Is there anyone out there? Apparently, yes. Scientists from the University of Nottingham recently came out with a study on Monday on the “Astrobiological Copernican Limit,” a calculation used to determine the number of active communicating intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. Based on their calculations, professor Christopher Conselice and study co-author Dr. Tom Westby determined that there are at least 36 active ones in our galaxy. Whoa.
“The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, but opinions about such matters vary quite substantially,” said Westby. Astrophysicists previously made calculations according to the Drake equation, a principle created by
everyone's favorite rapper Dr. Frank Drake in 1961, used to determine how many Communicating Extraterrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations may exist in our galaxy. Unfortunately, there are many unknowable terms.
It’s worth noting that the Astrobiological Copernican Limit was created with a few assumptions in mind that simplified the Drake equation. First, that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, just like Earth. Second, that other technological civilizations last just as long as ours (currently 100 years old). Third, that the metal content of the stars these planets are orbiting is equal to that of our sun.
So, with maybe 36 civilizations out there, just where the heck is everybody? Unfortunately, interstellar communication is basically impossible with the current technology we have, as the researchers gathered that the average distance between potential civilizations would be about 17,000 light-years. Dang nabbit!
But at least there's this small comfort -- the search for alien civilization could provide insights as to how long we'll last in the cold, merciless void of space.
"If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence. By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life -- even if we find nothing -- we are discovering our own future and fate," said Conselice.
As for finding that out, personally I'm all CETI -- I’d much rather stay in the dark about the time we have left on this rock, thanks. But good for science!