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"Life is Older than Earth Itself" -- Moore's Law (Today's Most Popular)


                        Stock-footage-animation-of-seamlessly-looping-dna-strand

 

As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law which states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. Geneticists, Alexei Sharov at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore and Richard Gordon at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida, have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by the measure of Moore's Law, life is older than the Earth itself.

The team takes Moore's Law back to zero complexity and the origin of life, by measuring the complexity of life and the rate at which it has increased from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to more complex creatures such as worms, fish, amphibians and eventually mammals. The result is an exponential increase identical to that behind Moore’s Law with the doubling time, however, expanding to 376 million years rather than every two years.

The application of 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. Therefore they suggest that if life takes 10 billion years to evolve to the level of complexity associated with homo sapiens, then we may be among the first, if not the first, intelligent civilisation in the Milky Way, negating Drakes Equation.

 

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On the semilog plot above , the complexity of organisms, as measured by the length of functional non-redundant DNA per genome counted by nucleotide base pairs (bp), increases linearly with time (Sharov, 2012). Time is counted backwards in billions of years before the present (time 0). Credit: arXiv:1304.3381 [physics.gen-ph]

Additionally they suggest that the 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 about every 20 years.

Sharov and Gordon also point out that astronomers believe that our Solar Nebula formed from the remnants of an earlier star, suggesting that life from this period might be preserved in the original gas, dust and ice clouds. In a form of Cosmic pansermia, life on Earth may be a continuation of a process that began many billions of years before the formation of our Solar System.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1304.3381: Life Before Earth

The Daily Galaxy via MIT Technology Review

Image Credits:  graph, arXiv:1304.3381; top of page image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Comments

Amazing! I wonder what the implications are... Well clearly life existed before the Universe because what's living couldn't have been made from what's not. We are definitely not the only humanoids to have existed even just within our solar system. It appears the sun and our solar system is far older then we've been led to believe.

And what if, at some point, or multiple points as the case may be, life didn't progress at a steady rate? What if there were large periods of time where complexity stagnated, or generally exploded (such as the Cambrian Explosion)?

You completely failed to mention that Sharov and Gordon explicitly warned that this is not a testable theory, or even a hypothesis...it's a thought experiment.

"Geneticists, Alexei Sharov at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore and Richard Gordon at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida, have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that ... life is older than the Earth itself." That is correct. Life emerged on Earth some 3.9 billion years ago - what was the causative mechanism for its emergence? But what that proposition entails is that life exists on other worlds. That is also correct. I tell you that the Milky Way Galaxy is teeming with life and with intelligent life.

"the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth. ...then we may be among the first, if not the first, intelligent civilisation in the Milky Way,"

Or the seeding of many different environments "quite different from those envisaged on Earth". ergo, many civilzations on many diverse worlds.

Our awareness is limited by an inability to see beyond our painfully limited horizons. Our perceptions are clouded by imperfections in our capacity to separate the apparent from the real. We are but a primitive species, trying our simple best to understand the little bubble that surrounds us, which we call the universe.

Great observation Charles - you should also include knowledge silo's or thought prisons, ignorance and arrogance as other factors that limit our ability to look over the horizon. Perhaps Descartes should really have said "I am...I think...therefore"

A hypothesis to test may be the assumption that there was a creation event or an event that sped up the process. Hmmm..

Are we the template for all life that exists throughout the galaxy? Are we the crown of creation? We want to believe that in the hundreds of billions of planets that comprise our galaxy that we are the only "intellegent" life that exists; or will ever exist. If life does exist outside of our solar system; they would have to look just like us. What would happen to our over-blown sense of our self importance if life looks nothing like we are? We want to travel through the universe looking for our reflection in the cosmic mirror, or are we just to afraid to face our fears of the unknown that lurks in the cold depths of space.

Ok, so how could life have evolved on earth if it would take 2 of earth's lifetimes for biological life to get to be as complex as it is now?

I understand this is only a thought experiment, but there is a small flaw in the conclusion that we may be among the oldest civilizations that exists. If we're concerned that there may be a far more advanced civilization that ours. Let's assume that this extrapolation is correct, but that it is not exact. It may be accurate to within 0.1%. This would mean that, for life that has existed nearly 10^10 years, some civilizations could be older than ours by 10^7 years. TEN MILLION YEARS more advanced than ours. During that small amount of time, they could have advanced 10,000 times more than we have in the past millennium. So they are 10,000 times more advanced, in comparison to us, that we are in comparison with those who lived in the year 1,000 CE. I'd hardly say that puts us among the most advanced civilizations, if that's the case.

That's all very entertaining, but what is the theoretical basis for presuming that Moore's Law [such as it is] is actually a scientific principle that can be applied to biology or evolution? Other than a speculative exercise, it seems that this is simply a boondoggle.

Only one way to find out, get that warp drive going. :)

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