Astrophysicist suggests life may have existed shortly after Big Bang

Dec 11, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Time Line of the Universe. Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team

(Phys.org) —Theoretical astrophysicist Abraham Loeb of Harvard University has uploaded a paper he's written to the preprint server arXiv, in which he suggests that conditions shortly after the Big Bang may have been just right for life to appear in some parts of the universe—for just a short time.

Loeb notes that according to theory, 15 million years after the Big Bang, the entire would have been warm enough to support life due to the cooling of superheated gases that eventually led to what scientists believe is (CMB). Today, it's very cold of course, (2.7 Kelvin), but not long, relatively speaking, after the Big Bang, the temperature would have been closer to 300 Kelvin—more than warm enough to support life if there were a place for it to appear. And that Loeb suggests, might have been possible as well. He notes that it would have been possible for to have existed at that time too—in places where matter was exceptionally dense. Because of that, he believes it's possible that all of the pieces necessary for the appearance of life might have been in place in some parts of the universe, for approximately two or three million years—enough time for the initial brewing that could have led to the development of microbes of some sort.

Of course, if it did happen, that life would not have lived long enough (2 to 3 million years) to evolve into anything complex—it would have been snuffed out as the CMB cooled—happening as it would have before stars would have had enough time to form and emit heat of their own. Thus, no evidence would have been left behind, which means Loeb's theory can never be proven. If it could, that might upset another principle regarding the universe—the anthropic principle—which suggests that all of the things that needed to happen in the universe for us to be here today to observe them, exist because we are here to observe them. If existed and died out before we arrived, it would not have been sophisticated enough to know that it existed, much less observe conditions in the universe that led to its existence. And that would mean the anthropic principle might just be an idea that exists because we have nothing better to explain how and why we are here.

Explore further: Physics duo suggest using early universe inflation as graviton detector

More information: The Habitable Epoch of the Early Universe, arXiv:1312.0613 [astro-ph.CO] arxiv.org/abs/1312.0613

Abstract
In the redshift range 100<(1+z)<110, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) had a temperature of 273-300K (0-30 degrees Celsius), allowing early rocky planets (if any existed) to have liquid water chemistry on their surface and be habitable, irrespective of their distance from a star. In the standard LCDM cosmology, the first star-forming halos within our Hubble volume started collapsing at these redshifts, allowing the chemistry of life to possibly begin when the Universe was merely 15 million years old. The possibility of life starting when the average matter density was a million times bigger than it is today argues against the anthropic explanation for the low value of the cosmological constant.

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verkle
1.7 / 5 (11) Dec 11, 2013
A lot of posturing and supposings and "what if's", but little science here.

Has this question ever been answered yet: Why is the universe a cool 2.7K no matter what direction we look at? And the same to many decimal points.

Drum19
3 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2013
Because of the cosmological principle…the Universe has to be uniform and isotropic to prevent there being any 'special' part of the Universe. Obviously it depends on what scale we observe, but on the largest scales this appears to be true
cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (12) Dec 11, 2013
Pseudo-scientific metaphysical mumbo jumbo!
Maggnus
4 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2013
Has this question ever been answered yet: Why is the universe a cool 2.7K no matter what direction we look at?


I'm almost convinced that this was somehow rhetorical. Yes it has been answered verkle; there's been 13.7 billion years for the expansion journalists call the big bang to cool. Its in every direction we look at because we are in the space/time that arose because of the big bang.
Fisty_McBeefpunch
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2013
"Thus, no evidence would have been left behind, which means Loeb's theory can never be proven."

