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Claims of fine-tuning have generally been based on what happens when you vary a single characteristic of the universe, say the strength of gravity, while holding all others constant. That, says Adams, is too artificial a scenario to tell you anything about whether there are other universes that can support life. "The right way to do the problem is to start from scratch," he says. "You have to turn all the knobs and find out what happens."

DON'T take our starry skies for granted. If you were unlucky enough to be living in some other universe, you might have nothing to stare at but black holes.

At least, that's the view of a new study that examines the nature of other universes that might support life and suggests that our cosmic habitat is nothing special after all - wondrously starry skies apart.

The idea that certain aspects of our universe make it uniquely suited to life has never been properly tested, says Fred Adams of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "You hear people say our universe is fine-tuned for life, that stars are rare and couldn't form if certain things were different," he says. "The truth is, no one has done the calculations." Adams has now rectified that situation and found that it is not unusual for stars to form that can support life.

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