384: The Drake Equation
|The Drake Equation|
Title text: But seriously, there's loads of intelligent life. It's just not screaming constantly in all directions on the handful of frequencies we search.
For starters, the Drake equation is a model for estimating the number of communicating life forms in our galaxy.
Even in the unlikely event that there is life on other planets, most life forms will not establish civilizations. But if there are any communicating civilizations their messages would have to travel for hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of years to reach us and then our response would take an equivalent amount of time, leaving them waiting for potentially thousands of years for a response.
That's the reason why Randall also added the factor for the "Amount of bullshit you're willing to buy from Frank Drake". All the factors are difficult to measure or estimate, no number is determined by an sufficient accuracy, so the equation is a guideline for a thought experiment at best, and just "bullshit" at worst.
The title text is a joke on the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project and the intelligence of the researchers. There is little, if anything, restricting any potential extra-terrestrial communication to the frequencies that SETI searches at any given moment. And with the thousands of years of separation and the probabilities involved any communication from an extraterrestrial source that doesn't know we're here would have to be a constant and powerful signal sent out from a source in all directions. Any intelligent civilization wouldn't waste all their time and effort on such a system just to say hi to other races when there is an extremely slim possibility that either civilization would meet even if they do communicate.
The SETI project is searching at the 21 cm hydrogen line which is considered a favorable frequency by potential extraterrestrial civilizations. Even humans do not communicate at that frequency, SETI would not find us.
In other words, the title text makes it clear Randall doesn't think Drake is a nutjob or anything, just that Randall has a more conservative expectation about ever discovering extraterrestrial life.
- The Drake Equation:
- N = R * fp ne fl fi fc L Bs
- N: Number of communicating civilizations in our galaxy
- ne: Number of life-supporting planets per solar system
- fi: Probability that life on a planet becomes intelligent
- Bs: Amount of bullshit you're willing to buy from Frank Drake