back to article Fermi famously asked: 'Where is everybody?' Probably dead, says renewed Drake equation

If we ever detect signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, they are likely already dead, a somewhat downbeat update to the venerable Drake equation suggests. The original equation was devised in 1961 by astrophysicist Dr Frank Drake ahead of a meeting at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia …

  1. Milton Silver badge

    Not useful

    The Drake Equation was never remotely useful, and IMHO not even a valid starting point for discussion.

    The reason is simple: we had then and have now, absolutely no idea the probability of life arising on a planet, even one like Earth, nor the chances of its survival, nor the odds that it will develop into a radio civilisation. The odds could be 50:50. They could be 1 in 10^100. We have only a sample of one (here) which is statistically meaningless.

    Until and unless we observe some life Out There, the Drake Equation don't mean squat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not useful

      The Drake Equation was never remotely useful, and IMHO not even a valid starting point for discussion.

      You're not familiar with the scientific method, I see. The lack of observations certainly impede the proof or refinement, but if lack of current observations were a reason to discount a hypothesis, then we'd all be living like the Amish.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not useful

        " then we'd all be living like the Amish".

        That's a bad thing how exactly?

        1. fandom Silver badge

          Re: Not useful

          "That's a bad thing how exactly?"

          They get out of bed waaaaaay too early

          1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

            Amish Paradise

            '... If I finish all of my chores and you (sic) finish thine,

            then tonight we're going to party like it's 1699...'

            Wierd Al — Amish Paradise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOfZLb33uCg

        2. RealBigAl

          Re: Not useful

          too much interbreeding?

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: Not useful

            @RealBigAl - "too much interbreeding?"

            So why isn't Amish hospitality more infamous?

            Or did you mean inbreeding?

        3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Not useful

          "That's a bad thing how exactly?"

          If we all lived like the Amish, most Reg readers would be unemployed.

          1. Paul 195

            Re: Not useful

            I think it's fair to say that if we lived like the Amish, Reg readers would be employed doing something different to whatever it is they do now. Unemployment is unlikely to be a thing if you have to grow all your food and manufacture all your goods using 17th century technology.

          2. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: Not useful

            "That's a bad thing how exactly?"

            If we all lived like the Amish, most Reg readers would be unemployed.

            There'd be all those barns to be built...

            Apparently a lot of IT people now work in data warehouses' (bit like a barn) or server farms - they'd fit right in...

            1. TomG

              Re: Not useful

              server farms?????

          3. dnicholas Bronze badge

            Re: Not useful

            No internet cat pics... The horror

          4. HelpfulJohn

            Re: Not useful

            "If we all lived like the Amish, most Reg readers would be unemployed."

            I wouldn't be. Without modern tech, I'd have died decades ago.

        4. Dominic Shields

          Re: Not useful

          They have the luxury of pretending to be living in the past whilst using 21st technology and medicine when it suits them

        5. LucreLout Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Not useful

          " then we'd all be living like the Amish".

          That's a bad thing how exactly?

          No V8 engines, no telephone pizza, and no internet porn. There's probably some other fripperies like modern medicine, rapid transit, and education opportunities to consider as well, once we've addressed the big three.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not useful

            What about the lack of decent Porn?

        6. x 7 Silver badge

          Re: Not useful

          "That's a bad thing how exactly?"

          No beer

          No sex out of marriage

          Horse buggys

        7. Bent Metal
          Happy

          Re: Not useful

          ...you wouldn't be here online, posting on El Reg

        8. DocJD

          Re: Not useful

          If you lived like the Amish, you wouldn't be on the internet making comments. I suppose that's useful to the rest of us.

    2. Paul Kinsler

      Re: The Drake Equation was never remotely useful,

      I probably wouldn't go that far, but IMO Brin's approach was considerably better physics than Drake:

      http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1983QJRAS..24..283B

      (there is a link to a pdf in that page).

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Not useful

      It's called an error margin.

      The equation is perfectly fine, so long as you account for your potential error.

      And when you do that, we know the number of planets quite well. The number of intelligent beings is an estimate, of course, but it has limits. We know there can't be intelligent life on every planet. We know there can't be no intelligent life. So you get a nice range of measurements of where it's MOST LIKELY to lie and you apply those to the equation.

      That gives you an answer of "what are the chances" with a nice error margin. And, fortunately, that error margin can be read as either a "most likely minimum chance" and "most likely maximum chance". The most likely minimum is basically zero. The most likely maximum is... well... tiny. So we can say, with some degree of accuracy, that the chances of finding any communicating civilisation at all are... tiny.

      It's not hard. That's GCSE science. State your units. Calculate the possible error in your measurements.

      And the Drake equation tells you that you won't observe life out there. And it only rarely gets revised up (e.g. the latest round of planet-detections in the last 20 years). And it more often than not gets revised further down (as here - even if they were around broadcasting for 10,000 years, we might never have detected them, and 10,000 years seems an oddly long time for a civilisation to be stuck on producing arbitrary and strong EM emissions).

      At the end of the day, it's statistics, so it could all be "wrong". But it's not actually wrong. It's a probability, that you can calculate. We might find an intelligent civilisation next door (in solar terms), which is a billions-upon-billions-to-one chance. But it could happen and we still wouldn't be "wrong". It just may be fluke and the next one might never happen, statistically.

      If you think statistics are wrong, you may as well never do any science at all, ever. If nothing else, they give you an indication of where it's best to focus your efforts. Sure, it may not work out. But, on average, over the age of a civilisation like ours, the statistics will win out and provide you with the best possible solution. Rather than waste billions looking for aliens and never developing space-flight, we can say "Hey, it's worth poking around, but let's spend the most money on real science that's more likely to result in something more practical."

      1. Joe Werner
        Pint

        Re: Not useful

        Good explanation, I think. But then I deal with probabilities every day (no, I am not a pro poker player ;) ). Have one of those --->

        (but remember: don't drink and derive!)

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Not useful

        But we can't pick up regular broadcasts and a beamed transmission is likely to be in the noise at about 10 ly distance only, i.e. a mere handful of likely stars.

        Also WHY would anyone beam a transmission? The range of regular broadcasting would hardly reach the Oort Cloud, even if someone parked there with massive dishes.

        It's basic thermodynamics, the issue of signal to noise and the inverse square law. We can pick up radio noise emitted by stars on big dishes as that is massive!

        1. low_resolution_foxxes

          Re: Not useful

          It is possible that an intelligent being is performing intergalactic research on our data feeds, but can only find a severe fascination with reality tv, copulation and felines.

          They shall leave us alone until the hyper-intelligent dolphin species discover morse code and quantum entanglement.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Not useful

          " the issue of signal to noise and the inverse square law"

          True, but that ratio never actually reaches zero, so technically such transmissions would remain detectable regardless of range. Of course, in practice such detection is limited by the technology of the receiver, and since we are not infinitely advanced technologically speaking there is a (fairly high) limit for what *we* can detect.

          1. ravenviz Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Not useful

            that ratio never actually reaches zero

            I suspect you mean it never reaches 1.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not useful

          "Also WHY would anyone beam a transmission?"

          They don't need to be beaming a transmission. SETI (as an example) wasn't looking for a transmission, it was looking for unusual EM activity. A reasonably powered radar system at a military airport was expected to be detected by SETI at a distance of several hundred light years.

          However the means of detection, be it looking at how the spectral analysis of a star changes by the planet passing by, or a deliberate beacon of "we are here", it's all travelling to us at c and can be considered the same bubble of EM distortion.

        4. HelpfulJohn

          Re: Not useful

          Why would anyone beam a transmission? Obviously, a software update to their auto-Rama which just happens to be roughly in line of sight to the Earth for a few seconds.

          "Wow!" signal neatly explained.

        5. Jaybus

          Re: Not useful

          Why beam a transmission? For the very reason stated; distance. Space agencies are already in the process of developing optical communications systems, as the amount of data being produced by deep space probes is exceeding the bandwidth capabilities of current RF systems. The shorter the wavelength, the smaller the beam divergence, given the same minimum beam width (waist). It would make more sense to limit the search to civilizations achieving interplanetary travel, since our only data source indicates a move to optical communications within 100 years. We should be looking at UV or shorter wavelengths, not radio. We ourselves have only been using radio for a bit over 100 years and already have moved to primarily optical communications for all but short distances.

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Not useful

        "and 10,000 years seems an oddly long time for a civilisation to be stuck on producing arbitrary and strong EM emissions"

        What does that mean? after a while they should have moved on to some sci fi type communcation medium . Sub etha transmision? The cortex? wormhole instant messaging?

        Going off our sample survey of 1 observed radio capable civilisation, 10,000 years seems an oddly long time for a civilisation to stay alive , ours will have blown itself up or died out due to having consumed all the resources long before that.

        1. The Mole

          Re: Not useful

          Yes. Either the technology has moved on to none EM based transmissions (which may not even exist on earth). Or one can assume the EM technology would be made more and more efficient, either due to energy budget constraints, or minimising interference between a large multitude of devices. It seems to me (not an expert) inconceivable to consider that within 10,000 years (or even 1000) that the civilisation won't have reached a stage where the EM radiation is so low power to make it impossible for us to detect as a coherent signal out of the background noise. Perhaps there will be concentrated beams of higher power EM from longer distance communications (e.g. to probes/other planets) that we could detect, but not a sphere of signals.

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Not useful

            How did you send a message around the world 100 years ago?

            Spark-gap generators pushing out watts of EM power on all frequencies.

            Then?

            You moved to frequency-specific transmissions.

            Then... you moved to low-power frequency-specific transmissions.

            Then... you moved to low-power, encrypted (i.e. indistinguishable from noise), frequency-specific transmissions.

            Then... you moved to low-power, encrypted frequency-HOPPING transmissions.

            Then... you moved to fibre.

            Some huge portion of the world's communications is now entirely invisible electromagnetically. Sure, the endpoints may be converted to EM, but that's it. And now? Fibre optics to your home, to your device (USB3 anyone?), massively reduced and controlled EM emissions, and moving from broadcast technology to digital services and direct streaming. We switched off analogue TV. How long before we switch off analog radio? DVB? In favour of streamed content over IP rather than broadcast-over-the-airwaves? Not long.

            That's in the space of 100 years. 100 times that length of time? I can't imagine that what we recognise as an EM emission is even comparable to what's used by then. It's literally like having had Morse Code transmissions over a spark-gap generator at the start of the stone age, and projecting towards what you would have in the modern day.

