Extraterrestrial life News

Yes, we Earthlings are unique

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From Starts with a Bang:

The simple division of our solar system into rocky and gassy worlds is the result of a complex planetary dance that in many ways defies the odds, and lies on the outskirts of what’s “normal” or, at least, average. But the galaxy is a very large place, with somewhere around 300 billion stars, and therefore, 300 billion chances at life, and of having rocky, Earth-like planets in their habitable zones. While there are likely many other planetary systems similar to ours, the vast majority will be devoid of anything like our home world.

With uniqueness comes realizations.

Here for why this is not welcome news for many. (cosmology).

9 Replies to “Yes, we Earthlings are unique

  1. 1
    Jim Smith says:

    There are still hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. If the universe was designed to support life one would expect that Earth is not unique. Whether or not Earth is unique, what is really amazing is that a few simple forces and a few dozen fine-tuned parameters would produce so many factors at every scale from the atomic to the cosmic that allow life to exist:

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    … or maybe not

    Another ‘Earth’ which may hold liquid water and could sustain life has been spotted orbiting a distant sun in our galaxy.

    It is the first time that astronomers have observed a rocky planet that is the same size as our own inhabiting a ‘Goldilocks Zone’ – an area that is neither too hot, nor too cold.
    The planet – named Kepler-186f – is 500 light years away and orbits a red dwarf star in the constellation Cygnus in our corner of the Milky Way.
    “What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” said lead researcher Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Centre.
    The planet which is just 0.1 times bigger than the Earth, is at a distance from its sun where lakes, rivers or oceans on the surface will not freeze or boil away.

    We’ll just have to wait and see

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, as to your “orbits a red dwarf star” planet giving you hope for life elsewhere in the material universe,,

    There is a small problem with ‘red dwarf’ planets. What they fail to mention is that any planet orbiting close enough to a Red Dwarf, to be in its ‘habitable zone’ where the temperature from the Red Dwarf star would be sufficient to maintain liquid water, would be locked into a synchronized orbit with the Red Dwarf, where one face of the planet would continuously face the Red Dwarf, thus overheating, and the other face of the planet would be in a perpetual deep freeze:

    New Conditions for Life On Other Planets: Tidal Effects Change ‘Habitable Zone’ Concept – February 2011
    Excerpt: Tides can render the so-called “habitable zone” around low-mass stars uninhabitable. This is the main result of a recently published study by a team of astronomers led by René Heller of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP).,,, Finally, tides can cause the rotational period of the planet (the planet’s “day”) to synchronize with the orbital period (the planet’s “year”). This situation is identical to the Earth-moon setup: the moon only shows Earth one face, the other side being known as “the dark side of the moon.” As a result one half of the exoplanet receives extreme radiation from the star while the other half freezes in eternal darkness.

    Notwithstanding What Bill Nye Says, the Sun Is Not an “Unremarkable” Star – Daniel Bakken – December 1, 2014
    Excerpt: Another requirement for habitable planets is a strong magnetic field to prevent their atmosphere from being lost to the solar winds. Planets orbiting a red dwarf star are also more affected by the star’s tidal effects, slowing the planet’s rotation rate. It is thought that strong magnetic fields are generated in part by the planet’s rotation.15 If the planet is tidally braked, then any potential for a significant magnetic field is likely to be seriously degraded. This will lead to loss of water and other gases from the planet’s atmosphere to the stellar winds.16 We see this in our solar system, where both Mercury and Venus, which orbit closer to the Sun than Earth, have very slow rotation rates, and very modest magnetic fields. Mercury has very little water, and surprisingly, neither does Venus. Even though Venus has a very dense atmosphere, it is very dry. This is due to UV radiation splitting the water molecules when they get high in the atmosphere, and then the hydrogen is lost to space, primarily, again, by solar wind.17,,,

    The mystery of cosmic oceans and dunes – Feb 17, 2015
    Excerpt: For planets to be habitable, they must orbit stars within the ‘habitable zone’ where it is not too hot or too cold. In addition, recent studies on habitability of planets suggest that the water-land ratio must be similar to the Earth. That is, the water mass fraction should not be far from that of the Earth’s (~0.01wt%): planets with too much water (less than 1 wt%)—“ocean planets”—lead to an unstable climate and lack of nutrient supply; and water-poor planets like Venus “dune planets”—become too arid for inhabiting.
    Ida and Tian simulated planet distributions around stars with 0.3, 0.5 and 1.0 times the mass of the Sun. They then applied a model for water loss and accounted for the change in luminosity. They found that Earth-mass planets with Earth-like water contents occur 10–100 times less frequently around M dwarfs than around G dwarfs. They conclude, “We suggest that stars close to the size of the Sun should be the primary targets for detecting Earth-like planets.”

