Quantifying Political Truth via Drake Equation


Why am I writing this? And why on earth are you reading this post? I mean really… Seriously… What are we doing here?

Clinton didn’t inhale. We read GHWB’s lips. We’re still looking for the definition of “is”. Obama didn’t bend over to bow to that Saudi King.  And Pelosi certainly didn’t know that rough stuff like water boarding was going to be afoot back in 2002.

Look, I’m just a dumb engineer. But there is so much “in your face” lying by our politicians, that I have to fall back on the only mechanism that I know to render reason – that of equations. Specifically, I’m going to model using the Drake Equation. (If you’re still reading this, you probably should get a life, but onward…)

Simply and roughly put, the Drake Equation calculates the likelihood of finding life in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is:

N = R * fp * ne * fl * fi * fc * L


N = The number of broadcasting civilizations.
R = Average rate of formation of suitable stars (stars/year) in the Milky Way galaxy
fp = Fraction of stars that form planets.
ne = Average number of habitable planets per star.
fl = Fraction of habitable planets (ne) where life emerges.
fi = Fraction of habitable planets with life where intelligent evolves.
fc = Fraction of planets with intelligent life capable of interstellar communication.
L = Years a civilization remains detectable.

Now, let’s see if we can’t warp that puppy into giving some numerical indicator of actual truth flowing out of DC…

N = R * fl * nj * fmt * fW * fmi * R * A


N = Number or percent of legit info coming out of Washington.
R = Average amount of iformation flowing out of the Beltway.
fl = Number of lawyers/lobbyists involved.
nj = Number of journalists involved.
fmt = Type of media covering the story (blogs, print, etc.)
fW = “Whopper factor” or “whopperness” (Obama didn’t bow to Saudi king.)
fmi = Media impact per audience type.
C = Role of religion in story.
A = Agenda factor.

Obviously, there’s a little tongue in cheek in the equation above, but not nearly as much as you might think. I’ve seen equations like these used in the real world (and on subjective matters too). When properly applied, they can be freakishly consistent. Two examples:

  • Years ago I worked as a member of a team of technical managers, and we needed to promote someone into our team. The promotion was going to cause strife and we all knew it – we all had our favorites. The boss came in, told us that we’d have a unanimous choice in 60 minutes, and then asked us for the important aspects for the open position. When we agreed (at about 15 minutes), he put those parameters on a white board and asked us to assign weights. No prob… At about 30 minutes he then asked that we all rank our individual choices per category. After 45 minutes, we all started looking at the resulting numbers and tweaking. At one hour we left with one unanimous decision.
  • I used the same type of Drake technique when judging a contest… Though the sample size was small and the judging panel was diverse, the numerical decision was again unanimous and varied by only 0.01.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone makes a modified model of the Drake equation and plugs in some actual numbers.  


“The stars might lie but the numbers never do.”

Alan Speakman

5 Responses to Quantifying Political Truth via Drake Equation

  1. Josie says:

    With the exception of your “C” factor, (which I would change to “role of the ACLU,”) I believe the numbers would approach the numbers that our ‘pres’ has run up in US debt, in his first hundred days. And my calculator doesn’t show that many digits!

  2. Davis says:

    I’m reading this post because, like everybody these days, I’m bored

  3. Tom Jones says:

    Parliament of whores.

  4. Gerry Ashley says:

    Hey, I tried that formula and it really works!

    Well, OK I had to fudge some of it (I replaced the values “R” through “A” with numbers that popped into my head while reading news coverage of Obama’s first 100 days.

    According to my results, 2% of the information coming out of Washington can be demonstrated as true.

    22% is rumor/innuendo being touted as true.

    An Astounding 24% is information intentionally leaked to the media in hopes THEY can sell it (which explains MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ warm and runny feeling going up his leg).

    Out-and-out lies make up 45%, and that leaves 7%, which is information still stuck on Obama’s teleprompter.

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