            So... yes. I'll be amazed if any kind of detectable, recognisable, understandable (i.e. not encrypted so it stands out from random noise, etc.) EM emission from a synthetic source would still be being produced by us in 10,000 years. And we have to assume that other civilisations will be the same.

            1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              Re: Not useful

              This has been my thought exactly. Unless you happen to catch a signal from the ~100 year broadcast leakage period, the planet will likely seem dark,

              1. Long John Brass Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: Not useful

                This has been my thought exactly. Unless you happen to catch a signal from the ~100 year broadcast leakage period, the planet will likely seem dark

                In radio fequencies yes; But as a technological civilisation increases in size and power(watts) the amount of waste heat goes up. We *should* be looking for excess IR!

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Not useful

                  "We *should* be looking for excess IR!"

                  We can, at the moment, only infer the existence of planets in other solar systems. I doubt we could identify the miniscule amount of IR produced by a civilisation against the background of it's star.

                  Maybe we should be looking for low level IR sources with no apparent star nearby? Dyson spheres!

            2. Nolveys Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Not useful

              Then... you moved to low-power, encrypted (i.e. indistinguishable from noise), frequency-specific transmissions.

              When your comment is minimized it fades out as you list successively less easily observable EM transmission methods.

            3. Mark 85 Silver badge

              @Lee D -- Re: Not useful

              Bingo!!! Spot on!!! You just summed up the problem nicely.

            4. Randy Hudson

              Re: Not useful

              You seem to assume that EM emissions can only be unintentionally leaked into space.

            5. ecofeco Silver badge

              Re: Not useful

              And soon, quantum entanglement.

            6. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: Not useful

              "How long before we switch off analog radio? DVB? In favour of streamed content over IP rather than broadcast-over-the-airwaves?"

              You can't string a fiber optic cable up to a satellite. And our transmitters send directional signals, but it makes it to deep space. Someone 'lucky enough' to be in the pattern [as earth spins around] might catch an occasional broadcast coming from our way, and every 24 hours it would repeat. That's gonna catch some attention if they're paying any attention at all.

              That, and television and FM radio signals, broadcasting at 100kwatts [or more], and especially UHF TV, which can go up to half a million watts (as I recall). OK with all of the noise with multiple transmitters on multiple frequencies competing and interfering with one another [and multiple picture standards to decode] it's LESS likely to be decodable by ETs but it might indicate "something" like 'chaos' vs 'noise'.

            7. Michael Thibault

              Re: Not useful

              "And we have to assume that other civilisations will be the same."

              So, what you're saying is that they also have the Drake equation in mind, and have figured out that the smart thing, on the cosmic scale, is to minimize the 'thickness' of the EM shell being emitted from the relevant location, in order to better hide the fact of their existence -- and that we are doing the same.

              In other words, the Drake equation's very development leads to behaviours which limit, then conceal, and -- finally -- absolutely eliminate the very signal most-likely to successfully remotely confirm the fact of intelligent life.

              Folding the Drake equation peregrinations into the Drake equation makes it go 'Poof!'. Now we know.

        2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Not useful

          ...or died out due to having consumed all the resources long before that....

          Not that old hoary chestnut again!

          We will NEVER 'consume all our resources'. We have a Solar System full of them locally, and lots more elsewhere. Read Julian Simon... https://www.wired.com/1997/02/the-doomslayer-2/

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: Not useful

            We will NEVER 'consume all our resources'.

            Perhaps not. But we might consume all resources that we can realistically make use of.

            And we may poison our environment while doing so to the extent that we expire as a race.

            And we may alter the climate of the planet to the extent that we expire as a race.

            We may just end up being an ultimately short-lived and not very successful experiment in large-brain creatures with dexterous forelimbs (vs. for example thick skin, sharp teeth, massive jaws, superior immune system, low metabolism).

        3. HelpfulJohn

          Re: Not useful

          Human "civilisation" has greatly moved to low-energy digital msignals and away from the megawatt giant antennae of the previous Century.

          One would expect any non-wasteful civilisation to do something similar fairly soon after discovering radio. So they would go quiet even if they survived forever.

        4. enormous c word

          Re: Not useful

          Radio signals seem like an extremely poor source of evidence for detecting intelligent life. We've been broadcasting for what about 100 years. Radio is ok for communicating within the confines of our planet earth but for inter-planetary distances way too slow to be usable to have a decent chat ...

          I'm no scientist much less a physicist, but Quantum Entanglement allows instantaneous communication over any distance (as I understand it) but requires the particles to have been located in the same space initially before being separated - but this is still point-to-point communication so there is no chance of eavesdropping on conversations between little-green-men. Seems to me that 100 years is a very narrow span of time. So Quantum Entanglement (as I understand it) solves both the transmission time problem and the security problem, so how much longer will Radio Transmissions be used for - surely not another 100 years...

          Of course the assumption has been that any planet only ever produces 1 technologically advanced civilisation or species - who is to say the dinosaurs didn't evolve and develop technology - a 1000 years is a blip in the fossil record. Maybe after human civilisation dies off hamsters or squid will evolve into a technologically advanced species.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not useful

        "We know there can't be no intelligent life."

        The lower bound, however, is extremely low in astronomical terms. It's one planet. Here.

        1. 's water music Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Not useful

          The lower bound, however, is extremely low in astronomical terms. It's one planet. Here.

          Maybe not even that high if you take me into account in your averages

        2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Not useful

          "We know there can't be no intelligent life"

          No we don't. We only believe that there is at least one incidence of a species becoming intelligent if you believe that humans (or dolphins) are that species.

          Human intelligence is debatable at best.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not useful

          "We know there can be intelligent life." FTFY Double negative.

        4. Toni the terrible
          Facepalm

          Re: Not useful

          and who says there is intelligent life on this planet anyway - the evidence is against it!

      5. PghMike

        Re: Not useful

        What's the probability that technologically competent life will arise on a planet?

      6. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Not useful

        We know there can't be no intelligent life.

        Do we? Aside from our own planet I mean. How do we *know* that? It may be improbable that in the evolution of intelligent life Earth stands alone in the cosmos, but it's certainly not impossible.

        1. Snorlax
          Alien

          Re: Not useful

          @LucreLout:”Do we? Aside from our own planet I mean. How do we *know* that? It may be improbable that in the evolution of intelligent life Earth stands alone in the cosmos, but it's certainly not impossible.”

          No sign of intelligent life in any of your posts anyway, eh LucreLout?

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: Not useful

            No sign of intelligent life in any of your posts anyway, eh LucreLout?

            Still posting with all the intelligence of a dog turd Snorlax? Why yes, of course you are.

            Seriously, if you have nothing intelligent to say, and you don't, then why say anything at all? I thought half term was over now and you'd be back at school?

            1. Snorlax
              FAIL

              Re: Not useful

              "Still posting with all the intelligence of a dog turd Snorlax? Why yes, of course you are."

              Aww, poor widdle LL is triggered...

              1. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: Not useful

                Aww, poor widdle LL is triggered...

                Not so much triggered, as wondering why I'm feeding the educationally subnormal troll.

                1. Snorlax
                  FAIL

                  Re: Not useful

                  "Not so much triggered, as wondering why I'm feeding the educationally subnormal troll."

                  You like feeding trolls because you're sooooo determined to have the last word every time...

                  We get it, you're 'special'

                  BTW I think it's funny that you take the time to downvote every single one of my posts - it shows how sad and petty you really are.

                  1. LucreLout Silver badge

                    Re: Not useful

                    BTW I think it's funny that you take the time to downvote every single one of my posts - it shows how sad and petty you really are.

                    Pot, kettle, line 2.

                    Seriously, I get that kids these days have no concept of online behaviour, but you're really pushing the boat out. That your posts attract significant downvoting is most likely a reflection of the paucity of intellect you display, and the propensity to attack the poster because you're not capable of attacking the post. Your lack of reason, tendency to have entirely fictitious fact free posts, and championing of emotion over, well, everything else, would be depressing, if only it were more suprising. Sadly, we all know what we're getting as soon as we see your username.

                    I can't dance, so I stay the fuck off the dance floor. Get it yet?

                    1. Snorlax
                      FAIL

                      Re: Not useful

                      "That your posts attract significant downvoting is most likely a reflection of the paucity of intellect you display, and the propensity to attack the poster because you're not capable of attacking the post."

                      I get that you're too dumb to understand downvoting has no effect on somebody's standing. It doesn't bother me in the slightest.

                      That's what's funny about it - you're just wasting your own time. Carry on, jackass...

                      1. LucreLout Silver badge

                        Re: Not useful

                        understand downvoting has no effect on somebody's standing. It doesn't bother me in the slightest.

                        So that's why you're having a tantrum and crying to mummy?

        2. Alex Walsh

          Re: Not useful

          If space is infinite, and as a population on a planet we're finite, we can all quote Douglas Adams on where that leaves us statistically.

    4. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Not useful

      Theoretical equations are not meant to perfectly predict reality, they provide us a simplified frame of reference to make educated conjectures. But to say the entire concept "isn't worth squat" is a gross oversimplification. It's just the first step towards understanding the mechanisms in play. You have to start somewhere.

      1. PghMike

        Re: Not useful

        You have to start somewhere, but you also have to recognize when you haven't gotten anywhere.

        Why we think we'll be broadcasting *anything* 100 years from now is a mystery to me.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Not useful

          Why we think we'll be broadcasting *anything* 100 years from now is a mystery to me.

          We aren't broadcasting *anything worthwhile* Now

        2. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Not useful

          Why we think we'll be broadcasting *anything* 100 years from now is a mystery to me.

          That's a very limited view.

          If we do start to become a space-faring civilisation, even if only within the bounds of our solar system, then we will have to begin with some form of radio communication between planets and spacecraft.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Not useful

            "If we do start to become a space-faring civilisation, even if only within the bounds of our solar system, then we will have to begin with some form of radio communication between planets and spacecraft."

            Yes, but that will be point-to-point (not spherical shells) and beam spread will be as small as engineering allows, so that as much of the input power as possible actually arrives at the recipient. (Think lasers.) Unless your planet happens to float exactly in between two such space-faring colonies, you wouldn't know there was anything going on.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Teledildonics

      A colleague of mine once postulated that invention of teledildonics by any sufficiently advanced civilisation is a perfect explanation of Fermi's paradox.

    6. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Not useful

      The answer of course to Fermi's paradox is the universe has so much space that the human mind can't comprehend how little matter to space there is as well as distances involved and that travel outside of galaxies is basically impossible. Hate to be that guy but I truly believe no human will ever be in orbit around any star but our own.

