Dan’s Voyage vs. the Drake Equation

This guest article was written by Eric Holland, writer of the Dan’s Voyage webcomic. We featured several of the alien races from Dan’s Voyage during Alien August, and Eric wanted to tell us a little about how he developed the universe they share.

I am writing this article to tell you all of a theme hidden between all of the alien races found in my webcomic Dan’s Voyage, but first I am going to have to have to explain something about aliens and speculative fiction.

Every time you get a group of science fiction fans together, and have a big discussion seriously considering the possibility of alien life and whether or not its “out there” someone will say something about the “Drake Equation” or “Drake’s Law” or whatever it’s called. Now I don’t know enough about the Equation to judge its viability, but to me it has a little to much supposition in it.

From my understand there are actually a few theories on similar subjects, but the basic idea is that sapient life forms are inherently self-destructive, and that the time between the various races of the universes evolution means that most races would be extinct.Greyneck

I don’t know how many sapient species the Drake Equation says there should be currently living in the galaxy, I have heard people say between 0 and 20, but I do know that the theory is kind of depressing. So depressing that I mostly ignore it when writing, but for Dan’s Voyage I took a different approach.

I didnt create Dan’s Voyage, Alex Hamrum did and you should totally check out his deviantart (scottahemi.deviantart.com) but he brought me on as the writer to help make his universe work. So when it came to aliens I decided to do something special, to build in a work-around to these theories of extinction and civilization lifespan.

The Immeran

There are actually only three races living in the Orions Arm by the time humans master space flight, the Zaefer, Humans, and the Imeran. The Zaefer are a race that existed near the end of its civilizations lifespan, only surviving because they were able to integrate into human society. Humans are in the middle of their civilizations lifespan, but they varying star-nations make it so other nations can survive the fall of others. And finally there is the Imeran, a race that is at its very beginnings.

Then there are the other organic races. The Titans and the Minervettes are both extinct species, but they escaped extinction in unique ways. The Minervettes escaped extinction because of the compassion of humanity, being cloned back into existence. The Titans escaped extinction because of their own technological cunning. There is other extinct races in the Orions Arm which have not escaped extinction, and probably wont.

There is also the Eeda, which are the only race to come in from outside of the Orions arm, in fact they come from a different reality all together. Because of this they are outsiders and thus are an unnatural phenomenon in the universe. The Titans used extra-dimensional travel to escape their extinction so they have similar outsider status.

There is also racial variation amongst all of these species that contributes to the diversity. There are three Zaefer Races, a couple of Minervette Races, and three races of Imeran. This racial diversity helps contribute to the diversity of alien life in the universe, even though they technically aren’t different alien species.

And finally, there are the artificial races. Only one of these exists so far, but there are more that will be revealed in the future. So far you have probably all seen the “Rovers” a race of robots that lives upon the surface of Mars. There are other races of robots that are planned for future stories, but do not exist yet. But it isnt just robots, there are genetically engineered species, mutants, and other types of post-human (or post-alien) beings.

It may not make a lot of sense, but for each and every race I carefully consider a different way for them to avoid this strange bit of scientific criticism. And ultimately I think that it has produced a unique feel to the Dan’s Voyage universe, and raises the subconscious question about new alien races, and not just what they will be but where they will come from.


Article by Eric Holland.

Artwork by Alex Hamrum.

Eric Holland and Alex Hamrum are the creators of the sci-fi webcomic Dan’s Voyage. Read the comic free at future-bound-entertainment.com

  • Paul Epstein

    First off, the idea that civilizations are inherently self destructive isn’t the problem posed by the Drake equation, and you’re putting the credibility of everything you write at risk by mischaracterizing it like that. If you want the audience to appreciate how much thought you’ve put into something, you don’t want to tell us that you’ve essentially not thought about an important part of it. Secondly, you should really ask someone to edit for you, there are a number of basic errors that similarly detract from the message you’re trying to send.

    • ralok

      I dont have any real problems with the Drake Equation…

      My problem is with pessimistic people who enter into a conversation about aliens, and start spouting non-sense about how there either wont be any or they will all be extinct.

      For some reason these people (at least when I am talking to them) use the drake equation as their proof of this…

      If someone is mischaracterizing it… it is them.

      • Paul Epstein

        No, they’re not. They’re plugging in different values than you want to be true, but they’re not mischaracterizing it in any way. If the probabilities of there being other planets that can support intelligent life are particularly low, then the probability of those planets and the civilizations from them syncing up so that we can actually encounter them in a meaningful way would necessarily be even lower.

        And the fact is, those probabilities could very well be nearly nonexistent. Earth might well be the only planet at this point capable of life in our entire universe- certainly we haven’t found another one yet to demonstrate that there is more than one. The Drake equation certainly describes how that lack of other intelligent life could be the case if certain things conjectured about the universe are true or false. It doesn’t PROVE either possibility, nor should it be construed to do so, unless all of the variables can be shown to be factual and not imaginary.