    Moreover, ‘just add water to get life’ is an exceeding naive belief. Liquid water is certainly a necessary condition but is also far from a sufficient condition for biological life to originate.

    Why the origin of life people are such a glum bunch – March 19, 2015
    Excerpt: The problem of making ribose and proteins-a la Miller and Urey, is that the reaction removes a water molecule when making the bond between amino acids–so it only works in a dry environment–on the other hand, the other reactions for making glycine or amino acids need a wet environment. If I recall correctly, the same dichotomy applies to synthesis of RNA, DNA and nucleotides, in which some bonds are broken by water, some are made in water.
    In a very similar way, heat is needed to drive some reactions forward (endothermic), but also breaks other bonds driving reactions backward (exothermic). So both water and heat are these Janus-faced gods that are both necessary and deadly to biotic chemistry.
    In a living cell, enzymes perform the magic to drive reactions in the absence of heat or water, but for abiotic chemistry, one can’t invoke them. These conundra are just two of many reasons why Origin-of-Life people are such a glum bunch, and despite 60 years since Miller-Urey, they haven’t solved the problem of abiotic synthesis of biomaterials.

    Biological life is certainly far harder to originate than ‘just add water’.

    Even the low end ‘hypothetical’ probability estimate given by a evolutionist, who is a leading expert in Origin of Life studies, for life spontaneously arising in the universe, is fantastically impossible and greatly outstrips the ‘probabilistic resources’ of the entire universe.

    Since the probabilistic resources of the entire universe are exhausted in his overly optimistic model, Dr. Koonin ends up appealing to ‘Many-Worlds’ in order to overcome what is found to be fantastically impossible in the universe. Namely the spontaneous origin of Biological life:

    General and Special Evidence for Intelligent Design in Biology:
    – The requirements for the emergence of a primitive, coupled replication-translation system, which is considered a candidate for the breakthrough stage in this paper, are much greater. At a minimum, spontaneous formation of: – two rRNAs with a total size of at least 1000 nucleotides – ~10 primitive adaptors of ~30 nucleotides each, in total, ~300 nucleotides – at least one RNA encoding a replicase, ~500 nucleotides (low bound) is required. In the above notation, n = 1800, resulting in E less than 10^-1018. That is, the chance of life occurring by natural processes is 1 in 10 followed by 1018 zeros. (Koonin’s intent was to show that short of postulating a multiverse of an infinite number of universes (Many Worlds), the chance of life occurring on earth is vanishingly small.)

    The cosmological model of eternal inflation and the transition from chance to biological evolution in the history of life – Eugene V Koonin

    Dr. Paul Giem did a lecture on Dr. Koonin’s paper. It is found that Eugene Koonin’s estimates are overly optimistic. It is almost comical to learn the erroneous optimistic assumptions that are revealed to have been made by Dr. Koonin to get his ‘low’ 1 in 10^1018 probability for life originating:

    Eugene Koonin and the Origin of Life 3-7-2015 by Paul Giem – video

    If people truly want to know where life came from, I suggest they look to the one who died on the Cross and rose to life again:

    Shroud Of Turin – Photographic Negative – 3D Quantum Hologram – The Lamb – video

    Verses and Music

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

    Acts 2:24
    But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

    Natalie Grant: “Alive (MARY MAGDALENE)” – Official Lyric Video

  4. 4
    Box says:

    Scientists have identified a plasma plume that naturally protects the Earth against solar storms. Earth’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere, stretches from the planet’s core out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun. For the most part, the magnetosphere acts as a shield to protect Earth from this high-energy solar activity. But when this field comes into contact with the sun’s magnetic field — a process called “magnetic reconnection” — powerful electrical currents from the sun can stream into Earth’s atmosphere, whipping up geomagnetic storms and space weather phenomena that can affect high-altitude aircraft, as well as astronauts on the International Space Station. Now scientists have identified a process in Earth’s magnetosphere that reinforces its shielding effect, keeping incoming solar energy at bay.

    [source: sciencedaily.com]

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Box at 4, Impressive finding!

