In the last century, aliens and life on other planets have been a major part of science fiction pop culture. But a report by astrophysicist David Piegel from Princeton University and physicist Edwin Turner from the University of Tokyo could mean that ETs and such just might remain that way: sheer fiction.
A new report published on arXiv.org is saying that the scientific equation, aka 'Drake Equation', that scientists (SETI) use to predict the likelihood of discovering extra terrestrials, is flawed.
It is not that the equation in itself is directly flawed, but the way the scientists are using it.
Scientists using the Drake Equation by estimating the total number of radio transmitting intelligent beings in the galaxy by multiplying a number of variable fractions, including the number of stars in the galaxy, the fraction that have planets, the fraction that could be habitable, etc. This is all just a speculation since scientists don't know any of the true numbers. They make their best educated guess on how many stars and planets exist in the Milky Way based on a trend in current data.
The SETI community predicts that intelligent life will be discovered within 20 years, based on the Drake Equation. This is based off the estimate that there are 10,000 intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy.
But the authors of the new paper are saying the prediction is severely flawed because of one of the numbers that scientists are speculating on, the assumption that 100 percent of the planets that could possibly support life are indeed supporting life.
Piegel and Turner make the argument that life could be a rather rare occurrence in our galaxy. This estimate would greatly reduce our chances of ET phoning Earth in the next 20 years.
The authors maintain that scientists are biased based on our current understanding of Earth. Life appeared on Earth only a few hundred million years after it formed, giving intelligent life at least 3.5 billion years to develop.
The report doesn't dismiss chances of intelligent life existing, but states that there is no way that life could have formed as quickly as it did on earth 100 percent of the time. This would mean that intelligent life has yet to form on some habitable planets, or life in itself has yet to form.
"Although life began on this planet fairly soon after the Earth became habitable, this fact is consistent with...life being arbitrarily rare in the Universe," the report says. They back up their claims with their own mathematical formulas.
If in the future, scientists are able to discover that life had formed early on Mars, they would have a better measurement to make such a claim as SETI is making, according to the report. It would give them two completely different proven model scenarios to make a measurement of how life forms on a habitable planet. However, since only one point is currently being used, the estimate stands as an unstable theory.