## Thoughts on the Drake Equation

Personally I think the equation greatly overestimates the number of possible intelligent life in the universe... But then again all I have is a college level education.

Can any one explain?
 Recognitions: Gold Member The drake equation is...mostly meaningless. We don't have any numbers to substitute for the variables, so it's pretty useless. As far as I understand at least.
 Recognitions: Homework Help Explain what? The Drake equation? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ztl8CG3Sys What leads you to think that the equation is an over estimate?

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## Thoughts on the Drake Equation

The drake equation is a reasonable attempt to approximate the number of intelligent civilizations. Unfortunately, not all the variables are well defined, much less quantifiable.

 Quote by Chronos The drake equation is a reasonable attempt to approximate the number of intelligent civilizations. Unfortunately, not all the variables are well defined, much less quantifiable.
what do you mean by reasonable? what about goldilocks zones for planets, or vital metals in the planets such as nickle and iron. I also think that stuff like water and meteors should be considered, as well as large planets like Jupiter within a system shielding inner planets from outer system phenomena. I also believe life in general arises easily, but intelligent life is another matter.
 I personally prefer to use: n=iv where i represents the massively contingent nature of life, and v represents the large number of planets in a galaxy. When I plug-in those numbers I get n=1. And that number is consistent with our wonderful success at making contact, no offense to Carl.
 Mentor Blog Entries: 1 I think you have a misunderstanding of what the Drake equation is. It simply puts in place some of the variables that should be taken into consideration when considering the prevelance of life (and intelligent, communicating life especially) in the galaxy. It doesn't propose an answer because we do not know the probabilities of any of those variables yet. Increasingly complicated variables like "what is the average number of meteor impacts" aren't too much of a concern because they are covered by bigger considerations e.g. "what is the chance life arises" or "what is the chance life becomes tool using".

Mentor
 It doesn't propose an answer because we do not know the probabilities of any of those variables yet.
Well, the star formation rate has some number, and the fraction of stars with planets has reasonable estimates (and lower bounds), too, with significant improvements expected in the next years. The number of habitable planets per planetary system is something which can be estimated with current telescopes, too.
However, the remaining factors are guesswork, therefore the drake equation cannot give a reasonable number of intelligent+communicating civilisations at the moment.

@Stu21: All those things are part of "the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point". This fraction depends on everything which influences the development of life.
 It states that $$\dfrac ab=\dfrac ac\cdot\dfrac cb$$ a lot of times. No idea why it's that important. (When I saw the word Drake in the title, my first thought was, "Nice knowing you, Becky.")

 Quote by mfb The number of habitable planets per planetary system is something which can be estimated with current telescopes, too..
I do not believe we can do that.

 Quote by jackmell I do not believe we can do that.
Actually, there were not so bad studies with microlensing on that. (Maybe still a bit crude, but not a pure guessing)

I'd agree that it is within reach of contemporary tech, and only matter of gathering enough observations.

From lack of contact with other civilization I'd assume that there is something too optimistic in Drake Equation. Or it's enough that we don't have good enough technology to contact other civilization. Or maybe we're simply one of the first within region.
 Recognitions: Homework Help I see, stu21 feels that the Drake equation is an over estimate because there are a bunch of parameters that are not included. But how does he know that including those parameters won't make the number come out higher? Or have no impact at all? Since we don't know the values in question there is no reason to suppose that the effect is one way or the other. Like others have pointed out - it's not the job of the equation to estimate the amount of contactable intellegences out there - it's job is to paint in broad strokes what sort of things we need to know to carry out the calculation. To paraphrase Pratchett: The equation doesn't so much illuminate, as outline the darkness.

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 Quote by Czcibor Actually, there were not so bad studies with microlensing on that. (Maybe still a bit crude, but not a pure guessing) I'd agree that it is within reach of contemporary tech, and only matter of gathering enough observations. From lack of contact with other civilization I'd assume that there is something too optimistic in Drake Equation. Or it's enough that we don't have good enough technology to contact other civilization. Or maybe we're simply one of the first within region.
The detection of habitable planets that are Earth sized cannot currently happen unless their orbital plane is nearly parallel to our line of sight, which allows us to use radial velocity measurements or transit observations to detect them. And even these methods are barely capable of detecting an Earth sized planet, let alone find out if it's habitable or not. So it isn't a matter of gathering enough observations, as we can't even do the observations to begin with yet.

