Have Aliens Sent Invisible Probes to Study Our Solar System?

Scottish mathematicians working at the University of Edinburgh have a stark warning for the denizens of Earth: invisible, self-replicating alien robot space probes may be watching us.

Likely sent years ago by technologically-advanced alien civilizations, the probes self replicate using dust and gas as they travel through space, and “slingshot” around stars and planets to increase their velocity. They may be “invisible,” say the mathematicians, because they’re so “hi-tech” that we simply can’t detect or identify them.

Okay, so this probably isn’t true. But in their paper titled “Slingshot Dynamics for Self Replicating Probes and the Effect on Exploration Timescales” (read it here), Duncan Forgan and Arwen Nicholson at least leave the possibility open.

Using a computer simulation, they analyzed how probes could move through space efficiently while self-replicating, proving that, even traveling well below the speed of light, they could explore the entire galaxy “within 10 million years.”

Unfortunately, because we haven’t seen any of these probes, this could mean one of two things: either the probes are so high-tech they’re invisible to us, or we’re alone in the galaxy.

“…our results confirm that a fleet of self-replicating probes can explore the Galaxy in a timescale commensurate with those normally assumed when posing the Fermi Paradox (Hart, 1975), with powered flight at the upper limits of the timescale and slingshot flights at the lower end. Both are still orders of magnitude less than the age of the Earth, proving that the question underlying the Fermi Paradox is well-posed.”

The Fermi paradox is the contradiction between the vast probability that extraterrestrial civilizations exist, and our lack of contact or knowledge of them. In other words, where are all the aliens?

But maybe it’s true. Maybe we just can’t see the probes because they’re invisible. In fact, I actually happen to have photographic evidence of one of these alien probe droids. I suppose now is as good a time as any to share it. The image was taken circa 1980. Here it is:

Image: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

All thing’s considered, it’s a good bet the Empire knows we’re here.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.