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Thread: Drake Equation

  1. #1 Drake Equation 
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    I have been considering an amendment to the Drake equation for several years and I think I'd like to take it further and attempt to formally propose it for acceptance/criticism/rejection.

    Besides comparing it to the existing body of scholarly literature, I am not sure what my next step should be. Should I simply send a finished draft complete with citations to a periodical? If they thought it was close but not quite ready, would they send it back with useful criticism?


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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    When you send an article to an academic journal first step is it will be read by an editor to see if it is suitable for the journal. If it fails this step it is often sent back with no criticism and the suggestion of trying a different journal.

    If it passes this step it is sent out for review. It will be reviewed by academics in the field who will critique the paper. There are a number of possible outcomes for this phase. The first (very rare!) is publish immediately, the second is publish with minor corrections where the reviewers will critique the paper and give an (often long!) list of clarifications and comments that need to be addressed before the paper is published. They can recommend publish with major corrections (this often involves a rewrite of significant parts of the paper), or the final option which is reject the paper.


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    Wouldn't this be more suitable for physics rather than math journal?
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    Since the Drake Equation is all speculation anyway and its 57 years old now I suspect its primarily of historical significance at this point. Any major modifications to it would be for the purposes of discussion only, not something that would need to be sent out for peer review.

    Therefore, why not post your changes here and see if anyone salutes?
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  6. #5  
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    The Drake Equation is more of a probabilistic argument than a true equation. It makes assumptions and can't be tested. You could throw in amendments and it would still be speculation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    The Drake Equation is more of a probabilistic argument than a true equation. It makes assumptions and can't be tested. You could throw in amendments and it would still be speculation.
    No it isn't.

    The first variable in the equation is (? number of stars). It simply means that the number of subsequent variables is contingent on the number of stars, and the value of prior variables. It doesn't state a value for that variable. It doesn't speculate on the number of stars. It doesn't make assumptions on the number. Likewise all the other variables in the equation.

    Basically it is a factual statement of all factors, and the numbers needed to have an output number of the number of planets with intelligent life. It asks how many stars for planets to orbit. It doesn't say how many. It asks how many stars have planets, planets for conditions for life to exist. Life that is complex enough for intelligence.

    Probabilities only arise when values are inserted in place of the variables. It is a fact that we don't know how many stars there are. But we can make a good guess. But it doesn't reflect on the factuality of the equation at all if the guess is factual or not. Likewise stars with planets. We don't know how many stars have planets. So we ask how many of the ones we can see well enough to see if they have them actually do have them. If the number we "see", the sample size, is small the reliability, the accuracy, of the probability value is low. As the sample size grows the reliability of the probability conclusion grows.

    As to the sample size of one known life bearing planet any probabilistic value's reliability is low. 1/9 low reliability for that conclusion. 1 in a hundred billion. Still low reliability because the sample size is still 1.
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    Quote Originally Posted by doitright View Post
    No it isn't.
    Actually it is. (Cf, for example, the very first sentence on the relevant Wiki page).

    The first variable in the equation is (? number of stars). It simply means that the number of subsequent variables is contingent on the number of stars, and the value of prior variables. Etc. etc.
    And the vast majority of the "required" numbers are not known, hence it's not much use except as a probabilistic argument.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by doitright View Post
    No it isn't.
    Actually it is. (Cf, for example, the very first sentence on the relevant Wiki page).

    The first variable in the equation is (? number of stars). It simply means that the number of subsequent variables is contingent on the number of stars, and the value of prior variables. Etc. etc.
    And the vast majority of the "required" numbers are not known, hence it's not much use except as a probabilistic argument.
    No. Wiki is well known to be as unreliable as an amateur BB forum. It's edited the same way. Unreliably The Drake equation is no more a probability argument than any axb=c. It only becomes a probability argument when the values are probabilities. When the values are facts the conclusion is a fact. Not knowing values for the variables doesn't make the equation a probability argument.

    In fact the point of the equation isn't to come to a conclusion, factual or probabilistic. The point was to think about and find out factual values for the variables. How many stars. That's a question that has an answer. How many have planets. That's a question that has an answer. How many support life. That's a question that has an answer. All of the terms have an answer. We don't know all the answers but if and when we have answers for a sample size of statistical validity (a bell curve) we'll have an accurate number for the conclusion as we do for any equation. It won't be a probabalistic conclusion. It will be a statistical conclusion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by doitright View Post
    No. Wiki is well known to be as unreliable as an amateur BB forum.
    Only by those who can't be bothered to check. In point of fact, on science topics especially and most others except pop culture and the like, Wiki has been shown to be as reliable as Encyclopedia Britannica.

