Drake Equation, more on the topic

The Drake Equation, as you must all know, is a way to guestimate how prominent intelligent life might be in the Milky Way Galaxy.


I have briefly searched on this forum for the following association but I must have missed it…

I posit that Dr. Dartnell’s recent article on Aeon regarding the link between fossil fuels and the ultimate fruition of humankind into a species capable of grand civilizations may be a factor in the Drake Equation.

That is, do intelligent electro-magnetic energy manipulating species require some massive, stored energy source, provided at just the right time in their evolution, to push them into advanced technologies? Technologies capable of the manipulation of electromagnetic energy and the eventual support of said species’ distribution into its solar system and eventually its galaxy?

If extra-terrestrial intelligences don’t get a super cheap energy boost, like humans got from fossil fuels, will they fail to evolve into EMEM species? (electro magnetic energy manipulator).

In direct support of this supposition is the assumption that such nearly free energy (coal, crude oil and natural gas) has given humanity the ability to explode its population beyond a threshold point; expanding to a critical state where the chain reaction of ideas blending with ideas from millions of people supported by the food made available by fossil fuels, allowed humanity to blossom through the industrial revolution, the computer revolution and now the information/knowledge revolution.

Fossil fuels = food = lots of people = lots of idea = EMEM species.

And therefore, without nearly free energy (NFE) any alien intelligences would never evolve to the level humanity has attained.


14 thoughts on “Drake Equation, more on the topic

  1. Tracked down and capture the conversation with Lewis Dartnell on Facebook:

    Lexi Mize So, Dr. Dartnell, what’s your opinion on the last decade’s hyper exposure to apocalypse mania? Survivor, Man vs Wild, Survirorman, Dual Survival, youtube channels, bug-out buckets, blogs, how-to books — your book! Any idea why the survival hype has reached such a high level? Is humanity secretly yearning for a return to simpler times? Is the superficial lifestyle of today’s West lacking in soulful sustenance? What are your thoughts?
    February 26, 2016 at 7:17pm
    The Knowledge
    The Knowledge Hi Lexi, yes, thoughts about the apocalypse and tropes in films like I Am Legend or games like The Last of Us are very popular at the moment. I wrote a feature on what is the allure of ruins and thoughts of the apocalypse: http://www.themorningnews.org/article/demolish-me

    Demolish Me – The Morning News
    The present-day lust for ruins is nothing new. In fact, it’s nearly as old as any ruins themselves.…
    February 26, 2016 at 11:49pm

    The Knowledge
    The Knowledge But I feel I should point out that I don’t think the world is about to end, and of course The Knowledge isn’t really about the apocalypse at all…
    February 26, 2016 at 11:50pm

    Lexi Mize
    Lexi Mize I realize you must continuously mollify your statements given the tendency for people to read intent where none exists. In The Knowledge I understand you wanted to present substantial, historically significant information that is still used and useful today and that the need for such knowledge and skills was most easily portrayed in the aftermath of an apocalypse.
    February 27, 2016 at 9:36am

    Lexi Mize
    Lexi Mize Ruin porn, a curious phrase; porn being a sort of sordid medium of various contexts tempting and luring people to partake in unsavory views and visions.

    I see through your aforementioned article that this trend is long lived. Thanks for that. I still wonder however, why this genre is so popular. And to this I mentioned above that I think that with both the trite complexities and mundane nature of human existence of today’s culture we yearn for ancient meaning. For hundreds of thousands of years survival has been humanity’s primary goal. We are bred for it, as is all life. Yet when the problem of survival becomes incidental; existence is after all easily accomplished in the West these days; when we must fill our days with artificial survival exercises (sports, business, debate, etc.) we are left feeling empty.

    Dreaming of being forced to truly survive enlivens us. Apocalypse is simply a quick and dirty way to return to a era of eat or be eaten, kill or be killed. A primal time. A time Homo Sapiens Sapiens evolved within. Are we returning to our animal roots when we relish in ruin porn?
    February 27, 2016 at 9:54am

    The Knowledge
    The Knowledge Lexi Mize Yes, that’s exactly it – I was using the notion of the apocalypse and the loss of all that we take for granted today as a vehicle for exploring how our world actually works behind the scenes.
    February 27, 2016 at 12:52pm

    The Knowledge
    The Knowledge In the sense of ruin porn, competence porn, car porn, the meaning of ‘pornography’ has relaxed slightly from sordid/unsavoury to mean more something that provides for or satisfies a particular desire.
    February 27, 2016 at 12:55pm

    The Knowledge
    The Knowledge But yes, I think you’re right: post-apocalyptic narratives / ruin artwork caters to our wish-fulfilment for imaging a simpler lifestyle / a world without restrictive rules and laws.
    February 27, 2016 at 12:56pm

    Lexi Mize
    Lexi Mize So we have anarchy and the freedom from oppressive laws it would bring, a return to a primal survival mode, and now I propose two additional incentives as to why a post apocalypse world is alluring: 1) scavenging is intrinsic and enticing, 2) a return to equality.