For 10 extra credit points on your Sciencey Stuff 101 exam, "What is wrong with this sentence?"
Zephir_fan
Dec 11, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
scottfos
4.4 / 5 (7) Dec 11, 2013
so much anger and resentment in these comments. he's a theoretical astrophysicist who is contemplating temperatures which would allow liquid H2O. it's a fun view (that the CMB had to be 0-30C for a short period of time) - no need to make it more or less than it is, folks.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2013
A lot of posturing and supposings and "what if's", but little science here.
"Theoretical astrophysicist Abraham Loeb of Harvard University has uploaded a paper he's written"

-You expect to find all the necessary science in an article the size of this? You really think science is that simple??
foolspoo
1 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2013
"And that would mean the anthropic principle might just be an idea that exists because we have nothing better to explain how and why we are here."

we need more of this realization in all arenas of life
Tacso
3 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2013
I can just agree with others here, that this article is speculative. The life requires lotta heavy elements, which must be formed in multiple stellar generations. Such a stellar cycles may happen quite fast inside of dense hot galaxies, but after then their conditions will not be compatible with life as we know it (high radiation, energy flux etc.).
rkolter
1 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2013
So many problems. This is a fun thought experiment but has no serious basis as a hypothesis.

1 - Where do the elements to form the planet come from, if not stars. If part of the big bang, why does such a high percentage of the total population of those elements in the universe at that time form into a single planet?

2 - How do the elements gather when it requires at a minimum, the ability to form into densities approaching star-creation, which requires cold gas, not warm gas.

3 - How does the planet develop, cool, and stabilize in 15 million years? It should be molten (particularly when the ambient temperature is so high) and unstable, and while being hit with other rocks (where there is one rock...)

4 - How does water form on the planet, and why? No prior supply exists so the water has to form from scratch on site... no oxygen for water...

5 - Ditto #4 for carbon - both oxygen and carbon form as part of the aptly named CNO process in stars.

Fun. Science-y. NOT Science.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
2.5 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2013
Extraordinary claims needs extraordinary evidence. Loeb's work isn't that. It argues that the possibility of early planets would possibly make the number of early planets and their lifetimes overpower the number of generic planets, and so wreak havoc with the anthropic principle.

However, no such maximally old planets have been observed. While planets of all ages including 13 billion year old ones have been seen now numbering thousands. So clearly outperforming Loeb's constraints which is about _typical_ observers after all (weak anthropic principle) and not possible (strong anthropic principle).

Yirka being Yirka the article is filled with unsubstantiated speculation, so the only means to handle it is with a club: read the original paper instead.

The usual creationist grandstanding of the first comment is sweetly hilarious, since answering that question is what the standard cosmology is based on and it has been googeable/Wikipedia stuff for 10 years now...
Q-Star
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2013
Kudos Avi, great paper and I appreciate your help in the war on the "anthropic principle", in ALL of it's guises.

@ Everyone. Abraham "Avi" Loeb is the go-to guy on very early star, galaxy and structure formation and evolution, if ya seek out his work ya won't be disappointed. He writes prolifically and always well thought-out and considered.
NOM
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2013
He notes that it would have been possible for rocky planets to have existed at that time too—in places where matter was exceptionally dense.
If rocky planets could exist stars would have been around too.
But, I bet that the early univers would have been a violent and very radiation soaked place, so life existing would have been unlikely.

Still, it only needs to have happened once. In the whole universe that makes even a very unlikely event possible.
dogbert
1.7 / 5 (10) Dec 11, 2013
There is a constant desire in the scientific community to conflate water/temperature with life.

Life has never been observed to exist anywhere but here. There are certainly other places where liquid water exist, but we have never found life anywhere else. Until/unless we do find life to have arisen elsewhere, speculation about the probability of life elsewhere is an exercise in fantasy.
orti
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 11, 2013
"the anthropic principle—which suggests that all of the things that needed to happen in the universe for us to be here today to observe them, exist because we are here to observe them."
A bizarre assertion – the effect causes the cause. Sounds like Stephen Hawking logic. I don't accept that any more than I do the evolution's logic – that the existence of life proves evolution.
Huns
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2013
Well you can keep your 10 credits Skippy.

