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The Drake Equation

A few ‘posts’ ago, I posted a brief paragraph or two about ‘The Drake Equation’ and that most certainly wasn’t enough! 

As said in my past post, ‘The Drake Equation’ is an equation that is used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. How did it come around? Does it work? 

The Drake Equation was developed by Frank Drake in 1961. In started when in 1960 Frank Drake conducted the first search for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilization (In an observatory in Green bank, which is why the equation is often refered to as the Green Bank Equation/Foruma). After this, Drake was asked to convene a meeting about detecting extraterrestrial intelligence. This meeting was held at the Green Bank facility in 1961. 

As Frank planned this meeting,he realized that they needed an agenda, so he wrote down all things you need to know to predict how hard it’s going to be to detect extraterrestrial life and ta-da, the Drake Equation!

N = R^{\ast} \cdot f_p \cdot n_e \cdot f_{\ell} \cdot f_i \cdot f_c \cdot L \!

  = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible.

 R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy.

 fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets.

 ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets.

 fℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point

 fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life

 fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

 L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

A popular answer for the Drake Equation is:

N = 2.31, N = two communicative civilizations exist in our galaxy at any given time on average, plus two hundred more that are not trying to communicate.

A pessimists answer might be: N = 0.000065, that we are almost surely alone in our galaxy.

A optimists answer might be: N = 20,000, quite a few civilizations. 

Of course you’ll get many different answers and like I’ve said, the equation has been changed but you can use this website to find out your own answer to the Drake Equation!

There’s also this formula, where Tg = the age of the galaxy.

N = N^{\ast} \cdot f_p \cdot n_e \cdot f_{\ell} \cdot f_i \cdot f_c \cdot L / T_g \,\!

The Drake Equation has often been confused with The Fermi Paradox, is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for these civilizations. Basically, it’s a conflict between an argument of scale and probability and a lack of evidence. 

The name came from the physicist Enrico Fermi who was having a discussion with colleagues (in 1950), discussing UFO reports and the conversation shifted to other subjects, until during lunch when Fermi suddenly exclaimed “Where are they?” (Or alternatively “Where is everybody?”) 

You can read more about the Fermi Paradox here:

The Drake Equation doesn’t seem to be a very fitting answer, and I too question where all these civilizations are. When you think of where you are right now, supposedly in a building or a place. That place might seem rather big to you, then think of going on holiday to the other side of the world, that’s a long way! This is just on Earth, that pale blue dot. Even bigger than that is our Galaxy, then the Universe! If there is no extraterrestrial life in our vast galaxy, then there are billions of galaxies and if not in those galaxies then I’ve come to the conclusion that there is more than one Universe. 

Wouldn’t it be quite messy with multiple Universes all in some GIGANTIC “bubble”? It hurts my brain to even try comprehending that vastness. 


Note: Sorry for my lack of posts, I’ve had A LOT of homework so I’ve had no time to search for research and put together posts. Feed back is ALWAYS welcome!

Filed under Space Drake Equation Fermi Paradox Science

  1. manifoldreverie reblogged this from cosmosscience
  2. jamessteiner said: Posting sources: awesome.
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