        Frankly, right now you’re just coming across as extremely childish and close-minded on the entire issue.

        • ralok

          what the hell are you talking about…

          im notthe one using the Drake equation, I didnt even wantthat to be the title of the article… I touch upon it briefly because that is what people in conversations I HAVE HAD use it for.

          Throughout the rest of the article, I basically use the word “theories” and try to avoid naming any particular theory.

          • Yes indeed I should have pointed out that Eric’s intended article for this title was “The Races of Dan’s Voyage vs. Scientific Pessimism”. I changed it because I thought it would be catchier and provoke discussion about the Drake equation.

            • ralok

              Well it did,and he is simultaneously yelling at me for mischaracterizing it… and daring to suggest that people who doesn’t know mischaracterized it.

              This is just ridiculous…

        • ralok

          you realize the whole purpose of this article is that I took the idea of their being very few existing alien races seriously in a science fiction work, and then tried to work around that idea.

          right?

          I dont see how I am being childish or close minded, I took an idea in science and science fiction… one I might not particularly love… and I rolled with it for Dan’s Voyage…

        • ralok

          You seem to have a critical misunderstanding ofthe situation.

          I know nothing of the drake equation, save for what other people have told me… I am going to simplify it here.

          Me and others: *talking about the possibility of alien life*

          Pessmistic person: fat chance, drake equation says they will all be extinct

          Me: oh now there is an idea! *writes workarounds to the idea into Dan’s Voyage*

          • Paul Epstein

            You’re not exactly improving my impression of you by spamming similar statements. One post would do.

            You COULD have learned about Drake’s equation, it’s not exactly secret information, but you decided not to. Why, oh why, did you decide to contribute to another work, and write this article, without at least doing some basic research so you’re not just ranting against a straw man?

            I mean, there is now an entire comic which is based on ideas you’re admittedly too lazy to bother understanding but somehow consider yourself enough of an expert to write about.

            Seriously, I am far *less* likely to look at Dan’s Voyage at this point because of your statements. You are walking bad advertising for it right now.

            • ralok

              Are you kidding me man…

              Are you even like, reading what I am writing? I never claimed to be an expert on anything…

              And I am not ranting against a strawman… I am not ranting at all, I am talking about how I got an idea for an underlying theme in some alien species.

              Aliens arent even the main aspect of the Dan’s Voyage universe. Its mostly about a small group of characters that have saturday morning cartoon style adventures.

              We are talking about fiction here literally on the level of Ben 10 and Generator Rex where style and rule of cool overrides some logic… and you are talking to me like I am some sort of monster.

              And worst of all you seem incapable of understanding that I am not disputing the Drake Equation… or any of the theories that have been presented to me. I am actually in fact, taking the idea seriously…

            • Paul Epstein

              I’m not kidding you, and I haven’t read Dan’s Voyage because I have literally never heard of it before coming onto this blog- realize that I’m certainly not the only one here who is evaluating for the first time based on your article and your posts. You are the ambassador for the comic, and you’re not doing a good job.

              And no, you are sure as heck not taking it seriously. If you took it seriously, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

            • ralok

              prove I am not taking it seriously.

            • Paul Epstein

              You’ve already done that for me. And I know you’ve probably decided to ignore everything I’ve said, but:

              1. You should indicate that you’re the author of an article when you comment if your username isn’t the name listed as the author. I honestly didn’t realize in the first post I responded to that you wrote this.

              2. Learn to take criticism without exploding at the source. Even if you think I’m wrong and being rude about it, you handled this all very poorly.

              3. Write what you know. If you don’t know the actual substance of the Drake equation but are interested in writing about avoiding it, you are going to do a much better job, and create a better comic, by learning about it. There are a million ways to show how the Drake Equation worked FOR Dan’s Voyage instead of against, and instead you spent effort arguing against a very poorly thought out idea of it.

              4. Calling people names like ‘pessimist’ and insisting they’re wrong is begging for an argument- if you don’t want one, change how you’re addressing the audience.

              5. Seriously- how old are you? Because you definitely come off as at most 16.

            • ralok

              1. I am sorry I didnt indicate I was the author of the article, I forgot this account was under a different name.

              2. I will learn to take criticism when you actually provide some that makes sense.

              3. the entire article is about how I used the pessimistic ideas about alienh civilizations to my advantage, read the article.

              4. dear god man, I am not talking to you and that is the worst attempt at claiming I made an ad hominim attack I have ever seen.

              5.what the heck does this have to do with anything

            • Paul Epstein

              2. My criticism is that if you’re using the Drake Equation at all, even as vague inspiration, you should at least be using the right idea of it. You don’t know much about it, you admit that, but somehow you’re still arguing. WTF.

              3. I did read the article. You’re talking about how you used a pessimistic idea that is indistinguishable from an incorrectly characterized Drake’s Equation to provide a couple of details used in creating races. Have you even once considered that the actual thing might have even more material?

