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How Earth's Biosignature Will Change As the Planet Dies

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the we'll-have-to-start-forging-another-planet's-biosignature dept.

Earth 95

KentuckyFC writes "As the Sun expands into a red giant, life on Earth will die away. Now astrobiologists have worked out how this will look to distant observers watching the biosignature in our atmosphere. They say the first major effect of warming, about 1 billion years from now, will be a dramatic drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide as the oceans absorb more of it. That's bad news for trees and plants, which need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, so they begin to die off. Since plants produce oxygen, atmospheric levels of oxygen will also drop, killing off the animals. Roughly 2 billion years from now, the only living things on Earth will be microbes. However, methane levels will have risen dramatically, caused by decaying plant matter. And decaying animals will release a gas called methanethiol, which breaks down into ethane, which ought to be visible too. Finally, they calculate that about 3 billion years from now, the oceans will boil and Earth will be a barren planet with little if any biosignature at all. But all this is not just a subject of morbid fascination. With the next generation of space telescopes, astronomers should see similar biosignatures on Earth-like planets around other stars that are also beyond their sell-by dates. So we'll be able to watch them die off first."

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Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

PaulBu (473180) | about a year ago | (#45304929)

Should become nice and warm, I hope! ;)

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45305523)

Will we be moving from planet to planet as the sun expands? Earth to Mars, Mars to Jupiter (or its moons), there to Saturn & so on?

Unlike w/ software, where people/organizations may sometimes skip a generation, that won't be an option here. People would have to move to the nearest habitable planet. One good thing - real estate should be a lot cheaper there, since each of these planets will be much larger. Of course, that may also depend on how much of it would be under water, or whatever its 'equivalent' would be on those planets

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

Saethan (2725367) | about a year ago | (#45307799)

Pfft, haven't you seen Dr. Who? We'll have force-field satellites that keep planets in living condition until they are no longer deemed useful. And the sole remaining human will be a sack of skin.

I seem to recall reading that the sun should expand to about 1.3AU, Mars is 1.38 AU right now, though it should drift a little further as the sun's gravity field weakens. It might still be a little toasty, so slinging some asteroids together in the asteroid belt might be nice.

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45332943)

> And the sole remaining human will be a sack of skin

I prefer the term "bitchy trampoline", thank you.

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#45307973)

One good thing - real estate should be a lot cheaper there, since each of these planets will be much larger.

Gravity. You can't stand it!

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year ago | (#45308713)

Exactly, not to mention Jupiter is classified as a gas giant primarily composed of hydrogen. So indeed, not that many planets are suitable even with life support like it would be required on a moon base.

Even staying on a moon for a while might screw you up due to low gravity. Astronauts that come back from a reduced time International Space Station mission lose bone mass and it can take them up to 6 months to recover it when they come back to Earth.

I guess life support would have to provide artificial gravity which is possible with a centrifugal device.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter [wikipedia.org]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_gravity [wikipedia.org]

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#45312943)

Or we could simply accept that bodies adapted to Earth are a liability anywhere else. We could fortify them to solve such problems. Or, if it turns out human mind is indeed a Turing machine, upload them. A far-future humanity could well live in spaceborn datacenters and central computers of robots and spaceships.

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45309683)

One good thing - real estate should be a lot cheaper there, since each of these planets will be much larger.

Gravity. You can't stand it!

And why exactly do you think these planets will be getting larger?

The expansion of the sun will have no effect on the diameter of the planet's orbiting it.

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45310037)

The is a good demonstration on why the English language is a horrible abomination that should be left on Earth when the sun expands.

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#45310805)

I'm pretty sure he was referring to finding planets (that are also larger) before Earth is no longer habitable. He failed to take account that people would most like weigh a lot due to a larger planet being more massive.

If anything looking at it would be a tease, but wouldn't do any good if you weigh 3x as much as you would on Earth for example.

Re: Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45322747)

I don't know who you were responding to - the parent, or the GP (me), but if it's the latter, when did I say the planets will be getting larger? I'm talking about planets already larger than the earth - like Mars. I wasn't thinking of Jupiter or Saturn, where the gravity would indeed be a lot more, but rather their moons, which are larger than the earth, but the gravity would be comparable

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45309093)

Not necessary. As the sun expands, it's habitable zone not only moves out but also grows. Everywhere from Mars to Saturn should be habitable at the same time.

