Against all odds, the odds of life evolving on Earth were only three-to-one, mathematical analysis reveals
- A mathematical study from Columbia University includes all existing research
- Dr. David Kipping found that the chances of life evolving were less than 3/1
- Evolution of intelligent life was even more unlikely, his research reveals
Life on Earth has literally overcome the opportunities to evolve, a new study finds.
A mathematical study from Columbia University analyzed all existing research to determine the likelihood of life on Earth flourishing.
Dr. David Kipping found that the likelihood of life on our planet was longer than three-to-one, and even slimmer for intelligent living.
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A mathematical study from Columbia University analyzed all existing research to determine the likelihood of life on Earth flourishing (stock)
Dr. Kipping created complex mathematical models incorporating the well-known timeline of life on Earth during the early days of the planet.
His research, published today in PNAS, suggests that if Earth’s history were repeated, intelligent life forms like humans could not be guaranteed.
Dr. Kipping writes in the study, “If we re-insert Earth’s clock, one should statistically choose life to reappear often, but intelligence may not be so inevitable.”
The statistical experiment found that the very first primitive life forms were statistically most likely to evolve 190 million years after habitable conditions exist, a point believed to be about 4.2 billion years ago.
This occurred at the end of Earth’s most primitive stage known as the Hadean Eon, stretching from the very beginning of Earth 4.6 billion years ago to about four billion years ago.
Earth was a tumultuous place during this period, with the surface regularly bombarded with asteroids while the atmosphere was thick and toxic.
Dr. David Kipping found that the likelihood of life on our planet was longer than 3/1, and even smaller for intelligent life. Part of the first life on Earth would have been archaea and algae, similar to what is still seen (photo, a pool full of algae and archaea)
WHAT WAS EARTH EON ‘HADEAN’?
The Hadean eon is a period in Earth’s geological timeline that is often described as “hell.”
It started about 4.6 billion years ago and was responsible for Earth’s first formation until about 4.0 billion years ago.
During this time, the planet was exposed to frequent impacts with alien objects, leaving the crust unstable during the early years.
Molten rock was pushed to the surface by convection currents, which also gave way to ‘magmatic seas’.
Eventually, the core and crust stabilized and the atmosphere and oceans began to develop, with indications that this happened about 4.4 billion years ago.
Despite the fact that life could evolve quite early, it took billions of years for intelligent, multi-cellular life forms to evolve.
This crucial leap was much less likely, according to the latest research.
“The possibility that intelligence is extremely rare and Earth is” lucky “remains fairly achievable,” said the study states.
“In general, we find a weak preference, 3: 2 betting odds, that intelligence seldom shows up given our late arrival.”
Dr. Kipping warns that his research is Earth-specific and therefore cannot be applied to the hunt for extraterrestrial life on other planets.
He writes, “It is tempting to apply these numbers to potentially habitable exoplanets that are being discovered.
“We caution, however, that our analysis only concerns Earth, treating abiogenesis as a stochastic process against a background of events and conditions that may be unique to Earth.”