Are we alone? A new twist on the famous Drake Equation ups the odds that we aren’t


In 1961, astrophysicist Frank Drake developed an equation to estimate the number of advanced civilizations likely to exist in the Milky Way galaxy. The Drake equation (top row) has proven to be a durable framework for research, and space technology has advanced scientists' knowledge of several variables. But it is impossible to do anything more than guess at variables such as L, the probably longevity of other advanced civilizations. In new research, Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan offer a new equation (bottom row) to address a slightly different question: What is the number of advanced civilizations likely to have developed over the history of the observable universe? Frank and Sullivan's equation draws on Drake's, but eliminates the need for L. CREDIT University of Rochester

In 1961, astrophysicist Frank Drake developed an equation to estimate the number of advanced civilizations likely to exist in the Milky Way galaxy. The Drake equation (top row) has proven to be a durable framework for research, and space technology has advanced scientists’ knowledge of several variables. But it is impossible to do anything more than guess at variables such as L, the probably longevity of other advanced civilizations. In new research, Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan offer a new equation (bottom row) to address a slightly different question: What is the number of advanced civilizations likely to have developed over the history of the observable universe? Frank and Sullivan’s equation draws on Drake’s, but eliminates the need for L. CREDIT University of Rochester

Are humans unique and alone in the vast universe? This question– summed up in the famous Drake equation — has for a half-century been one of the most intractable and uncertain in science.

But a new paper shows that the recent discoveries of exoplanets combined with a broader approach to the question makes it possible to assign a new empirically valid probability to whether any other advanced technological civilizations have ever existed.

And it shows that unless the odds of advanced life evolving on a habitable planet are astonishingly low, then human kind is not the universe’s first technological, or advanced, civilization.

The paper, to be published in Astrobiology, also shows for the first time just what “pessimism” or “optimism” mean when it comes to estimating the likelihood of advanced extraterrestrial life.

“The question of whether advanced civilizations exist elsewhere in the universe has always been vexed with three large uncertainties in the Drake equation,” said Adam Frank, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester and co-author of the paper. “We’ve known for a long time approximately how many stars exist. We didn’t know how many of those stars had planets that could potentially harbor life, how often life might evolve and lead to intelligent beings, and how long any civilizations might last before becoming extinct.”

“Thanks to NASA’s Kepler satellite and other searches, we now know that roughly one-fifth of stars have planets in “habitable zones,” where temperatures could support life as we know it. So one of the three big uncertainties has now been constrained.”

Frank said that the third big question–how long civilizations might survive–is still completely unknown. “The fact that humans have had rudimentary technology for roughly ten thousand years doesn’t really tell us if other societies would last that long or perhaps much longer,” he explained.

But Frank and his coauthor, Woodruff Sullivan of the astronomy department and astrobiology program at the University of Washington, found they could eliminate that term altogether by simply expanding the question.

“Rather than asking how many civilizations may exist now, we ask ‘Are we the only technological species that has ever arisen?” said Sullivan. “This shifted focus eliminates the uncertainty of the civilization lifetime question and allows us to address what we call the ‘cosmic archaeological question’–how often in the history of the universe has life evolved to an advanced state?”

That still leaves huge uncertainties in calculating the probability for advanced life to evolve on habitable planets. It’s here that Frank and Sullivan flip the question around. Rather than guessing at the odds of advanced life developing, they calculate the odds against it occurring in order for humanity to be the only advanced civilization in the entire history of the observable universe. With that, Frank and Sullivan then calculated the line between a Universe where humanity has been the sole experiment in civilization and one where others have come before us.

“Of course, we have no idea how likely it is that an intelligent technological species will evolve on a given habitable planet,” says Frank. But using our method we can tell exactly how low that probability would have to be for us to be the ONLY civilization the Universe has produced. We call that the pessimism line. If the actual probability is greater than the pessimism line, then a technological species and civilization has likely happened before.”

Using this approach, Frank and Sullivan calculate how unlikely advanced life must be if there has never been another example among the universe’s ten billion trillion stars, or even among our own Milky Way galaxy’s hundred billion.

The result? By applying the new exoplanet data to the universe’s 2 x 10 to the 22nd power stars, Frank and Sullivan find that human civilization is likely to be unique in the cosmos only if the odds of a civilization developing on a habitable planet are less than about one in 10 billion trillion, or one part in 10 to the 22th power.

“One in 10 billion trillion is incredibly small,” says Frank. “To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology producing species very likely have evolved before us. Think of it this way. Before our result you’d be considered a pessimist if you imagined the probability of evolving a civilization on a habitable planet were, say, one in a trillion. But even that guess, one chance in a trillion, implies that what has happened here on Earth with humanity has in fact happened about a 10 billion other times over cosmic history!”

For smaller volumes the numbers are less extreme. For example, another technological species likely has evolved on a habitable planet in our own Milky Way galaxy if the odds against it are better than one chance in 60 billion.

But if those numbers seem to give ammunition to the “optimists” about the existence of alien civilizations, Sullivan points out that the full Drake equation–which calculates the odds that other civilizations are around today — may give solace to the pessimists.

“The universe is more than 13 billion years old,” said Sullivan. “That means that even if there have been a thousand civilizations in our own galaxy, if they live only as long as we have been around — roughly ten thousand years — then all of them are likely already extinct. And others won’t evolve until we are long gone. For us to have much chance of success in finding another “contemporary” active technological civilization, on average they must last much longer than our present lifetime.”

“Given the vast distances between stars and the fixed speed of light we might never really be able to have a conversation with another civilization anyway,” said Frank. “If they were 20,000 light years away then every exchange would take 40,000 years to go back and forth.”

But, as Frank and Sullivan point out, even if there aren’t other civilizations in our galaxy to communicate with now, the new result still has a profound scientific and philosophical importance. “From a fundamental perspective the question is ‘has it ever happened anywhere before?'” said Frank. Our result is the first time anyone has been able to set any empirical answer for that question and it is astonishingly likely that we are not the only time and place that an advance civilization has evolved.”

According to Frank and Sullivan their result has a practical application as well. As humanity faces its crisis in sustainability and climate change we can wonder if other civilization-building species on other planets have gone through a similar bottleneck and made it to the other side. As Frank puts it “We don’t even know if it’s possible to have a high-tech civilization that lasts more than a few centuries.” With Frank and Sullivan’s new result, scientists can begin using everything they know about planets and climate to begin modeling the interactions of an energy-intensive species with their home world knowing that a large sample of such cases has already existed in the cosmos. “Our results imply that our evolution has not been unique and has probably happened many times before. The other cases are likely to include many energy intensive civilizations dealing with their feedbacks onto their planets as their civilizations grow. That means we can begin exploring the problem using simulations to get a sense of what leads to long lived civilizations and what doesn’t.”

Frank and Sullivan’s argument hinges upon the recent discovery of how many planets exist and how many of those lie in what scientists call the “habitable zone” — planets in which liquid water, and therefore life, could exist. This allows Frank and Sullivan to define a number they call Nast. Nast is the product of N*, the total number of stars; fp, the fraction of those stars that form planets; and np, the average number of those planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

They then set out what they call the “Archaelogical-form” of the Drake equation, which defines A as the “number of technological species that have ever formed over the history of the observable Universe.”

Their equation, A=Nast*fbt, describes A as the product of Nast – the number of habitable planets in a given volume of the Universe – multiplied by fbt – the likelihood of a technological species arising on one of these planets. The volume considered could be, for example, the entire Universe, or just our Galaxy.



388 thoughts on “Are we alone? A new twist on the famous Drake Equation ups the odds that we aren’t

  1. Just wondering … how many species of “intelligent life” are on this planet right now?

    • Depends what you mean by intelligent. If you take either deliberate tool using or social group communicating, or both, then quite a few including some birds, some primates, most cetaceans, and humans. It you mean the majority of the individuals of the species use rational thought processes concerning important, then none. Warmunists and anti-frackers are proof of the latter proposition.

      • I read the ” Famous ” Drake Equation from one end to the other.

        Then I re-read it from the other end to one end.

        And I noticed that NOWHERE in the equation; read in either direction, is there any factor for the improbability of occurrence (based on chemistry) of even ONE of the NECESSARY chemical syntheses, that are required, to get from the 97 known chemical elements, to the next more complex organic molecule, that is known from Biology, to be ESSENTIAL for any known living organism.

        For example, there are instances, where a fundamental chemical building block of life, has several molecular forms with the exact same chemical formula (in terms of the elements); where energetic considerations highly favor the spontaneous synthesis of one Isomer (I think that’s the correct chemistry term) over the other(s), but that highly favored isomer is known to lead to a dead end, rather than to a material actually present in life forms. And the isomer that does lead to a necessary life block, is highly suppressed in the spontaneous processes, of energy (and QM) grounds.

        The entire sequence of syntheses either has to re-occur in the correct order at the correct times in terms of the then existing environment, or else some other sequence perhaps even more efficient has to occur.

        Everything, I have ever read in Biological papers, has indicated that the odds against a repeat of such a sequence of essential spontaneous syntheses, is at least as great as the number of stars in the universe.

        And for sugar coating. On this ONE planet, where life of any kind is known to exist within a thin shell of let’s say +/- 20 km about mean sea level; and nowhere else; the only recognizable ” intelligent ” life form known to be capable of actual deliberate actions to try and perform things which are unable to happen spontaneously (so far as we know); with all of our intelligence we have not been able to deliberately retrace any such sequence of syntheses.

        So I get infinity / INFINITY for the probability of intelligent life somewhere else.

        No don’t give me any stupid guff about life forms WE have transported beyond the shell of life.

        Below, is a complete record of every single binary digit of scientific observational evidence of intelligent life anywhere elsewhere in the universe .

        ” ( ) ”

        Yes all of that data inside the parentheses.


    • At a minimum, an energy intensive intelligent species means they have controlled use of FIRE.

      “The analogy I often use is this: if you had intelligent fish arguing about why they should go out on dry land, some bright young fish might have thought of many things, but they would never have thought of fire, and I think that in space we will find things as useful as fire.” — Arthur C. Clarke

      I’ll entertain the philosophical question whether control of fire is an intelligent dead-end for a species. Maybe real intelligence means not taking a bite from the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge.

      “For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
      ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

      • Thus did I leave fire out of the test for intelligent. Dolphins not only communicate, we just learned they use the communications to group hunt fish by schooling. Clearly intelligent by the ‘both’ test, as schooling is a ‘tool’ in the literal sense.

      • Me thinks that all “social animals” have evolved a means of inter-group communications. Us humans have yet to figure out exactly how they do it. We “talk to the animals” in our language ….. but the animals can only reply in kind (their language).

        And it is also a literal fact that the more intelligent members of many of the animal species (crows, squirrels, horses, dogs, etc., etc.) are also quite capable of “abstract reasoning”.

      • It wasn’t “the tree of knowledge” it was “the tree of knowledge of good and evil”

      • I’ve heard it described as the knowledge of function and dysfunction, which is analogous to our teenage years when many of us become rebels with a cause and without a clue, then, hopefully, discover responsibility, moderation, principles, judgment, and reasoning to become adults.

      • What evidence does he cite for the Dolphins believing they are intelligent beyond us ?? Or for them believing anything else.


      • It’s going to be hard to develop any kind of technology without the ability to smelt metals.

    • My estimate, assuming we mean life forms capable of communicating to another star…is about 1/3. 1/3 of the human race seems intelligent to me. :-)

      I think they are missing a lot of factors that should go into making wild guesses like this (the Drake Equation). For example, life as we know it requires heavy elements – these would not exist in the beginning. Also, pack too many stars together into a crowded area and you would certainly keep zapping any proto-life out of existence. Therefore the number of suitable stars in the estimate should exclude anything in the 1st generation of stars and anything near galactic centers. If you keep picking away at terms using reasonable exclusions like these, the final answer comes out to be much, much lower.

      I don’t really understand the point though – its a wild guess and any answer is as good as any other. Unless something like “warp-engines” from Star Trek are possible, its also moot. We will not hold any kind of communication with any other civilization unless its extremely close by. We can see “signs” of chemistry that could be caused by life forms, but no way to verify it.

  2. Are you posting this here because you no longer consider the Drake Equation to be pseudoscience? From reading the article it sounds like they are using guessing techniques to try to make the terms more “known” than before, but the result of the equation still could vary widely from trillions to zero.

    • Indeed. I took exception to the claim that the equation was one of the most intractable in science. It is intractable, but has nothing to do with science.

      • Amen to that Mark T. YOU are the one that get’s the cigar.

        It ain’t even pseudo-science.

        OED says science involves observation and experimentation.

        So far our observations have not produced even one single binary digit of scientific experimental observational evidence of any extraterrestrial life form, let alone anything that might be intelligent; whatever that means.

        ” Intelligence ” is merely Mother Gaia’s latest experiment in enhanced survivability; and so far it is not looking very promising.

        The dinosaurs survived for 140 million years (or more) just by being big and ugly and mean. And they were the victims of a natural calamity; not of their own vulnerability.

        So we haven’t even made it through our first 100 k years; any might not complete the next 100 years.

        It’s a myth that intelligence is beneficial to survival; we are just too swelled headed to admit it.

        So the entire premise of the Drake Equation is just pretentious bull shit. You can look that up in a
        dictionary if you don’t already know what that is.

        Carl Sagan went to his destiny, without ever finding any evidence. What a waste of a life.


      • George,

        The dinosaurs are still with us. The non-avian dinosaurs existed for up to 170 million years, depending upon what counts as a dinosaur.

        Not all dinosaurs were big, ugly and mean. Some were small, beautiful and peaceful, or some combination of those traits. And they were evolving increased intelligence throughout the Mesozoic, a process which has continued among certain groups of birds, despite their reptile brains, lacking a neocortex. Late Cretaceous Troodon was probably smarter than its mammalian contemporaries.

      • Well BD, I tend to paint with a broad brush when making graffiti like posts here, about that which I know nowt.

        But you get the idea, and I depend on you guy(al)s to straighten me out, which is why I come here to benefit from that on which YOU are the experts.

        I learn almost nothing from idjits; except what to not do. So I come to WUWT; the land of plenty !


      • As a class, Dinosaurs existed for 140 million years.
        Individual species of dinosaurs existed for a much shorter periods of time.

    • It’s nothing more than a bunch of operations on wild guesses. There’s no way to tell how well the guesses have been made. We have a better handle on the number of planets in the “habitable” zone but have no idea if said zone is an actual requirement for life let alone intelligent life. In fact, there are those who declare that only humans can be intelligent (cause we’re Special) making the value of N equal to one by definition.

      • You make a good point, DAV.

        Here, in our solar system, three planets are in a zone habitable “for life as we know it,” i.e., bacteria are life as we know it.

        Only one of those three has life on it: Earth.

        Earth has life because it is large enough to have liquid core, which produced a persistent magnetic field that keeps the solar wind from abrading away its atmosphere and it early-on collided with Mars-sized planetoid that removed most of its outer crust and that outer crust produced the moon that prevents Earth from tilting through 90°, and produces the tides that mix the oceans and flush the shore and loss of the outer crust allowed the plate tectonics that subducted all of its primordial 60-bar CO2 atmosphere (see Venus) and loss of all that CO2 allowed enough surface cooling to prevent cometary water from evaporating away, which, along with cometary organics, allowed life to self-organize.

        And that life was bacterial. Aerobic life took another 2 billion years, and who knows what low-probability events it took to produce that. Multi-cellular life took another billion years, and who knows what low-probability events, etc.

        The same who knows, etc., must be invoked time and again between the Cretaceous and now to get to us. E.g., are ice-ages necessary to the appearance of our unique culture-obligateness (the sine-qua-non of accumulating knowledge)?

        Multiply out all those low-probability events and what is the final probability for our appearance?

        Reproducing an analogous series of events elsewhere seems pretty unlikely. Steven J. Gould opined that if we rolled back evolutionary time, the contingent events that produced us are unlikely to be repeated. Maybe some other mammal would arise instead, but multiplying 10^negative-huge by 5416 mammal species doesn’t really improve any odds.

        So, all-in-all, I figure we’re pretty unique.

      • The habitable zone on planet earth includes places with Temperature extremes somewhere in a 160 deg. C range; from about -95 deg. C to maybe +65 deg. C And we don’t even know what forms of life there are here on earth that live outside even that extreme range of Temperatures.

        The oceans and atmosphere of earth, make our Goldilocks region much greater than it otherwise might have been.


    • Even simplifying to remove the coincident time constraint doesn’t elevate it above mental masturbation. Sorry, Michael Crichton’s still right – aliens caused global warming.

  3. On January 13th 2013 I wrote here:

    Drake equation has been superseded by the Westhaver Equation…

    1= A^a x B^b x C^c …. N^n; where 1 is the number of planets where there is evidence of life,
    and A, B, C, ….N are the number of coefficients raised to whatever power necessary to include any and all variables such that the product of all variables raised to their respective powers yields a probability of life on 1 planet in the universe.

    The probability of # of planets with life in the universe is 1:infinity. Because THAT is what the evidence shows.