              4. Oh, you’re not talking to me? Wow, sure fooled me!

              5. If you were younger I’d cut you a lot of slack as far as attitude and lack of knowledge. I’ve been trying to treat you like an adult and keep getting disappointed.

            • ralok

              2. I am not though, that is just the only theory name I could
              remember from all the people who have thrown around this idea that
              civilizations go extinct before we can meet them… Heck at least half
              of the people I have talked to about this dont even mention any theories
              by name at all… the Drake Equation is jus the most prominent one…
              and I am not arguing, I was never arguing, there shouldnt be an
              argument.

              3. no, I am talking more about how I have used a common criticism of science fiction to better color a science fiction world.

              4.
              okay I am appearently going to have to spell this out exactly. I never
              meant to indicate that you were a pessimist or one of these pessmists…
              nor do I think its an insult (more of an observation)

              5. I really dont believe you, I think you would be just as condescending and rude.

            • Paul Epstein

              If you’re not intending to argue, don’t state controversial opinions as fact. Like, say, the Drake Equation just being a means to disregard the existence of intelligent alien life. If you haven’t already grasped it, that’s a thing about which people don’t agree with you. *Especially* when you think it’s just a matter of being a pessimist or not. If you aren’t an expert, and you’ve admitted that, and you don’t know a huge amount, and you’ve admitted that too, then maybe when someone disagrees with you they’re not just being mean, it might actually indicate that, *gasp*, you should fix something!

              Your opinion would have more credibility if it was based on an accurate understanding of the subject and wasn’t posted with errors. That’s what I said in my first post. It’s still true. If you don’t do the things you need to do in order to have credibility, you shouldn’t expect people to treat you like you’re credible.

            • Future-Bound-Entertaint

              jesus christ man… you literally have it backwards.

              like literaaaaaally

              I am not insulting people who use the drake equation and calling them pessimists.

              I am creating a universe, that shows the Drake equation is no reason to be pessimistic.

              I cant stop people from misusing the drake equation, but I can show that its possible that even with their twisted view of it that there is life out there.

            • Paul Epstein

              None of what you just said is true. You are insulting people not just by calling them pessimists, but stating that they’re WRONG and that it’s because they’re pessimists who are misusing something, when they’re using it correctly in a way you’re too detached from reality to do.

              You know why you had to CREATE a universe where humans encountered intelligent life? Because when it comes to our universe, the one where we and not your characters live, we seem to be the only intelligent life.

              You’re not proving them, or their views, wrong. You’re not showing that there IS intelligent life out there, or that it has a decent probability of existing in our universe. Just that you can imagine a universe where life out there, like literally everyone on earth can should they choose.

              And seriously, proofread your text. It’s the least you could do.

            • Future-Bound-Entertaint

              …. the heck are you even talking about now, now you have just descended into cruel gibberish.

              I… I didnt even create the universe man… which you would know if you read the article. You have proven that you havent read the article…

              You know nothing about the people I am talking about. But you seem utterly sure that they are correct… even though I have literalyl told you everything they have told me, and you have told me I am wrong because of it.

              seriously paul… calm down and think about this… if I am wrong, and I am only tellingyou what other people have told me… it stands to reason, that those other people are wrong as well.

              I am not saying “people who subscribe to the drake equation are pessimists” I am saying “a bunch of pessimists have thrown the word drake equation at me”

              I am not saying they are wrong, I never say they are wrong… All I am doing is using these criticisms to create a connective theme in the writing.

              Its not about who is right, and who is wrong… at all here. It never was about that at all, I just am talking about taking a slightly different approach i took to wriitng some aliens.

            • Paul Epstein

              Dude, don’t bullshit me. You might not be the creator of the comic, but if you have any claim to creating those aliens and their details, you created the universe in which they existed the way I described. Again, one different from the real universe in important ways including the existence of multiple intelligent being. If you aren’t the person who did what I described, you shouldn’t have written the article.

              Which I read, in it’s entirety, before I even commented for the first time. You have literally no grounds for calling me rude and condescending when you immediately leap to the conclusion I didn’t read it.

              While I applaud that you’ve actually put effort into creating a universe, if you’ve centered your efforts around something that is fundamentally bogus, that’s a problem for me as a science fiction fan. It’s like reading about the fossil fuel powered FTL ships in Asimov’s Foundation- just because it was a brilliant work for the time doesn’t mean that particular detail wasn’t absolute absurdity.

              Additionally, I’m not forced to assume that the people you are trying to ‘correct’ are as wrong in their understanding as you are- do you seriously think you’ve given the impression, here and now, that you’re a good communicator and pay attention to opposing opinions?

            • Future-Bound-Entertaint

              okay… so what do you want me to do?

              all I did was create a theme based on some common criticism that science fiction had, because I thought it would be fun to write with a specific rule or limitation in place.

              what the hell do you want me to change? what do you want to be different about this…

              and dare I ask… how did I do it wrong?

              or better yet, tell me what I got wrong about the Drake Equation… because guess what! I would love to know, I would love to explain to the people who I have talked to how they are wrong.

