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What are the odds of intelligent life emerging ?

By T.K. Randall
May 19, 2020 · Comment icon 179 comments

Is intelligent life a fluke, or is it inevitable ? Image Credit: CC0 Pixabay
A new study has calculated the most likely odds of life, as well as intelligence, emerging on other worlds.
The question of whether we are alone in the universe remains one of the biggest philosophical conundrums of our time. While it seems almost inconceivable that our civilization is alone in the cosmos, the fact still remains that we have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

But just how likely is it that intelligent life may have emerged on other planets ?

To find out, David Kipping - an assistant professor in Columbia's Department of Astronomy - used a statistical technique known as Bayesian inference to calculate the odds of the emergence of life by looking back at the evolution of life (as well as intelligent life) on our own planet.

He then determined how likely these were to reoccur if Earth's history was to repeat over and over.

"We find higher than 3:1 odds that life would re-emerge based on the timing of when microfossils appear in the geological record," he told Mail Online.
"If we use more disputed evidence for life's even earlier start, the odds rise to higher than 9:1. For me that's quite suggestive that life should be out there in the cosmos."

"My paper finds 3:2 odds in favour of rare intelligence, so that's a 40 per cent probability of intelligence re-emerging."

Kipping was keen to emphasize however that these figures should not be taken as gospel.

"The analysis can't provide certainties or guarantees, only statistical probabilities based on what happened here on Earth," he said.

"Yet encouragingly, the case for a universe teeming with life emerges as the favored bet. The search for intelligent life in worlds beyond Earth should be by no means discouraged."

Source: | Comments (179)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #170 Posted by DONTEATUS 4 years ago
And No Respectful Planet would be without a Goldilocks  & a DONTEATUS !! I`m BACK !  Hey psyche101 !
Comment icon #171 Posted by Harte 4 years ago
Yes, the Universe is big. So big we can ignore such possibilities for life outside our galaxy (or maybe our galaxy's group) because whether they exist or not is moot due to the distances involved. Harte
Comment icon #172 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
I think the universe is "seeded" and simple life is likely.
Comment icon #173 Posted by ChrLzs 4 years ago
A small nitpick... a moon and thus tides are only helpful if the life is going to climb out of the water.  It doesn't affect development of the initial living organisms.  So maybe that first sentence should read "Europa has very few of the supposed requirements for intelligent / land-based / technological life".
Comment icon #174 Posted by DieChecker 4 years ago
The moons of Jupiter have very strong tides. Its why Io has so much volcanism. I imagine some if why Ganymede and Europa have cracked surfaces is tidal forces.  
Comment icon #175 Posted by Harte 4 years ago
Being a moon itself, Europa certainly does have tides. Harte
Comment icon #176 Posted by psyche101 4 years ago
Good to see you mate!  
Comment icon #177 Posted by psyche101 4 years ago
It's more the other 99% I'm referring to to. It doesn't indicate a universe teeming with life as suggested.  And then there's life and intelligent life. 
Comment icon #178 Posted by astrobeing 4 years ago
There is speculation that a planet must have predictable seasons for life to evolve and survive. A large moon serves to stabilize a planet on its axis so its seasons are regular and predictable for hundreds of millions of years. Planets without large moons tend to shift a lot. The tilt of Mars for example has varied between 13 degrees and 40 degrees in the past ten million years. Of course we don't know for certain if that's a requirement of life because we only have one datapoint.
Comment icon #179 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
A large moon would also prevent a planet's ocean from tidally locking it with the host star. Which might of happened to Venus. 

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