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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Jan > Jan 30

Re: Deficiency In SETI's Drake's Equation

From: David Rudiak <DRudiak@aol.com>
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 23:22:01 EST
Fwd Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1999 18:33:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Deficiency In SETI's Drake's Equation

>From: Jim Deardorff <deardorj@proaxis.com>
>Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 17:01:51 -0800 (PST)
>Fwd Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 04:55:29 -0500
>Subject: Deficiency In SETI's Drake's Equation

>Have any of you sometimes wondered if there is any way we could
>cause a few SETI scientists to open their minds a bit, so as to
>include searching for any ETI who would be aware of our
>existence and perhaps interacting with us? I recently tried this
>using SETI's favorite Drake equation as the vehicle.


>For those who haven't run into Drake's equation, it goes like:

>N = Rx . fp . ne . fc . fi . fc . L (N is a product of all these factors)

>where N is the No. of civilizations in our galaxy whose radio
>emissions are detectable from Earth; Rx is the rate of formation
>of suitable stars,... L is the "lifetime" of communicating

>Notice that they leave out all civilizations that no longer
>utilize radio wave communications, plus other possibilities,
>though they allow L to be as large as millions of years.


>What I have in mind is this. If Nd is the"N" of the Drake
>Equation (d stands for Drake), then it is evident that Nd refers
>only to those civilizations in our galaxy whose means of
>communication have not evolved much beyond the use of radio
>waves. Omitted then are the number of more advanced
>civilizations, Nadv, whose communication capabilites have
>rendered radio-wave communications essentially obsolete. Since
>most of these Nadv presumably possess large L (lifetime), it
>seems inconsistent that the L within the Drake Equation includes
>their presumed large L values while Nd itself excludes them by
>searching only through radio-wave telescopy.


I received a mailer from Frank Drake and the SETI Institute last
November soliciting funds, in which Drake writes:

"Advances in science and technology are putting SETI on the fast
track as never before. A team of world-renowned astronomers,
engineers, and technologists -- specially commissioned by SETI
Institute -- has proposed bold and exciting new SETI ventures
that will provide humanity with its best opportunity to make

"We urgently need to build a new generation of telescopes and
signal processors. We must harness the potential of optical
infrared technology. These may be what it takes to detect a
faint radio or a flashing infrared beacon sent our way from
another civilization."

So apparently SETI is considering expanding the search into the
infrared and perhaps other domains. Freeman Dyson, e.g., has
pointed out for many years that the best signature of an
advanced civilization might be in the infrared rather than radio
spectrum. I think many readers are familiar with the "Dyson
sphere" concept, in which an advanced alien civilization
forsakes interstellar travel. Instead the most efficient way to
expand a specie's lebensraum might be to break up their solar
system and use it to construct an enormous, self- contained
spherical shell around their home star, thus capturing 100% of
the star's solar energy. If the shell were at present earth
orbit, e.g., the living space would be approximately 10^17 sq.
miles compared to the paltry 2.5 ^ 10^8 sq. miles we currently
have on earth's surface. In other words, building the sphere
would give you the living space equivalent to colonizing 250
million other worlds.  This would be the ultimate public works

Dyson's point here is that all we would likely see of this
sphere is the infrared heat signature. Any radio wave
communications (if they still were used) would probably be
largely confined to the inside of the sphere.

>(Ntot could be extended further, of course, by considering any
>ETI who possess inter-galactic travel capabilities.)

Not to mention any ETI who possess INTRA-galactic travel
capabilities.  In fact this is probably the single biggest
shortcoming in the thinking of most SETIists, their assumption
that interstellar travel is essentially impossible. Well, that's
simply not true. Even barring some breakthrough propulsion FTL
propulsion scheme, sub-light travel is definitely theoretically
possible. It's not hard to dream up schemes (all very enormous
and expensive in scope by present standards) in which 10 to 30%
of light speed could be obtained. This places migration to
nearby star systems on the order of a few decades.  Now imagine
humans or other alien species learning how to greatly extend
their life spans to hundreds or even thousands of years. We
humans are on the verge of understanding the aging process,
slowing it down, stopping or even reversing it. With that done,
migrations lasting a few decades would no longer seem so
daunting, representing only a fraction of the total life span of
any individual.

But SETI assumes that aliens remain forever confined to their
home star system. Thus they generally restrict their searches to
the most earthlike star systems, one's that would most likely
evolve native life, rather than be colonized from beyond.

However, even one ancient, advanced, relentlessly colonizing and
expanding alien species (think Borg) could explore and colonize
every nook and crook of the galaxy in only a few million years.
At that point, throw out the Drake equation, because they could
be everywhere. Even if they colonized only sun- like star
systems, there are at least 10 billion such systems within our
galaxy. The nearest inhabited star systems could be very close
indeed. But SETI people generally censor the whole idea of
interstellar expansion and colonization.

Just to see how ingrained this thinking is in a SETIist like
Drake, here's something else he wrote in his solicitation:

"The first half of the movie ["Contact"], for the most part, got
the science right. But I'm amused when science fiction portrays
interstellar travel in movies and on TV as a breeze. Nothing
could be further from the truth.

"The best rockets now available travel at about 10 miles per
second. Even reaching the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri at
about 4.2 light-years distance, would take 75,000 years. There
are about 1,000 stars like the Sun within 100 light-years of us.
To investigate them all with spacecraft would take millions of
years and vast amounts of money."

Stupid reasoning, no? About as dumb and narrow-minded as Drake's
arguments dismissing eyewitness reports, which I took him to
task for a few months ago. Among the things he rejected, e.g.,
where absolutely consistent reports for the past 200 years from
fireball witnesses of hearing anomalous, instantaneous sizzling
sounds from the fireballs. This was an interesting, anomalous
phenomenon worthy of investigation. But Drake couldn't
personally conceive of a physical mechanism, instead declared
that it violated the laws of physics, and proposed a nonsensical
psychological explanation instead.

Little has changed nearly 30 years later. Now Drake is declaring
that the best that can EVER be done with rocket propulsion, even
after millions of years of human scientific advance, is our
present-day 10 miles/second. Talk about a collosal failure of
vision! I think Stanton Friedman would tell Drake they could do
better than that 30+ years ago with the nuclear-powered rockets
he was working on. NASA propulsion experts have all sorts of
advanced, _conventional_ propulsion schemes (no warp drives) on
the drawing boards that can do vastly better than 10
miles/second. NASA director Goldin is even talking of the
possibility of sending an interstellar probe in the next few
decades utilizing one of these propulsion schemes, a giant
laser-propelled sail. We're talking maybe 10 thousand, not 10
miles/second here folks.

We mere humans could probably accomplish this feat using known
physical principles within the next century given the money and
the will. But in Drake's SETI World (copyright 1999), humans and
aliens will forever be limited to chemical rocket speeds.

>Thus my search for persons within your organization interested
>in Ni seeks those who are not afraid of the "UFO" word, and who
>also can allow that the ETI involved could be far advanced over
>us in their intelligence and in the strategy they may have of
>dealing with much less advanced civilizations, not to mention
>their great headstart in science & technology.

Jim, you just don't understand. No matter how intelligent or how
great the headstart in science & technology, alien civilizations
will always be limited to chemical rocket speeds.  You have
Frank Drake's expert opinion on that. Therefore, they could
never show up here.  So stop whining, pony up your $25 to the
SETI Institute, and let the Real Scientists show us how to
search for those elusive aliens.

David Rudiak

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