    7. Oh Homer Silver badge
      Trollface

      Aliens will be dead by the time we receive their transmissions

      Sounds like they're using BT Broadband.

    8. cream wobbly

      Re: Not useful

      "We have only a sample of one (here) which is statistically meaningless."

      Not really. We know roughly when proto-life emerged from spiral molecules, and for roughly how long the conditions conducive to forming those (or similar) molecular spirals were in existence prior to that. We know roughly the astronomical conditions necessary to producing the planetary surface conditions. From there we can deduce some very broad probabilities.

      Thing about broad probabilities is when you combine them, they either splounce out to infinities, or they limit themselves. It happens that these are the sort that self-limit.

      I mean, it's not like we have anything close to useful that could guide us where to look. Pretty much the best we've got is "I hope that star isn't exploding or collapsing", (but even that makes an unreasonably big assumption that stellar stability is key to life). We don't really know how old their planets are ... yet. We don't know anything at all about their surface conditions. But that's just the probability for evolving life. Life, it can be concluded, given certain pretty common conditions, is pretty much inevitable.

      When you start talking about intelligent life though [1], the probabilities start to diverge again. Add in technological intelligent life, and the divergence increases. Add in communicative technological intelligent life, and it's almost as useless trying to make predictions about that as it is to prove the existence of a soul [2].

      So it's quite possible that we could eventually make great predictions about where to look for signs of intelligent life [1] but technological and communicative? You're just going to have to keep that screensaver running and brute-force it.

      1. Yes I know, not the Whitehouse. Ell Oh Ell.

      2. Pronounced "arsehole", natch.

    9. ronspencer314

      Re: Not useful

      "Until and unless we observe some life Out There, the Drake Equation don't mean squat."

      So, you can either start with an equation that organizes all the things that stand in the way of encountering a communicating civilization there might be, or you can just wait. What if you encounter exactly one other? What more have you learned, then?

      It is certainly well understood that several of the terms in the equation are entirely unknown. But, so what? It is a useful exercise for thinking about these things that prevents thinking from going down other ratholes.

    10. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Not useful

      "We have only a sample of one (here) which is statistically meaningless."

      Well, maybe not one [Mars bacteria fossils may have been found in a meteorite, for example]. But yeah, 2 neighboring planets, one of which could have seeded the other [since the meteor made it here], is STILL statistically meaningless.

      Now, if signs of life are found on Io or Europa or any OTHER planet/moon in our own solar system, it might be like the odds of finding planets going around any given star. Recent observations suggest that planets are EXTREMELY common, better than the Drake equation had ever suggested.

      "the fraction of formed stars that have planets" was once (1961, per wikipedia page) set at a value of 0.2 to 0.5 . Nowadays, it's a number pretty close to 1. The # of planets in the goldilocks zone was also estimated at 1-5 [similar to our solar system, actually]. That next number might need to be revised [up] as well.

    11. Mips

      Re: Not useful

      Quite right. And they are too faint to hear anyway.

  2. Tom 64
    Joke

    Not Chen?

    Gordon Bennett! Yes, Chen, everybody, everybody's dead, Dave!

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Not Chen?

      Peterson isn't, is he?

  3. Tony Paulazzo

    Short of subliming they could've retreated into awesome Virtual Realities and stopped advertising their presence in the galaxy.

    After all, on Earth, there are plenty of sheep but also not a few wolves.

  4. Peter Prof Fox

    I visit from time to time

    Don't get me wrong, it's a nice Earth, and I'm sure you're proud of it, but I wouldn't want to live here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I visit from time to time

      Why thank you.

      if you're ever passing Earth again, pass!

    2. slimshady76
      Pint

      Re: I visit from time to time

      Not enough towels for you, or too high of a probability to be in an interstellar highway's path?

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I visit from time to time

        Nah, they just don't like cricket. Bad form, that game, very bad form

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I visit from time to time

        Probably too many telephone sanitizers.

    3. wayne 8

      Re: I visit from time to time

      Think of your worst city in your home country. That's Earth to the rest of the Universe.

      Capable of intergalactic travel, why would they need anything from Earth? We think we're all that.

      Why in the universe would you use way more power than is necessary to beam a message out to a distant spacecraft. Then there is directional antennae. An eaves dropping civilization would need to be out along that beam.

      Most likely any transmission after a distance would appear to be unintelligible noise. Much like TV.

      "Geordie Shore" leaking out across the universe?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They haven't visited us because they have been to the local planning offices on Alpha Centuri.

  6. Ralph the Wonder Llama

    Obligatory DNA

    “It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obligatory DNA

      It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, ... However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

      False logic. ∞ - x is still ∞

      1. kryptonaut
        Boffin

        Re: Obligatory DNA

        It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, ... However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

        False logic. ∞ - x is still ∞

        Well, for finite x, yes. But if x is infinite then the result could be finite or infinite.

        If we accept that there are an infinite number of worlds then from current observations all we can deduce is that there are between 1 and infinity inhabited worlds, and between some positive number and infinity uninhabited worlds. Which rather spoils the fun.

      2. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: Obligatory DNA

        "It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, ... However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

        False logic. ∞ - x is still ∞"

        Actually, the false logic is assuming there are an infinite number of worlds. You may postulate that there is an infinite amount of 3d space for things to exist in, but that is not the same that there is an infinite amount of matter.

        Assuming we are not getting into dimensional discussions.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Obligatory DNA

          that there is an infinite amount of matter.

          Which would imply an infinite amount of energy, and we'd all be rather toasty?

        2. a pressbutton

          Re: Obligatory DNA

          I was expecting someone who has actual expertise to comment but I thought that as the big bang was 13.x v.v years ago and the speed of light was finite, the volume of space we can observe is finite even though the universe is infinite and from that it follows that the number of worlds we can see is finite.

          1. bobbyshane

            Re: Obligatory DNA

            The Universe is also finite though.

            1. JLV Silver badge

              Re: Obligatory DNA

              >The Universe is also finite though.

              Ok, I'll bite, because I recently saw some preacher's book makes a big point of the "fact" that the universe being infinite is stupid.

              If the universe IS finite, then, once you reach its limit - and I am NOT talking about the limit of the current Big Bang expansion - what do YOU claim lies beyond that boundary?

              1. Grikath Silver badge

                universal infinity.

                The Universe is finite.. It's *expanding* into infinity. **

                The expanding balloon model is applicable here. Shaves off a dimension so that our monkey brains can more easily visualise the phenomenon.

                ** We still have no idea what we're expanding into. Now *that* is the billion-dollar question. Or slood.. everything is better with slood.

                1. JLV Silver badge

                  Re: universal infinity.

                  Upvoted you n BobbyS for making my head hurt:

                  http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/privacy-policy/104-the-universe/cosmology-and-the-big-bang/expansion-of-the-universe/623-what-is-the-universe-expanding-into-intermediate

                2. ravenviz Silver badge

                  Re: universal infinity.

                  As any fule no, the universe is expanding inwards and everything's getting *smaller*!

      3. MonkeyCee Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Obligatory DNA

        "Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds"

        "False logic. ∞ - x is still ∞"

        0 points, numerator and denominator reversed.

        Let x be any finite number.

        x/∞ is approximatly zero.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obligatory DNA

          0 points, numerator and denominator reversed.

          '-' is not '÷"

      4. Paul Kinsler

        Re: False logic. ∞ - x is still ∞

        I rather think the "false logic" here is in deciding to apply mathematical reasoning to a sentence primarily written for comic effect. :-)

      5. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Obligatory DNA

        He's using Bistromaths....

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Re: Obligatory DNA

          "He's using Bistromaths...."

          Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obligatory DNA

        You'll have to take that up with the original author.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obligatory DNA

      "Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds."

      The funny thing about infinite quantities is that you can always add one more. So any finite quantity that is a fixed proportion of an infinite quantity - is itself both finite and infinite. Therefore the probability remains constant?

      Second cup of coffee please.

      1. AceRimmer1980
        Go

        Re: Obligatory DNA

        Coffee has been discredited in Improbability drives, due to some unethical (and highly improbable) figures from drives that could detect when they were being tested.

        Stick to a nice hot cup of tea, can get nearly 8,767,128:1 from a cup of Tetley.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obligatory DNA

          'Stick to a nice hot cup of tea, can get nearly 8,767,128:1 from a cup of Tetley.'

          Hmmm did I see you use 'nice hot cup of tea' and 'Tetley' there in the same sentence in a manner most vexatiously oxymoronic?

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory DNA

      "...there is an infinite amount of space..."

      Paging Herr Olbers. Paging Herr Olbers.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: Paging Herr Olbers. Paging Herr Olbers.

        I think Herr Professor Doctor Hilbert wants to discuss plans for a hotel

    4. JLV Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory DNA

      Space is infinite. The volume w "things in it" is not - it's our expanding Big Bang front. The number of planets is therefore not infinite (and we're still discovering goldilocks planet likelihood, even for increasingly elastic definitions of what life might pit up with).

      As to the absence of aliens - most of them learned much too late not to light lanterns in dark forests.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obligatory DNA

      “It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds,

      WRONG.

      simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in.

      NOT ACCORDING TO MANY OF THE COSMOLOGICAL MODELS, QUITE LIKELY WRONG

      However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

      WRONG IF THE FIRST PREMISE IS TRUE

      Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds,

      IRRELEVANT

      so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero,

      WRONG

      and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”

      DOES NOT FOLLOW

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    "If we ever detect signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, they are likely already dead, a somewhat downbeat update to the venerable Drake equation suggests."

    I have every faith in civilisations existing outside of our our solar system are very much a live and kicking, and that the only thing dead here is that bloody equation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I have every faith in civilisations existing outside of our our solar system are very much a live and kicking,[...]"

      After hearing and seeing our transmissions of the last 100 years they are probably steering clear of our neighbourhood.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        They'd visit, but they're still trying to get through all eleventy million episodes of Law and Order.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Who said they are using EM in the first place?

      Either dead or switched to a more advanced means of communication than EM.

      The issue with EM is that its bandwidth is finite. There will be a point where we simply cannot jam the required information into a spectrum band any more.

      At the current rate of bandwidth increases in wireless tech that is ~ 20 years away tops. At that point we will start a desperate scramble looking for something to replace it. Once it is found (if it is), we are not likely to go back to radio making it obsolete. Let's assume it takes us 50 more years to find it and 50 more years for the last EM refuseniks to switch to that.