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45322743)

I doubt it. Like if Uranus is habitable, it's likely that Mars will be too hot at the same time - like Mercury is now

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45312589)

Free worlds will happen long before that...if we survive.
A classic supergiant free space "world" roughly the size and mass of 50 Icarus class asteroids would be self sustaining (assuming nuclear fusion can be licked) long before we can move all mankind, or even a significant fraction, to a terraformed Mars. Jupiter is out, too much gas to ever clear, the moons are out, the radiation belt is instantly lethal. Saturns moons will be too far away even long after Earth is a roasted chestnut in the fire.
So, think Babylon 5 x 1000 with engines and you get the idea.

Why another planet? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#45305823)

If we get enough know-how, we can just build our own habitable spaces in space itself...

Re:Why another planet? (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45306541)

If we don't die off in a billion years. In a billion years I'm sure we'll have infected most of the solar system with life.

Re:Will we move to Mars by then? ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45309631)

If we live long enough of this as a species we will have long since hit the singularity and become basically ageless and immortal and no doubt discovered some wormhole technology and be gallivanting around the cosmos.

Watch them die off? (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#45304985)

You mean we will watch how they died off millions of years ago, right?

Re:Watch them die off? (2)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45305041)

The furthest planet that we have found yet is 21,500 ± 3,300 light years away according to Wikipedia. Unless they are going to get far better telescopes, I don't think it will be millions of years old.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#45305171)

Some men just wants to see the world burn.
Who cares about what world and when.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

fisted (2295862) | about a year ago | (#45305515)

No. Independent of how long it takes for that information to reach us, what we receive is the original information so we do watch them die off. Right now (i.e. then).

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#45305733)

Yeah, time travel is hell on verb tenses, and looking out across vast distances of space is like a kind of time travel, as you're looking back in time. But despite that you're looking into the past, you're doing the looking right now. You even though it happened then, you're watching it happen now. It's true that you're watching what happen*ed*, but you're actually watching it happen. You're watching it happen now, even though it's not happening now, because by looking back in time, you're watching then now.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about a year ago | (#45305981)

When will then be now? [youtube.com]

But no really, I think it's only a matter of time before we overcome the conceit that the speed of light is inexorably tied to causality.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#45306471)

Soon.

Re:Watch them die off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45343607)

This seems like a good time to make a comment on your signature:

General Relativity: Space-time tells matter where to go; Matter tells space-time what shape to be.

Matter tells matter where to go; spacetime in GR is just a useful tool for modelling what matter is *in*; spacetime itself has no substance or useful meaning if there is no energy content (i.e., matter) within it. That is the conclusion from the resolution(s) of the Hole Argument -- the manifold is just a structure to support systems of coordinates, and coordinates aren't relevant unless they describe events, and events are only meaningful when they involve matter (and ideally clocks).

Matter here is highly general - any quantum or classical field content with nonzero total energy counts; in models like the de Sitter and Anti-de Sitter universes, the cosmological constant counts as "matter" in this sense.

"What shape to be" is only a partially a useful analogy arising from the model of spacetime as a smooth pseudo-Riemannian manifold. It's valid enough to think of spacetime having curvature globally and locally with matter defining taht curvature, however as GR really lends itself to mental flexibility in choices of coordinates and units, it is just as valid (and more enlightening) to think of curvature not as a real warping of spacetime but rather a deformation of a set of coordinates necessary in order to use them to describe a series of interactions consistently where real gravitation is non-negligible or where one chooses to model accelerations as (nonnegligible) psesudo-gravitation.

Interactions happen between matter and matter; as far as we know, no interaction has challenged the fundamental postulate of GR that such interactions have some universal speed limit that all observers in all situations would agree upon. That light moves at that speed is coincidental in GR (it's fundamental to special relativity, though, which lets one use easier maths when one is not dealing with accelerations from (pseudo-)gravitation etc.); GR allows for the ultimate democratization of speed limits - any field's particle content can have its own equivalent of a "light cone", which can be less than c (as all have been so far) or equal to c, or even greater than c.