              You haven’t done anything constructive with your criticisms of me and my writing, you just have told me I am doing it wrong… tell me HOW I am doing it wrong.

              also, fossil fuel is a perfectly viable idea for a power source in an FTL ship, given a technological accomplishment that allows them to extract more energy from fossil fuels than is currently possible.

            • Paul Epstein

              Look, the fundamental part of what should be changed was in my first post. Actually look at Drake’s equation as a whole, not try to reduce it down to one single variable that is ‘wrong’ and is all that is necessary to ‘fix’ the lack of intelligent aliens. Because you can’t think about it that way and make any accurate statements.

              Hell, inherent in your descriptions of aliens, which I also read, is the admitted ability for aliens to destroy their own civilizations. What if everyone else in the universe is at the point where the Minervettes were when humanity discovered them, or hasn’t evolved intelligence yet? That you can conceive of a solution to a problem makes denial of the problem complete insanity.

              But all of the OTHER variables in the equation also need to line up to allow for even two intelligent species existing at the same time. Earth like suns, or other suns which can sustain life, need to exist in significant numbers, which fortunately seems to be the case from what we’ve been able to see. But we don’t really know much about planets other than the ones in our own solar system, and we haven’t even determined for 100% whether any planet other than earth has ever had life. Venus could quite possibly have been full of life before the greenhouse effect went runaway.

              All we know about extrasolar planets is the presence and mass of the largest ones. The wobble an earth sized planet gives it’s sun is very hard to detect, and they don’t cause a blip in luminosity passing in front of it. Rocky, small inner planets might either not exist on most suns or they might all be too small to hold significant atmospheres. They might not have the protection we get from Jupiter and our moon (which is unusually large compared to most moons in our solar system) from asteroids, and are routinely scoured clean of life.

              You don’t have to be a pessimist to see that there are definite scenarios where earth-like planets are incredibly rare. And that’s without even going into the development of life. We still don’t know much, at all, about abiogenesis. There could be millions of earth like planets out there but none of them chanced into life because the elements weren’t all in the right place at the right time- we can’t even begin to say if that’s probable because we literally only have one example of a planet with life. And for the vast majority of it’s time as a planet, earth didn’t have life. Intelligent life, capable of communicating meaningful information to an intelligent species from a different planet, has existed for a tiny fraction of time and we could easily have been wiped out by some sort of event we had nothing to do with before we got here. We almost did- humanity seems to have gone through a near-extinction bottleneck and a single disease or aggressive predator could have done it for our entire developmental lineage.

              An alien species passing by ten million years ago could have already gone well beyond a stage where they could see us as equals in their personal development, and marked our planet as unlikely to develop intelligence. It could have happened thousands, millions, or billions of times, and they could have been right, because our origin as a species was crazy unlikely.

              And this is only scratching the surface. Think about how many scenarios arise from fiddling with those variables. The pessimists you keep bitching about could well be completely accurate in their assessment of the universe, but because of the combination of variables Drake’s equation represents, not any specific part. If I seem pissed, it’s because you’re so dead-set against a logical examination of the universe and alien life because the narrow window you had into it didn’t reassure you that alien life was all around.

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              “Look, the fundamental part of what should be changed was in my first
              post. Actually look at Drake’s equation as a whole, not try to reduce it
              down to one single variable that is ‘wrong’ and is all that is
              necessary to ‘fix’ the lack of intelligent aliens. Because you can’t
              think about it that way and make any accurate statements.”

              Okay… here is the problem with that… The variable that is being discussed, I neither looked at it like it was “wrong” and I never wanted it to be something that was “fixed”

              the…entire premise of this article, is that I wrote the races of Dan’s Voyage as if this variable was a very real factor in the universe, and used it to color the cultures of the alien races in it.

              That is WHY the Minervettes, Zaefer, and Titans, (and even the Eeda to an extent) destroyed their own civilizations… That is WHY I WROTE THEM LIKE THAT.

              “Hell, inherent in your descriptions of aliens, which I also read, is the
              admitted ability for aliens to destroy their own civilizations. What if
              everyone else in the universe is at the point where the Minervettes
              were when humanity discovered them, or hasn’t evolved intelligence yet?
              That you can conceive of a solution to a problem makes denial of the
              problem complete insanity.”

              Everything you wrote here… is exactly right, as I stated in the article there are far more extinct races in the galaxy beyond the minervettes.

              and as for “hasnt evolved intelligence yet” that would be the Imeran, a species that only recently evolved intelligence….

              The whole point of this article… is that I took this variable absolutely seriously when writing Dan’s Voyage, and that every race has a relation to these ideas.

              as I stated… there is only three living alien species in Orions Arm…only three…

            • Paul Epstein

              None of that came through properly in the original article, or I wouldn’t have responded. Read it again, from the perspective of someone who DOESN’T know anything more about the universe than the posts here about it. It doesn’t do a good job of explaining your position to a general science fiction fan like, say, this blog is specifically geared towards.

