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Uh oh...Is Drake's Equation really reliable?

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posted on Apr, 13 2008 @ 09:41 PM
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Advanced ground and space-based telescopes are discovering new planets around other stars almost daily, but an environmental scientist from England believes that even if some of those planets turn out to be Earth-like, the odds are very low they'll have intelligent inhabitants.
Source


Since there is no real test of Drake's Equation....is it possible it is off by an order of magnitude? So the question is....which will be cited most often in discussion here on ATS? Keeping in mind, there is no reliable method to test either conjecture; unless we figure some way to conduct a census.




posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:07 AM
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Yeah, it's possible. There could be many more or less planets in the universe with intelligent life than expected.


Keeping in mind, there is no reliable method to test either conjecture

And that is the problem. What that guy is claiming isn't any more/less valid than the Drake Equation. Nothing is certain.

[edit on 14-4-2008 by GrayFox]



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:45 AM
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Well, simply put - No, the equation is not very reliable.

It's a long series of multiplications with a lot of unknown factors and if just one of these unknown factors is zero or very close to zero, the results would become ...well, not very encouraging.

Given the enormous amount of incidents necessary for developing somehow intelligent life on earth alone (position in the sunsystem, asteroid impact, creation of the moon etc. etc.), i personally think, that a lot of factors could be very low numbers.

On the other hand ...

Space (or to give it a more technical name, 'The Universe') is big. Really Big. It's also full of really surprising things like Babel fish and tea.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:01 PM
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The Drake Equation was at least a good try for it's time and gave people a number that could be debated/discussed. However, it runs on purely speculative numbers. IMHO I believe that it would definitely be out by a number of magnitudes.

It's kind of like asking a blind person to describe the beautiful intricacies of an Opal from first hand experience. We simply don't know what we can't know. I doubt even advanced ET's would have a hard figure!

IRM Out!



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:14 PM
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These links might help shed light on the subject...

en.wikipedia.org...

en.wikipedia.org...


en.wikipedia.org...



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:20 PM
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Originally posted by InfaRedMan
However, it runs on purely speculative numbers.


I'm going nuts trying to find and access the entire paper published by John D. Ruley in the journal Astrobiology....sure would like to see his numbers and reasoning. I'd like to see how speculative his approach may be. Anyone has any luck finding it....let me know.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:25 PM
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reply to post by coastlinekid
 


Thanks for the links....the last one is most pertinent to the topic...I'm familiar with them, but they do provide a base for discussion.

I'm speaking without having read the actual, published paper. Having trouble finding and accessing it. But, I think what John D. Ruley is suggesting is that even if a planet happens to fall right in the "habitable zone", other biological and evolutionary factors come into play, reducing the likelihood of intelligence being a common commodity. (Not just here, on good ol' Earth).



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 12:42 PM
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reply to post by MrPenny
 


Agreed, and one great example is the KT impact event here on Earth.
Say that impact had been larger (for example, current theory holds our moon as the result of a larger impactor) the Earth could well have been put into a state where life as we know it was impossible (think what Io looks like now).

There are many factors not present in the Drake Equation that would change the results. However as far as Equations go, it is impossible in any case to list and take into account every factor conceivable.

I look at Drake's work as an idea of what is possible. I also like the fact that many sites have the Equation set up so that you can plug in your own numbers for the variables and see what comes out.

But what each of us must remember, is that even if there is only one other planet with intelligent life out there, the ETH is proven. By the estimates of anyone I've heard in the mainstream (think History Channel and Discovery Channel shows where experts are interviewed, Neil De Grasse Tyson for example, or Michio Kaku, etc the list goes on) there seems to be a consensus that life is not only likely, it's unlikely for it not to exist.

The Drake Equation is just that, an equation. But one thing it does for certain is take the 'that's impossible' argument (as it pertains to life on other worlds) and flushes that argument right down the toilet. The fact is that it 'IS possible', and even likely.

Until we narrow down some of the variables involved, that's all I feel the Equation can tell us.

-WFA



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 01:13 PM
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Depending on the number you plug in the equation can equal from 0 to billions. I don't think it's an equation that can be answered, only vaguely estimated. It's not really a question of orders of magnitude. It's a question of what we know.

