Astrophysicists apply new logic to downplay the probability of extraterrestrial life

Jul 27, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

David Spiegel and Edwin Turner of Princeton University have submitted a paper to arXiv that turns the Drake equation on its head. Instead of assuming that life would naturally evolve if conditions were similar to that found here on Earth, the two use Bayesian reasoning to show that just because we evolved in such conditions, doesn’t mean that the same occurrence would necessarily happen elsewhere; using evidence of our own existence doesn’t show anything they argue, other than that we are here.

The Drake equation, developed in 1960 by Frank Drake uses probability and statistics to derive the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe. The data for it comes from observations of the known universe, i.e. the number of stars and solar systems that can be seen, the number that are thought likely to have conditions similar to our own, etc. It’s this equation and its results that drive much of the belief that there surely must be life out there; hopefully, intelligent life.

The problem with all this though, is that so much of it is based on assumptions that have no real basis in reality. As Spiegel and Turner point out, basing our expectations of life existing on other planets, for no better reason that it exists here, is really only proof that were are more than capable of deceiving ourselves into thinking that things are much more likely than they really are.

The two argue that just because intelligent life occurred rather quickly here on Earth, once conditions were ripe, giving rise to the people we are today, that doesn’t mean it naturally would on another planet just like ours in another place in the universe. There are other factors after all, that could have contributed to us being here that we don’t yet understand. So, it might be surmised, (though the authors themselves don’t actually mention the Drake equation) deriving numbers from an equation such as that put forth by Drake, only serves to bump up our belief in the existence of other alien life forms, not the actual chances of it being so.

When taken at face value, some might conclude that such arguments hold no more logic than arguments for the existence of God, i.e. it’s more about faith, than science.

At any rate, most would agree that the only concrete way to prove whether there is life out there or not is to prove it, by finding it.

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Nikola
3.9 / 5 (8) Jul 27, 2011
Pfffft...whatever.
EdMoore
3 / 5 (2) Jul 27, 2011
See also "Fermi's Paradox".
thales
4.4 / 5 (21) Jul 27, 2011
Well, duh. The Drake equation isn't meant to be deductive; it's meant to be INductive. The underlying assumption is that Earth-like conditions likely result in abiogenesis. I suppose there's some use to pointing out that this is an assumption. Meh.
Isaacsname
3 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
There are likely many civilizations in the universe we will never make contact with with, and vice-versa. How could an intelligent race look out over the universe and even discern that our galaxy is even still here, let alone make plans to travel here by whatever means ?

We assume too much about what life in the universe means, we apply our own logic and expectations to our search. Are we looking for humans ?

For all you UFO nuts, ask yourselves why, if a lifeform possesses FTL, why they would not also possess the tech to be invisible to us. I doubt were they able to get here they'd even allow themselves to caught on candid camera.
TheWalrus
3.3 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
What a waste of an article. Give us the new equation. It's not enough to say some guys said something: tell us what they said.

Also, it's not (I hope) about the probability of ET life, but how common it is. Or are these guys really claiming that in an infinite universe, ET life probably doesn't exist?
dogbert
3.5 / 5 (19) Jul 27, 2011
Good points. The Drake equation is filled with variables for which there is no value except guesses.

Though I hope, and probably most of us hope, that life is common, the fact remains that we have zero evidence of life anywhere but here.
Hengine
3.9 / 5 (12) Jul 27, 2011
Well how would they know? Let's at least explore our own solar system more thoroughly before being so negative =|
Martian
2.7 / 5 (10) Jul 27, 2011
Where is the proof that life does not exist elsewhere in the universe?

Until it is all searched, the point is moot.
Inflaton
4.1 / 5 (14) Jul 27, 2011
"The problem with all this though, is that so much of it is based on assumptions that have no real basis in reality"

Isn't "real basis in reality" a tautology?
that_guy
4.1 / 5 (14) Jul 27, 2011
What a waste of an article. Give us the new equation. It's not enough to say some guys said something: tell us what they said.

Also, it's not (I hope) about the probability of ET life, but how common it is. Or are these guys really claiming that in an infinite universe, ET life probably doesn't exist?


I agree. This article is a waste. We know that there are unkowns in the drake equation, and that there are enough unknowns to make it more of an exercise than a statistical point. I think most scientists already know that. But if we find just one extra terrestrial life form anywhere, then BAM, the drake equation suddenly becomes very relevant. Even as it is, the drake equation does place an upper bound on the propensity of life (Based on what we know), which makes it useful even now.
kornus
4.7 / 5 (7) Jul 27, 2011
I would rather say that life can evolve not only as life that we know here on earth, but in many different forms and in totally different conditions. Given the factor of time like billions of years life can evolve where we would not expect it to... right, so maybe moons, gas giants, high / low temperatures... and so on.
that_guy
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
I would rather say that life can evolve not only as life that we know here on earth, but in many different forms and in totally different conditions. Given the factor of time like billions of years life can evolve where we would not expect it to... right, so maybe moons, gas giants, high / low temperatures... and so on.


I agree with you. I think we can put a few limits on chemically bound life...within the limits that chemistry can both change and keep the necessary types of bonds (Mind you, that is pretty expansive.)

And there is the possibility of potentially exotic forms of life that are bound by means other than our traditional chemical view. energy based? Based within the laws inside a black hole. Exotic matter even. There could even be life implanted in the fabric of the universe. I'm not saying that I particularly espouse any of these options, but they all have some nonzero possibility.
Peteri
4.3 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2011
However, think upon the sequence of events that lead to our being here: the cataclysmic impact that lead to the formation of the Moon and the very fact that we have a large, spin-axis stabilising moon; several mass extinction events that dramatically altered the course of the evolution of life - the last of which cleared the stage of dinosaurs and enabled mammals to become the dominant land vertebrates; and then more recently, the series of climate changes which drove the evolution of Homo sapiens (e.g. the drying out of central plains of Africa to form savannah, the series of glaciations).

This begs the question: is this sequence of events that lead to the evolution of multicellular organisms and eventually to intelligent humans here on Earth a one-off highly improbable series never to be repeated in another solar system, or is it that intelligent life will inevitably arise irrespective of the history of a terrestrial planet in the "Goldilocks" zone? Alas, I suspect the former!
krundoloss
not rated yet Jul 27, 2011
Regardless of anything anyone says, whatever study is done, it doesnt matter. There is undoubtedly life on other planets, and there is no real way we can estimate that without more information on how many life(as we know it) sustaining planets there might be.
KomMaelstrom
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2011
They didn't supply any material to subject the Drake equation to criticism other than that it's linear (only supposes water-based life forms) and has "no real basis in reality". Well that sure is general.

Why don't they attempt to understand what type of environments result in reproductive(-ing) systems? If Science is analytical, this has little association with it.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.6 / 5 (9) Jul 27, 2011
I am certain that the hundreds of other intelligent civilizations in our galaxy have come to the same conclusion.
Sanescience
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
I just enjoyed the blurb,
proof that were are more than capable of deceiving ourselves into thinking that things are much more likely than they really are.