              ‘As for the other variables’, don’t be dismissive like you were in the article and your last post. They’re the majority of Drake’s equation, and any single one could, based on what we know, have essentially ended the possibility of other intelligent alien life even if civilizations had a 0% chance of killing themselves off.

              If you’re willing to write the article to the standards of your last few posts in this argument, I’ll delete all of my current posts and leave a simple ‘bravo’. And even if you don’t give a single fuck about that, you should at least hold yourself to that standard when putting things up for view.

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              Well I dont know if Scifi ideas will let me re-write the article, but when I mirror the article on my site I at least promise to re-write it to make the point clearer.

              I am not dismissive ofthem, its just that this isnt about them… and it is not entirely about the Drake Equation, my experience with the Drake Equation has been with other science fiction fans using it in this context.

              So I will try to make it clearer.

              But honestly, I do not see how that didn’t come through. I make it clear I thought…

              ” So when it came to aliens I decided to do something special, to build
              in a work-around to these theories of extinction and civilization
              lifespan.”

              then I proceed to discuss every single races work-around… What did you think the point of the rest of the article was if you didnt understand that I was embracing the idea?

            • Paul Epstein

              Your work arounds are still entirely within the context of the potential VALIDITY of the theories. That’s why it was frustrating. You weren’t giving any actual material opposing them after throwing down the gauntlet. By your own admission, the pessimists are 99.999999% or so correct in the universe you yourself are detailing.

              But no one, ever, is going to consider an article out of context with it’s first few paragraphs. You can’t write an introduction that says you’re going to challenge an idea and then fail to challenge it without being very obviously wrong about that idea. And you especially can’t admit that you don’t know much about the idea in that introduction without casting your entire believability on the subject into complete doubt.

              Also, if you’re going to get involved in the comments as the author, and you’ll notice most of them don’t, then you need to be way more mature and organized about it. If I’d taken my first impression of you within the first half hour and left the site entirely, then I’d still have a very negative one, and for good reasons. Potentially others have failed to follow the conversation and are judging you on those first comments- are you willing to have those considered as your official statements? Because I certainly wouldn’t want them to be, if I was a writer.

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              there is literally nothing in the first few paragraphs that indicates I am going to challenge this, you have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you had only read the title of the article when you began to argue.

              That is pathetic, and childish…

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              how can you be so dense dude… the entire premise of this article is not that I was denying the problem…

              BUT THAT I WAS EMBRACING IT.

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              I just… I cant get over this dude, I am sorry I am seperating this into different replies.

              “Hell, inherent in your descriptions of aliens, which I also read, is the
              admitted ability for aliens to destroy their own civilizations. What if
              everyone else in the universe is at the point where the Minervettes
              were when humanity discovered them, or hasn’t evolved intelligence yet?
              That you can conceive of a solution to a problem makes denial of the
              problem complete insanity.”

              This is the entire point of article… and the theme in Dan’s Voyage, I am not in denial of the problem. Ihave whole-heartedly embraces the problem as a law of the universe in the writing of Dan’s Voyage.

              Each race has a unique solution to the problem… that is the point. This problem exists, here is how each race that is not extinct got around the problem.

              Zaefer – almost went extinct, got saved at last minute.

              Titan – were virtually extinct, put themselves into stasis to survive.

              Minervette – went extinct, were brought back by humanity.

              Eeda – outsider race from completely outside the universe.

              Imeran – only evolved intelligence recently.

              All of the others – were created by humanity or the other alien races and may not represent actual “species”

              in addition to numerous extinct races that may or may not be ressurected in the future.

            • ralok

              edit – oops

      • ralok

        “First off, the idea that civilizations are inherently self destructive
        isn’t the problem posed by the Drake equation, and you’re putting the
        credibility of everything you write at risk by mischaracterizing it like
        that.”

        This is what you said by the way… that I was mischaracterizing it… no, I am not… I am only going by what other people have said to me.

    • Self destructive civilizations IS a part of the Drake equation (and it’s one that I take issue with). Of course, there’s much more to it than that.
      I think it’s great that Eric has taken this into consideration in his fiction in an attempt to add realism.

      There is a lot of pessimism about alien civilizations out there, and the Drake equation is only one way in which this is expressed. I guess I shouldn’t have supplemented the phrase “scientific pessimism” for the “Drake Equation” in the title. My bad.

      • Paul Epstein

        It was in the text anyways. The title didn’t change the subject, and if I have an issue, it’s with the actual content of the article.

        • ralok

          you havent mentioned the contents of the article beyond complaining about my grasp of the Drake Equation :/

          • Paul Epstein

            Because that was the first thing that occurred to me. If you wanted the rest of my opinions, maybe you shouldn’t have immediately jumped down my throat.

            • ralok

              No, I would like for your opinion to have even the barest grasp of what I was writing and saying. As far as I can tell you read the first two paragraphs got mad and quit.

      • Vanessa Ravencroft

        Self destructive civilizations IS a part of the Drake equation….
        Where? Can you point to a source?

