News / Science & Technology

    Report: Any Extraterrestrial Life Likely Extinct

    FILE - Part of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from Australia. (AP)
    FILE - Part of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from Australia. (AP)

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    VOA News

    While the universe is likely filled with habitable planets, new research suggests any life on these bodies would likely become extinct rapidly.

    Writing in the journal Astrobiology, researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) say life on a fledgling planet would likely “die out due to runaway heating or cooling.”

    "The universe is probably filled with habitable planets, so many scientists think it should be teeming with aliens," said Aditya Chopra from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences and lead author on the paper. "Early life is fragile, so we believe it rarely evolves quickly enough to survive."

    The main reason, says Chopra, is the lack of stability.

    "Most early planetary environments are unstable,” he said. “To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable."

    Examples of this are right next door. Venus and Mars could have been habitable at one point, but Venus became a “hothouse,” while Mars is a relative “icebox.”

    The paper’s co-author, Charley Lineweaver from the ANU Planetary Science Institute, says that any basic life on Mars or Venus could have failed to help stabilize the environment.

    "Life on Earth probably played a leading role in stabilizing the planet's climate," he said.

    Chopra echoed his sentiments.

    "The mystery of why we haven't yet found signs of aliens may have less to do with the likelihood of the origin of life or intelligence and have more to do with the rarity of the rapid emergence of biological regulation of feedback cycles on planetary surfaces," he said.

    The research also helps explain Fermi’s Paradox, which states that despite the high odds of habitable planets, we have yet to find any sign of extraterrestrial life.

    Researchers are calling the early extinction of life the Gaian Bottleneck.

    "One intriguing prediction of the Gaian Bottleneck model is that the vast majority of fossils in the universe will be from extinct microbial life, not from multicellular species such as dinosaurs or humanoids that take billions of years to evolve," said Lineweaver.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Paul from: England UK
    January 23, 2016 2:42 AM
    how does he know?....he says early life is fragile,well they just brought a organism back to life after 30 yrs..and scientists say how amazed life is when they discover microbe life in the ocean next to hot underwater volcano's..or microbes in freezing places,under ice sheets....hes out to make a name for himself,,but saying something unprovable,but i couldn't possibly say the name i have in mind

    by: Jason from: usa
    January 22, 2016 8:30 PM
    just an opinion from ppl bound to this world and solar system

    by: Zanzzibar from: Wales
    January 22, 2016 8:02 PM
    I've been banging on about that for years. The Universe is massively old. Humans are incredibly new - interaction with spaces outside our atmosphere even more so. The possibility of advanced lifeforms capable of making their presence known outside their atmosphere at a time and form we can recognise phenomenally remote. If you could fire two different atoms in to space, one from Earth and another from a Galaxy Far Far Away, billions of Earth years apart, in random directions and at different speeds would we be surprised if they didn't collide on Stephen Hawkins' 27th birthday?

    by: gazza from: uk
    January 22, 2016 5:42 PM
    The problem with this argument is that only life forms as we know them in science may not survive, but the life forms in other worlds will be a totally different entity which may survive in heat and cold, we can not be so complacent as to think that the earths genetic make up is the be all and end all of life forms.

    by: Snerdguy from: USA
    January 22, 2016 5:26 PM
    The report almost makes it sound like we are the last living beings in the universe. But, that's highly unlikely. Most people are just not able to grasp the vastness of time and space. Because it is so huge and there so many galaxies with so many planets, it's inevitable that there have been and will be other planets with life and some with intelligent life. But life occurs, evolves and becomes extinct in a very brief period of space time. So, the likelihood of other stars having planets with life within a detectable distance of us during our existence is extremely small because space is so big. There may be a million other planets in the universe harboring life at this instant in time. But, that is still just a tiny fraction of the number of planets that exist. If you drop one grain of sand in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and another grain of sand in the middle of the Pacific, they are more likely to bump into each other than we are to find an inhabited planet.

    by: BAW from: Philadelphia
    January 22, 2016 4:34 PM
    If any super-minute proportion of the trillions of stars surrounding us had life, we might still detect it. How may stars do not have planets with life is not important to this inquiry.

    by: David from: Austin, TX
    January 22, 2016 3:14 PM
    This seems so obvious as to not need a journal article about it. Wikipedia has basically this same discussion on their article about the Drake equation.

    by: Eddie Dunn
    January 22, 2016 2:05 PM
    Time scale in the context of the universe is much longer than our lifetimes can even begin to comprehend. Even if it is 0.000001% that is still a lot of planets. I don't see how this in anyway augments Fermi's paradox. We can barely "see out the window" of the universe.
    This seems like an attempt to make humans and the earth significant when we have no proof that is the case. Only wishful thinking.
    In Response

    by: Patrick Ahern from: Ireland
    January 22, 2016 4:30 PM
    Seems more like they are making a case for some god or other deity than logic or math to form an silly theory

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