Scientists developing formula to determine how often life will emerge in the universe

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Jul 6, 2016

A team of scientists is developing a new equation designed to determine the chances of life existing elsewhere in the universe.

Gizmodo reports Caleb Scharf from Columbia Astrobiology Center and Leroy Cronin from the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow are working on a new formula that could eventually be utilized to predict the frequency with which alien planets could experience an origin-of-life event, aka abiogenesis. Put simply: It could allow scientists to project the frequency with which life could develop on other planets. The formula isn’t quite there yet, but the team hopes it’ll help spur additional study of life-causing events on alien worlds.

The equation focuses on the chemical building blocks typically needed for life to emerge, and essentially aims to go deeper than the Drake Equation, which scientists have been using since the early 1960s.

If you’re mathematically inclined, here’s how the formula breaks down:

Nabiogenesis (t) = Liklihood of origin of life events
Nb = Number of potential building blocks
No = Mean number of building blocks per organism, or biochemically significant system
fc = Fractional availability of building blocks during Time t
Pa = Probability of assembly per unit time

In the coming years, scientists will be using the James Webb Telescope and MIT’s Tess Mission (Translating ExtraSolar planet Survey mission) to try and fill in more of the gaps in the formula. But, this could certainly be a major step in the right direction.

(Via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Gizmodo)