Monday, July 23, 2007

Could Humankind Beat the Copernican Principle?

I read today about something called the Copernican Principle at the NY Times. I won’t even try to explain it in a blog posting (I don’t even fully understand it myself), but when applied to the tenure of world leaders in 1993, it will achieve 95 percent accuracy assuming none stays in office past the age of 100.

The principle is based on how long something has lasted already. So if you look at how long Broadway plays typically run, the Copernican Principle can estimate the run of any other play within 95 percent certainty. According to the Times, the Copernican Principle has actually worked on plays as well as the lifespan of newspapers and dogs.

Now if this principle is applied to the longevity of humankind, we find we have between 5,100 and 7.8 million years left on this planet. But I’m not sure how well the Copernican Principle applies here. What other species on earth are like humans? I don’t mean to be arrogant, but am I wrong to imply that if any species on earth can beat the odds, its homo sapiens?

Another thing suggested by the Copernican Principle is that there’s a 50 percent chance that we only have 46 years of space exploration left. I found this troubling. To be honest, I never thought we’d stop exploring space. But it has happened before, that a civilization ends its age of exploration (China is the example given in the article).

If we do stop exploring space, and we are confined to the Earth, then maybe we are just another species.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.