The Drake Equation

The Drake Equation

Also found on the Athena Astronautics website, where I found out about it.

Now… I’m not a big math buff, but this is pretty interesting.

doesn’t take a mathemagician to know that 0.0000008 (current estimate of encountering life at any given moment) is really just not probable enough to give it much thought. which is why putting anymoney into the search for extraterrestrials is a pointless effort. after all, what benefits has the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) provided to mankind? how much money has been dumped into their bank accounts? doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of return for the cash there.

I value your skepticism in this matter bishop. Of course, Micheal Criton himself stated in 2003, “The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion.”

However… there still is, and always will be, the matter of the Wow! signal. Then again, I’m curious how something like that could have been falsified so that, like religions with “supporting facts” to back it up, would be considered a valid reason to believe in SETI’s efforts.


while i don’t quite think that SETI meets the “religion” criteria, i can appreciate michael criton’s comment on it being untestable at those rates and over the amount of years it would take to prove.

the WOW factor would be pretty immense, you are right about that. the movie Contact sort of hit on a few of the social rammifications of intelligent life on other planets. i almost find the human reaction more intriguing than the aspect of other life … almost.

but as you implied support for SETI based on the unlikelyhood of a signal being falsified i have to bring up the other side of things. not that a know enough about those signals to know if they could be faked, but that to my knowledge SETI has not ever detected one that would be from another life form. i believe it is just about the most worthless gov’t agency we have in terms of results.

I think what Criton meant by “religion” was that SETI represented a form of psuedoscience to the point that it becomes a matter of faith rather than fact.

That was actually a very interesting movie and at some points funny… like when they recieve the video feed of a swastika and Hitler opening the 1936 Olympic games, and James Woods says: “Oohhkayy…”, calling in the troops.

I was going to say this with the Contact movie, but I’ll say it here. What that movie shows which is important to the existence of radio astronomy and the reason why we should always be listening is: just in case. I think that while programs like SETI are expensive, it is not entirely unreasonable to still have some level of radio astronomy going on for the sake of the possibility that we might recieve something from a civilization that perhaps sent something 30,000 years ago (in our measurement of time that is). We know it’s pointless to send a transmission out, but it’s not entirely pointless to listen for incoming transmissions.

I don’t thing it’s pointless to send a transmition. Sure, it won’t do us any good, but if there is other life in this galaxy they may be straining to peer into the darkness just like we are. Perhaps the point is just to say “I was here. I was alive.” Sort of like carving your initials into a tree or something that will linger long after your own life ends.

The Drake Equation is definately pretty arbitrary, but I don’t think SETI comes close to a religion. The question is it seeks to answer is an important one, at least in my mind. The tool isn’t likely to get the job done, but at the present time it’s the best tool we have.

It’s not like SETI has deep pockets or is making anyone rich. At any given time there’re only a couple dozen scientists on the planet actively engaged in the search, and they do so with pretty limited resources. It’s an urban legend or misunderstanding to think there’s some big SETI organization out there. SETI is more of a task than a group.

man, i was a bit off base with my original thoughts here. from everything i can find, they have a budget under $3 million per year. and it’s all from donations. SUN Microsystems, for instance, is a big donor. in 1993 (or 1995 maybe) the gov’t ended financial support for SETI, which i believe NASA was more directly funding at the time.

why? if it’s pointless to send transmissions, then there is functionally zero chance at communication. would it be just to know that they were there at some time? if we consider it a waste to send, it would be a safe assumption that other life forms would feel the same way. thus, we would only pick up things like alien “i love lucy” episodes. while it may be a good for a laugh or two, where is the benefit?

since the gov’t doesn’t really support them i won’t raise any arguments about wasted money, especially at only $3 million a year. i’ve seen much more arbitrary and pointless organizations which a group of people just happened to have an interest in. more power to them. but if the drake equation is accurate, do you think we could realistically expect any sort of result from them in our lifetime, or the following 10 generations even?

True, there’s little chance of 2 way communications, but as I explained, we’d essentially be putting a message in a bottle then tossing it into the sea. When you bury a time capsule you don’t expect those who find it in 100 years to look you up. :wink:

At the very least would could let another civilization know that they are/were not alone.