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View Diary: Who can own the future? (262 comments)

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  •  "Rare Earth" by Brownlee & Ward (5+ / 0-)

    needs to be brought into this discussion.

    The authors argue that CHON-based simple life is probably ubiquitous in the universe. They note that the raw materials are amongst the most common elements, that pre-organic and even simple organic compounds have been observed spectroscopically in planetary atmospheres and the interstellar medium, that the addition of energy to such "primordial soup" seems to promote development of more complex molecules, and that unicellular life on Earth has adapted to & even thrived in environments (e.g., suboceanic vents) thought utterly uninhabitable just a generation ago.

    They then argue that CHON-based complex life--anything much more involved & differentiated than "pond scum"--is probably exceedingly rare in the universe. Too many things have to go just right for its development--a planet of the right size with a stable orbit & magnetosphere to ward off cosmic rays & plate tectonics & a Jupiter to thin out cometary bombardments, etc etc etc. And even with all of the breaks we caught on Earth, organized multicellular life came damn close to not making it--witness the mass extinctions in prehistory.

    I'm not completely convinced by their arguments--among other things there may be many more routes to complex life than the one it followed here--but they are a serious response to Fermi's Dove se trovano? question.


    by Uncle Cosmo on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 08:42:08 AM PDT

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