Why are we now? Researchers suggest life on Earth may be early in cosmic terms

August 23, 2016

Why are we now? We know that the universe is roughly 14 billion years old, and that someday it is likely to end—perhaps because of a Big Freeze, Big Rip or Big Crunch.

But what can we learn by considering our own place in the history of the universe? Why does on Earth exist now, rather than at some point in the distant past or future?

A team of researchers including astrophysicists from the University of Oxford has set about trying to answer these questions—and their results raise the possibility that we Earthlings might be the first to arrive at the cosmic party.

The paper, led by Professor Avi Loeb of Harvard University and published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, suggests that life in the universe is much more likely in the future than it is now. That's partly because the necessary elements for life, such as carbon and oxygen, took tens of millions of years to develop following the Big Bang, and partly because the lower-mass stars best suited to hosting life can glow for trillions of years, giving ample time for life to evolve in the future.

Dr Rafael Alves Batista of Oxford's Department of Physics, one of the study's authors, says: 'The main result of our research is that life seems to be more likely in the future than it is now. That doesn't necessarily mean we are currently alone, and it is important to note that our numbers are relative: one civilisation now and 1,000 in the future is equivalent to 1,000 now and 1,000,000 in the future.

'Given this knowledge, the question is therefore why we find ourselves living now rather than in the future. Our results depend on the lifetime of stars, which in turn depend on their mass - the larger the star, the shorter its lifespan.'

In order to arrive at the probability of finding a habitable planet, the team came up with a master equation involving the number of around stars, the number of stars in the universe at a given time (including their lifespan and birth rate, and the typical mass of newly born stars.

Dr Batista adds: 'We folded in some extra information, such as the time it takes for life to evolve on a planet, and for that we can only use what we know about life on Earth. That limits the mass of stars that can host life, as high-mass stars don't live long enough for that.

'So unless there are hazards associated with low-mass that prevent life springing up around them—such as high levels of radiation—then a typical civilisation would likely find itself living at some point in the future. We may be too early.'

Co-author Dr David Sloan, also of Oxford's Department of Physics, adds: 'This is, to our knowledge, the first study that takes into account the long-term future of our universe - often, examinations of questions like this focus on why we arrived so late.

'Our next steps are towards refining our understanding of this topic. Now that we have knowledge of a wide catalogue of exoplanets, the issue of whether or not we are alone becomes ever more pressing.'

Explore further: Is Earthly life premature from a cosmic perspective?

More information: Abraham Loeb et al, Relative likelihood for life as a function of cosmic time, Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (2016). DOI: 10.1088/1475-7516/2016/08/040

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julianpenrod
1.7 / 5 (18) Aug 23, 2016
This is at least the second time this web site has run and article suggesting life is anomalously early on the earth. It may be becoming an embarrassment, among other things, the inability to find life when it was claimed life is just an inanimate process governed only by randomness. But, so far, "scientists" have not managed to create life in their experiments, only some random chemicals in living beings. But there is no structure or complexity or persistent overt processes in what they derive or even a drive toward them. And, despite the lies, speciation was never seen to occur, no creature, affected only by random effects, emerged from a parent but was genetically incapable of mating successfully with a parent or siblings. Life is bestowed by God, but the "scientists" refuse to acknowledge His presence. So they are developing new rules to try to explain away the fact that the universe isn't acting as they claim.
Captain Stumpy
3.8 / 5 (17) Aug 23, 2016
but the "scientists" refuse to acknowledge His presence.
@juli
how can anyone acknowledge the presence of something that cannot be measured, tracked, known, or in any way found?

there is absolutely no proof that any deity exists except in the mind of the believer claiming to "know"...

if someone came up to you and claimed to be knowledgeable of a huge invisible unicorn that empowered it's true believers with magical ability to succeed in life, or heal, or [insert claim here] you would be skeptical and require evidence

so why is it so hard for you to see why logical unbiased clear-thinking scientists also require it of you and your religion?

it's not like you have the corner on beliefs: there are thousands of religions older and more feasible than yours

why is "yours" the only "true religion"??

