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Monday, June 16, 2014

100 million planets: Pretty good odds

Milky Way   (Photo by Steve Jurvetson)
For those hard-line thinkers who are finding it difficult to conceive of complex life on other planets, here are some (mind’s) eye-opening statistics:  There are perhaps 100 million planets in the Milky Way alone that could support such life.

Barry Eitel of All Voices reports on a new study which indicates that because “multiplanetary systems abound in the universe, the prospect that life occurs redundantly throughout the cosmos is gaining widespread support.”

Researchers from this study have proposed a system called the Biological Complexity Index (BCI), designed to “quantify life outside our planet.”  This index “ranks planets and moons by basic, first-order characteristics detectable with available technology.”

Because researchers have thus far determined that approximately 1.7% of “the extrasolar planets known to date have a BCI above that of Europa,” by extrapolation “the total of such planets could exceed 100 million in our galaxy alone.”

Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, is thought to have a subsurface ocean that perhaps hosts complex life forms.  Although not all complex life is necessarily intelligent life (“complex life” generally referring to organisms more complicated than microbes), intelligent life is certainly a possibility to consider.

This group of researchers (which includes scientists from Cornell University, the University of Texas, the University of Puerto Rico and Washington State University) therefore believes “it is highly unlikely that we are alone in the universe.”

Do the math…


Copyright June 16, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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