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The Drake Equation versus the Fermi Paradox: Is There Intelligent Life out There?

The Drake Equation versus the Fermi Paradox: Is There Intelligent Life out There?

US Radio astronomer Frank Drake developed the Drake equation so he could estimate the possible/probable number of  planets containing intelligent life in the galaxy. He did this by taking into consideration the factors listed below, in preparation for one of the first “serious” discussions about the probability of life on other planets in the early 1960s. The factors are

N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible;
R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
ƒp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
ƒℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
ƒc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

 By 2001, with all the scientific advances and knowledge about space from four decades at our fingertips, a rigorous calculation using the Drake Equation was undertaken. It took into consideration the number of planets that are in the habitable zone (The habitable zone is an area around a star were water is in liquid form, temperature is ideal, and photosynthesis is possible). The “answer” that the equation revealed was that that hundreds of thousands of life-bearing planets statistically should exist. It also suggested that a planet capable of supporting human or human-like life, like the Earth, should exist just a few hundred light years away. In other words quite close to us.
The Drake Equation versus the Fermi Paradox: Is There Intelligent Life out There?
But there are two big problems with the Equation:  Firstly,  several terms in the equation are largely or entirely based on conjecture. Thus the equation cannot be used to draw firm conclusions of any kind. Worse still, it would seem that the equation is torpedoed by the Fermi Paradox. This was a set of points made by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael Hart. Their points were:
  • Our sun is a young star. There are billions of starts in the galaxy that are billions of years olderof years older;
  • Some of these stars likely have Earth-like planets and  may develop intelligent life;
  • Presumably some of these civilizations will develop interstellar travel, a technology that it is expected that we will develop in time;
  • Interstellar travel should result in colonisation of the galaxy in a few tens of millions of years.

Thus, what the Paradox is saying is that  if so many planets exist or have existed with intelligent life, why is there a lack of contact between the intelligent life and us and why is there such a lack of physical evidence of said intelligent life here on earth, or elsewhere in the observable galaxy? The paradox exists in that the Drake equation statistically indicates life should be abundant and yet physical evidence says otherwise.  In other words “where is everybody?”

To be fair the Drake Equation was only concocted to promote discussion and interest in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life (SETI) and not to “prove” the existence of  abundant life in the galaxy.

Opponents and critics of the Fermi Paradox say that there is evidence of extraterrestrial life, on this planet, now and throughout our history, and also from astronomical and other observations of space. But these have been suppressed by governments for a variety of reasons….

The Drake Equation versus the Fermi Paradox: Is There Intelligent Life out There?

 

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