As I worked with Alice, Ben, and Robert to prepare for the meeting with NASA, my mind flitted again over the Drake equation. This famous equation, created in 1961 by Professor Francis Drake, calculates the number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions we can detect. It is, in that sense, a predictor of how many examples of intelligent life apart from ourselves actually exist.

Something troubled me about it though, something that had been niggling at my mind since we had received and decoded

[Query][mathematical progression][Query][living][mathematics][planet][star][not star]

a few weeks ago.

It needed an extra term. Our 120 light-years-away new friends had not just leaked emissions into space; they had deliberately sought out other intelligent life. By adding “f(w)” to the end of the equation – the fraction of technological civilizations that want to communicate – we could get a better estimate of how many potential signals we should look for in the mass of data we were processing.

I wondered if I should bring it up in the presentation. No, I decided – one crisis at a time, and we certainly had a big enough one to deal with right now. Still, it would be a fascinating avenue to explore if and when we got through all this. I made a mental note to mention it to the team after all was said and done. They’d want to hear about it, even if no one else did.

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