Rare Earth: more evidence

I keep a running list of the reasons why we should consider Earth as rare in the Universe.

Two additions I’ve recently added are this:

• Theia’s impact delivered more than just iron and nickel to Earth’s core (producing an extra large magnetosphere) but also (probably) delivered additional carbon, nitrogen and sulfur — chemicals which, like oxygen and hydrogen, are volatile and tend to get boiled off during a planet’s accretion phase (forming from the solar system’s proto-disc).

• Tidally locked planets and moons would lose their magnetosphere (the dynamo engine within a iron molten cored planet). Without this magnetic shield solar and cosmic radiation would ravage any life that had arisen on the planet.

The reason I keep this list is that it supports the 2^Nth theory I maintain about how to calculate a Rare Earth.


The “Two to the N’th” theory is an approximate probability that describes the uniqueness in the Universe of a electromagnetic-energy manipulating species — that is, us. Essentially, all factors that contributed to the existence of humanity can be distilled down to coin flips. Every coin flip = 50% probability. Add up a bunch of coin flips (landing on heads) and you get a probability that represents how unique we are.

For instance: If we assume that one out of every two stars in the Universe/Galaxy is singular not binary (binary star systems are too unstable to support planetary life) that’s coin flip number one (2^1). Of those, if half are the right size (a very conservative estimate) — another coin flip (2^2). If you examine all the factors, turn them into 50% (one flip) or 25% (two flips) or 12.5% (three flips) etc. you end up with a whole load of coin flips or powers of two (2^Nth).

I’ve done the compilation (that is, keeping this growing list) and determined that over 60 is the current number of coin flips that all landed up “heads” which represents how lucky/unique we are in the universe. The probability of flipping 60 coins and ALL OF THEM landing heads — represents the probability of Humanity.

How often would 60 coin flips all land on heads? Well, we know it happened at least once (that US!). But what is 2^60th power?


The probability of Humanity is 1 out of 1.1 quintillion. Is that rare? Probably.

I continue to collect these “features” which helped contribute to our existence. I suspect that we’ll get to seventy here some time soon: 2^70 = 1 sextillion.

Here’s a handy approximator:

  • 2^10 = ~one thousand
  • 2^20 = ~one million
  • 2^30 = ~one billion
  • 2^40 = ~one trillion
  • 2^50 = ~one quadrillion
  • 2^60 = ~one quintillion
  • 2^70 = ~one sextillion (or one billion trillion)


17 thoughts on “Rare Earth: more evidence

  1. Civilizations require metal. Early stars had none. There must be a minimum amount of metal (iron) in a star to indicate whether the planets that form around it contain enough metal for a civilization to leverage.


    For example, we know that the Sun is around 100,000 generations from the Big Bang, based on our star’s metallicity.

    But we’ve found other stars in the Milky Way that have a low metallicity, indicating an early Universe origin. One such object is 2MASS J18082002–5104378 B, the previous record-holder for the lowest iron content of [Fe/H] = −4.07 ± 0.07 – around 11,750 times less metallic than the Sun.

    But SMSS J160540.18–144323.1 is at [Fe/H] = −6.2 ± 0.2. As Nordlander said, that’s around 1.5 million times less metallic.


  2. Flip a coin 70 times. Technologically advanced humanity is ALL of those flips coming up heads.
    2^10 = ~1000
    2^20 = ~1,000,000
    2^30 = ~1,000,000,000
    2^40 = ~1,000,000,000,000
    2^50 = ~1,000,000,000,000,000
    2^60 = ~1,000,000,000,000,000,000
    2^70 = ~1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    The probability that we exist is 1/1 billion trillion.
    Compare that number then to the number of planets in the universe.
    Every coin flip cuts the odds in half.

    As far as we know…
    Only Goldilocks planets can host life: one out of ten is a Goldilocks candidate: flip, flip, flip.
    Only singular stars can host habitable life, two thirds of stars are binary: flip, flip.
    Only planets with massive iron/nickel cores can host life (magnetospheres) only ~10% have cores like Earth: flip, flip, flip.
    Keep going with this list and you’ll eventually hit between 60 and 70 flips.
    Those slim chances are what created technologically advanced humanity.


  3. There I was, expecting a discourse on neodymium magnets, the ones that crank up the energy in a dynamic microphone cartridge. Or a transducer magnet. Or even the following in anticipation of your book launch!
    No. All that collander helmet UFO talk. the cosmos runs on it’s own. Thgis dimension and time or merely our particular experience. Math makes my head hurt. Except music, and if you approach it dimensionally it’s really geometry. Gotta love a drummer who can sing AND play.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rare Earth elements – buried in Greenland – pwned by China – and demanded by wind-turbines and Tesla motors, sorry to bust your tech bubble. But, nope. Rare Earth – despite the numbers – is just that, in my book (not that it exists or anything).


  4. This takes me back to the theory of Carl Sagan: the chance of life is extremely rare, but in an infinite universe extremely rare happens. But for two such happenstances to occur anywhere within the same time frame or spacial vicinity so as to lead to encounters between two stellar occupants, well that’s actually and probably impossible.

    Which is why, I am to understand, Carl Sagan didn’t believe in UFOs.

    (Although a friend who’s REALLY into UFOs recently told me he’s uncovered evidence that Carl Sagan did in fact believe in UFOs but was told by the CIA to shut up about it, or else. He’s quite the conspiracy buff, though, so I don’t know …)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Sagan’s thoughts are appropriate here.

      This 2^Nth theory is just a way to put simple numbers (simple but huge numbers) to the question beneath the Fermi Paradox.

      Flipping coins is an easy concept. Every “heads” in a sequence halves the likelihood that the happy (or not) accident that is technologically advanced humanity will happen again. What are the odds of 60 coin flips all landing heads? An easy question. A (nearly) impossible answer.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. In the multiverse numbers don’t mean much. But the universe isn’t infinite. I mean, it it’s effectively infinite as far as exploration is concerned. But in trying to theorize about other alien intelligences — numbers do count. That pretty much the gist of this 2^Nth concept. “Are we alone?” – the numbers say yes.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, his armchair pontifications are akin to my own, except that I don’t care about aliens — I only care about what it took to get humans to this point. After all, we only have one example of life, of intelligent life, of technologically advanced life.
          If we deduce all the special conditions that aligned to produce us, then we know approximately what it would take to do it again, elsewhere.
          My list of “without this condition – we would not exist” is generalized for most accepted requirements for EMEM species (electromagnetic energy manipulating).
          • Without a large moon we would not exist. • Without an extra large iron/nickel core we would not exist. • Without a singular G-type stable sun we would not exist. • Without enough volatile carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon all cycling through plate tectonics we would not exist. • Without the right combination of ocean to continents we would not exist. The list goes on and on.
          The only definitive information we have about an intelligent species is about us. Figure out how hard it was for US to come into existence — and we’ll have a ballpark figure of how rare beings like us are in the universe. Answer – rare.

          Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s