    Unreliably The Drake equation is no more a probability argument than any axb=c. It only becomes a probability argument when the values are probabilities.
    Here's the problem, Ox, Wiki and I use one word (probabilistic) and you use another (probability). Hence your confusion.

    In fact the point of the equation isn't to come to a conclusion, factual or probabilistic. The point was to think about and find out factual values for the variables.
    Nope.
    It's more of an illustration of what we don't (and very probably can't) know.

    It won't be a probabalistic conclusion. It will be a statistical conclusion.
    And the difference would be... what?
    All you can get is a probability from that equation: reality may provide quite a different answer.
    Last edited by Dywyddyr; August 20th, 2018 at 09:51 AM.
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  11. #10  
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    Here's what Paul Davies says about the Drake Equation in his book The Eerie Silence.
    "It is not so much an equation in the conventional mathematical sense, more of a way to quantify our ignorance."

    The N on the left side of the equation represents how many civilisations possess radio technology. Davies suggests there might be better ways to send signals across space, or advanced alien civilisations might prefer not to engage in long range communication. Examples as to why SETI has so far found nothing. He also makes the point that some stars may not have a full quota of planets as many may have been flung into space as rogue planets, of which there could be billions adrift in the galaxy. The number of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way on which life evolves is likely to be zero or as close to zero as it is possible to get. Life on Earth is probably unique.
    But if the Universe is finite and contains 2 trillion galaxies or is infinite, and given there are less than 100 different types of atom, there is the possibility atoms that have made us will be capable of rearranging themselves into life that looks similar to us, given a stable planet and enough time for evolution.
    Reasons why the Drake Equation is full of holes. We are trying to apply science and mathematics to solve one of great riddles just because they are the best tools we have.
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    Were not going to be able to solve any riddles with the Drake Equation, simply because we have no idea what values to plug into the variables. It always has been, and will remain, pure speculation.

    Besides which.... the distances involved, even within our own galaxy (much less outside it) dictate that EVEN IF there were civilizations out there, we could never communicate with or know anything about them. The whole SETI thing is logically flawed at a fundamental level.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoCoPilot View Post
    We’re not going to be able to solve any riddles with the Drake Equation, simply because we have no idea what values to plug into the variables. It always has been, and will remain, pure speculation.
    Especially when an equation is full of fudge factors. The original Einstein GR equation had one such factor but it was found to work perfectly without.

    So what do we have left? There's the Carter-Hanson Great Filter argument which examines 6 improbable steps to the evolution of intelligent life.
    https://home.iitm.ac.in/arunn/the-great-filter.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoCoPilot View Post
    Were not going to be able to solve any riddles with the Drake Equation, simply because we have no idea what values to plug into the variables. It always has been, and will remain, pure speculation.

    Besides which.... the distances involved, even within our own galaxy (much less outside it) dictate that EVEN IF there were civilizations out there, we could never communicate with or know anything about them. The whole SETI thing is logically flawed at a fundamental level.
    I simply don't believe the vast distances "even within our own galaxy" are a bar to communication, with other civilizations, or a bar to exploration.
    Of course they may not exist altho' I find that almost impossible to believe.
    If we look back, even 100 years, we can see the remarkable advances made in science/technology.
    Given that, and at the risk of repeating myself, the belief one can predict the advances that will be made in the next 100, 500, 1000 years, and further on, is nonsense!
    I do believe humans will, one day, have the ability/means to explore the Galaxy. and make contact with alien life, both primitive and advanced.
    This will, of course, depend on our survival as a species.
    I am reminded of the words of Arthur C. Clarke.
    To paraphrase - given time, there is almost nothing human beings will not be able to achieve.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    I simply don't believe the vast distances "even within our own galaxy" are a bar to communication, with other civilizations, or a bar to exploration.
    Really? You've watched too much Star Trek. The Milky Way is 100,000 light years across.

    A message sent today, August 22, 2018 at the speed of light would reach Alien Civilization A on August 22, 102,018. It would take ANOTHER 100,000 years for their reply to reach us, if they sent it immediately.