        • Future-Bound-Entertainment

          its that last one right there I think?

          you know this theory seems a lot less pessimistic than people have made it out to be when tI talk to them :/

        • It’s one of the factors to be considered in the final variable. Admittedly it’s only a small part of it (it’s a big one isn’t it) but it’s one I’ve known people fixate on.
          Perhaps it was cold war pessimism that made some people read L as “how long it takes for civilizations blow themselves up” rather than “how quickly they advance”.

          • I am with you on that, I grew up in that era of time.But sentiment and the view of the future of a generation or two is hardly a yard stick to determine how long a civilization will last (in terms of a planetary spanning one) Our planet is 4 Billion years old and if that sentiment is correct there could have been a number of civilizations reaching radio signal sending technology (and we have many legends of such pre history civilizations,including Atlantis, Lemuria, the race of giants described in the book of Genesis, Rama and others) That we won’t find much evidence is no real surprise (Think of any object of our society and see what’s left of it after a million years…and I am taking billions)
            But that aside we have not a single example we can point and say a technological society lasts xxxx centuries.
            So to add Extinction by created means is just a view point based on a feeling)
            My greatest argument however is evolution. All these models assume Evolution has stopped with the rise of man. I say evolution is going on.I doubt the humans that populate the Earth in a million years from now have much in common with homo sapiens or use radio for communication.
            Fred,or Dr. Drake is still alive by the way and there is not a single lecture on record where he postulates the civilization blow itself up aspect. He is more vague and simply adds “Extinction”
            By the way even at the height of the cold war and a global exchange of nuclear war heads could not made us extinct. An airborne , engineered virus however could

  • James Pailly

    My understanding of the Drake equation is that it was meant to be a way to start serious conversations on how many alien races might be out there. It wasn’t meant to provide a definitive answer. That being said, you’re right: too many people take it as a definitive answer, as though we can take an extraterrestrial census with zero actual data points.

    • ralok

      WEll then I dont hate it…

      Maybe you should tell that to pessimistic jerks who use it to shoot down discussions for no reason XD

  • I actually thought the drake equation suggested a rather large number of civilizations in the Milky Way. Maybe I’m out of touch. Can anybody provide details of a recent working of the equation with recent astronomical discoveries taken into account?

    • ralok

      I wasnt informed by experts about it, after reading the wikipedia page I see its much more than the people I have talked to said. And I didnt know most of these pessimists very well, I mostly met them at nerd gatherings and such.

      I cant confirm they even know what math is.

      I would certainly love to know more about it. Even though its only a small part of this idea I had for this theme in Dan’s voyage, it could certainly help improve my writing if not for Dan’s Voyage then for future projects.

      I have after all only established a very small portion of the Orions Arm in the Dan’s Voyage comic, and much of what I have written can be changed. Heck some of it can be changed without it factoring into the story at all since the story is a bit detached from the lore.

      Its more about the action and adventure in this universe than it is about highly scientific analysis of the things in it, ,I mostly put that kind of stuff in ancillary articles, short stories, and background information.

      I do love to color the action and adventure with science though, later I am going to be using the “Grey sludge” doomsday scenarios as a story-telling aspect.

    • Vanessa Ravencroft

      Glad you asked,

      I had to find my grumpy pants but now I am ready.
      The Drake equation follows mostly from the observation that several terms in the equation are largely or entirely based on conjecture.
      Star formation rates are on solid ground, and the incidence of planets has a sound theoretical and observational basis, but as we move from the left to right in the equation, estimating each succeeding factor becomes ever more speculative. The uncertainties revolve around our understanding of the evolution of life, intelligence, and civilization, not physics. No statistical estimates are possible for some of the parameters, where only one example is known. The net result is that the equation cannot be used to draw firm conclusions of any kind, and the resulting margin of error is huge, far beyond what some consider acceptable or meaningful.
      Michael Crichton, a science fiction author, stated :
      The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything, means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless…

      One reply to such criticisms is that even though the Drake equation currently involves speculation about unmeasured parameters, it was intended as a way to stimulate dialogue on these topics. Then the focus becomes how to proceed experimentally. Indeed, Drake originally formulated the equation merely as an agenda for discussion at the Green Bank conference

  • Future-Bound-Entertainment

    Whelp Paul officially completely and utterly missed the point of the article :/ that is unfortunate because I think he and me would have had a good conversation if he understood it.

  • Vanessa Ravencroft

    Now there is a lot I could say or comment, but I will stay out of it. Here are just a few thoughts on the Drake Equation,just to give some meat to a phrase that dominates much of this exchange.
    I can make an equation quite easily about everything if all the Variables based on nothing more than assumptions.

    The Drake equation has proved controversial since several of its factors are currently unknown, and estimates of their values span a very wide range. This has led critics to label the equation a guesstimate, or even meaningless.

