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#1 2002-06-17 17:52:53

Phobos
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Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Perhaps I deserve to be chained to a wall and whipped until my flesh falls off for saying it, but does anyone here find the Drake equation a bit on the useless side?  It seems so wide open that it makes sense of anything and I don't know how you could ever reliably estimate half of the variables.  The Drake Equation seems more like a teaser than anything scientifically useful.   As a side note, I'm not bashing Dr. Drake, he was definately a great scientist, I'm just not sure I find the Drake Equation to be all it's cracked up to be.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#2 2002-06-18 07:05:51

Byron
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From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

The Drake Equation might be a *tad* more useful if we actually were able to detect artificial electromagnetic energy from elsewhere in the galaxy..lol.  There's nothing wrong with the equation itself...the problem is that so few of the blanks have been filled.  We simply have not detected any kind of extrasolar life, so it's all based on conjecture at this point.

The question I've always asked, even there was only ONE other intelligent civilization in our galaxy, a few hundred thousand years ahead of us or older, wouldn't we have seen *some* evidence of their presence by now?  Maybe advanced races don't have the need to use electromagnetic energy...maybe we really are the only ones... ???

B

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#3 2002-06-18 13:48:25

Bill White
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Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

I believe Drake's Equation does give a useful framework to think about the development of life on our Earth and possibly on other worlds.

Our inability to give any meaningful percentages to any of the factors is a useful reminder of how little we know and how much work remains to be done and directs us to focus on where further research/thought is needed.

100 years from now, IMHO, Drake's Equation will be astonishingly long with all kinds of fascinating variables being "necessary" for the evolution of intelligent life.

My favorites:

*     A Jupiter-like planet to attract and absorb asteroids & comets

*     A decent sized moon for the same reason as above

*     A decent sized moon to create tidal forces. Oh my oh my, our poor fish ancestors who were forced to respirate from their flotation sacs after being stranded at low tide tongue

Evolution works best in an environment that is sufficiently stressful - but not too stressful

*     Plate tectonics - without plate tectonics or volcanoes "water worlds" will, over time, erode and level out leaving all of the land under water. A planet without dry land seems much less likely to evolve life forms capable of radio transmission, let alone space flight.

*     The missing crust - which must be missing if plate tectonics is present - also allows some of the internal heat of the Earth to escape. I believe part of why Venus is so stifling hot is the absence of a mechanism for dispersing internal planetary heat - not merely its closeness to the Sun.

The "impact theory" posits that the missing Terran crust orbits over our head and is our moon - formed when a Mars sized planet gave Terra a glancing blow, stripping off the material that became our moon.

*      Changing geography - and flip/flop climatic changes - also create pockets of isolated organisms which can supercharge the evolutionary algorithm. I have been reading William Calvin, again.

Hmmmm. . .   the more I think about this the more I am convinced Mars either has no life  - perhaps with fossils - or at best a few "hangers on" from a warm wet past. Any such life also would seem to have little "future" unless we help it along.

Being geologically and climatically unchanged for millions of years, Mars simply lacks the physical circumstances that best drive the evolutionary process.

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#4 2002-06-19 11:50:41

GOM
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Registered: 2001-09-08
Posts: 127

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

The "impact theory" posits that the missing Terran crust orbits over our head and is our moon - formed when a Mars sized planet gave Terra a glancing blow, stripping off the material that became our moon.[/quote:post_uid5]
Does that seem likely to you?  I thought the Moon was of a different chemical composition from Earth.

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#5 2002-06-19 11:56:30

GOM
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Registered: 2001-09-08
Posts: 127

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

It seems so wide open that it makes sense of anything and I don't know how you could ever reliably estimate half of the variables.  [/quote:post_uid0]
You're right.  It is wide open.  You can reach any conclusion you want with it.  It is part of what I see as a conditioning program that is designed to get the public to accept "aliens".  Recent polls show that over half of American adults believe in intelligent aliens.  I conclude that the conditioning is working.

