Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Drake Equation and Extraterrestrial Life

The Drake Equation is a thought experiment meant to provoke thoughtful consideration about extraterrestrial life. It’s an equation of factors that you multiply together to produce the “number of civilizations” in the galaxy we could communicate with.

When you make astronomical or universal calculations, you really have to think in orders of magnitude, or “powers of ten”. You may recall that short film of the same name that goes up and down in scale multiplying by 10 or -10, and seeing how quickly things jump when you keep adding zeroes to the beginning or end of a number. Interestingly, this is also very true of the Drake Equation, and really gets one thinking about the scale of things above and beyond our single, lonely planet. The factors that make the biggest impact on the equation are the number or stars, and the fraction of stars with planets around them.

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