      As a result, the Earth EM shell will be a mere ~250 light years thick.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Who said they are using EM in the first place?

        No, the range that Earth's EM can be received at above the noise is likely about 20 to 100 times less than 250ly depending on size of massive dish array pointed at us.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Who said they are using EM in the first place?

        "There will be a point where we simply cannot jam the required information into a spectrum band any more."

        And the closer you get to that the more it looks like noise.

      3. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Who said they are using EM in the first place?

        Well actually there's stil much more life left in EM. After all we can (theoretically) go up to light frequencies and use "antenna" arrays on both ends so we essentially have lots of high bandwidth (multi-terabit) point to point connections.

        The more pressing issue is that high power transmissions are dying out. Our troposcatter transmissions are being phased out as better options (i.e. fiberoptics) become more and more prevalent.

        Most transmissions are now in the sub 10kW EIRP range, and they are digital so they will look like noise to any observer and perhaps even blend with the noise.

        The times when TV stations blasted away with hundreds of kilowatts are gone.

        1. DCFusor Silver badge

          Re: Who said they are using EM in the first place?

          @Chistian:

          And even those TV stations never actually had that transmit power - they were boasting based on the antenna gain, a lot of which came from not sending much of the signal in the useless (to us) direction "up".

    3. Blank Reg

      It's highly unlikely that we will ever find a signal from an alien race. This updated equation is nothing new to me, I've been saying this for decades.

      Both time and space are rather big, while it seems extremely unlikely that intelligent life hasn't occurred somewhere else in the universe, it's also extremely unlikely that their existence would overlap in time and space in just such a way that we would intercept a signal and be able to detect it as something other than random noise.

    4. David Nash Silver badge

      "I have every faith in civilisations existing outside of our our solar system are very much a live and kicking, and that the only thing dead here is that bloody equation."

      Faith shouldn't enter into it.

      On what do you base such faith in the face of zero evidence?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "On what do you base such faith in the face of zero evidence?"

        Absense of evidence doesn't mean evidence of absense.

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    Assumptions

    Space is deep (obligatory Hawkwind reference)

    The distances are mind boggling - even for "nearby" stars

    Inverse square law means with distance electromagnetic signals will be very hard to detect unless massive.

    So unless very close and very powerful, to detect alien signals needs the aliens to be making a huge effort to produce a powerful signal (and thet signal being found amidst background noise - who's to say our Hydrogen band 21 guess of where to look for signals would make sense to an alien?)

    Theres nothing that says aliens will want to broadcast a signal (e.g. they might be cautious and not announce themselves in case a more advanced alien species with bad intentions nobbles them )

    Theres also chance that advances in science would mean totally different power / communications methods so that there was not huge EM signal from normal activity - we would be clueless if aliens used neutrinos, tachyons, dimension 7 (if we pretend some of the 11 dimensional (or whatever) space time models are true) etc to communicate

    I think we can safely assume that (non slow) interstellar travel will not be easy.

    Even if, with sufficient knowledge it does turn out that rapid huge distance travel is viable, why should an alien announce their presence to us (they may have rules in place to not interact with organisms as (relatively) technologically backward as us

    We have being producing EM pollution for a while, but go a tiny distance (in galaxy terms) and undetectable

    1. PerlyKing
      Boffin

      Hydrogen band

      @tiggity: "who's to say our Hydrogen band 21 guess of where to look for signals would make sense to an alien?"

      Mostly physics. See http://www.setileague.org/askdr/beyond_h.htm for an explanation.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Assumptions

      The final section of the paper covers 'detectability' (is that a word?) based on multi-TW equivalent sources (their example being Arecibo used as a radar). On that basis, detectable signals would be limited to 1000lr - barely a drop in the space-time ocean.

      But it is good news that "Bullseye", even in a worst case scenario, won't contaminate the entire universe ... "You went for M42 and hit Andromeda. Your question is; how bad can you be at Radio Signal Darts and how many Tatooinians are currently changing channels because they don't know what a speedboat is?" :-)

    3. Richard Tobin

      Re: Assumptions

      The better compressed a radio transmission is, the harder it is to distinguish it from random noise. A DVB transmission looks more like noise than an analogue one, for example.

      We will only be able to detect transmissions from civilizations that have not yet developed efficient compression algorithms.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Assumptions

      I think one thing you need for intelligent life to form is somewhere like earth and 4 billion years. To make somewhere like earth you need a couple of generations of stars. and also for it to not have too many active stars in the region blowing up and wiping out any life before it has 4 billion years to get to the point where it thinks a digital watch is a good thing. Any region of space that is likely to provide these conditions will have to take around 10 billion years to provide the planet with all the elements necessary and not too much radiation around the place. Which get us to about now from the big bang.

      I'd put good money on their being other intelligent life out there and its a couple of billion light years away and thinking the same as us and in a couple of billion years we may just have detectors sufficiently sensitive to catch their first TV shows.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

    The Earth has been visited, on several occasions.

    There are several alien intelligences here on Earth, observing us, and, in some cases, observing each other. They have good reasons for remaining hidden. Firstly, they have a scientific interest in what they're observing and don't want to perturb it. Secondly, each intelligence is concerned that some other intelligence which they have not yet observed and which has not yet observed them might regard them as a threat if it observed them. So generally it makes sense to stay hidden to the best of one's abilities. And those abilities are rather high-tech compared to what we have. Hence we remain blissfully unaware of all this going on around us.

    I'll admit I don't know exactly how many alien intelligences are here on Earth and what the directed graph is like of which are aware of which, but I'm fairly confident of the general principle. So behave yourself. You are under observation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

      "So behave yourself. You are under observation."

      Ah - so are revealed the lizards that are currently taking over the governments of the world.

    2. deconstructionist

      Re: Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

      No it has not .

      we are (our star SOL this is ) a 3rd generation star of the big bang, generation one stars cannot support life as they had to die to seed it , 2 generation stars don't seem to have enough heavy elements in their formation (dust clouds the planets are made off) from what information we can gather to seed life only when we get to generation 3 that is us, is there enough of the heavier stuff to grow life ;)

      And interstellar space travel is for the Disney channel or ancient aliens on the discovery channel , nice entertainment.

    3. Bruce Ordway

      Re: Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

      >>I'll admit I don't know exactly how many alien intelligences are here on Earth

      The documentary series "People of Earth" gives some good estimates.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4695530/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    4. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

      " So behave yourself. You are under observation. "

      Oh dammit! What we didn't want was everyone acting as though they're being watched. Have you never heard of the observer's paradox?

      Bugger it all -- the experiment's a bust. Might as well put the whole planet in the autoclave and restart from scratch.

      I'm never going to finish my BSc at this rate....

    5. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

      "So behave yourself. You are under observation."

      What is the alien version of good behaviour?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one hope we don't get visited by dead aliens. That would be creepy.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      IS Alien Zombies a film yet? If not, why not?

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Alien

        Surprisingly no, there's no film called "Alien Zombies", however, there's plenty with almost that title.

  11. Richard Tobin

    Where is everybody?

    ... as a native American said in 1491.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Where is everybody?

      Actually I'm thinking in 1491 the native Americans were probably thinking 'Thank Eagle Lord those bastards from Greenland havent come back to New Brunswick like they did 500 years ago and give up all those nasty diseases our population is still recovering from

  12. ' DROP TABLE users;

    Kind of crimps the chancellor's ability to borrow money of 'em.

    (What is the rate of Galactic Groats to the £$ anyway?)

    1. Ralph the Wonder Llama

      More Obligatory DNA

      "Universe, The

      Some information to help you live in it.

      5. Monetary Units: none.

      In fact there are three freely convertible currencies in the Galaxy, but none of them count. The Altairian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own very special problems. Its exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Ningis are not negotiable currency, because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change. From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that the Galactibanks are also the product of a deranged imagination."

  13. Mage Silver badge

    Why we don't receive Alien transmissions.

    Basic Thermodynamics resulting in Shannon-Nyquist law.

    Radio, other than star emissions, can't possibly be practical for a more than a few light years distance, tens at most if beamed.

    Our emissions at the peak (lower now) hardly likely to be detectable much beyond Kuiper Belt and unlikely as far as the Oort cloud.

    ~

    There is no Fermi paradox, only a lack of understanding of practical RF engineering. The only likely method of detecting a civilisation is using the power of a star as "transmitter", the spectrum seen as a planet with an atmosphere transits in the same plane as our observations. The James Web 'scope should improve our ability to do this.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Why we don't receive Alien transmissions.

      Mage wisely noted, "Radio....can't possibly be practical for a more than a few light years distance..."

      No!! You're neglecting that of course they'd be using very advanced Spread Spectrum technology resulting in *HUGE* Coding Gain.

      Sort of like we do with GPS signals, where they're spread so wide that the signals are otherwise totally undetectable without synchronizing to the key...

      ...oh, hmmm...

      Erm. "...otherwise totally undetectable..."

      Yeah. So all we need to do is guess the details of the modulation and coding key.

      The Drake Equation needs another term, SS(CG) = 1 / 1024^2.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Why we don't receive Alien transmissions.

        Me: "The Drake Equation needs another term, SS(CG) = 1 / 1024^2."

        Apologies. That should probably be SS(CG) = 1 /2^1024, as in 1024 bits. Not merely 1/million.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Well it could be done

      We'd only need to make concerted efforts to reach other cultures.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Why we don't receive Alien transmissions.

      "There is no Fermi paradox, only a lack of understanding of practical RF engineering."

      Au contraire, my good Mage. There is a quite astonishing paradox that Fermi, one of the greatest physicists of the last century, should have found the silence in any way surprising.

  14. RealBigAl

    I thought I read somewhere else that the time a civilisation would/could/should produce signals we could detect didn't mean the civilisation no longer existed, simply that it could have advanced to a point that we would be unable to understand or detect it's transmissions.

  15. WonkoTheSane
    Alien

    There is another option

    For several years now, I've looked at the Drake Equation with the thought that it's based on a false premise:-

    What if we are the "Galactic Elders" that we've been looking for all this time?

    I mean, somebody has to be first to arrive at the party!

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: There is another option

      I think it's because our sun is quite young. There were billions of years for life elsewhere to get a headstart.

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

        Re: There is another option

        But would the planets surrounding those elder suns contain a sufficiently diverse mix of elements to allow life to spawn?

        The only reason we have a periodic table which goes beyond Iron (guessing here and don't have time to research) is supernovae so the further back in time towards the Big Bang the less likely the correct mix of elements will be present in any particular location.

