A Statistical Approach to Illustrate the Challenge of Astrobiology for Public Outreach

Abstract : In this study, we attempt to illustrate the competition that constitutes the main challenge of astrobiology, namely the competition between the probability of extraterrestrial life and its detectability. To illustrate this fact, we propose a simple statistical approach based on our knowledge of the Universe and the Milky Way, the Solar System, and the evolution of life on Earth permitting us to obtain the order of magnitude of the distance between Earth and bodies inhabited by more or less evolved past or present life forms, and the consequences of this probability for the detection of associated biosignatures. We thus show that the probability of the existence of evolved extraterrestrial forms of life increases with distance from the Earth while, at the same time, the number of detectable biosignatures decreases due to technical and physical limitations. This approach allows us to easily explain to the general public why it is very improbable to detect a signal of extraterrestrial intelligence while it is justified to launch space probes dedicated to the search for microbial life in the Solar System
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Submitted on : Friday, October 27, 2017 - 2:59:20 PM
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Frédéric Foucher, Keyron Hickman-Lewis, Frances Westall, André Brack. A Statistical Approach to Illustrate the Challenge of Astrobiology for Public Outreach. Artificial Life, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press), 2017, 7 (4), ⟨10.3390/life7040040⟩. ⟨hal-01625369⟩

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