Intelligent alien life is one of those "game changer" topics that will spawn endless speculation because of the complete lack of data and the principle of not knowing what we don't know.

Given the range of outcomes, I'm guessing it would be better for us if life is rare and FTL travel really is impossible regardless of advances in technology.

Even without FTL though, a sufficiently capable civilization might adapt their consciousness to be unconcerned with the long travel times of interstellar travel. If your physical form can endure millions of years and your awareness can be slowed to an arbitrary extent, you could spread among the stars over the course of a billion years with no FTL.

So then ask, what would be interesting to them? How about seeding planets with DNA to see what grows?
pauldentler
3 / 5 (4) Jul 27, 2011
"There is undoubtedly life on other planets, and there is no real way we can estimate"


But are we talking about water/carbon based life or some other?
antialias_physorg
3.6 / 5 (8) Jul 27, 2011
Any equation (like the Drake equation) that contains only one variable which is guesswork is completely useless from a predictive point of view.

The Drake equation isn't meant to be deductive; it's meant to be INductive

It is also neither an inductive nor a deductive formula because it starts from one point of data (viz. 'life exists on earth'). You cannot deduce nor induce ANYTHING from one point of data other than: Yes - life is possible.

But if we find just one extra terrestrial life form anywhere, then BAM, the drake equation suddenly becomes very relevant.

Even if we find life elsewhere the Drake equation does not become any more meaningful. For it to become more meaningful we would need to find many occurrences which, INDEPENDENTLY, give us a basis to estimate EACH of the factors.
lengould100
1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2011
I think the question boils down to a few really pertinent questions.

1) Is (was) the development of life-as-we-know-it really inevitable on a planet like earth, or did it result from a really strange complex and really long chain of events which are not ever likely to reoccur in our galaxy?

2) Must interesting alien life have consiousness or awareness of self? (What evolutionary purpose did it serve in development? Is it an inevitable result of complexity, an impractical superflousity? Is a computer with comparable complexity comparably intelligent? Why or why not?)

3) How much of an over-simplification is the 6-term Drake equn?
that_guy
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2011
@antialias.

Even finding one other life form validates the Drake equation, as we now know the total number of planets with life is greater or equal to two.

While we would need a large sample size in order to use the drake equation as a predictive tool, it is still useful in finding the lower boundary of life's prevalence - and finding one indicates that that boundary is fairly high - due to the limited scope of our ability to detect other life. So yes, even one life can make a huge difference in the drake equation.

On the other side, however unlikely, there is an infitesimally small chance that we are absolutely unique - rendering the drake equation completely meaningless. Even finding one life outside of earth would put that idea down for good (Among reasoned discussion). So it would be the final support to show that the drake equation can be validated.

and ugh...sorry in advance for the troll bait statement...
Newbeak
3.3 / 5 (4) Jul 27, 2011
I am a fan of panspermia.That way,life has only to begin once on some planet,and spread from there via comets,asteroids,etc to the far corners of the universe.Simple lifeforms are known to be able to survive for lengthy times in space.So the Drake equation could very well be correct-give earth-like conditions to a microbe immigrant,a few billion years,and voila!
Cave_Man
1.3 / 5 (4) Jul 27, 2011
I would rather say that life can evolve not only as life that we know here on earth, but in many different forms and in totally different conditions. Given the factor of time like billions of years life can evolve where we would not expect it to... right, so maybe moons, gas giants, high / low temperatures... and so on.


It took 4 billion years to make us, life doesn't begin at the first cell, it probably took time for the amino acids to build up and the situation to become just right.

I imagine a primordial state on all earth like planets, during a short period of time where its warm enough and the circumstances are PERFECT "life" may or may not start, as in a single celled organism is able to form which possesses enough DNA to start the evolution process.

If we wiped out all multi-cellular life on earth theres not enough time for evolution to multicellular life again depending on whats left to evolve from. We got what, like 500mil-5bil years before the sun goes caca,
Telekinetic
2 / 5 (8) Jul 27, 2011
"There are other factors after all, that could have contributed to us being here that we dont yet understand."

Like an alien race seeding this planet with life? I'm so convinced of other civilizations out there, I'd go so far as to say you're going to find a Midas Muffler Shop as well.
hush1
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
Once they have grasped something to hold on to sea quirts eat their brains.

Food for thought.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (10) Jul 27, 2011
What a waste of an article. Give us the new equation. It's not enough to say some guys said something: tell us what they said.

Also, it's not (I hope) about the probability of ET life, but how common it is. Or are these guys really claiming that in an infinite universe, ET life probably doesn't exist?
Hey, I know, why not stop bitching about the nature of news releases and read the freaking article yourself? The link is at the bottom of the NEWS RELEASE. Above. Twit.
hush1
2 / 5 (4) Jul 27, 2011
Typo correction:
Sea squirts.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 27, 2011
Consider that, once the transition is made from human to machine intelligence, there may eventually be no need for 'individuals' any more. A sufficiently advanced intelligence would not require 'someone else' to interact with, as it would be capable of developing alternative views of it's own.

It would construct all the remotes it would need to monitor it's neighborhood and gleen all the resources it would. Why have more when less is better?

We see the trend throughout human history. Leaders, kings, chiefs, presidents, premiers etc who hold final judgment. If Leaders had infinite power wouldn't They want to design their subjects to suit? Automatons are so much more manageable. Leaders themselves would redesign Themselves also, becoming closer, more integrated, the more machine-like They became.

We may never find other civilizations as they may quickly evolve into single Entities which only desire to communicate with each other over interstellar distances.
Cont
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Jul 27, 2011
So how might we know these Intelligence Singularities are there? We might chance to pass through a data stream between 2 such entities but the chance would be vanishingly small.

These streams might excite interstellar material which could be detectable. They may produce waste heat signatures with certain characteristics. But these Remnants might be efficient enough to avoid losing this wasted energy.
Superhawk
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2011
There may be other "luckier" planets out there where life was able to evolve to sentient beings even faster due to the lack of devastating meteor impacts, etc. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!
ethanwa
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
A lot of the commentors on here are forgetting a few basic things:

1. We have no frame of reference. Life only exists, so far as we know it, on one place... Earth. Therefore it's impossible to get a reliable and accurate probability of other life without two or more points of reference. There is one of us and billions of unexplored stars... just because they are unexplored does not make probability in this case go up. Scientifically, the actual probability without assumptions is 1 in billions and billions. Find another life source and then that number drastically changes.

2. We don't know how life was created. Was it because of all the chemicals on earth bubbling and then forming life, or maybe a rare elements astroid collision that caused some type of spontaneous life? Because we don't know this, we can't assume how life is created.

