This post is about Jill Tarter's Video.

The Drake Equation is something that has fascinated me ever since I learned about it in another Gen Ed at Harvard. So, I would love to ask some questions about it. I know she said it is not useful for prediction because the uncertainties for some of the terms are too large. So, I guess my question would be surrounding which of these terms she feels the error is too large for prediction and if she has any hope that we may be able to decrease any of these uncertainties. I would assume it is the term that represents the length of an average civilization, which is a huge driving factor in the output of the equation, but I would be curious to hear her thoughts.

Hi Ben, you raise an interesting question about quantifying uncertainty in the Drake equation. It would be nice to use historical data to quantify the uncertainty of each term of the Drake equation; however, there is no historical data of extraterrestrial civilizations. Perhaps another way to measure uncertainty could be to run simulations to determine the distribution of each term in the Drake equation. Each term, such as the fraction of stars that have planets, corresponds to a specific process (e.g. planet formation), which we can simulate by breaking it down into sub-processes (e.g. rocks crashing into each other in space and sticking together to form larger clumps). After building these simulations from fundamental processes, we can measure the distribution (such as mean and standard deviation) of the desired term to better understand its uncertainty.