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The Drake Equation

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I was recently inspired by a post on Skepchick by Nicole a.k.a. Noisy Astronomer.

The post was about exoplanets and the “big picture” and talked about the likelihood of intelligent life existing on other planets. Nicole’s post discussed what is known as the Drake equation and it inspired me to make some art!

The Drake Equation is a formula used to estimate the number of civilizations existing within the Milky Way Galaxy.

The first thing I did was draw out the equation. I decided to draw the equation in an arch so I would be able to paint in the image of a planet in the center.

I used my drawing to create a press piece so I could press my drawing into the clay. I did that and then formed a series of circles with the image pressed in.

I then let the pieces dry and then fired them in the kiln. Then I glazed the pieces and fired them a second time. When the process was complete the pieces looked like this:

So what does the equation mean?

N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible;
and
R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
fℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space

You can click here to read the original post by Nicole that inspired this project.

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