    • heh- you are using the actual definition of ’empirical’ and mocking the post-normal interpretation of ‘equation’.
      no tenure for you!

      • yep… I backed out of the tenure track years ago. Saw the writing on the wall. Free enterprise is far better.

        There are o aliens in my real world.

      • Algebra is NOT numbers. Differential equations are NOT numbers.

        Math includes numbers but is not numbers.

        Math is NOT ” Science “; it is an art form.

        ” Science ” involves Observation and experimentation (aka synthetic observation).

        Absolutely nothing; as in NO THING, in mathematics is OBSERVABLE (anywhere in the entire universe).

        It is all pure fiction.

        Our “MODELS ” of how things work are also entirely fictional. They also are not observable.

        Our fictional mathematics describes EXACTLY how our equally fictional MODELS operate.

        But all of that is on paper. It is NOT OBSERVABLE, because NONE of our fictional models is physically realizable.

        x^2 + y^2 + z^2 = r^2 describes a mathematical SPHERE (add any number of orthogonal co-ordinate dimensions if you like); but there is not such observable thing in the universe; and more to the point, WE can NOT construct any such thing either.

        We can only make crude approximations to our exact mathematical entities.

        A PLANE is NOT a mono-atomic layer like grapheme; its thickness is exactly zero.

        We cannot make a spring oscillator and demonstrate simple harmonic motion as in:
        d2y/dx^2 = -k x because NO physical material actually obeys Hooke’s law.

        Dr. Svalgaard, I’m sure uses ” models ” of our sun or other stars, try and explain how our sun works.

        But he can’t actually build any of those models to play with; so they make do with what they can find out from the real thing.

        Well not to worry. NONE of us can build a real model of any of our model concoctions; only approximations to them.

        Lucky for us, that’s usually good enough. You get from being a mathematician or a scientist, to becoming an engineer, once you accept the premise:

        ” That’s close enough ! “

      • “A PLANE is NOT a mono-atomic layer like grapheme; its thickness is exactly zero.”

        that is absolutely correct. ‘plane’ is a conceptual entity. the power and the glory of consciousness is the abstraction of relationships.
        for example, cause and effect are separated in time and one always precedes the other.
        reason, our means of survival, depends on the abstraction of conceptual entities, among which we count ‘mathematical principles’ as well as ‘virtue’, ‘value’, ‘morality’, ‘ethics’, ‘logic’ and every other freakin thing we can talk about because of that.

        so it would be conceptual self-harming to try to use this wonderful ability to deprecate this wonderful ability, wouldn’t it,, now?

    • Our inability to provide a rational explanation for the existence of ANY form of life on earth, let alone, what we have called ” intelligent ” life does NOT justify our blind acceptance of a completely irrational explanation for the existence of such.


      • THAT was entertaining.

        You might be right about math being an intellectual pursuit. I always viewed mathematics as a notation scheme and discipline for, logic. Don’t hold me to that as I may learn something different.

      • George,

        The existence of life on earth is not only rational, but an inevitable result of chemistry and physics. As noted, the problem isn’t with an explanation, but that there are too many different ways it could have happened in detail.

        Among the many reasons why ID is anti-scientific is that it just throws up its arms when confronted with a problem requiring explanation, rather than trying to figure out how, for instance, bacterial flagella evolved. Same goes for the origin of life, either on earth or in space.

      • So if life is inevitable chemistry and physics, where is it all hiding ??

        I’m not a Textologist, so I have no idea who or what ID is.

        sorry about my ignorance.


      • George,

        Intelligent Design. Sorry not to have spelled it out.

        Since we or our probes haven’t been to any other world that might once have had life or could now, science can’t say how common life is. It’s possible that Mars harbored life back when it had an ocean, and still might. Inconclusive hints suggest that life might still survive on Mars. People may have to go there to find out, since if it exists, it would most likely be subterranean.

        Moon Europa is currently the odds-on favorite candidate for life elsewhere in the solar system, however.

      • My grade school teacher, Sister Jane-Frances, always thought I’d be an Astronaut when I grew up. I’m sure of that, because she was always telling me I took up space in class.

      • I don’t see any reference by george attributing anything to ID. Bye Doom “scientifically” conjured that up out of thin air. Seems like Bye Doom is stuck in the logical conundrum of thinking cause = mechanism. As scientists, the mechanisms of the natural world are there for us to unravel. As such “but an inevitable result of chemistry and physics”…? Actually, that has yet to be determined and this lack of mechanism was even accepted by Dawkins. Dawkins’ explanation is that life here was seeded by aliens, and presumably wherehence they came was also by aliens of another origin, etc etc etc etc.. to infinity. Where is the logic in that?

      • Paul,

        Wow! You managed both to misunderstand me and to lie about what Dawkins says.

        I never said that George advocated ID. That anti-scientific fantasy however is relevant to what the kind of warped thinking he correctly described.

        Dawkins doesn’t advocate alien engineering. Like a good scientist, he said it’s a possibility that he can’t rule out. He says the same thing about the God delusion. Just because there is no actual evidence in favor of an hypothesis doesn’t mean that there is an infinitesimal chance that it could be true.

        As I said, there is not a lack of mechanism. There are too many to chose from, all infinitely superior scientifically to punting and saying, “God did it!” Which of course is no explanation at all, infinitely less scientific than panspermia, for which real if not conclusive evidence may be advanced.

        There are good physical reasons for being persuaded that under conditions of the early earth life will inevitably arise, if it hasn’t been transported here first.

      • Ha… Tell you what Bye Doom, I’ll let what readers remain decide what you said for themselves… and as far as what Dawkins said with his mouth, I will provide a link. My issue with Dawkins is his irrational reliance on speculation… like you. I prefer science. BRB…

      • Richard Dawkins in his own words:

        time stamp 0:50.


        I hardly think that is an example of science.

      • I agree with a lot of what ‘Bye Doom’ says. But when he writes:

        He says the same thing about the God delusion.

        It seems he’s made up his mind on the matter.

        I haven’t, because I always go back to the Prime Mover principle. What made life, for instance? Answer: it came from other stars/comets, etc.

        Then, what made it in those stars/comets, etc?

        Answer: They got it from somewhere else.

        See? Eventually you have to get back to a Prime Mover. Something that created it all. You can even claim that the creator was created. But eventually, you have to get back to the original Prime Mover: the Reason for everything.

        Not that science will find that reason, because religion is a matter of faith, not science. But anyone who thinks everything just popped into existence has no credible framework for thinking. Because if they believe that, then there’s nothing whatever that says everything didn’t just pop into existence fifteen minutes ago. Or five seconds ago… or maybe we don’t even exist yet, but we will in the future when creation pops into existence — and this is just one of the memories that will be part of it.

        The way I’m made, I need a reason. Even if there’s never going to be an ultimate proof.

      • dbstealey,

        There are a few realities of physics that create a problem for the closed minded scientismists.
        1) The Big Bang, 2) the second law of thermodynamics, 3) the Borde Vilenkin Guthe Theorem, 4) the cosmological constant’s knife edge ie 10^43 decimal places (that alone should give any open minded scientist pause) 4) the other dozen anthropic Goldilocks constants….

        Most scientismists claim science as the be all to end all yet never do the maths.

        Ok do do the maths of the likelihood of this universe based on the item 4) above.

        Here is a great video of Leonard Susskind in rare moment of frankness.

      • I don’t do philosophy. Not enough time in the day.

        So I don’t contemplate how or why something happens or happened absent evidence to that.

        NOR do I DISPARAGE what others might believe or have to say, in that regard.

        If others take comfort or obtain benefit (to them) from whatever ideas they have about the why and how, that is just fine with me.

        I’m not going to go and blow out the little candle my 96 year old MIL has burning in the fire place. I’ll make darn sure it can’t fallout onto the carpet. And she knows, that if it goes out, it wasn’t my doing.

        Some people like to eat pasta. That’s Italian for “paste” AKA glue; and the recipe is identical to my grandfather’s recipe for his wall paper paste: wheat flour, water, egg white.

        Tastes exactly the same too; I know I tried his glue once.

        So I don’t eat pasta, no matter what shape size, color my wife tries to concoct it in. But I won’t stop her or you from eating glue.


        So if DI or ID floats your boat go for it.

  4. I would say that were are almost certainly not alone. The DNA molecule is infinitely complex, and the chances of it developing randomly are nill. Even if you have DNA, you still need to conditions that allow for life, and the life process of reproduction, respiration, ingestion, egestion and metabolism must all occur simultaneously for life to be created and perpetuated. The last great bombardment occurred about 4 billion years ago, and life developed on earth within 100 million years after that. The chances of life developing randomly in 100 million years are nill. Either God created life, or it was transported here from a much older Galaxy. Chemical reactions have known rates, and you simply can’t create DNA randomly over such a short period of time, let alone provide the spark of life.

    • Two responses. Neither panspermia or God are the only plausible explanations. Panspermia only pushes the origins question away from earth, It does not resolve it. And an issue with God is which one?
      Life did not start with DNA. It likely started with RNA or some chemical cousin that evolved into RNA. And for a terrific thought provoking out-of-the box read on how that may have come about, see A G. Cairns-Smith’s delightful little 128 page summary ‘Seven Clues to the Origin of Life’ of his much longer and more scholarly tome. Hint: the clay hypothesis.

      • Izzit Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) that is considered to be mandatory for any living organism ??

        Isn’t that THE reason that Phosphorous is considered MANDATORY for life ??

        When I was in high school we discovered (right there in the Chem lab and lecture room) a form of mold that had found out how to live WITHOUT Phosphorous.

        A big blob of it was growing like wildfire right on top in a flask containing a solution of a compound or ARSENIC. Evidently Adenosine Tri-Arsenate works well enough for some organisms.

        Yes, I actually saw it with my own eyes !

    • It seems pretty fishy that life formed on Earth as soon as it cooled enough to support life, and it supposedly did so by natural processes which appear to be impossible to account for.

      • Did not say that. The stromatolite bacteria fossil evidence goes back 2.3-2.8 billion years depending on who says what.. Earth is 4.5, and moon formation at maybe 3.8-4 billion (only crustal) says ‘life’ formed thereafter. Well, that leaves a billion years. Now life can be defined purely as the ability to evolve. There are only two requirements. 1. ‘genetic’ information that passes from ‘generation to generation’ imperfectly. 2. Natural selection. We make the equivalent of the intelligent design fallacy about evolution of the eye. There was no ‘production machinery’ for making complex organic molecules, let alone things like RNA, at the beginning. So there had to be either a miracle…or self assembly. Individual clay crystals self assemble from slightly supersaturated solutions produced by simple chemical weathering of rock. In clays like Kaolinite (platy) and Illite (acicular) these crystals contain defects comprising ‘information’ which self replicates as things like vermiform kaolinite grows (stacking layers of new clay crystals on the Z axis) and break to ‘self replicate’. Clays can contain impurities like illmanite (titanium iron oxide) that ‘photosynthesize’ simple organics like formic acid, which changes local pH and thus clay solubility/stability/formation. Which with further natural selection can evolve the growing complexity and eventually the unitary life biochemistry we see now. It did NOT have to start that way
        The clay hypothesis strips life to its essentials, and shows how if you have three ingredients: a sun, a rocky planet with a suite of common minerals like carbon, iron, silicon, aluminum, and oxygen (most clays are just SI, Al, and O) and sufficient water there is a non-trivial chance that ‘life’ will evolve.

      • The emergence of live on earth from complex organic chemical compounds is not the least bit impossible to account for. Indeed, the problem isn’t accounting for how it could happen, but with knowing by which of the many possible means it did come about. That is, assuming that life arose here independently rather than being delivered from outer space, in which case self-replicating, metabolizing molecules had ten billion years in which to develop.

      • To be clear, I responded to co2islife.

        Regarding the RNA world hypothesis, the natural world doesn’t work that way. What people seem to be saying is that it’s possible (however improbable) that through a serious of unnatural flukes (miracles), life sprang from lifelessness. And as I pointed out, this happened as soon as the planet cooled enough to support life.

        “In vitro RNA selection does not demonstrate that complex ribozymes could have arisen naturally in a prebiotic soup, because the in vitro experimental conditions are wholly unrealistic, revealing at every turn the fingerprints of intervening intelligence. RNA World researchers have taken their own engineering of ribozymes as analogous to plausible prebiotic processes, when in fact the two situations are profoundly different. Indeed, aspects of ribozyme engineering, together with other lines of evidence, support a very different view of biological origins from that advocated by RNA World researchers.

        “Ribozyme engineering involves two broad experimental strategies.3 The “rational design” approach modifies existing types of ribozymes to produce better or even novel RNA catalysts. The “irrational design” approach, on the other hand, uses pools of partially randomized RNA molecules, which are screened — “selected” — for functional activity of a desired sort. Those molecules catalyzing the desired reaction are then used as the basis for the next round of “evolution.” This randomization-selection process may be repeated several times, to yield increasingly faster RNA catalysts.”

      • Larry,

        Your link is a load of creationist hooey, based upon an absurd fantasy as to how microbiology actually works. It wasn’t even remotely accurate 20 years ago and today is laughable. Science has discovered a lot about RNA since 1996.

        It’s really a small chemical step from RNA to its components. So small, in fact, that RNA assembles spontaneously under a variety of conditions. Then is acts, as I wrote, as both an enzyme to form polypeptides, ie conducts metabolism, and as a storehouse of genetic information to guide replication. Indeed, at this most elementary level, the two process, ie metabolism and replication, are similar.

        Sorry, but these are inconvenient facts for your comforting, faith-based belief system.

      • Bye Doom,

        “Sorry, but these are inconvenient facts for your comforting, faith-based belief system.”

        I’m sorry that you chose the low road.

        So I’m NOT going to bandy words with you, except to say that your claims are a load of hype because abiogenesis is not as easy as you claim and has not been solved to anyone’s satisfaction. If it had, they’d be demonstrating life forming by natural processes instead of still teaching the old Miller-Urey experiment.

      • If we assume we are not special in the universe, then what we really want to know is just how “unspecial” we really are. The discovery of thousands of planets in our immediate neighborhood kicks the “earth is special” concept out of the park. Instead the typical star seems to have a 20% chance of retaining a planet that could have roughly earth-like conditions, e.g a temperature range permitting liquid water. The next question is the chemical make up a typical planet. “Organic” substances are common in the solar system and radiotelescope observations indicate they are common throughout the galaxy. So. neither planet nor chemistry are likely to be unusual. What about life itself, then? That depends upon what we understand life to be. But if we agree that minimally it is a self-sustaining chemical reaction driven by energy accumulating in chemical bonds and released by other chemical reactions, then initially life could simply consist of puddles that react when the conditions, temperature, moisture and energy are available. Once lipids begin to appear in the reaction and build simple “cells” per Ira Progogine’s suggestion, then you have unicellular life. The rest is simple evolution (not Progress but the Second law operating as it always does). What we mistake for “complexity of design” is emergent noise driven by entropy in non-equilibrium conditions. Life is the path that energy takes through matter in non-equilibrium energetic and chemical conditions.

      • Ristvan

        It is a bit arrogant when people claim that intelligent, technological life only evolved once here on Earth. Suppose it evolved 10 times and was wiped out repeatedly? We may not be all that ‘special’.

        Witness (in spite of the gyrations to avoid the possibility ‘we’ were here before)

        There are a lot more from German coal mines.

      • Duster,

        The view that cells are simply the natural, inevitable outcome of chemical reactions is discredited 19th century science.

        Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Wistar Symposium in which scientists from the hard sciences poked giant holes in Darwin (see the “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretarion of Evolution”). And their insightful criticisms remain unresolved to this day.

        Now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who claims they’d love to overturn Darwin, but the truth is that (as with Climate Science) anyone who would express doubt in that religious dogma would not get published and probably doom their career, so few people dare.

        By the way, the same people who claim they’d love to be the skeptic who overturns the dogma usually say that while belittling someone for being skeptical. “Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.” –Buck Murdock

        You can’t make this stuff up because fiction has to make some sort of sense. Right? The truth is that nature doesn’t work how Darwin thought, and as in Climate Science, the more we learn, the more shrill attacks on skeptic’s become. ‘Skeptics must be silenced because they are dangerously mad foes of Science and civilization itself!,’ they scream. Yeah, so was Galileo.

      • Sayeth: LarryFine – May 1, 2016 at 11:58 am

        It seems pretty fishy that life formed on Earth as soon as it cooled enough to support life,

        Larry, do all Bible Believing Creationists actually believe that their God of the Bible created life in Adam and Eve on the earth ….. even before the earth had “cooled enough to support life” in the Garden of Eden?

        Or are you inferring that the earth was never ever “too HOT” for life to exist hereon because your God of Creation created it in a WARM state so that Adam and Eve could prance around naked and enjoy those forbidden fruits.

        Also sayeth: LarryFine – May 1, 2016 at 11:58 am

        and it supposedly did so by natural processes which appear to be impossible to account for.

        HA, and you don’t believe it was impossible for a human to be “swallowed by a whale” … and then spit back out 2 or 3 weeks later ….. without suffering any ill effects of his ordeal.

