Is the existence of human beings on Earth premature from a cosmic perspective?

Christine Pulliam/CfA

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

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. 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. 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, chances of life are 1000 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?” says Loeb.

“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.

To determine which possibility is correct — our premature existence or the hazard of low-mass stars — Loeb recommends 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.

Meanwhile, I expect Know-Nothings ranging from creationist cults to Fox Noise to accept the easy-peasy early bird theorem as proof that we’re #1, we’re #1.

Better off than your kids will ever be? A new look at income inequality


The real incomes of about two-thirds of households in 25 advanced economies were flat or fell between 2005 and 2014. Without action, this phenomenon could have corrosive economic and social consequences.

Most people growing up in advanced economies since World War II have been able to assume they will be better off than their parents. For much of the time, that assumption has proved correct: except for a brief hiatus in the 1970s, buoyant global economic and employment growth over the past 70 years saw all households experience rising incomes, both before and after taxes and transfers. As recently as between 1993 and 2005, all but 2 percent of households in 25 advanced economies saw real incomes rise.

Yet this overwhelmingly positive income trend has ended. A new McKinsey Global Institute report, Poorer than their parents? Flat or falling incomes in advanced economies, finds that between 2005 and 2014, real incomes in those same advanced economies were flat or fell for 65 to 70 percent of households, or more than 540 million people. And while government transfers and lower tax rates mitigated some of the impact, up to a quarter of all households still saw disposable income stall or fall in that decade.

These findings provide a new perspective on the growing debate in advanced economies about income inequality, which until now has largely focused on income and wealth gains going disproportionately to top earners. Our analysis details the sharp increase in the proportion of households in income groups that are simply not advancing — a phenomenon affecting people across the income distribution. And the hardest hit are young, less-educated workers, raising the spectre of a generation growing up poorer than their parents.

The important part of the analysis is that, of course, this can be changed. The disturbing part is that in many educated, industrialized Western nations we must rely upon politicians in one or another form of republican society who pay little attention to those who put them into office. They refuse to lead, they cower before the economic power of those who pay for election – and re-election – campaigns and, cowards that most are, refuse to bend to democratic reformation that might end their position as the real welfare kings and queens of society.

Limited for decades by the 2-party farce that passes for choice in many lands – not just the United States – we are brainwashed by 99% of media mouthpieces that this is the best of all possible worlds. Just look at us! We are all better off than we ever were in the history of nations. But, the groundwork is solidly in place. Choice and liberty had better be allowed to become opportunity or the next couple of decades will move populism beyond fear, racism and bigotry.

UPDATE: Here’s an interview with Richard Dobbs, this morning. Not as dynamic as the report, itself; but, you get the flavor in a careful, scholarly way.

Navy ship will be named for Harvey Milk, assassinated Gay Rights leader


In a sign of changing times for the American military, the Navy plans to name a ship for Harvey Milk, the gay rights leader and San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated in 1978.

Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, has notified Congress that he will name a fleet oiler for Mr. Milk, the first openly gay elected official in a major American city…

The move comes five years after President Obama ended the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a move that allowed gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve openly. Last month, the Pentagon lifted restrictions on transgender people serving openly.

Gay rights activists and friends of Mr. Milk in San Francisco were already celebrating the long-awaited news. In 2012, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling on Mr. Mabus to name a ship for Mr. Milk, who served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955.

Mr. Milk has been the subject of books, movies, a postage stamp and an opera. He was played by Sean Penn in the 2008 movie “Milk,” for which Mr. Penn won an Oscar for best actor. A 1984 documentary, “The Times of Harvey Milk,” also won an Academy Award.

RTFA for a part of American history deliberately ignored by bigots, mostly of the Republican persuasion. Harvey Milk stands as a role model exactly like others to be so honored in coming months and years: Sojourner Truth, Earl Warren, Robert Kennedy, Lucy Stone.

Bet you didn’t see anthrax outbreaks coming as part of climate change!

inside people walk away
Vesti Yamal

Russian army biological protection troops called in amid warnings ‘utmost care’ needed to stop deadly infection spreading.

The concern among experts is that global warming thawed a diseased animal carcass at least 75 years old, buried in the melting permafrost, so unleashing the disease.

A total of 40 people, the majority of them children, from nomadic herder families in northern Siberia are under observation in hospital amid fears they may have contracted the anthrax. Doctors stress that so far there are NO confirmed cases…

Specialists from the Chemical, Radioactive and Biological Protection Corps were rushed to regional capital Salekhard on a military Il-76 aircraft.

They were deployed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to carry laboratory tests on the ground, detect and eliminate the focal point of the infection, and to dispose safely of dead animals…

The move confirmed the seriousness with which the authorities view the anthrax outbreak, the first in this region since 1941.

A prolonged period of exceptionally hot weather in an Arctic Siberian district – with temperatures of up to 35C – has led to melting of permafrost in Yamalo-Nenets and other regions…

Officials say 1,200 reindeer have died in recent days, evidently through a combination of infection from anthrax, and the heatwave – unprecedented in living memory.

RTFA for beaucoup detail and history. Not the greatest translation to English; but, completely understandable. Reflecting on problems coming from melting permafrost, this is one that never occurred to me. Whatever is happening in the Siberian Arctic is certainly likely to be mirrored in the US and Canadian Arctic and well as other nations with far northern reaches.