At the heart of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) lies the Drake Equation, a mathematically simple yet fascinatingly enigmatic formula proposed by American astronomer and SETI founder Frank Drake. The Drake Equation provides a way to estimate the number, N, of advanced civilizations present in our Milky Way galaxy. Although N is often assumed to be large - there would be many civilizations in the Galaxy -, large numbers for N 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.
Pascal Lee, planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, examines the state-of-the-art of our knowledge about each term of the Drake Equation, and reaches the perhaps surprising conclusion that N might actually be a very small number, close to 1. We could be it. The implications of N~1 are profound and will be discussed.
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