I read that space.com article last week. It's all speculation. Some scientists say, where life can be born and evolve, it will. Others say we're extremely unique. On one hand it's good to keep hope. On the other it's empowering to be so pessimistically cynical. It breaks down to your own motives and beliefs. A lot of times the latter are the ones who believe their the ones with the only sense.

Some people have calculated the Drake Equation at less than 1. Which is obviously wrong since we know it's at LEAST 1. Us. The Earth.

Also about a giant impact on the earth. lloydpye.com...

It's a slide show. The last one shows the Earth drained of all of it's oceans. I don't know how unique that is compared to other planets drained of it's oceans and seas but it's a little strange for the planet to look so busted. Imagine what it would have looked like as Pangaea. It would have been like a planet torn in half.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 01:36 PM
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Even if the Drake Equation is an accurate way to calculate the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy, the results it produces are not very promising in terms of us ever finding companions out there. From high end (5000) to low end (2.3), these civilizations will be spread out across a galaxy 10,000 light years in diamater and containing an estimated 200 billion stars, at least. Even if the 5000 figure is right, given the size and scope, we are effectively alone; the needle in the haystack analogy is woefully inaccurate to describe the chances of finding each other.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 01:45 PM
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Personally, I think there is far more life in the Universe than we ever imagined. Indeed, I think there is far more life in the Solar System than we ever even imagined.

For example, there is evidence to suggest that liquid water may exist on our own Moon (deep), Mars, Europa (moon of Jupiter), Ganymede (moon of Jupiter), Callisto (moon of Jupiter), Titan (moon of Saturn), and Enceladus (moon of Saturn). Life would likely take form similar to those in our deep thermal vents, but life is still life...and these possibilities could have profound impacts to the feasibility of the Drake Equation.

They've even detected this on other, extrasolar planets (or so they claim at least)...

If life is even in some of these locations, even on a microscopic level, it certainly would establish life as more of a "rule" than the "exception" we currently believe it to be. (I'm not in that "we" group).

I'm going to wager that once we find ET microbes...our idea of what is out there will be drastically challenged, and more minds will open up to the possibility....

[edit on 14-4-2008 by Gazrok]



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 02:14 PM
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Originally posted by Gazrok
For example, there is evidence to suggest that liquid water may exist on our own Moon (deep), Mars, Europa (moon of Jupiter), Ganymede (moon of Jupiter), Callisto (moon of Jupiter), Titan (moon of Saturn), and Enceladus (moon of Saturn). Life would likely take form similar to those in our deep thermal vents, but life is still life...and these possibilities could have profound impacts to the feasibility of the Drake Equation.


Even if the average number of worlds around a star that can support life is 8 (Earth + the worlds you named above), the results still are not very promising.

If I did my math right (and there's a good chance I didn't), according to the Drak Equation, that would give us between 9.24 to 80,000 (according to low-end and high end predictions found here). Even if you only consider the 100 million stars like ours in the Milky Way Galaxy, the chances of us finding each other are still very, very low.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 02:32 PM
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(My comments below are a little off topic to the OP but just wanted to jot them down here for future reference).

Just a thought but based on the premise that there is MOST LIKELY intelligent life out there in the universe, other than our own. And in this case, I'm talking about planets with intelligent sentient beings who are physical and biological like us only they may look a lot different from us in one way or another due, for example, to those environmental variables encountered during their darwinistic evolution from point A to where they are now at the present time.

But this brings to mind the question, has the human species stopped evolving physically and mentally (in terms of intelligence) on our planet? Is human evolution finally over?

Apparently there are quite a few divergent opinions on this matter by those world class eminent scientists whose main area of expertise is in this field of study.
And here are what some scientists are saying about this:


Similar processes (Darwin Evolution) led to the evolution of mankind, but this has now stopped because virtually everybody's genes are making it to the next generation, not only those who are best adapted to their environments.

Here's the link to the article I quoted above. It's entitled, "Is Human Evolution Finally Over?"
www.guardian.co.uk...

Now I suppose you're wondering why I even brought this up in this thread. Well, the reason why is because even if there is intelligent life out there, who's to say that they are any more mentally "evolved" than we humans are in our current state?