    1) Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? All the surprise and wonder at finding useful stuff — and not having to pay for it? It’d be like a holiday! Remember 28 Days Later and the pinching spree the 4 characters went on in the abandoned shop?

    2) In a post apocalyptic world only your wit and survival instinct will matter. Digital dollars etched in silicon in some crumbling bank won’t mean a thing. The rich and the poor will be equals. Seeing the downfall of the 1%’ers would be a delicious bonus.
    February 28, 2016 at 8:25am

    The Knowledge
    The Knowledge I think you’re right about the hoarding impulse behind a lot of survivalist/prepper efforts today, and the assumed ‘fun’ of scavenging after a Fall. But I’m pretty sure a post-apocalyptic world would be as unjust, if not more so, than the world today. Force will be used to amass and defend remaining resources, and there would be no top-down taxation/welfare support/healthcare/legal framework to redistribute to those needy within society.
    February 28, 2016 at 9:45am

    Lexi Mize
    Lexi Mize Are you in the throes of writing your next book? I could see a 1/2 narrative 1/2 explanation type book where you take a family and their descendants through a post-cataclysm timeline: 10 days, 100 days, 1000 days, 10k days, 100k days. Half would be story (using all the cool knowledge found in The Knowledge) and half would be a history of the obsession with destruction and its aftermath. And your phrase “Ruin Porn – a tale of calamity and rebirth” as a title, would really get headlines.
    February 28, 2016 at 10:11am · Edited


  2. I will immediately take hold of your rss feed as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Kindly let me know so that I may just subscribe.


  3. I agree that the numbers favor life, lots of life, in the Universe. What I’ve tried to explore, over the years of gathering this list, is that the trek of humanity to the stage we enjoy today is one of tenuous happenstance. I find that many folks I’ve spoken with haven’t examined the special situtational sequence of events and configuration of planetary, ecological, and geological factors that humans leveraged to get to this point in our evolution.

    Take trees for instance. Where would humanity be if it were not for the existence and diversity of trees? The implications are manifold. If there are alien intelligences out there living on planets where trees or their substitute, do not exists… could they discover fire? Build shelter? Build ships? Construct tools and machinery of thousands of kinds? Produce coke? Produce methanol as a fuel? I realize that such a statement is highly anthropocentric. But still, imagine humanity with out the ability to leverage wood as a resource. Would we have ever reached the state we thrive in today?

    It’s factors like that, in that list as well as others I’ve identified, that simply invite one to step back and think about how incredible humanity’s path to technological advancement really is.


  4. And what of wood?

    We take trees for granted. They’re all around us in thousands of species and configurations. But imagine if Humanity had had no access to such a resource?

    Wood is nearly free, ubiquitous, fast growing, structurally sound, resilient, malleable, light, floats, varied in density and workability, of sufficient length to be useful for hundreds of construction purposes from buildings, fences, boats and ships.

    Not to mention that it is flammable and has been keeping humans protected and warm and full of cooked protein and grains for millennia.

    Without trees would there even be a human civilization?


  5. Earth is unique. We read about these immense numbers of galaxies, stars and planets and just *know* that there are other “earths” out there. But it will become more and more evident and publicly accepted that Earth is exceedingly unique. The list continues to grow regarding factors that make it so, but here are a few.

    • Sol is singular, not a binary star system.
    • Sol’s position in the galaxy is out in an arm away from the chaos of inner galaxy turmoil.
    • Sol’s wave path as the Milkyway revolves allows it to miss much of the disruptions in the galaxy. (Local bubble)
    • Earth’s distance from Sol.
    • Earth’s neighbors.
    • Earth’s impact from Theia resulting in a much denser iron/nickel core.
    • Earth’s extensive magnetosphere (due to this large magnetic core).
    • Luna’s very large size and its influence on Earth’s rotational / axial stability, not to mention tides.
    • The asteroid belt delivering asteroids, comets and meteors and their H2O and elements.