    A few related notes:

    How ‘Space Shield’ Protects Earth from “Sledgehammer Blow” of “Killer Electrons” – March 3, 2015
    Excerpt: “On Oct. 8, 2013, an explosion on the sun’s surface sent a supersonic blast wave of solar wind out into space. This shockwave tore past Mercury and Venus, blitzing by the moon before streaming toward Earth. The shockwave struck a massive blow to the Earth’s magnetic field, setting off a magnetized sound pulse around the planet.”
    Some of the data is analyzed at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, where John Foster acts as associate director. He was surprised at how quickly the particles were accelerated by a factor of 10 in just 60 seconds.
    “Foster and his colleagues analyzed the probes’ data, and laid out the following sequence of events: As the solar shockwave made impact, according to Foster, it struck “a sledgehammer blow” to the protective barrier of the Earth’s magnetic field. But instead of breaking through this barrier, the shockwave effectively bounced away, generating a wave in the opposite direction, in the form of a magnetosonic pulse — a powerful, magnetized sound wave that propagated to the far side of the Earth within a matter of minutes.”
    This was “the first time the effects of a solar shockwave on Earth’s radiation belts have been observed in detail from beginning to end.”

    Invisible shield found thousands of miles above Earth blocks ‘killer electrons’ – November 26, 2014
    Excerpt: A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered an invisible shield some 7,200 miles above Earth that blocks so-called “killer electrons,” which whip around the planet at near-light speed and have been known to threaten astronauts, fry satellites and degrade space systems during intense solar storms.
    “It’s almost like these electrons are running into a glass wall in space,” said Baker, the study’s lead author. “Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons. It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon.”

    Cluster Spacecraft Detects Elusive Space Wind – July 2, 2013
    Excerpt: A new study provides the first conclusive proof of the existence of a space wind first proposed theoretically over 20 years ago. ,,plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region extending above Earth’s atmosphere.,,
    “After long scrutiny of the data, there it was, a slow but steady wind, releasing about 1 kg of plasma every second into the outer magnetosphere: this corresponds to almost 90 tonnes every day.,,,
    “The plasmaspheric wind is an important element in the mass budget of the plasmasphere,,,
    The plasmasphere, the most important plasma reservoir inside the magnetosphere, plays a crucial role in governing the dynamics of Earth’s radiation belts.

    Image of Belts

    Here is a glimpse at how the aurora borealis is actually formed by solar flares interacting with the magnetic field:

    NASA Magnetic Reconnection – video

    The Earth as You’ve Never Seen it Before: Atmosphere, Airglow and Aurora – video

    The science behind northern lights – October 2, 2012
    Excerpt: ,,,(solar) flares release a burst of charged particles, or plasma, into the solar system. When they come our way, they whack into the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is made up of its own stream of charged particles. That collision causes particles to break free of the magnetosphere and cascade toward the Earth’s magnetic field lines, usually traveling toward the poles. “The aurorae happen when these high-energy particles bap into atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere, typically oxygen,” Nemiroff said. Light is emitted as part of the reaction. Those particles can also wreak havoc. “The plasma cloud can cause the Earth’s magnetic field to fluctuate,” Nemiroff said. “At worst, that can knock out satellites and even power grids.”,,,

  6. 6
    tjguy says:

    Jim @1

    If the universe was designed to support life one would expect that Earth is not unique.

    What scientific experiment are you using to show this statement is true, or is this just your opinion?

    If you are assuming the universe was designed, then wouldn’t you need to know something about the designer and his reasons for designing the universe as such before you can make such a conclusion?

    If the Designer intended the universe to be filled with life, then yes, you would be right. But that is something we just do not know.

    As a Christian, I believe the Designer to be the Creator God of the Bible and He tells us that He specifically created the earth to be inhabited. Nothing is said about any other planet or life. It doesn’t mean there can be no life anywhere else in outer space, but if it exists, it is not mentioned in the Bible. We are told that the heavens declare the glory of God and that certainly is true – whether there is life out there or not!

    Whether or not Earth is unique, what is really amazing is that a few simple forces and a few dozen fine-tuned parameters would produce so many factors at every scale from the atomic to the cosmic that allow life to exist:

    Amazing! I didn’t know you had solved the mystery of abiogenesis.

    Sign that man up for a Nobel Prize and write his name down in the history books!

    Actually what I think what is really amazing is that you actually think you know this to be a fact!

  7. 7
    Jim Smith says:


    I said those factors “allow life to exist” I didn’t say they “allow life to form”. I am making a case for design. If someone tried to create a universe that could support life by setting the fine tuning parameters and designing a few simple forces it would require a huge intellectual effort to get everything right at the beginning and then set it off. How could it arise by accident? I don’t think it is an accident. I think Fred Hoyle was right when he said it seems like a superintelligence monkeyed with chemistry and physics. The argument for design is strengthened by the number of factors required for life to exist but it does not depend on the Earth being unique.