The Drake equation makes assumptions, and the point they are trying to make is that assumptions can get you into trouble and give you false hope.
Newbeak
3.2 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
A lot of the commentors on here are forgetting a few basic things:

Yes,that is the point,isn't it? Drake's equation is based on faith,or in other words an unproven assumption ,and that isn't science.
369Tesla
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 28, 2011
The only ppl who still don't believe in the possibility of ET life are either Jesus Freaks or other hardcore religious ppl. They have no problem believing Noah put 2 of every animal/insect on the planet on a Ark but scoff that the possibility of other life in a, as far as we know, infinite universe.
Pete1983
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 28, 2011
The milky way tastes like raspberries.

Given that this is genuinely the case, I find it ridiculous to think life isn't quite common throughout all galaxies in the universe.
Deesky
5 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
There may be other "luckier" planets out there where life was able to evolve to sentient beings even faster due to the lack of devastating meteor impacts, etc. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!

On the contrary, those planets would be less 'lucky'. If you have a still, unchanging environment, things tend not to change much. When you have major environmental disruptions it shakes things up - removes stagnant species, opens up new niches and opportunities, drives diversity and specialization, etc.

Of course, if these types of shocks were happening too frequently, they would be counterproductive, but we can reasonably deduce that meteor bombardment is reduced in frequency over time as a new solar system clears out most of the debris and settles down into a boring life.
jsdarkdestruction
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
So how might we know these Intelligence Singularities are there? We might chance to pass through a data stream between 2 such entities but the chance would be vanishingly small.

These streams might excite interstellar material which could be detectable. They may produce waste heat signatures with certain characteristics. But these Remnants might be efficient enough to avoid losing this wasted energy.

So basically the machines are one being just able to see from different points of view or the machines all have different points of view but are all part of one being?
Osiris1
1.3 / 5 (7) Jul 28, 2011
My guess is that the genesis...if you will...of this piece is living proof of what one comes up with after ingesting 'magic mushrooms' or licking Aussie cane toads. Like Steven Hawking said: "The universe is not only big..it is reaalllly big!".
And by the way, 'Baldr' and his merry men may not be as advanced as we might supposed. Especially in all fields. Betty and Barney Hill described a procedure unknown to them, a medical procedure portrayed as a pregnancy test. That needle procedure did not come into use until some years later. However, 'Baldr's people should have known about ultrasound that we developed later.....then......why did they NOT know that? Just may be that Baldr and his merry explorers had the GOOD luck to come from a very metal rich system with lots of island of stability transuranics as stable isotopes...like
Unumpentium..element 115...the purported UFO fuel. Also used by a specially adapted one over Iraq in '92. Hint: it replaced the SR-71..9000mph!
JadedIdealist
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
IMO the biggest deficit in the standard drake equation is that everything except star lifetimes are treated as simple binary (rather than including a time window).
Planets are considered either suitable for life to start or they are not.
Reality is probably that planets do not stay 'suitable for life to start in' permanently.
It's possible that Venus and Mars may have been briefly suitable - but "soured".
If souring is an important consideration then that would be an alternative explanation for the fact that life on earth started so quickly. - ie you start early or miss the window of opportunity.

Only detailed examination of conditions on large samples of earth-like exoplanets in various stages of their history will really answer that.

( PS: Yes, you can fudge the probabilties to give the same answers for number of intelligent civilizations per galaxy with the old drake equation - but that's not the point )
JadedIdealist
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
- don't know why, but the submit button is always disabled when I try to edit my posts for clarity. :(
dogbert
1 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
- don't know why, but the submit button is always disabled when I try to edit my posts for clarity. :(


Try reloading the page. Often that fixes the problem.
LivaN
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
TheWalrus
Also, it's not (I hope) about the probability of ET life, but how common it is. Or are these guys really claiming that in an infinite universe, ET life probably doesn't exist?

I was under the impression that the universe isn't infinite. Is this not implied by the big bang?
lengould100
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
It's pretty much beyond reality to propose communication with another galaxy (several millions of years for a single message / conversation element to travel to even the nearest) so we should be limiting the discussion to our own galaxy, only perhaps 200 to 400 billion star systems.

We can also be quite sure no other intelligence is aiming a beacon directly at us yet, so that becomes an important variable in any equation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
So basically the machines are one being just able to see from different points of view or the machines all have different points of view but are all part of one being?
I THINK they would be like Vger with no desire to find it's mother Kirk, and no need to travel unless it perceived it was in danger in it's place of origin. It would however be interested in corresponding with other such Entities in order to increase it's knowledge base.

The ultimate Purpose for these Remnants? Maybe they would find a way to arrest the accelerating expansion of the universe, and set about doing it. Who knows? Maybe they won't need a purpose.
that_guy
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
- don't know why, but the submit button is always disabled when I try to edit my posts for clarity. :(


Try reloading the page. Often that fixes the problem.


The 'submit' button should turn into an 'edit' button...If it doesn't, then it means your browser/computer isn't playing nice with the site. could clear browsing cache, adjust your security settings, whitelist physorg,...but yeah, reload first, then try the other suggestions.
omatumr
1 / 5 (9) Jul 28, 2011
the two use Bayesian reasoning to show that just because we evolved in such conditions, doesnt mean that the same occurrence would necessarily happen elsewhere


The authors need to let go of the illusion that we are more special than any other part of this beautiful, cyclic, infinite universe that scientists call the "Cosmos" and religionists call "God" [1].

What Is revealed by cause and effect, coincidence, destiny, experimentation, fate, insight, karma, meditation, observation, prayer, providence, serendipity, sight, sound, unmerited acts of human kindness.

1. "Is the Universe Expanding?", The Journal of Cosmology 13, 4187-4190 (2011):

http://journalofc...102.html

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

Gawad
5 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
You cannot deduce nor induce ANYTHING from one point of data other than: Yes - life is possible.

While I quite agree with you as far as extrapolating the possibility of life from one point of data (Earth), I do think we can start to get a sense of the probability of life becoming complex, intelligent and technological after it has arisen based on life on Earth, as Earth has seen a multitude of environments over geological time and millions of species have come and gone. Given that over this amount of time and across that number of species only a single one has become intelligent to the point of becoming technological, this does not leave me terribly hopeful. Especially since even we almost didn't make it. Humans almost went extinct twice in the last 100 000 yrs. Given the Milky Way has maybe 300 billion stars, that still leaves some wiggle room, but I would be shocked if there were more than just a few technological species out there.
jsdarkdestruction
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 28, 2011
Your god doesnt mind child molesting oliver?I get really tired of reading your posts, you cant back nothing you say up and ignore any evidence and then invoke god to explain it. Isnt neutron repulsion god though oliver? according to you its the cause of everything from the sun to puppydogs to red dresses.
that_guy
5 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
Your god doesnt mind child molesting oliver?I get really tired of reading your posts, you cant back nothing you say up and ignore any evidence and then invoke god to explain it. Isnt neutron repulsion god though oliver? according to you its the cause of everything from the sun to puppydogs to red dresses.

