Life in Outer Space – A Mathematical Approach

Milky Way Galaxy
Photo by Arnaud Mariat on Unsplash

Is There Really Intelligent Life Out There?

One of our previous articles discussed the minerals of Star Trek, giving rise to the hope that there is extraterrestrial life out there, but the real discussion about ET’s existence is a loaded subject. 

For this article, we are going to focus on what the mathematical formulas tell us. The ones developed by astrophysicists; in other words, what are the odds that there really is intelligent life on other planets?

As difficult as it is to wrap our heads around the sun’s fusion process, which is equivalent to 100 billion atomic bombs per second, we will go one step further and try to understand the immense size of our universe, and subsequently, come up with a formula that scientists have developed to determine ET’s existence.

So What Are the Odds?

It is estimated that there is an average of 1 – 2 billion stars in any recorded galaxy and there are over 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. If 10% of each galaxy contains a solar system, that is, it contains a star with planets revolving around it, then we can estimate that each galaxy has between 100 – 200 million solar systems, with some that may be fairly similar to ours.

Outer Space Ailen
Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

If 1% of the stars in each solar system have a planet just distant enough from their sun where life could evolve, called the habitable zone or as some scientists like to call it, the Goldilocks Zone, we could have 1 – 2 million possible planets that could contain life. Going further, if 1% of these planets have the right ‘ingredients’ to build intelligent life, then there is the possibility that there may exist 10,000 stars that could have planets with intelligent life in each galaxy.

Cutting the odds even further, just to be more realistic, let’s take 10% of this result, which would equate to the possibility of 1,000 stars with extraterrestrial life in each galaxy.

That would mean that there could possibly be 1,000 x 100 trillion galaxies = 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1 quadrillion) planets with intelligent life. How many is that? Let’s take a look at this numerical comparison.

If we use the estimate of 200 trillion galaxies in the universe, that would mean ET may live on over 2 quadrillion planets in our universe.

On a separate note, don’t even try to comprehend how many fusion total reactions occur here every second when you include all of these stars. Fuhgeddaboudit!

What About the Scientific Formulas?

The above calculations were based on a general assumption, considering the amount of these types of objects that have been calculated or physically found in the sky, but have the experts given the possibility of extraterrestrial life serious thought?

American astronomer and astrophysicist Dr. Frank Drake developed a formula that he presented at a meeting in Virginia in 1961. It is called the Drake Equation, which calculates the possibilities of life on other worlds within our own Milky Way galaxy.

Drake Equation
Nasa Photo

We won’t go into the calculations, but in a general sense, it is based on our assumptions above but uses trigonometry to formulate a much more explicit and precise determination of ET’s existence. For you science and math connoisseurs, feel free to give it a shot below!

The terms are as follows:

N : The number of planets in the galaxy where electromagnetic emissions are detectable
R: The rate of stars that have the ability to have exoplanets with habitable zones revolve around them
fp : The fraction of those stars that actually have solar systems
ne : The number of planets in each solar system within the Goldilocks Zone
f: The number of planets on where life may actually exist
fi : The number of planets where intelligent life may exist
fc : The number of planets that have civilizations with a technology where we can detect their signals
L : The length of time that these civilizations have produced these signals

If these calculations result in any number above zero, just maybe Men in Black had it right!

 

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