    To put that in perspective, 100,000 years ago on Earth Neanderthals still roamed the countryside, and clothing was a new thing. 200,000 years ago genetically modern humans first evolved.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoCoPilot View Post
    Really? You've watched too much Star Trek. The Milky Way is 100,000 light years across.
    A message sent today, August 22, 2018 at the speed of light would reach Alien Civilization A on August 22, 102,018. It would take ANOTHER 100,000 years for their reply to reach us, if they sent it immediately.
    Unless, of course, that civilisation was somewhat closer than the extreme far end of the galaxy (there are stars a bit nearer than 100KLY I think).
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoCoPilot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    I simply don't believe the vast distances "even within our own galaxy" are a bar to communication, with other civilizations, or a bar to exploration.
    Really? You've watched too much Star Trek. The Milky Way is 100,000 light years across.

    A message sent today, August 22, 2018 at the speed of light would reach Alien Civilization A on August 22, 102,018. It would take ANOTHER 100,000 years for their reply to reach us, if they sent it immediately.

    To put that in perspective, 100,000 years ago on Earth Neanderthals still roamed the countryside, and clothing was a new thing. 200,000 years ago genetically modern humans first evolved.
    And you appear to be addicted to "common sense", and current science/technology, with little room for anything else!
    Do you honestly believe we will be content to stop at the edges of the Solar System and, I repeat, also believe you can predict advances, and also the limits of technology far into the future?
    I can think of at least one "intellectual", a Royal Astronomer no less, who said the belief man would reach the moon, in the 1960's, was "garbage". A huge mistake showing a complete lack of any imagination.
    There are ways humans could move out into inter-stellar space without having to reach, or even come close to, the speed of light.
    I admit this post is basically speculation, but it is based on the huge advances made in even recent years plus the view further advances will occur at faster speeds in the future.
    Last, my post is largely made up of my own opinions, and not scientific fact, here.
    In that sense it is little different from your own!
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    When you send an article to an academic journal first step is it will be read by an editor to see if it is suitable for the journal. If it fails this step it is often sent back with no criticism and the suggestion of trying a different journal.

    If it passes this step it is sent out for review. It will be reviewed by academics in the field who will critique the paper. There are a number of possible outcomes for this phase. The first (very rare!) is publish immediately, the second is publish with minor corrections where the reviewers will critique the paper and give an (often long!) list of clarifications and comments that need to be addressed before the paper is published. They can recommend publish with major corrections (this often involves a rewrite of significant parts of the paper), or the final option which is reject the paper.
    hi PhDemon;

    I am not sure but think that they still might send back to author with a very few comments. at a time,I submitted manuscript to a journal. I did not check whether there was first step because I checked three weeks later and saw on the status button "reviewing" script. (thus,I am unsure whether this was a peer review process. if yes,the comment above is correct. because they only said that the manuscript was out of scope. nothing else)

    the following submission has now been around two months and a week. this journal editorial office said that this would take around several months. but I think that it would be possible to take the same notation if they reject it.

    and I have one query. could you inform please whether it is clearly being defined to us when a journal reject with major corrections or minor corrections.

    by the bye I am almost sure that I won't take immediate publishing. because as I remember in that document ,I wrote a formula wrong. (parantheses are at wrong place)

    so,I have only three probability 1) reject with major 2) reject with minor 3) reject directly with no comment.
    Last edited by unknown_artist; August 23rd, 2018 at 12:35 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    And you appear to be addicted to "common sense", and current science/technology, with little room for anything else!
    "Addicted to common sense" -- heh, I like that and accept the sobriquet! Einstein may be wrong of course, but SO FAR AT LEAST quantum entanglement is the only hint of anything FTL... and nobody's quite sure how that works.

    And once you get into FTL you start talking about backward travel through time and it all gets very messy cause-and-effect-wise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    There are ways humans could move out into inter-stellar space without having to reach, or even come close to, the speed of light.
    Do tell. I'd LOVE for that to be true.

    To Daffy: Yes, Alien Civilization A may only be halfway across the Milky Way. In that case we'd only have to wait 100,000 years for a reply! Whoopie!!
    Last edited by NoCoPilot; August 23rd, 2018 at 05:04 PM.
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    and I have one query. could you inform please whether it is clearly being defined to us when a journal reject with major corrections or minor corrections.
    Yes, they will tell you the editors decision which will be one of the possibilities mentioned above. And technically it would be Accepted with either major or minor corrections. If the editor decides to reject the paper it would be a bit cheeky to ask you to revise the manuscript!
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoCoPilot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    And you appear to be addicted to "common sense", and current science/technology, with little room for anything else!
    "Addicted to common sense" -- heh, I like that and accept the sobriquet! Einstein may be wrong of course, but SO FAR AT LEAST quantum entanglement is the only hint of anything FTL... and nobody's quite sure how that works.

