The Scope of the Universe and Beating the Odds

thegalaxyIt never ceases to shatter my mind’s comprehension and ability to process things when I read that astronomers have found galaxies 800 million-years-old and that “pinpoints when an era called the reionization epoch likely began.”  I don’t even know what reionization means but it sure as hell sounds important.

My life has been a constant struggle against the futility of existence, that when you think about things like the universe being 800 million-years-old you begin to question your own insignificance.  Still, despite that, the odds of humans even existing in the first place is miraculous.  Let’s not even begin to talk about evolution how we went from single cell organism to complex animals to sentient beings.  That’s impressive.

So here’s the upshot: of the 4.6 Gy [gigayears] of Earth’s known history, there’s only been enough oxygen in the atmosphere for us to survive for about 0.5 Gy. For roughly 90% of the Earth’s history we couldn’t even breathe the air. And about 10-25% of the time, there have been ice ages so savagely fierce that the glaciers reached the tropics: odds are good that any meat probe landing on solid ground during these periods would rapidly die of exposure. So historically, Earth has only been inhabitable about 8% of the time — assuming you are lucky enough to find some solid ground. Once you factor in the random surface distribution, we’re down to about 2% survivability.”  Almost enough to make you believe in a divine being.  Almost, but not quite.

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