        Ignorance can be fixed ……. but emotional Religious beliefs “override” all reasonable thought processes and exacerbates one’s ignorance of the natural world around them.

      • LarryFine: “Now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who claims they’d love to overturn Darwin, but the truth is that (as with Climate Science) anyone who would express doubt in that religious dogma would not get published and probably doom their career, so few people dare…
        You can’t make this stuff up because fiction has to make some sort of sense. Right? The truth is that nature doesn’t work how Darwin thought, and as in Climate Science, the more we learn, the more shrill attacks on skeptic’s become. ‘Skeptics must be silenced because they are dangerously mad foes of Science and civilization itself!,’ they scream. Yeah, so was Galileo.”

        And that is exactly why the Creation Research Society was started.
        “The CRS was founded in 1963 by a group of ten like-minded scientists who had corresponded with each other for a number of years. A major impetus for this effort was a problem that each one had experienced. They had been unable to publish in established journals scientific information favorable to the creation viewpoint. Believing that there were probably other scientists with similar experiences, these men saw the need for a journal in which such information could be published.”
        Not much has changed since 1963.

        I have often thought it very interesting that many of the same people who decry the muzzling of sceptics in the field of climate science, have absolutely no problem ridiculing and otherwise muzzling those who are sceptics about Darwinism.

      • Samuel C Coger: “Ignorance can be fixed ……. but emotional Religious beliefs “override” all reasonable thought processes and exacerbates one’s ignorance of the natural world around them.”

        Samuel, do all Darwin-believing Natural Selectionists actually believe that life arose spontaneously from rocks – not once, but many times, all at once, and in the same location – because after all, those first organisms would have had to have something to eat, something to mate with, and something for their offspring to eat and mate with? Apparently you are correct in your statement about emotional religious beliefs.

      • Samuel C Cogar,

        I don’t argue with people who employ streams of logical fallacies, like you and “Bye Doom” have, but I do for the sake of others sometimes point out certain faults in their introductions.

        “Larry, do all Bible Believing Creationists actually believe that…”

        Those two offensive and illogical sentences have nothing to do with anything in this discussion.

        “HA, and you don’t believe it was impossible for a human to be “swallowed by a whale” … and then spit back out 2 or 3 weeks later ….. without suffering any ill effects of his ordeal.”

        Another red herring that has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

        “Ignorance can be fixed ……. but emotional Religious beliefs “override” all reasonable thought processes and exacerbates one’s ignorance of the natural world around them.”

        Ignorant religious bigotry is common among materialistic atheists who falsely assume their metaphysical worldview is true and necessary to do good science and then often claim that science can somehow validate their untestable worldview.

        Also, I never spoke of the biblical creation account, but you don’t know the Bible in any event. For example, Jonah died and was resurrected 3 days later; he didn’t survive inside of a fish for 2-3 weeks, as you say. At least, that’s what the Bible says happened in both the Old and New Testaments.

      • Monna Manhas,

        Science is so corrupt today that it almost seems like a joke when anyone bristles at the suggestion that there could even be a whiff of philosophical or politically motivated bias at leading universities, major journals or scientific federal agencies.

        Oh, it’s not a whiff.

      • “We have no idea how the molecules that compose living systems could have been devised such that they would work in concert to fulfill biology’s functions. We have no idea how the basic set of molecules, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, were made and how they could have coupled in proper sequences, and then transformed into the ordered assemblies until there was the construction of a complex biological system, and eventually to that first cell. Nobody has any idea on how this was done when using our commonly understood mechanisms of chemical science. Those that say that they understand are generally wholly uninformed regarding chemical synthesis.”

        James M. Tour, Ph.D.
        Rice University

      • “From a synthetic chemical perspective, neither I nor any of my colleagues can fathom a prebiotic molecular route to construction of a complex system. We cannot even figure out the prebiotic routes to the basic building blocks of life: carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins. Chemists are collectively bewildered.

        “Hence I say that no chemist understands prebiotic synthesis of the requisite building blocks let alone assembly into a complex system.”

        James M. Tour, Ph.D.
        Rice University

      • “Those that think that scientists understand the details of life’s origin are wholly uninformed. Nobody understands. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. So to make ad hominem attacks upon those who are skeptical of the science to-date can be inhibitory to the progress of science. Would it not be helpful to express to students the massive gaps in our understanding so that they, as the next generation of academic soldiers, could seek to propel the field upon a firmer, and possibly a radically different scientific basis rather than upon increasingly ambitious extrapolations that are entirely unacceptable in the practice of chemistry? The basis upon which we as scientists are relying is so shaky that it would be best to openly state the situation for what it is: a mystery. That might catalyze some fresh scientific thoughts on abiogenesis.”

        James M. Tour, Ph.D.
        Rice University

    • DNA didn’t develop randomly. Its development was catalyzed. The first living things used RNA, which has the wonderful properties of being both an enzyme to facilitate the formation of polypeptides, the precursors of proteins, and template for self-replication. Its forms spontaneously, for instance, in the little bits of water inside ice, among other environments.

      This process can and probably was sped up by PAHs acting as enzymes to ease the formation of chains. PAHs, which auto-assemble into stacks, are ubiquitous in the universe. Amino acids and bases also occur naturally in meteorites. It just so happens that the distance between bases in RNA is the same as the separation distance between PAH molecules in a stack.

      Life could have arisen soon after the earth cooled, or could have been delivered here on space rocks. Or both.

      • This process can and probably was sped up by PAHs acting as enzymes to ease the formation of chains. PAHs, which auto-assemble into stacks, are ubiquitous in the universe. Amino acids and bases also occur naturally in meteorites. It just so happens that the distance between bases in RNA is the same as the separation distance between PAH molecules in a stack.

        OK, if it is that easy, why did it only occur once and is not an ongoing process? Almost all living organisms share similar DNA. Also, food also had to develop for these early living creatures. What was magical about that one moment when life sprang from nothingness? Why didn’t it happen again, and why are we the only place? The time to randomly create even RNA, let alone life goes way beyond the time even earth has existed.

        One thing if for certain, we certainly don’t know much certain about the origin of life, not even the proper time line.

        The Dresser Formation, which dates from the early Archean and is about 3.5 billion years old, has been studied extensively…Modern microbial mats are dominated by cyanobacteria, which means these microbes (or their earliest relatives) may have already been present on Earth 3.5 billion years ago.See more at:

        “These new results push back the possible beginnings of life on Earth to well before the bombardment period 3.9 billion years ago,” said CU-Boulder Research Associate Oleg Abramov. “It opens up the possibility that life emerged as far back as 4.4 billion years ago, about the time the first oceans are thought to have formed.” – See more at:

      • We don’t know if it only occurred once, or if it happened on earth at all rather than in space. But I would have thought it obvious that life can’t arise anew once it exists abundantly, because the precursor chemicals are consumed by heterotrophic organisms.

        At present we don’t know how many times life has arisen in our own solar system, let alone the galaxy. It’s probably not only easy but inevitable under the right conditions, which aren’t very exacting.

      • So how many existing life forms have biologists been able to construct so far; starting with the 97 known elements.

        You seem to be implying it is easy.


      • George,

        There are 118 known elements, of which 94 occur naturally.

        Living things don’t arise directly from elements, but from common, naturally occurring compounds of those elements, such as amino acids, sugars, bases and phosphates. Scientists have observed RNA assemble itself naturally and carry out both replication and polypeptide synthesis.

        For a new living thing to be made under artificial conditions, the polypeptides would have to be connected into longer proteins. I don’t know if that has been observed to have occurred spontaneously under controlled conditions or not. But it took a long time (in the human frame of reference) for RNA to assemble in ice, so it might take at least a similar time for the reactions to achieve large, complex proteins.

        But there is no good chemical or physical reason why this stage in abiogenetic processes (if it hasn’t happened yet) will not be observed, given recreation of early earth conditions (or those on asteroids) and the required energy input.

      • Postscript:

        Last year two papers suggested an insightful solution to the peptide to protein problem, ie putting the protein horse before the RNA cart:

        IMO the authors could have skipped the part about amino acid synthesis on the primordial earth, which surely happened, because meteorites have been shown to have delivered here far more different amino acids than are used by living things.

      • John,

        You have that backwards. Evolution is a scientific fact, ie an observation, supported by all the evidence in the world. Creationism is obviously a purely religiously-motivated cartoon fantasy, without a shred of evidence in its favor.

        The evolution of new species and genera have been observed in the wild and created in the lab, to include recreating the observations from the field. The evolution of new families, orders, classes, phyla and kingdoms are also observable in the fossil and genomic records, and are also inferable from every other possible line of evidence.

      • “You have that backwards. Evolution is a scientific fact, ie an observation…”

        In your dreams, kid.

      • Um ! 97 is the only number we know for sure in science. As in 97 of these and 97 of those.

        Get the picture ??

        So how many total nuclides are there, counting both stable and unstable ones ??

        If life didn’t start with the existing known and unknown nuclides; where did what it did start from start from.

        Far as I know, no known or unknown life form contains anything other than the known or unknown elements.


      • John,

        Sorry, but your fantasy is a dream, Junior.

        Evolution is a fact, as I said. That means an observation. I’ve made new species in my lab, both entirely new ones and recreating those which have evolved naturally. Scientists make new species all the time these days. Even new genera have been made for decades, indeed going on a century now.

        You need to get up to date. You’re still in the 17th century. In fact you need to study biology at the undergrad level in the first place.

      • Well I still don’t get how you go from a state, where there is NO LIFE of any kind anywhere in an environment, so there is nothing but rocks and minerals and other inorganic things, so only the natural elements in their various mineral forms exist (including maybe hydrogen hydroxide), and you go from that situation to where some living thing exists. I take it that energy sources do exist.

        As far as I know NOBODY knows HOW to retrace the essential sequence of chemical syntheses to get from state A to state B, to the extent that so far, NO-ONE has been able to do it deliberately.

        And no I don’t deny that somehow it seems to have happened at least (and maybe at most) once that we can be sure of. And no I also have no knowledge of how or by what means that came to be, and I’m not into guessing about that which I know nowt.


    • Life my have evolved quickly, but it took another 3 billion years for complex life to form.

      • MarkW,

        It went in stages, each hundreds of millions of years long. The simplest cells became prokaryotes. It’s unclear whether bacteria and archaea developed separately or just have different membranes. Then around three billion years ago, eukaryotes apparently developed from endosymbiosis between archaea and bacteria. Sometime in the next billion years sexual reproduction evolved. By molecular clocks, but not yet by rocks, multicellular organisms (as opposed to bacterial slime layers) arose over a billion years ago. The oldest fossil sponge has recently been found, from 600 Ma.

        This brings the rocks into closer alignment with the clocks. There’s some question as to what counts as a multicellular organism. Choanocytes, the single-celled ancestors of multicellular animals (metazoa), form colonies. The feeding cells of sponges are practically identical to choanocytes, which also resemble sperm cells.

      • Fossil evidence is not proof of the “origin” date of an ancient life forms. Fossil evidence is simply proof that the organism is “at least that old” …… but could potentially be tens-of-millions of years older.

        And Horizontal Gene Transfers between different single-cell life forms, and then between single and multiple cell life forms ……. would surely decrease the “guesstiment” of 3 billion years for complex life forms to evolve. Me thinks the “Cambrian Explosion” is proof-positive of rampant HGT in progress.

      • My Periodic Table of the Elements has 92 of them up to Uranium. So are Neptunium and Plutonium considered to be Naturally occurring elements ?? Or do they form in ores due to neutron bombardment of Uranium.

        So then what About the heaviest Alkali metal, Francium #87 or the heaviest Halogen Astatine # 85.

        Do either of those occur naturally ??

        So there might be 90, 91, 92, 93, 94 elements depending on what you believe. Not counting the crazies.


  5. Interesting if it was a conversation in a bar but not sure it’s worth of a scientific paper. Maybe in a couple of hundred years we’ll be able to fill in the holes in this one.

    • Somebody once referred to the Drake Equation as the “Drake Cocktail Napkin Doodle.” I can’t improve on that.

      • Jim G1 wrote: “So, where is everybody?”

        They are flying around in gigantic, silent, triangular-shaped UFO’s, keeping an eye on us. :)

      • Actually, Moog from Oog was a hell of a lot smarter than he realized. A triangle IS much superior to a square.

        In modern LED technology, many of the known useful light emitting semi-conductor materials, crystallize in the diamond like (zinc blende) cubic crystal lattice leading to an LED die with natural cubic cleavage plane faces for a square LED die. But those materials also have refractive indices that are very high; like 3.5 region. So light emitted inside the die in the junction region is mostly trapped by TIR (total internal reflection) unless it strikes those plane surfaces within a critical angle cone of arcsin(1/3.5), about 16.6 degrees. The fraction of the total flux within that cone is around 1% for each face. (I don’t have time right now to calculate the exact value).
        If the photon does not emerge from one of the first three faces it hits, it is trapped forever (in the mathematical box)
        Fortunately they actually saw the die square, instead of cleave, and then etch the saw damage away, leaving a non flat surface with may orientation angles, so more light escapes. But it is still the biggest loss factor.

        Well with GaN based semi-conductors, the Crystal form is the Wurzite lattice, where the tetrahedral interlocking pyramids are rotated 60 degrees from the form in the diamond lattice.

        One of them the triangular bases of the tetrahedrons are parallel, and the other they are offset by 60 degrees. No I don’t remember which is which. You googlers look it up for yourselves.

        Well as a consequence of such a simple crystallography shift, the preferred Gallium Nitride crystal form is NOT cubic, like Diamond or Gallium Arsenide, but is Hexagonal, like Sapphire or Silicon Carbide.

        So Soraa is able to grow single crystal GaN ingots, to grow their epi on, and they can actually saw the LED die TRIANGULAR; just like Moog from Oog.

        As a result, if the photon does not emerge from either of the first two triangle faces, because of TIR, it absolutely must emerge from the third triangle face. Now it might also have to TIR off the top surface on its way, but that doesn’t matter any more..

        As a result, the optical path length and internal absorption inside a Soraa triangular (Blue / Green) LED die is greatly reduced, and they have by far the most optically efficient LED die ever.

        Shoji Nakamura, who invented the GaN Blue LED (and hexagonal GaN) was a founder of Soraa. Also a Nobel Laureate now.

        So Moog from Oog, WAS smarter than the average cave bear. Triangles are better.


    • Maybe our solar system is part of the lower digestive system of some intelligent species living on a phenomenally different space and time scale.

    • It’s possible that we are the only technologically advanced species in our galaxy at the moment. IMO microbial life is probably common, multicellular life less so and intelligent life even less.

  6. One interesting theory I’ve heard about is that the Moon is why intelligent life has developed on earth. The moon has acted like a magnet, pulling meteors away from crashing into earth.

    • surely the moon is too close, and if what you say worked they would crash into the moon. A destroyed off-kilter moon would probably end us too, one way or another.

    • The moon’s why we have multicellular life on Earth, because it stabilises our rotation?
      For life to exist on a planet, it needs to be in the “Goldilocks Zone”, have a stable orbit, be around a stable star of the appropriate type, be of the right age, have plate tectonics, have a large moon, have a Jovian planet in the right place in its stellar system to mop up excess comets.
      Probably a few other bits too.
      Oh, must have come through the stage, if there’s going to be advanced, intelligent life, to realise that blowing each other up is a bad idea.

      • Life doesn’t necessarily have to exist in the Goldilocks Zone. It could well develop in the seas of moons circling planets outside the zone such as appear to exist on Europa, Enceladus and Titan.

      • But w/o the moon wouldn’t the odds of intelligent life much less civilization be less likely? I mean the weather extremes would be worse than the most fevered imaginings of the most hysterical AGW loon.

      • The moon has probably been a boon for life on balance, but its close proximity in the Hadean and Achaean Eons would also have presented problems, such as gigantic tides in both the seas and crust.

      • There is a danger of assuming that many factors which coincidently happened to allow life to arise on earth are necessary conditions for life in other systems. Perhaps some of the factors we think were important here are mere correlations.

        But as others already mentioned, the intelligence of life on this planet is in question. Perhaps not blowing each other up will be a good step towards enlightenment. Carl Sagan seemed reasonably intelligent when he said:

      • Mark,

        By large, I mean tens of thousands of feet high, crossing continents and the oceanic and continental crust buckling at the same time. After its formation the moon was only about 10,000 miles away, with earth spinning in six hours rather than 24.

        Some think that these catastrophic and cataclysmic conditions might actually have benefited early life, but I’m dubious.

      • What you have described is a set of a number of conditions that we put up with. You have NOT shown, that ANY one of them is actually necessary for intelligent life to exist here. It’s idel speculation.


      • That distance is not universally accepted. Regardless, tidal forces would have quickly accelerated the moon to a much higher orbit.

    • The moon also stabilizes the earth in its rotation. This is over looked. Without it life may be repeatedly wiped out & have to start over, again & again. We see examples of this idea in our own solar system where other planets even rotate on their sides, etc. Life may exist almost every where but not long enough, in a stable enough environment, to produce intelligent life.
      So, an additional requirement may be having a large enough moon.

