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back to article Boffins: Earth will be habitable for only 1.75 BEEELLION more years

Unless we meddlesome humans – or our follow-on Earth inhabitants – muck up our planet with a nuclear holocaust, runaway greenhouse emissions, or some other ecological disaster, our 4.54-billion-year-old home should be habitable for at least the next 1.75 billion years. Well, there's always the possibility of chance encounter …

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You know, sometimes when I'm stuck on a complex challenge at work I think that instead of engineering, I should have gone into a field where my work couldn't be falsified. If I'm wrong something heavy is going to fall a long way down. If he's wrong, or right, it doesn't matter, he can't be proven wrong. That is unless Sergey and Co really outperform expectations.

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ahhhh Don, sounds like you should be a religious leader!

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but what about us?

How long do homo sapiens have left? We have never been very god at getting along with each other and at taking care of things; it can't be much longer, and remember whoever they are they will not take long to add us to the 'extinct' list, you know, being human and all; or rather better than human, obviously.

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Re: but what about us?

We have never been very god at getting along with each other and at taking care of things

What a wonderfully apt typo!

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Re: but what about us?

On the other hand, so far humanity has a 100% success rate at not getting extinct.

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Re: but what about us?

"On the other hand, so far humanity has a 100% success rate at not getting extinct."

That would depend if you factor Neanderthals and other non Homo sapien into the definition of "Human", being we are the only remaining species of Hominid. Arguably in fact we're rather bad as a species (Homo sapiens species including homo sapien idaltu, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and arguably Homo rhodesiensis would come under the homo sapien species too).

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Mushroom

WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!

Well, there's always the possibility of chance encounter with some wandering asteroid

Over the course of 1.75 beeellion years the probability is scarily close to one.

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Re: WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!

Actually, well over a dozen dinosaur killers and spare change, dozens of smaller ones as well.

Meanwhile, his number doesn't match every other prediction made on Insolation increase. As in at 0.75 billion years, humanity could not survive at our current technological level and at one billion years, vertebrata cannot survive and it's at 1.75 billion years that the most primitive single cell organisms can no longer survive.

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Re: WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!

Life survived the last dinosaur killer, and over time (at least on this billion year scale) there will be fewer asteroids of that size becoming a danger, as they've either been perturbed by Jupiter and ejected from the solar system, or already hit something and broken up.

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Big Brother

Re: WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!

....at one billion years, vertebrata cannot survive and it's at 1.75 billion years that the most primitive single cell organisms can no longer survive.....

so how long after that will politcians become extinct?

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Go

Gliese 581d, getting there

The linked article suggests that "our present rocket technology would take 300,000 years" to get a spaceship from here to Gliese 581d. This means that for the remainder of Earth's habitable time we can get from here to Gliese 581d and back again nearly 3000 times! Maybe the first couple of there-and-back journeys should be unmanned probes, even so we've got ample opportunity to start gathering detailed information about conditions there and plan for colonisation. Let's get started!

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Re: Gliese 581d, getting there

We don't need 3000 trips, we only need a single one way trip. Sending ~1000 people with sufficient genetic diversity would work. They might take a few thousand years to get up to current levels of technology, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd be willing to take on the challenge. Actually we'd probably be OK sending a team of a few dozen females and a few thousand fertilized eggs, if you want to keep down the size of the ship given that we're unlikely to be able to travel anywhere near c for a while, if ever. Of course we'd want to send crews more than one planet, in case when we arrive we find it is already occupied by people who don't like houseguests, or creatures that make velicoraptors look like koala bears by comparison.

Not that I think it is too likely that humanity goes extinct. Sure a big asteroid could put a massive dent in our civilization, but won't kill us all unless something knocked the Moon into us again. The idea that CO2 could cause us to shorten the timespan that the Earth can support life is laughable to the extreme. Even if we melted every bit of ice on the planet it will still support life - this exact thing has happened naturally several times in the past and while we might render more species extinct making it happen more quickly than it happened naturally in the past, we aren't going to kill them all. Those species that have been around essentially unchanged for a quarter billion years like cockroaches and crocodiles are not going to care what we do to the climate, and our technology will let us survive any level of climate change (at a reduced population if necessary, so it may not be pretty, but we'll survive just fine)

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Pint

Re: Gliese 581d, getting there

"Sending ~1000 people with sufficient genetic diversity would work."

We send the Hair Dressers and the Telephone Sanitizers - right?

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Alien

Re: Gliese 581d, getting there

"creatures that make velicoraptors look like koala bears by comparison."

I take it you're not aquainted with the Ob'enn, then?

Velocirapters, pah.