One time the neutron repulsion became so strong that it caused the sun to emit puppydogs wearing red dresses.

...and the other stuff...neutron repulsion made him do it. It was just a 'natural' phenomena.
jsdarkdestruction
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
lol, thats pretty funny.
on a more serious note i mixed up a bit when typing. should of been- "Isnt neutron repulsion your god though oliver? you cant back nothing you say up and ignore any evidence to the contrary and then invoke your god to explain it and if questioned just post the same tired links we've all read."
Menzel3
2 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
Thanks to the capitalistic society we live in, there is a growing number of youth that is assuming and believing that there are ancient aliens or other intelligent beings lurking out in the Universe and likely visiting Earth. It has become the New Religion of the 21st century. It saddens me that people with such potential for knowledge are going to walk the line of delusion. There are also those who are on the line of schizophrenia that are harmed by these capitalistic ways. An individual may be prone to the schizophrenia who has yet to experience any symptoms. Then come the conspiracies and fantasies and they go from borderline to paranoid schizophrenic. Are we going to wake up as a people?
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Thanks to the capitalistic society we live in, there is a growing number of youth that is assuming and believing that there are ancient aliens or other intelligent beings lurking out in the Universe and likely visiting Earth.


If you read the bios of scientists,they often credit interest in scifi in their youth as the impetus to enter university and study science.
Mentally ill people don't need much to progress to full blown illness,irrespective of the society they live in.
Gawad
5 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
Uh, o.k....how is this:
Thanks to the capitalistic society we live in,
connected to this:
there is a growing number of youth that is assuming and believing that there are ancient aliens or other intelligent beings lurking out in the Universe and likely visiting Earth.

Pete1983
2 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2011
It's connected because humans have become so disconnected from reality through the push of the capitalistic society we live in. Admittedly capitalism wasn't so bad up until the 40s and 50s, but once Edward Bernays rolled in and changed how we market products, things started going downhill very quickly.

Capitalism also promotes competition in the psyche well past the point of what anyone would consider healthy.

So basically capitalism is making people completely and utterly nuts, to the point that they start believing in some really wacky stuff, like God for example.
dogbert
1.7 / 5 (11) Jul 29, 2011
Wow. This commentary deteriorated from a discussion on the probability of life elsewhere in the universe to an attack on capitalism and religion in only 53 comments.
Gawad
5 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2011
So basically capitalism is making people completely and utterly nuts, to the point that they start believing in some really wacky stuff, like God for example.

I see. So, just to avoid any wacky misunderstanding...in your view prior to capitalism there was no belief in god, or gods as it were?
Menzel3
4 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2011
Because under further inspection, the potential to be consumed and swamped by fiction is doing nothing but leading Minds down a road full of assumptions and dogmas. This is a human condition, and some people can separate fact from fiction better than others.

But when people begin to assume based on movies and tv shows that are supposedly insight into a secret reality that Science has never discovered, it becomes a bit scary. It's built on the same foundations as any other cult. The Conspiracy forums, the Ancient Alien tv shows, and the lame movies pushed by Corporate giants are being interwoven and what comes out is a brand new form of doctrine. It becomes gospel.
Menzel3
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2011
One more thing, "Thanks to capitalism", does not necessarily mean blaming. It's a human condition that is being exposed, and its nothing more than a byproduct of the system. It's unfortunate that so many people are taking these assumptions and making them facts.

That is why this article was so refreshing.
Gawad
5 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2011
But when people begin to assume based on movies and tv shows that are supposedly insight into a secret reality that Science has never discovered, it becomes a bit scary

Granted. It certainly is disturbing, though I don't think it's a recent phenomenon. Our history is rife with (silly) stories, legends and superstitions that people would literally bet their life on, capitalism or not. I think you hit the nail on the head when you write that we've got a problem when people start to fail to distinguish entertainment from reality, though I tend to attribute that more to a failing educational system. The educational system IS after all suppose to be *the* place where critical thinking is taught and promoted.
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2011
Wow. This commentary deteriorated from a discussion on the probability of life elsewhere in the universe to an attack on capitalism and religion in only 53 comments.

Throwing stones Dogbert?? And this time it came from the left instead of the far right.

But I digress - I do agree with your sentiment here...
Terribyte
not rated yet Jul 29, 2011
We have seen this logic used before very successfully for thousands of years to posit the theory that the earth was the center of the universe.

Putting fancy names on very simple ideas is good for marketing but fails in its purpose to inform.
Menzel3
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2011
Terribyte, your logic is reversed. The marketing and push is the other way around. This is the report that everyone wants to ignore and shrug off. They want to latch on to the idea of life existing out there. They want their hundreds if not thousands of Galactic Federations to be floating about with upright walking lizards commanding ships. Society wants you to believe in a fictitious creation. There are movies, tv shows, radio shows, dedicated to the pursuit of UFOs and aliens.

People thought the Earth was flat. The equivalent to that today is "intelligent life must be out there (and is likely visiting here) because the Universe is so large. Stop swerving the discussion to the other end.

The doctrine is already becoming gospel.
HarshMistress
4 / 5 (8) Jul 29, 2011
There's no intelligent life out there. They're like us.
Decimatus
not rated yet Jul 29, 2011
Summed up as: We don't have any proof, but the stuff we don't know is somehow more likely than our very(real) existence, and by extension, the existence of all other life.

Basically they are saying we don't know XYZ, so life must be more rare than we think.

In reality, that goes both ways and life could be vastly more probable than we think.
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2011
Interesting. The planets we've found outside our solar system, so far, aren't ones in which could be considered habitable to "life as we know it". I hope that there's some kind of life out there, though. What a daunting thought - a huge universe with just us in it.
Bobamus_Prime
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
we better hurry up and overpopulate the galaxy like we are overpopulating Earth before someone else fills the milky way up before us.
BitterDevil
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
i'm really curious, our galaxy houses more than 50 billion planets, in a universe with 200 to 500 billion galaxies, and there are still individuals in our "intelligent" race that believe in the concept of uniqueness? are we still so desperate that this is the only way to feel special? by believing ourselves to be unique?
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
i'm really curious, our galaxy houses more than 50 billion planets,..

Right now we are unique,so based on the evidence, those individuals who believe that are only doing the logical thing.Just because there might be millions of other earths out there does not prove that life exists on them,intelligent or otherwise.That will only change if and when we discover other sentient beings.
BitterDevil
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
how can that be logical? that our existence is only a 1 in a 10,000,000,000,000,000 chance? well...that makes the existence of god much easier to accept doesn't it? lol

PS mind you that i calculated only the minimum number of planets in our universe
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
How do we know for certain that almost identical human civilizations haven't come and gone everywhere in the universe ? Humans are probably as abundant as cockroaches.
Gawad
4 / 5 (3) Jul 30, 2011
i'm really curious, our galaxy houses more than 50 billion planets, in a universe with 200 to 500 billion galaxies, and there are still individuals in our "intelligent" race that believe in the concept of uniqueness? are we still so desperate that this is the only way to feel special? by believing ourselves to be unique?