  16. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Just a thought

    Whilst I think the idea of expanding bubbles of radio transmissions makes perfect sense, the strength of a signal decreases with the ratio of the distance ² (inverse square law). From this I would assume there comes a point when the signal strength falls below the possible detection thresholds (i.e strength is at or below the background radiation noise). So whilst the bubble of another civilisation might be passing us right now, we wouldnt be able to detect it.

    I'd be interested to know, if someone has more time (and frankly is extremely bored), how far away our signals will be visible. My guess would be around 1000ly, but I'm pulling that number out of my a$$.

    Still we're probably not missing anything - If earth is anything to go by we're probably not missing anything but Survivor Sirius edition...

    1. Twanky

      Re: Just a thought

      I feel an experiment is necessary to determine whether our 'civilization' is currently detectable. We'd need to launch a couple of craft with a decent angle of separation such that they can communicate with each other but ground control will only directly communicate with one which acts as a relay for the other. The other then needs to scan for evidence of intelligent life on earth and report back via the relay.

      So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure

      How amazingly unlikely it is your birth

      And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,

      Because there's bugger all down here on Earth

      source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/e/ericidlelyrics/galaxysonglyrics.html

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was ist das

    Actually no, more like 80-100ly due to the first *useful* signals sent out into space around 1938.

    Not sure if the Morse distress signal of the RMS Titanic actually got out that far.

    Intriguingly the "event horizon" for signals from us was about 1998. After that the switch to digital and

    other factors makes decoding a lot harder.

    "Any sufficiently encrypted signal is indistinguishable from noise" comes to mind.

    If an alien civilization is present around 40.86ly away they might pick up something and upon sending a starship powered by the Kugelblitz Drive (tm) pick up a strange dropout, conclude we'd been wiped out and move on to more interesting things.

    On the other hand, if they have a jump drive or figured out how to harvest energy directly from space-time they might show up just to be sure.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Was ist das

      Or based on the TV signals, they conclude that the dominant (western) civilisation has collapsed and been replied by (Mexican) a new civilisation that loves a terrible soap opera.

      ( assuming the developed world went DVB first )

  18. dervheid

    Hiding

    If they've any sense at all. We naively assume that 'advanced' civilisations will automatically be benevolent.

    Does humanity come across as visibly benevolent?

    If there are any 'predatory' advanced civilisations out there, we've been cheerfully broadcasting our existence and location for over a century, the clock is already ticking...

    1. Excellentsword

      Re: Hiding

      I dunno, man. Have you seen Independence Day?

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Hiding

        "I dunno, man. Have you seen Independence Day?"

        Yes, and it contains one of the most true-to-life lines known to man.

        An American newsreader telling people not to shoot at the aliens.

    2. Pete4000uk

      Re: Hiding

      You mean like those Sweedish things, what are they called? Borg or something

      1. Justicesays
        Alien

        Re: Hiding

        What is it with people conflating all the Nordic countries?

        It's Björk , and she's Icelandic

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Hiding

          .. Björk, she makes a racket, but perhaps the Swedish Borg he is alluding to held a racquet?

          1. Justicesays

            Re: Hiding

            Come on, clearly

            https://twitter.com/bjornborg

            vs

            https://twitter.com/bjork

            Who is the alien?

            You decide...

  19. 0laf Silver badge
    Boffin

    Was there not a comment on this with regard to ourselves? That our move to digital transmissions makes us much harder to detect. Assuming other civilizations are (or were) out there is there not also a question of for what period did that civilisation broadcast signals in a format that we can detect at this point in our civilisation?

    1. Long John Brass Silver badge
      Boffin

      That our move to digital transmissions makes us much harder to detect

      Yes and no... If you grab an RTL-SDR and look around for digital transmission they are clear enough *IF* the are on a single carrier. The problem comes in with spread spectrum and frequency hopping. While those systems are easier with a digital back-end driving the transmitter/receiver it has very little to do with whats being transmitted. you could for example transmit analog voice over such a system

      Note: Not a Radio HAM or RF techie so this is just my understanding of this stuff :)

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Long John Brass made a mistake

        Long John Brass was concerned that he is "Not a Radio HAM or RF techie..."

        Yes. Your post does contain an error: you forgot the apostrophe in "what's". ;-)

        The rest is good.

  20. Big_Boomer

    Irrelevant

    We started emitting radio waves just over 100 years ago. Initially these were all low frequency that were mostly blocked/bounced by the Ionosphere. Nowadays we mostly use very high frequencies and whilst they go straight through the Ionosphere like it's not there, we use a tiny fraction of the power we used to use for many of these. Yes there are still many high power broadcasts but fewer and fewer as time passes. Eventually we will move on to everything being cabled/fibre except for local very low power (WiFi, Bluetooth) and eventually to Ansible comms or something similarly weird. So, I would imagine a lower limit of 100 years and an upper of maybe 500 years for the bubble thickness. It doesn't means the aliens died, they just stopped using broadcast high power transmissions in favour of something less polluting and more efficient. It could even be that once we discover the next comms revolution, the aliens are all there and willing to chat with the noobies from Sol3.

    1. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

      "Ansible comms" - pff...

      ... Interociter shirly....

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant

      "Yes there are still many high power broadcasts but fewer and fewer as time passes."

      And not as high power as it says on the tin. Nominally a VHF radio transmitter might be transmitting a total of a MW across its channels. In fact, that's ERP; as they don't want to waste energy radiating into space the only directions from which the tower looks like a MW job are those just above the aerial's horizon.

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Irrelevant

      Big Boomer offered, "...[130] years ago. Initially these were all low frequency..."

      Actually, prof Heinrich Hertz's very first experiments were reportedly in what we now call the UHF band. Like around 450 MHz (or 'million cycles per second' at the time) by some reports. Other reports mention wavelengths (4m) that would be VHF.

      In any case, the *very* first RF experiments were much higher frequency than one might assume.

      Mentioned only because it's interesting, not because aliens would have noticed it.

    4. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant

      Eventually we will move on to everything being cabled/fibre except for local very low power (WiFi, Bluetooth)

      Really?

      Aircraft comms will be by trailing a fibre link round with them? same for ships? Links to satellites? And if we start to have a commercial space presence, then all the spacecraft will have a fibre link?

      Ship to shore and shore to ship using satellites, and air to ground, and space to ground, can be by relatively low power directional beams, but ground to air and ground to spacecraft will still have to be broadcast. And then there's radar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Irrelevant

        "Ship to shore and shore to ship using satellites, and air to ground, and space to ground, can be by relatively low power directional beams, but ground to air and ground to spacecraft will still have to be broadcast."

        You can work a low orbit satellite from the ground with a decent antenna on a handheld 5 watt transmitter using UHF. The trick is finding a vehicle that you can use to help. A small handheld yagi should also do.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Irrelevant

          You can work a low orbit satellite from the ground with a decent antenna on a handheld 5 watt transmitter using UHF. The trick is finding a vehicle that you can use to help. A small handheld yagi should also do.

          Yes, but In the context of commercial space travel, talking to spacecraft outside the moon's orbit, that's not relevant.

  21. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Is it even worth thinking about?

    What if the religious people are correct and god made just one planet then stopped. What if we are in a simulation. What if you Register Forum people don't really exist and I'm lying flat on my back somewhere having a fake life programmed in. If so can it be a nicer fake life please.

    1. hmv

      Re: Is it even worth thinking about?

      Religious people correct?

      Thanks. I needed a good chuckle.

    2. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Is it even worth thinking about?

      If we are in a simulation would we be able to tell the difference between that and the religious version of events?

  22. Duffy Moon

    What I'm looking forward to

    I just hope that when they turn up, they bring recordings of all the transmissions we've broadcast. Then I can finally see some of the shows the Beeb wiped.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: What I'm looking forward to

      What we'd need is kind of ship which can travel through time and relative dimensions in space so we could go to Earth's signal event horizon and watch the lost episodes of Doctor Who.

      I'll get my coat and stripey scarf.

  23. Disturbikus

    We're gonna need a bigger board

    I'm sorry but working on the assumption that "they" would use radio signals as their preferred means of contact is begging the question.

    Perhaps alien civilisations have been reaching out to us for millennia via déja vu, static electric shocks, coincidences, and socks teleported out of our washing?

    We need a new equation.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

      Disturbikus postulated, "Perhaps alien civilisations have been reaching out to us for millennia via déja vu, static electric shocks, coincidences, and socks teleported out of our washing?"

      I've often wondered about the first static shock (the sort that runs into your fingers and hurts).

      When would they have started? Seems to require synthetic fabrics and metal door knobs.

      There must have been a very first static shock, and it perhaps it occurred within the span of written history.

      Perhaps there's a dusty old volume somewhere, and written upon its pages is the equivalent of, "What was THAT??!!"

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        "There must have been a very first static shock, and it perhaps it occurred within the span of written history."

        Static shocks and ones administered from a battery certainly existed at the same time as writing, since they all existed in Sumerian, Babylonian and Egyptian times. Amber was considered to have mystical properties exactly because of it's ability to generate a large static charge. There's evidence of it being used in healing rituals,

        Beer because they took brewing very seriously, drank it out through long fancy straws.

        If you're in London, it's worth having a squiz at the stuff they've got on show at the British Museum (Of Stuff We Nicked).

        Oh, technically lightning is a discharge from static, and we've been impressed with that for a long time :)

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

          "Static shocks and ones administered from a battery certainly existed at the same time as writing, since they all existed in Sumerian, Babylonian and Egyptian times."

          But only in fairly dry countries. I imagine the first static shock in the UK was within the last 200 years.

      2. Clarecats

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        Static: stroking a furry cat.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

      Upvoted for socks teleported out of washing. But what do they want with all those socks?

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        I think what what has just been uncovered on this very forum is that our alien overlords have only one leg, with a foot approximately the same length as a human foot.

      2. Mike Brown

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        ???

        Profit!!

      3. Disturbikus

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        "Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded our socks with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us"

      4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        > But what do they want with all those socks?

        Fuel, according to Married with Children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iRH-zVcOmE

    3. Random Handle

      Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

      >and socks teleported out of our washing?

      'Oh my God, it's full of socks'

      1. Disturbikus

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger board

        touché - outsocked!

  24. MrKrotos

    Its a guess and nothing more

    You cant create an equation about something we know nothing about, we dont know if there are ANY planets out there with life on, or have ever been. Its nothing more than a guess.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Its a guess and nothing more

      Not true, we know there's at least one in the universe so it's reasonable to take that as the lower bound.