Hey, why are you calling that guy Skippy? That's supposed to be your pet name for me. I'm starting to get jealous. Please stop. I'm Skippy, not him. Don't cheat on me. Hey, is it alright if I follow you to every thread on the site so we can argue between ourselves about shit nobody else cares about? I want to be just like you.
kotyto
1 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2013
He has a "Big Bang" between his ears :-)
Sean_W
1 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2013
While I doubt the hypothesis, just because life would have not have had time to evolve into anything complex doesn't mean it couldn't have been able to adapt to declining temperatures as single called organisms can do. So evidence might be found if most or all (hypothetical) living systems in a large sample of hypothetical living systems, turned out to share enough chemical coincidences. Such evidence may not be sufficiently convincing for many but it would be better than *no* evidence. Micro fossils in extremely old rock--older than the stuff we get to play with around here would also serve as evidence.
Protoplasmix
1 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2013
Plenty of ice balls in our solar system of various sizes. Would rocks really have been necessary? What about the possibility of asteroid-sized oceans, lakes, ponds and rivers? As pools of primordial soup?
Szkeptik
1 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2013
"If life existed and died out before we arrived, it would not have been sophisticated enough to know that it existed, much less observe conditions in the universe that led to its existence. And that would mean the anthropic principle might just be an idea that exists because we have nothing better to explain how and why we are here."

How does life existing before we did disprove the anthropic principle? That just says that everything had to be in place for us to be here because we are here. Dinosaurs also existed before we did. They also couldn't comprehend the nature of their existence.
alfie_null
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2013
There is a constant desire in the scientific community to conflate water/temperature with life.

Life has never been observed to exist anywhere but here. There are certainly other places where liquid water exist, but we have never found life anywhere else. Until/unless we do find life to have arisen elsewhere, speculation about the probability of life elsewhere is an exercise in fantasy.

Unless your point is "this conflicts with my religious views", I'm missing it. Planets with moons have never been observed anywhere but here. Sunspots have never been observed anywhere but here. Comets have never been observed anywhere but here. Meteorites have never been observed anywhere but here. Etc.
dogbert
1 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2013
Unless your point is "this conflicts with my religious views", I'm missing it.


How are you missing it and why do you feel compelled to make it a religious issue?

The probability that something which has never been observed exists is not subject to rational determination. There may be 100% probability that life exists everywhere in the universe. There may be 0% probability that life exists anywhere but here. It is inestimable.

Yet there are constant assertions in the scientific literature that we will soon discover life. 'Earth like' worlds are declared every day. But they are not 'earth like' because they do not house life.

I hope that life is abundant in the universe. It would make the universe a much more interesting place. But fantasizing about life in the universe should be plainly labeled fantasy -- not science.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2013
How are you missing it and why do you feel compelled to make it a religious issue?
Dont be coy dog. God is always you're explanation for everything isn't it? This is implicit in your statement :
The probability that something which has never been observed exists is not subject to rational determination
-Of course it's been observed, here on earth. Scientists can make lots of assumptions about life elsewhere based on what they have learned about earth biochemistry.

But not wanting to look is a religionist thing.
But they are not 'earth like' because they do not house life
-And jumping to unwarranted conclusions is also a religionist thing. We have just discovered these planets - why on earth would you conclude that there is no life on them? Because it would complicate your faith? Because god didn't bother to tell us about it in his book full of lies and ignorance?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Dec 12, 2013
fantasizing about life in the universe should be plainly labeled fantasy
-So you admit then that the myths that all the animals were created in a day, or that Noah bore sons who already had pastures-full of domesticated animals, or that the marsupials knew to head straight for Australia right after they walked off the ark, or that rabbits have cuds... that these are all fantasies as well because all the evidence we have accumulated tells us this?

