Sketchup and SETI



The purpose is to develop a parametric model of the galaxy that models the Fermi Paradox.



To start this off, I’ve been using the Key Frame Animation plugin to visualize CivObjects which are the parametric shape of an alien civilizations EM signature as seen in X,Y space with Z at time. (See Minkowski space/time diagrams here: Minkowski Wiki article.

Because of file size limit, this .mov runs super fast, but you can see the EM in yellow fans spread out at the speed of light across space. To do this, I hand-build badminton shuttlecocked shaped objects (CivObects) through a section plane to get this effect.

My goal is to build the CivObject animations parametrically and distribute them across the galactic plane as per various theories of the Galactic Habitable Zone. Essentially it’s a viz of a more complex Drake Equation.

I’ve coded a bit in Ruby but find the simplest things stop me and I’m looking for collaborators to credit on (currently in development on Squarespace but not made public)

Anyone want to “play”?

Txxx Scott


“Where is everybody?”

An infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of keyboards for an infinite amount of time will invariably produce every literary work known to Man, but not necessarily in our lifetime. Maybe they were here 1,000,000 years ago and found nothing worth seeing; or maybe they won’t be 'round for another 1,000,000 years. Whoever “they” are.

Personally, I would use C++ for this project and integrate directly into the graphics subsystem for dynamic display of the manifolds involved. That being said, you might want to check out the U-V PolyGen plugin available here:

It allows you to create 3D surfaces from any parametric equations of the form:

x = Fx(u,v)
y = Fy(u,v)
z = Fz(u,v)

[blatant promotional comment] For another explanation of “Where is everybody?”, you might want to check out my novel about alien contact on Amazon: “The Chaos Machine” :wink:


I could rewrite that as:

An infinite number of astro-anthropological monkeys, listening on an infinite number of radio telescopes, for the infinitesimal amount of time that their civilization might last (compared to the lifetime of the galaxy,) will invariably miss any possible EM emission, produced by some other civilization during their infinitesimal lifetime.
Maybe they died out more than 180k years ago, and their emissions have long since left our galaxy. Or perhaps they won’t be 'round for another million years until long after we are gone, so we’ll never know they existed, and they’ll never know we existed (assuming they’d even care.) Whoever “they” are.



Jim and Dan,

My point is to model the silence and absence: EM and Physical. We can’t really debate the whole field! By modeling to scale (1meter = 1LY) the enormity of the issues, space/time included, becomes clear.

I’ll post some of the actual models soon but I wanted to get the ball rolling!

W. Scott Guerin
Design Director
4274 Design Workshop, Inc
c. 845 443 3131


We are teasin’ a bit. :wink:

The appropriateness of using SketchUp for this project is a valid issue.

SketchUp has an internal tolerance of 0.001" with respect to geometry vertices (and I think also guidepoint [aka cpoint] coordinates.)

So at 1meter = 1LY, vertices can be no closer than 0.0000254 of a meter/LY. (Ie, 25.4 micrometers/microLY.)

That translates to 240,301,780,000 m (2.403 x 10^11 m), or 1.606 AU, or ~13 lightminutes for the minimum vertex separation.

If that is fine, then okay.

On the high end, the galaxy would be 180,000m across. That is like a model 112 miles in diameter!

SketchUp wasn’t designed for such large models. You may see display clipping issues the farther you get from the origin.


Hi Dan,

Thanks for the details, I can take the kidding!!!

So here is a basic SKP showing the relationship of the Milky Way to Andromeda and a zoom-in of our solar system (Not to scale for clarity) and the to scale ecliptic shadow that the planets would cause. The shadowing is what the Kepler satellite “sees.”

03 MW Andromeda Transit Plane.skp (748.8 KB)


Citizen SETI via Sketchup. Check out my article if you have any interest in scientific uses of SKP!!!