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Unhappy

Re: Gliese 581d, getting there

Do you really believe the current state of Human management (Government) will allow 1,000 people to fly off into space to get a millennia long 'head start' colonizing another planet? Privately funded or not government insecurities would prevent any such mission from succeeding. You're also assuming there aren't already beings living there.

The Star Trek take on things isn't perfect but they are right about the entire social structure of Earth having to change radically before the species can begin to really explore the galaxy. As it stands right now even a global collaborative effort would be rigged by every major participant from the start. The Chinese would have a secret mission to take over the project at the first chance, as would the US, EU, Russians, Japanese, Brazilians, etc... Everybody jockeying for a prize that isn't really a prize at all. But try convincing politicians of that or military leaders.

Such an endevour could never succeed without global participation and right now people are too greedy, cowardly and stupid to pull it off. As the Vulcans say, Humans are not ready yet. It sucks, but everytime you hear someone rail against social welfare programs, abstract or subtract morality as a means to an end or 'not personal' or support going to war over some perceived threat it only proves the point.

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Re: Gliese 581d, getting there

I think the issue was "sufficient genetic diversity" :-)

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@Don Jefe

I wasn't suggesting we do it in the next couple decades. The Earth has 1.75 billion years, I think we can take our time on this since the odds of an extinction level event or something that turns back the clock on our technology level happening in the next few centuries or even few millenia are pretty tiny.

It probably would be done by some rich individual. The 24th century equivalents of the Gates spaceship, the Buffett spaceship, and the Jobs spaceship....spots are filling quickly, apply now!

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Unhappy

Baby Factory

"Actually we'd probably be OK sending a team of a few dozen females and a few thousand fertilized eggs"

I can't imagine ANY woman would volunteer for that!

"'ere luv, would you mind a one way trip to another planet where you'll be required to be constantly pregnant with 20 or so children back to back, then you got all the trouble of raising the little nippers"

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Anonymous Coward

OMG!! OMG!! OMG!!

Oh wait, 1.75 *Billion* years. For a second there I thought you said 1.75 Million years. Phew! I feel much better now.

(It's a very old joke.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OMG!! OMG!! OMG!!

1.75 billion years? We'll be lucky if the planet remains habitable for 175 years...

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Good news for the giant cockroaches who we'll be leaving the way clear for, soon enough. At this rate.

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There's a ton of bollocks in that article. For one thing, in a lot less than a million years from now we'll be able to incrementally bump out Earth's orbit as far as we like. Or two hundred million? Makes no difference. That resets the clock to 6 billion years. Everyone relax :).

But there's something else. Neglecting other catastrophes, an entire galaxy is headed our way at breakneck speed - Andromeda. ETA estimated at around 4 billion years

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andromeda%E2%80%93Milky_Way_collision

We may need to get galactic before then.

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And lucky us, we're more or less on the outer edge.

Beep beep!

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Anonymous Coward

"Neglecting other catastrophes, an entire galaxy..."

You do realise that being mostly made of... well... space, the probability of a galactic collision causing any harm to an individual star system is extremely low, don't you? All we will notice is more stars in the sky visible to the naked eye.

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M31 and our galaxy colliding is not really an issue, even for humans still living on Earth at that time; the majority of the volume of a galaxy is empty space (empty as in not occupied by planets or stars) and they will, pretty much, pass right through each other. There will be effects when looked at both galaxies as structures themselves but on the local, solar, level there would be little, if any, effects.

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Not necessarily. Galactic collisions lead to a burst of star formation, and short-lived large-mass stars explode magnificently, sterilising everything within a few light years with a burst of radiation. It could be that the super-future-robo humans living on XXXzzixki 211 in 4 billion years time will be irradiated.

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A lot less than that, if humans have their way.

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Hurry up?!?!

Who can we bomb?

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Don't care

I'm going to have Sublimed way before then

or perhaps I'll just have my conscience transferred to the GCU, Don't touch that button

(IMB sorely missed)

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Van

We're going nowhere. Resources and investment will be needed to stay alive here.

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It may not be humans that get to go ...

If the pace of advances in Robotics and AI continues to accelerate then we'll be sending droids, not humans. Fewer longevity issues and little to no habitat requirements.

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I had better hurry and sell my house ...

cash in while there is still someone who may want to buy it before it is destroyed.

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We'll be fine

People will start to live off the Earth in the next century or so, if there's WW3 then it'll take longer but by the time the game is up for Mother Earth humans will be all over the galaxy.

What will be interesting is that as each new world will have different environmental conditions the people living on them will evolve separately given enough time they'll all start to look quite different.

