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Averaged across the time a star spends on the main sequence, low-mass stars will have fewer habitable planets than solar-type stars. It is awe inspiring to look at the sky and realize that there may well be intelligent beings somewhere out there. The chance that they will be at about the same level of technology as us is very small - they are more likely to be either far behind us or far ahead of us. As Raymond Kurzweil pointed out in his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, published in 2005, our technological capability is developing at an ever-increasing rate.

4 The many constraints on life Whilst life may exist even in the harshest of circumstances on other planets, possibly even in our solar system, what is it about our situation that allowed complex life and ultimately intelligence to evolve. First, the Sun is a single star rather than a multiple-star system, it is rich in metals but not too rich, and it is in a relatively sparse part of the galaxy rather that in the center where there is a greater threat of extinction from a supernova or a gamma-ray burster.

A thin atmosphere, or one that provides only moderate insulation, may be biocompatible but not habitable. An atmosphere that provides excessive insulation would create a greenhouse effect that would boil the surface water and end up making the planet as inhospitable as Venus. Finally, the planet must be volcanically and tectonically active in order to regulate the greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide. The greater the mass of a planet, the longer it will remain geologically active. Earth releases its heat smoothly by the process of plate tectonics which continually renews the surface and precludes a build up of 26 The Search for Extraterrestrials internal heat just beneath the surface.

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