# Equation to Find intelligent life

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#### vincenzosassone

Vincen, that is fine by me. I was saying that this thread is about equations like Drake's and I believe that that is thoroughly dead.
However, your point could be relevant to one of the variables in the equation.
B/w Cat
Hi Cat! I'm glad my idea is resonable for you, anyway, I want to tell you, you all I mean, that it's too soon to talk about something like filling the variables with numbers and valiues, but the equation by itself is something about what we can argue in my opinion (?)
Correct me if I'm wrong.

IG2007

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
Vincen, I am not saying you are wrong. But I am saying that, as long as these equations contain strings of unknowns and guesses, they are IMHO a waste of life talking about them.

Cat

vincenzosassone

#### spacedweller

Is it safe to assume that drake equation is false because it does take one important detail into calculation?

Which is, the amount and type of energy and minerals near such civilizations which could be harvested to support their life.

If for example our solar system had multiple habitable planets we could live on those planets, but how would you really support that amount of population without enough energy and minerals?

Drake equation doesn't take that into account so I think life would simply be limited due to lack of resources even with the required technology to travel distance to habitable planets in range.

Catastrophe

#### spacedweller

I see but, none of the factors in drake's equation are unknown variables but rather estimations based on our ability to recognize them.

Energy and minerals are not unknown variables either, they are there somewhere we know it and can detect some of them, but is again it's an estimation.

I wouldn't call them "guesses" either because a guess should assume at least one completely unknown variable , which is not the cause, or at least the equation should be "unsolvable" such that it makes the result not possible to calculate.

The only guess or unknown variable here is the alien life itself, because we didn't yet detect it, but that's on another part of equation, that's the result of equation so it does not affect the result right?

For example according to wikipedia:
N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible
N does not affect the result, N is the result however uncertain it may be.

But, since the result is based on estimation, to make it more accurate and sensible it should include the probability which it does not, so IMO that's reason No. 2 why drakes equation isn't reliable.

Drakes equation is good starting point but should be improved.

Catastrophe

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.

"Drakes equation is good a starting point but could be improved." My version.

As I am sure you know, an identity (or equation) is only as good as its weakest link. I was going to quote just this:
"N does not affect the result, N is the result however uncertain it may be."

I do not accept that other items are known but, no matter, your opinion is more than enough for me: however uncertain it may be.
I would suggest totally unknown, rather than uncertain, so I will opt for the certainty = 0 end.

Anyway, I am not going to, and have no wish to, persuade you, and you are not going to persuade me so I suggest we "leave well alone".

There never was a good war, or a bad peace

#### Helio

Energy and minerals are not unknown variables either, they are there somewhere we know it and can detect some of them, but is again it's an estimation.
I would think one could restrict N to favor Pop I stars, some favor to Pop II stars, and perhaps no weight to Pop III stars.

#### Patrick fenex

Heyo,
(not sure if this is the right place to post this)
Was looking for place to get feedback on this, so maybe this will work. I wrote an equation today after doing a tiny bit of research over intelligent life and inhabitable planets. I want feedback on if this equation works in a way or if it is false and shouldn't be used.

ELP ÷ PLS x SNS ÷ EIR= PIS

ELP
is Earth Like Planets
PLS is Planets inhabited (Planets with livable Species) (what I'm going to use is 1/1000)
SNS is Species Needed to Survive (food and communication reasons)
EIR is Earth Intelligence rate
PIS is Possible Intelligent Species

So what I came up with is:
40,000,000,000 ÷ 1000 x 5 ÷ 8,700,000 = 22.98

Meaning there are (more or less) 23 intelligent species in the universe, and due to how many of those that could be advanced enough to use or understand space travel, is possibly 1 out of 23, maybe 2 or 3 out of 23, and the reason why we haven't discovered them yet.

Any feedback on my equation would be amazing, thank you for reading.
Perhaps one more currently unknown variable: 'USI, how long has the universe been capable of supporting sentient, intelligent civilizations.

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
OK, back to OP. Not a bad thing.