    The list just goes on and on…

    • Earth’s H20 to land ratio.
    • Earth’s land distribution (large continents, not islands).
    • Earth’s high quantity of radioactive elements within the planet interior.
    • Volcanism continuously recycling minerals and elements.
    • Early life starting 3.5bya, clearing the oceans of toxins.
    • The tilt of Earth providing seasons.
    • Ozone without which DNA would be useless.
    • The transition of prokaryotic to eukaryotic life.
    • 2.5billion years of hydrocarbon deposition.
    • Broad variety of available metals useful for life and industry.
    And dozens more reasons.

    We are unique.


  6. “Space. The final frontier”…

    Or so it is for an intelligent species blessed with a gargantuan supply of nearly free energy — in the form of fossil fuels. But not just rocketry is dependent upon gigatons of burning hydrocarbons. Flight itself, as a means of common transport, is also wholly dependent upon this energy source.

    I postulate that without fossil fuels, humans would remain earthbound — forever.

    Ignoring early flight controversy of who and when, what if Wilbur and Orville Wright had no access to an internal combustion engine? Leonardo da Vinci, as well as others, sketched man in flight. But sustained flight requires a considerably dense fuel to power the propellers or eventually, the jets, that create the speed that produces lift. Yes, no doubt other liquid fuels, the densest available to a young technological species, would be discovered or used; bio oils and alcohols, animal oils (whale oil), etc. But these would most likely be available in limited supply and rarely squandered.

    Dirigibles would become popular, it’s true. Powered by battery powered fans or small internal (or external) combustion engines. Yet, there flight would stagnate. Fast. High. Large, all require tons of fuel to be burned in order to reach the speeds, the altitude and the sizes that make our flight leveraging society efficient and useful. And well, possible.

    And what of space? How would a society, lacking an NFE (nearly free energy) source, launch satellites? How would they hope to create a GPS system? How would they hope to launch weather satellites? Communication satellites? And how would such a society ever hope to shed their earthly shackles and travel into their solar system? So far humans have been utterly reliant upon fossil fuels to blast us and our stuff into space. It may come to pass that humanity designs and creates other means for escaping the gravity well that is Earth. But even so, fossil fuels would be needed to bootstrap the space industry.

    So not only are fossil fuels a *probable* necessity for the advancement of a ground based technologically advanced species. They are also mostly likely a requirement needed to lift said species into the heavens.


  7. Continuing the theme here…

    Another thought came into my mind as I read about the transportation reboot in The Knowledge.

    * Draft animals allowed humanity to leverage agriculture.

    Without the horse or the cow (or the ass or the donkey or burro) humans would have been left trying to till the soil and sow and grow the grains they discovered in the Fertile Crescent — by hand. Draft animals were required to enable humans to expand their population through agriculture. If it were not for draft animals humanity would not have been able to grow enough food, to feed the populace that created the cities, e.g. civilization. Cities, which became the idea centers thereby allowing humanity to become, eventually, the technologically advanced species that we are.

    So not only does the Drake Equation ignore the extra parameter of the need for a massive cache of NFE (nearly free energy), but it also ignores the requirement that any intelligent species must be able to create or have access to a huge food generation process such that they could grow their population up to the critical point where idea synergy is enabled.

    Draft animals are a technologically advanced species enabler.


  8. I’m about halfway through The Knowledge and what strikes me, in relation to the grand scheme of intelligence in the galaxy and the universe, is how tailor made the Earth seems for providing the platform for humanity to become a technologically advanced species. Let me elaborate.

    I’ve mentioned the theory that a vast, nearly-free-energy repository, in humanity’s case — fossil fuels, may be necessary to propel a species into EMEM land. But what about the need for vast sources of calcium carbonate for the production of cement, concrete and lime and lye? It would seem that biological life produces much of the available limestone that humanity has leveraged to build its infrastructure and cities, etc. CaCO3 does accrete chemically, but much less so than from organic sources.

    And what of the need for seaweed sourced sodium carbonate for the production of glass? Glass being a critical piece of the technologically advanced species puzzle.

    And of course we have the need for vast forests from which so many useful materials and chemicals were derived for early humans.

    My point is that as Dr. Lewis Dartnell’s information shows, humanity’s position as a technologically advanced species points to many perfect alignments of needs fulfilled. That our existence is proof of these apparently serendipitous conjunctions of happenstance. And given such a marvelous sequence of events how prevalent might such a sequence be in the galaxy or universe? Drake’s equation merely speaks to broad numbers of probability. But humanity’s existence belies so much more than that no? Billions of years of fossil fuel and limestone deposition; the purification of the oceans of toxins by biological processes; the growth of vast forests both on land and in the seas… How often does all that happen in the Universe? Is it no wonder we’ve discovered no signs of ETI so far?

    This theory then begs another question, how much of these geologic and biologic offerings are necessary to provide for the original “booting” of a technologically advance race of beings?


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