Well, technically, BitterDevil, there's 100% chance that we are unique. As to whether we are alone, well that's a whole other question! ;)

Sorry, I'm feeling pedantic this morning.
Menzel3
5 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
BitterDevil, we are talking about the natural properties of the Universe. Life existing only here or everywhere is really irrelevant to the issue of god. Anything that has existence potential has its source ultimately within the Universe. What we are trying to figure out is how rare the Universe's own "self-awareness" mechanism is. We see that all things obey certain laws and rules, there are patterns. A plant will begin to turn towards the sun if its in a position that can sense it. What we also know is that the human brain is the most complex structure naturally created under Universal Law, from what we have come across so far. We are the Universe's "highest" evolved energy. That being said, it makes us no better or worse than any other evolving organism out there.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
how can that be logical? that our existence is only a 1 in a 10,000,000,000,000,000 chance?


All I am saying is that we know with 100% certainty that sentient beings exist on one planet-earth.It is not logical to assume,and that's what you are doing,assuming,that there are sentient beings on other planets,all without a shred of evidence to support that assumption.If we discover life of some form on a distant moon in our solar system (Europa,for example),suddenly you have evidence that life can arise independently from earth.At that point,it is logical to conclude that life likely exists on at least a few of the billions of other planets around other stars.
dogbert
1 / 5 (4) Jul 30, 2011
Newbeak,

If we discover life of some form on a distant moon in our solar system (Europa,for example),suddenly you have evidence that life can arise independently from earth.


Not necessarily. There is considerable agreement that life could travel from one planet to another through ejection of mass during bombardment events.

If we find life on other planets of this system which are not based on our chemistry, then I think we will have evidence that life can arise elsewhere. Otherwise, we may need to wait to see if we can find evidence of life on planets of other stellar systems.
UnlimitedRealms
1 / 5 (2) Jul 30, 2011
I believe there is a universal constant that exsists that underlies everything from society evolution , life evolution planetary evolution all the way back to universal evolution . That constant I believe is ...... PI
BitterDevil
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011

Well, technically, BitterDevil, there's 100% chance that we are unique. As to whether we are alone, well that's a whole other question! ;)

Sorry, I'm feeling pedantic this morning.

1st...i was talking about intelligence... not antropomorhic similarities but u knew that already :P
2nd... i disagree...if u accept that intelligent life could evolve not only on earth...then why would it be so impossible to be identical to us?
Gawad
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011

Well, technically, BitterDevil, there's 100% chance that we are unique. As to whether we are alone, well that's a whole other question! ;)

Sorry, I'm feeling pedantic this morning.

1st...i was talking about intelligence... not antropomorhic similarities but u knew that already :P
Yes.

2nd... i disagree...if u accept that intelligent life could evolve not only on earth...then why would it be so impossible to be identical to us?
Because evolution is chaotic. That is: "[a] dynamical system that is highly sensitive to initial conditions; an effect which is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for chaotic systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general."

Now, due to SELECTION evolution may tend to produce similar outcomes for a given environment, but virtually never 100% identical.
DGBEACH
2.3 / 5 (4) Jul 30, 2011
A scientist bases himself upon facts first. We have not as yet found life anywhere else but on earth. THAT is a fact. To then "surmise" that since it exists here it must elsewhere is just as illogical as to claim the proven existence of god. Yes, we have proven that living organisms evolve in response to their environments, but NOT that they can create themselves. THAT question, IMHO still remains to be answered...neither camp has 100% proof, and has to have faith in their assumptions.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
Newbeak,



If we find life on other planets of this system which are not based on our chemistry, then I think we will have evidence that life can arise elsewhere.

Dogbert: That is why I didn't suggest Mars as a place to look for life,as it is earth's closest neighbour with a biologically friendly environment.I read somewhere that exchanges of biological materials via asteroid/comet impacts is unlikely for the outer planets and their moons.
BitterDevil
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
1.the universe has at the very least ten thousand billion planets - FACT
2.our galaxy has at the very least 50 billion planets - FACT
3.one of those planets (that we know off) had all the right factors to sustain the evolution of organic compounds - FACT
4.when anything occurs once... it becomes improbable. BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE! - FACT
dogbert
1 / 5 (4) Jul 30, 2011
Newsbeak,
I read somewhere that exchanges of biological materials via asteroid/comet impacts is unlikely for the outer planets and their moons.


I agree. It is unlikely there would be an exchange between the earth an object that farther up the gravity well. Still, it would not necessarily be impossible and I think that if we found signs of life, we would next try to determine if that life was original or if it was a transplant.

Any life we find on other stellar systems would automatically be presumed to be original.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
Still, it would not necessarily be impossible and I think that if we found signs of life, we would next try to determine if that life was original or if it was a transplant.


Hi Dogbert: Yes,it would be possible that biological material could be exchanged between earth and some outer planet or it's moon,but that is as far out as we can check with our current technology,so it would have to do.I agree that if life were found on Europa,say,the next step would be to compare it's DNA with that of earth dwelling samples.
omatumr
1 / 5 (6) Jul 30, 2011
"Origin and Evolution of Life Constraints on the Solar Model"

www.scirp.org/jou...rID=5331
MRyan
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
This is absurd, the entire point of this article is to spark an uprising in the science community. No one of actual knowledge is going to say that there is no probability of life off earth. The only thing that I can assume is that they wanted a name for themselves and wanted to spark the open debate about life. We all know that there is a stronger than normal possibility that there is life in other galaxies, even the Vatican has approved the belief in life off this planet. So with all the respect I can muster, I hope that they get what they wanted out of all this, and that many more climb to the challenge and show ways that we can prove life in other places.
Menzel3
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
MRyan, the point of this article is refreshing. For some reason people think there is intelligent life out there in space basically because of all the movies and tv shows they have seen over and over and over again. As it was beat into their mind, now it has become second nature. There is no more evidence of life out there in the Cosmos than there was a thousand years ago. The only thing that has changed is the media's ability to consume an external mind.

Interesting there was just an article oh here about getting the minority of a poplation to believe something and when it passes the 10% mark it has a high likelihood of spreading like rapid fire. http://www.physor...eas.html

It started out as science-fiction. Key word being fiction. Then it spread to conspiracy theorists (and hoaxers). With the media's ability to consume a mind through movies, tv, video games, radio, etc, a ficticious reality has been built. Humanity has bitten the bait.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 30, 2011
MRyan, the point of this article is refreshing. For some reason people think there is intelligent life out there in space basically because of all the movies and tv shows they have seen over and over and over again.