      • Well we do know, that life on earth did happen once (somewhere).

        I’m not aware of any observational evidence of it ever having started again (from non-life).

        It seems to be able to proceed from ‘generation’ to ‘generation’ including the misteaks of variability; but I’ve never heard of it starting again from nothing.

        When the very first Amoeba decided it couldn’t get along with itself, so it decided to split; you know how the song goes; ‘ You take half the chromosomes, and I will take the rest ? ‘ (sung to the tune ‘gaudeamus’), that is not a restart; but just a continuance.


      • George,

        Once the first heterotrophic organisms got going, no amino acids, bases or sugars could survive long enough to develop into microbes.

        It is, as noted above, however, possible that life could have arisen on earth twice, or at least that the same primitive replicators got wrapped in two different types of dual lipid membrane, giving rise to the separate Domains Bacteria and Archaea (the third domain is Eukaryota, which includes humans). As you know, two-layer fatty bubbles spontaneously self-assemble.

      • So what is unstable about a moonless planet rotation ?

        Is Mercury rotationally unstable ??


    • Surely we have Jupiter to thank more for protecting us from meteors. I think the moon has definitely contributed to creating life on earth though. Like Adam said, it has stabilized the earth’s rotation, but it also has enabled the tides, which result in repeatable cycles of exposing land and organisms to both water and air, among other benefits. I imagine that the first animals to move from water to land did so purely by happening to be in tidal regions, and over time adapted to being out of the water longer and longer.

      • I don’t see how that works. Meteors do land on Earth. Jupiter is tiny when you consider all of the possible directions that meteors can arrive at the Earth. What is the percentage of meteors it stops? Less than 0.005%? Much much less? The only ones it stops are the ones that actually land on it. Ones that miss could be slung toward Earth. Same with the Moon. It is .5 degree of arc so it can only stop meteors that don’t arrive from the other 359.5 degrees.
        Tides are another matter but there are huge wind systems on planets that don’t have a moon that can do a similar thing.

      • And just what “affects” or “effects” has Jupiter, the Moon, seasonal temperatures, day and night, etc., etc. ….. had on the evolution of different life forms that currently exist around the Black Smoker thermal vents on the ocean floor?

        Curious minds would like to know.

      • SCC
        If life first evolved around a black smoker then zero. The life found there now is related to life found in other places which has colonised.
        If you think that life evolved in a rock pool then having a moon is handy. If it evolved in clay then it is more likely to be around mud springs in the middle of a continent than a tidal estuary. My money is on somewhere like Soos in CZ or Yellowstone USA in which case a moon or a Jupiter are irrelevant.

      • Actually, the moon has totally destabilized earth’s rotation.

        As a result of the moon’s tidal pull angular momentum is transferred from the earth to the moon, causing the earth to slow down, and the moon to move ever further away from us.

        That will continue, until some cataclysm or other makes something else happen.


      • EricHa said:

        My money is on somewhere like Soos in CZ or Yellowstone USA in which case a moon or a Jupiter are irrelevant.

        EricHa, my money on the “origin” of life forms is split 50/50 on a Yellowstone equivalent “thermal” cooker and a Black Smoker chemical “cooker” ….. simply because there is really nothing magical or religiously “creative” about cooking up the ingredients to create DNA …… or DNAs ability to replicate itself without being a “life form”.

        To wit:

        The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a process used in molecular biology to amplify a single copy or a few copies of a piece of DNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence.

        The method relies on thermal cycling, consisting of cycles of repeated heating and cooling of the reaction for DNA melting and enzymatic replication of the DNA.

        Read more about PCR @

      • Jupiter’s gravity is famous for throwing anything that comes near it out of the solar system.

      • SCC
        Agreed, but even a gentle current going past a smoker will be constantly washing away the ingredients whereas that wouldn’t happen in a muddy pool.

      • MW
        How the hell do you work that out? It’s orbit is 12 years and it’s size is tiny. The Moon has as much effect of deflecting meteors as a sheriffs badge or a cigarette case protecting the heart of a WWI soldier (how common is that?), Jupiter even less.
        I call BS on the Jupiter Moon Meteor rubbish. Meteors blocked by either is tiny. I’ve heard that on a lot of TV programmes and stuff but do you have any numbers? I am willing to be persuaded.

      • EricHa, instead of assuming that you know everything there is to know, why don’t you spend a little time studying and reading up on the issue.

        I’ll give you a tiny hint. Meteors don’t have to actually hit Jupiter in order for Jupiter to protect the inner planets.

      • MW
        I’ll give you a hint, if Jupiter isn’t in a fairly direct line of the meteor path it does bugger all. There is a small window where a meteor might swing round Jupiter and be flung back out of the SS but it will return at some point. There is also the possibility that a meteor that isn’t coming to the inner SS gets deflected towards Earth. Another hint, 50% of the time Jupiter is on the other side of the Sun to Earth. Jupiter’s “protection” is tiny.
        Like I said Got any figures?

      • MW
        Not wanting to give the unintended impression that “i know everything there is to know” I thought I’d take your advice and go and have a look so I did a search for “how does Jupiter protect the inner planets” and it turns out it doesn’t. The first few links explain why. One link lead me to this
        It mentions the interesting story of Lexel’s comet of 1770 which passed near Jupiter which then flung it towards the Earth.
        It also says “A general idea developed, bolstered by computer simulations performed in 1994 by the late George Wetherill of the Carnegie Institution, that dictated how Jupiter acted as Earth’s protector, sweeping up or ejecting many of the long period comets from the Solar System and removing them from the population of potential impactors (Wetherill’s simulations coincided with comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 colliding with Jupiter). This idea has taken hold in established theory yet few have ever really questioned it until now.”


        “Realizing that today we know of many more short period comets and near-Earth asteroids that cross our planet’s orbit than long period comets, Jonathan Horner of the University of New South Wales, Sydney and Barrie Jones of the UK’s Open University have run new simulations that reveal a very different picture, one that has important consequences for the habitability of Earth and planets in general.

        “When George Wetherill did his work back in 1994, the computers available to him were much more limited than what we have today,” says Horner, who originally comes from the UK. “The lack of computing power meant that he had to make some fairly big approximations and simplifications. His was a ground-breaking study but at the same time it was one that was limited by what he had available.”

        An interesting article that also goes on to discuss whether a Jupiter is needed in alien systems and so is relevant to this thread and well worth a read.

      • Mike G

        Erica, meteors usually don’t come out of nowhere. They have been circling the sun for billions of years. They have plenty of opportunities to encounter the gravity of Jupiter.

      • Jupiter can still protect earth from long period comets when it’s on the opposite side of the sun, as the incoming comet might well whip around the sun to collide with our planet. Better the incomer be flung out of the solar system by Jupiter’s gravity. Only rarely does one get flung in earth’s general direction ,as in 1770.

        So Jupiter does usually guard earth against comets from the outer solar system. However, this beneficial function must be balanced against the fact that Jupiter’s gravity has created the asteroid belt, the source of most bodies threatening earth, by keeping a planet from forming between Mars and itself.

  7. To tie to the CO2 theme & somthing not considered. If we are talking carbon based life, it should be noted that CO2 has generally been trending down through geologic time through both biological & chemical processes which sequester CO2. And now we are very close to the low end needed for plants to survive (and thus animals and higher life forms as well).

    So add to the equation the variable that advanced life can evolve prior to CO2 depletion & ultimate extinction. Or conversely, that advanced life can evolve sufficiently to use fossil fuels & re-liberate the CO2 & have life continue.

    The warmists have it all wrong – we aren’t destroying Earth by burning fossil fuels – we are saving it from certain extinction

  8. The big question, assuming there are alien species out there somewhere, or somewhen, is: Did they, or do they, also have to put up with climate alarmists trying to destroy their planet’s economy?

  9. The recent observation of a black hole merger makes me worry that intelligent life gets frequent rude resets from lethal gamma ray bursts. The mere fact that we haven’t made contact yet, is proof that we are the only ones at least on our side of the galaxy.

    • No, they may be smart enough to stay away! Or, the push for a world government may be in response to that contact!c Or, they have already taken over most world leaders via pods, or….

  10. don’t know about aliens but solar system soon may be short of comets
    Another comet second within a week (last 25/04/16) has dived into sun. At this rate there is a little chance of of any left to hit the Earth.
    In the Nasa’s soho image it can be clearly seen how its tail grows longer as it approaches its demise.
    [video src="" /]

  11. The main problem I have with speculations like this is we still only have one example of a planet with life as we know it. Many of the planets found in the Goldilocks Zones so far are either gas giants or super-earths.

    Until we can determine whether any kind of life exists on these planets, say by detecting the makeup of the atmosphere or the land/water ratio, this kind of thing is not really advancing exobiology at all.

    And then there’s the whole issue of whether a magnetic field and a spin-stabilizing large moon are required for life. And what about outer gas giants to clear out proto-planetary debris? Does life need those?

    I think there’s too many questions to seriously say they this version of the Drake equation is any more empirical than another.

  12. Arthur C. Clarke said, “Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

    We need to deal with the fact that we will never know.

    We are alone within several thousand lightyears. We simply are alone, or we would be overrun. It is nearly as certain we are alone within a million light years, and we will never know regarding the rest of the universe, not even in several billions of years.

  13. Oh, please, doesn’t anyone read Douglas Adams anymore? Do you think he made that stuff up?

    • Population of the universe – None. Although you might see people from time to time, they are most likely products of your imagination. Simple mathematics tells us that the population of the Universe must be zero. Why? Well given that the volume of the universe is infinite there must be an infinite number of worlds. But not all of them are populated; therefore only a finite number are. Any finite number divided by infinity is as close to zero as makes no odds, therefore we can round the average population of the Universe to zero, and so the total population must be zero.

      • I used to offer that one to my students to see if they could spot the major fallacy in the logic.

        I’m sure the percipient commenters on WUWT will have no difficulty.

      • Semi-well done, Mark. Although we know that not all the worlds are populated, we do not know whether that means a finite number are populated or simply that (e.g.) one tenth of the worlds are populated.

        (You could also question whether an infinite universe necessarily implies an infinite number of worlds.)

        Alas, you fail on punctuation. Your answer should be:

        “Any fraction of infinity is also infinite”

        Why, why, why do people keep putting commas subject and verb when there is no intervening subordinate clause? Is there some debased education system that teachers this?

  14. Perhaps the famous Wow signal that disappeared is the proof we need to say that there are alien life forms.

    My guess is with the universe being so vast and the time it takes for light, nvm sound to travel across the universe that this signal originated form an alien civilization that is now extinct for whatever reason, hence the signal disappearing.

    • That signal was the last desperate cry from a civilization as it came to realize that the green blob policies had caused it’s extinction.

  15. I calculate the odds of there being another “advanced civilization” at any time, in any part of the universe deciding it would be a good idea to take a huge leap backward in its choices of energy to far less efficient, far more costly, and less reliable ones, as exactly zero.

  16. You can increase some terms in the equation as much as you want, but if one of them is zero….

  17. …According to Frank and Sullivan their result has a practical application as well. As humanity faces its crisis in sustainability and climate change we can wonder if other civilization-building species on other planets have gone through a similar bottleneck and made it to the other side….

    What crisis? Our lives are getting better all the time. There is no shortage of materials. See Julian Simon…

    • I was wondering how far down I’d have to read before someone pointed out that nonsense. Bottleneck. I laughed out loud.

      • The bottleneck is stupidity, not climate or lack of resources, and Einstein said human stupidity is infinite. :-(

      • The only bottleneck that is important to carbon based life is the Beryllium Bottleneck.

    • Even if true, unless we know of these other civilizations existence and can contact them, anything they may have learned remains unknown and unknowable to us.

  18. While the Drake equation and the new version discussed here are useful to point out the issues on the chance of advanced (or any) life other than ours, they have exactly zero real value until all terms can be determined or at least put within a finite range that is not too large. This is not even close to the fact, so they are a waste of time to discuss at this point.

  19. Probability of life emerging on Earth might well be 1:10^22, for we still don’t even know how that happened. There are sound theories but even the simplest self-replicating systems known involve chemical compounds that are so complex that chance for them to appear spontaneously is astronomically small.

    I don’t think we’re the only intelligent beings in the universe. But the other ones might be so far away and so essentially different from us that I don’t think we’ll ever meet them.

    • Don’t forget the theory that it is life that existed first, and this universe and the physical bodies came from life. Or, as one guy said, trees produce leaves and universes produce people. (and all other lifeforms)

      Also, please note, we can have many non-science beliefs as long as we know that they are outside of science. Science is not all things.

    • I’ve always been of the opinion that life got its start on this planet in a small pile of garbage left behind by some intergalactic picnickers.

    • “…chance for them to appear spontaneously is astronomically small.”

      As long as it is not zero, with enough opportunities, the probability is “1” (certainty).

    • If you apply a sufficiently astronomically large number of trials, then an astronomically unlikely event becomes a near certainty. In a billion years of chemical soup, a simple self-replicating molecule isn’t even surprising.

  20. The Drake equation is just a descriptor and not an analyzer. This article says that for us to be alone “in the cosmos”, the chance of intelligent life per planet must be less than 1 in 10^22. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that number if the chance of life occuring at all is similarly low, and we can’t quantify that number. Fermi was right, if they were out there, they would’ve come here. Those who go with the “zoo hypothesis” (etc) overlook that the presence of one alien civilization guarantees that there will be many. Of those many, some will be of the colonizing sort that would gladly have had Earth in the past 300 billion years — but never came.

    The bottom line is, if there are many civilizations, then there must be a first one. The chance of being that first one isn’t so far fetched. And the first one is, at our stage of the game, the only one. That would be us.

    Belief is ET is just another new-age religion like global warming — substitutes for the old religion.

  21. Shock-wave of a supernova explosion may have blown exo-planet’s atmospheric born virus into interstellar space and further into our solar system, subsequently virus being hovered by the passing comet’s gravity.
    Just in the last few hours we have evidence that probability of comet transported virus genus is by far higher than I would accept only few days ago.
    Just in the last 6 days two comets fell into sun, see my comment above at May 1, 2016 at 11:29 am
    As a comet approaches the sun large part of it is blown away long before impact. If such comet contained an extraterrestrial born virus it could be propelled by the solar wind or the sunlight or both, all the way back to the Earth.
    Two chances in 6 days (25/04 and today 01/05) would suggest millions of comets’ close solar approaches during the last 3.5 billion of years of the terrestrial life existence.

    • Now that would have to be one tough strain of biological virus, that survives extreme heat, cold and radiation.

      • Hi Mark
        My comment was mainly about greatly increased chances of a possible comet transported life.
        Extreme heat may not necessarily come into it, comet looses portion of its content long before it gets too close to the sun. For 3K temperature and the radiation dose, I wouldn’t know without doing further research. I suspect that for both extreme cold and a high radiation dose, viruses would be far more resistant than any living cell they may invade; virus would be the most likely ‘living’ extra-terrestrial visitor if there was one.

      • Problem. Viruses are not alive. They are parasites that take over a cells machinery to self replicate. They came AFTER cells.
        The question is how the first cell arose. It not need DNA but it needed a cell wall (the bag holding the bits), internal energy and reproduction machinery bits, and heritable instruction set (‘genes’). But this framing is the same fallacy as intelligent design about the eye, only at a more fundamental level. It is not the proper framing of the question how did life arise. A cell is life, yes. But much more complicated than the simplest essential definition of life needs to be at the very beginning. Hence the clay hypothesis as a very plausible explanation.

      • Mr. Istvan
        see my reply to gnomish further down: If virus is of extra-terrestrial origin (and that is a big if) the chance of its arrival into the earth’s atmosphere is greatly increased by the events of the last few days.

    • a virus, all by itself, can not reproduce.
      that’s part of the definition.
      “is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host.”

      • I wasn’t suggesting that viruses are initial life form, but if their origin is extra-terrestrial, the chances of their arrival into earth’s atmosphere are greatly increased by events of the last few days.
        btw I looked up ‘origin of viruses’ and found number of incompatible theories, anything from the extraterrestrial to evolutionary regression..

      • Vuk, so how did the cellular machinery needed by these posited alien viruses emerge on Earth before they arrived here via your mechanism? Because all cellular carbon based life arises the same way? Multiple miracles (I hear Catholics require 2 proven before sainthood…)? This thread is a really interesting intellectual exploration amongst a community of climate skeptics. Fascinating.

      • First sentence of my initial post is
        “Shock-wave of a supernova explosion may have blown exo-planet’s atmospheric born virus into interstellar space”
        Since virus requires a living cell to multiply that automatically assumes existence of living cells on a nearby exo-planet, not intelligent life, just a cellular life form.
        If clay hypothesis proves to be correct for the earth’s environment, than similar process may have taken place elsewhere just as easily, but that is not problem I was addressing.
        In recent decades AIDS, ebola and zika viruses were prominently in the news. If these viruses were around going back millions of years, one wanders how the early (and very low in numbers) humanoids would have get through, not necessarily that I am claiming that the viruses are of extraterrestrial origin; but if they were then the transport mechanism is there, the matter I had in mind .
        I don’t know what is probability of two comets crushing into sun in such short period of time (and as far as I could observe on very similar approach trajectories) perhaps it is a unique event and the final demise of the Koronides sisters.

