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New Form of The Drake Equation Asserts That We Are Not Alone in The Universe

by onMay 10, 2016
 

One of the worlds biggest questions may have just been answered…kind of. Intelligent life hasn’t actually been discovered, but a new adaptation to the world famous ‘Drake Equation’ now asserts that it is inevitable.

After many thousands of years of thinking that our planet and the human race were all that existed, we eventually discovered that we were wrong. Once we learned that there are billions of stars, galaxies and solar systems like our own, we began to wonder if we are actually alone in our existence as intelligent beings.

Created in 1961 by astronomer Frank Drake, the ‘Drake Equation‘ is the original method that sought to mathematically understand the probability of humanity being alone in the universe. Using a number of different terms such as ne (the number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life) to estimate the number of technological civilizations in our galaxy. The problem is that some of the terms used were just a bit too uncertain.

“We’ve known for a long time approximately how many stars exist. We didn’t know how many of those stars had planets that could potentially harbor life, how often life might evolve and lead to intelligent beings, and how long any civilizations might last before becoming extinct.” – Adam Frank, astronomy and physics professor at the University of Rochester

A New Form of Drakes Equation Asserts That We Are Not Alone

Original Drakes Equation: Top – New Equation Form: Bottom

So what’s the best way to prove that intelligent life exists with math? Well it’s still Drake’s Equation, it just needs to be altered a bit and a more planets with the potential to sustain life need to be discovered…and that’s exactly what has been done.

With NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope constantly on the prowl and discovering potentially habitable planets by tracking their transit of stars, astronomers have come to the conclusion that approximately one in every five stars (1/5) possess planets within their habitable zone. Now it’s just about fixing the equation to deal with the other terms that are a bit broad…such as the probability that advanced life will form.

To do this, Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan of the University of Washington, simply altered the math. They eliminated the need for the probability of advanced life forming by calculating the odds against humankind being the only advanced civilization in the universe. They eliminated the need to know the longevity of a civilization by formulating the cosmic archaeological question: how often does intelligent life evolve throughout cosmic history?

Calling their new equation the “Archaeological form” of the Drake equation, it now looks a bit simpler, like this:

Nast x fbt.

Nast, the number of habitable planets, is defined as Nast = N* x fp x np, where N* is the total number of stars, fp is the fraction that form planets, and np is the average of those planets circling in the habitable zones of their parent stars. The second term of the Archaeological form equation, fbt, is defined as the likelihood of an advanced technological civilization arising on one of these habitable planets.

The results suggest that humankind is only likely to be unique if the odds of another civilization developing on a habitable world are less than one in 1022. That’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in case you were wondering…which is, to say the least, a bit improbable. If you took 1022 habitable planets…the chances are that more than 1 of them will have life. Frank puts it very nicely as well:

“To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology producing species very likely have evolved before us. Think of it this way: before our result you’d be considered a pessimist if you imagined the probability of evolving a civilization on a habitable planet were, say, one in a trillion. But even that guess, one chance in a trillion, implies that what has happened here on Earth with humanity has in fact happened about 10 billion other times over cosmic history!” – Adam Frank

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