Aliens Could be Stuck on their Home Planets: Revisiting the Drake Equation

4th Mar 2024
Aliens Could be Stuck on their Home Planets: Revisiting the Drake Equation

The Drake equation, created in 1961 by astrophysicist Frank Drake, investigates why humans have not yet encountered an alien civilization. In other words, it is an attempt to estimate the likelihood of intelligent life living in the universe. Said equation factors in several variables, such as the frequency of star formation, the number of stars with orbiting planets, and the proportion of planets capable of sustaining life. 

A recent article in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, which was initially reported by Universe Today, proposes that despite being a valuable tool in the scientific community, Frank Drake’s proposed equation may not be comprehensive enough. Elio Quiroga Rodríguez, a professor working at Spain’s Universidad del Atlántico Medio, argues that there is a possibility that liquid-dwelling extraterrestrial life forms and civilizations on super-Earths could be unable to travel from their planets on account of physical constraints, even if they desired to do so. 

The suggested notion introduces an intriguing new element to one of the fundamental questions at the center of the long-standing search for intelligent alien life. 

Fishbowl Worlds and the Challenges of Interplanetary Travel 

In his article, Quiroga put forth two additional concepts that he believes the Drake equation should take into account. The first of these is that extraterrestrial civilizations residing on planets much greater than Earth would require significantly higher escape velocities to overcome their planet’s strong gravitational pull. 

If this velocity were significantly high, extraterrestrial beings would be unable to depart their home planet despite using any feasible amount of power source. Furthermore, Quiroga argues that a plausible rocket structure (for extraterrestrial beings) would also be unable to endure the pressures of interplanetary travel, at least not with the materials that are currently known (to humans). 

The second possibility Quiroga suggests involves “fishbowl worlds,” where the motivation to create long-range communication is considerably lower since messages can already propagate great distances without requiring amplification with complicated technology in a liquid-enclosed environment. 

The researcher further argues that communication among individuals could be possible for a subaqueous species without the involvement of communication-based instruments. Such beings would not be considered “communicative” and would not be considered in the Drake equation, as per Quiroga’s article.

In summary, this is an extension of a significant challenge currently facing the scientific world. The question is whether it is conceivable for there to exist oblivious extraterrestrial life forms residing in vast oceans or civilizations struggling to overcome the immense gravitational pull of their planet.

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