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Old May 2nd 2016, 08:31 AM
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dilettante dilettante is offline
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Default Re: Aliens !

I kept seeing all these headlines in my news feed today about "new evidence for alien life!" Something about altering the Drake Equation and the 'near certainty' that technologically advanced species other than humanity have existed, but that they're probably now extinct.

Here's one example (you may have seen others): http://news.discovery.com/space/the-...udy-160429.htm

And here's the original paper from Astrobiology which they refer to: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf.../ast.2015.1418

This isn't my field, but I've found all the hubbub to be disappointing. The paper mostly just updates the Drake Equation with new data on the likely # of habitable planets and expands the question from "Do advanced aliens exist?" to "Have they ever existed?" with the uptick in probability one would expect from including all of time since the Big Bang.

All that said, though, their figure of "one in 10 billion trillion" odds of humanity being unique as a technical species STILL seems like a random shot in the dark based on pure guesses about (1) the likelihood of life evolving on a planet in a habitable zone around another star and (2) the likelihood of said life developing advanced technology. Given our sample size of 1, trying to plug a number in either of those slots to serve as a general rule for the universe seems to me like a fool's errand.

Any other take on this paper? Am I being needlessly pessimistic?
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Old May 3rd 2016, 10:40 PM
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Default Re: Aliens !

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Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
Any other take on this paper? Am I being needlessly pessimistic?
Science and the media don't go together. At all.
There is of course zero evidence in this paper, nor is it intended as such. It's an interesting attempt to estimate orders of magnitude towards this question. We do have a tiny little bit more than just one data point though in the sense that we know there is no obvious alien technological activity in a 50 lightyear radius which does exclude some theoretical possibilities. Also, we're beginning to have an idea about the prevalence of planets in stellar systems with the discoveries of all the exo-planets out there.

What the media always fail to mention though is the margin of error in such calculations which is always present in any scientific calculation and entirely inherent to it and in this case it's of course relatively speaking huge. Establishing orders of magnitude is good and useful science no matter how big the margin is. Reporting it as factual or worse, as evidence, is of course bad reporting.
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