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“If even one other civilization existed in our galaxy and had a similar or more advanced level of directed-energy technology, we could detect ‘them’ anywhere in our galaxy with a very modest detection approach,” said UC Santa Barbara physicist Philip Lubin, head of the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group this past June. “If we scale it up as we’re doing with direct energy systems, how far could we detect a civilization equivalent to ours? The answer becomes that the entire universe is now open to us.

Imagine if we sent up a visible signal that could eventually be seen across the entire universe. Imagine if another civilization did the same. Photonics advances allow us to be seen across the universe, with major implications for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, says Lubin.

“But suppose there is a civilization like ours and suppose — unlike us, who are skittish about broadcasting our presence — they think it’s important to be a beacon, an interstellar or extragalactic lighthouse of sorts,” he added. “There is a photonics revolution going on on Earth that enables this specific kind of transmission of information via visible or near-infrared light of high intensity."

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