We Are Not Alone

This is the site where we try to discern the truth of things by the use of available information, pure logic, and absolutely nothing else. You may be surprised by some of the results.

Irrational belief systems, wishful thinking and straightforward confirmation bias finds its way into many aspects of our intellectual and political lives. The world of scientific investigation, sadly, is no exception in this respect, but in this site an honest attempt is being made to show what things would look like without all that misleading baggage.

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Ok, in recent years there has been a lot of stuff in the media, propounded by scientists and professors and the like, that seems to completely defy the laws of logic and is, at the very least, extremely misleading. A lot of this seems to spring from a peculiar piece of nonsense called:

 

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The Drake Equation.

In the early sixties Frank Drake and a group of scientists got together and came up with a way to calculate the number of alien civilizations that are broadcasting their existence to the rest of the universe and it took the form of the following equation:

N= R* fp ne fL fi fc L

Where:

N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life. [10]

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems. [0.5]

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life. [2]

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears. [1]

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges. [0.01]

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space. [0.01]

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space. [10,000]

After each of the explanations of what each of the terms represent, I have placed in brackets, the number that the scientists decided would be most likely to be the correct quantity involved.

So if we input the numbers we get this:

N= R*   fp       ne ffi         fc         L

      10* 0.5* 2* 1* 0.01*0.01*10000 = 10

 

So therefore according to Drake, the other scientists and their equation, there are 9 other civilisations in our galaxy alone that are currently broadcasting their presence, with electromagnetic emissions, and are therefore detectable.

So why do I have the temerity to suggest that it is a piece of nonsense you may ask?

Well the answer to that question, I would say, is because of the facts, and with your permission I would like to set them out below.

If we go through the equation the first thing we come to is an ‘R’ representing ‘The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life’ and given the value 10. For me this figure actually appears to be on the low side and, besides that, strangely ignores the fact that many stars exist for billions of years? But this is not anything to do with the reason why I object to this equation.

Next we come to ‘fp’ representing ‘The fraction of those stars with planetary systems’ and given the value 0.5. Well, in view of subsequent astronomical investigations, it looks as though this figure may be on the low side as well, but once again it is not the subject of my objection.

Then we come to ‘ne’ representing ‘The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life’ that is given the value 2. Now I could object to this value in a number of different ways but, in the interests of brevity, I will leave this highly speculative figure uncontested.

The real problem starts here with ‘fl’ representing ‘The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears’ that is given the number 1. You see this whole equation masquerades as some sort of statistical analysis of the probability of alien life existing within our universe and broadcasting etc. But, as any statistician would tell you, when you only have one example of something, in this case only one example of a planet with any life on it at all, you are completely unable to perform any form of mathematical analysis based on this one single example of this event. So the correct number that should appear representing the value of ‘fl’ should actually be ? I.e. completely unknown. Insufficient data!

Next we have ‘fi’ ‘The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges’. But as I have explained above, we have only one example of this and therefore value for ‘fi’ should also be ?.

We have the same problem when we come to ‘fc’ ‘The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space’. With just one example of this event the correct value for ‘fc’ is therefore ?.

Finally we have ‘L’ ‘The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space’. Do I even have to explain to you why I think this makes no sense? Quite apart from the fact that we have only one example of a civilisation releasing detectable signals into space, we also have absolutely no evidence to suggest how long, in our particular instance, this process might continue or even if it might, of necessity, begin, elsewhere, at all!

So the Drake equation, in my opinion, is more the product of wishful thinking than the result of anything like rigorous scientific investigation and, in spite of how it may appear, it is not, in any way worthy of being considered the product of rigorous mathematical calculation. It only looks like maths.

So to clarify things I would like to propose the following as an axiom.

2*x= 2x but 2*? does not equal 2? . Just as anything times 0 equals 0; anything times ? = ?

As the Drake equation, expressed correctly, contains at least 3 question marks, the correct product of the calculation must therefore be ‘?’.

Now in defence of Drake and his contemporaries, I think I should say that it might be that the Drake equation was only ever really intended as a sort of stimulus. A way of getting people to think about the problem, but what I object to is the way that, on many occasions, it has been represented as a sort of mathematical proof of something. I think the only thing that this equation proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, is that we just don’t know.

You see, if one accepts what I’ve written above, then one must automatically also accept the rather disappointing possibility, that in spite of the vast numbers of stars and planets that exist and have existed in our vast universe, logic would dictate that it is possible that the odds against intelligent life appearing on any of them is equally vast. If this is true then the ‘Fermi paradox’ (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox) is no paradox at all. The answer to Fermi’s question ‘Where is everybody?’ therefore, logically, could be HERE!

So instead of looking to the skies and wondering why we can detect not the faintest shred of evidence of alien life, in spite of the fact that we know, because of ideas like those expressed in the Drake equation, that the universe is teaming with millions of civilisations, perhaps we should set aside faith like beliefs and return to what I consider should be an axiom in all scientific investigation. If there is no evidence to suggest that something is there, then logic would dictate that one must assume that that is because it is not there!

Apparently all faith has the potential to be misplaced, including faith in what scientists say!

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This: https://www.amazon.com/ADRIANA-Mark-Angelo-Lusardi/dp/154961990X

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