Or are fantasies only real when you find them in the same book that guarantees you absolution from guilt and immortality for you and your family? That fantasy would make you believe just about anything wouldn't it? And also reject anything which threaten it yes ?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2013
I meant Adam not Noah of course. How did the first sons know how to herd sheep and plant grain? These animals must have had instant protection from natural predators, until Abel could gather them up with his sheepdogs.

And domesticated grain must have planted itself in ready-made fields as we do not find these species intermingled with their wild relatives elsewhere.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2013
Pseudo-scientific metaphysical mumbo jumbo!


My head might explode for saying this, so keep a paper towel handy:

I wouldn't go that far, but you're not too far from the truth this time, though not for the reasons I suspect you harbor. He's doing some speculation to rival the mother of all speculation here, no doubt about it. So, I agree with you (wow, am I still here?).

It is an interesting thought to toy around with, but only because it makes a challenging thought experiment. For example, if the ambient temperature is acceptable, then what does that mean? What other characteristics might have been happening at that time, in terms of chemistry, density, turbulence, rate of catastrophic events like supernovae, etc?

You may not be able to prove anything, but you might be able to eliminate a few options, and come up with some statistical estimates of how likely/unlikely some outcomes might have been, which leaves you with a large but finite range of possibilities.

Poj
1 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2013
I don't see dogbert's comments as based on religion, more perhaps at - "I'll believe it when I see it" - which is not necessarily religious thought. Just the same, I find it silly to think that life only exists on Earth because we haven't found it anywhere else. That smacks of calling ourselves "The Center of the Universe", which we most certainly are not. The writer was following a 'what if' idea, and hasn't a lot of science come out of thoughts like that?
Q-Star
5 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2013
I don't see dogbert's comments as based on religion, more perhaps at - "I'll believe it when I see it" - which is not necessarily religious thought. Just the same, I find it silly to think that life only exists on Earth because we haven't found it anywhere else. That smacks of calling ourselves "The Center of the Universe", which we most certainly are not. The writer was following a 'what if' idea, and hasn't a lot of science come out of thoughts like that?


The author of the paper being reported on was not following a "what if" idea. His paper deals the with anthropic principle. He was making an argument against the anthropic idea that the universe is fine tuned for intelligent observers being HERE and NOW. His paper posits the idea that the conditions for life have occurred many times and in many places over the history of the universe. Not that it has.
kelman66
2 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2013
There is a constant desire in the scientific community to conflate water/temperature with life.

Life has never been observed to exist anywhere but here. There are certainly other places where liquid water exist, but we have never found life anywhere else. Until/unless we do find life to have arisen elsewhere, speculation about the probability of life elsewhere is an exercise in fantasy.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
dogbert
1 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2013
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


A truism which is irrelevant to my observation.

The continual assumption in the scientific community that life must exist elsewhere is just not scientific. It is based on nothing at all but personal preference.

I hope that life is abundant in the universe. But there is no data which supports that hope.

Fantasy is OK. Speculation is OK and useful. But it should always be presented with a disclaimer that this is just wishful thinking. Otherwise, people begin to believe assertions which have no basis in fact.
davidivad
1 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2013
ok, so the idea he had was that if planets were around at this time of the universes history, then the temperature of the cosmos would have been warm enough to support life. he simply made that assumption. i guess this would not require a parent star. he pointed out the obvious.
pepe2907
1 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2013
Carbon wasn't there. :)
Q-Star
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2013
Carbon wasn't there. :)


Actually it was. Those would be Population II type stars, not as much carbon as in the present Pop I stars, but it would be there in some amounts. Oxygen and carbon are the 3rd and 4th most abundant elements, the earliest stars, would have produced them copiously.

