Absence Of Alien Life: Rise Of Living Organisms On Earth May Have Been Premature

The question of whether or not alien life exists in the universe is almost always coupled with the Fermi Paradox, the assertion that there is no empirical evidence of the existence of UFOs and alien beings -- especially by the more skeptical and pragmatic. But a new study suggests that there may be other reasons for the paucity of scientific evidence, other than mathematical formulae that posit the astronomical odds of the near-certainty of other living organisms extant or once existing in the universe. One reason could be that life on Earth, rather than being an exception, could very well be cosmologically premature.

Phys.org reported August 1 that a new study headed by lead author Avi Loeb, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, working with the idea that, given the abundance of red dwarf stars in the universe, alien life would have much more of an opportunity to evolve around the smaller, long-lived stellar bodies, has put forth two theories as to why extraterrestrial life on worlds surrounding these red dwarf stars might not be detectable. One reason could be that red dwarfs are volatile in their younger phases and could very well have bombarded their planets with enough radiation and helped produce such alternating planetary conditions that life -- at least as we know it to exist -- could not gain a foothold and/or evolve. The second major reason could simply be the fact that life on Earth somehow got a jump-start on the rest of the universe.

The parameters within which Loeb and his team worked stretched from 30 million years ago, when life is believed to have emerged on Earth, to about 10 trillion years into the future, a far distant time when, as stars surrender themselves to entropy, life will eventually cease to exist. Loeb believes that life on Earth may have gotten an early start and that alien life elsewhere in the universe will likely become more prevalent in the far future.

"If you ask, 'When is life most likely to emerge?' you might naively say, 'Now.' But we find that the chance of life grows much higher in the distant future."

The findings revealed that the most significant factor was the lifetime of stars. It is known that the mass of a star has a lot to do with its longevity. For instance, the higher a star's mass, the shorter its lifetime will be. As Phys.org points out, stars larger with masses measuring three times that of the Sun will die earlier and, according to Loeb, do so before alien life even has had a chance to evolve.

But turning to smaller-mass stars, especially those roughly with 10 times less mass than the Sun, they have a chance of burning for the aforementioned 10 trillion years, thus giving life plenty of time to emerge and evolve. The Loeb team found that the chances of alien life evolving on planets orbiting these stars grew over time and estimates that the chances of life evolving increases to 1,000 greater than the chances of life currently evolving.

Loeb then asks the existential question of why we are here, now.

"So then you may ask, why aren't we living in the future next to a low-mass star? One possibility is we're premature. Another possibility is that the environment around a low-mass star is hazardous to life."

Left unsaid, of course, is that life on Earth could very well be a universal fluke, even given that the universe is full of life-providing (as it is currently known to exist) elements. Then there's also the idea that has been offered, as Inquisitr reported in May, that the universe has been teeming with life and most, if not all, of as many as 10 billion alien civilizations have come and gone by the time life emerged and rose to the point of technological sophistication to begin searching for extraterrestrial life here on our own planet. In other words, life on Earth has come late, not early.

But, if Loeb and his team are correct in their assessment of red-dwarf and other low-mass stars, that life on Earth is a bit premature, it very well could be that Earth is all alone (or, in a very vast universe, one of just a few early emergents) in a universe that just hasn't seen the cosmological equivalent of our Earth's Cambrian Explosion (as detailed by the University of California Santa Barbara).

[Image via Shutterstock]