We only have our own planet to study to see that we humans have probably reached the pinnacle of where we are no longer evolving... and this includes our overall intellectual capacities too. So because any life out there would be on planets like our own, those intelligent beings on them have probably also stopped evolving too at some point in their past history. And because they are physical biological beings, just like we are, they too have come face to face with those compelling limitations of long distance space travel just like us and I'm talking about the limitations of physical biological beings traveling across light years in space.

Sure they may be live in civilizations that are thousands, millions and billions of years older than humanity here on earth but I think it's fair to say that at some point in their evolution, they no longer were evolving for survival and from that point on, they remained at a certain level of intelligence not unlike where humanity is now. Some may be technologically more advanced than us by thousands or millions of years but...

But the bottom line is, regardless how many other planets out there that have intelligent beings on them, because they are physical, just like we are, they are not physiologically equipped for long distance space travel which would allow them to visit planet's, like our own, that are hundreds/thousands/millions of light years away. This is why I don't believe EBE's -- extraterrestrial biological entities are visiting our planet.

But as I mentioned in my other paragraphs here.. such intelligent life also may only be as biologically intelligent as we are too in our present state of evolution and this alone presents any number of limitations in terms of how far we are able to advance intellectually in our current state of being on a scientific and technological level. And it goes without saying that even though technology is now advancing at an ever advancing speed, man's emotional and spiritual "intelligence" is NOT advancing exponentially at the same speed as we are technologically. So this would mean that most likely we would end up blowing up this planet with everyone on it and so on... and who's to say that those other planets out there with "intelligent" life are not having to contend with these same issues also? Or maybe they already have which explains why we are not getting SETI signals ... or why we have not one shred of evidence to show that EBE's are visiting our planet?? Maybe those who were way ahead of us technologically have already blown themselves up ?



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 02:42 PM
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As noted above, there's nothing "wrong" with Drake Equation, other than it's completely useless.
It can add up to zero just as easily as it can add up to 100 billion or more.

One of the biggest difficulties it has is that at this point we have absolutely no idea as to how life formed in the first place. How can a bunch of chemicals magically form into a relatively complex structure like a living cell, with the built-in ability to reproduce? Yeah, some chemicals automatically randomly form molecules, but something as massively complex DNA? That would be quite a trick. There is such a thing as Newton's Second Law of Thermodynamics, you know, which most scientists agree is a pretty good law. And even DNA will just sit there and rot unless it's encapsulated in a structured cell. How does something like that just happen? No clue.


Hey, maybe it happens all the time. Maybe life forms easily and naturally, and the galaxy and the universe are crawling with it. At this point, you sure can't tell. SETI and our space probes, primitive as they are, are still coming up empty.

Zero? A 100 billion or more? Your guess is as good as Drake's.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 02:47 PM
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Originally posted by Gazrok
Personally, I think there is far more life in the Universe than we ever imagined. Indeed, I think there is far more life in the Solar System than we ever even imagined.


I agree. I think life is probably quite common.

However, taking our knowledge of life on Earth as an example (and of course we can't know how normal Earth is) the likelihood of intelligent life seems fairly unlikely.

There has been life on Earth for around 3,500,000,000 years. In all that time, intelligent life (modern man) has been around for maybe 200,000 years. Life capable of interplanetary travel has existed for just 50 years. Sobering statistics.

Even if we're around for another 1,000,000 years, for the vast proportion of time on which life would have existed on Earth, there was no 'intelligent' life.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 03:00 PM
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Originally posted by Essan

Originally posted by Gazrok
Personally, I think there is far more life in the Universe than we ever imagined. Indeed, I think there is far more life in the Solar System than we ever even imagined.


I agree. I think life is probably quite common.

However, taking our knowledge of life on Earth as an example (and of course we can't know how normal Earth is) the likelihood of intelligent life seems fairly unlikely.

There has been life on Earth for around 3,500,000,000 years. In all that time, intelligent life (modern man) has been around for maybe 200,000 years. Life capable of interplanetary travel has existed for just 50 years. Sobering statistics.

Even if we're around for another 1,000,000 years, for the vast proportion of time on which life would have existed on Earth, there was no 'intelligent' life.


