In one of his videos "Dead Aliens", popular futurist Youtuber, Isaac Arthur describes a fictional mission to the planet of the Amberites.

He proposes that during one of humanity's first slower-than-light interstellar missions, the explorers receive radio transmissions from an alien race. They somehow decode them (he handwaves this), and find that the transmissions are just normal radio programs. The transmissions continue for a few weeks, and then just abruptly stop. There's no message directed at humanity or anything. Eventually, the astronauts find a star system including an airless moon (named Shiva) orbiting an iced-over planet (named Amber) in the habitable zone of its star. On the moon, they find the ruins of a small facility. Within the base, the astronauts discover the cryogenically-frozen bodies of several Amberites.

Has Isaac Arthur confirmed what happened to the Amberite people?

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    I actually think this would be best at the Puzzling Stack Exchange. – Adamant Nov 2 '18 at 4:33
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    From watching the video, it's clear it's not a posit that the colonists know what the catastrophic event was, and that we're supposed to guess. "They" don't know either, but they now know there's a lot of ethical and moral questions that need to be asked about next steps. It's all just a hypothetical scenario that has no solution, no answers to the questions asked, just a general thought exercise. (But, it was really fun to watch). – phyrfox Nov 2 '18 at 4:50
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    If you don't know the answer, we can't ask this on Puzzling. But it's very dubiously on-topic here, in my opinion, since this short scenario doesn't necessarily count as a full work. – Adamant Nov 2 '18 at 5:03
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    @JamesfromNZ - Confirmed by Asimov? Are you sure you are talking about the right thing? And it's not clear whether this brief thought experiment/riddle counts as a work of science fiction. – Adamant Nov 2 '18 at 6:40
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    This is basically a guessing game, but the author has repeatedly confirmed that there's a single correct answer that can be determined by examining the clues. I've done an edit to reflect that and voted to reopen. – Valorum Nov 2 '18 at 9:10

The implication (based on the youtube exchange with the author Isaac Arthur below) is that the Amberite civilisation was sufficiently elderly that their sun had long ceased to output sufficient power for their survival as a species. There were also mentions of evidence of a (limited) nuclear conflict.

What seems to have happened is that a small number of Amberites retreated to their moon to conduct biological research and altered their DNA and physiology in order to be able to survive in cryogenic stasis in order to outlive the death of their planet as a life-bearing object.

The motives of these scientists (whether to stay alive long enough to be rescued by an alien species or to serve as a warning to others) haven't yet been revealed.

Enjin: Given that biohazard symbols feature prominently, I'll suggest that isn't an accident. The real mystery is how an extraordinarily lethal biohazard might have between the planet and moon base (one way or the other). If the aliens had time and clear enough minds to "put everything in order", the pathogen most likely was at least slow acting or allowed partial or full resistance to some of the population. If multiple worlds, in separate solar systems have been ended by the same pathogen then it must have been transported. From what little we saw, the moon base seemed to use technology approximately on par with our own, so it's somewhat unlikely that the pathogen was deliberately shared between the worlds (barring some very weird malicious scenarios)...

The easy answer is that the biohazard warnings are unrelated, a red herring and that the worlds were subject to a GRB. The state of Amber being covered in ice might be a coincidental ice age for a world that is often quite cold (as Earth tends to be - not right now of course, we're in a warm patch within a larger cool period, but through the millennia).

Edit: 6 hours later I'm stumped. I can't think of a scenario that fits all of the evidence... unless there was more than one 'great filter'. Multiple worlds, cosmic neighbours that each die due to a biohazard within about a million years of one another, which (directly or indirectly) can freeze a planet and potentially affect the few who escape to a moon base but not severely as they have time to consider their existential crisis and prepare their base for future investigation by an alien species... possibly as a warning of what led to their demise.

Isaac Arthur: You advanced a very solid line of reasoning though Michael :) Though of course I won't confirm or deny any of the options for a while so everyone's had their chance for fun :)

  • In reference to the zombie warning(!) signs, these were intended as an easter-egg or some sort of in-universe joke by the scientists rather than a legitimate cause of planetary death.

Isaac Arthur: I will also say, now that someone noticed the text on the sign, which I didn't want to spoil, that the zombies themselves are a bit of a joke, the biohazard symbol however is pertinent to the story.

Isaac Arthur: No Mike, the Zombies are just a joke, that didn't kill them. Of course the biohazard symbol for them would be different. I don't want people getting too sidetracked with that, they were doing bioscience up there, what that is indicating, so folks don't get confused, is that they were very cautious experimenters, to site a bioresearch facility on a moon and still put biohazard symbols on the front door, and that they would have people there who would be experts on biology and DNA so that their last ditch gambit was more plausible.

  • There's a couple problems with it being low stellar activity causing an ice age. First, this would be a very slow process. Why did the radio signals not include any mention of it? Second, why wouldn't they just burn more fossil fuels? Any society industrialized enough to build a moonbase must know about internal combustion engines. Why couldn't they keep their world warm with the greenhouse effect? – Ryan_L Nov 2 '18 at 16:02
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    @Ryan_L - It's possible (fan-theory time) that the only signals that were strong enough to make it out were from certain TV stations. If you watched the Home Shopping Network for a year, how much do you think you'd learn about geopolitics? Also the nuclear exchange might well have been the last straw for a society that was already in terminal decline. We'll need to wait for the author to go further before we can answer these questions (even assuming he gave it that much thought in the first place). – Valorum Nov 2 '18 at 17:01

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