Yes,couldn't have said it better myself.Too much Star Trek,too little critical thinking.
omatumr
1 / 5 (7) Jul 30, 2011
"Origin and Evolution of Life Constraints on the Solar Model"

http://www.scirp....rID=5331


As noted in the above paper, there is no valid reason to conclude that life is limited to the the third ball of dirt orbiting a very ordinary star in a galaxy that some call the Milky Way.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
Menzel3
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
Yes, condensing energy becomes matter. We understand this. There is no reason why "extraterrestrial life" should not be able to somehow potentially come into existence if it has happened here and we are living proof. The but the other side of the coin is that it does not mean that this life *actually* is out there. Want to know why life can be out there? Because one day we might be there.

http://www.space....rse.html
The Earth's moon's uniqueness in the Universe, aiding the development for life.

If anything is out there, the evidence has yet to be discovered. Anything claiming otherwise is rooted in fiction and assumption (and hoax). There is no reason to assume besides saying, "the Universe is so large, life must exist." Earth seems flat when you are on it too!
Moebius
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2011
And who says intelligence will develop even if there is life? It's not like there's actually an example of intelligent life anywhere.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jul 31, 2011
I believe there is a universal constant that exsists that underlies everything from society evolution , life evolution planetary evolution all the way back to universal evolution . That constant I believe is ...... PI


*cough*Phi*cough*
aroc91
5 / 5 (8) Jul 31, 2011
"ctrl f"
"kevinrtrs"
"phrase not found"

Thank goodness.
kornus
not rated yet Jul 31, 2011
I also think that its worth to take into account that there is much more planets orbiting others stars than we ever thought. KEPLER mission shows us that nearly every star has planets even double and triple systems! Still we can see only those planets orbiting close to stars so I believe there is much much more then we can imagine. Thats why James Webb telescope is so important to us!
socean
not rated yet Jul 31, 2011
According to my calculations, this is the only pin that has angels dancing on it's head.
omatumr
1 / 5 (7) Jul 31, 2011
Also see See today's news on Michael Mozina's discovery:

http://chiefio.wo...ite-sun/

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
marraco
5 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2011
Drake equation is scientific in the sense that if some "IFs" are true, then, some numeric results follow.

It does no intend to probe that life exists.

Comparing it to religious beliefs is fundamentally flawed.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2011
We all know that there is a stronger than normal possibility that there is life in other galaxies

Do we? Don't get me wrong: I'd love to see life elsewhere but right now we just don't know and we haven't got a clue either way. So we should stop pretending that there is a 'higher probability for this' or a 'higher probability for that'. Probabilities are an expression of measurements taken over a set of entities. Right now we have one point of data. To give you an example of the problem I'll state:

"5"

Now I ask you what kind of conclusions (or probabilities) you can draw from that number. What is the next in the series? Is it a real number? Is it a positive or negative number? IS there even a series? What kind of probability would you give to each of these statements? You can't assign one. All you can say is: "5" is possible in this context. Nothing more.

even the Vatican has approved the belief in life off this planet.

Oh my. That settles it then (sarcasm)
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 01, 2011
Drake equation is scientific in the sense that if some "IFs" are true, then, some numeric results follow.

...

Comparing it to religious beliefs is fundamentally flawed.

In this case the comparison is apt, since you can fit religious belief (and the Drake equation) to any outcome without ever possibly invalidating it. That makes it a useless equation, scientifically. It does not pass the test of falsifiability or testability (which are the basic foundations for scientific work).

The Drake equation was a PR stunt designe to generate optimism (and funding) for SETI - and that it did well. I wished we didn't have to resort to this kind of sleigh-of-hand 'science' to spark interest in the universe in most people. But apparently we do.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Aug 01, 2011
"(and funding)" - AP
Demand your refund. File divorce. Grounds? Infidelity. If you are underage, file for change of custody. There are so many other foster sciences waiting to take you in, with only your (best sparked) interest in mind.
Hotlines are available for those who need immediate help.
A_Paradox
not rated yet Aug 01, 2011
Peteri, your
This begs the question: is this sequence of events that lead to the evolution of multicellular organisms and eventually to intelligent humans here on Earth a one-off highly improbable series never to be repeated in another solar system, or is it that intelligent life will inevitably arise irrespective of the history of a terrestrial planet in the "Goldilocks" zone? Alas, I suspect the former!


I tend to think that if "the former" is the case then we didn't happen ... at all. Hang on, who said that!?

I think the reason there is life on Earth is because the surface of this planet has some mutually interacting and mutually perpetuating chemical cycles, of which the water and carbon cycles are the most important. So the Earth has provided a continuously cycling chemical milieu, while the Sun provides what is basically an unlimited source of excess energy. Our problem is we just don't grasp the true depths of time and space and numbers of stars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 01, 2011
In this case the comparison is apt, since you can fit religious belief (and the Drake equation) to any outcome without ever possibly invalidating it. That makes it a useless equation, scientifically.
Auntiealias I am surprised. Science typically works on probability and potential. Scientists rarely claim to be certain about anything. For instance:

"Researchers at both facilities have observed phenomena that indicate with about 91 percent certainty that the Higgs boson exists, Punzi said. Officially, scientists can claim a subatomic discovery when their findings reach 95 percent probability, or one chance in 3.5 million, that the phenomena arent statistical flukes."

The Drake equation is typical of attempts to ascertain the potential of something being real or not. it can start to limit the ways in which we look for life elsewhere.
right now we just don't know and we haven't got a clue either way.
The Drake equation is one way of reducing an infinite range of choices.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2011
Science typically works on probability and potential. Scientists rarely claim to be certain about anything. For instance:

Well yes, but scientists also know when probabilities can be stated and when such probabilities can't be stated. Some of the factors in the Drake equation are complete guesswork. Basing probabilities on that is idiotic as any first semester student in statistics will tell you.

It's like determining the length of the Chinese Emperor's nose by going out and asking people who have never seen him to give you a guess and then taking the average (since you can't go into the forbidden city to take a peek or a measurement). Does this give you a sensible estimate for the length of his nose? No.

You can't 'limit' anything with sheer, unsupported guesswork.

The limit of the Higgs boson is of a different order. There stuff was calculated (from a theory that works well) and measured to exclude certain regions. For the Drake equation we have none of that.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 01, 2011
Also note that not one scientist has put a probability on whether the Higgs exists at all (that, too, would be such a case of using no datapoints to make a prediction).

We only know that IF it exists it must be in such and such an energy range.
Gawad
5 / 5 (4) Aug 01, 2011
even the Vatican has approved the belief in life off this planet.

Oh my. That settles it then.

He's right you know. The Vatican HAS approved of the belief in life off this planet. BUT it gets even better than that.

The Vatican has not endorsed that there is or isn't life elsewhere in the universe (which IS, I suppose, rather enlightened), but only acknowleged that this is possible and that this does not go against doctrine. Now, here is where it gets, uh, "special": all this is acknowledged with the understanding that SHOULD said life arise elsewhere AND that it turns out to be intelligent, that, being "Fallen" even as WE ARE it must therefor have IT'S OWN VERSION OF JESUS, the saviour.