and if it is so "true", why can't you give evidence to support your claims?
you only post opinion and subjective interpretations
lynvingen
3.7 / 5 (11) Aug 23, 2016
@julianpenrod
Religions such as Christianity claims to be the answer to all and everything, but as we all know, is in fact entirely made up by people that lived thousands of years ago and are basically systems based on blind faith.
Some religions are more political, more practical or more philosophical but none of them attempts to figure out how the physical world actually works.
Science is a system invented around the age of enlightenment that idolized things like reason and greek philosophy and became a system built for the purpose to figure out how the world around us actually works, not something sprung from people living in a desert thousands of years ago.
Science is knowledge, and is changeable, religion is blind belief and unchangeable.
While science has not, and may not for many centuries create living things, science may soon be able to create a "living" thinking being inside a computer, as a self aware computer. We may have to redefine what "life" is!
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (15) Aug 23, 2016
Fundys like Julian illuminate the thought processes necessary to maintain faith. Faith is belief despite evidence. It is a disdain for evidence. Evidence is disgusting feh. Ptui. Boko haram.

Julian ignores and rejects the evidence presented here against his proclamations. Merely questioning his god is blasphemy, and Julian is no blasphemer.

Julian's god has told him in no uncertain terms that blasphemy gets him banned from paradise for good, and he is certainly not willing to risk that no matter how compelling the evidence is.

To god and Julian, weakness is strength.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2cor12:9

-Stay strong Julian. Or weak, whatever. Just say duh and god will love you.
mvg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 23, 2016
...and Otto believes in ghosts...
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 23, 2016

'Given this knowledge, the question is therefore why we find ourselves living now rather than in the future.


It would be expected in a eternal inflation cosmology with numerous universes, since the new ones always outnumbers the old. [
http://www.dailyg...ala.html ]

That said, and rejecting the erroneous claims of the anti-scientist creationist trolling this article, Earth isn't abnormally young.

Planets that could have life emerged already 12-11 Ga in our 14 Ga universe, but stars were just much rarer by a factor 1000. But as we all know, these anti-reality fringe self-named themselves crazy-onists for a reason. =D
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (8) Aug 23, 2016
Among other things, God can be experienced. You won't know the spectrum of a star by using a weight scale, you must be able to observe God's actions and those who deny His presence indicate they do not act in a way that will. I described the sea change of acting with utter and complete scrupulousness, acting to improve the world and yourself and doing it because it's right, not because of what it will give you, and you will see God act in your life.
Interesting that Captain Stumpy calls for evidence, yet lynvingen declares Christianity was "made up"m yet Captain Stumpy does not call for evidence of that statement.
And TheGhostofOtto1923 is a liar. There has never been evidence presented against my statements.
Captain Stumpy
4.1 / 5 (9) Aug 23, 2016
Among other things, God can be experienced
@juli
so can delusions, schizophrenia, and hallucinations- none of them are real, physical or measurable things that can be validated or proven to exist in the real world

if the only way to "see" actions of your deity is to believe in said deity, then that is a big indicator that said deity isn't real so much as it's a figment of the imagination used to justify a mass hysteria or delusional belief
lynvingen declares Christianity was "made up"m yet Captain Stumpy does not call for evidence of that statement
maybe because Otto has posted thousands of links proving that your holy comic bible was plagiarized, faked or "made up" by authors not attributed due to time issues (like the new testaments)...

there has YET to be a single shred of evidence from any bible thumping true believer proving in any way their deity exists
and more importantly, not one of you have been able to refute the evidence against the bible
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2016
I have had this exact same theory for a while now myself.
In addition, the rates of super nova in the past were much higher, possibly sterilizing a lot of life in the universe.

