Friday, January 13, 2017

Dyson Sphere Around KIC 8462852 Debunked

The USS Enterprise discovers a Dyson sphere in an episode of Star Trek - Next Generation

Two years ago astronomers detected a strange star called KIC 8462852. This star behaves in a very unusual way. It shows unusual fluctuations in brightness and becomes significantly dimmer in an astronomically very short time (14% in 100 years).
The first explanation that our "scientists" came up with was the hypothesis that they might have discovered a so called Dyson Sphere, an artificial megastructure around a star that collects all energy that it emits. Such a concept was first suggested in 1960 by the British mathematician Freeman John Dyson and has since then been subject of several science fiction novels.
What else would have come to mind as explanation? A Dyson spheres even appeared in an episode of Star Trek, and if this does not count as a proof of its existence...

Unfortunately for our science fiction fans who these days prefer to call themselves "scientists" another real scientist called Brian Metzger from the Columbia University came up with a much more boring explanation. A star getting dimmer could simply be explained by a planet falling into the central sun of its solar system. Therefore we have no explanatory need for any alien megastructures.

On the positive side reason has prevailed and put a weird hypothesis to rest by a quite simple explanation. On the negative side this shows us what kind of mindset is common among today's scientists. Instead of giving simple and plausible explanations for observations, they use odd observations to support weird and far-fetched theories from a SciFi universe.
And this is not the first example of this kind. We may perhaps remember the case of oscillations ins an oversized interferometer being explained with the gravitational waves of two "black holes" merging with each other millions of light years away with no other observation to support this awkward hypothesis. I reported about it in an earlier post of this blog. To explain the observation with a more likely, but admittedly more boring tectonic event did not cross their mind.

This is the sad state of today's post-modern science. It is closer to science fiction than to true science or engineering.

Of course the existence of a Dyson sphere around KIC 8462852 has not been disproved with certainty. But if we have the choice between a far-fetched hypothesis from a SciFi novel or the trivial event of a planet falling into a star, which of the two explanations should we choose as rational beings?
A scientific mind also has to take probability into account. And while a Dyson sphere has a probability far closer to 0 than to 1%, the overwhelming probability points to the simpler explanation of a planet being swallowed by a star.