  25. deconstructionist

    Scientist forgeting science..fermi has an excuse he is dead.

    Femri issue is the exact same as even some more recent learned fellows have like the good Dr Cox with separating the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars from Astrophysics , Interstellar space travel is science fiction, General relativity firmly buries any thought of interstellar travel for baryonic matter by baring anything reaching the speed of light(which actually is even to slow for any reasonable travel) and Special relativity firmly places a large mountain on top of it to say "you are not getting up" (even if you could ignore turning in to a black hole or finding more energy than exist in a trillion big bangs special relativity adds a touch of Monty python, to you if might seem like you got there quicker to everyone else it is like you cycled there on a tricycle with a broken wheel) .

    So Femri's question: " where are they!" is easy to answer ... they are and have always been just like us a prisoner in their own little rock some where out there. and likelihood of 2 intelligent species contacting each other is virtually nil and is never going to happen, we might as this article suggest hear the faint words of long dead interstellar cousins but that is it.

    1. Long John Brass Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Scientist forgeting science..fermi has an excuse he is dead.

      the speed of light(which actually is even to slow for any reasonable travel)

      Only if you consider reasonable ~50 years. Expand the avg. human life span to say ~500 then things change. Assuming something like a digitally uploaded mind then ~10k years becomes reasonable.

      1. deconstructionist

        Re: Scientist forgeting science..fermi has an excuse he is dead.

        You numbers are miles off, the universe is way bigger than that , the galaxy is way bigger than that even traveling just 4 light years at the fastest achievable speed for baryonic matter it would take 28,000 years ...just to go 4 light years.

        You're forgetting Special reality , lets say we want to travel to the opposite side of the galaxy which is anywhere between 110,000 - 180,000 light years across , if we ignore light speed limitation ( as in ignore science fact) and we don't turn in to a black or find trillions of big bangs worth of energy and use it without destroying the universe , and then build a space ship that travels at 110,000 x the speed of light and it takes 1 years to travel 110,000 ....4.5 million years will have passed on earth in the 1 year you've traveled , take traveling to the nearest galaxy Andromeda no matter how quick you get there 1day , a week, a year 4.5 billion years would have passed on earth a third the age of the universe that's special relativity.

        These limitations apply to everything in the universe and no matter how technologically advanced a race gets it wont get round GR or SR they are walls of an infinite nature that there is no way round under, over or through.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Scientist forgeting science..fermi has an excuse he is dead.

          wont get round GR or SR

          Not according to current theories, no.

          1. deconstructionist

            Re: Scientist forgeting science..fermi has an excuse he is dead.

            GR and SR work as expected and anything else is science fiction, you can't think your way it round even Einstein tried that and he end up sitting in the same chair for 12hrs the most depressed he had ever been.

            Baryonic matter contains to much energy as is already traveling through time at the speed of light and probably like us about 500 000 miles an hour through space time. due to laws like thermal dynamic and such , the energy required which is about a trillion big bangs worth of energy to get just my little body to light speed does not exist and cant be added to the universe without destroying it .....and the fact we are still here 13.8 billion years later well.....

            The basic fact is the universe wont allow baryonic matter to get anywhere fast , and even if you tried it would just throw an event horizon round you as the universe hates clumped matter/energy and has these things called black holes.

            This idea some how we will get smart enough to find away round it Is nonsense and nearly every theory we have would have to be utter crap like thermal dynamics, entropy, GR, SR. etc etc

            Sorry but it will never happen and has never ever happened.

  26. Henry Hallan

    The frequencies with the strongest transmission from Earth are 50Hz and 60Hz. And no, they are not modulated with "I love Lucy" or any such.

    When I was studying electrical engineering along with electronics, I was told that the difference was that, in electrical engineering, anything less than 10kW was noise. Now that may be a small exaggeration, but not a large one: electrical transmission losses on this planet run into megawatts or more, and much of that should be detectable at a distance.

    Compared to that telecoms transmissions are insignificant.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      So, to look at the lower bands, we're going to have to plant a radio telescope or three somewhere either very far away (may not be sufficient) or on the backside of the moon (better). Not that there was any reason not to put a radio telescope or three on the backside of the moon.

      1. Henry Hallan

        The Moon might not be big enough. Each pole of a 1/4 wave dipole is going to be 1500km long -- a little less than the Moon's radius. I suspect diffraction would mean the Moon wouldn't be a terribly good shield for 50Hz signals.

  27. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
    Alien

    Imperfect question?

    "The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy."

    I propose, tentatively, that this approach generates a narrow answer to a broader question. Surely what we want to know is "are we alone" and the Drake Equation seems to attempt to answer that in a very specific manner; it looks for "active" civilisations in its incipient form, and with the addition of time frame to the equation it delimits by those civilisations being "dead" or "alive".

    But, I believe it was Arthur C. Clarke who suggested that our first contact with an alien civilization would probably be through remnant technology (as explored in novels such as "rendezvous with rama") or with automated probes (such as humanities Voyager program). Both of these possibilities are not bounded by timeframe, radio transmission ranges or even the carbon-life/death cycle that we presume all lifeforms will suffer from, and yet an encounter with such would provide proof of alien intelligence, whether contemporary or not.

    My conclusion, therefore, is that the Drake Equation is an imperfect tool that really only asks the following question: "Are there alien civilisations active and alive right now, in our galaxy alone (thus precluding the infinite/finite universe question) that have the technology to communicate with us using methods with which we are familiar?"

    A far cry from "Are we alone?".

    [Edit: on review, this may come across as a "straw man" critique, but I still think its a view worth considering.]

  28. 0laf Silver badge

    Pants

    Everyone with young kids knows that aliens love underpants not socks.

    For cruder children I can also recommend "The Dinosaur that pooped the bed".

  29. Cuddles Silver badge

    There is no paradox

    I really wish people would stop calling it "The Fermi Paradox". A paradox is a specific type of statement that is self-contradictory or otherwise logically inconsistent. "This statement is false" is one of the classic examples - if the statement is true, then it must be false, but if it's false, it must be true. The statement simultaneously implies two things which cannot both be correct.

    The Fermi paradox is no such thing. In essence, it boils down to the statement "We thought we should probably see aliens, but we don't". There is no contradiction, it's simply an entirely logical, consistent observation that some people are wrong about how likely aliens are to broadcast in a way we can observe. It can be an interesting starting point for discussions in much the same way the Drake equation can (Fermi's observation is essentially the same thing, just less rigorous), but there is nothing vaguely approaching a paradox involved. Noting that some people have made incorrect assumptions does not mean that their failure to see what they expect is some bizarre logical inconsistency requiring deep thought to resolve.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: There is no paradox

      Cuddles claims that "The Fermi paradox is no such thing."

      But your claim that the "Fermi Paradox is no such thing" only remains true and relevant if the Fermi Paradox remains named the "Fermi Paradox". Therefore the misnamed Fermi Paradox must remain so misnamed.

      ;-)

  30. PghMike

    Too little info

    There's so little we know of our own civilization that extrapolating to extra solar civilizations is a joke. Two questions make that pretty clear:

    1 -- If humans disappeared today, how long would it take for another technologically advanced species to arise? I don't mean intelligent -- it is quite possible that dolphins or whales are more intelligent than us. But neither one has managed to build a telescope or a radio. AFAICT, it took 4.5 billion years for a civilization capable of building a radio to arise on Earth. It has been about 120 years since the first radio transmissions.

    2 -- How long will humanity, or our direct descendants, exist at least at a level capable of broadcasting radio.

    We don't know the answers to these questions, and they're about us and Earth. It would be even harder to extrapolate these answers to other worlds.

    1. PghMike

      Re: Too little info

      and reading other commenters, an even more obvious question -- why would a civilization keep broadcasting radio waves? We're going to be all Internet for communications in a few years.

      1. Kev99 Bronze badge

        Re: Too little info

        And if internet signals are transmitted via telephone cables, they're transmitted by satellite and microwave.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Too little info

      "If humans disappeared today, how long would it take for another technologically advanced species to arise?"

      Good question. Technology is boot-strapped starting with easily accessible stuff and we've used the easily accessible stuff. Of course our rubbish dumps now contain a good stock of material for anyone who finds them but the remaining fossil energy sources are going to be harder to exploit.

    3. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Too little info

      2 -- How long will humanity, or our direct descendants, exist at least at a level capable of broadcasting radio

      There are some dolphins at the door asking why that is relevant.

  31. Daz555

    Yes the universe is vast with uncountable numbers of stars and planets. However, time is also incredibly vast.

    To me, the odds of a civilsation existing in the tiny window (relatively) that the human race could detect them seems impossibly small....of course how small will depend on how long we last.

    1. Binra

      If you wanted to get away from everyone, you would seek-find a time-space to be 'alone' in all the Universe. If you released that to let the Universe back in, time and space will change to a reintegrated perspective. But first one has to want to get away from Self (what is, as it is), to project the device (false flag) onto everyone else and then separate from (or attack and deny) them, so as to 'have control' over your experience. As a software developer once labelled his dialogs; 'acceptance' or 'denial'. As there is nothing else but reality, denial is the invoking of 'something else' and giving it allegiance over true. This generates the polarity of 'choice' as a focus of a consciousness and with this tool, further divisions can be introduced. Polarised and separated forces, entities, identities operate the 'exclusive' point of view. But What Is, embraces all that it is and extends that awareness as an embracing field of awareness and not a confined meatbrain in a realm of death and taxes. We have both of these perspectives within us - like two 'masters' from which to extend and meet results. Bringing self-illusion to the true, opens a repurposing of illusion and not a destruction of it. But to set up the consciousness of the human development, required a destructive experience - hence the Mythic Cosmological record across Antiquity and our human conditioning in its likeness.

      1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
        Alien

        " hence the Mythic Cosmological record across Antiquity and our human conditioning in its likeness"

        Wut?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i'd like to propose...

    that civ's that make it past the annihilation barrier, would likely try and find equilibrium with their environment, eventually becoming indistinguishable from natural processes. so if we were looking for them, maybe they're already right there but we cant tell the difference between them and nature.

    maybe that last cup of water you drank contained some aspects of some highly evolved consciousness.

    in which case, shame on you for pissing them out like that!

    1. Mike Brown

      Re: i'd like to propose...

      or they become dolphins

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: i'd like to propose...