However, SR falls to pieces in the presence of matter-matter interactions which outrun the speed of light. While GR was built with retaining SR as valid in special circumstances, it would have no problem with superluminal interactions, so long as the mediators obey some universal speed limit of their own. (It could be arbitrarily high in principle). That said, a failure of SR would make a complete mess of high energy physics which would in turn undermine whatever confidence there is in cosmological models that rely upon an understanding of the Cosmic Microwave Background that is based on c being the top speed limit for all matter-matter interactions (in particular those involving hot ions). It would however be neat to theorize about a "tachyonic" sector as well as the dark matter and dark energy sectors, when it comes to the energy content of the universe.

A trivial way of considering curved paths in spacetime (which is homeomorphic to straight paths in curved spacetime) is to draw a standard 2-d graph with the x axis as time in seconds and the y axis as height above the surface of the earth in light-seconds (well, technically, setting c=1 and choosing units of c*second). Now throw a ball into the air. It might travel a few seconds, but only tiny fraction of a light-second. That is travel through spacetime. That the plot starts at y=0 and returns to y=0 is an example of a curved trajectory. It is not spacetime itself that is causing that curvature, but the interaction between the various bits of matter involved, including the planet (and its gravitation), the ball, your arm, the air, and so forth. The gravitation of the planet dominates the y values; a more massive planet would mean a less curved plot. We could equivalently turn this around and plot a straight line trajectory with curvilinear coordinates that shows off spacetime curvature's effect on roughly inertial motion (one could do it with Rindler or Fermi coordinates, for example).

So, "space-time is what you use to describe where matter is; matter tells matter where to go".

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45307027)

But no really, I think it's only a matter of time before we overcome the conceit that the speed of light is inexorably tied to causality.

It's not the conceit you need to worry about. It's the evidence.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45306565)

Except in General Relativity, something that happened 1 million years ago and 1 million light years away is happening now in the real, but non-intuitive, sense of "now". Our intuitions about time and distance are Newtonian, and not all that helpful at other scales.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

Vaphell (1489021) | about a year ago | (#45315915)

yes, but it is a bit unintuitive but not that hard to grasp. It's one of the easiest parts of general relativity to understand.

there is no universal time scale and the reason is the speed of light being the hard cap. To make observations about chronology in the universal sense you'd have to be theoretically able to travel instantly to any point in the universe to witness simultaneous events as they happen or the information about these events would have to be able to propagate instantly so you can perceive them as simultaneous from any point in the universe. We know that can't happen - information and everything else can travel at c at best. That means that every point in universe has its unique frame of reference with its own meaning of 'before', 'after' and 'now'. 'Now' is when the info about the event moving with the speed of light like a shockwave throughout the universe reaches the observer and there is no sense in mixing other frames of reference when talking about your own. It's a million years old event there, but it's happening NOW here. The end.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45327801)

Well, I don't know. Relativity doesn't require ideas such as a universal clock or some universally common frame of reference, but there is one nevertheless. When speaking of some event 1 million years ago and 1 million LY away, both concepts of time are meaningful.

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45306579)

Look at your hand. That's not your hand now, that's your hand a tiny fraction of a second ago.

Re:Watch them die off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45306867)

Look again. You hand is now diamonds!

Re:Watch them die off? (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about a year ago | (#45308745)

Misery loves company

1B a lot of time for human squabbling (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#45305061)

More than likely, we'll WMD ourselves into microbes by then.

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#45306269)

More likely climate change will make the planet uninhabitable within the next few hundred years.

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45307051)

Nobody has indicated a scenario by which this could happen. At a long term temperature sensitivity of 3C per doubling and three doublings in half a millennium, you still are speaking of a mere 9C increase over today, most of which would occur in the colder parts of the world. It's not going to make the world uninhabitable.

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (2)

Yomers (863527) | about a year ago | (#45307587)

Nobody has indicated a scenario by which this could happen.

Wrong - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_climate_change#Current_risk [wikipedia.org]

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45307675)

Ok, where? I just see at that Wikipedia article a bit of discussion about James Hansen claiming that temperature sensitivity could suddenly jump a slight bit above the current range with his usual lack of justification for why that would happen. He routinely claims disaster scenarios with little to no justification.

