Born in Moscow, Kardashev was an astrophysicist. After receiving his PhD in 1962, Kardashev pretty quickly gravitated to his field of interest: the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. In 1964, he published the paper “Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations”, which proposed a way to measure an alien civilization’s level of technological advancement based on how much energy they can tap into. The classification scheme, known as the Kardashev Scale, only has three types:
- Type I (“planetary”) civilizations can use and store all of the energy available on their planet, or about 4×1012 watts. An example: us — if we truly demonstrate such control, and we haven’t yet.
- Type II (“stellar”) civilizations can use and control energy at the scale of their solar system, or about 4×1026 watts. A theoretical example: a Dyson sphere civilization.
- Type III (“galactic”) civilizations can control energy at the scale of their entire host galaxy, or about 4×1037 watts. There are no known examples.
The next step, of course, would be Type IV, but Kardashev decided it was impossible for a civilization to control the energy of the entire universe. Yet American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku proposed that the next level of civilization could have the ability to control another energy source: “dark energy.” Science fiction writers have taken it to still another level: Type V civilizations perhaps could control all of the energy of the multiverse, a theoretical (and some would say likely) collection of parallel universes.
Kardashev also predicted the discovery of pulsars, and came up with new ways to utilize radio telescopes: he worked on the Russian Spektr-R, a space-based radio telescope with a widely elliptical orbit that swings it out to approximately the orbit of the moon. This allows interferometry, or extremely large “virtual” radio telescopes to peer deeper into space. He was working on “Millimetron”, the next generation of the system, which would have a much larger orbit: out to 1.5 million km, or 932,000 miles. Dr. Kardashev died August 3. He was 87.