Page 139
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(Jon sez:)

Your Writer: Jon Kilgannon Mark and I agreed, when we decided to work together on this comic, that there would be no aliens in it. Of course, if Earth isn't unique in harboring life, and if life will eventually develop intelligence in some cases, that means that the universe of MoS must perforce be littered with the ruins of dead alien civilizations.

The physicist Enrico Fermi once posed a question that's often called the Fermi Paradox: If there are intelligent extraterrestrials, why don't we see them around us? Where are they? In other words, if we presume intelligent beings will eventually explore the galaxy out of either curiosity or the need for living space and resources, then we should see a sky full of aliens. But they're not there. So, Fermi asked, where are they? One answer is that life is rare; another is that intelligence doesn't contribute to a species' survival as much as does, say, being able to run fast or jump high. Another answer is to presume some kind of catastrophe befalls a species before it can colonize the galaxy: nuclear war, nanotechnological disaster, a plague of telemarketers, whatever. For purposes of our story, I'm going to go with the catastrophe theory.

(Mark sez:)

Your Artist: Mark Sachs I've been looking forward to doing Panel 2 of this page. It's one of those images most comic artists are probably familiar with, meaningless and impossible to accomplish until you've got 138 previous pages of story backing you up. Good God, has this comic gotten that long?

Anyway, while we're on the topic of SETI-related goofing...

The famous Drake Equation is a formula for determining how many intelligent, communicating civilizations there might be in the galaxy. Starting with the number of stars in the Milky Way (a fabulously large number) we then multiply by various parameters that determine what fraction of those stars meet the criteria needed to create aliens we could talk to. For example, if life is a rare phenomenon, then that reduces the fl parameter, the fraction of Earthlike planets where life evolves. If intelligent life is what's unusual, then the fi parameter goes down -- that's the fraction of fl that develops intelligence. If telemarketing and spam lead to inevitable collapse of global communications systems and the end of civilization, then that reduces fL -- the fraction of the planet's lifetime during which an alien civilization exists. The results of the Drake Equation end up being either inspiring or depressing, depending on your point of view and how satisfied you'd be to just listen to aliens with a radio telescope as opposed to being able to cruise out there and visit in person.

Finally, it hasn't been seen in MoS for a while, but the model of spacecraft seen behind the two Martian taikonauts in the second panel is of course the same sort of landing shuttle Caprice and Benjamin have been zipping around in for much of the comic.