So may I repeat my contribution?

I am not saying you are wrong. But I am saying that, as long as these equations contain strings of unknowns and guesses, they are IMHO a waste of life talking about them.

When each factor (and they should not be divided, but multiplied) - or even one or more factors - is a probability (usually meaning a personal guess) the whole equation becomes more and more an imaginary estimate leaning on personal bias.

To say "Meaning there are (more or less) 23 intelligent species in the universe" is frankly utter imagination. There could be just one, or there could be 23,179,837,223,812,304,128, or a lot more. An equation is not going to get anywhere near reality unless every factor has a real chance (and reason) for correctness. Sorry. That's the way it is.

Cat

#### sam85geo

Cat's post #61 is in reality a wake up "splash of cold water" for speculative, wishful thinking which while self satisfying has little to no basis in reality. That's why the scientific method and observations are the accurate basis for knowing the Universe we inhabit. And to make to make life interesting that knowing can change, sometimes drastically, based on new observations. As I read through most of this voluminous thread, I was impressed by the sincere desire to define our place in the Universe. Thus, I hope such desire can be translated into the political process to provide more funding for scientific research and data collection.

Catastrophe

#### Helio

I am not saying you are wrong. But I am saying that, as long as these equations contain strings of unknowns and guesses,....
Agreed. But what is interesting is that these established unknowns are slowly becoming less unknown. IOW, at least it's not pseudoscience. If these unknowns were beyond the application of the SM, then I would also agree we are wasting time on them, but those terms in the Drake equation are legitimate scientific targets, even if no solution will be available for a long time.

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#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
Helio, of course I withdraw my objections gradually as unknown terms become known. But, as you know, the equation is only as good as its weakest link.''

Cat

#### vincenzosassone

So, to sum up in a very short sentence (I'm not so good in doing short sentence, do not wait something incredible):
Drake equation is completely useless and every other equation is useless since we aren't so advantaged as society to do a correct equation.
With the word "correct" I mean precise, lack of informations gives you holes you can't fill.

Catastrophe

#### Helio

So, to sum up in a very short sentence (I'm not so good in doing short sentence, do not wait something incredible):
Drake equation is completely useless and every other equation is useless since we aren't so advantaged as society to do a correct equation.
With the word "correct" I mean precise, lack of informations gives you holes you can't fill.
If it's not a "correct" equation, then it must be somehow incorrect. So what part is incorrect?

There is no law that says a final answer must be obtained for any equation. Drake never framed it to produce a result for today, but an equation that addresses the key variables needed to someday yield a result. There seems to be a psychological advantage to get attention on a subject when one can produce an equation with correct variables.

There is no climate equation that will accurately give us the temp. rise for next year. But that doesn't disqualify them from being important to science and humanity.

It may help to know that dimensional analysis is common in science where one establishes the variables needed to get a result, then uses their dimensions to cancel one another to get the dimensions (units) in the final result. Lord Rayleigh, for example, used this technique to produce his Rayleigh scattering equation.

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
Helio, you may have noticed that, as a chemical engineer, I have particularly advocated dimensional analysis. Your description is correct. Looking at the Drake Equation:

The Drake equation is:

{\displaystyle N=R_{*}\cdot f_{\mathrm {p} }\cdot n_{\mathrm {e} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {l} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {i} }\cdot f_{\mathrm {c} }\cdot L}
where:

N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible (i.e. which are on our current past light cone);
and

R∗ = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point
fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space[5][6]

Dimensionally: (where fraction is dimensionless)

number/time = (fraction)^4 multiplied by time x (number/star) x time

My workings are: 4 fractions Fractions are dimensionless as in number or stars with planets = number of stars (with planets) divided by total number of stars = number/number.
ne is number of planets per number of star that has planets = number/number.
These are all dimensionless.

R is rate or formation = number/time
L is time dimension (duration of signals).

Thus the result is Number = number/time x time = number.

Thus the equation is dimensionally correct.

