Assuming you are an ET: How would you identify nuclear technologies without direct knowledge?

This question has been baffling me for a while due to claims about visitations of nuclear facilities and technologies by UAPs (e.g. just search for Bob Sallas and you will find enough material).

Assuming you are an ET: How would you identify a nuclear technology remotely without any direct knowledge about it? It's easy with power plants that dispose isotopes with waste through chimneys. And production sites and larger concentrations of nuclear material could be considered to significantly distort the gravitational field. But it becomes much more difficult to make the case for more isolated concentrations such as nuclear warheads, missiles and ICBMs. You can forget about alpha and beta radiation due to their short range. So only gamma radiation remains, but it usually scales 1/r^2 in distance r. So unless you set up a giant Geiger counter you should be unlikely to detect it.
 
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Jeffrey Orling

Senior Member
I suppose the ET's have been observing what's been going on here for some time and may have seen nukes being used and being tested. They would be the largest explosions and maybe catch their attention... What are these explosions?
There is a presumption with ETs that they understand earth culture... Or did they study it and draw conclusions? How concerning would nuke explosions be?
 
Any emissions from our nuclear adventures are currently only about 75 light years distant, so that rules out most of the known universe as a candidate for any 'visitors' (they reached Xeta Reticuli somewhere around 1984).
Beyond that it's just a question of how good their tech is.....Assuming it's 'Sub-Star Trek', then our sphere of origin is immediately down to 37 light years or less, probably a lot less.
If it's 'Super-Star Trek' then there's no answer to the question.....Their systems could be utterly beyond our comprehension, or incredibly prosaic, or both at the same time!
The late Iain M Banks had a cool take on it in 'State Of The Art':

It was about a week later, when I was due to go back on-planet, to Berlin, when the ship wanted to talk to me again. Things were going on as usual; the Arbitrary spent its time making detailed maps of everything within sight and without, dodging American and Soviet satellites and manufacturing and then sending down to the planet hundreds upon thousands of bugs to watch printing works and magazine stalls and libraries, to scan museums, workshops, studios and shops, to look into windows, gardens and forests, and to track buses, trains, cars, seaships and planes. Meanwhile its effectors, and those on its main satellites, probed every computer, monitored every landline, tapped every microwave link, and listened to every radio transmission on Earth.

All Contact craft are natural raiders. They're made to love to be busy, to enjoy sticking their big noses into other people's business, and the Arbitrary, for all its eccentricities, was no different. I doubt if it was, or is, ever happier than when doing that vacuum-cleaner act above a sophisticated planet. By the time we were ready to leave the ship would have contained in its memory - and would have onward-transmitted to other vessels - every bit of data ever stored in the history of the planet that hadn't been subsequently obliterated. Every 1 and 0, every letter, every pixel, every sound, every subtlety of line and texture ever fashioned. It would know where every mineral deposit was buried, where all the treasure as yet undiscovered lay, where every sunken ship was, where every secret grave had been dug; and it would know the secrets of the Pentagon, the Kremlin, the Vatican…

On Earth, of course, they were quite oblivious to the fact they had a million tonnes of highly inquisitive and outrageously powerful alien spaceship orbiting around them, and - sure enough - the locals were doing all the things they normally did; murdering and starving and dying and maiming and torturing and lying and so on. Pretty much business as usual in fact, and it bothered the hell out of me, but I was still hoping we'd decide to interfere and stop most of that shit. It was about this time two Boeing 747s collided on the ground in a Spanish island colony.
 
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Itsme

Active Member
Interesting question to ponder. Lots of speculation of course but I guess it depends whether you assume distant or close observation.

Distant observation could reveal a change in isotope concentrations. See for instance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomb_pulse, which shows the carbon 14 concentration in our atmosphere doubled during the cold war.
The explosions themselves can also be visible at a distance.

On top of this, close observation could concentrate on our power grid (many power lines are above surface) and our logistic/military movements to reveal the military hot spots / energy sources. Closer inspection of these hot spots / energy sources will then reveal nuclear capability.

Then of course they may also have this cool blue scanner that Spock always used...

While I think these types of questions are interesting and fun to ponder about, they typically can only be answered either from our current anthropomorphic point-of-view, or by using our endless imagination. Both are probably wrong.

The anthropomorphic point-of-view often assumes they are on a planet observing space like us, and a visit to Earth would be a separate project akin to a visit to Mars for us. But look at how we travel around the world these days. We do not manufacture a plane for every single trip between two cities. In about 150 years we managed to build a transport infrastructure that connect almost any pair of cities on Earth in less than a couple of days. And we can make most of these point to point trips at least weekly. Given a head start of millions of years, who knows what others may have accomplished on a galactic scale in terms of an observational and transport infrastructure?
 

jplaza

Member
It's easy with power plants that dispose isotopes with waste through chimneys.
Err... If that is the case, someone is not doing his job properly.

The chimneys are for refrigeration, they should only emit water vapor. Nuclear waste must remain within the burnt fuel rods.


And production sites and larger concentrations of nuclear material could be considered to significantly distort the gravitational field.

Can you elaborate on this? How do you expect to detect nuclear material by distortion of the gravitational field?
 
The chimneys are for refrigeration, they should only emit water vapor. Nuclear waste must remain within the burnt fuel rods.

I am not talking about cooling towers. Nuclear power plants usually possess an additional smaller and thin chimney accompanying the facility to dispose waste into the atmosphere through which to a certain degree also isotopic material is disposed of. It is of course all heavily regulated, but trace amounts escape into the environment which could be detected in theory.

Can you elaborate on this? How do you expect to detect nuclear material by distortion of the gravitational field?

Large concentrations of heavy material should lead to anomalies in the gravitational field. Should be detectable with gravimeters which basically measure the free-fall acceleration.
 
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Ashley Pomeroy

New Member
Ages ago I remember reading about "bhangmeters", which can detect the light pulse of a nuclear explosion, and after a bit of Googling it seems that it might be possible to detect nuclear reactors from their emission of antineutrinos:
https://physicsworld.com/a/using-antineutrinos-to-monitor-nuclear-reactors/

It's not currently practical with our technology because antineutrinos pass through almost everything, but perhaps aliens with advanced technology might be able to get it to work. I learn from the internet that in 1987 we measured neutrinos from SN 1987A, a supernova that occured 168,000 light years away, so presumably range isn't a problem.

It's a hot topic because human beings - not just aliens - would also like to be able to detect nuclear reactors from a distance.
 

Mauro

Active Member
It's not currently practical with our technology because antineutrinos pass through almost everything,
Well, we have a neutrino detector called 'Ice Cube': it's a one cubic kilometer of ice harnessed for the purpose... not exactly practical but doable. In effect, neutrinos are ideal as remote detection goes: we can be sure some neutrinos will reach us even from one hundred billion light years away (dark matter particles would be even better, if we only could detect them; gravitational waves would be ideal too, but they are much harder to detect than neutrinos, unless aliens have a thermonuclear weapon of some hundreds of solar masses to detonate).
 
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