    Although written as an equation, Drake’s formulation is not particularly useful for computing an explicit value of N. The last four parameters, f_{ell}, f_i, f_c, and L , are not known and are very hard to estimate, with values ranging over many orders of magnitude. Therefore,the importance of the Drake equation is not in the solving, but rather in the contemplation. It may be more useful to think of it as a series of questions framed as a numbers game. The equation is quite useful for its intended application, which is to summarize all the various concepts which scientists must contemplate when considering the question of life elsewhere,and gives the question of life elsewhere a basis for scientific analysis. 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 other questions about life in the universe, specifically abiogenesis, the development of multi-cellular life and the development of intelligence itself.
    Please note that the entire equation is based on life as we know it, i.e. carbon based NiOx breathing.It keeps other concepts completely ignored. Our concept of what life is and where it can occur is changing.
    The Drake equation was made before the discovery of life around black smokers and thermic vents.This life is on our planet and there were “experts” and scientist less than 20 years ago who would have told you Hydrothermal vent communities are nothing but science fiction and could not exist. However they are able to sustain such vast amounts of life because vent organisms depend on chemosynthetic bacteria for food. The water from the hydrothermal vent is rich in dissolved minerals and supports a large population of chemoautotrophic bacteria. These bacteria use sulfur compounds, particularly hydrogen sulfide, a chemical highly toxic to most known organisms, to produce organic material through the process of chemosynthesis.

  • Vanessa Ravencroft

    Another little Noggin bender. Our Galaxy, you know some call the Milky Way galaxy. (Some call it M-0 as the milky way is just and arm of our galaxy.

    Now we have a fair guess how our galaxy looks like …but yes , it is only a guess. We have no proof no actual data how many spiral arms there really are, all we can see is a very small part of it …you guessed it “The Milky Way” all the pictures you see of our galaxy are “artists impressions” Until some space ship travels to the Z point (Apex of Z axis) and makes a picture, we rely on those artist conceptions.
    the famous galaxy of Apple background fame is the Pinwheel galaxy.

    Many pictures we see on the net are pictures of Andromeda.

  • Vanessa Ravencroft

    And here it is…the Drake Equation

    • Future-Bound-Entertainment

      yup, htaht definitively hurts my brain.

      I suppose the variable being discussed here is actually the last one (and possibly first one to an extent) since this is largely about the lifespan of civilizations.

      which for whatever reason a lot of people who discuss the drake equation seem to focus on.

      • The last variable is about as vague as the average number of planets. As a guide we need to put the only civilization we know as a benchmark there, and I am talking planetary civilizations able to send radio waves. Yep that’s us as in humanity as a whole and we send out radio waves for about 100 years. (generous expanded to the first radio experiments with a few watt broadcasting power) As pessimistic we my look into the future we are still here, so far we did not go extinct. So what measuring base line is put against that? 10.000 years, 100,000 . 1 Million? And again we are taking purely speculative here. Also one factor is left out completely, development of communication…why would an advanced civilization keep using radio waves? There are quite scientific probable alternatives, including Boson based communication, Tachyon Communication and yes Graviton wave communication. All these are no more than concepts but concepts with experimental foundations that are already proven and beyond theory.
        To come back to the Drake Equation it is a thought model like Schroedingers Cat and nothing more.
        In colleague I once calculated the explosive yield of a photon torpedo (Yes I am a Geek) the numbers work fine, the equation I came up with can be tested in math and used as the base of a computer model, and yet the data I used I more or less made up. Yet the equation made it into the internet and I recently came across a chat room where two geeks used the very equation to prove that a Federation Star trek torpedo is more powerful than some Star Wars weapon. I kid you not – I am saying this to illustrate how far these things can be taken out of context and defended by certain people as the gospel truth. (Watch Monty Phytons Holy Grail -The Witch trial sketch – It illustrates how people latch on an idea and defend it as if it was the truth)
        The same thing happened here when I dared to question the valitity of the Big Bang.
        I must say though that it behooves a writer of sci fi or even fantasy fiction to do a little research when using Real world concepts. In the old days we had Encyclopedias and libraries now you got the combined knowledge of human kind a google search away.
        With that said : go break a pen and create…

        • Future-Bound-Entertainment

          the lifespan I have always heard is 10,000 years.

          • Based on what? The Aztek, the Maya, The ancient egyptian civilizations? Yep they are gone, the people are not.

            The Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for Millions of years.We haven’t even seen the millionth day.The Dinosaurs arent realy gone KFC serves their relatives every day. But we are taking about planetary civilizations here, so where does the number 10,000 come from?

            If I say there are 100 to 400 billion stars in the Milky Way and more than 100 billion galaxies in the Universe – maybe as many as 500 billion. If you multiply stars by galaxies, at the low end, you get 10 billion billion stars, or 10 sextillion stars in the Universe – a 1 followed by 22 zeros. At the high end, it’s 200 sextillion.

            there about 700 trillion cubic meters of beach of Earth, and that works out to around 5 sextillion grains of sand. So there are more stars than grains of Beach sand

            If you put these numbers in that equation even very percentages. you end up with mind blowing numbers.Math and physics are wonderful gateways to see the world and everything in fantastic new ways. You will never look at a shadow or a reflection in a mirror the same way again.
            So you see you can do anything with numbers and you should be question the source…for example how do I know the number of beach sand grains…don’t take my word for it…find a reference and see if I just made this up or if it is true.