It takes time to create complexity. The universe simply had to cool down enough for life to form, which is by definition of both, a natural process of the universe.
The big bang isn't hard to imagine because its so complex, its hard to imagine because its simplicity beyond anything we can fathom in our noisy universe.
Captain Stumpy
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 23, 2016
@juli cont'd
you can also see that i've never asked for evidence that comic hero's are real, either

personally, i don't care what you "believe"
but when you claim something is "fact" or "true" without evidence... epic fail
There has never been evidence presented against my statements
actually, this is called a false statement
http://www.auburn...ion.html

Also note:
If you make a claim without evidence, then the counter claim (reciprocal) without evidence holds the exact same validity. If you say something *is* without being able to prove it with evidence than simply saying something *is not* is equally valid and holds the same truth.

the cornerstones of the scientific method:
the claim + physical evidence supporting claim + it must be compatible with observation & past validated knowledge

dismissal of a baseless claim is not prejudice or wrong, it is REQUIRED by the scientific method
wduckss
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2016
The believer his ignorance fills with the presence of the deity. He does not need science and evidence.
Why overwork brain, when ignorance is beautiful and divine?
Believe and enjoy, or to ask questions and have a bad dream?
24volts
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2016
I don't really see any valid reason we should be thought to be here early. This planet is way out in the boonies as far as the galaxy star population goes. There might be all kinds of other intelligent beings out there but they are probably closer to the core of the galaxy where the higher concentration of stars would raise the location odds some. If they haven't got FTL travel either we might not ever hear about or see any of them.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (9) Aug 24, 2016
when it was claimed life is just an inanimate process governed only by randomness.
Huh? I've never heard anyone make that particular claim (scientists or no). Care to explain where you get this notion from?

But, so far, "scientists" have not managed to create life in their experiments, only some random chemicals in living beings.

The attempts at creating life have been only around for a few decades. Remember that Earth had billions of years and an entire planet as a 'lab'. That we can already show that some of the most fundamental components of life can be made with very simple processes is pretty astounding.

Among other things, God can be experienced.

Describe a test. Please. Do. Just your say-so ain't good enough.

closer to the core

Closer to the core there are other dangers. More radiation and more frequent encounters of star systems (which make planetary orbits unstable). Out here in the boonies is stable. Life requires 'stable'.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (7) Aug 24, 2016
Among other things, God can be experienced. You won't know the spectrum of a star by using a weight scale, you must be able to observe God's actions and those who deny His presence indicate they do not act in a way that will
Yeah you all say this about all the different gods there are to believe in, and all the many different ways there are to worship them.

The experience is identical in every case, the insistence equally sincere, and the defense equally adamant.

And so in a rare moment of honesty Julian may have to admit, at least to himself, that the chances that HIS god and HIS method of worship is the correct one are diminishingly small.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (5) Aug 24, 2016
And TheGhostofOtto1923 is a liar. There has never been evidence presented against my statements
-Another breathtaking demonstration of how faith cannot exist without self-deception.

Who says religionists serve no purpose here?
tinitus
Aug 24, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dark_Solar
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 24, 2016
I don't respond to trolls (we all know to whom I refer) because that is their wont.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

If there's life here -and obviously there is- then there can be life any/everywhere else in the Universe. Which draw us inexorably to the next logical conclusion: if life began here about 1.5 billion years after the solar system formed and the galaxy is at least 3 times older than the solar system, then not only are we late to the game, we're potentially billions of years behind.

Perhaps we've not seen any other sentient species because they have deemed us unready or unfit to be included.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 24, 2016
Perhaps we've not seen any other sentient species because they have deemed us unready or unfit to be included
@Dark_Solar
awesome Hitchhikers reference, and cogent, too - LOL

i think it is far more likely that either:
1- there is some major limiting factor (including the speed of light)
2- we are early to the game (speculation - but something to consider)
3- intelligence kills itself off with technology
4- something we don't know yet?
5- "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."
Eikka
5 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2016
Among other things, God can be experienced.


How do you know it's God you're experiencing when you don't know what God is?

Maybe it was just some bad cheese.
Edenlegaia
not rated yet Aug 24, 2016
Early or late in the game, we must think about the simple possibility that we may very well be the only players to have scored that high for now.
The certitude of humanity being a small fry in the universe is sadly tenacious.
enteroctopus
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2016
Even if life in the universe were ubiquitous it may take, minimum, 5-6 years for a signal to reach a neighbor (at theoretically uninhabitable Centauri system). So assuming theories are wrong and a civilization exists there if we said, "Hello" today it would be 2021 before the message is received and, maybe, perhaps understood (again, not likely). Assuming a swift response, "Hi! Pleased to meet you! We are a peaceful people and would like to share our wisdom and love and endless charity with all beings, etc." (Ha ha, seriously doubt that one) it would arrive in the late 2020's...

