On Friday morning, SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk tweeted out an April 2016 Inverse article detailing new research focused around the Drake Equation — a framework for estimating the odds that an intelligent alien civilization exists elsewhere in the universe. Like most of Musk’s outings on social media, this one sparked quite the array of interest among his fans. The fact that this story had to do with aliens was just the icing on the cake.
At first, it might seem odd that Musk was digging through the internet for information on extraterrestrial life after midnight. (But honestly, who among us hasn’t furiously typed “aliens” into Google alone after everyone else has gone to bed? Right??)
Then you remember that Musk might be an alien — or at least he used to be one, he once claimed. (Yes, I know it was a joke, please don’t @ me.) Regardless, it’s clear that Musk’s passion for space is clearly not just limited to the realm of the human species.
And he’s not alone. The explosion in exoplanet discoveries around the galaxy, especially ones which may be potentially habitable, has elevated the investigation for life on other worlds to a serious strata among scientists, which seems to have flooded over into the public sphere as a wave of optimism that the human species is not alone in the universe. One need look no further than the recent discovery of seven potentially habitable planets orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light-years away to see how hyped up everyone is about finding evidence.
More critically, it is billionaires like Musk who are taking charge to fund these kind of research projects.
The chances of finding intelligent beings from another world have never been better — which is what led a pair of researchers to write a revision to the Drake Equation last year. Their paper essentially hypothesizes that the odds that humans are the only intelligent species to have ever evolved is one in 10 billion trillion.
That’s pretty good news for the notion that at some point in the 13.78 billion year history of the universe, intelligent aliens have existed.
That doesn’t mean aliens are currently alive — Musk himself acknowledges that, but prefers to stay cheerful:
Musk, as both a scientist and an entrepreneur, is in a position to understand somewhat best of all that investing in space science and exploration could seriously pay off in the most important discovery ever made. He is able to peruse through the data collected by astronomers and SETI researchers and make sense of it and carry that understanding forward in a way that bolsters those investigations both financially and scholarly.
So when Musk asks, “Where are the #%*> aliens?” he really means it. And he’s encouraged to see a Drake Equation that suggests he might be onto something.
In any case, Musk’s tweet at least elicited a very lovely conversation between himself and actor Aaron Paul:Photos via Getty Images / Scott Olson