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Updated Drake equation used to calculate number of alien civilizations

By T.K. Randall
June 1, 2024 · Comment icon 31 comments
Man looks at equation.
Is there anyone out there ? Image Credit: Midjourney
Are we alone in the universe ? Scientists have taken another stab at finding out how common civilizations might be.
The question of whether we are alone in the universe remains one of the biggest philosophical conundrums of our time. While it seems almost inconceivable that our civilization is alone in the cosmos, the fact still remains that we have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

The Fermi paradox, which highlights the contradiction between the likely existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the fact that we have still never encountered any, seems to suggest that either there are no aliens out there, or they are so rare that it is unlikely we would ever come across them.

The Drake equation, meanwhile, which is a formula designed to calculate the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy, has historically provided a more ambitious figure, suggesting (at least based on SETI pioneer Frank Drake's own calculations) that there are between 1,000 and 100,000,000 alien civilizations in our galaxy alone.

That said, much has changed since he came up with these numbers and now a team of researchers has taken on the challenge of recalculating the answer based on new and updated information.

In particular, the researchers have sought to emphasize the importance of plate tectonics in the development of life.
"Tectonic processes exposing fresh rocks on the surface are crucial for enhancing delivery of [phosphorus] and other inorganic nutrients," they wrote.

"The addition of [phosphorus], [iron] and other nutrients from erosion and weathering of Ediacaran collisional mountains broke the Mesoproterozoic nutrient drought, stimulating life and evolution."

The figure they initially came up with was between 0.006 and 100,000 intelligent civilizations, but this wasn't the final answer either as it was also necessary to take into account the likely penchant for such civilizations to destroy themselves with nukes, AI, viruses and other dangers.

This resulted in a final figure of between 0.0004 and 20,000 alien civilizations in the Milky Way.

It's a lot less than Drake's original prediction, but at least it's not zero.

Source: IFL Science | Comments (31)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #22 Posted by MrsGently 11 days ago
where's your link for that? And I already said, since we never met another civilisation and these are my original thoughts, where am I supposed to link you to?
Comment icon #23 Posted by joc 10 days ago
  They are often described as consuming their surrounding gas, the result of gravity so intense that nothing can escape its pull, not even the fastest known traveler in the universe: light itself. But if black holes don’t emit or reflect light, which means we can’t see them, how do astronomers know they are there? Link
Comment icon #24 Posted by Hazzard 10 days ago
It wasnt in the past and it wont be in the future. We simply happen to live in a time when those numbers match.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Harte 10 days ago
It's not bias, it's the lack of a larger population of data. We are investigating life in the universe with only one, single example to go by. That doesn't mean we have to ignore the only example we have just to avoid bias though. Harte
Comment icon #26 Posted by Abramelin 10 days ago
No, but we should not let that weigh as heavily as it happens now.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Harte 10 days ago
Well, we gotta go by something. We can't just jump straight to Gorignaks. Harte
Comment icon #28 Posted by Thanos5150 6 days ago
#120  It can be higher but not much lower, which may be the benchmark for complex life to thrive in the first place, but regardless there could be literally billions if not trillions of planets which allow for the controlled use of fire. Fire needs about 16% oxygen to burn, our atmosphere has 21% which 30% is considered the practical limit which even then planetary precipitation and moisture can offset higher oxygen levels. So just on earth there is at least a 14% variability that is allowed with an optimal range of 7%. .  Belcher’s team’s work indicates that while there is not a firm ... [More]
Comment icon #29 Posted by Piney 6 days ago
Venus probably did tidally lock. It spins in reverse, but much slower do to it's winds. But a model does show without our moon pulling on our oceans tidal locking from the sun "grabbing" our oceans can occur. 
Comment icon #30 Posted by Thanos5150 6 days ago
I don't think there is any actual evidence of this, but if so it was billions of years ago and for a relatively short time and regardless irrelevant to any discussion of whether it or similar planets could harbor life as it has not been tidally locked for billions of years. It is very close to the tidal locking gravitational threshold and theoretically it should have happened a long time ago, but there is no indication it ever did.  Why is a day on Venus longer than a year? The atmosphere may be to blame. Venus' stormy atmosphere acts like a brake on its rotation.... "Extremely fast winds cau... [More]
Comment icon #31 Posted by Piney 6 days ago
Yeah, I'm miserably out of date...

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