Using maths way more complicated than I fully understand, a scientific paper predicts that we will find a potentially habitable Earth-like planet by early May 2011. Oh.
Sam Arbesman and Greg Laughlin, the authors of the scientific paper, used the history and dates of previously discovered exoplanets to develop their system. What they did was this:
Using the properties of previously discovered exoplanets, we developed a simple metric of habitability for each planet that uses its mass and temperature to rate it on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 is Earth-like, and 0 is so very not Earth-like. Plotting these values over time and taking the upper envelope yields a nice march towards habitability.
Using a simple bootstrap sampling analysis, we calculated when a logistic curve fit to such an upper envelope would get to a habitability of approximately 1. And the likeliest time is early to mid-2011, or more precisely, early May 2011.
And if not then, their data shows that there is a 75 per cent chance that the discovery will happen by the end of 2013 (many astronomers predict this timeframe as well). In February 2011, NASA's Kepler mission will release a boatload of data that I'm assuming will help in find this Earthy planet. The universe is so big I'm surprised I didn't realise discovering another Earth-like planet was inevitable. There goes thinking that I'm a unique snowflake. [Arbesman.net via Kottke]