      • Down into silly weeds. That any virus [one of six variants on gene codes encased in one or two (naked, like rhino colds, or plus enveloped like influenza)] protein coats could survive interstellar space is at least plausible. That a host bacterium could, is not. Even the two generi of bacterial spore formers (essentially encapsulating bacterial genetic material in multiple protein protective spore coats to evolutionarily survive ‘bad times’ without cellular water (both baddies, like anthrax and tetanus respectively) do not survive dry conditions for more than a century. Just more obscure facts.
        So panspermia is completely discredited by the Feynmann science criteria.

      • I have no idea what can or can not survive in extreme conditions of space, but occasionally there are reports of such possibilities.
        “Three new studies conducted on the International Space Station show that microbes can survive interplanetary travel.The study was based on spore-forming bacteria, which can survive harsh environments on earth.”

        “For example, tardigrades — a microscopic invertebrate found all over the world — can dehydrate and fall into a hibernation that allows them to survive in space, Rothschild said. Tardigrades (also called “water bears”) are part of a group classified as “extremophiles” — organisms that can survive in even the harshest environments.”

        Unless one of the Martian space research programs finds bacterial traces under the surface probability then ‘it be slip sliding away, oh yes it would
        all the way down to the zero’s neighbourhood’.

        There I conclude my ramblings on this one.

      • Current viruses can not reproduce. Largely because the organic building blocks necessary are locked up in cells. A naked (no protein coat) RNA molecule floating in a puddle with a bunch of complex organic compounds in the water (still there because there are no cells around to eat them), may well be able to reproduce.

      • Speculating on life being brought here from elsewhere merely pushes the question back, it doesn’t eliminate it.
        Where did the life on that other planet come from. It can’t be turtles all the way down.

      • Comet looses lot of it content long before it gets anywhere close to the sun to be totally destroyed. Last two comets (few months ago) .had extensive tails at their closest approach to the Earth. Some of that ‘material’ gets detached and may eventually (one way or another) and into the our atmosphere.

  22. > “If they were 20,000 light years away then every exchange would take 40,000 years to go back and forth.”

    I prefer to think the first signal in either direction would include instructions for faster communication.

    • This brings up the conundrum of whether to announce our existence or not. Do we really want to take the chance of extermination at the hands of a more advance life form?

      • If they’re out there, they can colonize the entire galaxy in ~1,000,000 years with no magic technology. Trying to hide from them would be silly.

        To me, the fact that we exist at all is proof enough that we’re alone.

      • MarkW,

        First wireless telegraph, anyway. Any EM radiation from wired telegraphy wouldn’t make it out to space, IMO.

      • Go ahead ! Broadcast your location.

        When they hear us, we will all be long gone. Including why we asked such a dumb question as faster talking.


  23. Some Brit once said something to the effect that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose.

  24. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.

  25. Equation? We don’t need no stinking equation!

    It is obvious that life will arise in every place where there is opertunity to do so. There should be life all over the universe. After all, that is what the universe is for. (a little mysticism there) But people object that if life happens so often why has no one ever come to earth to visit? Hell, I would not come here if I did not have to. Look at all the loud mouthed primates ruining the atmosphere!

    • I’ve heard that bacteria have been detected on asteroids floating around our solar system, or was it fossil evidence in rocks that fell to earth. We also know that bacteria will live for months in space on the surface of space ships, shuttles and satellites. There is life in the deep ocean, in the ice of the poles, and deep underground where there is no light or air.

      I also think it should be taken as “obvious” that life will form and live wherever there is the slightest possibility. I would expect to find life in the clouds of Jupiter and any water moon in the solar system.

  26. Marvelous! We have here the modern astroscientists’ equivalence to the old discussion of the number of angels that could dance on the point of a pin. Pure speculation based on unfounded faith. I am prepared to suggest that zero species could advance beyond the most simple, single-cell, multiply-by-dividing, stage (if indeed that far) under the limiting conditions accepted by the modern Darwinist (random, undirected mutation; environmental stress; and “survival of the fittest”).

    • You took my response. My ignorance of the number of advanced civilizations is only matched by my apathy – I don’t know, and I don’t care.

    • You may be prepared, but you would be wrong. The fossil record proves otherwise, with ever more granularity and precision as we dig up more fossils.
      And, your comment does not address the core post. Which is not evolution per se, but rather how many intelligent life forms evolved. On life forms, likely many via the clay hypothesis. On the latter, dunno. But evolution suggests many via the survival of the fittest arms race that clearly started here on Earth during the Cambrian. Evolution of multicellar marine organisms with exoskeletons (armor), true eyes (intel), claws (defense/offense) … Read S.J.Gould’s account of the famous accidental Burgitt shale discovery in the Canadian Rockies.

  27. Chances are civilisations and life goes pop all of the time.

    Sterilisations from cosmic events and if we received some signal from afar, the civilisation might have been wiped out before said signal reaches us by either themselves, the planet or some cosmic event.

    While the odds there are some seem ok, the odds we’ll find one are not good.

    All we can do is guess.

  28. Does anyone really believe that we have reached any understanding of the universe and where we fit in it?
    Does anyone think that we have reached our full potential and could be considered an advanced civilization? There would appear to be a few obstacles in the way currently. Nuclear threshold, warlike nature, religion to name a few.
    Given the existence of these traits wouldn’t it be highly unlikely that a civilization advanced enough to conquer space travel ( if any or many exist) would bother calling in for a chat.
    This whole Planet Earth scenario is about how WE see things and applying OUR knowledge to what is tangible, measurable or observable to US.
    Much remains to be found out, the surface is not even scratched and the overlying possibility is that we may very well be completely wrong on all counts.

  29. Belief in ET is just another new religion, like AGW — substitutes for the old religion. The Drake Equation is a description, not a scientific equation, because all the parameters multiply together and if any one is unknown then it’s all unknown — since the parameter of life arising in one place is unknown, the rest is GIGO. 10^22 times zero is still zero. Our own presence here is meaningless because it’s a requirement to ask the question, thus confers no input into the answer.

    • clarification: our own presence here is useless as an input to the Drake Equation — I was confining my point to that issue, not wider philosophy.

    • The Drake Equation may be nothing more than the first, or an early example of Algebraical Origami.

      Simply farting around with algebraic symbols, and then giving it a cute name; akin to “Swan” of “Crane” or “jumping Frog”.

      Who’s going to call you out on it ??


      Somebody once wrote an Algebraical Origami equation that achieved some measure of fame.

      As near as I can remember it said:

      ……… alpha = 1 / (pi^a. b^c. d^e. f^g. h^i)^0.25 ……

      That’s it.

      So we know what (pi) is. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i (maybe I got one too many powered terms) are ALL small INTEGERS, and are not necessarily all unique. i.e. a, d, h could all be the same integer.

      Small meant positive integers no bigger than 19.

      So what the hey; wazzat all about.

      Well the quantity …… (pi^a. b^c. d^e. f^g. h^i)^0.25 ….. comes to about 136. xxxxxx

      And alpha ?? Hoodat !

      Well alpha is the fine structure constant; one of the fundamental constants of physics, that in the past has actually been used to calculate a value for (c) the vacuum velocity of EM radiation.

      And this Algebraic Origami equation calculates the value of alpha to better than half of the standard deviation of the very best (at the time) experimental value for the fine structure constant, which is known to about eight significant digits.

      Some computer whizzes eventually derived a list of about a dozen solutions to that expression, that match the fine structure constant to better than the standard deviation of the best experimental value; some of which were much closer than the original published solution the scoundrel who dreamed it up got for his solution.

      As I recall, this all came to light in the mid 1960s possibly in the journal Applied Optics.

      Everybody jumped on it as a major discovery, because you clearly can’t get that close just by doodling with numbers. Trouble is, there were no observations from the real physical universe involved in the computation; none whatsoever. Pure Origami.

      So you actually can get almost anything at all just by flubbering around with numbers.

      Correlation is no defence for fabrication.


      PS the fine structure constant already had a checkered history, because it was close to 1/136, and Arthur Eddington derived a proof that it was exactly 1/136.
      But then as experimental results got more accurate, it clearly was closer to 1/137 than it was to 1/136.

      So Eddington discovered the “typo” in his original derivation and proved it was exactly 1/137 and it clearly isn’t.

      So they started calling the good old chap ” Professor Adding-one”

  30. Many people I know who work in areas related to this have gone from optimism to certainty to pessimism. The overarching paradigm is that physics, chemistry and the optimization of life are universal. A common set of beliefs is that given enough opportunities and the right environment, life must spontaneously generate and then it must evolve into more and more successful forms. Since ultimate success = control of your own environment, intelligence is inevitable.
    If life is completely wiped out due to a world wide catastrophe, it simply goes back to step 1. Once life reaches a state of total environment control (including space around its planet), it will become essentially permanent.

    The problem is that if life and evolution are inevitable and goldilocks planets are as common as we are beginning to discover, we should be detecting evidence of advanced life. The guys I know monitoring space sensors are absolutely certain that the signals are there, they are just frustrated that they cannot detect them.

    A friend once told me that a botanist calculated every square foot of clover should have a 4 leaf variation. After taking his kids to the park and spending a couple of hours looking, he went back and told the botanist he was full of cr@p.

    • It appears very unlikely that life exists in abundance in other solar systems, because we haven’t yet found even one extraterrestrial microbe in this solar system, and this solar system is the only we know of that has been proven to have life in it.

  31. Elon Musk says we’ll find intelligent beings on another world in 10 or 20 years.
    Where will we find them?
    “The Martians were there-in the canal-reflected in the water…. The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long silent time from the rippling water….”
    – Ray Bradbury, “The Martian Chronicles”

  32. There is a huge amount of synchronicity – things coming together – things being just right – that has produced life on this world. On top of that is our unique nature. We have significant differences to our animal cousins. A kitten will hit the ground running – fully programmed (via instincts) to be able to survive. Not humans. We need to go through an extensive learning exercise and for that we need to be able store information and to communicate it. A huge amount of our existence is based around the determining, advancing and dissemination of knowledge. The question is, of course, what produced that fundamental difference in us and how unique is it?

    • Kittens have to be taught how to hunt. They have the instinct for it, but lack the skills to do it successfully.
      This is why most animals that were raised in captivity can’t be released back into the wild.
      All mammals go through a period of time where they have to be taught by their parents how to survive.
      Humans are unique in how long this training process takes, and just how helpless our infants are at birth.

  33. Having read this article more closely, the “Frank & Sullivan” approach is complete nonsense, because they are using our own presence here as an input. Such an approach uses a universe with no intelligent life at all, as a baseline for calculations. But you can’t do that, because we have to be here in the first place, to make these calculations. Therefore the baseline must be a universe with *one* intelligent civilization. Using that as a baseline, their calculation denominator becomes zero, so it’s all rubbish. “Astrobiology” is publishing a bogus paper.

  34. Hard to imagine that given all the stars in our universe + all the stars in all the other universes – that is billions and billions of stars – and even if a minute number of these stars have habitable planets, that earth is the ONLY place in all the universes that has intelligent life.
    Further, there is no requirement that what we know as DNA/RNA be the basis of all intelligent life in all the universes.
    And if there is intelligent life and if they are far, far more advanced than humans, why is there any requirement at all that they should have contacted humans? Who says they should or they would like to?

    Lastly, many commercial and military pilots have witnessed rather bizarre objects while flying. Of course, all these sightings are poo-pooed as…….., well, take your pick. Yet, if some physicists concoct some mathematical expression to calculate the probability of life somewhere else, well then, the odds of life somewhere else must be considered a very probable event.

    Let’s face it; if a normal,rational person did in fact see and hear and interact with some alien beings here on earth and also obtained “24 trinkets” of alien items plus photos and selfies with these aliens, really now, what the hell can she/he do with it to “prove” such an alien encounter?
    NO ONE will pay attention to anything, any object , any picture, ANYTHING AT ALL he/she will say or show or demonstrate , because that individual will be considered nuts/crazy/a publicity hound AND no news outlet/scientist/DOD/NSA/politician – you name it – will risk their reputation even considering that such an event could have taken place.

    • If the universe is infinite in time and space, which some cosmologists believe, then everything that can happen will happen. Since we happened, how many times we will happen depends upon if the universe is open, closed or flat. And of course one must take into account different versions of how we, or something like us happens.

    • “…why is there any requirement at all that they should have contacted humans?”

      That is not the question. It is not a matter of intention, it is a matter of being able to avoid it. Any time you start accelerating electrons in coherent, harmonic oscillations, you will broadcast your presence, whether you want to or not. The question is, how and why would they cloak their electromagnetic emanations?

      • Then, they are very fortunate, all of them, that their Marconis, Edisons, Teslas, etc…, stopped and thought, “you know, this is very useful, but I probably ought to be shielding all this from potential aliens”.

  35. yeah, well statistically, any particular outcome is infinitely improbable.
    yet there is an outcome
    ‘statistics’ didn’t make it so – the numerology fallacy merely claims to show how bloody unlikely to happen was what actually did happen.

  36. I’ll simplify the math:
    One planet with life per galaxy…
    How many galaxies have humans calculated, exist in the Universe?
    100 billion….

  37. There are too many uncertainties.
    Carbon based life to start de novo requires the equivalent of Van Allen belts, water and iron as well as all the minerals discussed above.
    The nearest laboratory testing for exoplanetary life, Mars, shows no evidence of life, despite Bill Clinton’s announcement.
    Just because it may take many human life times to obtain a signal from another civilisation does not mean such a signal will die when that civilisation stops transmission and reaches extinction.
    If technological life were common we would be bathed in signals from other civilisations and self replicating van neumann machines would be entering the solar system daily.
    This analysis is ‘models all the way down’.
    Exobiology studies something for which there is no empirical evidence of existence.
    Sound familiar?

    • Mars shows no signs of life now. Whether it had life in the past, prior to losing it’s atmosphere, we won’t know until we explore it a lot more than we have so far.

      • Actually, Mars does show signs of life, but none is conclusive. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the odds are more against than for it, but can’t yet be ruled out.

  38. By applying the new exoplanet data to the universe’s 2 x 10 to the 22nd power stars, Frank and Sullivan find that human civilization is likely to be unique in the cosmos only if the odds of a civilization developing on a habitable planet are less than about one in 10 billion trillion, or one part in 10 to the 22th power.

    “One in 10 billion trillion is incredibly small,” says Frank. “To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology producing species very likely have evolved before us.”

    His logic is flawed. As far as we know, the probability of spontaneous abiogenesis alone on any single planet may be far less than that, like one part in 10 to the thousandth power or less. The only thing we do know for sure is that it’s not zero. Otherwise only the conditional probability of abiogenesis is given, provided we do contemplate the question. Which is exactly 1, and implies a non-zero absolute probability, but is not informative beyond that.

    The usual counter claim, that life on Earth is known to have emerged at the tail end of the Late Heavy Bombardment, that is, as soon as it became possible, therefore spontaneous abiogenesis must be easy, does not hold water. If circumstances created by a multitude of large impacts were a necessary, but not sufficient condition to abiogenesis, the probability of this process even immediately after this stage might have been vanishingly small, and declining rapidly ever thereafter. In this case for each instance of life we would find the same rule observed on Earth, in spite of an extremely small absolute probability.

    This situation may change in two cases:
    1. Life is discovered with molecular machinery radically different from ours, or at least with a genetic code which has nothing to do with the code table all terrestrial life forms seem to share.
    2. An actual theory of abiogenesis is developed, supported by experimental evidence, which makes quantitative estimates possible.

    We have neither (1) nor (2) so far. It would be sufficient to identify a single life form, which is clearly not an offspring of the single common ancestor of all other terrestrial life, including bacteria and archaea. None was found, not even on Earth. And theory of abiogenesis is not more than story lines supported by much hand waving.

    On the contrary, there is indication that there is a rather high lower limit to Kolmogorov complexity of evolvable replicators. Up to that point it is only happenstances of chemistry, Darwinian evolution can’t possibly help at all.

    It is also fashionable to posit a very short future for any advanced technological civilization, often connected to doom and gloom, to cAGW or an all out nuclear war or something. However, it basically serves as an escape route to meet the fact head on, that no life is observed so far on large scales.

    A Kardashev Type III civilization is certainly observable over cosmic distances, because, if nothing else, there is no way to shield its thermal radiation due to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, so they would show up as groups of a special kind of infrared galaxies. None is observed.

    If life and even civilization were plentiful in the cosmos, it is a contradiction, because no credible scenario is found so far which would kill off each and every instance before reaching that stage. And once there, it becomes next to indestructible, even by suicidal tendencies in some regions.