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (2)

Yomers (863527) | about a year ago | (#45307815)

One more article on the topic
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v6/n8/full/ngeo1892.html [nature.com]
"A runaway greenhouse could in theory be triggered by increased greenhouse forcing, but anthropogenic emissions are probably insufficient."

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (2)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#45307591)

There is some good science supporting this... if you believe in science. If you're a denier then keep your head in the sand.
From the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences":
"We found that a 21-degree warming would put half of the world's population in an uninhabitable environment,"says study co-author Matthew Huber of Purdue University. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the result of business-as-usual warming would be 7 degrees by 2100, eventual warming over several centuries of 25 degrees is feasible, says Huber. The new research calculated the highest tolerable "wet-bulb" temperature that humans can withstand."
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/05/report-climate-change-could-render-much-of-world-uninhabitable/1#.UnRNdCS-Pfk [usatoday.com]
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/earth-may-be-too-hot-for-humans-by-2300-study-1970969.html [independent.co.uk]

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45307845)

Another example backing my statement. Note here that the IPCC doesn't even have justification for the 7 F (or 4C) increase by the end of 2100! That claim is based on models which are already overstating temperature increases.

And a 21 F (12 C) degree warming in three centuries? Where's that coming from? We're not burning enough fossil fuels now to make the necessary number of doublings. That means we have to see enough of an increase in methane, CFCs, or other greenhouse gases to make it.

Looks like more FUD from the climate change propaganda machine to me.

Re:1B a lot of time for human squabbling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45309643)

Bullshit, we will have long since solved the energy problem. We already have the technology, thorium (and other nuclear sources), solar, geothermal. Climate change won't wipe us out. Now a big ass asteroid, that could wipe us out, but climate change won't do it. We're the roaches of the mammalian world.

Watch the sun instead. (1)

Todd Palin (1402501) | about a year ago | (#45305097)

If the sun is turning into a red giant and toasting our planet to a cinder, the biosignature of earth is a tiny footnote to the real event. Who cares if the plants die of a lack of CO2 right before they are incinerated? The main event is the star.

Re:Watch the sun instead. (2)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#45305327)

The sun's death will be a very slow one. Also, it's important to remember the scale of things. By the time the sun 'engulfs' the inner planets, its atmosphere will still be extremely diffuse near the Earth's orbit. Much closer to a vacuum than what we think of as an atmosphere.

Re:Watch the sun instead. (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45307079)

The researchers think differently and I agree with them here. There are a huge number of stars slowly going through the early stages of becoming a red giant right now. It's quite possible that none of those stars have ever had life.

Re:Watch the sun instead. (1)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#45307959)

The Sun has been getting hotter since its birth, with a 25% increase in output so far. It'll continue getting hotter until the oceans boil and the Earth is uninhabitable. The numbers I've heard are closer to a billion years vs the 3 billion in the summary.
The reason for the increased output is that as the Sun ages, it converts hydrogen into helium and gets denser, being denser it burns hotter therefore converting more hydrogen into helium. Eventually in about 5 billion years it'll run short of hydrogen, start fusing helium and expand into the red giant phase.

Re:Watch the sun instead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45310517)

Right, my early classes said the same. Hansen's early classes probably said the same, so man, is the cause of global warming. Now I look at the science funding of universities, and the funding of chairs, in economics, and politics and I say, and their investments....global warming, deniers, and the robbing of their pocketbooks. When that should have been a government issue of survival.

Error. (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#45305103)

The original paper [arxiv.org] on the very first page of the introduction, says atmospheric CO2 drawdown will reduce CO2 concentration in the oceans, not increase absorption. The latter doesn't make sense anyway, because the solubility of CO2 goes down as temperature goes up.

Re:Error. (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#45305243)

I assume they mean indirectly absorb CO2, but good catch.

Re:Error. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45306093)

I thought that at high temperatures, what increases is the absorption of CO2 by Earth's crust, not its concentration in the seas? There's supposed to be a negative feedback loop (which is why historically, atmospheric CO2 has been steadily decreasing through the ages in line with the Sun steadily brightening).

Re:Error. (1)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45306647)

That's more to do with the amount of exposed rock vs rock covered by ice. Rock weathering is the only carbon cycle that matters on geological scales.

