Most life in the universe won’t evolve for another 10 trillion years

In the grand scheme of the cosmos, life on earth might have popped up far sooner than it should have.

A team led by Harvard astronomy department chair Avi Loeb crunched some numbers comparing the size of stars to how soon life should form on the habitable planets that surround them. The team predicts that the odds of life developing around the more common and smaller red dwarf stars will increase drastically in the future. In other words, when it comes to life, maybe we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Research suggests planets orbiting red dwarf stars will be more congenial to life, but it won’t evolve for another 10 trillion years. The universe is now 14 billion years old.

So don’t wait up.

Life On Earth May Have Arisen Unusually Early (Ryan F. Mandelbaum/Popular Science)

 

Tick tock

The world’s oldest computer is still revealing its secrets

The Antikythera computer, 2,100 years old, is still yielding secrets, after being uncovered from an ancient Greek shipwreck more than a century ago.

In its prime, about 2,100 years ago, the Antikythera (an-ti-KEE-thur-a) Mechanism was a complex, whirling, clockwork instrument comprising at least 30 bronze gears bearing thousands of interlocking tiny teeth. Powered by a single hand crank, the machine modeled the passage of time and the movements of celestial bodies with astonishing precision. It had dials that counted the days according to at least three different calendars, and another that could be used to calculate the timing of the Olympics. Pointers representing the stars and planets revolved around its front face, indicating their position in relation to Earth. A tiny, painted model of the moon rotated on a spindly axis, flashing black and white to mimic the real moon’s waxing and waning.

The sum of all these moving parts was far and away the most sophisticated piece of machinery found from ancient Greece. Nothing like it would appear again until the 14th century, when the earliest geared clocks began to be built in Europe. For the first half century after its discovery, researchers believed that the Antikythera Mechanism had to be something simpler than it seemed, like an astrolabe. How could the Greeks have developed the technology needed to create something so precise, so perfect — only to have it vanish for 1,400 years?

21st Century X-Ray and imaging technology is making new discoveries about what’s underneath the mechanism’s calcified surface.

[Sarah Kaplan/The Washington Post]

Carl Sagan was wrong: Why astronomers and journalists should pay attention to biologists about ET

The reason we haven’t been contacted by other intelligent life forms is they aren’t out there, according to Praxtime.

  1. Time for intelligent life to fill a galaxy: super short 20 million years
  2. Time for intelligent life to evolve in a galaxy: moderate 20 billion years
  3. Time of universe to keep having stars: super long 20 trillion years

The first perspective shift is to step back in time, and realize the universe is very young. With 20 trillion years of star generation ahead, the universe has only covered 13.7 billion years or roughly .07% of its life span. Compare this to a person who expects to live 70 years, and you’d get .07% * 70 years = roughly 18 days. So in human terms the universe is a three week old baby. No wonder there’s not too much life out there yet.

The Fermi Paradox states that the Earth is a commonplace planet circling a commonplace star. There’s nothing special about us. Therefore intelligent life should be common in the universe. And here’s the paradox: They should be here already. So where are they?

That’s how astronomers think. But biologists know better. Of the 2 million species on Earth, only one has evolved humanlike intelligence: Us. There’s no reason to assume that it’s happened again elsewhere. And if it had, it would fill the galaxy relatively quickly, and would have left no room for us.

They’re not here because we’re the first.

Avoiding “Sagan Syndrome.” Why Astronomers and Journalists should pay heed to Biologists about ET.