Sunday, February 12, 2012

Drake Equation For Dummies, Test Drive it

Drake Equation Simplified

Is there a way to estimate the number of technologically advanced civilizations that might exist in our Galaxy? While working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, Dr. Frank Drake conceived a means to mathematically estimate the number of worlds that might harbor beings with technology sufficient to communicate across the vast gulfs of interstellar space. The Drake Equation, as it came to be known, was formulated in 1961 and is generally accepted by the scientific community.

Yes, it is a real equation.

N = R* fp ne fl fi fc L 
  • N = The number of communicative civilizations
  • R* = The rate of formation of suitable stars (stars such as our Sun)
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planets. (Current evidence indicates that planetary systems may be common for stars like the Sun.)
  • ne = The number of Earth-like worlds per planetary system
  • fl = The fraction of those Earth-like planets where life actually develops
  • fi = The fraction of life sites where intelligence develops
  • fc = The fraction of communicative planets (those on which electromagnetic communications technology develops)
  • L = The "lifetime" of communicating civilizations

Try the Drake Equation Yourself, Take it for a Test Drive

Try your hand at the Drake Equation. For each variable choose what you think is the best answer from the combo box. After you've chosen all your answers press the calculate button and see how many communicating civilizations you think there are in the galaxy.

N* = the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy: 
fp = fraction of stars with planets around them: 
ne = number of planets per star ecologically able to sustain life: 
fl = fraction of those planets where life actually evolves: 
fi = the fraction of fl that evolves intelligent life: 
fc = the fraction of fi that communicates: 
fL = the fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations survives: 

N = the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy = 

There is no magic to this equation, it is just a mathematical estimate of how many planets in our galaxy could possibly contain life intelligent enough to communicate. As Kepler and other space vehicles discover more planets in our galaxy these numbers change rather dramatically.
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