N ~ 1: Alone in the Milky Way and the Q&A session

The Drake equation, proposed by American astronomer Frank Drake and considered to be one of the famous equations in the world, offers a way to estimate the number N of advanced civilizations present in our Milky Way galaxy. Large numbers for N, however, are in apparent conflict with observation, a contradiction known as the Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist and 1938 Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi.

Our speaker, Dr. Pascal Lee, is a planetary scientist at the Mars Institute and at the SETI Institute. He also directs the Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center. He argues that advanced civilizations may well be extremely rare. In fact, Dr. Lee estimates that N ~ 1. Even though planets are plentiful in the Milky Way, and even though life as a natural product of chemical and biological evolution is likely common, the number of advanced civilizations in the Galaxy might be of order 1. Says Dr. Lee: “We might be it in the vastness of our galaxy, or there might be just one other…”

Presented in collaboration with Friends of Mt Tam, SFAA (San Francisco Amateur Astronomers), and Wonderfest.

Recording of the Q&A sessionof Dr. Lee.

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