384: The Drake Equation

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The Drake Equation
But seriously, there's loads of intelligent life. It's just not screaming constantly in all directions on the handful of frequencies we search.
Title text: But seriously, there's loads of intelligent life. It's just not screaming constantly in all directions on the handful of frequencies we search.


This comic is multi-layered, and seems to be Randall's take on the Fermi paradox.

For starters, the Drake equation is a model developed by (and named for) Frank Drake, an American astrophysicist, for estimating the number of communicating life forms in our galaxy.

Even if there is life on other planets, most life forms will not establish civilizations. However, if there are any communicating civilizations, their messages would have to travel for hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of years to reach us, and then our response would take an equivalent amount of time, leaving them waiting for thousands and thousands of years or more, and probably even more than that. Any response, from their perspective, would take at least twice as long as the message took to reach its destination.

All the factors involved in the equation are difficult to measure or estimate. No number is determined with sufficient accuracy, so the equation is a guideline for a thought experiment at best, and just "bullshit" at worst.

The title text makes fun of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, which was founded by Frank Drake, about the searches for intelligent life on other planets by looking for radio communications and the intelligence of their researchers. Nearly nothing, if not nothing, restricts potential extraterrestrial communications to the frequencies that SETI searches at any given moment. Even if another civilization communicated on one of SETI's search frequencies, they would most likely live extremely far away. Additionally, an extraterrestrial source that doesn't know we're here would have to send a constant and powerful signal in all directions for us to notice it. This serves to show how ludicrous it may seem to assume that any intelligent species is wasting too many resources trying to communicate with us or any other species in the galaxy.

The SETI project is searching at the 21 cm Hydrogen line, which, although considered a favorable frequency for communication with potential extraterrestrial civilizations, is not used by humans. Therefore, a SETI-like organization would have a hard time finding Earth.

The title text suggests that Randall does not think Drake is a nutjob; he just has a more conservative expectation of discovering extraterrestrial life.

638: The Search further discusses the difficulty of methods of finding extraterrestrial life. 718: The Flake Equation presents another alien-related equation.


The Drake Equation:
N = R* fp ne fl fi fc L Bs
N: Number of communicating civilizations in our galaxy
ne: Number of life-supporting planets per solar system
fi: Probability that life on a planet becomes intelligent
Bs: Amount of bullshit you're willing to buy from Frank Drake

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Looks like someone mixed up Frank Drake and Francis Drake --Btx40 (talk) 14:32, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

Bs looks more like B6 17:03, 13 March 2019 (UTC)

The title text shows a lack of imagination about how aliens could communicate. It need not be that they're using narrow direction and different bands. First, they could be using radio in a way that wouldn't be detected, much as how no WWII radio expert would recognize modern, digital, encoded cell tower transmissions. Second, there may be other means of communicating over distance, like entangled particles. —Kazvorpal (talk) 07:50, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

Alternate solution factor: N= [stuff already mentioned]^["probability" that there is not a God who, if He exists, perhaps made this universe so that there would be no process where beings like us could come from the dust of a planet by natural means.] Yeah, it does depend on one's bias and worldview. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)