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#6 2002-06-19 14:45:47

Adrian
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From: London, United Kingdom
Registered: 2001-09-04
Posts: 642
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Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

The Drake Equation is wide open, but it doesn't suppose to bring an answer towards the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy - what it does do is to provide a framework for those seeking to answer that question, and identify the problems involved. I wrote an article about it at another site. This means that researchers at places like the SETI Institute can refer to particular terms of the equation in papers, and that people discussing new findings in the number of (eg.) habitable planets in the galaxy can talk about the greater scheme of things, again using the Drake Equation.

I just read Bill's post, and have realised that I'm repeating a lot of what he said. So: I agree with Bill!  smile


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#7 2002-12-02 18:30:28

soph
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Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

why cant civilizations exist for millions of years?  The Drake Equation assumes too much.  It's an open question-so an open answer is easy to give.  For example, before modern astronomical observations calculating the number of visible stars, anyone could say with certainty, there were x number of stars, because they couldnt be proven wrong.  With the Drake equation, plug in some numbers that sound good, and voila!  I mean, life isnt something you can put an equation on, at least not one so simple.  Its too complex a process. 

I think there are MANY alien species.  perhaps they havent found our tiny [b:post_uid0]corner[/b:post_uid0] of the galaxy yet?  Or its too unimportant?  Who knows?  We certainly dont-yet.

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#8 2002-12-02 22:49:00

Phobos
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Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

why cant civilizations exist for millions of years?[/quote:post_uid0]

I often ask this question myself.  A lot of people out there seem to jump to the conclusion that there's some undiscovered law of the universe that will automatically terminate the existence of a civilization after a few thousand years.  Of course many of the people who spout such cynicism are the very ones who oppose human civilization moving out into space and oppose its technological advances so perhaps it'll be a self-fulfilling prophesy as far as human civilization is concerned.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#9 2002-12-02 22:57:09

CalTech2010
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From: United States, Colorado
Registered: 2002-11-23
Posts: 433

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

I agree with Bill White that the equation doesn't have [b:post_uid7]ENOUGH[/b:post_uid7] variables to determine the number of advanced civilizations.  I don't think we'll ever have an accurate equation; there are just too many variables.  But, the Drake Equation gives us something to go on.

     In looking at the variables that all had to come together just right to create us, it almost makes you feel like your creation was a fluke accident.  Of course, the fact that we are here to observe how we got here really screws things up.  Do any of you guys lie awake at night wondering about this stuff?  I'm going to have to hit the bottle again... big_smile (just joking!)


"Some have met another fate.  Let's put it this way... they no longer pose a threat to the US or its allies and friends." -- President Bush, State of the Union Address

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#10 2002-12-03 06:17:08

Shaun Barrett
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From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

I don't know if this is helpful or not, but apparently the average species lasts about 4 million years before evolving into something different or becoming extinct all together.
    I don't know if this 'lifespan' applies to intelligent species, though, since they should have the sense to avoid many of the extinction traps a non-sentient species tends to fall into.
And perhaps an intelligent species consciously resists evolution by using technology to control genetic mutations which, though possibly advantageous, are seen as socially unacceptable.
    On the other hand, maybe being intelligent creates its own dangers ... weapons of mass destruction, for instance.

    Too many unknowns again!!

    I think however many variables we throw into the Drake equation, the fact is that Phobos, Bill, and Adrian are all essentially right. It's an interesting framework for discussion but really it tells us nothing.

    I think Byron hit the nail on the head when he more or less said we won't know for sure until the Galactic Federation gives us a call!!
                                     big_smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#11 2002-12-03 10:56:26

clark
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Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,253

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Here is a what-if...

If the universe is inhabited by others, what if the universe only became habitable and conducive to intelligent life recently.

What if all intelligent life arose within the last few million years, alon with us.

What would be the chances of encountering them?

Our radio signals are out what, 100 light years?