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 From lack of contact with other civilization I'd assume that there is something too optimistic in Drake Equation.
How does that follow when you don't know what the values of the terms are - for all you know the Drake equation predicts that contact is extremely unlikely.

The more optimistic figures suggest 182 million civilization-bearing stars in our galaxy (fulfilling the parameters) ... given a estimate 100-400 billion stars in our galaxy to start with, this gives 0.04-0.2% of stars with civilization.

0.122 stars per cubic parsec (around us) means an expectation of 16-27pc ... the long range being of the order of 100ly. Any signals they could be getting right now would have come from 100 years ago ... clearly it's not us sending them.

To put this in perspective - imagine they are us.
100 years ago we would not have been able to put out the kind of signals that a project like SETI would have spotted. The closer distance (16pc) would be getting whatever we put out in the mid 50s. They would conclude that our Sun did not have a civilization in it... even though the guess wasn't far off.

And then - this is deliberately a very optimistic guess indeed so the situation is more likely to be worse than that.

The most pessimistic guess makes us the only civilization in the galaxy - and probably in the observable Universe.

However, the Drake equation itself does not make these estimate big or small ... it does not say anything about the actual number of civilizations. The main reason we have not detected other civilizations so far can still be accounted for by the huge size of the galaxy.

Drakes own lower bound in the original conference suggests we still have some centuries to wait to find them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_e...uation_results

 Quote by Drakkith The detection of habitable planets that are Earth sized cannot currently happen unless their orbital plane is nearly parallel to our line of sight, which allows us to use radial velocity measurements or transit observations to detect them. And even these methods are barely capable of detecting an Earth sized planet, let alone find out if it's habitable or not. So it isn't a matter of gathering enough observations, as we can't even do the observations to begin with yet.
http://exoplanet.eu/catalog/?f=%22mi...2+IN+detection

On the above attached list of planet detected by microlensing there are already superearths. Is your point that with contemporary technology only superearths are possible to be detected, but exactly a bit lower that the method simply fails?

Knowing mass is possible to rule out gas giants and tiny planets. Knowing orbit and luminosity of the host star is possible to calculate whether the planet is within HZ. That's enough to roughly asses whether the planet is potentially habitable. (yes, I know a few of such "habitable" would be a nasty)

I also don't get here the argument concerning that planet orbit should be coplanar for purpose of statistical analysis. Knowing which is probability of finding a coplanar system you can extrapolate that to know how many systems are omitted because of different configuration and how many indeed lack planets within their HZ.

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 Quote by Czcibor http://exoplanet.eu/catalog/?f=%22mi...2+IN+detection On the above attached list of planet detected by microlensing there are already superearths. Is your point that with contemporary technology only superearths are possible to be detected, but exactly a bit lower that the method simply fails?
Microlensing is a rare occurrence that cannot be relied upon and does not tell you anything about whether the planet is habitable or not. (To be fair, currently no method does, only potential habitability can be assessed)

 Knowing mass is possible to rule out gas giants and tiny planets. Knowing orbit and luminosity of the host star is possible to calculate whether the planet is within HZ. That's enough to roughly asses whether the planet is potentially habitable. (yes, I know a few of such "habitable" would be a nasty)
Most of such habitable planets would not support human life on a large scale without significant infrastructure. They would be "nasty".

 I also don't get here the argument concerning that planet orbit should be coplanar for purpose of statistical analysis. Knowing which is probability of finding a coplanar system you can extrapolate that to know how many systems are omitted because of different configuration and how many indeed lack planets within their HZ.
Whether the orbit is coplanar only matters for detection purposes. We cannot detect planets whose orbits are not near-parallel to our line of sight with our most successful methods at this time. The radial-velocity method is by far our most successful method of detection and the orbits MUST be very close to coplanar or the method cannot be relied upon. The transit method is even more dependent on the orientation of the orbital plane.

Mentor
 (To be fair, currently no method does, only potential habitability can be assessed)
Well, I understand the factor as "planets in the habitable zone" - and include other factors in the next fraction (probability that life evolves).

Kepler is able to find earth-sized planets. Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone are possible to find, just very rare (but with a well-known probability due to their orbits). With several years of observation and some hits, the number of those planets can be evaluated.