Columbia astronomer uses Bayesian statistics to shed light on the odds of life and intelligence emerging

May 19, 2020

In a new paper published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, Prof. David Kipping from Columbia’s Dept. of Astronomy shows how a careful application of Bayesian statistics can reveal new insights into the emergence of life. Using the chronology of the earliest evidence for life and the evolution of humanity, Kipping asks how often we would expect life and intelligence to re-emerge if Earth’s history were to repeat. Kipping applies a technique called objective Bayesianism to weigh the possible models, finding betting odds of >3:1 that the emergence of life is indeed a rapid process versus a slow and rare scenario, but 3:2 odds that intelligence may be rare. More information is available here.


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