Are we alone in the universe? It’s a question that fascinates scientists and the public alike. In science, the focus tends to be on our search for life elsewhere. The idea that we might be watched by a distant alien civilization, however, is usually confined to the realm of science fiction.

But if there are other technological civilizations out there, they would probably be significantly more developed than we are. After all, we have only just emerged as a fledgling technical (industrial) civilization in the last 200 years — other technical civilizations could easily be 1,000 or 10,000, or even 100,000 years more advanced than we are.

And no one can deny that the pace of our own technological progress is accelerating, in some areas at a blistering pace. To paraphrase science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s third law — an advanced civilization would appear to us as capable of magic in terms of their technical prowess.

Over the last few years, my colleagues and I have started to think about whether an advanced civilization could detect the technological signatures (“techno-signatures”), such as radio emissions, from Earth. And if so, what might they detect?

Our latest study provides a clue.

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