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              I dont know, you would have to ask the 30 some oddrandom nerds I have met, but near as I can tell they have based it on “humanity is going to wipe itself out any day now”

              since 10,000 years is about the scope of our current historical knowledge.

              …about….

        • Future-Bound-Entertainment

          I should note that I am notso much using a “real world concept” as I am taking a common criticism (accurate or not) seriously.

          I have heard time and time again that most, if not all, sapient species would be extinct by now or not developed yet…

          Dont know why people bring up the Drake Equation when talking about this (now that i Know more abotu the drake equation)

          Just having fun writing with some distinct limitations put into the work.

          • That is just my opinion and nothing more. I feel if you go with a web comic and funny gray necks stay away from mixing in real world content. Call it the Fubu Ganix Equation and explain it i some narative and bingo you can have it do whatever you want and no one will question it. If that is your style of story telling embrace it and run with it. Like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Finest british humor and acid laden critique on society that keeps you grinning. And if I say What is the meaning of life and you answer with 42 you are a real geek and know what I mean.
            Or watch a few episodes of Red Dwarf…
            Don’t feel distracted by critiques, it is a Web Comic not Hard SF, and could still be literary gold.

            • Future-Bound-Entertainment

              Dan’s Voyage isnt really a comedy honestly, it has its funny moments but its really more about rule-of-cool style action.

              The theme here has nothing to do with “science” its just a thematic aspect of the writing.

              There are no theories or equations or anything explained in the context of theworld because it is not that kind of fiction.

              Dan’s Voyage is science fiction more in the style of Generator Rex, Ben 10, the Godzilla the Animated series…

              like a 90s saturday morning cartoon.

              And this theme in the writing is just a background behind-the-scene theme talking about what inspired it not really having to do with science that much.

              There are other themes present in Dan’s Voyage… and I could really go on and on about how much effort I have put into the universe.

  • Future-Bound-Entertainment

    I am startingto wonder if the Drake Equation gets singled out by people because its clearly got one of the coolest names in science… just saying.

    • Do you know how many Geeks use the Schroedinger Cat thought model to proof to other geeks they KNOW quantum physics and understand the model completely, Dare to ask details and you see puffed cheeks, glasses pushed up noses and the discussion ends with name calling, ruffled feathers and egos…but no answer. So yes geeks will buy the Schroedingers Cat toy on Amazon and place it right next to their Death Star Lego model and their signed Harry Potter magic wand. So here I am with a new Buzz Word: “Quantum Foam” lets see how soon you can buy Quantum Foam bubble bath at Amazon

  • Future-Bound-Entertainment

    Vanessa… I would like tothankyou for being very constructive and intelligent with your comments, even though I have no idea what the heck you are saying most of the time I ceertainly learned something

    • Vanessa Ravencroft

      Oh boy and I tried so hard expressing myself in a way that can be processed and comprehended by a wide spectrum of intellectual, cultural, educational levels. You know I am a writer too, and not being understood is sort of a nightmare… But I will try to do better.

      It;’s just when I see a conversation or topic that tangents a field of science (natural sciences that is) I have this compulsion to turn on the light switch and show them the exit.,,,Like with the Drake Equation…there was a mile of discussion…and no one appeared to really know what it was or at least to put it in context.
      As I said I am a writer too, and there is nothing more valuable to make you grow as a writer than constructive critique. It helps me to grow as a writer So I am thankful for every comment. So I like to return the favor whenever I can.
      Thanks

      VR

      • Future-Bound-Entertainment

        Dont worry, I am just a really bad listener.

  • Thomas Thorne

    The Drake equation is essentially a load of assumptions built on the incredibly limited experimental sample we currently have, which of course is only one. One planet, one biochemistry. One spacefaring species from that planet.

    The discovery of a single other viable biochemistry, for instance one using a different working solvent other than water ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_types_of_biochemistry#Non-water_solvents ) would radically expand the habitable zone around a star and essentially throw the Drake equation into the garbage. The Drake equation is a formula to find how much life that is chemically identical to us is out there, assuming our rates of evolution and technological development are exactly average.

  • Michael Trimmer

    editing – ‘little too much supposition’

  • Scott C. McKeown

    I really really like the idea for your Minervettes species. I think it is an absolutly fasinating idea to clone an extinct alein species back into exsistance.
    But your understanding of the drake equation is a bit embarrassing. Drake was just trying to be thorough when he added in the term for how long the average civilization would last for. For all we know 99.9% of all civilizations will make it to the heat death of the universe, but if you want to be thorough you still have to add it in. And your notion that it’s a bit too speculative is quite bizarre to me. There is noting incorrect about the equation, it is absolutely correct. He never did anything incorrect because he never claimed to “know” which values to plug into the equation.