According to Scientists, this is now the minimum number of intelligent civilizations out there. 361. I’ve no doubt that this was in fact the figure that the algorithms spat out, but whatever happened to the kind of comfortingly woolly science reporting that used to come up with phrases like “perhaps a few hundred”.

361.  Because there’s still so much we don’t know it’s essentially meaningless, and yet strangely beguiling.

361. The precision of it gives us unreasonable hope, doesn’t it?

Zooming off to see if I can still download the old SETI data-crunching screensaver.

10 thoughts on “361

  1. 41? Are you sure?

    But they said 361 was the MINIMUM.

    Or does 41 convey some other significance?

    I mean it’s one less than 42 (theanswertothegreatquestionoflifetheuniversandeverything) but that’s about as significant as 667 being the neighbour of the beast.

    I’m intrigued!

  2. You’d think so, Jim, but it’s one of those funny streets that only has one side. There’s a park with rather a nice pond on the other side. The beast feeds the ducks there sometimes.

  3. Neil,
    See my blog entry for 20th October last year: the scientist behind the research actually predicted that there were 361.2 civilizations out there. I wonder what 0.2 of a civilization looks like!

  4. Jack – yes, I saw that episode. But 666 is too ingrained now, and no amount of pedantic correctness will change that. I blame Damien and Iron Maiden.

    Lawrence – I think the 0.2 is probably us.

  5. Well 361 sits better for my own novel in which there need to be enough civilizations to be conquered and absorbed for a mass domination…41 simply would not cut it.

    However when they come up with these magicaly numbers what are they surmising is a civilization? is it a rocket ridden post industrial-revolution/nuclear dominated kind of place or will stone age tools and basic mastery of fire count?

    In which case there could be only 41 “advanced” (those with at least rocket propulsion and nuclear fision unless the criteria is ability to teleport over a million light years in a matter of moments or uses telepathy as the main form of communication and has eradicated all disease) and 361 overall candidates for varying degress of civilization.

    Or am I thinking too hard?

  6. You’re a writer, you can’t think too hard.

    I don’t know what criteria they use, but our definition of civilization includes ancient cultures (the sumerians, the minoans, the romans, greeks, egyptians, all that), so at a guess I’d say, they’d have to include all life forms that had developed such basic societal structures as written language, arithmetic, city building, agriculture, etc.

    Not sure that it would have to be more developed than that to count.

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