. While sending out massages and hoping a species far smarter than us picks it up, translates it and responds, many fear this will lead hostile aliens to recognize how inferior we are and invade and conquer us. Dvali and Osmanov think a better idea would be to look for a technology that is advanced but still close to within our capabilities -- large-scale quantum computing. Not only is it possible, it is highly probable that aliens would share the capability.

"No matter how advanced is a civilization or how different is their particle composition and chemistry from ours, we are unified by laws of quantum physics and gravity.”

We humans have constructed small-scale quantum computers using supercomputers and trapped ions despite the fact that classical physics cannot explain the operation of quantum devices. For us, the current state of quantum computing is small, experimental and impractical. On the other hand, an advanced civilization may have surpassed the challenges … provided they have a power source massive enough to drive the quantum computer. The laws of quantum physics and gravity give us the answer.

"These laws tell us that the most efficient storers of quantum information are black holes. Although our recent studies show that theoretically, there may exist devices created by non-gravitational interactions that also saturate the capacity of information storage (so-called "saturons"), the black holes are the clear champions. Correspondingly, any sufficiently advanced ETI is expected to use them for information storage and processing."

As explained in Universe Today, these would not be natural black holes formed when massive stars collapse and die, or from when black holes collide, or from when a galaxy is formed. Instead, these would be artificial black holes created in the advanced civilization’s equivalent of a physics lab or particle accelerator facility. And instead of being star and planet-eating massive in size, these would be micro black holes that theoretically would be easier to control and easier to harvest their energy from.

"By analyzing the simple scaling properties of information retrieval time, we showed that the optimization of the information volume and processing time suggests that it is maximally beneficial for ETI to invest energy in the creation of many microscopic black holes as opposed to a few large ones.”

Next, Dvali and Osmanov bring in the late Stephen Hawking, who theorized that micro black holes radiate in a higher energy spectrum, and the process of manufacturing them in particle accelerators emits high energy radiation signatures that are “democratic” or universal. No matter who makes them or where in the universe they are made, the subatomic particles radiated will be the same. Thus, a quantum computer powered by a micro black hole will radiate particles such as photons and neutrinos. And that gives Dvali and Osmanov something known to search for.

"This, in particular, offers novel fingerprints of ETI in the form of a flux of very high energy neutrinos coming both from Hawking radiation of information storing micro black holes as well as from the collision 'factories' that manufacture them. The Hawking component of radiation is expected to be a superposition of black body spectra of very high energies.”

Is this really more probable than a Dyson sphere?

It gets better. Dvali and Osmanov note that the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica which consists of thousands of sensors located under the ice has already detected 28 neutrinos that probably originated outside of our solar system. Perhaps, like Dorothy found out from the Wizard of Oz, we’ve had the capability to detect signs of extraterrestrial life all along – we just weren’t clicking our heels and repeating, “There’s no signal like the one made by quantum computers powered by micro black holes.” The study concludes with the things IceCube and other similar observatories need to start looking for.

“This opens up a new avenue for SETI. The general smoking guns include potential detections of high energy neutrino fluxes with approximately thermal distribution. Another interesting but more exotic possibility, that requires additional clarifications, is that farms of closely spaced black holes which likely produce and extended high temperature medium may occasionally create and radiate away heavy composite structures.”

If only we could peer into the afterlife to see if Enrico Fermi is slow-clapping.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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