September 21, 2013
1.75 Billion Years Left For Life On Earth?

Some scientists at the University of East Anglia think the expanding Sun will make Earth unlivable within 1.75 billion years or maybe 3.25 billion years.

Andrew Rushby, one of those scientists, suggests a move to Mars. But there''s a better idea: Make Earth's orbit gradually get bigger. Don Korycansky, Gregory Laughlin, and Fred Adams proposed using 1 million passes of an asteroid Near Earth to tug on its orbit and by the planet another 5 billion years. It just so happens Earth's orbit around the sun is already increasing.

A few billion years ought to be enough time to turn Mars into an interplanetary ship that can hold a large civilization inside of it. Can we move Mars to a new solar system? How about Earth?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 September 21 06:46 PM 

md said at September 21, 2013 7:48 PM:

We would see a catastrophic and terminal extinction event for all life.

They should be more careful withe words. We already know of life forms that don't need any oxygen, require little water and can survive at around 100C. Surely life will evolve, adapt and flourish for a long time after surface water evaporates.

Cyril R. said at September 22, 2013 1:30 AM:

This asteroid tug seems like a viable long term solution, if we have many millions of years to enact the tugging.

One helpful factor is that the gravity force rises with the square of the distance, so that an expanding sun would already push earth's orbit out somewhat (much of the sun being then closer to earth).

First we have more immediate concerns that require our full attention, namely managing the earth's ecosystems and resources for the next couple of centuries. In many ways it's at best silly to ponder the technological capabilities of society a billion years from now.

David Evans said at September 22, 2013 6:05 AM:

I think rather than try to move Mars I would hollow out some asteroids, making habitats for a few million people each. Much easier to move, and provides redundancy.

Also, why would we want to move our present population? I don't know how many people is needed for a flourishing culture, but I would guess it's well under a billion. So decide on a figure and then start slowly reducing the population (1.9 children instead of 2?)

Brett Bellmore said at September 22, 2013 4:17 PM:

Wouldn't it be simpler to just completely surround the Sun with energy collecting panels? The sunlight hitting the planets could be replaced with the output of spotlights powered by a tiny fraction of the panels' output, and there would be no reason to ramp up the spotlight output as the sun got brighter.

Or, for those who think small, a cloud of mirrors at L-1 would do the trick. For even smaller thinkers, mirrors in orbit around the Earth, with shutters that opened and closed according to orbital position, would be good enough.

Seriously, do they think in a billion or three years we wouldn't be capable of such feats? A lot easier than moving the planet. (Though I'll grant moving the planet would have the virtue of continuing to work for a long while if the controls broke down.) It's a non-issue for a planet with intelligent, tool using life on it.

Michael A. said at September 22, 2013 4:40 PM:

How about "Rejuvenating the Sun," as suggested by Martin Beech in his book?

Dave Criswell also has a similar idea, where the hydrogen in the Sun that does not undergo fusion in the core can be "mixed in" to the core. If this can be done, steady hydrogen burning could theoretically last for 75 billion years. Sounds far fetched, but who's to say what's possible in a billion years' time?

Lono said at September 22, 2013 6:38 PM:

If we can realize a long-term stable, intelligent, and co-operative world society - there will be few logistical obstacles that Human engineers will not be able to overcome.

I am currently testing this hypothesis - on a smaller scale - using members from various High IQ societies world wide.

My organization is actively recruiting members - and looking for angel investment - in this project - if anyone here is interested in becoming involved.

Randall Parker said at September 22, 2013 8:48 PM:


What are you trying to do?

Kudzu Bob said at September 23, 2013 8:44 AM:

In comparison to getting members of high-IQ societies cooperating with one another, surviving the death of the Sun seems a relatively trivial matter.

Nick G said at September 23, 2013 11:57 AM:

Reminds me of the book "Cities in Flight". A good read.

Darren said at September 24, 2013 7:59 AM:

Somebody please tell those scientists they need to write a note and leave for whoever is here a billion years from now to tell them what they need to do.

Lono said at September 24, 2013 11:39 AM:


I am trying to short-circuit the normal cyclical eras of oppression and revolution that naturally occur in Human societies by hastening a second renaissance period. If my group can successfully set up the necessary infrastructure in time - the coming intelligence explosion could help crystallize a more egalitarian and meritocratic world government into place.

Although that is certainly a lofty goal for my organization - if we fall short of successfully securing such a future - there are levels of survival we are prepared to accept.


There is little doubt that what you say is true. I figured I would tackle the most challenging logistical problem first - and then it would all be downhill form there.

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2013 10:10 AM:


I really do not why we should expect smart people to work for a more egalitarian society. Most of them work to make more for themselves. The smart people who control capital (really the most important smart people) definitely will find ways to avoid getting their labor and profits captured by the egalitarians. As I've already gone on record saying: capital will move out of high population countries.

Also, I agree with Kudzu Bob about the uncooperative smart IQ society members. These people don't do group activities well.

Neil Craig said at September 30, 2013 6:54 AM:

Putting thousands of square miles of tinfoil in orbit will be cheap and easy once we have a spacegoing civilisation. With neither gravity nor weather that tinfoil can be awfully thin.

That won't take 1.75 billion years, probably not 0.00001% of it.

Lono said at September 30, 2013 10:28 AM:


It is my intention to continue to build alliances among those with phenotypes which score highly in both empathy and intelligence. It is my pet theory that co-operative intelligence will eventually out-compete selfish intelligence in the long run - particularly if an infrastructure can be created and long-term supported to aid in rapid collaboration between such like-minded individuals.

Eventually my organization intends to either form its own, separate, egalitarian, psuedo-utopia or we will succeed in dominating parts of the world's political landscape in order to help uplift mankind both genetically and technologically. We have many natural allies in the scientific and trans-humanist arenas who are also pursuing a similar agenda.

Ultimately my experiment is merely an attempt to more efficiently apply Human intelligence for the greater benefit of our species. The current strategies employed by those who "control capital" to create artificial scarcity, in order to more effectively manipulate society, will prove ultimately ineffective and unsustainable.

Kelly Parks said at September 30, 2013 3:18 PM:

So...far from being a threat to nature, we are nature's only chance. Without humanity, every form of life on Earth is doomed.

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