VIII. Pedia Sapiens: A New Genesis Future
C. An Earthropic Principle: Novel Evidence for a Special Planet
A September 2018 article Alone in the Milky Way by John Gribbin in Scientific American makes just this case. A full page graphic, the first of its kind, displays a series of Improbable Coincidences from the big bang through stellar formations, metallicity content, galactic and solar habitable zones, good timings at each bottleneck stage, vicarious surface conditions in life’s favor, early prokaryote to eukaryote cellular success, and onto the chancy appearance of Homo sapiens with our cultural and technological civilization.
Angier, Natalie. The Earth’s Shell has Cracked, and We’re Drifting on the Pieces. New York Times. December 18, 2018. The popular science writer draws upon a Royal Society meeting about plate tectonics and Philosophical Transactions A issue from it (see Robert Stern herein for more) about how our home planet has been distinguished and enlivened by mobile continental forms over a billion years, while Venus and many other worlds have not. It is noted that this ancient surface balance of land and sea is vitally crucial for a planet to become habitable for life and evolution. She consulted with R. Stern (UT Dallas), Jun Korenaga (Yale), Aubrey Zerkle (St. Andrews, Scotland)), and others as this rare Earth crustal and oceanic interplay grows in significance.
This volume brings together contributions from the Royal Society Discussion Meeting on ‘Earth dynamics and the development of Plate Tectonics’ held in March 2018. Plate tectonics is not seen on other planets, so why does it occur on Earth, and when did it start? The nature of tectonics depends on initial conditions, mantle thermal states, and an ability to weaken the lithosphere to allow plate boundaries to form. Geodynamic models, rock deformation experiments, models for growth of the continental crust, and evidence from the rock record are consistent with the development of plate tectonics from a single-lid state. Major changes occurred in the geological record near the end of the Archaean, suggesting that plate tectonics had become the dominant gobal regime by the Proterozoic. Modern plate tectonics and the generation of stable continents were key events in the evolution of the biosphere on Earth, and similar tectonic processes could be crucial for the development of habitability of exoplanets. (Synopsis)
Arnould, Jacques. Astrobiology, Sustainability and Ethical Perspectives. Sustainability. 1/4, 2009. In this online journal which has become a home for authoritative writings about saving the planet, a CNES French Space Agency philosopher contends that an expansive panorama that views earth and human in the context of a conducive, life friendly cosmos could be of much utility and incentive.
Astrobiology, a new field of research associating the prospects and constraints of prebiotic chemistry, mineralogy, geochemistry, astrophysics, theoretical physics, microbial ecology, etc., is assessed in terms of sustainability through the scientific and social functions it fulfils, and the limits it encounters or strives to overcome. In the same way as sustainable development, astrobiology must also take into account the temporal dimension specific to its field of investigation and examine its underlying conception of Nature. (Abstract)
Testing the Multiverse: Bayes, Fine-Tuning and Typicality.
Reviewed more in Anthropic Principle, the University of Sydney astronomer (search) posts his presentation at a 2014 London Philosophy of Cosmology conference. As a coauthor with Geraint Lewis of A Fortunate Universe (2016), this entry discusses anthropic themes along with Bayesian “theory testing” methods for better iterations of “relative certainties or credences.” For this Greatest Earth section, it is wondrous that inquisitive, globally cognizant peoples can imagine whole cosmoses at all. With 400th anniversary events underway for Galileo, what can these expansive vistas from our moon to a multiverse ever portend? As latest currents seem to presage, human beings ought to have a significant purpose in the actual scheme of things.
Barnes, Rory. Tidal Locking of Habitable Exoplanets. Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. 129/4, 2017. A University of Washington astronomer quantifies one more crucial condition as to whether a candidate orbital world could harbor living, evolving systems, or be prohibitively hostile to it. Since this Earth has been benign long enough to reach our global observation, its tidal regime, in accord with the moon and sun, must have been fortuitous. See also Niche Amplitude, Tidal Locking and Fermi’s Paradox and Evolutionary Exobiology II by David Stevenson in the International Journal of Astrobiology (Each online July 2018).
