Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[LINK] ""Beyond Drake's Equation" --New Insights into the Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations"

The Facebook presence of hard-SF collaborative universe Orion's Arm linked to a post at The Daily Galaxy taking a look at the Drake equation, developed by astronomer Francis Drake to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations. The post builds upon a George Dvorsky criticism of the equation is arbitrary. It doesn't, Dvorsky notes, take account of our declining radio traffic as low-powered satellites and fiber optics take over, there's still no definitive knowledge of the frequency of life in the galaxy (notwithstanding various estimates), it doesn't take the changing nature of the galaxy into account, and it doesn't take the possible changes affecting technological civilizations into account. He calls it at best "a way of searching for a very narrow class of civilizations under very specific and constrained conditions."

The Daily Galaxy pointed me to an interesting attempt to update the Drake Equation, however.

In 2010, the Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone published in the journal Acta Astronautica the Statistical Drake Equation (SDE). It is mathematically more complex and robust than the Classical Drake Equation (CDE).

The SDE is based on the Central Limit Theorem, which states that given the enough number of independent random variables with finite mean and variance, those variables will be normally distributed as represented by a Gaussian or bell curve in a plot. In this way, each of the seven factors of the Drake Equation become independent positive random variables. In his paper, Maccone tested his SDE using values usually accepted by the SETI community, and the results may be good news for the “alien hunters”.

Although the numerical results were not his objective, Maccone estimated with his SDE that our galaxy may harbor 4,590 extraterrestrial civilizations. Assuming the same values for each term the Classical Drake Equation estimates only 3,500. So the SDE adds more than 1,000 civilizations to the previous estimate.

[. . .]

Another SDE advantage is to incorporate the standard variation concept, which shows how much variation exists from the average value. In this case the standard variation concept is pretty high: 11,195. In other words, besides human society, zero to 15,785 advanced technological societies could exist in the Milky Way.

If those galactic societies were equally spaced, they could be at an average distance of 28,845 light-years apart. That’s too far to have a dialogue with them, even through electromagnetic radiation traveling in the speed of light. So, even with such a potentially high number of advanced civilizations, interstellar communication would still be a major technological challenge.

Still, according to SDE, reports Astrobio.net, the average distance we should expect to find any alien intelligent life form may be 2,670 light-years from Earth. There is a 75% chance we could find ET between 1,361 and 3,979 light-years away.
Tags: extraterrestrial intelligence, extraterrestrial life, links, science
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