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Harvard's 'Smart' Theory about Human Intelligence

Harvard's 'Smart' Theory about Human Intelligence

The Milky Way glows above the Vedauwoo Recreation Area in Medicine Bow National Forest near Laramie, Wyo. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 03 August 2016 05:32 PM

A new study by Harvard University suggests humans are likely the first intelligent species to develop in the vast cosmos — and we will continue to grow more so in the future.

"The universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet formed just 4.5 billion years ago. Some scientists think this time gap means that life on other planets could be billions of years older than ours," the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a statement.

"However, new theoretical work suggests that present-day life is actually premature from a cosmic perspective."

Avi Loeb, lead author of the study added: "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."

According to the study, life as we know it first "became possible about 30 million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars seeded the cosmos with the necessary elements like carbon and oxygen."

As well, life will end 10 trillion years from now when the last stars fade away and die. Loeb and his colleagues considered the relative likelihood of life between those two boundaries.

The dominant factor proved to be the lifetimes of stars.

The higher a star's mass, the shorter its lifetime. Stars larger than about three times the sun's mass will expire before life has a chance to evolve. Conversely, the smallest stars weigh less than 10 percent as much as the Sun, according to the study.

They will glow for 10 trillion years, giving life ample time to emerge on any planets they host. As a result, the probability of life grows over time.

In fact, Loeb said, chances of life are 1,000 times higher in the distant future than now.

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

Although low-mass, red dwarf stars live for a long time, they also pose unique threats. In their youth they emit strong flares and ultraviolet radiation that could strip the atmosphere from any rocky world in the habitable zone, according to Loeb.

To determine which possibility is correct — our premature existence or the hazard of low-mass stars — Loeb recommended studying nearby red dwarf stars and their planets for signs of habitability.

Future space missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and James Webb Space Telescope should help to answer these questions, the Harvard Study notes.

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A new study by Harvard University suggests humans are likely the first intelligent species to develop in the vast cosmos - and we will continue to grow more so in the future. The universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet formed just 4.5 billion years ago. Some...
harvard, intelligence, human, galaxy
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2016-32-03
Wednesday, 03 August 2016 05:32 PM
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