Potentially habitable planets can orbit close enough to their host star that the differential gravity across their diameters can fix the rotation rate at a specific frequency, a process called tidal locking. Tidally locked planets on circular orbits will rotate synchronously, but those on eccentric orbits will either librate or rotate super-synchronously. Lower mass stellar hosts will induce stronger tidal effects on potentially habitable planets, and tidal locking is possible for most planets in the habitable zones of GKM dwarf stars. These results suggest that the process of tidal locking is a major factor in the evolution of most of the potentially habitable exoplanets to be discovered in the near future. (Abstract excerpt)
Batygin, Konstantin and Greg Laughlin. Jupiter’s Decisive Role in the Inner Solar System’s Early Evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112/4214, 2015. As the rush of Kepler satellite findings become assimilated, radical new understandings of near and far stellar-planetary topological and dynamical arrays are being realized. Here Cal Tech and UC Santa Cruz astronomers report another way that our home system is unusual because this gas giant served to sweep away an original phase of close in worlds that often wreak instabilities. A commentary in the same issue by Smadar Naoz notes that our “unique” arrangement is a “second generation” sequence. Along with nine planets in the same plane with circular orbits for over a billion years, it is dawning that we Earthlings abide in a rare, especially conducive, habitable zone.
The Solar System is an unusual member of the galactic planetary census in that it lacks planets that reside in close proximity to the Sun. In this work, we propose that the primordial nebula-driven process responsible for retention of Jupiter and Saturn at large orbital radii and sculpting Mars’ low mass is also responsible for clearing out the Solar System’s innermost region. Cumulatively, our results place the Solar System and the mechanisms that shaped its unique orbital architecture into a broader, extrasolar context. (Significance)
Batygin, Konstantin, et al. Born of Chaos. Scientific American. May, 2016. Astrophysicists Batygin, Gregory Laughlin and Alessandro Morbidelli (search) write a popular article about the dynamic formation of the solar system and of our planet Earth just now being reconstructed, which all leads to an auspicious realization. In this post-Kepler satellite and worldwide collaborative era, it has been found that prolific arrays of orbital objects typically exhibit a contingent jumble of small rocky to giant gaseous planets in every which disordered location, especially close in to the host star. But our home solar community has a rare, well-spaced procession from one small Mercury to Venus, Earth and Mars onto larger outer worlds. Over its history, the planet Jupiter first moved toward the sun which cleaned out planetesimals and super-Earths, except for Mercury. It then tacked outward which led to further destructions or expulsions. See also Jupiter’s Decisive Role in the Inner Solar System’s Early Evolution by Batygin and Laughlin in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (112/4214, 2015) and the third quote.
In Brief: A wealth of new evidence from computer simulations as well as observations of planets throughout the galaxy is revealing new details of our solar system’s dynamic and violent history. The solar system’s configuration of small inner rocky worlds and large outer giants is anomalous in comparison with most other planetary systems, which have different architectures. (30)
Beech, Martin. On Special Epochs, the Copernican Principle and Future Astronomy. Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. April, 2015. The University of Regina, Saskatchewan astronomer and author (search) takes issue with the popular overuse of this “principle” which has come to designate a steady historic removal of human beings, planet Earth, its solar system, and even the Milky Way from any central, unique location or import. As a starter Nikolai himself would not agree nor would he approve this version in his name. From circa 2015, the latest cosmological findings, not possible earlier, are in fact finding people, bioplanet, sun, and galaxy to be unusually favorable in orbital geometries and benign duration. See also Since When Was the Sun a Typical Star? by MB in this journal for December 2011. Here is one more instance of a cosmic paradigm shift in our midst (e.g. Giulio Tononi, Cadell Last, many others) from denunciations of human and universe to realizations of a phenomenal place and purpose.