Re:Error. (1)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#45307995)

Actually the way the continent[s] are laid out really affects the rock weathering as the Earth doesn't usually have icy poles.
Super continents have a dry interior, land mass mostly distributed north and south catch more rain, varying amounts of mountains, the depth of the oceans and so on all affect the climate over geological time.

Re:Error. (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#45305533)

Wonder what effect it will have on the underground biosphere.

Re:Error. (1)

khayman80 (824400) | about a year ago | (#45307849)

Error. The original paper [arxiv.org] [arxiv.org] on the very first page of the introduction, says atmospheric CO2 drawdown will reduce CO2 concentration in the oceans, not increase absorption. The latter doesn't make sense anyway, because the solubility of CO2 goes down as temperature goes up. [Jane Q. Public] [slashdot.org]

Presumably you're referring to these sentences:

"Rising temperatures cause silicate weathering rates to increase, increasing CO2 draw-down, lowering CO2 levels in the atmosphere. This results in conditions that are increasingly unsuited to (higher) plant life (Lovelock & Whitfield 1982; Caldeira & Kasting 1992). During the CO2 decline, rapid ocean evaporation would not yet have begun. From Henry's Law, a reduction in atmospheric CO2 would lead to a reduction in the CO2 levels in the surface ocean, while increased silicate weathering could potentially lead to increased carbonate deposition."

There's no error here. As the Earth warms, more ice melts which exposes more silicate rocks. As the temperature increases, these rocks react faster with CO2. This sequesters carbon in the rocks, decreasing the partial pressure of atmospheric CO2, which decreases CO2 in the ocean via Henry's Law [wikipedia.org] , as the text mentions.

Lgw correctly pointed out [slashdot.org] that on geological timescales, rock weathering is Earth's thermostat:

Warm the Earth and rock weathering speeds up, reducing atmospheric CO2 which slows the warming. (Of course, the end-Permian [wikipedia.org] shows that this feedback takes millions of years to kick in.)

Cool the Earth and rock weathering slows down, eventually stopping when Earth turns into a snowball where all rocks are covered by ice. Eventually, enough CO2 builds up to thaw the snowball. (Of course, Snowball Earth [wikipedia.org] shows that this feedback takes millions of years to kick in.)

Re:Error. (1)

khayman80 (824400) | about a year ago | (#45308425)

Oh, I see. You were responding to the Slashdot summary [slashdot.org] which wrongly claims that "the first major effect of warming, about 1 billion years from now, will be a dramatic drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide as the oceans absorb more of it."

You were right to point out this error. The summary should say land, not ocean. Sorry for the interruption.

Too Much Personification (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305111)

Makes it seem like we're sociopaths. Also Alpha..if it takes 2 billion years to die off that's a pretty decent window. 1/9 the age of the universe is a pretty good length of time. Especially when you consider the beginning of Universe type galaxies and the absense of clusters...

Missed a step concerning CO2 (1)

erice (13380) | about a year ago | (#45305209)

This signature is set to change dramatically in future. As the Sun begins to heat the planet, one of the counterintuitive effects will be a dramatic drop in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This happens because more carbon dioxide dissolves in the oceans making them acidic and reacting with rocks to form clays. Essentially, the carbon becomes trapped in sediment on the ocean floors.

So, why would the oceans absorb more CO2? Other sources tell me that warming oceans would absorb less CO2 [rtcc.org] . Why would this happen in reverse in the far future? That seems important since it sets up the rest of the process.

Re:Missed a step concerning CO2 (1)

suutar (1860506) | about a year ago | (#45305655)

The summary is misunderstanding/misquoting the paper. The paper says that increased heat will increase silicate weathering, which results in more carbonate deposits; part of that is pulling CO2 out of the air. The reduction in atmospheric CO2 will allow more CO2 to come out of the ocean, but that'll get fixed into carbonates too.

Re:Missed a step concerning CO2 (1)

erice (13380) | about a year ago | (#45305863)

Still needs more comparative analysis though. Venus is much hotter than Earth. Why hasn't the CO2 in Venus's atmosphere been sucked into carbonates?

Re:Missed a step concerning CO2 (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45306639)

There are no oceans on Venus. Oceans of lead maybe, but not oceans of water.

