Earth and Space Science

The Drake Equation

How frequently is The Drake Equation used by scientists? Is it still relevant and reputable? This is such a fascinating scientific phenomena. 

Seth Francis
Seth Francis
90 Activity Points

You are right that the topic of "extraterrestrial life" is a topic of fascination for the public. I had a student once who chose to do his science fair project on the Drake Equation and garnered much more attention from the local news media than many other equally fascinating (in my opinion) topics.

Cris DeWolf
Cris DeWolf
11925 Activity Points

Hi Seth. I think the Drake equation is more used in astrobiology courses to establish the probability of life on other planets. It is a mathematical equation that is relevant and reputable based on what we know about the observable universe. It makes the point that based on set parameters, the chance of life on other planets in the universe is huge which gives encouragement to the astrobiology world of scientists. Most scientists are cognizant of the Drake formula as a foundation but I think most of the activities are pointed towards looking at our solar system, especially the dwarf planets to actually discover life in our own neighborhood first. The fascinating data from earthlike planets within our monitoring range adds a lot of interest and fascination about the Drake Formula. Here's a neat site:

James Johnson
James Johnson
95308 Activity Points

The Drake equation is not directly used by scientists in their research. Rather it is often used when talking about life in the universe to non-scientists, such as in astrobiology courses, as James mentioned. One of the keynote addresses I sometimes deliver is on astrobiology, and I discuss the Drake equation quite a lot, as it relates to many fascinating topics regarding the development of life in the universe, where we would expect to find life, and how common we might expect life to be.

The purpose of the Drake equation is not to give a precise answer to that fundamental question -- How many technological civilizations are in our galaxy? -- but to form the basis of discussions by presenting various types of information that we would need to know, if we wanted to answer that question.

So basically the Drake equation is a statement that "stimulates intellectual curiosity about the universe around us, for helping us to understand that life as we know it is the end product of a natural, cosmic evolution, and for helping us realize how much we are a part of that universe." (

What the equation and the search for life has done is focus science on some of the issues concerning life in the universe, specifically the development of life starting with chemical processes, the development of multi-cellular life, and the development of intelligence.


Matt Bobrowsky
Matthew Bobrowsky
4930 Activity Points

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