Drake equation crunched – 361 civilisations in our galaxy alone?

Paul Raven @ 11-02-2009

Messier-74 galaxyHey, great news for SETI fans! The latest work on the Drake equation suggests that we can all get our Fox Mulder on:

The current research estimates that there are at least 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy and possibly as many as 38,000.

Awesome! Wait, what?

Even with the higher of the two estimates, however, it is not very likely that contact could be established with alien worlds.

Ah. Bugger.

Of course, the Drake Equation is only as good as its input data, and much of that remains wildly speculative. But the above is the result of factoring in the sudden rash of exoplanet discoveries we’ve made in the last few years; according to Centauri Dreams, the little we’ve learned about them means we can simulate the potential parameters of their atmospheres in order to guess how statistically likely they are to harbour the potential for life. Even that’s mostly guesswork, though:

… in biological terms, we are even more up the creek, since we base our thinking on observations of a single biosphere, our own. To keep the number of free parameters to a minimum, Forgan works with “a biological version of the Copernican Principle,” the notion that our Terran biosphere is not special or unique, so that we can think about life on other worlds as sharing many of the same characteristic parameters.

So keep watching the skies, folks! And don’t forget the hypothesis of Futurismic‘s own Mac Tonnies, which suggests that what we think of as extraterrestrials may in fact be something much more local… [image by jimkster]


Ancient temple suggests alternative civilization theory

Tom James @ 13-11-2008

An 11, 000 year old temple discovered in Turkey suggests an alternative theory of the development of cities and civilizations:

The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it’s the site of the world’s oldest temple.

Scholars have long believed that only after people learned to farm and live in settled communities did they have the time, organization and resources to construct temples and support complicated social structures.

But Schmidt argues it was the other way around: the extensive, coordinated effort to build the monoliths literally laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies.

Also check out the pictures of the monoliths: haunting millennia-old artwork.

[story here, via Slashdot]


Dr. Michio Kaku: humans are almost Kardashev Type I

Paul Raven @ 08-04-2008

Science fictional city concept artOur sf-nal brothers-in-blog over at SF Signal have managed to score an interview with the occasionally controversial but always entertaining pop-science writer Dr. Michio Kaku.

The SF Signal gang ask Dr. Kaku a bunch of questions (including what he thinks about Mundane SF, believe it or not), but what I found most interesting was his response when asked whether humans stood a chance of becoming a Kardashev Type I civilisation:

“I see evidence of our historic transition from a Type 0 civilization to a Type I civilization. For example:

  • English is rapidly emerging as the most likely candidate for a planetary language.
  • The internet is an emerging Type I telephone system.
  • The EU, NAFTA, etc. are the seeds of a planetary economy.
  • A planetary culture is gradually emerging, based on youth culture (e.g. rock and roll, rap), fashion, movies.

But there is also a backlash against this historic transition. Anything this monumental is bound to create a counter force. These are the terrorists (who instinctively dislike a planetary civilization, which is necessarily multicultural, scientific, progressive, and tolerant). Also, we have the forces of chaos and destruction, such as nuclear proliferation and designer germs.”

So rock music is a sign of an advanced civilisation? I feel vindicated! 🙂

More seriously, it seems Dr. Kaku is cautiously optimistic about our progress so far – perhaps uniting in opposition to the “forces of chaos” will crystallise us into a Type I planetary civilisation?

That said, Karl Schroeder isn’t convinced by the Kardashev Scaleit’s inherently homocentric, meaning that what applies to us hairless monkeys is unlikely to apply to any other species. So perhaps we’re trying to classify the unclassifiable?

I love the smell of philosophy in the morning! [image by Shayan]