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Entry 174, on 2005-05-20 at 13:58:37 (Rating 1, Science)
I listened to an interesting podcast recently about the mechanisms involved in production of heavy elements in the Universe. Heavy elements (carbon and beyond) are important because they are essential for forming planets, and life on those planets.
Because of the way in which it bonds, carbon is the only element likely to be used as the basis for life, even life on other planets. Life requires complex molecules, and only carbon bonds in sufficiently complex ways to allow life, in any reasonable form, to exist.
So life requires carbon, and carbon is only produced in supernova explosions. Now it seems that maybe significant amounts of heavier elements have only existed in our Universe for around 4 to 5 billion years. Note that that is the age of our solar system. Maybe life on our planet has formed at a relatively early stage in the Universe, which is just 14 billion years old.
Many scientists have wondered why there is no evidence of life on other planets. maybe this answers that question. There is no life, or at least no evidence of advanced life, because there hasn't been enough time for advanced life to form - the Universe is just too young!
Its a very tidy explanation of a puzzling observation. Maybe we are one of the first forms of life to evolve in this Universe. We might have to wait billions of years before we find anyone else!
Comment 1 (42) by Kyle Janison on 2005-05-30 at 03:33:12:
If you're interested in astrobiology, there's a great new blog, run by newspaper editor Rob Bignell, at http://alienlifeblog.blogspot.com/, about the topic. It includes roundups of the latest news from the various scientific fields that form astrobiology and information about SETI.
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