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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We'll find aliens in 25 years?

This news story caught my eye. Apparently some astronomer believes that if we're going to find evidence of extra-terrestrial life, we'll do so within the next twenty-five years. Apparently it has something to do with a big telescope in California that'll come on-line within the next five years or so.

More problematic for me is that the scientist in question is relying on the infamous Drake equation as his proof. For those of you not in-the-know, the Drake equation is this:



Basically you plug in numbers and the equation should spit out the number of alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy that would be capable of contacting us.

There's one small problem: the numbers a person uses are entirely arbitrary. There's no agreed upon number for any of those factors. The article itself even talks about how famous scientists, including Drake himself, have come up with estimates from 10,000 to 1,000,000. And if those scientists are really honest with themselves, they'd have to admit that they're only guessing.

Now does that mean that I think there aren't any aliens out there? Not at all. The universe is a big place and I'm not God. That may sound like an odd pairing of statements, but what I mean is this: there's a lot of room for God to stick alien life. If He did, great. If not, no big deal either. But it'll be interesting to see what the SETI folks find.

1 comment:

TCHusker - Nate said...

I was just listening to Talk of the Nation this past Friday and they had some scientists for SETI and such being interviewed for "Science Friday." I had the same thought: The Drake equation is totally arbitrary and calling it "scientific" is a stretch.