      Relative to making it past an annihilation barrier I offer this from the Atlantic:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/human-existence-will-look-more-miraculous-the-longer-we-survive/554513/

  33. bobbyshane

    Fermi's Fallacy

    http://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/space-travel/robert-s-wilson/fermis-fallacy

  34. Binra

    What we call our mind and assume to be a consciousness or a 'life' formed over and against a largely 'dead' universe, may be a trick of the mind.

    What would mind be - excepting that which matters to it? In other words minding is a verb for the giving of attention, the beholding of, or experiencing.

    What we developed as 'communication' is based upon the predicate of separate minds and lives - but this is a predicate for an experience of Everything through a 'separated off' sense of dissociation.

    My sense is that what we call sense is a mindset of conditioned rules that filter a limited and distorted perception (of Everything). The model works well enough within its own rules, but defends against any other perspective and so in effect quarantines or straitjackets itself within the idea of privately possessed or subjective knowledge, power and life. Disguising this in narratives of wishful thinking that draw upon symbols and derivative concepts of life in modelling such an unfolding experience.

    That Everything (of which we have no power to separate from and thus define in terms of prediction and control) is always communicating to us in every moment or every thought and experience is blocked by the 'mind-set' of allowed discovery. That this nonetheless is the true creative, leaks into our mind, model and experience in events we assign to personal achievements and discoveries - regardless that this is usurping a native intelligence to 'scientific' rulership - and in historical terms is seen in the invalidating, suppression and denial of native cultural wisdom (ancestry) as the presumption of god (judgemental superiority) backed by weapons and false words (guns and laws).

    The basis for communication is not setting the terms of the form of the answer, but of holding a true question and listening for anything from any vector that resonates to our communicated desire.

    Fake questions are statements in the form of questions.

    It is possible to confine and define ourselves within fake or substitute 'reality' as a way of persisting in the experience. But such a substitution is not aligning true and so is innately conflicting and conflicted. The investment and fascination in the apparent dynamic of conflict is in some sense a freak show for just how 'far out' one can go, into the idea of not life or non-existence.

    Looking at All That is and proving non-existence is a strange 'victory' for the sense of lack that drives human development in terms of marketising and weaponising Everything that comes into our range.

    For the More of What Is - to communicate to humans - directly, would generate psychotic reaction.

    That is, it would serve only to further distantiate. And so leaking into the minds where willingness does not reject occurs over gradual steps toward a qualitative shift of recognition.

    'Physical' experience is a true result for the questions or desires that are given forth. Except in the bubble of a fake world, we know not what our unconscious or denied sense of native being is none the less actively operating, and assign cause to external authority/reality while retaining judgement as an expression of a unique and subjecting 'mind'.

    Just as the Universe can be seen in many spectra - so is it communicating instantly as charged relations in all its parts, for energy is a carrier for information, and resonant circuitry attunes to serve relevant function. Relevant and relevant to what? To the magnetic desire that attracts purpose of fulfilment. That Existence includes awareness of existence is inherent to All That Is.

    The idea of life OUTSIDE Human bounds is an ongoing disclosure. The desire to expand meets the fear of loss of 'control'. Trying to determine the truth of something is different from opening to what is already true but unrecognised. The revealing of the false defences around a sense of self-dissociation, is part of releasing of the idea of control as fearful inhibition and substitution.

    That which communicates is the nature of a real relationship. Using others to get from is some kind of contractual social personification of a sense of lack and being thus driven to survive in its terms.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have heard it described...

    as a mistake in the equations. It is no such thing. It is (was) simply a failure to correctly interpret what is written in front of you. The only hint: expand the terms and then have a good hard think what 'Faster' means. Practical: watch those weather balloons, closely and in ultra-slow motion. Now the really hard part - duplicate that effect.

    Of course, once you have the 'how' then 'who' is obvious and you can make the appropriate choice from Dr Fermi's list. Or you could keep listening for a call that never comes.

    It is all part of the fun - no short cuts, show your working, you'll feel better for having worked out it for yourself. Remember, Rome wasn't build in a day - it took a while to get from flint axes to laser cutters.

  36. vincent himpe

    Any passing spaceship

    that looks at us probably goes : f... no . we don't want to deal with those baboons...

  37. Gio Ciampa

    "the equation theoretically spits out a number"

    Um...

    It does spit out a number - that's the point of an equation - no "theoretical" about it!

    It's the the interpretation of the result that's in question here...

  38. Aynon Yuser

    Ahh yes. Fermi paradox.

    Firslty, why would beings who are thousands, millions or billions of years more advanced in science and technology be interested in contacting us? Just look at how we monkey around with extinction level warfare, are xenophobic, live in the world controlled by the sociopathic likes of Putin, Trump and their buddies, and a race that is bent on subverting all scientific benefits towards destructive means? To an advanced civilization we are so primitive that we would only appear as bacteria infesting this planet serving no real benefit to wanting to hang out with us. Would you want to hang out with and make friends with bacteria and show them the benefits of science?

    How would they even know we are here in the first place? Perhaps they have the ability to study us from billions of light years away in real time free of the limitations of lag due to the speed of light. I doubt it would be to their benefit to contact us once they see we are mere bacteria life forms. They've no doubt come across countless other forms of life similar to ours. We are not interesting. That's like if I found and anthill and handed them science and trinkets so they could evolve. It would be a complete waste of time and they'd never realize that I even exist.

    Tracking their communication. Even if we were able to pick up (very badly degraded) signals that have travelled for thousands, millions or billions of years, what frequency would we listen in on? For how long? What mode of signals does their data use? Being that we are mere bateria-like life forms compared to their level of evolution, we probably won't even recognize their technology. The lag of light speed would mean they've probably already gone extinct or changed their ways of communication, etc. Look at how we encrypt our signals now and we may never be able to "hack" their advanced encryption. To us it would always appear as background universe noise. We've only broadcasted analog unencrypted signals for a short period in their time scale, and they'd have to be listening at that precise time in order to hear us and our badly degraded signals with vasts amounts of background universe noise thrown in. Are they going to know the difference between a tv show, news, two way radio and even airplane communication? If they just happen to receive our signals thousands, millions and billion of years will have passed and we'd long be extinct due to our small mindedness, self-entitlement and stupidity.

    There's also the plane of their existence. What quantum state do they live in? Are they in the same plane that we exist? Is their existence in time compressed or expanded? Do they live in a static state of the universe? Do they live in another dimension? Do they live in a black hole? Do they live between universes? Do they live in a different state of physics that we can never see or understand? Are they physical like us? Transmaterial? Plasma? Gas? Other?

    Right?

    No one has yet mentioned that any species that evolves to the ability to develop science and technology are designed BY nature to naturally self-destruct. It's a design by nature to ensure that no single species is capable of destroying the universe itself. The ability to manipulate time and the very fabric of the universe itself would lead to it's destruction. Imagine if ISIS or Putin or Kim Jung Un or Trump were all able to do that...the universe would end. In terms that our puny little minds can not comprehend is that our universe is a living and intelligent being, and it will ensure that it itself can never be destroyed. Thats the universe protecting itself. That's why the Fermi paradox exists and can not be tampered with.

    Oh I love this topic. It's now time to finish my coffee.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Just look at how we monkey around with extinction level warfare, are xenophobic, live in the world controlled by the sociopathic likes of Putin, Trump and their buddies, and a race that is bent on subverting all scientific benefits towards destructive means"

      Hove you considered the possibility that relative to the rest that might make us the good guys?

  39. bobajob12

    Would we even know?

    Spitballing here. Isn't a properly-encrypted stream of data indistinguishable from noise, you know, same level of entropy and all that? In which case, what we think of as noise from the universe (say, cosmic microwave background) might be the little green people trying to call us, we just don't know it.

    Personally I like the idea that we have already been colonized from outer space, we just don't realize that insects are from alpha centauri and view us as a minor annoyance that they are confident of outlasting.

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Would we even know?

      Insects?

      I, for one, have accepted our fungal overlords!

  40. kurios

    Another answer to the Fermi Paradox?

    I think aliens invent Bitcoin or its equivalent shortly after they develop cheap computation. The exponential energy consumption crashes their civilizations. But hey, Blockchain!

  41. Zwuramunga

    Copyrights!

    This civilization copyright of Xenu. Re-transmission is prohibited.

  42. JDX Gold badge

    They're probably dead but...

    ``The statistical likelihood,'' continued the autopilot primly, ``is that other civilizations will arise. There will one day be lemon-soaked paper napkins. Till then there will be a short delay. Please return to your seat.''

  43. ecofeco Silver badge

    Who can really say?

    While both these men have valid points as do other scientists, the thing to remember is that radio waves dissipate over great distance to the point of useless noise, and the window of a civilization using radio wave before jumping to undetectable quantum entanglement is probably very short.

  44. sisk Silver badge

    My problem with the Drake equation is that it is, at it's core, really not even an educated guess. Worse than that, it's a series of guesses, some of them not even educated. The first few values are probably pretty accurate - we do have a good idea of how often stars are born at this point, but any of the several values past that are pure guess. Honestly you're just as likely to arrive at the correct odds for us to contact other intelligent civilizations by putting a bunch of odds on a dart board and throwing darts blindfolded.

    And it doesn't even begin to take into account the aliens who might have the misfortune of their first glimpse of us being Hitler or some random flat-earther and deciding we are best avoided.

  45. siluri

    Don't you think being more advanced than us they won't be using Radio or similar ??

  46. DougS Silver badge

    We have no idea what technology we'll be using in 200 years

    We certainly didn't know we'd be using radio, have satellites etc. back in 1818.

    We rely on radio to detect civiilizations, but if there is something better that doesn't radiate to the whole universe how would we know where those civilizations are?

    Replace '200' with '2000', '20,000' and so on and it gets even more ridiculous to assume that they will be using radio.

  47. Rich 10

    The thing most SETI enthusiasts, vs. the scientists with interest in this area, fail to realize is that size matters. Even with articles like this, it is really hard for the average person to come close to wrapping their minds around just how much space and time are involved in even just this galaxy. And the universe is far larger than what we can see (only 13.4 billion years or so worth).

  48. Jove Bronze badge

    A similar model might apply to Twitter Space.

  49. jonfr

    The drake equation is useless

    The drake equation is useless. It is also worth pointing out that alien signals have been detected (but not that detection has not been approved by anyone with a power to do so) but the signal has been completely ignored so far. It was blamed on few satellites in the viewing area of Ross 128 red dwarf star but ignored the fact that no satellite at that location used that frequency (as it is allocated to ground base military and U.S government communication). Anyone interested in this search for Ross 128 Weird signal.