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Unhappy

Re: We'll be fine

Without a WWIII or some other massively culture solidifying event, no off planet Human habitation will be anything more than an forward operating base for whatever country's military establishes it. Barring a very public visit by Undocumented Space Travelers (UST's) or some event that causes such horror people give up on greed, nationalism and fear there's no hope of intrinsically valuable off world habitation for Humans.

Culturally we haven't changed much since our ancestors figured out more shiny rocks meant more food, more women, people would fight for him and less manual labor for himself. That's got to change first.

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Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

Will it be on the Thursday morning after 11'ish? As I have Round Table tea morning to attend and I would so hate to miss it.

Thanks.

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Re: Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

It will be a gradual shift where it will eventually become too rubbish to survive/stay.

The planet will still be around for another 3 billion years afterwards, will be as dry as Venus though.

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Re: Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

The planet will still be around for another 3 billion years afterwards, will be as dry as Venus though.

Is Venus particularly dry? I It has insanely thick clouds of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with a tiny percentage of water vapour, but the thickness of its atmosphere is so much I wouldn't describe it as dry.

Mercury is pretty dry.

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Happy

Re: Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

The Arctic is one of the driest places on Earth. Dehydration causes more workplace injury up there than exposure, even with billions of tons of water around. Point being, a dry atmosphere can occur even in the presence of massive quantities of the exact opposite of dry :)

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Re: Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

"It will be a gradual shift where it will eventually become too rubbish to survive/stay."

Like Manchester?

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Alien

Re: Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

> Will it be on the Thursday morning after 11'ish?

Yes, you will see the big yellow spaceships hanging in the sky just in the way that bricks don't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can you be more specific as to when the end will come...

"Will it be on the Thursday morning after 11'ish? As I have Round Table tea morning to attend and I would so hate to miss it."

All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout!

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There's a ton of bollocks in the article...

Thanks, Palf. Your comment puts things in a nutshell. Let's look at a few points...

"The Earth seems to be habitable for perhaps 6.29 billion years (Gyr), but this is excluding the influence of humans and our pesky habit of pumping extra CO2 into the atmosphere,"

Nonsense. Current science (though not the biased IPCC) clearly shows that extra CO2 changes little, and that little is likely to be beneficial.

Rushby suggests that future exoplanetary investigations – "or SETI campaigns" – might do well to focus on such planets, since the evolution of intelligent life is likely not a simple, few-billion-year affair.

An odd statement. We know that life started on our planet incredibly early. The earliest evidence for life found so far is in a 3.8 billion-year-old rock, the Isua sediments, found in western Greenland. So it appears life was underway at least within 700 million years of the formation of the Earth (4.5 billions years ago). Maybe life had an even earlier foothold on the planet but the traces have long since been wiped out.

...if we want to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, it would be wise to rigorously analyze planets that have been around for awhile for evidence of, for example, organisms that have altered their planet's biosignatures to such an extent that they could be detected across interstellar space, since those life forms would "undoubtedly require some level of complexity beyond that of simple replicating molecules."

Completely incorrect! For example, man has hardly altered the biosphere at all. In contrast, the early atmosphere had huge amounts of CO2 and NO oxygen. This was completely reversed by the activity of microbes, typically photosynthetic blue-green algae. Even today their impact on CO2 swamps human activity. And they have no intelligence.

If you want to detect intelligence, look for non-natural phenomena. Light from dark places, perhaps, or modulated radio waves.

So this paper seems to have got every aspect of the argument wrong...

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Re: There's a ton of bollocks in the article...

Two thumbs-down? Looks like we have some Young Earth Creationists here... :)

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Yag

Re: There's a ton of bollocks in the article...

Let's make it three then.

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Re: There's a ton of bollocks in the article...

Does that mean that you think blue-greens have intelligence?

Perhaps compared to yourself....?

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Re: There's a ton of bollocks in the article...

I was going to point out that the stromatolites changed the earth far more than humans have managed but you beat me to it. Thumbs up anyway and for the young earther observation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So this paper seems to have got every aspect of the argument wrong...

Maybe so, but why then do you seem to be pulling the reg's reporting apart rather than the paper itself?

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"comfortable digs on Hotel Earth"???

you have noticed Ryan Air took over the management a while back and its been getting a little shitty lately.

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1.75 billion years?

I better get my affairs in order then...

there I was reading them morning paper and boom whaddayaknow? the apocalypse and before lunch too!

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"Nonsense. Current science (though not the biased IPCC) clearly shows that extra CO2 changes little, and that little is likely to be beneficial."

Just like how current science tells us that theres ALSO a conspiracy of scientists to lie about evolution and how current science tells us we didnt really land on the moon?

"current science" is what the scientists say currently. And of that point, there is no doubt. Climate change is a real thing, confiirmed by thousands of separate data sources and almost the totality of the climate science research community.

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