For a conversation to occur at light speed we're talking generations, assuming the sender and/or recipient doesn't abruptly die and/or decide to stop responding. So even just to communicate anything significant would take decades, and travel? We might look at getting there (reminder, likely uninhabitable) about 1000 years from now.

And if we somehow invent FTL travel? Relativity is a bitch. :)
FredJose
1 / 5 (6) Aug 28, 2016
Faith is belief despite evidence. I

such as the time it takes for life to evolve on a planet, and for that we can only use what we know about life on Earth

Ghost, Stumpy lynvingen, Larson and the other big bang adherents please answer this single most important question:
Where and how did life arise on earth in the first place? All by itself, from purely random chemical and or physical processes with absolutely no outside help whatsoever?????

You have completely ZERO evidence that such an event occurred yet here you are totally believing that it can happen. Your blind FAITH is monumentally great!!!!!

On the contrary, we have fully observed, repeatable and undeniable evidence that nothing comes back to life once it's dead. And on top of that we have the fully observed evidence that nothing EVER comes to life from dead materials all by itself via some random chemical process(es).
You people are forcing YOUR religious beliefs on others.
FredJose
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 28, 2016
The challenge to Ghost, Stumpy lynvingen, Larson and the other big bang adherents is quite clear:
SHOW US THE EVIDENCE that life can arise via the spontaneous generation that you NEED because you do not believe in an ultimately superior intelligence called God who created life.

I repeat, you believe that abiogenesis is possible, with no shred of supporting evidence and contrary to the obvious negating evidence.
FredJose
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 28, 2016
religion is blind belief and unchangeable.

This is so very true of a belief in abiogenesis and darwinian evolution!!!!!
There is no science in it, simply blind belief. Its adherents must suppress any attempt to have its tenets examined in public debate. Schools and universities are not allowed to question and criticize the obvious lameness of its declarations because it's absolutely verboten to question the religion of the blind. People get fired or sued for doing it.
FredJose
1 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2016
This article is very subtle in its treatment and avoidance of the obvious question:
It very carefully avoids making ANY statement regarding the rise of life on earth or anywhere in the cosmos.
Instead it refers to the " time taken for life to evolve" or "..because the necessary elements for life, such as carbon and oxygen, took tens of millions of years to develop...".

It leaves one very big elephant in the room which the researchers are FULLY aware of: They cannot answer the question of the origin of life itself so they choose to "focus" on the "the long-term future of our universe" instead.
FredJose
1 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2016
If there's life here -and obviously there is- then there can be life any/everywhere else in the Universe.

The conclusion does not follow. Why would it be true? On what basis do you actually get to such a conclusion? You have no idea as to how life arrived here in the first place so you cannot jump to any conclusion given the fact that there is life here. What if earth is the ONLY place where life was created in the whole universe? How would you know that it ISN'T the only place? Have you explored all of the Milky way to confirm that life exists on at least ONE more planet outside of our solar system? Heck, you can't even confirm that it does exist on one other planet IN our solar system. You conclusion simply reflects the same lack of commitment to the question of how did life arise in the first place all by itself via random chemical/physical processes????? If you can answer that question you can begin to jump to your conclusion.
Caliban
3 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2016
If there's life here -and obviously there is- then there can be life any/everywhere else in the Universe.

The conclusion does not follow. Why would it be true? On what basis do you actually get to such a conclusion? [...]ly reflects the same lack of commitment to the question of how did life arise in the first place all by itself via random chemical/physical processes????? If you can answer that question you can begin to jump to your conclusion.


@SpamJose,

Your complete lack of understanding of the science thus far is not a deficiency that anyone here is required to rectify.

If you want those answers regarding the current state of the science, then start digging.

If you weren't -late to the game- yourself, you would have already read here at PO numerous articles related to this very question, and would know that your method of "questioning" is mere nincompoopery, betraying your willfully-imposed state of blind-faither ignorance.

Phys1
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2016
On the contrary, we have fully observed, repeatable and undeniable evidence that nothing comes back to life once it's dead.