Including baby Starfish Jesus, Alien Predator Jesus, Army Ant Jesus, Octopus Jesus, etc. etc. All put gruesomely to death.

Anyway, I happen to think it's hilarious.

I've actually wondered if this makes Catholicism falsifiable, at least in principle. Hummm. Nah.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 01, 2011
but scientists also know when probabilities can be stated and when such probabilities can't be stated.
It also provides an initial framework which can be refined as more is learned. It is a rough model; a place to begin.
It's like determining the length of the Chinese Emperor's nose by going out and asking people who have never seen him to give you a guess and then taking the average
No, it is nothing like this. Or rather, it is like asking a number of physicians, anatomists, and physiologists who have never seen the emperor, to guess how long his nose might be based upon their experience and knowledge of nose lengths of oriental peoples.

The emperor may in fact have a nose carved out of jade to replace the one bitten off by a crazed concubine. They may ascertain this upon further questioning, still without having seen the emperor or his nose. How long a jade nose could the emperors face support? -might be a reasonable follow-on question, and an engineer might be consulted.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 01, 2011
You can't 'limit' anything with sheer, unsupported guesswork.
The equation includes 'placeholders' which may be refined upon further study. In its formulation many things were excluded which obviously did not apply. It is more a list of pertinent factors , some more concrete than others, I'll give you that.
For the Drake equation we have none of that.
For the drake equation we have SOME of that. I bet initial speculation on how particles gain mass started out in much the same way. Scientists started out with a long list of things known, assumed, and guessed. At a certain point they learned enough to narrow the search down to a particle of some sort. They had arrived at a direction in which to commit $$$ to explore.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Aug 01, 2011
No, it is nothing like this. Or rather, it is like asking a number of physicians, anatomists, and physiologists who have never seen the emperor, to guess how long his nose might be based upon their experience and knowledge of nose lengths of oriental peoples.

Umm...you do realize that for a number of the factors in the Drake equation there ARE no experts? Namely ALL factors except (maybe) R and we are getting a hazy picture about fp ?

If there is even only ONE factor for which there is no expert who could make a question with some basis then the equation is fluff. For the Drake equation there are -at least- five (!) complete unkonwns.

Drake Equation (what each symbol means can be gotten from wikipedia)
N = R * fp * ne * fl * fi * fc * L

We have NO clue what ne, fl, ni, fc or L might be. None whatsoever.

Pick a number - any number - and that will be as good (or bad) a predictor as the number you get with the Drake equation.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2011
Then of course one might at the 'criticism' part and find the following:

One reply to such criticisms[28] is that even though the Drake equation currently involves speculation about unmeasured parameters, it was not meant to be science, but intended as a way to stimulate dialogue on these topics. Then the focus becomes how to proceed experimentally. Indeed, Drake originally formulated the equation merely as an agenda for discussion at the Green Bank conference.[29]


Read the appropriate cite. Even Drake knew it wasn't science. It was a tool to organize the Green Bank meeting.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Aug 01, 2011
Umm...you do realize that for a number of the factors in the Drake equation there ARE no experts?
Ummm... who used the term experts?
but intended as a way to stimulate dialogue on these topics.
And yet it was formulated by a scientist, within a scientific context, and is used by scientists...?

"It is used in the fields of exobiology and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The equation was devised by Frank Drake, Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz."

"but intended as a way to stimulate dialogue on these topics."

-Dialogue among whom? Bus drivers and noseless emperors? Scientists maybe?
cont
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 01, 2011
We have NO clue what ne, fl, ni, fc or L might be.
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets; This is a factor we can refine as we learn more.

fl = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point; The more we learn about how life might originate, the better we can approximate this figure.

fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life; The more we learn about how we emerged from the soup, the better able we will be guessing here.

fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space; we can start with different ways EM can be produced and speculate on what it takes to produce it.

L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space; we can watch our tech develop and see how long we do it.
cont
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Aug 01, 2011
I expect this equation will be around for a VERY long time, in one form or another. Finding life on other planets or contacting another civilization will help to refine parameters quite a bit dont you think? Creation of it here on earth or discovery of another form entirely, will change things as well. I would think.

Then, as now, it will remain speculation. As is most science, to one degree or another. Perhaps in a few hundred years it might resemble the sort of science you would appreciate.

And actually, to be precise, the equation was intended to assist real science and not just the discussion of it:

"N, which is the number of detectable civilizations in our galaxy. This, of course, was aimed at the radio search, and not to search for primordial or primitive life forms."
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2011
And yet it was formulated by a scientist, within a scientific context, and is used by scientists...?

Scientist? Yes.
Scintific context? No.
Used by scientists? No (at least not in a scientific manner)

Scientists are allowed to say unscintific things at times. And since the Drake equation wasn't part of a (scientific) publication I see no problem here.

The problem is that laymen tend to infer that anything that is written as an equation must therefore be scientific.

Dialogue among whom? Bus drivers and noseless emperors? Scientists maybe?

Exactly. It's an agenda. You know: Bullet points. Just written as an equation.

The rest of your post means that we can refine as we learn more. Yes. But that basically means that we'll adjust the formula to fit the facts as we go along. Which also means that it will never hold predictive power (i.e. it remains unscientific)

That aside the equation misses a lot and makes a lot of unspoken/unsupported assumptions.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2011
then you go on and say that 'the more we learn about us the more we can speculate about...'
This is just plain wrong. We (as a species) are one datapoint. Just learning about us will never increase that. You cannot make a deduction or induction about sets which include only one datapoint. That's basic information theory.

For deduction you need a second observation to check your hypothesis.
For induction you need more than one point to make a prediction.

Learning about ourselves will not get us that second data point, ever.

Finding life on other planets or contacting another civilization will help to refine parameters quite a bit dont you think?

I'm pretty sure that when we eventually find life out there we'll just ASK them how prevalent life is (because either they - or we - will have travelled a fair bit by then)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 02, 2011
Scintific context? No.
"Soon thereafter, the National Academy of Sciences asked Drake to convene a meeting on detecting extraterrestrial intelligence. The meeting was held at the Green Bank facility in 1961. The equation that bears Drake's name arose out of his preparations for the meeting..."

-Scintific context? Yes.
And since the Drake equation wasn't part of a (scientific) publication I see no problem here.
But indeed it was:
"...the National Academy of Sciences asked Drake to convene a meeting on detecting extraterrestrial intelligence. The meeting was held at the Green Bank facility in 1961."

"The first SETI conference was held the year after Drake's search, at the same site. It was convened by the Space Science Board of the NAS. J. P. T. Pearman from the Space Science Board published a summary of the meeting..."

