Monday, February 8, 2016

The Size Distribution of Inhabited Planets

The Size Distribution of Inhabited Planets


Simpson et al


Earth-like planets are expected to provide the greatest opportunity for the detection of life beyond the Solar System. However our planet cannot be considered a fair sample, especially if intelligent life exists elsewhere. Just as a person's country of origin is a biased sample among countries, so too their planet of origin may be a biased sample among planets. The magnitude of this effect can be substantial: over 98% of the world's population live in a country larger than the median. In the context of a simple model where the mean population density is invariant to planet size, we infer that a given inhabited planet (such as our nearest neighbour) has a radius r less than 1.2r (95% confidence bound). We show that this result is likely to hold not only for planets hosting advanced life, but also for those which harbour primitive life forms. Further inferences may be drawn for any variable which influences population size. For example, since population density is widely observed to decline with increasing body mass, we conclude that most intelligent species are expected to exceed 300kg.

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