However. that does not alter the fact that any such equation is only as good as its weakest link. Not one of these factors is known directly at present, and thus the Drake Equation has no validity whatsoever until all its components are known accurately. If all the components were to be accurately known bar one, and that one had a probability of being correct of 1 in a thousand, then the limit of accuracy of the equation would be 1 in a thousand, or 0.001.

Cat

P.S. If you take out the pure fractions, you are left with:
The average rate of star formation in our galaxy x the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

I suggest that L is totally unknowable at the present time, and is likely to remain so in the indefinite future. We do not even know the answer for ourselves. It might be 100 years or 10,000 years, or in the event of an asteroid impact it might be 6 months (fortunately unlikely).
It seems to me that there is no allowance in L for an asteroid impact. Unlikely though it may be, lack of allowance for this factor, all by itself, invalidates the whole equation in perpetuity.

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#### Helio

...
Thus the equation is dimensionally correct.
Yes, your step by step breakdown is nice.

However. that does not alter the fact that any such equation is only as good as its weakest link.
Yes, that's a great point to make.

If all the components were to be accurately known bar one, and that one had a probability of being correct of 1 in a thousand, then the limit of accuracy of the equation would be 1 in a thousand, or 0.001.
Yes, but even worse as some of the other terms will have a margin of error as well.

Not one of these factors is known directly at present, and thus the Drake Equation has no validity whatsoever until all its components are known accurately.
We disagree on this. 30 years ago there were 0 known exoplanets. Today we are pushing 5000 with 10,000 soon becoming in sight. That greatly helps with two terms because we some are in the habitable zone (liquid water capable).

So the merit to the Drake equation goes beyond having too many unknowns; it frames what is required of science to reach an N. It's like having a goal to shoot for. The Moon was once a goal and the equations looked a little like Drake's -- there were unknown terms that required research.

The average rate of star formation in our galaxy x the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
Well, we do know fairly accurately the rate of star formation for our galaxy, and we have an example case of 1 for the time part. Of course, as you properly note, the range in time could be much lower or much higher, thus the chain is still very weak.

I suggest that L is totally unknowable at the present time, and is likely to remain so in the indefinite future. We do not even know the answer for ourselves. It might be 100 years or 10,000 years, or in the event of an asteroid impact it might be 6 months (fortunately unlikely).
It seems to me that there is no allowance in L for an asteroid impact. Unlikely though it may be, lack of allowance for this factor, all by itself, invalidates the whole equation in perpetuity.
But if we seem capable of avoiding asteroid disasters for life, even with some whoppers hitting us, it is not unreasonable, IMO, to assume that other planets may as well. And, the asteroid killers have had over 3.5 billion years to convert life to toast. Instead, it seems to have helped us, so they might actually be an asset to forming intelligent life.

If other life is out there and we learn to detect it in the next 100 years, we will have a much more accurate result for an equation everyone will be talking about.

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
Helio, I am not talking about pigs flying. Maybe we can calculate the probability of this being the case on some distant planets.

Seriously, I have already said that I accept that variables will be refined over time. It may take thousands of years (if ever) before we have reasonable approximations.

I do not agree with you on a couple of points. Still a little friendly disagreement is not a bad thing. With respect, you have not answered my asteroid point. I see this as materially affecting L. Signal duration may be terminated by a cataclysm. If not an asteroid, how about a plague (Covid 19 omega?). You will never have a firm figure for L.

In your own words - "Yes, but even worse as some of the other terms will have a margin of error as well." Relating to weakest link.

If you think about it, by the time you have accurate data you will probably met some of our galactic friends, and what use will the equation be then? The object of the equation is:
"N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible"
Our new friends may know of others, and x + y + z is a better measure (Numbers already known by civilisations X, Y and Z than some prehistoric equation. The Drake Equation is equivalent to what Vasco da Gama might have been asked to devise by the King of Portugal (or was it Spain). Vasco might better have replied "Let me go find out" and I think that would have been the best answer.
By the time you get the factors reasonably accurate, we will already know enough.

