Researchers modeled different versions of our planet and ran them through a hundred different scenarios.
Scientists found that luck played a significant role in the Earth’s ability to maintain a habitable environment for the 3-4 billion years that are necessary for the evolution of complex life. This is reported by New Atlas.
Earth has not always been a pleasant place for life. Its history includes ice ages, times of active volcanism and even catastrophic asteroid strikes.
Cyclical mass extinctions and climate change have pushed life on Earth to the brink, but the planet has remained habitable for the last 3-4 billion years. That’s long enough for single-celled life forms to evolve into humans.
In a new study, Professor Toby Tyrrell of the University of Southampton decided to find out how the Earth managed to remain habitable and what role simple luck played. For his experiment, the professor used the Iridis supercomputer to simulate 100,000 different worlds. The scientist then modeled how their evolution was affected by climate change over 3 billion years.
According to the scientist, the evolution of each digital planet was simulated 100 times, with different random events in the worlds in each run.
Tyrrell said that out of 100 thousand simulated planets only one was able to maintain habitability in all 100 simulation scenarios. The other worlds, which could maintain a habitable temperature for 4 billion years, showed success only in some simulations, so they had a lower chance of developing life.
In addition, it was found that 9%, or 8,710 simulated planets could support life for 3 billion years in 100 different simulations. Of these, about 8,000 worlds had less than 50 out of 100 simulations and 4,500 planets had less than 10 out of 100 chances of success.
According to the author, Earth’s suitability for life was not a simple inevitability, but rather the planet and all the species living on it were statistically fortunate with respect to all environmental disasters.
“We now realize that the Earth has remained habitable for so long in part because of luck. For example, if a slightly larger asteroid had fallen to Earth or a collision had occurred at a different time, Earth might have lost its habitability altogether,” the scientist noted.