Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Drake equation

  1. Apr 8, 2010 #1
    why is it so famous?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2010 #2
  4. Apr 9, 2010 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The Drake Equation was famous long before Wikipedia was a 'twinkle in the eyes' of Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.

    The first attempt to listen in for ‘ET’ was made fifty years ago. On the 8th April 1960 Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope towards the star Tau Ceti. He formulated the ‘Drake equation’ to estimate the number of intelligent technological life forms in our galaxy.

    Is life and consciousness the inevitable result of evolution over deep time or are we the result of a bizarre fluke?

    It is impossible to draw a statistical probability from a sample of only one.

    These unknowns are built into the Drake equation and the questions it raises are more important than any answers that can thus far be given.

    However the situation is changing and some of its factors are now succumbing to scientific investigation.

    Today over 400 planets have been discovered around other stars and the planets and moons of our own solar system are being actively explored for signs of life.

    Several zones, such as beneath the surface of Mars and under the ice cap covering Europa, have been identified as possible habitats for life and targeted for further exploration.

    Furthermore, it may be only a matter of time before an extra-solar ‘Earth’ is discovered complete with land, liquid water and an appropriate atmosphere.

    We wait and see!

  5. Apr 9, 2010 #4
    does it work?
  6. Apr 9, 2010 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    No way to know if it works until it works.
  7. Apr 10, 2010 #6
    Well, the equation is valid, i.e. it works, if you knew the "correct" values for each of the components, you would arrive at the correct answer.

    The problem is that values for all of the various components are largely guesses. Some we have nailed down pretty well, but most of them are SWAGs.
  8. Apr 11, 2010 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The fact that life exists on earth makes it highly probable that life exists elsewhere in out galaxiy [and possibly within our solar system]. Human like intelligent life? Unknown. That is probably rare. Still, given the vastness of the universe, it is likely some kind of human like intelligent life exists elsewhere. The vastness of the universe makes it improbable we will ever communicate.
  9. Apr 11, 2010 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    No it doesn't. It takes two data points to start to construct a real trend. It's like saying that if you win the lottery, winning the lottery is common. Particularly since for this lottery, only the winner can ask the question.

    Until we find life somewhere elese, the values of the parameters for prevalence of life are just wild speculation.
  10. Apr 11, 2010 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    So Russ, you seem to be claiming that since we have not observed other life we must make the assumption that we are unique in the universe? That is a pretty big assumption, you must be engaging in a bit of speculation yourself.

    By the way, winning the lottery IS pretty common, someone wins every month or so. One could consider each planet in the universe as an entry in the lottery of life. The Drake equation is an effort to make a guess at the odds of "winning" this lottery. I think to assume, as you seem to be doing, that we are alone in the universe is even wilder speculation then to assume that life is common in the universe. We have not observed enough of the universe to make either assumption.

    Your speculation is not better then Chronos'.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook