Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Now that's Old

Mind-blower of the day, from MIT Technology Review:

As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially. And as with Moore's Law, which says the speed of computers will double every two years, you can run that increase backward to figure out when life, or computers, started.

Now a couple of geneticists have done just that, extrapolating the trend backwards. The doubling time is 376 million years instead of two, but the principle is the same.

Their conclusion? Life is older than the Earth itself.

“Linear regression of genetic complexity (on a log scale) extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life = 9.7 ± 2.5 billion years ago,” they say.

And since the Earth is only 4.5 billion years old, that raises a whole series of other questions. Not least of these is how and where did life begin....

Sharov and Gordon say their interpretation also explains the Fermi paradox, which raises the question that if the universe is filled with intelligent life, why can’t we see evidence of it.

However, if life takes 10 billion years to evolve to the level of complexity associated with humans, then we may be among the first, if not the first, intelligent civilisation in our galaxy. And this is the reason why when we gaze into space, we do not yet see signs of other intelligent species.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

Several years ago I heard the astronomer Jim Kaler give a talk in which he speculated that we may be witnesses to the early life of the universe. Or as the song says, We’ve only just begun.