Re:Missed a step concerning CO2 (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#45305919)

Yeah, the summary is crap. The original paper notes the oceans become more alkaline, contradicting your quoted text regarding them becoming acidic.

Only 1 Billion? (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#45305229)

I had no idea it was that close. I had never read anything about when the sun would be significantly effecting life, just that in 3-4 the planet would unlivable.

1 Billion is pretty small in planetary time, we are in the twilight of earth's life supporting existence, you could say.

Re:Only 1 Billion? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45306771)

Yep, life's been here 3.5 billion years, we're getting a little long in the tooth. But a billion years gives us time to expand; how long did it take life to completely colonize the planet? [wikipedia.org] Who knows, life from Earth could be riding on one of the Voyagers.

Re:Only 1 Billion? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#45307553)

Great pains are taken to ensure that doesn't happen. Most space organizations are VERY concerned with the possibility of accidentally infecting some other world with our spew. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, it would be better if they didn't try so hard.

Who's to say that some random bacteria won't evolve eventually into something more worth of the beautiful thing called life than we are.

Before my son was born, I thought we should be masters of the universe.

Now, I find it odd that I suddenly value even pond scum and virii. I for some reason seem to understand a little better that all life is interwoven in the cosmos and that its all beautiful. Or at least I think I understand. I really don't. I just hate the idea of death and ceasing to exist now more than ever.

Re:Only 1 Billion? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45311147)

Yes, they are indeed careful, infecting, say, Mars would certainly screw up the search for life.

Or at least I think I understand. I really don't.

Knowing you are ignorant is wisdom.

I just hate the idea of death and ceasing to exist now more than ever.

Well, not existing for 13 billion years didn't bother you, did it? And how do you know that death is the end, rather than a transformation?

Makes intelligent life an accident (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305247)

It took 4.5 billion years out of a 5.5 billion year window for intelligent life to evolve.

That has to signficantly reduce the odds of finding other intelligent species.

Re:Makes intelligent life an accident (1)

Urkki (668283) | about a year ago | (#45306127)

Sample size of one does not give any odds for intelligent life elsewhere, nor any timescale prediction. We know hardly anything about life on Earth for the first 3,5 billion years, we have very few data points, so we can't even estimate how long it "should" have taken to evolve here.

Re:Makes intelligent life an accident (0)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#45306257)

Not so intelligent.
At the rate we are going, the planet will be uninhabitable for human species in a few hundred years.

Re:Makes intelligent life an accident (1)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#45308085)

What makes you think the AC was talking about humanity?

How uplifting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305325)

Well, thanks, Slashdot. First we get a story about a fucked-up asshole shooting up a TSA line full of innocent people at LAX, so to follow it up, we obviously need an uplifting story about how all life on earth will be eradicated by the inevitable end-of-life of our sun!

Re: How uplifting! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305689)

It will be the end of the TeaBag Party. That's uplifting.

Re: How uplifting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305767)

It should be comforting to remember they probably feel the same way about trolls like you.

Re:How uplifting! (2)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45306399)

If it's any comfort your own personal end of life will happen long before that.

Re:How uplifting! (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year ago | (#45306795)

Speak for yourself.

Re:How uplifting! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45306983)

Oh here we go, another one who plans on living forever. That just means you're young. It comes around a lot faster than people think, but usually not fast enough that you don't run out of money first.

CO2 uptake by warm oceans? (1)

PermacultureEngineer (2712673) | about a year ago | (#45305583)

The bit about having all the CO2 absorbed by the oceans doesn't make a lot of sense. Water can dissolve more (soluble) solids as the temp increases, but the solubility of gasses goes DOWN with increasing temperature. Not that I would expect the reporter to know this or ask about it - it isn't Ars, after all.

Proof Positive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305719)

There is nothing we can do about global warming, and so we shouldn't be destroying the world economy to fight it.

It's too bad (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#45305749)

This really is too bad. Not that the Earth is going to die, but that humanity does not possess the necessary skills in cooperation and teamwork to move our collective asses somewhere else before it happens.

Re:It's too bad (1)

Urkki (668283) | about a year ago | (#45306255)

This really is too bad. Not that the Earth is going to die, but that humanity does not possess the necessary skills in cooperation and teamwork to move our collective asses somewhere else before it happens.