The first stars are modeled as truly humongous by present standards, from 500 to as much as 1000 solar masses, with life-times measured in the hundred of thousand years. So within a 100 million years of primordial star formation, that leaves plenty of room for literally dozens of generations of star formation. The universe would have been a 100 times smaller and 10,000 times denser than today,,,,, ya would have ideal conditions for stellar systems forming, after the 20 or 50 million years.
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013
Q-Star
@ Everyone. Abraham "Avi" Loeb is the go-to guy on very early star, galaxy ... always well thought-out and considered.


thanks for that heads up... i will add him to the list...

now a question i hope you can answer. given the temp of the BB, isnt it possible to have more than just the lighter elements (perhaps not in abundance, but at least having a small showing)? things from He to C or even some heavier?
...without even having to have star formation for nucleosynthesis (sp?)
vlaaing peerd
4 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013

The continual assumption in the scientific community that life must exist elsewhere is just not scientific. It is based on nothing at all but personal preference.


We look at our own place which is abundant with life, yet the longer we look, the more we notice there is really nothing special at all about our place. Perhaps we wanted it to be, but it just isn't.

We live in a mediocre rocky planet on a mediocre solar system in a mediocre galaxy with a mediocre super massive black hole in the middle.

We know the universe harbors trillions of those places. We know life arises in places like ours.

So enough reason to assume the possibility of life and enough reasons to check in places that are similar to ours first.

Science is there to learn and know, so NOT finding any life would be equally valuable...unless you didn't look in the first place.
pepe2907
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013
15 million, and the idea there may be rocky /meaning even heavier elements/ planets, in abundance... and how the surrounding dense matter would react on eventual presence of a heavy core?
Q-Star
5 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013
now a question i hope you can answer. given the temp of the BB, isnt it possible to have more than just the lighter elements (perhaps not in abundance, but at least having a small showing)? things from He to C or even some heavier?
...without even having to have star formation for nucleosynthesis (sp?)


The short answer is no. For several reasons. The conditions for metal nucleosynthesis are very constrained. If it is TOO hot, the particles will immediately disassociate. If is TOO cool, or TOO ratified, the conditions don't exist for fusion.

The models mostly agree very closely that there is a three minute era in which hydrogen could fuse into helium, the maths and models predict almost exactly the relative abundances which we observe. But by the time enough helium was produced, the expansion had caused a temp/density drop that would preclude additional heavy elements. The heavier the element, the more heat and density is required for fusion.
pepe2907
not rated yet Dec 16, 2013
Actually, according to every existing data first stars was born few hundreds of millions years later /became luminous/.
But yeah, who wouldn't bend every existing scientific data to defend their belief? :)
Creationists do that, why not "scientists" do so? :)
Q-Star
5 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013
Actually, according to every existing data first stars was born few hundreds of millions years later /became luminous/.


There are no "existing data" of the first stars. We don't have the technology to collect it directly, so it must be inferred. But the existing models are that they began forming from 5 to 10 million years, others at a 100 million years. There is no consensus as to which ones are correct, because there is no data. This sort of paper is not produced to educate a truth or as textbook material. This sort of paper merely posits A model, not THE model.

If ya don't agree with the paper's conclusions, what aspect to ya think is incorrect? And why is it incorrect? I don't necessary claim this is the best or most correct model, but I know for a fact that this author is one of the giants in his field.
pepe2907
not rated yet Dec 16, 2013
Well, there's also no data, proving all reality is not a program in a computer...
Q-Star
5 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013
Well, there's also no data, proving all reality is not a program in a computer...


Well okee dokee then. Carry on and good luck.
pepe2907
not rated yet Dec 16, 2013
Actually that's the position you defend in this case. :)
No disproof doesn't mean proof.
And even if, despite the principle of parsimony, such theory may exist as a speculation, or a mind experiment, it definitely can't be used to prove or disprove anything; and believe me, I am not a defender of the hard anthropic principle - it just doesn't prove anything at least from a scientific point of view; from a philosophy point it may prove that you may fight one speculation with another, eventually.

Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Dec 18, 2013
Q-Star
thanks for the input. I think I understand now why it couldn't happen... fascinating

does anyone know what happened to the messages and the ability to SEND messages? PM's that is?