I just read about an interesting study on arXiv.org and thought it might be worth discussing here on ATS ...
A paper called "Life before Earth"
suggests that our biological origins might reach back as far as 9.7
billion years, a point in time when Earth didn't even exist according to current paradigms (click
for the full PDF version).
How did the authors come to their conclusion?
Well, you probably all know Moore's Law
which says that the processing power of computers
doubles every 18 months (roughly). This means "exponential growth" in terms of processing speed. In other words: technological development is
The authors point out that Moore's law can predict the future processing capabilities/complexity of computers but that you can also use it go back in
time in order to determine quite precisely when the first transistor had been invented, the first calculator, first vacuum tubes etc. (based on
processing speed, which was of course much slower in the past ...).
In a nutshell, they point out that:
- biology is roughly based on the same rate of progress as Moore's law (exponential)
- instead of 18 months, organic (genome) complexity doubles every 376 million years
- Moore's law can be (reversly) applied to biology
- when calculating the reduction of organic complexity, the origins reach back 9.7 billion years
- life could therefore have originated from another place before having reached Earth
Illustration indicating the calculated biological timeline:
LIFE BEFORE EARTH
Alexei A. Sharov, Richard Gordon
(Submitted on 28 Mar 2013)
An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started
from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number
of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: gene cooperation,
duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization, and emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes.
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 billion
years ago. This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of
bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth;
there was no intelligent life in our universe prior to the origin of Earth, thus Earth could not have been deliberately seeded with life by
intelligent aliens; Earth was seeded by panspermia; experimental replication of the origin of life from scratch may have to emulate many cumulative
rare events; and the Drake equation for guesstimating the number of civilizations in the universe is likely wrong, as intelligent life has just begun
appearing in our universe.
Evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind,
multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached ca. 20 years. Finally, we
discuss the issue of the predicted technological singularity and give a biosemiotics perspective on the increase of complexity.
Further they state that this might also explain the Fermi-Paradox
(where are all the ETs given
the amount of stars in the universe?): If it takes our species 10 billion years to develop (and the universe is about 13.8 billion years old), then we
might as well be one of just a few intelligent species that have emerged up to now ...
Their findings are currently being reviewed, but I think their thought-experiment is quite mind-boggling ...
edit on 17-4-2013 by jeep3r