Perhaps the universe IS teeming with life, but we are all so new, that we haven't had enough time for our voices to reach one another?

Even the light we see now from stars wouldn't indicate much since it takes god-awful amounts fo time to reach us... the lag time is so much.

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#12 2002-12-03 17:54:03

Alexander K. Naylor
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Registered: 2002-03-30
Posts: 20

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

The above message reminds me of a very interesting question posed by Arthur C. Clarke--does God think at the speed of light?

Anyway, more on topic, I think it would be sad if we were the first civilization to arise, for we know that the odds are against it, but if we are later civilizations would feel a certain sadness (if they find our artifacts) over the fact that we spent so much time searching.

Also, I would take previous Drake Equation quotes with skepticism, for life may only be restricted to a "galactic habitable zone," and as far as I know most Drake equation calculations counted [b:post_uid0]all[/b:post_uid0] the stars in the galaxy, not just these.

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#13 2002-12-03 18:30:38

Phobos
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Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

I don't know if this 'lifespan' applies to intelligent species, though, since they should have the sense to avoid many of the extinction traps a non-sentient species tends to fall into.
And perhaps an intelligent species consciously resists evolution by using technology to control genetic mutations which, though possibly advantageous, are seen as socially unacceptable.
[/quote:post_uid0]

Maybe I'm misunderstanding people when they mention that a civilization can't last longer than X amount of time.  Just because an intelligent species might change form I don't think that will necessarily spell the end of civilization, the civilization rather could just evolve with the changes.  Certainly an intelligent species wouldn't just discard all of its technology and other knowledge and go back to the jungle just to start over again unless some outside influence were to force such a change.  Personally I think in a thousand years we'll be more machine than human.  Oh well, I better stop before I start going on a long transhumanist rant. big_smile


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#14 2002-12-03 22:01:18

CalTech2010
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From: United States, Colorado
Registered: 2002-11-23
Posts: 433

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

PHOBOS!!!

CONGRATULATIONS ON BREAKING THE 1000 POST BARRIER!

If I'm correct, you're the first person to do it, right?


"Some have met another fate.  Let's put it this way... they no longer pose a threat to the US or its allies and friends." -- President Bush, State of the Union Address

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#15 2002-12-04 16:52:52

soph
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Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

the beauty of expanding to multiple planets or extraterrestrial bodies is that if, say earth, were to become a planet of cyborgs, other human havens could be sufficiently isolated to stay human.  people could become many different things.  eating different foods may well be a huge catalyst for evolution.  we take in different quantities of proteins, amino acids, etc., our bodies would adapt to fit our diet. 

defining an advanced species is key.  using radio waves might be somewhat useless--what if our target ET is using huge amounts of radio traffic, and our signal gets lost?  we may have contacted ET many times over, and they just didnt notice.

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#16 2002-12-04 22:29:12

Phobos
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Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

PHOBOS!!!

CONGRATULATIONS ON BREAKING THE 1000 POST BARRIER!

If I'm correct, you're the first person to do it, right?

[/quote:post_uid0]

Thanx!  I guess I'm a certified babbling lunatic now. big_smile

the beauty of expanding to multiple planets or extraterrestrial bodies is that if, say earth, were to become a planet of cyborgs, other human havens could be sufficiently isolated to stay human.  people could become many different things.  eating different foods may well be a huge catalyst for evolution.  we take in different quantities of proteins, amino acids, etc., our bodies would adapt to fit our diet. 
[/quote:post_uid0]

Isolating groups of people from each other would definately accelerate evolution.  I've read about a number of biologists who think that human biological evolution might not progress much further on this planet because the gene pool is too large and there aren't many groups that exist in isolation long enough for any significant biological change to really take root.  At least I think that's the way the reasoning goes.


