Plate Tectonics Might Only Occur on 0.003% of Planets. That Makes Earth Very Special Indeed.

Plate tectonics, oceans, and continents might play a significant role in the emergence of complex life, and thus intelligent alien life, according to a new study by American and Swiss Earth scientists. This research challenges the traditional Drake equation, a mathematical formula used to estimate the probability of finding advanced civilizations in the universe, by proposing that the presence of plate tectonics and large continents with oceans is crucial for the evolution of complex life and the development of Advanced Communicative Civilizations (ACCs) like humanity.

Robert Stern of the University of Texas at Dallas and Taras Gerya of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology propose that plate tectonics accelerated the transition to complex life on Earth by five distinct processes: increasing the supply of nutrients, speeding up the oxygenation of both the atmosphere and the ocean, tempering the climate, causing a high turnover rate of habitat formation and destruction, and offering non-catastrophic environmental pressure that forced organisms to adapt.

For ACCs to develop, the scientists argue that continents need to move. This is because early complex life relied on land-based environments for resources, which were only possible with vast, resource-rich continents.

The revised Drake equation, taking into account the factors of plate tectonics and continents, suggests that only a small fraction of habitable exoplanets with large continents and oceans may develop ACCs, significantly reducing the probability of finding intelligent alien life.

The implications of this study indicate that intelligent alien life might be rarer than previously thought, and Earth might be more special than we knew due to its plate tectonics, oceans, and continents.

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