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Life at the Limits of Physical Laws


Robert Bradbury




Some of the problems that plague SETI research are the problems of the abundance of liquid water planets, the probability of the development of intelligent life, whether or not intelligent life forms develop technology, how long intelligent technological civilizations may survive, and whether or not interstellar travel or colonization are feasible or affordable.  These problems lead to extensive and potentially irresolvable debates regarding the various paths species and civilizations may follow from a primitive level to our current level and beyond.  This discussion will focus instead on the question of what the characteristics of intelligent technological life should be at the limits of known physical laws.  Why do this?  Well, because as Scotty observed on the Starship Enterprise, "Captain, I canna change the laws of physics!".  Even if the laws of physics do not deny the feasibility of a life form, the lack of a practical engineering path to it may prevent its existence.  At these limits, the form(s) that life takes may be clearer because convergent evolution could drive civilizations into a very limited set of ecological niches.  An architecture for civilizations that hits many of these limits will be proposed.  Its characteristics include thought capacities in excess of a trillion trillion times that of an individual human, survival times of trillions of years and astronomical observational capacities trillions of times greater than our civilization.  Such civilizations, should, over time, become the dominant population of galaxies.  Our own civilization may reach this state within this century.  The impact of these conclusions on classical radio and optical SETI verses astrometric and occultation astronomy will be discussed.



Dyson shells, evolution, Matrioshka Brains, megascale engineering, nanotechnology, optical SETI, radio SETI, technological civilizations.


  • The paper (author Web site)


Principal Author Biography

Robert Bradbury is has educations in applied mathematics from Harvard University and microbiology from the University of Washington.  Much of his professional career has been spent doing software development for companies in such industries as finance, publishing, structured design, real time systems, and database management.  During the mid-1980's he was the UNIX Product Development Manager for Oracle Corporation and played key roles in the Oracle's success in both the UNIX and IBM markets.  He founded Aeiveos Corporation in 1992 to promote research related to resolving the relative importance of  the various theories of aging.  A significant result of this was the development of one of the first and largest internet sites organizing research on aging (www.aeiveos.com).  From 1996 thru 1997 he was the President of Aeiveos Sciences Group.  During that period it was the 2nd largest company, after Geron, conducting research into the molecular biology of aging.  For the last two years he has focused his attention on the problems of the real limits to personal longevity and intelligence, what processes govern the long term evolution of technological civilizations and currently unresolved problems in Astronomy, such as the nature of the missing mass and dark matter in the Universe.  He has a moderately deep comprehension of a relatively unique information set that includes Computer Science, Molecular Biology and Nanotechnology.

He is a member of the AAAS, IEEE and SPIE.  He is on the board of directors of the American Aging Association and the Extropy Institute and is a Senior Associate of both the Foresight Institute and the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing.  He also serves as a scientific advisor for the LifeEx Technologies, a recently formed partnership investing venture capital in corporate startups developing interventions in aging.


Principal Author Affiliation

Aeiveos Corporation
PO Box 31877 Seattle,
WA 98103
Tel: (206) 782-9474
Email: bradbury@aeiveos.com


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