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#17 2002-12-05 09:57:27

Preston
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Registered: 2002-06-02
Posts: 72

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Regarding the Drake equation, this is a little off topic but there is also the question of whether or not different universes are likely to be able to make intelligent life. Or if not make new life, then at least life is able to exist in it. This universe for example is obviously suited to life, but if changed slightly, life could not exist in it. Has anyone seen a recent Hawking lecture or read something about these relatively new ideas (past few decades)? Hawking speculates that there is an infinite number of universes which have an infinitely varied set of constants and laws (eg # of dimensions) in them. This must be true if there is no God. If it IS true, then the God question cannot be answered by this alone.

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#18 2002-12-05 10:03:46

Preston
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Registered: 2002-06-02
Posts: 72

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Another thing: In Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe, I think that he claims both that string theory has only one constant and no constants (aside from the laws of string theory itself and the number of dimensions it claims) at two different parts of the book -- a contradiction. Can anyone clear that up? And it seems to have some relevance to the Hawking proposal.

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#19 2002-12-05 11:01:52

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,253

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Here is another what if:

What if there is only ONE other intelligent life in th universe other than us.

Is that more depressing than none at all, or less so?

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#20 2002-12-05 13:45:59

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Here is another what if:

What if there is only ONE other intelligent life in th universe other than us.

Is that more depressing than none at all, or less so?[/quote:post_uid3]
*I'd be more interested to know how another intelligent species APPLIES their intelligence.  Are they more peaceful, about as war-like as we are, etc., etc.?

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#21 2002-12-05 20:23:46

Phobos
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Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

Hawking speculates that there is an infinite number of universes which have an infinitely varied set of constants and laws (eg # of dimensions) in them. This must be true if there is no God. If it IS true, then the God question cannot be answered by this alone. [/quote:post_uid0]

It does seem remarkable that if there is only one universe that it would just boom into existence with all of the right variables so that the weak force and the strong force are balanced just right to make the existence of atoms and ultimately matter possible as we know it.  Perhaps it isn't too far fetched to think that there could be an infinite number of universes out there or that the one we live in has just been recreating itself over the eons and this incarnation of the universe just happened to have the right variables.

What if there is only ONE other intelligent life in th universe other than us.

Is that more depressing than none at all, or less so?[/quote:post_uid0]

I'd find it more depressing because it means that intelligence has a greater chance of becoming extinct and if there are in fact only two intelligent species out there than the chance of another one rising up is truly remote and unlikely.

*I'd be more interested to know how another intelligent species APPLIES their intelligence.  Are they more peaceful, about as war-like as we are, etc., etc.?
[/quote:post_uid0]

I wonder if we'll ever have "exo-anthropologists" to study things like that.  Judging from our planet at least, it tends to be the killers, i.e. carnivores, that develop the most intelligence since thier method of getting food is more complicated than just grazing on grass.  I think intelligent species will have a tendency to be aggressive and warlike early on and gradually move away from that mode.  Then again maybe there are forms of intelligence out there that are so alien that we wouldn't recognize it when we saw it.  We just need other planets on which to study the evolution of life to see if it can differ in radical ways other than ours.  (i.e. is it possible that on some planets carnivores didn't develop and so an intelligence maybe naturally very peaceful?)


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#22 2002-12-05 20:29:49

soph
Member
Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

if humanity expanded past earth, to other solar systems and beyond, we would evolve to such an extent, at least theoretically, that intelligent life would exist in different forms.  the universe doesnt have to be waiting for us.  maybe there are 2 or 3 species per galaxy.  who knows?

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#23 2002-12-06 15:09:33

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,253

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

I'd find it more depressing because it means that intelligence has a greater chance of becoming extinct and if there are in fact only two intelligent species out there than the chance of another one rising up is truly remote and unlikely. [/quote:post_uid0]

So then the significance of finding another intelligent life is greater only if there are multiple species.

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#24 2002-12-06 18:54:55

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: The Drake Equation - useful?

So then the significance of finding another intelligent life is greater only if there are multiple species.
[/quote:post_uid0]

But if we find another intelligent species out there it will certainly raise the odds that intelligent life can develop.


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