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    Have you actually looked at conditions beyond the surface of our little planet? Friendly to life they ain’t. There’s forces out there could wipe us out in an instant and no guarantee they won’t. We could easily go the way of the dinosaurs and, as far as we cam tell, there’s no one would be any the wiser. It takes a peculiar form of hubris to think this whole setup was designed just for us.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    as to: “It takes a peculiar form of hubris to think this whole setup was designed just for us.”

    Funny, it was just that ‘peculiar form of hubris’ that started the modern scientific revolution, and it is just that ‘peculiar form of hubris’ that continues to provide the solid epistemological foundation that drives modern science forward. ,,,

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.

    The Threat to the Scientific Method that Explains the Spate of Fraudulent Science Publications – Calvin Beisner | Jul 23, 2014
    Excerpt: It is precisely because modern science has abandoned its foundations in the Biblical worldview (which holds, among other things, that a personal, rational God designed a rational universe to be understood and controlled by rational persons made in His image) and the Biblical ethic (which holds, among other things, that we are obligated to tell the truth even when it inconveniences us) that science is collapsing.
    As such diverse historians and philosophers of science as Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Duhem, Loren Eiseley, Rodney Stark, and many others have observed, and as I pointed out in two of my talks at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC), science—not an occasional flash of insight here and there, but a systematic, programmatic, ongoing way of studying and controlling the world—arose only once in history, and only in one place: medieval Europe, once known as “Christendom,” where that Biblical worldview reigned supreme. That is no accident. Science could not have arisen without that worldview.
    Several other resources backing up this claim are available, such as Thomas Woods, Stanley Jaki, David Linberg, Edward Grant, J.L. Heilbron, and Christopher Dawson.

    Also see Robin Collins and Michael Denton:

    The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability – Robin Collins – March 22, 2014
    Excerpt: Examples of fine – tuning for discoverability.
    ,,A small increase in ? (fine structure constant) would have resulted in all open wood fires going out; yet harnessing fire was essential to the development of civilization, technology, and science – e.g., the forging of metals.,,,
    Going in the other direction, if ? (fine structure constant) were decreased, light microscopes would have proportionality less resolving power without the size of living cells or other microscopic objects changing.,,,
    Thus, it is quite amazing that the resolving power of light microscopes goes down to that of the smallest cell (0.2 microns), but no further. If it had less resolving power, some cells could not be observed alive. The fine – structure constant, therefore, is just small enough to allow for open wood fires and just large enough for the light microscope to be able to see all living cells.
    Predictive and Explanatory Power of Discoverability – Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
    Prediction: DLO: Within the range of values of a given parameter p that yield near – optimal livability, p will fall into that subrange of values that maximize discoverability (given constraints of elegance are not violated).
    In every case that I was able to make calculations regarding whether the fundamental parameters of physics are optimized in this way, they appear to pass the test.[iv] This alone is significant since this hypothesis is falsifiable in the sense that one could find data that potentially disconfirms it – namely, cases in which as best as we can determining, such as a case in which changing the value of a fundamental parameter – such as the fine – structure constant – increases discoverability while not negatively affecting livability.[v] Below, I will look at a case from cosmology where this thesis could have been disconfirmed but was not.,,,
    The most dramatic confirmation of the discoverability/livability optimality thesis (DLO) is the dependence of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) on the baryon to photon ratio.,,,
    …the intensity of CMB depends on the photon to baryon ratio, (??b), which is the ratio of the average number of photons per unit volume of space to the average number of baryons (protons plus neutrons) per unit volume. At present this ratio is approximately a billion to one (10^9) , but it could be anywhere from one to infinity; it traces back to the degree of asymmetry in matter and anti – matter right after the beginning of the universe – for approximately every billion particles of antimatter, there was a billion and one particles of matter.,,,
    The only livability effect this ratio has is on whether or not galaxies can form that have near – optimally livability zones. As long as this condition is met, the value of this ratio has no further effects on livability. Hence, the DLO predicts that within this range, the value of this ratio will be such as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers.
    According to my calculations – which have been verified by three other physicists — to within the margin of error of the experimentally determined parameters (~20%), the value of the photon to baryon ratio is such that it maximizes the CMB. This is shown in Figure 1 below. (pg. 13)
    It is easy to see that this prediction could have been disconfirmed. In fact, when I first made the calculations in the fall of 2011, I made a mistake and thought I had refuted this thesis since those calculations showed the intensity of the CMB maximizes at a value different than the photon – baryon ratio in our universe. So, not only does the DLO lead us to expect this ratio, but it provides an ultimate explanation for why it has this value,,, This is a case of a teleological thesis serving both a predictive and an ultimate explanatory role.,,,