And if there is intelligent life out there, they live on planets as precarious as our own that are prone to natural catastrophic events that nearly decimate living species of any kind including intelligent species in cycles... just like how our planet operates?
Our world as we know it can end any day now due to any number of natural catastrophes i.e. the supervolcano at Yellow Stone.. etc... So the question is, how would such events interrupt our technological advancement? Supposing those who remain are not technologically savvy? What would happen then?
And as for those other ET civilizations out there, have they too experienced such brain drains due to such events? I would think so. One only has to read over what caused the Dark Ages to occur on our planet to find out how much it set us back where it took centuries for things to get back on track again.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 03:05 PM
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We are by no means in the "oldest" part of the Universe. Scientists estimate that the oldest planet so far found is at 12 billion years old. This means that using the Earth timeline as a baseline, there is certainly a large possibility that if other Earth-like planets evolved and similarly developed sentient life, then there should be older civilizations out there than ours (maybe even by Billions of years!).


Even if you only consider the 100 million stars like ours in the Milky Way Galaxy, the chances of us finding each other are still very, very low.


While the Drake Equation has it's uses, there are still many other variables to consider. For example, is there a method of detection that one can use to determine sentience? Some UFOlogists argue that our UFO flap of the 40's was largely due to our "wake-up" call broadcast throughout the Universe with the development of the atom bomb. This is simply one possibility. There could be many other means of detection (currently, we search for radio signals also, for example). In addition, there could be technolgies that enable FTL communications, and once discovered, these may make detection of other civilizations using such methods far easier.

Simply put, there are FAR too many unknowns to state firmly one way or the other, so if I have to pick a side, then I pick life, as it's extremely stubborn.


And as for those other ET civilizations out there, have they too experienced such brain drains due to such events? I would think so. One only has to read over what caused the Dark Ages to occur on our planet to find out how much it set us back where it took centuries for things to get back on track again.


Such setbecks are but a second on the stopwatch of time when you have a window of 6 billion years for other sentience in the Universe to have developed....especially amongst over 100 billion estimated stars in just the Milky Way galaxy alone (just one of over 130 billion estimated galaxies in the Universe!). Even if one in a billion stars had sentient life, that's over 100 civilizations in just our galaxy alone! Heck, if we were the only civilization in our galaxy, and there was only one civilization per galaxy, we'd still have over 130 billion neighbors in the Universe!

As for sentience, so far we know of 1 planet that has confirmed life, and said planet also has confirmed sentience....so working with what we know...and the assumed age of the Universe....the chance for other sentience out there is pretty damn good imho....

[edit on 14-4-2008 by Gazrok]



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 03:19 PM
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Agreed Gazrok, and I would add the words of Thomas Carlyle, referenced by the great Carl Sagan:

"A sad spectacle. If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly. If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space."

-WFA



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 03:26 PM
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I think it's pretty good too but I don't think they are physiologically anymore intelligent than we are. I explain that in my other post here.

As for us having EBE's here visiting us... I think that's highly unlikely.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 03:29 PM
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Originally posted by Gazrok
While the Drake Equation has its uses, there are still many other variables to consider.


And there may be some variables we're just not aware of yet that have a big effect on the outcome of the equations. For instance, there's a notion I like to think of as spacetime "permeability" that may have a large effect of whether or not conscious life can exist in it. Essentially, if you think of spacetime really as a fabric, consider that it might not be all the same kind of fabric everywhere you go. In some places, it might be like a loosely knit-sweater, where energy and matter can flow in and around and through it, backwards and forwards in time and through various other spatial dimensions. In other places, it might be more like a waterproof nylon tarp, which doesn't allow much energy or matter to move around. It might be necessary for spacetime to have a certain level of permeability in order for a consciousness to recreate reality from one moment to the next and make sense of it. An area with a narrower "weave" might not be conducive to that, so any life that exists might not be able to make the necessary observation of a quantum wave function to keep itself alive from moment to moment.

That's just an odd stray idea, but again, it could be something that might have a profound effect on life in a particular area, and there may only be a few places in the whole universe this happens, but we don't know anything about it. When you're talking about life on a quantum level and on a macrocosmic level, there are a lot of things we just don't know about.


[edit on 14-4-2008 by Nohup]



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