As described in an earlier article (Beech 2011), for example the blind acceptance of the Copernican Principle has resulted in the entirely wrong concept being propagated within popuar astronomy texts that the Sun and Solar System are in every way average, even bland and/or typical. They patently are not average in many demonstrable ways, and our seemingly modern fear of allowing for special circumstances and the existence of unique structures, events, epochs and has, in effect, led our collective understanding astray. Not only, in fact, is the Solar System located at a very specific and special place within our galaxy, we also live in a very special epoch within the history of the Universe. Indeed, we live in the epoch in which humanity is able to determine and at least partially comprehend the full scale of the observable Universe. (63-64)
Broad, William. In Secrets of Coral Spawning, Hope for Endangered Reefs. New York Times. June 21, 2016. We note this Science Times piece about large coral reefs which engage in an annual procreative event of spewing trillions of eggs at once into the ocean so that at least some may become fertile and grow anew. This is a stretch, but might one then imagine a coral cosmos whence trillions of vicarious bioworlds might take on a similar ovular guise, so that a few fittest might succeed?
Burov, Alexey and Lev Burov. Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe. arXiv:1411.7304. We report this posting from a Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory physicist and a Scientific Humanities, San Francisco, imagineer because it offers a unique perspective on the breadth and depth of cosmic reality. After noting the fine-tuned Anthropic Principle fades into a multiverse chaosogenesis, it is proposed that nature’s most awesome aspect ought to be our very human ability to learn and describe everything from bosons to universes. This vista then grants phenomenal people an intentional, central role as Cosmic Observers.
Canales, Manuel, et al.
One Strange Rock.
As a companion article for a 10 part TV series with this title, senior editors MC and Matthew Chwastyk and science writer Eve Conant compile a list of thirteen reasons why this Earth, upon which a planetary sapience has evolved able to do this, appears to be the successful outcome of many especially fortuitous astronomic, geologic, and biotic conditions and event.
Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it. The product of some 4.6 billion years of cosmic construction, oru planet is flush with life thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions, from the optimal chemical makeup of our planetary core to our safe distance from the hidden black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Carlisle, Camille. Cosmic Collisions. Sky & Telescope. December, 2012. Into this 21st century what vistas have earthlings come to, what are we risen mortals altogether capable of. This article suggests that it may amazingly be possible to detect signs of other, intermeshing universes by finessing data findings from the CMB and WMAP satellites. Might we then imagine that valiant human beings have something to do with the success or failure of the entire cosmos, if by common vision, we could so witness and self-select?
Chopra, Aditya and Charles Lineweaver. The Case for a Gaian Bottleneck: The Biology of Habitability. International Journal of Astrobiology. 16/1, 2016. If one pays attention to current findings in the scientific literature, as this website tries to report, in the past few years the cosmic nexus of our Earthly abode has attained a special statue. Planetary systems with well spaced circular orbits, all in the same plane, a rare location of outer gas giants, a stable, long duration galaxy, and a large moon, are now known as quite rare. This paper by Australian Natural University astrophysicists now adds a temporal evolutionary constraint. While biochemical, microbial life appears wherever possible, an ability to reach complex, multicellular stages is seen to require an early formation of a conducive, self-regulating atmosphere. If this does not happen, simpler life forms are extinguished by hostile conditions, the candidate bioworld becomes barren. Even if the emergence of life is a common feature of wet rocky planets throughout the Universe, the Gaian bottleneck model suggests that inhabited Earth-like planets would be rare.
The prerequisites and ingredients for life seem to be abundantly available in the Universe. However, the Universe does not seem to be teeming with life. The most common explanation for this is a low probability for the emergence of life (an emergence bottleneck), notionally due to the intricacies of the molecular recipe. Here, we present an alternative Gaian bottleneck explanation: If life emerges on a planet, it only rarely evolves quickly enough to regulate greenhouse gases and albedo, thereby maintaining surface temperatures compatible with liquid water and habitability. Such a Gaian bottleneck suggests that (i) extinction is the cosmic default for most life that has ever emerged on the surfaces of wet rocky planets in the Universe and (ii) rocky planets need to be inhabited to remain habitable. In the Gaian bottleneck model, the maintenance of planetary habitability is a property more associated with an unusually rapid evolution of biological regulation of surface volatiles than with the luminosity and distance to the host star. (Abstract)