Scientists have calculated what it would take to sterilize the planet. No wait, stay with me! It’s not as morbid as it sounds!
Three scientists from Oxford and Harvard universities were interested in just what it would take to sterilize the Earth not just wipe out humanity, but get a really deep scrub in there and totally wipe out life.
What they found is that life could survive pretty much anything the universe is going to throw at us for at least 7.6 billion years.
To figure this out, they looked at the greatest survivors ever.
Not humans. Not sharks. Tardigrades .
Big, impressive life humans and whales and Tyrannosaurus rexes are actually kind of fragile. We depend on very specific surroundings to survive. But there are much tougher creatures out there, writhing around, like tardigrades.
Also known as water bears, these microscopic little guys are tough as fingernails. Tardigrades can be frozen, irradiated, starved for decades heck, they’ve even survived the vacuum of space!
After doing a bunch of math about radiation and pressure and other factors, the scientists determined the only way to wipe out these little buggers would be to boil the entire ocean. Let me repeat that: The only route to get rid of them is to simmer the ocean .
And simmering the ocean simply isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. You’d have to slam countries around the world with a genuinely gigantic asteroid, or make it with a supernova or an ultra-powerful gamma light explosion. The scientists did the math, and they say all of those are just too rare or too far away to matter to a tardigrade.
“Life, once it gets running, is hard to wipe out, ” study co-author Dr. David Sloan said in a press release.
Basically, life on Earth is likely going to survive as long as the sunshine does.
Unfortunately, there is an end point. In about 7.6 billion years, the sun’s going to evolve into a red giant star. At that point, it’ll either devour the Earth or be bright enough to, yes, boil the oceans.
That’s a long way away. Life had recently been on Ground for about 3.8 billion years multicellular life even less. In merely about 600 million years, we ran from worms to dinosaurs to Carl Sagan. Imagine what another 7.6 billion years will get us. Life on Earth hasn’t even hit middle age yet.
The researchers say this gives hope to the possibility of seeing life on other planets.
Perhaps the deep soils of Mars or the volcanic oceans of Europa or Enceladus have their own little microscopic Terminators too.
“If tardigrades are Earth’s most resilient species, who knows what else is out there, ” told Dr. Rafael Alves Batista, a co-author of the study .
That doesn’t mean we humen should take our sturdy little home for awarded, though.
Remember that tardigrades are little Terminators. We’re not. Human, it turns out, really like Earth the way it is now.
If we want to last as long as the tardigrades do, we have some run ahead of us like preparations for climate change, to defend the biosphere, and maybe keeping an eye out for some of those smaller asteroids.
But if these scientists are correct , no matter what, life on Earth is going to survive a long, long time.
So take that, universe, you’re stuck with us.
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