The 'Wow' Signal, Drake Equation and Exoplanet Considerations

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E. Wheeler (2014), JBIS, 67, pp.412-417

Refcode: 2014.67.412
Keywords: SETI, Drake equation, exoplanets, astrobiology, philosophy of science

It has been 38 years since the most likely artificial transmission ever recorded from a possible extraterrestrial source was received [1, 2]. Using greatly improved technology, subsequent efforts by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have continued, yet silence from space prevails [3]. This article examines whether the transmission was an artificial signal, and if so why it matters, to include the possibility that the modest technology used by the "Big Ear" receiver could have been accommodated by the source. The transmission and the ensuing long silence may be intended. This paper reconsiders the Drake equation, an estimate for the number of civilizations in our galaxy that may possess technology for interstellar signaling [4, 5], and shows that statement of the current alleged best estimate of two civilizations is not supported [6]. An alternate and original method suggests ~100 civilizations. It importantly relies on experience and detectable events, including recent astronomical evidence about exoplanets as cataloged by the European Exoplanet program and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Exoplanet Science Institute [7, 8]. In addition it addresses major geological and astronomical occurrences that profoundly affected development of life on Earth and might apply similarly for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI). The alternate approach is not intended to compute ETI precisely but to examine the possibility that, though vastly spread, it likely exists. The discussion anticipates difficulties in communication with an alien civilization, hardly an exercise in science fiction, and explores how international groups can participate in future specific response. One response might be to monitor the electromagnetic radiation spectral line of an element to be determined by consensus.


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