By the way, ask Drake how he intends to meet up with these theoretical civilisations, bearing in mind the distances involved and the speed of light limitation. Perhaps he will answer with an equation estimating the probabilities of warp drives?

Cat

#### vincenzosassone

So what part is incorrect?
The entire part in my opinion. Since we aren't so aware of our galaxy and our Universe, how can we hope to write a correct equation? There surely will be wacky elements that will give us something wacky as much...
And what's more, I would like to add something: if intelligent life is so unlikely (I'm expecially talking about that process where prokaryotes turned into eukaryotes because of that wrong metabolic process), how can we hope there are 30 societies out there? Maybe we are the only one in our entire galaxy!

#### vincenzosassone

It may help to know that dimensional analysis is common in science where one establishes the variables needed to get a result, then uses their dimensions to cancel one another to get the dimensions (units) in the final result. Lord Rayleigh, for example, used this technique to produce his Rayleigh scattering equation.
I wasn't referring to dimensions, as I said in the lastest line of the post #65, with the word correct I mean precise.
Drake never framed it to produce a result for today, but an equation that addresses the key variables needed to someday yield a result.
Of course, this makes more sense.

IG2007

#### voidpotentialenergy

The entire part in my opinion. Since we aren't so aware of our galaxy and our Universe, how can we hope to write a correct equation? There surely will be wacky elements that will give us something wacky as much...
And what's more, I would like to add something: if intelligent life is so unlikely (I'm expecially talking about that process where prokaryotes turned into eukaryotes because of that wrong metabolic process), how can we hope there are 30 societies out there? Maybe we are the only one in our entire galaxy!
We could easily be the only 1 in the universe.
So many freak events happened to get earth in the right place, have a moon created from a very unforgiving collision, add just the right amount of water to a desert world because the giant planets moved just so, wind up with earth just big enough to have a big magnetic field, not to many or to few impactors, all the right elements to have any hope for life, etc etc etc.
Then life itself chance to get started, have a freak event to create cells, another freak event of 2 different life forms creating 1, etc etc etc of freak events and stability to get to humans.
Then it all needs to happen on a very rare quiet star of a specific type in a specific part of a galaxy.

When you think of all the events and needs humanity might be it or the neighbors could be an incredible distance away.

JMO

vincenzosassone

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
You see, I take entirely the opposite view. I maintain that (1) the only planet we really know has life, so, in our experience, life is normal (2) we notice that other planets do not have the conditions that we deem necessary to sustain life. That tells us that life like us is most unlikely to be found there. However, other life forms on our planet are extreme varied, and many locations (e.g., hydrothermal vents) are thought to exist on other planets.

I therefore maintain that, according to our scientific viewpoint, whilst we only have one example of intelligent life, we should consider all known (and the possibility of unknown) life forms, and conclude that the possibility of other life forms (however simple) might be very high, bearing in mind the trillions of galaxies in the observable universe (and the likelihood of more in the so far unobserved remainder.

Cat

#### Helio

.. we should consider all known (and the possibility of unknown) life forms, and conclude that the possibility of other life forms (however simple) might be very high, bearing in mind the trillions of galaxies in the observable universe (and the likelihood of more in the so far unobserved remainder.
Yes. I suspect if we only had knowledge of our own solar system and no clue of other stellar systems, we would still be considering life elsewhere in the solar system or beyond. Indeed, this was true in the 1600s (e.g. Kepler).

So when you increase from 1 planet with life to 10E24 total no. of planets, then it's hard to explain how there could be no other combination of events that would allow life, as well as, try to explain the emptiness question of why.

Catastrophe

#### Catastrophe

##### "Science begets knowledge, opinion ignorance.
Only a dumb species like humans would ask why? There are too many potential answers. Results of collisions in protoplanet formation, types of star, distances from their star . . . . . . . . . . . .
But I do suggest that the numbers have to stack up in the billions in favour of 'low' life forms (as in less evolved) and, at a guess, millions of 'higher' forms of life Not quite sure where humans are on the scale.

Cat

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