Looking for Aliens? Try Looking for Phosphorous!

This Isaac Arthur video deals with on of the possibilities in the concept of a "Great Filter". Specifically it is an early filter which would prevent life from ever reaching the single-cell stage of life on most worlds.

The video goes into a lot of chemistry involving the element Phosphorous. Phosphate is essential for forming ATP, RNA and DNA. Phosphorous is also required for bone formation. The video speculates on how ancient Earth water came to have enough phosphorous concentration for life to begin.

Phosphorous is the 11th most common element on Earth but as far as can be determined phosphorous is scarce in the Universe. It is estimated that only three of every 10 million atoms is a phosphorous atom.

The scarcity of phosphorous in space might not just limit life from forming on other worlds but also limit human colonization of space. Roughly 1% of human mass is phosphorous so a 100 kilogram person needs to have 1 kilogram of phosphorous. To have trillions living throughout the galaxy phosphorous has to be found in nature or made through nuclear transmutation. In the former phosphorous has to be mined or extracted from stars. For the later a Silicon-30 isotope is slammed with a fast moving neutron. After a few hours radioactive decay creates a stable phosphorous atom.

This report was published via Actifit app (Android | iOS). Check out the original version here on actifit.io

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