Monday, September 5, 2011

N =


Oh but I am all a-tickle with merriment. Seems I've managed to peeve the tin foil hat contingent in at least one state, resulting in some not-quite-rated-PG-13 comments. As funny as I find this, I remove rudeness as a rule, and please remember I have some great parents as regulars who read this blog with their children, and I like to keep things family-friendly.

My email address is on my profile page if you have something to say; the people who blast me for putting Pluto at the kiddie table use this method, and so can you tin-foilers. Unless the government mind-control hum told you otherwise today.

Gandalf says Deal With It

So, hey. I'm not running for Congress, I have no television anchor job to lose by telling it like it is; I'm just plankton with a fancy typewriter, and I don't care if you don't like my personal opinions. One hopes that you have better things to do than obsess over anything written on my blog. (But then again... I don't.)

Without mentioning any names or particular battles, I'll just pick a general point of contention out of the ether and say: Yes, I do support SETI, and no, I don't think what they do is laughable or useless.

In some of my previous posts, I've acknowledged merely the supreme improbability of contacting another civilization like our own in real-time, given the realities of distance in our greater cosmos. I believe we are more likely to find archaeological remains of another life form, and the same applies to Earth in return. If you want to use this benign stance as a reason to bash me or assume that I am down on SETI, go right ahead. Just don't get Stephen Hawking started.

Drake EquationI've never disagreed with keeping a candle in the window during the storm. I'm quite relieved that donations helped SETI back on their feet recently, and they will be able to resume operations.

Believe me, the people who work for SETI know things you don't. They know things I don't. They for-darned-sure know the Drake Equation, and I'd suggest everyone at least have a look at it before assuming that movies like "Men In Black" or "Independence Day" could just happen at any moment. You know who you are.

Drake Equation / Green Bank Formula
Named for and by astro-physicist Dr. Frank D. Drake, the equation is the best guess to estimate N, the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way. That would be the rotating spiral galaxy about 100,000 light years across, containing more a hundred billion stars!

What does N equal? According to Drake, the average of the most educated estimates would suggest there might be about 10,000 technically advanced planets.

That number may change. In fact, that number certainly will change. As it does so, the smartest thing we can do is ignore Hollywood and realistically explore how probably those worlds are, and under what conditions they might exist. See also: Kepler Mission and the search for habitable planets.