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March 24, 2010

#718: The Flake Equation

The Flake Equation

((Panel consists of a large equation with call-out text indicating what each variable indicates))

P = Wp x (Cr + Mi) x Tk x F0 + F1 x Dt X Au ˜ 100,000

Wp (7,000,000,000) World Population

Cr (1

10 000) Fraction of people who imagine an alien encounter because they’re crazy or want to feel special

Mi (1

10 000) Fraction of people who misinterpret a physical or physiological experience as an alien sighting

Tk (1

  1. Probability that they’ll tell someone

F0 (10) Average number of people they tell

F1 (10) Average number of people each friend tells this “firsthand” account

Dt (9

  1. Probability that any details not fitting the narrative will be revised or forgotten in retelling

Au (1

  1. Fraction of people with the means and motivation to share the story with a wider audience (blogs, forums, reporters)

Even with conservative guesses for the values of the variables, this suggests there must be a


number of credible-sounding alien sightings out there, available to anyone who wants to believe!