    We are on the verge of implementing programmable molecular assemblers. With that technology a Kardashev Type III civilization is certainly attainable on a timescale much shorter than the lifetime of the Universe. That’s the key to sustain life under the general circumstances in space, using only common raw materials and free energy, both abundant everywhere.

    So no, I think life on Earth may be a true miracle, one which is consistent with physics, but in no way follows from it. We may well be unique in the entire observable Universe with a potentially unlimited lifespan, so all its vast resources are our inheritance.

    • … our inheritance, yes, which I find very cheerful. Whereas the disciples of the ET religion think it very depressing if there were no ETs. Just another case of upside-down thinking so prevalent nowadays.

    • Nope. The clay hypothesis provides both things under constrained conditions: a rocky planet orbiting a reasonably nonvariable star in its habitable zone (sufficient liquid water). The only other premise is ‘ordinary’ chemical rocky composition.

    • “all [the universe’s] vast resources are our inheritance.”

      I’ll sell you my share of everything off-planet for $100, US.

      • You will need to create a document showing that you have also sold your children’s inheritance as well.

    • Berenyi Peter wrote: “If life and even civilization were plentiful in the cosmos, it is a contradiction, because no credible scenario is found so far which would kill off each and every instance before reaching that stage. And once there, it becomes next to indestructible, even by suicidal tendencies in some regions.”

      I think humans will be at that place in less than 100 years. Once humans learn to live off-planet (hollowed-out asteriods), then the human race will become next to indestructible because they can move themselves out of danger, and will have plenty of resources with which to expand

      If we can do it, others could do it.

    • From what I have read of recent theorization regarding the formation of the solar system.
      1) Large planets, once formed, will slowly spiral in towards their parent star. This has something to do with interactions with remaining dust and smaller bodies.
      2) Current models show that Jupiter did just this, which also explains why Mars is smaller than the earth, Jupiter stole most of the material that would have gone into the making of Mars.
      3) Jupiter would have kept spiraling in, eventually expelling all of the inner planets from the solar system, except for the presence of Saturn.
      4) Saturn also began to spiral in once it formed. Fortunately for us, Jupiter and Saturn got into a situation where Jupiter was orbiting the sun precisely 3 times for every two orbits of Saturn.
      5) This cosmic dance caused a great transfer of energy, stabilizing the orbits of both Jupiter and Saturn as well as causing Neptune and Uranus to actually switch places. (We suspect that this is so due to isotopic examination of the gases that make up Neptune and Uranus.)
      6) The gravitational disturbances also stirred up the outer solar system causing many comets to either be kicked out of the solar system all together, or to come plunging into the inner solar system. These comets were the source of what has become known as the late heavy bombardment.
      7) The late heavy bombardment did two good things for the earth. In the early molten phase, almost all of the heavy elements sank to the earth’s core and most of it’s water boiled away. Those comets and meteors seeded the earth’s crust with both the metals and water.

  39. I believe that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

    That allows me to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks for a buck eighty.

  40. Dear heavens, not the verdammt Drake Equation again. I thought Crichton killed that nonsense dead, but noooo …

    I particularly loved this tidbit:

    “From a fundamental perspective the question is ‘has it ever happened anywhere before?’” said Frank. “Our result is the first time anyone has been able to set any empirical answer for that question and it is astonishingly likely that we are not the only time and place that an advance civilization has evolved.”

    An “empirical answer”? Do they understand what “empirical” means?

    based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

    So their claim about the number of planets with intelligent life is “verifiable by observation or experience”??? In what universe is that true?

    The mind boggles …


    • Also read my reply, a couple screens up. They completely butchered the null hypothesis which they took as “a universe without intelligent civilization”, where in fact it must be “a universe with one intelligent civilization” since otherwise this topic cannot be discussed (if there is no intelligent civilization to discuss it). The authors think they’re improving on the Drake Equation, but only made a schoolboy error of logic.

    • Willis – such display of “no self esteem” is most uncommon of you. I believe we have one very god example and might be closing in on one or to more. That might not display life today, but surely once or at some time in the future, will have the premisses for life on their surface.

      But for what it’s worth, and never having met you, I still consider you intelligent and advanced. ;)

      • Love that word “surely”, which in common usage has come to mean “I think this is true but only because I have no understanding of it”, the denoument of which is usually that it is false.

    • Where the good Dr Crichton said,

      “As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion.

      Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered.There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.,

    • Go and sail your Boat Willis. This stuff is way too heavy for you in your present state of euphoria.


      When is D-Day ??

  41. But wait, there’s the military & pilot observers of those pesky interfering foreign craft that should be reliable. Only problem is that even they are considered to have mental & observational acuity issues. And then consider that even if the gov’s agreed, all of the civil mental issues to deal with along with a funding drop for all those radio tele’s. So just safer to claim that all those experts operating radar, flying commercial/military planes & standing guard over nuke storage & missile facilities also need tin hats…..

  42. Speed = distance / time. Time was regarded for a long time as being a constant. Einstein proved time is not a constant but changes at certain speeds and with changes in gravity. E = mc (squared) puts “C” as a constant that is the speed of light. Light originates in the upsetting of the atom causing discrete changes in particle orbits. These orbits are controlled by nature’s speed limit and the light emitted is too. Quantum mechanics finds that particles emitted from an atom do so as a wave until observed, when it collapses to a particle. Some elements produce only one particle, others (like calcium) produce 2. When one is observed it collapses to a particle with a + or – spin orientation. If one on the earth is plus the other will be a minus even if it is on the moon. Instant communication faster than the speed of light. Spooky action at a distance as Einstein put it.

    For 2 alien species to meet up to a chat, both would have to be technically advanced enough to do it, but not too advanced to become extinct. They would have to beat the time distance problem. Quantum mechanics is about the best bet to do that.

    • The Schroedinger Equation which you are alluding to describes not the physical state of the particle, but our knowledge of its physical state. Light doesn’t travel as a wave, it’s just a particle as Feynman showed — but the particle doesn’t travel continuously because classical notions of continuity don’t apply at the speed of light. The photon has classical qualities only at the endpoints of its journey.

      • So if light (or EM radiation) travels as a particle (photon) how do photons and atoms collide in “empty” space ??

        Not challenging ; Just asking how do they ever meet ? I savvy how the wave hits the beach. Seems like it can hit the pier piling, just as easily.

        Are photons passing me by and I just don’t notice they hit me ??

        QM is worse than weird !!


      • george e smith: It’s not an issue compared with cyclotron bubble-trace outputs. Thereon, many particles collide simultaneously to form single large particles, which is surely impossible. But it all makes sense if time flows backwards, so that it’s simply a large particle disintegrating into many, and that’s how we understand it. So how does time flow backwards at the high energy focus of the cyclotron? Who knows? And who knows the answer to your question?

  43. One would have to factor in the length of time it would take for enough fossil fuels to form on the habitable planet. Without enough fossil fuel, there will be no advanced civilization.

  44. So, we can’t even get along with ourselves on our planet, now we want to invite in aliens ?

    • The powers that be are salivating at the prospect of extraterrestrial life. They will impose a steep Alien Landing tax. They are running out of OPM, so they are looking for new sources of tax revenue.

  45. In mankind’s long search for panspermia, no one bothered looking in the mirror. Humans are what is needed for nature to get of the planet and eventually to a new sun. Not for plastic as George Carlin suggests. So the cold hard truth is:

    We are chicken little.
    The earth and nature is our egg.
    Chicken’s eat and brake eggs.
    Then they fly away, never to return to the egg.

    It’s not just the making of scrambled egg’s that brake em, making chicken will brake an egg as well. ;)

  46. Since we’re discussing personal “equations”, I’ll give one of my own;

    The likelihood of faked contact with critters from other star systems (in order to facilitate the establishment of technocratic authoritarian “world” Government, let’s say ; ) goes up in direct proportion to the failure of any attempt to sell a faked climate crisis (in order to facilitate the establishment of technocratic authoritarian “world” Government, ) to intelligent beings on any given planet ; )

  47. Larry Fine May 1, 2016 at 11:58 am Nailed it with this comment a la Rud
    “It seems pretty fishy that life formed on Earth as soon as it cooled enough to support life, and it supposedly did so by natural processes which appear to be impossible to account for.”
    Fish have been falling out of the sky forever.
    On a lighter note the third big question–how long civilizations might survive and are we alone.
    If a super civilization evolved we would be microbial in comparison. I do not think alien scientists bother to communicate with bacteria or bother about them unless they are a nuisance.
    Stepped on accidentally or slapped.
    Our only concern might be another bacteria.
    They would all want to hang out in the centre of town rather than in the “burbs” so would be moving inwards on the spiral reducing our risk as well.

  48. What if we are the first technologically advanced civilization? Somebody has to the first. If so, we are alone ….

    • Assuming we were, how long will it be before we decide to “seed” the vacant universe with the building blocks of life?
      Imagine a technological world similar to earth, that knows it is about to die. (Asteroid impact, nearby supernova etc.)
      Would you sit back and wait for extinction, or take a shot at scattering the seeds of life as far as you can in the hopes that somewhere,in the distant future, a barren rock could be transformed into a living world ?

    • Precisely, if we’re the first then we’re alone, and *somebody* had to be the first — in a universe where the topic is being discussed, the “first ones” are mandatory. And the “second ones” are completely hypothetical, even imaginary.

  49. The authors said, “a new empirically valid probability to whether any other advanced technological civilizations have ever existed.” OK. Let’s see the empirical part, defined as, “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic”.

    The article authors have NO empirical data other than there are a bunch of stars, galaxies, and planets out there. Oh, there is no data. So what are these guys trying to prove? Maybe that they can get away with writing a paper that says absolutely, NOTHING. I can’t believe we pay people for this kind of trash.

    Besides, I have probably written better looking equations after the fourth martini. Well, if I could remember anything after the third one I could have.

  50. The straight up honest answer is that when scientists try to calculate how many chemical reactions it would take in order to build the first self reproducing life form, there are not enough molecules or time to have passed for life to exist the Universe at this point in time in the history of the universe.
    Couple with that, the idea of evolution being random, the chances for life to evolve to intelligence level, the outlook is even more grim.
    When they were making those calculations, they were based upon the perfect soup of chemicals to bring forth life from. They were also using a much simpler view of DNA and the aspects of life. Since that time, DNA has been found to have layered programing languages and the minimum number of genes to make a viable self replicating life form have increased rather than decreased. So those calculations were very aggressive.

      • IMO the ice has a lot more going for it, not that I rule out clay. That RNA self-assembles in water pockets within ice isn’t just an hypothesis, but an observation, ie a scientific fact.

      • BD, you could be right. But clay has the advantage of working at ambient conditions, so also chemically faster than ice might.

      • what’s your definition of life, ristvan?
        so far you’ve not given one
        do you not know what a definition is?
        for guidance, a definition is the set of distinguishing characteristics that separate an entity from all others in the universal set.

      • do you mean this:
        ” Now life can be defined purely as the ability to evolve.”

        because that is not a definition of life.
        evolution is not a requirement at all and many things change over time, evolving – so it fails to distinguish a life form from orogenesis, say.

        if you have given a proper definition which i missed, kindly reiterate or link it. i did make a good faith effort to find it.

      • G, read the recommended summary book. Then get back. The ‘life’ definition is precise and two sided. Sorry if your comprehension thereof flags. I have no intent to reproduce a ~100 page summary of a ~1500 page tome in a mere paragraph comment to you. Go do your own research. You now have all the lead words to do so.

      • a 100 page summary is not a definition.
        your evasion is totally sufficient to conclude that you will not define the word because you are unable to define it and further, you demonstrate that you fail to understand the very definition of definition.
        your maneuver is noted.
        it is a defining act.
        people who know what they are talking about are never unable to define their terms.
        therefore the ineluctable conclusion is you are faking it.
        if you do it once, then you are not averse to it in principle and so now it’s just a matter of what degree of dishonesty you indulge in.
        who plays these stupid games? stupid people, ristvan. it’s a defining act like mcgregor and his goat.

      • Ristvan,

        Freezing is the ambient condition of most of the universe, including asteroids and much of the surface of earth during the Hadean, despite heavy bombardment.

        One of the advantages of water pockets in ice is that the reagents are contained and concentrated, although the reactions occur more slowly. The remaining problem with origin of life experiments is getting from short polypeptide chains to large proteins. Ice containment for what would be impractically long lab experiments but a very short time geologically helps solve this problem.

    • You fail to understand the most elementary fact of biology. Evolution isn’t random in the way that you imagine. It works on whole genomes and parts thereof. Some of the processes that lead to mutations and other sources of genetic variation are in some sense random, but that doesn’t mean that the first living thing developed from random associations of organic chemicals.

      Asteroids and other celestial bodies are replete with amino acids and other complex compounds, including the constituent components of nucleic acids. As I mentioned above, many of these have properties which cause them naturally to combine into even larger molecules under certain conditions, which obtained both on the ancient earth and indeed in asteroids, which have more water than was supposed until very recently.

      The origin of life is simply chemistry and physics. No mysterious supernatural forces need apply.

      • The mere existence of such extraordinary molecules that can self-assemble and replicate their structure is, in my view, a miracle.

      • R – I’m not an ID’er. I’m a don’t-carer. I don’t see it impacting my life one iota whether I believe my ancestors emerged from primordial slime, or were instantly created by a god who likes to play coy. I don’t see it impacting anything, really, except insomuch as it motivates people to behave in one manner or another. Belief in the unknown is not necessary for science. Science is about discovering the unknown, not belieiving in any particular version of it.

        But, philosophically, there is no physical law that says such molecules must exist. Or, even more to the point, there is no universal imperative that says there must be physical laws. Indeed, there is no reason for the universe. Period. Full stop.

        There is always a point beyond, and it’s turtles all the way down from there. You seem to have latched onto a particular hypothesis. Well, good luck with that. Maybe, evidence will accrue in favor of it in time. But, then you will always have the question of why? Science is good, at least when properly conducted, at answering questions of how? It’s not so good at why?

      • Mark,

        Is your comment addressed to me?

        “Proof” is more the province of math than science. That complex organic chemical compounds can and do self-assemble and carry out simple metabolic functions (RNA catalyzed peptide formation) and replication is no longer just a confirmed hypothesis but an observation. That larger protein synthesis occurs spontaneously has also been observed.

        These facts support the hypothesis that chemistry and physics are all that are needed for life to arise, thus no supernatural force is required. Origin of life research predicts that this is the case. Although it might be hard to test this prediction, it is theoretically falsifiable, hence scientific.

      • “These facts support the hypothesis that chemistry and physics are all that are needed for life to arise, thus no supernatural force is required.”

        There are no supernatural forces. Every force that affects nature is, ipso facto, natural. So, that’s just a throwaway. Do you mean no god or gods are required? How do you know? What, exactly, is a god?

        How did the chemistry and physics come to be? Why is matter arranged in just this way? You’ve told me how it works, but you’ve given me no why.

      • Hypothesis is not proof.

        You have a theory that that life can arise without supernatural intervention. You haven’t proven your theory, therefor your attempt to use your theory as proof against supernatural intervention is inherently invalid.

    • ‘when scientists try to calculate how many chemical reactions it would take in order to build the first self reproducing life form, there are not enough molecules or time to have passed for life to exist the Universe at this point in time in the history of the universe.’

      False. Short answer: simultaneous trials.

      Long answer:

      The calculation of odds assumes that the protein molecule formed by chance. However, biochemistry is not chance, making the calculated odds meaningless. Biochemistry produces complex products, and the products themselves interact in complex ways. For example, complex organic molecules are observed to form in the conditions that exist in space, and it is possible that they played a role in the formation of the first life (Spotts 2001).

      The calculation of odds assumes that the protein molecule must take one certain form. However, there are innumerable possible proteins that promote biological activity. Any calculation of odds must take into account all possible molecules (not just proteins) that might function to promote life.

      The calculation of odds assumes the creation of life in its present form. The first life would have been very much simpler.

      The calculation of odds ignores the fact that innumerable trials would have been occurring simultaneously.

      • I prefer to withhold my judgment until I get solid evidence, rather than accepting speculation and narratives that are truncated at some arbitrary endpoint as “truth”. The point at which you stop asking questions is the point at which science dies.

      • But biochemistry presumes that life already exists.

        How does one get from inorganic chemistry to life ??


      • Well, George, apparently these chemical elements just, you know, get together and, under common circumstances, combine in such and such manner, and start replicating their structure spontaneously, and before you know it, you’ve got multi-cellular life forms and the Kardashians. Yeah, there’s a little bit of the underpants gnomes’ business plan aura about it

        1) get the right chemicals together
        2) ???
        3) Kim and Kanye

        but, this is science, and you should never question science, you knuckle-dragging simpleton.

  51. To get intelligent life we not only need a process for life to begin and evolve we also need ‘consciousness’.

    As I’m aware there is little if any understanding or theories as to how this came about. I read a book by an atheist philosopher ‘Thomas Nagel – Mind over Cosmos’ which argues that evolutionary theory does not work to explain the beginning and development of consciousness.