    Greer Heard Forum: Robin Collins – “God and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Discovery” – video

    Privileged Species – video

    Dr. Michael Denton Interview
    Excerpt Question 14: 14. Q: ,,,you also detail that nature isn’t fine-tuned for just any kind of life, but life specifically like human life. Would you expound on this for our readers?
    A: there are certain elements of the fine-tuning which are clearly for advanced being like ourselves.
    We are warm-blooded, terrestrial aerobes; we use oxidation to get energy, we’re warm-blooded and we breathe air. We get our oxygen from the air. First of all, a warm-blooded organism needs to maintain a constant temperature. To do that we are massively assisted by the high specific heat of water, which buffers our body against rapid changes in temperature. In getting rid of excess heat, we utilize the evaporative cooling of water. That’s why dog’s pant, we sweat, etc. Warm-blooded organisms have to get rid of excess heat, and the evaporative cooling of water is the only way you’ve really got to get rid of heat when the temperature reaches close to body temperature. When it’s hot you can’t radiate off body heat to the environment.
    These critical thermal properties are obviously of great utility to air breathing, warm-blooded organisms like our self. But what relevance do they have to an extremophile living in the deep ocean, or a cold-blooded fish living in the sea? It’s obvious that these are elements of fitness in nature which seem to be of great and specific utility to beings like us, and very little utility to a lot of other organisms. Of course it is the case that they are playing a role in maintaining the constancy of global climate, the physical and chemical constancy of the hydrosphere and so forth. No doubt the evaporative cooling of water plays a big role in climatic amelioration; it transfers heat from the tropics to the higher latitudes and this is of utility for all life on earth. But definitely water’s thermal properties seem particularly fit for advanced organisms of biology close to our own.
    And even the freezing of water from the top down rather than the bottom up, which conserves large bodies of fresh water on the earth, is again relevant to large organisms. Bacterial cells can withstand quite well periodically freezing. And for unicellular organisms living in the hot sub surface rocks its pretty well irrelevant. In other words the top down freezing and the consequent preservation of liquid water is of much more utility for a large organism, but of far less relevance for microbial life.
    Or consider the generation and utilization of oxygen. We use oxygen, but many organisms don’t use oxygen; for a lot of organisms it’s a poison. So how do we get our oxygen? When we look at the conditions in the universe for photosynthesis, we find a magical collusion between of all sorts of different elements of fitness. First of all the atmospheric gases let through visual light which has got the right energy for biochemistry, for photosynthesis. And what are the gases in the atmosphere that let through the light? Well, carbon dioxide, water vapor, oxygen, and nitrogen. And what are the basic reactants which are involved in photosynthesis? Well, oxygen, water, and CO2. The same compounds that let through the light are also the main ‘players’ in photosynthesis.
    And then you might wonder what about the harmful radiations? UV, Gamma rays, microwaves? Well to begin with the sun only puts out most of its electromagnetic radian energy in the visual region (light) and near infrared (heat) and puts out very little in the dangerous regions (UV’s, gamma rays, X-rays etc.). And wonder on wonder, the atmospheric gases absorb all these harmful radiations. And so on and on and on, one anthropocentric biofriendly coincidence after another. And what provides the necessary warmth for photosynthesis, indeed for all life on earth. What keeps the average temperature of the earth above freezing? Well water vapor and carbon dioxide. If it wasn’t for water vapor and CO2 in the atmosphere the temperature of the earth would be -33 centigrade.
    Now when you consider all these factors necessary for the generation of oxygen via photosynthesis knowing that not all organisms use oxygen implying that all these coincidences are irrelevant to the vast majority of all species (most of the biomass on the planet may well be anaerobic unicellular life occupying the hot deep biosphere in the sub surface rocks) never use oxygen, its clear that the special fitness of nature for oxygen utilization is for us.

    Eric Metaxas, after ‘trying’ to wrap his head around the incomprehensible degree to which the universe is fine-tuned for life, comments:

    “Reason and science compels us to see what previous generations could not: that our existence is an outrageous and astonishing miracle, one so startlingly and perhaps so disturbingly miraculous that it makes any miracle like the parting of the Red Sea pale in such insignificance that it almost becomes unworthy of our consideration, as though it were something done easily by a child, half-asleep. It is something to which the most truly human response is some combination of terror and wonder, of ancient awe, and childhood joy.”
    Eric Metaxas – Miracles – pages 55-56

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