    I am also seeing clues (just based on the time scale in question) that humans are among the first races to reach intelligent* level in our galaxy. That means in the future a radio signal might be detected. It is possible that the WoW! signal was such attempt. One signal beamed into space for one time, the human race has been doing that for some time now. That also means the Seti search parameter is flawed up to the point it is useless.

    How long a species (if it ever shows a interest in this technology) stays on the radio broadcasting level is also unknown. It is also worth pointing out that most transmitters on Earth are quite small. The largest ones are just few hundred kW in power and that won't even reach Alpha Centauri at any detectable levels, not even at the lowest of frequencies that can leave the atmosphere.

    *Intelligent level is questionable assumption in parts of the population.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Re: The drake equation is useless

      *Intelligent level is questionable assumption in parts of the population.

      You mean like the part that believes in alien cover-up conspiracy theories?

  50. Kev99 Bronze badge

    The came looking for intelligent life on Earth but found any.

  51. aurizon

    What if the so-called Dark Matter

    is composed of obscuring structures build by the advanced civilizations, already a billion years old, to keep us from developing cargo cults, albeit more highly advanced ones compared to the South Sea islanders https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult, because they are as advanced above us as we were to the SSI's?

    Can we engage races that may have an IQ of 300,000 compared to our ~~100?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. dark matter

    Actuallyit could be intended for something else.

    Perhaps they *want* us to find dark matter, so we try and build huge detectors and/or make it in the laboratory thus sending us up the provervbial garden path more effectively.

    As a result we end up missing obvious avenues of research thus keeping us out of their hair for centuries.

    I call it the "Cloak and dagger anthropic principle" aka "CADAP"

    (scuttles off before they find I'm off my meds again and found an Internet enabled computer)

  53. PaulFrederick

    We may not see little green men ever

    But we stand a good chance of meeting artifacts they left. If you assume they'd advance along similar lines to us then eventually they'd put Von Newman machines in space to exploit resources, just like we will someday, if we manage to survive long enough. Organic life can't cross the vast gulfs of deep space, but machines can. Machines built to exploit resources would be pretty much hardwired to strip solar systems. Whole galaxies even. Greed 2.0. Organics are just the rough prototype. Intelligence will build a better model.

  54. SAdams

    The Inhibitors

    There is of course the Alistair Reynolds explanation for the Fermi Paradox - in the Revelation Space series.

    However I tend to agree with the update here, it doesn’t take long for a civilisations technology to exceed its ability to be kind and forgiving on a global scale. There will always be ups and downs and people to blame, and then war.

  55. Lingomat

    Fermi and pals (and people before, and after) were postulating two things, one of which is related to the EM observeability, hence the Drake equation and so on.

    There's another aspect other than EM and that's any other evidence, like say stellar body-level engineering. Things very big and easy to see, that don't look natural. Every time something weird is seen in the heavens, that's always in the back of astronomer's minds.

    Their other point was that the assumption that advanced civilizations were space-farers, and that given the millions of years of timescale, the milky way ought to have been well traversed by aliens. So that means they might have come past - not recently perhaps - but they might have left something that is visible.

    It's a favorite topic in SF land, and every author or would-be author has their pet theories as to what are the major factors in the lack of observe-ability. One popular one is that there are Bad Things out there. If you get seen, you get killed, so those smart enough to work it out go quiet. It's nonsense that depends on EM visibility, and Bad Things being able to suddenly turn up and make things hard for you, but hey, it makes good SF books.

    A more realistic one is that civilizations that arise out of a competitive evolutionary strategy (like all life on Earth) and probably quite prone to self-destruction. So basically civilization duration towards the shorter end of the scale.

    Secondly, spare faring is dumb. Gravity wells are are deep, and it costs about 30kg of propellant to get 1kg in orbit. Sure.... it could get better, nuclear rockets maybe, space elevators, but by the time you're there, you care less about such childish things. Instead of sizing up like our primitive monkey brains tend to conceive, one can also size down. I think we even see that on Earth.

    So worst case, we go up in a mushroom cloud, best case we'll all just say fuck it and upload ourselves to a never ending series of better-than-life videogames. Either way, not much to see. It's probably a good thing. If other civilizations end up like ours, I'm not sure the universe wants them hanging around forever.

  56. HardyEsterhuizen

    The glaring assumption here is the lifespan of civilisations. We have no data on this, obviously not even for our own. It seems arbitrary to suggest a cap of 100 000 years. How do we know that a technologically adept civilisation cannot be maintained for 100 000 000 years? I know that there is plenty to be cynical about looking at our own civilisation that has barely been capable of generating radio frequencies for more than a century and a half and yet seems to be on a trajectory to doom, but actually considering the rapid improvement in sustainable technologies and our increasing consciousness of the fragility of our planet there is plenty to be optimistic about.

  57. tony2heads
    Alien

    Not dead, but asleep

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

    That is not dead which can eternal lie,

    And with strange aeons even death may die.

  58. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    xkcd - Drake equation

    Terry Bisson - They're made out of meat (Text)

    Terry Bisson - They're made out of meat (Video)

    Now if you'll excuse me - I am working on a field generator that is supposed to open up a pathway to the alternative Earth where there was a third series of Fawlty Towers.

  59. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Trollface

    Why the fixation with "I Love Lucy"?

    I would imagine that the most powerful transmissions from Earth in the last 100 years with everything from visible light to EMP were various atomic explosions starting with Hiroshima and Nagasaki (sp?) and then various above ground tests before people worked out that a pair of dark glasses wasn't sufficient protection against high doses of radiation.

    So look for evidence of an emerging atomic age on planets.

    Then work out how to differentiate this from "dinosaur killer" impacts by space rocks.

    There are reasons why some advanced thinkers are very keen to get us off this rock where we are a sitting target with an historic record of getting belted by a big one on a regular basis.

  60. Dom 3

    One more thing we *do* know

    We have a sample of one but it provides us with another piece of information - how long a dominant terrestrial lifeform can last without ever doing anything "advanced". Well over a hundred million years.

  61. small and stupid

    Ignorant dinosaur speculation

    How certain are we that there wasn't an intelligent dinosaur?

    We only know of 700 dinosaur species, total, while right now there are 5000 species of mammals and 10,000+ birds.

    Which implies there's thousands of dinosaurs that never made the fossil record?

    And what level of civilisation and technology could an intelligent species reach and be invisible to us 65 million years later ?

  62. Jtom Bronze badge

    Before speculating on the possibility of life elsewhere, perhaps we should expend more effort determining how life originated on Earth. Yeah, I know, the raw ingredients happened to come together in a primordial ocean, and a source of energy - volcano, lightning, etc - combined them to produce life. And it took a couple of billion years for that to happen.

    But wait a minute. We can create such a 'stew' in the lab (how many hundreds of millions of years of does that reduce the process?). We can hit that mixture with energy on an on-going basis, reducing the time for additional millions of years. And we can do dozens of such experiments in parallel. With all our knowledge of elements, organic chemistry, bonding energies, etc., we still haven't created the most rudimentary, single-cell life form in the lab. All of our 'successful efforts' to create a new life has required at least an empty cell from existing life.

    I'm not saying it didn't happen; I'm saying it appears to be extremely bloody difficult to happen, and any odds assigned to such an event that gives rise to more than one planet having life in our entire universe may be too high.

  63. roytrubshaw
    Joke

    False logic?

    "False logic. ∞ - x is still ∞"

    So can you do this?

    • (∞ - x)/∞
    • ∞/∞ - x/∞
    • 1 - x/∞
    • 1 - 0
    • 1

    I.e. it's a virtual certainty that there are inhabited planets out there!

    :)

  64. rav

    Radio communications are not used.

    I suspect that radio communication is no longer used in favor of communication through quantum coupling.

    Instantaneous, unlimited range and absolutely secure. Even the internet could be distributed by quantum coupling.

    Quantum coupled communications is essentially on our own horizon. Making our own radio wave detectable wavefront only 150 light years or so.

  65. rav

    Alien Exterminators came and saw TRUMP.

    Why waste a perfectly good asteroid for an extinction event when TRUMP will destroy them anyway.

  66. Tim Brummer

    Earth is not typical. it has one large moon which is unusual.

    And Earth has a large liquid iron core which produces a strong magnetic field.

    Both these features were required for life to form here as it did.

    There are other factors also such as asteroid and comet bombardment to bring liquid water.

  67. meadowlark

    Why does everyone assume that alien life, if it exists, is more advanced than we are ? After the 'Big Bang', if other lifeforms developed, why shouldn't they have all developed at the same pace ? In fact, we might be the most advanced of the lot, and so it will be a long time before any of us contact each other - assuming that there are others of course.

  68. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alien

    The Man Who Fell to Earth

    Could Elon Musk be an alien who's trying to get home?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Fell_to_Earth

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Man Who Fell to Earth

      Makes note to send Musk some of my ideas for FTL drive technology.

      Note: Kugelblitz Drive (tm) though feasible is only really applicable for Type 1a civilizations, ie have mastered their own planet and started harvesting metals and energy directly from their star.

      Cough Star Lift /cough

      In fact I did wonder if another potential SETI idea is to search for evidence of dumping in stars, ie anomalous peaks where asteroid debris has been impacted with the star stripped of *useful* metals.

      Over a long time the heavy stuff like Pu, U etc should migrate inwards but there would be a short window where atoms ionize and show up on a star's spectra so we should look out for this.

  69. Cirrus182

    New technology required

    Radio waves? Radio waves? Surely we should not be thinking about these for any meaningful chance of communications across the vastness of the universe. The speed of light is just too, too slow.

    Imagine for some peculiar reason America had never been discovered but our modern civilisation is continuing on communicating by radio.

    Don't you think we are more like native Americans sitting on the edge of the Atlantic, looking out over its vastness, thinking, maybe there's someone out there. Then trying to communicate with them by sending up smoke signals.

    I bet that there if there are civilisations out there in the universe, they are definitely not communicating by radio waves. We, just like the Native Americans , must wait until some hitherto undiscovered means of communication is developed.

    To the scientists out there, please hurry up and develop it, as I am dying to know whether we are alone will not.

  70. Jim Birch

    Quantum entanglement does not allow faster than light communication full stop. No one who understands physics believes this.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Who said it di?

    2. rav

      Actually the correct term should have been Quantum Coupled. A change in the Quantum state in one system is INSTANTANEOUSLY made to the second system.

      Quantum coupled communications would be instantaneous regardless of distance.

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