    And once you get into FTL you start talking about backward travel through time and it all gets very messy cause-and-effect-wise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    There are ways humans could move out into inter-stellar space without having to reach, or even come close to, the speed of light.
    Do tell. I'd LOVE for that to be true.

    To Daffy: Yes, Alien Civilization A may only be halfway across the Milky Way. In that case we'd only have to wait 100,000 years for a reply! Whoopie!!
    First an apology for mentioning the "Royal Astronomer" rather than the correct title of "Astronomer Royal". As a layperson I have looked at the Theories of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, also referred to as Quantum Theory or Quantum Physics, in order to gain a vague understanding of these outstanding scientific theories.
    It is clear to me, even with limited knowledge, these theories have little to do with "common sense" - often a bad guide to modern science.
    There are many websites, on Google, putting forward possible methods of future inter-stellar travel and, of course, others claiming this is impossible.
    Neither of these opposing views contain the necessary scientific evidence to dismiss the claims of the other.
    The part of your posts I really dislike is what appears to be your, smug and arrogant, assumption you have the ability to look into the near/far future and claim there is a point where the science/technology of space travel will run up against limitations impossible to overcome.
    Last edited by Halliday; August 24th, 2018 at 09:41 AM.
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    I am sorry you found my posts "smug and arrogant." The simple fact is that there isn't a single science-fictional proposal for faster-than-light travel or communication that doesn't violate fundamental laws of physics. That includes traversable wormholes -- Einstein-Rosen bridges, currently the most popular FTL meme -- which rely on the imagined existence of "exotic matter" (with negative gravity), which has neither been shown to exist nor has anyone come up with a theoretical basis for believing it CAN exist. Exotic matter is a complete fantasy, and wormholes are therefore similarly fantastic.

    I'm just enough addicted to common sense that I believe "the science/technology of space travel will run up against limitations impossible to overcome," in the form of the fundamental laws of physics.
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    I don't know your views on other topics, and I only used these words to describe what I feel about your attitude to future developments, with regard to space travel.
    I simply don't believe interstellar travel has to involve faster than light speeds.
    For example it may be possible to develop craft able to travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light.
    This would make exploration of the nearer parts of the Galaxy possible.
    This kind of travel could be compared to the exploration of the Pacific Ocean where there was a movement from "nearby" islands, used as a base, to others further out.
    Also, it might be possible to send huge craft, from the Solar System, with a system of technology able to satisfy the needs of the crew. These craft would likely never return home.
    Of course, this is mere speculation, but based on the massive advances made, by our species, over time.
    I do not claim I can predict the future and, I repeat, especially the far distant future. However you may well be correct!
    Humans possess the curiosity, and the drive often needed to explore further and increase knowledge. At bottom this is concerned with the need for a deeper and deeper understanding of the Universe and space travel may play a part in this process
    I believe this to be a significant factor in the debate.
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    Yes you're quite right, humans possess an unquenchable curiosity. There's no telling what we might do in the future, if we survive long enough. And if politicians are willing to spend the money....

    Have you read any John Varley? His science fiction often involves "generational space ships" where a small city of people take off for the stars, intending for their great great great great (etc.) grandchildren to make planetfall sometime in the future. Personally I wouldn't sign up for that, but mariners in the Fifteenth Century certainly took off across the oceans with similar uncertainty.

    Except there's an exponentially greater factor of distance involved, several exponents in fact. And the sailors could breathe the air and catch fish along the way... And knew they were on a sphere, and so would eventually hit land again...


    Another thing I just thought of: what is "dark matter"? If we build ships traveling at "a significant fraction of the speed of light" what might they run into out there that we cannot see?
    Last edited by NoCoPilot; August 25th, 2018 at 12:07 PM.
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    I think it was wrong, and unfair of me, to describe your opinion as "smug and arrogant".
    But IMO a more accurate description, of your stance, would be "over confident".
    Clearly, however, you have a strongly held view on the possibility of travel in interstellar space, and have the right to express it forcefully!
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