Statistics of One: What Earth Can and Can't Tell us About Life in the Universe.

Authors: Eric J. Korpela

Recent studies have attempted to extrapolate the abundance of life in the universe and the properties of such life from the history of life on Earth. A common "reasonable" assumption in such studies is that the history of life on earth is typical of life in the universe.(1) In this poster we examine the question of whether life on Earth is likely to be typical of life in the universe. In determining this we must consider that, as observers, we are biased by having only one example of life: the example that led to our evolution on a 4.5 billion year old earth. This "anthropic principle," is more accurately described as an anthropic bias, which alters the relationship between measured quanities such as evolutionary timescales and the distribution of values these quantities may have in reality. In some instances this bias can be quantified. We apply a statistical approach to quantifying this bias in the case of the timescales involved in abiogenesis and evolution of intelligent species.

Comments: 6 pages, 3 figures.

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[v1] 1 Aug 2011

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