Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Carl Sagan explains the Drake Equation

Part 1

Part 2

Fascinating stuff from a great communicator.

I'm not nearly as anti-SETI as most ufologists are - what's the harm in looking for radio signals? It's not like it costs that much money, and, as I said in a radio interview once, I think ufologists are just jealous that SETI has been more successful in engaging science and the public than ufology has.

But, whether you like Sagan or SETI or you don't, watching him do the calculations is interesting, especially if you accept the possibility that there may be millions of technological civilizations in the galaxy (a number that seems way too high to me; I would always go with a more conservative estimate, based on the principle that it's better to be pleasantly surprised than rudely awakened). It stands to reason, if that's the case, and if they manage to survive what Sagan calls their "adolescence", that they could - indeed, almost certainly would - develop the ability to travel between the stars, if not in person then at least in the form of advanced probes, probably using some form of artificial intelligence. From there it isn't a giant leap of logic to conclude that one or more of those probes, or perhaps even crews, made its way to Earth at some point, and took a look around. Perhaps they're still here. One can't prove that on the available evidence, but it's not an unreasonable hypothesis, even if there had never been a single UFO sighting.

Ironically, given that he was not a supporter of the ETH, Sagan's reasoning, using Drake's equation, should give comfort to those who are supporters of the ETH, and should give pause for thought to those who would dismiss the ETH out of hand.

Paul Kimball


Anonymous said...

The Drake equation is unbridled speculation. It isn't even based on science. One of the blatant faults with the Drake equation is that it leads to the Fermi paradox -- if ET is supposed to be so common, where are they hiding? The reason for that problem is that the Drake equation is based on false assumptions. What assumption is that you say? The assumption that a far more intelligent race would act just as stupid as we do.

A species intelligent enough to traverse light years of space would be a species that learned not to destroy itself and it's environment; a species that would not want to spread to another part of the galaxy like a plague -- those are things that humans would do if they could colonize space today, but that doesn't imply everyone else in the universe thinks or acts like we do...

"I would like to share a revelation that I've had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet, instinctively develops an equilibrium with it's surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet; you're a plague and we are the cure" -- Quote from Agent Smith, THE MATRIX, Warner Brothers, 1999.

"An organism that thinks only in themes of its own survival will invariably destroy its environment and, as we are learning from bitter experience, will thus destroy itself" -- Source unknown.

So tell me, if you were an advanced civilization, would you want to contact or reveal your presence to a cancer or virus? Do you believe a cancer or virus could even understand your form of communication? Maybe the communication format of an intelligent civilization is spread spectrum technology, making their communications indistinguishable from background noise?

Don Maor said...

The problem of the "anonymous guy" reasoning is that he DOES NOT know really what de Drake equation is.

Actually, Drake Equation DOES NOT tell anything about the colonization desires of a civilization, or its willingness or methods used to communicate with other civilizations. Drake equation only tell us how many civilizations MAY be out there.

I agree with “anonymous guy” in the fact that other civilizations would not necessarily be willing to contact us using radio signals or other signals, because of our primitiveness…

BUT, that is not a Drake Equation’s problem, IT IS rather a problem of SETI guys (and SETI cultists), who are out there trying to contact using red skin’s smoke signals, other civilizations which probably do not care about us.

William Parulian said...

"Anonymous," you sound like you really hate human beings. There's always hope in humanity. Not everyone has the goal of colonizing other planets. There are a lot of scientists who devote their lives to look into space just for the sake of curiosity. The excitement that comes from learning the unknown, that's the reward. It's not always about colonization.

Try to watch movie "Contact" (1997) adapted from Carl Sagan's novel, it's very interesting in my opinion.

PS: Would you mind to comment back after you watch it? Thank you.