What about Jesus, he is supposed to come back.
And he promised eternal life to his followers.
FredJose, you have got your religion all wrong.
And you are preaching on PO?
Better get your basics straight before you try this crowd.
Phys1
4 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2016
FredJose
I have a very important question for you.
How can you be sure that the devil has not fooled you and tricked you into the sect that you belong to, by pretending to be god. This would be typically something the devil would do.
How do you know that you have not been duped? (Note I am a nice guy, I am not saying you are, just suppose).
I will answer that one: you can't. You need a method for that. Science.
Science is the right way to handle doubt and dogma is the wrong way.
With dogma you likely end up in hell without any means to get out.
malapropism
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2016
@Eikka
Among other things, God can be experienced.


How do you know it's God you're experiencing when you don't know what God is?

Maybe it was just some bad cheese.

That's excellent ... "bad cheese"; it's unfortunate I was drinking coffee at the time I read it because laughing while trying to swallow is not conducive to a good lunch. Nevertheless, it was brilliant.
malapropism
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2016
@FredJose
You people are forcing YOUR religious beliefs on others.

Actually, this is based on an assessment of balance of probability rather than belief per se. That balance of probability is in turn predicated upon the large number of scientific papers and the amount of scientific research and thought that has been put into the effort to understand how life arises, how it develops (evolution) and the mechanisms around that, and whether there is any more of it apart from here on Earth. These papers, research and thought have put forward useful and interesting hypotheses on each of these topics. This is versus the lack of papers, research and thought based on religious lore that are able to put forward an explanation of those areas of study, apart from, "god did it".
Edenlegaia
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2016
On the contrary, we have fully observed, repeatable and undeniable evidence that nothing comes back to life once it's dead. And on top of that we have the fully observed evidence that nothing EVER comes to life from dead materials all by itself via some random chemical process(es).
You people are forcing YOUR religious beliefs on others.


Really? What we don't know or understand yet as zero chance to exist? Religious people are given a chance to swear they've been created by a grey bearded man, a flying spaghetti or a white fur rabbit. Why wouldn't unreligious people be allowed to find their own answers as well? Aaaah, probably because of "doubts". They're allowed in science. They're sometimes even suggested and advised since they can open doors to new ways to think, knowledge and new technologies.....
Yep, Freddie. Science allows doubts. You want your very own bubble filled with cold certitude? Feel free to purr in it, but on your own. Some of us have better things to do
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2016
@FredJose,
There are so many things obviously wrong with the notion of a personal god & even more troubling issues regarding just the attributes of existence re Nature, Chemistry & Physics that are far more
consistent in relation to; simulation & experiment, please read my posts on this link to review the
very simple logic which seems to be far beyond the religiously attached who seem to have dire
emotional need for a (personal) father figure/universe concerned with their existence...

http://phys.org/n...lar.html

Eg. In terms of attributes of where we are now in terms of a personal god...

- Why is its such a bad & impotent communicator
- Why does it play favourites
- Why can't it cross oceans
- Why does it set up an innocent trusting girl to take the fall for mere chat with a devil (genesis)
- Why did the god punish so overwhelmingly nastily for ever
- Why can't anyone confirm anything ever claimed in any religious books

etc etc etc ?
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2016
@FredJose, in case you refuse to read my link, you wrote earlier
Where and how did life arise on earth in the first place?
Permutations

a. Simple chemistry forms building blocks ie NH3, CO2, H2O etc from star remnants
b. + heat --> Formamide
c. + heat --> Guanine = DNA base
d. + heat & electricity --> other DNA bases & proteins

FredJose asked
...purely random chemical and or physical processes with absolutely no outside help whatsoever?
No, called natural selection, if a pattern cant breed it dies out.

FredJose wrote
Your blind FAITH is monumentally great!
No, proven by experiment & ask why re Amino Acids = mirror of old Earth's gases that urine smells ammonia

Emotional belief in mere story = far worse

FredJose claims
.. undeniable evidence that nothing comes back to life ..
Wrong, bacteria feast & grow, the "pattern" thats a creature gone but, (bio)chemistry doesn't stop

ie Dead things food for living things & all the time = Nature !

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