    Taking this factor into account when we talk about how intelligent life exists I wonder if we have any clue as to what we are or where we came from.

  52. Even with very conservative numbers, such as only a billion earth like planets in our galaxy, if 1% developed life and 1% of that 1% developed intelligence, there should be 1000 intelligent civilisations ‘nearby’, many of which must much older and therefore more advanced than humankind. So, yeah, where are they? I’m a fan of the Great Filter theory – and that the filter is behind us, it is either impossibly rare for life to begin anywhere, and/or the jump from prokaryote to eurokaryote cells is incredibly unlikely (it took two billion years here…). Eventually, I think it is all mute; if there is intelligent life out there, odds are it will be so far away from us that we will never encounter them.

    • If life arose 3.8 to 3.5 Ga, then it was “only” about a billion years before eukaryotes evolved. The oldest eukaryotic fossils date from about 2.1 Ga, but biochemical indicators from 2.7 Ga (steranes in Australian shale).

      • I remember back in the dot-com boom times, it was common to see business plans from inexperienced yet earnest recent grads saying something along the lines of, “if we can sell our software to 0.01% of the Chinese market, we’ll make gazillions.” Selling to 0.01% of the Chinese market at a profit, it turns out, is not easy. I think the B-schools teach it as the “Chinese Fallacy”, or some such.

    • Colin May 1, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Even with very conservative numbers, such as only a billion earth like planets in our galaxy, if 1% developed life and 1% of that 1% developed intelligence, there should be 1000 intelligent civilisations ‘nearby’, many of which must much older and therefore more advanced than humankind. So, yeah, where are they?

      Even with very conservative numbers, such as only a hundred million earth like planets in our galaxy, if 0.1% developed life and 0.1% of that 0.1% developed intelligence, there should be 1 intelligent civilisations ‘nearby’ … and if we count ourselves as “intelligent”, which is debatable, there would be zero intelligent civilizations “nearby”.

      That is the problem with the Drake Equation—we DON’T know whether our numbers are too conservative, too optimistic, or just right … which means that we’re just waving our hands.


      • Based upon big bang acoustics many, if not most, cosmologists believe that the universe is infinite in space and time. Of course this would mean there was no big bang in the classical sense but perhaps some ” local” event giving us the microwave fog we see. In any event, in an infinite universe, as I said above, everything will happen from a probability standpoint. How many times it will happen depends upon if it is a closed, open or flat universe. We have as much chance of knowing the shape of our universe as knwoing all of the unkown variables in the equation being discussed here, possibly more chance. It may be a silly concept but interesting to think about. In the grand scheme of things, of which we really know very little, all of this starting spontaneously, from nothing, is more difficult to believe than many religious concepts, for which there are at least ancient writings of individuals attesting to their happenings.

      • Well Roy Spencer’s post says it all. If one of the Algebraic Origami factors is zero, it matters not what any of the others are; no matter how large.


  53. I think many requirements for life elsewhere in the universe is a given: planets in the Goldielocks Zone, stable suns, availability of water, carbon, and oxygen, etc. It should be no surprise to see some forms of life elsewhere in the universe. But intelligent life?

    I don’t see this as a ‘first step’ problem, i.e., the creation of life, but as last step problem, the evolution (or creation) of intelligence.

    First, we need some suitable definition of ‘intelligence’, and at this point I really don’t have one. I’m at the ‘I know it when I see it’ stage, but the definition must include the ability to use external forms of energy to produce work, and the ability to generate and manipulate that energy.

    Earth has entertained life for billions of years. Billions (my guess) of different organisms have evolved and flourished, at least for a while, over that time. Some species existed for millions of years. Some species still in existence have survived millions of years. Why has only one small branch of mammals evolved sufficient intelligence to even use fire? No other evolutionary path comes close to this level of intelligence. Not even the Chimps nor Orangutans, despite the evidence that they share 99+% of our DNA. To me, there is a huge gulf between Man and all other lifeforms that is difficult to explain.

    Once you filter every star system down that those which can support life, how many of them will be teeming with life, but none that is intelligent?

    Sometimes I think Kurt Vonnegut may have had it correct in his novel, “Galopagos”; Nature intended for Man to be an animal content to lie in the sun, eat, sleep, fart, and have sex, but mistakenly made his brain too large.

    Perhaps a once in the universe mistake, and not a predictable end result of evolution..

      • Until temperatures start trending up again, global warming has ended. Until something higher on the evolutionary scale than intelligence is found, then that is the end of result of evolution. Man can evolve wings and a third eye, but he will not have evolved into a higher life form.

        Can you even posit what would be higher than intelligence?

      • Jtom,

        To imagine that evolution has an end is fundamentally to misunderstand it. As long as organisms reproduce, evolution will operate.

        Intelligence has so far been adaptive for humans and some other species. The costs of a larger brain and more complex behaviors have been worth it. But in an evolutionary sense, intelligence isn’t “higher” than other “strategies”, such as high reproductive rate, larger body size or any number of other trends in other lineages.

        In terms of biomass among animals (multicellular, motile, heterotrophic eukaryotic organisms), the Antarctic krill is more successful than H. sapiens.

    • Two possible tests. The Turing algorithm, which implicitly requires intelligence have evolved first. Or, my hypothsis in the first comment set. Another option?

    • Why has only one small branch of mammals evolved sufficient intelligence to even use fire?

      Because whoever gets there first, wins. Rival species are obliterated. From a geological timeline perspective, we went from control of fire to colonizing the entire planet nearly instantaneously.

      • “From a geological timeline perspective, we went from control of fire to colonizing the entire planet nearly instantaneously.”

        You forgot to say “It is imagined …”, and no matter how many times you (Evolutionists) forget, I won’t ; )

      • John,

        By “evolutionist”, do you mean “scientist”?

        Under oath in the Dover case, the hatcher of the ID scam, Behe, was forced to admit that evolution occurs. His testimony was so devastating for his side, the creationist complainers, that the judge cited Behe’s testimony extensively as the basis for his ruling that intelligent design is not scientific. The trial also hilariously showed that so-called ID is nothing but creationism rebottled to try to get around prior rulings against teaching a religious doctrine as science in public schools.

      • Bye Doom,

        “By “evolutionist”, do you mean “scientist”?”

        I capitalized the word intentionally, because variation within a given sort of creature is obvious and was never disputed by anyone, that I am aware of. No “scientist” was needed to “discover” it.

      • John,

        The fact that variation within species can and does change from one generation to the next and that these heritable changes can and do produce new species, genera and higher categories of living things was not recognized by science until the middle of the 19th century. Before that, it was clear that what was then called “development”, ie change in the species living at any one time in the past, had occurred, but there was not yet a good scientific explanation for this observed fact. The discovery of natural selection and other evolutionary processes provided the scientific explanation. Before that, the prevailing paradigm was not “transmutation” of species, what would now be called evolution, but “special creation”, ie that new species were continuously being created by some outside force beyond the ken of science.

      • ID’ers have always admitted that evolution exists, they just believe that evolution was guided by the hand of God.

        Your eagerness to lie about what others believe says nothing good about you.

      • What rival species did we obliterate, with the possible exception of closely related mammals on our same branch, that had the potential to ever use fire?

      • Bye Doom,

        You can imagine all the pretend facts you like, but no one could even possibly have observed new “genera and higher categories of living things” evolving into existence . . your talking utter nonsense, to me . . just ignoring that these are IMAGINED occurrences, not observed ones.

        And, you have apparently been trained to see “expert” imaginings as if observations . .. which naturally (it seems to me) leads us to the present Siants of ‘climate change”. Whole generations of kids trained to believe that if you stare at bones long enough (with a degree in bone staring ; ) you can see them Evolving . . NOT SCIENCE, I warn.

      • John,

        You couldn’t be more wrong. Your biological ignorance is total, as was evident by your linking to a pack of creationist lies here. The least effort spent in Internet research would have educated you. New genera have indeed been created in the lab, by a variety of evolutionary processes.

        The first one that I know of happened decades ago, via the hybridization of two clearly distinct genera. Nowadays it’s quite common to create new genera in the lab.

        It appears that you imagine that evolution requires many generations to occur. Nothing could be farther from the truth. From 30 to 70% of new plant species, for instance, arise in a single generation, thanks to polyploidy. Animals also show whole or partial genome duplication, leading to new species incapable of interbreeding with parental species. There have been at least two whole genome duplications in the human line, producing a lot of genetic material on which evolution has worked.

        But new species also arise from single point mutations, both in nature and the lab. Most such instances occur in microbes, but again also in the history of human evolution, as shown in our genome and even gross chromosomal anatomy.

        It’s highly presumptuous of you to comment on a topic about which you know nothing.

      • PS, I believed in Evolution since I was a little boy, because I was facinated by dinosaurs. trilobites, etc. I could have done a better job of defending Evolution than you when I was twelve, I believe.

        I brief, the problem Mr. Darwin called the greatest one for his Evolution hypothesis was the lack of “transition” fossils then uncovered. That is to say, that essentially all known examples of living things in the fossil record, enter and exit it (if extinct) with virtually identical (mundane special variation) remains . . No abundance of gradually changing characteristics, as the hypothysis suggest must have existed.

        This lack continues to the present, and was the reason the “punctuated equilibrium” model became all the rage back when I was in collage . . The problemj is, of course, that if all the changing happens “off stage”, in short localized bursts, there are VASTLY fewer critters involved in the process . . meaning vastly fewer rolls of the dice so to speak, in order for mutation to operate as an effective agent of change.

        That problem remains, and you can believe it doesn’t, but you need to show us the evidence, to be taken seriously around here.

      • John,

        That’s quite amusing, since you have produced zero evidence. I doubt very much that as a child you could state the fact of evolution as well as an adult biologist today. Talk about presumption and delusions of competence!

        All the evidence on earth supports the fact of evolution. I doubt you have ever read Darwin or any other book on biology, or you wouldn’t have so badly misquoted him. Not that evolution today needs Darwin. What was an insight in his day is now a trivial fact observed everywhere all the time.

        Of course I can list transitional fossils. More are found every year. The usual creationist gambit is to say, OK, now you have two gaps when before there was only one! Now we can see the transitions in the genome and embryology as well as written in stone.

        All organisms are transitional or going extinct. Those are the only two options. Sometimes organisms persist superficially unchanged for millions or tens of millions of years, if they are well adapted to an unchanging environment, but eventually all go extinct or evolve into something else.

        But it appears you want instances. One of the most amusing is the evolution of the mammalian jaw. Creationists used to claim that it was impossible for our jaw to have evolved because it meant that at some point proto-mammals must have had two jaws. Then fossil synapsids were discovered around the world with exactly that. Just as scientists predicted would be the case, the bones at the back of the jaw in all other vertebrates migrated into the skull to become the bones of the middle ear, while the mammalian jawbone, the dentary, became the only lower jaw bone. Transitional mammals were already using their back jaw bones to augment hearing while still outside the skull, at the same time the dentary-skull joint was functioning.

        Fossils show how lobe-finned fish evolved into tetrapods, the ancestors of land vertebrates. Scientists predicted that lobe-finned fish, specifically lungfish, would be the closest ancestors to tetrapods among fish, and sure enough, when the lungfish genome (enormous BTW) was sequenced, that was the result.

        But transitions such as these but one tiny bit of evidence for the fact of evolution. Chromosomes and genes are dispositive.

        You have everything to learn, Grasshopper, but apparently don’t want to do so.

      • “That’s quite amusing, since you have produced zero evidence”

        Evidence for non occurrences? Not logical, sir.

      • “Fossils show how lobe-finned fish evolved into tetrapods, the ancestors of land vertebrates. Scientists predicted that lobe-finned fish, specifically lungfish, would be the closest ancestors to tetrapods among fish, and sure enough, when the lungfish genome (enormous BTW) was sequenced, that was the result.”

        Why would one expect similar creatures to have anything but similar genetic coding, regardless of how they came into existence? I predict the same thing will be evident in all sorts of creatures . . So what? It’s just what makes sense . .

      • John,

        It’s not just that they are similar, but that they get progressively more similar the closer you get to humans.

        We are closest genetically to chimps and bonobos, then to gorillas, then orangs, then gibbons and other “lesser” apes, then New World Monkeys, then Old World Monkeys, then tarsiers, then “prosimians” (lemurs and lorises), then other mammals, then reptiles and birds (which are phylogenetically “reptiles”), then amphibians, then lobe-finned fish, then ray-finned fish, then cartilaginous fish, then jawless fish, etc.

        Does it make sense that an intelligent designer would reuse the same broken parts, as is the case for the lack of ability to make vitamin C in tarsiers, monkeys, humans and other apes? The same gene is broken in different ways in guinea pigs, some bats and birds. Now there may be some adaptive function to not being able to make vitamin C, but otherwise it is a defect, leading to risk of scurvy when the acid isn’t available in a diet.

      • “All organisms are transitional or going extinct.”

        Like polar bears for instance, eh? ; )

      • John,

        All kidding aside, polar bears are in fact evolving quite rapidly. Their dentition for instance is notably different from just 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum. They are a young species, since the present Arctic environment is still so new, geologically speaking.

        They can still hybridize with brown bears.

      • “It’s not just that they are similar, but that they get progressively more similar the closer you get to humans.”

        Of course . . again, what in the world would one expect? The code determines the creature (to a great extent) so similar creatures ought to have similar code. With many millions of creatures, there HAS to be many similar creatures (with generally proportionate similarities in formative coding, most logical).

        You’ve been conned, I tell you, by con artists )and/or dupes) who present the logical as if extraordinary. Whether or not it is ultimately true that significant Evolution occurred, none of what your telling us is evidence for Evolution, any more than for a Created life array so vast.

      • John,

        You have been lied to by professional liars.

        Again, it’s not that creatures are similar, but that their genomes confirm their descent as predicted by the fact of evolution. There have been some surprises in genomics, but none of them falsify evolution.

        Consider the inheritance of SNPs. Consider the evolution of the human brain, an instance of a single mutation followed by gradual increase. Consider human chromosome #2. It resulted from the fusion of two smaller, standard ape chromosomes. This event is associated with upright walking.

        The instance of evolution apparent in the genomic record reflects that in fossils, embryology, biogeography and every other line of evidence.

        Would you consider creating a nylon-eating bacterium from a sugar-eating microbe with a single mutation from a cosmic ray or the equivalent in the lab to be an instance of evolution, or not? This has occurred repeatedly since the invention of nylon and been reproduced in labs. Before the advent of nylon, this mutation was lethal. Now it’s beneficial, due to a new food source in the environment of the formerly sugar-eating microbes.

        You apparently have no interest in educating yourself, preferring to luxuriate in ignorance. All the evidence in the world support the fact of evolution, while no evidence exists opposing it.

      • Bye Doom,

        “All kidding aside, polar bears are in fact evolving quite rapidly.”

        That is where our “definitions” problem is coming into play, as I see the matter. Slight changes brought on by normal sexual reproduction are NOT Evolution. I believe you know that . . I sure hope you do, anyway. And neither are random mutations that cause no discernible enhancement of a creature’s ability to survive (in the real natural world).

        NEW, functional genetic coding, coming into existence (naturally), would be evidence in favor of the Evolution hypothesis . . that is going to be very hard to detect even if it does occur.

  54. But using our method we can tell exactly how low that probability would have to be for us to be the ONLY civilization the Universe has produced.

    Seriously? EXACTLY? SERIOUSLY??!

    Stopped reading right there.
    These guys are no different than the climate fr**dtsers. They don’t give a d*mn about actual science. Just producing enough paper (publish or perish) that they can keep their jobs and scarf up a few more grants to study…nothing.

    • Precisely. It’s just too daft to justify rational criticism.
      Where did these people miss the basic instruction – that an equation is useful if it expresses an unknown in terms of knowns, or at least factors which may potentially be revealed via further enquiry.
      What a complete joke. Even just one of the terms (the fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears) is unknown and unknowable.
      How shall we establish a value for that? All we need is millions of “suitable” planets made afresh and then we can carry out an experiment over billions of years to see how often life springs out of the primordial soup. Assuming that we can maintain strict hygiene in our planet containing laboratory!!
      And that is just one of the unknowns.
      I’m pretty sure that the point of equations is supposed to be expressing an unknown in terms of knowns so that we can figure out a value for the unknown.
      I always thought that this pretend “equation” was just a kind of nerdy joke for space and SETI fans.
      But people keep pretending to take it seriously.
      Please tell me that I am dreaming.

  55. Transit – Radial Velocity discrepancies are a possible new way to spot alien civilisations.
    The biggest proof of their validity would be trvdiscrepancies neighbouring other trvdiscrepancies.

  56. Jim G1 May 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm wrote: “TA, oh, the prime directive. But why triangular?”

    Well, I was thinking about the giant, silent, triangular UFO that was seen by thousands of people over Arizona some years back. This thing was described as being the size of several football fields, as gliding silently, and slowly over the heads of the observers, in plain view, and as being triangular in shape.