-And cast in bronze-
http://www.setile...keqn.jpg
cont
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 02, 2011
"By making this series of optimistic assumptions the Green Bank conferees were able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NAS that the idea that ETIs exist that might be sending us messages we could understand was, at the very least, a reasonable one. Although years would pass before NASA could begin to implement its SETI project, the Green Bank conference established that a SETI-style search was a plausible part of NASA's mission to search for extraterrestrial life."

-So, according to the scientists at the NAS, the conclusions of those SCIENTISTS at the conference rose to the level of warranting spending $$$ to further investigate.
The problem is that laymen tend to infer that anything that is written as an equation must therefore be scientific.
The problem with a very small minority of (former?) scientists is that they think what they know is necessarily inaccessible to the layman -?
cont
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 02, 2011
plain wrong. We (as a species) are one datapoint. Just learning about us will never increase that.
'Just learning about us' is NOT just one datapoint. Understanding how life arose on this planet (fl), and how we emerged from it (fi) will provide us with millions of 'datapoints' about how life MIGHT arise in similar environments elsewhere.
You cannot make a deduction or induction about sets which include only one datapoint. That's basic information theory.
The good doctor lobs esoterics at the poor layperson. Let me give you some examples:

We find that life can arise inside clay nodules because we find seminal life in a borehole, and we reproduce the process in many labs. Conclusion: life can probably arise in similar conditions elsewhere. We find identical life on mars which reinforces this conclusion. (fl) becomes a little more finite.

We find the remains of ancient and totally foreign life on the moon. (fl) improves.

We hear from ET and we know more than they do. (fi)
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2011
Scintific context? Yes.

A scientific context is a paper or another publication. Not an informal podium discussion.
nd how we emerged from it (fi) will provide us with millions of 'datapoints' about how life MIGHT arise in similar environments elsewhere.

Since life arose only once on this planet (as far as we know) we have only one datapoint. Subsequent speciation does not give additional information on how life can ARISE under different conditions. It just gives an indication on what environments life, once it has arisen, can adapt to. These are two fundamentally different things. We can study the latter. We cannot study the former (and the Drake equation only deals with the former)... unless we manage to create life from scratch in the lab under radically different circuumstances and in radically different forms (i.e. not DNA based).
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
to the satisfaction of the NAS that the idea that ETIs exist that might be sending us messages we could understand was, at the very least, a reasonable one

Under exceedingly naive, faulty and incomplete assumptions (which were state-of-the-art in the 1960's...but are hardly anything but quaint today)
So, according to the scientists at the NAS, the conclusions of those SCIENTISTS at the conference rose to the level of warranting spending $$$ to further investigate.

Yes. But what has that got to do whether it was scientific or not? I think it was a good thing that money was spent on investigating - even if it was only to keep a dream alive that was about to be lost.

esoterics

If you find 'information theory' esoteric then head over to wikipedia. The page is quite easy to read and gives a good idea of under what circumstances you can (and when you can't) give a probability measure.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2011
A scientific context is a paper or another publication. Not an informal podium discussion.
I think organized discussion is part of the scientific process. You decry the lack of Bunsen burners and electric arcs perhaps?
Since life arose only once on this planet (as far as we know) we have only one datapoint. Subsequent speciation does not give additional information on how life can ARISE
Who said anything about speciation? The way life arose here was no doubt a COMPLEX series of steps involving specific chemicals interacting under specific conditions. This is NOT '1' datapoint.

Understanding how this entire process worked will enable us to search for elements (datapoints) of it elsewhere. It will enable us to reproduce it in the lab and systematically vary elements (datapoints) to understand the range of conditions (datapoints) under which it can arise. Obviously this involves many many datapoints.

Abiogenesis is a process not an 'it'.
Cont
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
I think organized discussion is part of the scientific process.
Surely. However not everything that is said in a discussion has to (or should) be confined to scientific rigor. Science also consist of a lot of brainstorming (and what a coworker once so aptly termed 'brainfarts'). Brainstorming starts from an initial seed. Th Drake equation is such a seed - nothing more, nothing less.

[]qhe way life arose here was no doubt a COMPLEX series of steps involving specific chemicals interacting under specific conditions. This is NOT '1' datapoint.
Life arose once under one specific set of circumstances (no matter how complex). Currently we think all life descended from that first 'ancestor'. Given that all life is DNA RNA based this seems reasonable.

If we manage to find life that arose under different circumstances (or manage to make some in a lab) then things look different. But for now we haven't. So we have no respectable way of already putting a probability to this factor.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2011
Discovery and recreation of one such process will enable scientists to assemble for discussion of potentials for further research, who will then explore these directions. They may be able to explore entirely novel forms based on different conditions, recreate these in the lab, and search for similar conditions on this planet or elsewhere.
Yes. But what has that got to do whether it was scientific or not? I think it was a good thing that money was spent on investigating - even if it was only to keep a dream alive that was about to be lost.
Establishing the credibility of potential research is indeed part of the scientific process. It involves systematic analysis of info and organizing it for peer review.

Organization and refinement of info/elements/datapoints is an inseparable part of science. It's what lab techs do at their writeup tables. It is what scientists do when they gather for formal discussion and review.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2011
Surely. However not everything that is said in a discussion has to (or should) be confined to scientific rigor
The same is true in the lab. Polymerization and penicillin and radiation were lab discoveries which occurred under less than rigorous conditions.
Th Drake equation is such a seed - nothing more, nothing less
Correct. That is why it is science.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
This is high caliber discussion. For me, a relief to see ratings from readers (under the said assumption) that might reflect the level of discussion. (Rating is not important.)

To deny this threads' learning curve here is foolhardy.
Tricked into learning from a PR promotion. There are worst sleigh-of-hands.

My take? The thread commentary is worth reading. And Bob Yirka? Has talent for wording and subjects.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
Discovery and recreation of one such process will enable scientists to assemble for discussion of potentials for further research, who will then explore these directions.

I completely agreeb (and I think such research should be given high priority). But until and unless we do that any type of number we set for the probabilities is as good as any other number. The numbers that currently are set in the Drake equation are therefore pointless and give no indication whatsoever one way or another (i.e. it tells us nothing about whether life is unique to Earth or superabundant throughout the universe). they just obfuscate the fact that, as of now and for the foreseeable future, the Drake equation is a misleading jumble of variables.

Correct. That is why it is science.

Science is something that is testable and falsifiable. The Drake equation is neither (as its variables can be tweaked to fit any outcome - they are not derived from any testable theory)
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2011
Drake and Fermi discuss life with the language of science.
Parts of this language record, discuss and extend science with nonphysical 'tools': math. The physical using nonphysical 'tools' to aid physical description. Science dismisses the nonphysical as meaningless until a relationship with the meaningless is found useful to science and the physical.

The conjecture is:
To imagine life evolving is nonsense; If life evolves to a point where the physical becomes meaningless.

That explains 'life' we seek, that by definition, we can not find.

'Life' will always be what we seek. There are no 'tools' for the nonphysical except what we label imagination. The only naive 'rule' there is nothing is impossible, by assumption.

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