Out of all the theories about the origin of life, I always considered panspermia (the idea that life originated in space) the least satisfactory. To me, all it does is delay the explanation: yes, OK, life came from space. That doesn’t explain how it came to be, nor the chemical processes that made it possible. So as a theory it seems pretty useless.
A recent article made me consider changing my mind.
The authors of the paper argue that Moore’s law proves (or shows compelling evidence) that life couldn’t have originated on Earth. For those not familiar with futurism or computer science, Moore’s law states that the number of transistors in a chip doubles every 18 months. It is a logarithmic law which has been accurately predicting trends in IT for the last 40 years. The graph below will give you a clearer idea: you can see how it’s remarkably straight.
The authors found that the number of functional genome base pairs in an organism follow exactly the same pattern. Plotted logarithmically (that is, plotting the time against the logarithm of the number of base pairs) you get this graph, which has a spooky resemblance to the one before:
If you take a closer look, you’ll notice something weird: by the time the Earth was born (4,5 billion years ago if you listen to science, 6,000 years ago according to other sources) the number of DNA base pairs should already have been 10,000. Which means we’re 10,000 short. In fact, if you follow the line, you can see life should have originated some 10 billion years ago, obviously not on Earth, since by then there was not Earth to speak of.
Pretty cool, huh?
It is a possibility: the Earth is a comfortable place for living organisms, but that doesn’t mean life can’t survive in other environments. Bacteria, for example, have been known to hitch rides in space. So it’s not crazy to suggest that some kind of proto-life originated somewhere in the galaxy (in a dust cloud, in a comet, in pieces of rock… take your pick) and it just happened to find Earth, where it was able to thrive.
I don’t know about you, but the idea that we’re the direct descendants of some primeval living forms originating some 10 billion years ago, far away from this Earth, and that we may have cousins spread around the galaxy, not evolved independently but from those same original creatures, gives me a feeling of wonder.
Where are the aliens? Very, very close…