    That sounds pretty extraordinary, and it doesn’t sound like Earth-tech. Humans don’t have a vehicle that can do that, AFAIK. The spectators were average, ordinary people, including numerous police and other authorities. If it was a conspiracy or a mass delusion, it included hundreds of people in several states. Probably the best UFO sighting I have heard about.

    And there have been numerous other sightings of a triangular-shaped UFO, although the variety of UFO shapes through history is a little mind-boggling. It seems like the triangular shape is more often reported today, for some reason. Perhaps each different UFO design is a vehicle from a different planet! :)

    I noticed a flaw in the discussion software: Jim G1 replied to a post of mine, but there was no reply button underneath his reply to me, so I had to put my response back to him here at the bottom of the page. It would sure be more convenient to have the posts listed in time/date order, instead of nesting. You really need to quote the text you are replying to anyway, to make yourself perfectly clear. But I can live with any format, if I have too.

    • This triangular “UFO” was also shown to be nothing more than three flares dropped from military aircraft on maneuvers.

    • TA,

      “Well, I was thinking about the giant, silent, triangular UFO that was seen by thousands of people over Arizona some years back. This thing was described as being the size of several football fields, as gliding silently, and slowly over the heads of the observers, in plain view, and as being triangular in shape.”

      About seventeen years ago, I was returning home at about 1:00 AM, and paused on my porch to look up at the sky, sort of unwinding a bit after much work . . At first I thought there were just common low clouds above, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see there was something odd about the “clouds”. They were similarly shaped and oriented, long rounded rectangular forms, spaced apart in an unusually regular way.

      As I focused on one area nearly directly overhead, and thought I could see a long vague “connection” between two of these oddly shaped clouds, it became clear that it was “too regular”, and I thought I could see faint coloration . . as in my brain was trying to process what I was seeing as clouds, but was “failing” to do so. I was looking at very precise shapes, of differing hues, and all at once my mind was in a state of amazement, and then panic, as I saw the whole sky above me (that I could see) was covered in these shapes, with connecting “tubes” between them. I was literally knocked backward, by the realization, and immediate flood of implications/ramifications of what I was observing.

      After a moment or two in that stunned/shocked state, some portion of my mind began to “doubt” that all was as it seemed . . something was “wrong” with the very wrong picture. Such a “craft” was utterly illogical. No one on earth would make such a thing, and no one from elsewhere would travel here in such a thing . . And then I could see that it was a projection, and remembered reading about such a “capability” that was rumored to have been tested in the (First and only, then) “Gulf War”.

      I studied it for about ten minutes, concluding it was probably some sort of mapping system component, being projected from a satellite . . and thought I’d probably here something about it eventually, but never did.

  57. The nearest of these planets is 12 light years away more than 10^9 times the distance to the moon and back. The laser used to measure the distance to the moon has one in 10^17 photons come back after the round journey. Roughly, a photon has a 1 in 10^33 chance of being detected if a laser hits its mark on the nearest inhabitable planet(Wikipedia has about the laser aimed at the moon ” scientists liken the task of aiming the beam to using a rifle to hit a moving dime 3 kilometers away”).

    Assuming at least 1 photon per second needs to hit the detector for effective communication and the low end of the microwave spectrum is used (300MHz) you need more than a 1 MW maser to communicate so a medium sized bird killer is needed just to power one. In practice, enough to kill every last eagle on the planet is needed for communication with any intelligent lifeform on the closest possible planet. That’s assuming that they don’t think that we are idiots and pretend that nobody’s home.

    • It’s enabled man to go from a minor species running away from predators in one small corner of the African savannah to an animal that dominates just about ever ecological niche on the planet in just a few thousand years.

      • Nice evasion.
        Now if you care to actually present an actual, logical argument, I will refute it for you.
        If all you want to do is play childish semantic games, then you aren’t worth my time.

  58. I have yet to see evidence there is advanced intelligent life on this planet.

    Just because we say we are, doesn’t make it so.

  59. mod, some of the threads since 2, 3 weeks appear to me as

    The phrase “Potemkin village” (also “Potyomkin village”, derived from the Russian: Потёмкинские деревни, Potyomkinskiye derevni) was originally used to describe a fake portable village, built only to impress.

    Potemkin village – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia › wiki › Pote…

    of course I can think of a legitim reason Hans

  60. “And it shows that unless the odds of advanced life evolving on a habitable planet are astonishingly low, then human kind is not the universe’s first technological, or advanced, civilization.”

    This is precisely the type of qualification that makes the entire paper pointless. Absent the ability to quantify the odds of life developing on a habitable planet there is absolutely no significance in discerning the number of habitable planets (even setting aside how anyone could know the boundaries of what is “habitable” given that we have a sample of precisely, only, ONE planet that we know TO BE habitable).

    Does anyone really think, given that: (1) the Earth is the only planet that we know to sustain “life as we know it;” (2) we have never been to, or even delivered a probe to, a planet outside our solar system; (3) our calculations of how many planets exist in the universe is entirely theoretical; and (4) we have no way of testing whether scientists’ assumptions about the boundaries of “habitable zones” around other stars are correct – that we can improve our practical understanding of whether life does now exist, or ever has existed elsewhere in the universe, by manipulating an equation?

    This is perhaps the poster-child for data-less science run amok. I don’t know which is more dumbfounding – the stupidly pointless exercise of doing this research, or the gullibility of the journalist who did the write-up on the paper.

    P.S. – Isn’t an “astrobiology program” almost an oxymoron?

    • We have found planets around most of the stars we have examined so far.
      However, in everyone of those cases, the arrangement of the planets found has made a habitable planet impossible.
      All we have proven so far is that while planets are common, habitable ones are not.

  61. Probability is the constant ratio of two frequencies. If the numerator is a constant (c) and the denominator (N) may vary between one and infinity, high school algebra suffices for the conclusion that c/N is zero for N infinite (c/N is not a constant). For that reason it is not a theorem of modal logic that the possibility of an event implies that its probability exceeds zero. The Drake equation is based on a fake-theorem violating basic mathematics. Just apply it, and the fact that the Goldberg Variations are possible, will produce the amazing conclusion that as many versions of this piece of music exist in deep space as allowed by the choice of N.

  62. I personally have no doubt, zero, that there are many advanced species, like us or more so, in our own galaxy, not to mention the other galaxies. Some comments/minds say there is no evidence, some say we will never know. There is evidence, look at some of the french documents released on u. f. o. s. Even if this and the many other signs are not acceptable to those minds, it cannot be asserted that there is no evidence. Likewise, to say we will never know, is equally unknown.
    If you want to find the evidence, it is all over the internet, with huge government involvement and the secrecy that requires and entails. The evidence: accounts, personal disclosures from the top people in the military, even the prime minister of Canada back a few years, I could go on. It is there, beyond all reasonable doubt. There is a type of phobia against believing, an irrational attitude that somewhat resembles those who refuse to believe CO2 from humans is an insignificant GHG

    • OK, let’s take this as a serious comment and not some subtle form of satire.

      There are over 3 billion operational digital cameras on this planet. There were scores of videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor.

      To date, not a single video or still picture, not a single one, proves the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Or ghosts. Or Bigfoot. Or the Loch Ness monster. Get real.

    • Since there is no evidence for UFOs, UFOs can’t be used as evidence for anything.

  63. When one looks at the chemicals of the universe, the anomalous behaviour of water, lightening etc and the way our climate is thermostatically controlled by the oceans and the water cycle. One would think earth like planets would be common. It would also be likely that if life was spontaneously created and evolved on earth it would happen all over the universe. We are yet babes in the woods as far as science and technology are concerned.

    Science has not only been wrong in the past but very wrong, the speed of light may prove in the future to be not a barrier. The simple fact that so much information and sightings of UFO,s is extant and even tapestries from centuries ago feature then, would indicate that we are not alone,so some-one is travelling at a reasonable clip in space.

    • If current cosmological theories are right, the chain of events that led to the existence of the Earth that we know is long, convoluted, and not all that likely.

  64. I dont know if Drake’s formula includes the radius of the candidate planet? If not, it should, because the forms of life that can develop on any planet are constrained by its force of gravity: photosynthetic organisms will compete for starlight, just as trees do on Earth and transport of water from roots to top will be constrained by gravity. So “plant” height must therefore depend on planet radius.. Same for consumer organisms that must move to obtain energy. Elephants would not be possible on a planet much larger than Earth. I’ll bet that to pass through the tool-maker, problem-solver stage the organisms that could produce a civilisation would be similarly constrained to a limited range of gravitational force. So some predictions about the type of higher organisms possible on any planet ay be derived from its size.

  65. I am glad that for that trillionth status because I am a living spec in a vast universe and that there is a God who cares about me.

  66. The article makes the assertion “the recent discoveries of exoplanets combined with a broader approach to the question makes it possible to assign a new empirically valid probability to whether any other advanced technological civilizations have ever existed”.

    The Drake equation relies on 7 components for which there is no scientific basis: A, Ne, fe, fi, fbt, fc and L. Assigning a value of anything to those components is complete arbitrary and unscientific. Belief in the predictive value of the “Drake Equation” is equivalent to having a belief in the existence in god. You are entitled to your opinon but both have no basis in fact.

    When we finally begin to discover life on other planets, and discover other previous or existing civilizations we can then assign actual values that can transform “belief” in the Drake Equation to something actually scientific.

  67. Having a planet in the inhabitable zone is only one factor in regards to developing an intelligent species.
    For example, if the planet gets whacked by a meteor every couple of million years, it has very little chance of developing complex, much less intelligent life.
    To protect that planet against meteors/comets, you need a planet like Jupiter, about where Jupiter is.
    To prevent your Jupiter like planet from slowly spiraling in and destroying all the inner system planets, you also need a planet like Saturn, about where Saturn is.

    If you solar system orbits too close to the center of the galaxy, it’s likely to be sterilized every few million years by nearby super nova.

    Having a large moon helps to stabilize the axis of rotation in regards to the plane of the orbit. This gives a stable climate so that life can develop.

    Having an large core is necessary in order to maintain a magnetic field so that the solar wind does not rip away the atmosphere before complex life has a chance to develop.

      • I don’t completely understand all of the astromechanics myself all that well, but I’ll try to explain it as best I can.
        Due to interactions with dust and small bodies, planets will tend to spiral in towards their sun once formed.
        The inner planets have less of a problem with this because once the star lights, the solar wind helps to clear the dust out of the inner system.
        Because of this dust, Jupiter would have continued to spiral in, until in encroached on the inner solar system. The result of this encroachment would have been the planets of the inner solar system being either captureded by Jupiter or kicked out of the solar system.
        Saturn, once it formed, also began to spiral in towards the inner solar system.
        At some point during that mutual spiraling, Jupiter and Saturn hit a point where Jupiter orbited the sun precisely 3 times, for every 2 orbits of Saturn. This caused an interaction between Saturn and Jupiter whereby Jupiter stole momentum from Saturn, this raised the orbit of Jupiter enough so that it was in an orbit that had already been cleared of dust, thus ending it’s inward spiral. Saturn also dropped into an orbit that was free of dust.
        As to the outer planets, I don’t remember the full explanation regarding how they got stable orbits. It had something to do with much less dust out there to begin with as well as Jupiter and Saturn already clearing much of what dust did exist.

        A couple of other factors. The current best theory regarding the origin of the Moon is that a planet about the size of Mars, that formed in almost the same orbit as the Earth (which explains why isotopically, the moon is almost identical to the earth) collided with the earth tangentially. The actual range of collision angles is fairly small. Too shallow, and the remains of the second planet would have been going too fast for the earth’s gravity to capture any of it. Too direct a hit and all of the debris would have been captured by the earth, leaving nothing to form a moon.
        The angle of collision was such that much of the crust from the two bodies was thrown into orbit around the main body, while the core of the two bodies merged. This gave the earth both a thin crust and a large core compared to the other inner planets.
        The large core was better at generating and retaining heat, so the earth has a powerful magnetic field that has survived to the present (Mar’s died away millions of years ago.) This magnetic field protects life on earth from radiation, as well as protecting the atmosphere from being striped away by the solar wind.
        The thin crust made plate tectonics possible, the result of which was an ocean world with continents, instead of just an ocean world. Without plate tectonics, the continents would have eroded away long ago.

        During it’s molten phase, most of the heavy elements sank to the earth’s core, leaving the crust poor in metals. Most of the metals we mine were deposited in the crust by what astronomers call the late heavy bombardment. The gravitational dance between Jupiter and Saturn disturbed much of the solar system. In fact Uranus and Neptune actually switched places during this period. One result of this disturbance was many comets and asteroids plunging into the inner solar system. These projectiles formed the late heavy bombardment. These comets also brought much of the water that covers the earth today. Most of the material that made up the early earth was dry, because the heat of the early sun dried them out.

  68. Life exists in every nook and cranny of Earth.
    Therefore life is natural.
    Life is not contrary to the “plan”.
    There will be life EVERYWHERE conditions such as those on Earth exist.
    Why wouldn’t life elsewhere behave exactly as life behaves on Earth?
    One should make decisions based on observations, instead of overwrought conjecture.
    Simplify, Man, simplfy.

    • It’s quite possible that microbial life is common in the galaxy.
      More complex than that? Much less likely.

  69. A couple of commenters here seems to be provoked by the Drake equation. Since some of the uncertainties in the equation are unlimited, then the uncertainty in the outcome is also unlimited.

    That is for sure.

    But that does not mean that the Drake equation is unscientific.

    It is a useful framework for discussing the probabilities of finding extraterrestrial life. However, since the probability for life to emerge has unlimited uncertainty, the outcome has of course to be just speculation. But some of us like to speculate.

    My gut feeling is that the probability that life evolves on a habitable planet is very low, it can very well be less than 1: 10 22nd power, which mean that we can indeed be alone.


      • Fascinating theory about Jupiter Bye.

        I think life is rare because even the most primitive life forms are extremely complex structures.
        Life can be viewed as a machine that is able to replicate itself in the nature.

        No machine ever created by humans is close to that in complexity. So what are the chances for creating such a machine by pure randomness? I would expect it to be a very seldom event.


      • Life didn’t arise randomly. It arose out of chemical and physical processes.

        It’s not much of a leap from self-assembling complex organic compounds to the simplest replicating “organism”.

      • If that were true, why hasn’t anyone been able to provoke such a “not much of a leap”, in many years of trying, BD?

        It is sad to see people so very gullible about this . .

  70. Habitable Zone.
    This means absolute nothing. In our solar system we are just at the outer edge of the “zone”
    Venus is on the other edge.
    Looking at Venus from another solar system will tell you that its 189 K and very cold.
    Looking at earth will tell you that its 255K .
    Lots of objects in space have a Black Body temp in this range. Non of them needs to have running water. There are no liquid water on Venus, not because its cold, but because its hot!

    A Black Body temp is not a suface temperature.

    • Even then, it will still remain conjecture as two examples are not a sufficient sample from which to pin down most of the equations variables.

  71. Amazing. I had to hop over a huge burden of comment to arrive at LT’s opinion, which is only simple wisdom. All this discussion is tantamount to (and about as worthwhile as) a college freshman BS session.

    I would be inclined to describe the Drake Equation as fantastic numerology: playing with numbers to embellish a fantasy. Of the portion of comments that I read, no one really pointed out that there is no significance to whatever the Drake Equation purports to describe. It is an utter waste of time. It cannot be falsified; we do not know if we have all the terms necessary (unknown unknowns) or in what functional relationship (power laws?). It is so redolent of “settled science” that I prefer to sniff at skunks. At least they are truth in packaging.

  72. “One in 10 billion trillion is incredibly small,” says Frank.

    I disagree. I think it’s large. I just depends on the context.

    • According to the “The Day The Earth Stood Still” remake, they’ll require each of us to get a “Green” card.

  73. Did Putin Just Out The World’s Ruling Class As Reptilians?
    “Putin said that he was not one of “them”, but they are afraid of him and have attempted to lure him into their “ancient Babylonian cult.”
    Putin said that mankind has been manipulated to become “unconscious” through the use of programming by media and politics, the perfect example of which was the recent Panama Papers leak. The world’s ruling class have tyrannical control over our food, water, and air supply, and they are actively dumbing down the masses.
    The evidence, ancient and modern, is enormous,” he said.”

  74. “…It is possible that a civilization advanced enough to travel between the stars could visit or observe our world while remaining undetected.[107]” — Wankerpedia

    “We come and piece.”

  75. “Thanks to NASA’s Kepler satellite and other searches, we now know that roughly one-fifth of stars have planets in “habitable zones,”
    “[…] The photometer points to a field in the northern constellations of Cygnus, Lyra and Draco, which is well out of the ecliptic plane, so that sunlight never enters the photometer as the spacecraft orbits.[37]

    This is also the direction of the Solar System’s motion around the center of the galaxy. ”

    There is an illustration on the same page that shows this corresponds with the low density section of the galactic disk between Sagittarius’ and Orion’s arms. I doubt this can be directly extrapolated for stars in the whole galaxy. The majority of stars are in the arms and closer to the center of the galaxy, were stellar structure is much more compact and complex, full of dual, triple and quadruple systems as well as open clusters.

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