Time scale check. Life on Earth has enough time left to be wiped down to cockroaches and re-evolve to intelligence. Also, humanity will not do something like that as a whole. All it takes is a few hyper-rich to get their kicks out of becoming the pioneer visionaries, written down to history like Aristotle or Confucius or Buddha. A few centuries at most for self-sufficient space colonies (if we survive that long).

Re:It's too bad (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#45307503)

Time scale check. Life on Earth has enough time left to be wiped down to cockroaches and re-evolve to intelligence.

Thousands of times.

Re:It's too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45307893)

Probably not. The first land animals are thought to have appeared around 500 million years ago and the first creatures resembling insets (relatively) shortly after that. Even if we assume that intelligence evolved much slower that it could have the first time around, I wouldn't expect it to evolve more than a few times (from primitive land animals) in only a billion years. To happen "thousands of times" would require cockroaches to evolve to intelligence in less than a million years.

Go47 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305781)

are a pat4etic

Happy Friday (1)

rigelstar (243170) | about a year ago | (#45306059)

Party like its 1000002013!

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45306377)

These are the same scientists who predicted a horrible, horrible hurricane season this year, due to "global warming"?

Re:Yeah (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45307073)

These are the same scientists who predicted a horrible, horrible hurricane season this year, due to "global warming"?

I suspect not.

Carbon capture (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45307215)

Even without heating, the concentration of CO2 has been steadily dropping over geological history. This is due to organic sediments that are pulled away from the surface by the tectonic activity. Occassionaly these rise to the surface but only as stones (calcium-carbonate mountains). CO2 is replenished by vulcanism which was probably much violent in the past.
Once oceans boil, tectonic activity will stop (yes, oceans are responsible for plate tectonics) and earth will become more like venus (geologically) - a volcanic turmoil every 300 million years that recreates the surface.

We have 1 BN years to make earth reflect more sunlight though..and we could produce carbon-dioxide from CaCO3. There is time to save the earth, at least until the sun expands.

Water is wet (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#45307497)

Look, it didn't take a research project to figure it out either!

Whew! (1)

fullback (968784) | about a year ago | (#45308403)

When I first read this I sat straight up in my chair because thought it said one million years, then realized it said one billion years.

Re:Whew! (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about a year ago | (#45315333)

On the other hand, if we're not able to do something to survive these sorts of things by a million years from now, I doubt another 999 million will help.

...we'll be able to watch them die off first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45309453)

"With the next generation of space telescopes, astronomers should see similar biosignatures on Earth-like planets around other stars that are also beyond their sell-by dates. So we'll be able to watch them die off first."

That's very comforting. It's always better to not be the one dying.

Huh? Earth will be lifeless in a billion years. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | about a year ago | (#45309763)

That's when the temperature will have risen enough due to the sun increasing in luminosity to preclude liquid water on Earths surface.

move the Earth (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a year ago | (#45310161)

Niven's World out of Time story had a plausible method for boosting the Earth to a higher orbit. Drag it behind a gas giant. Moving the gas giant itself was a bit more of a problem, but he had this magical planetary sized fusion rocket motor that used the gas of the gas giant as its fuel. His Known Space and Ringworld stories have the Puppeteer civlization's planets on an interstellar trip powered by some magical motor provided by extremely advanced aliens.

Don't know if the energy required to move the Earth would be better spent on terraforming efforts. Probably would be. But if not, and assuming we don't kill ourselves off, our descendents, Homo Sapiens XLII or whatever, will probably find a way to move the Earth.

Re:move the Earth (1)

Agripa (139780) | about a year ago | (#45313369)

Niven's World out of Time story had a plausible method for boosting the Earth to a higher orbit. Drag it behind a gas giant. Moving the gas giant itself was a bit more of a problem, but he had this magical planetary sized fusion rocket motor that used the gas of the gas giant as its fuel.

And then the Girls screwed it up and parked Earth in the wrong orbit. Even in the future there is a place for women drivers.

It's another NatGeo special (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#45311239)

"The world will be wonderful after all the people are dead" Tuesday night @9pm after "Fat Stupid Rednecks Digging Random Shit Out Of the Ground"

One Benefit (1)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about a year ago | (#45311343)

As the sun becomes bigger in mass. All those invested solar panels will pay off.

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