When it comes to indestructibility, tiny tardigrades beat even Keith Richards - and will likely be around until the Sun dies.

That's according to a new Oxford University study which has shown how the eight-legged micro-animals will survive the risk of extinction from all astrophysical catastrophes, and be around for at least 10 billion years - far longer than the human race.

Although much attention has been given to the cataclysmic impact that an astrophysical event would have on human life, very little has been published around what it would take to kill the tardigrade, and wipe out life on this planet.

The research implies that life on Earth in general, will extend as long as the Sun keeps shining.


It also reveals that once life emerges, it is surprisingly resilient and difficult to destroy, opening the possibility of life on other planets.

Tardigrades are the toughest, most resilient form of life on earth, able to survive for up to 30 years without food or water, and endure temperature extremes of up to 150C, the deep sea and even the frozen vacuum of space.

The water-dwelling creature can live for up to 60 years, and grow to a maximum size of 0.5mm.

The study found that these life forms will likely survive an asteroid impact, exploding stars and even gamma ray bursts, since they will never be strong enough to boil off the world's oceans.

Why ladies queue longer at loos

Belgian researchers have crunched the numbers and found how moving to unisex toilets may reduce waiting times for women from more than six minutes to less than a minute and a half.

Already a symbol of transgender equality, unisex toilets can hence boast excellent figures when it comes to reducing waiting times.

Or, how transgender-friendliness may help in battling female-unfriendly toilet culture.

The team from Ghent University found three main causes for the difference in waiting time between men and women.

Unisex loos might be the solution for long queues outside womens' toilets. Photo / 123RF
Unisex loos might be the solution for long queues outside womens' toilets. Photo / 123RF

The first was that the net number of toilets for women is smaller than that for men.

This was because the total surface area is often divided equally while a toilet cubical inevitably takes up more space than a urinal.

Overall, an average toilet area can accommodate 20 to 30 per cent more toilets for men - that's including urinals and cubicles - than for women.

A second reason is that, according to scientific studies, women spend one and a half up to two times as long on the toilet.

The reasons are mostly practical - in contrast to a urinal, a door must be opened and closed twice, a toilet seat needs cleaning, and more and more difficult clothes have to be taken off and on.

This results in an average time spent at the toilet of one minute for men and one minute and 30 seconds for women.

The third factor is the overall activity at the restroom.

As long as it's not too busy, the overall effect of ladies having a smaller number of toilets and spending more time on those toilets does not lead to long queues.

However, when everybody heads home, more women arrive at the toilets than the system can handle.

This condition amplifies the above effects and results in outrageous waiting times for women.

Based on these three major causes, six different but comparable layouts were simulated using a scenario of alternating busy and calm periods.

They found the best option to be unisex toilets, which meant cubicles were available for both sexes and optionally complemented with extra urinals for the men.

As sharing the toilet capacity across sexes was more efficient, the overall average waiting time dropped - by 63 per cent.

What's faster: cheetah or T-Rex?

For small to medium-sized animals, larger also means faster, but for really large animals, when it comes to speed, everything goes downhill again.

For the first time, it's now possible to describe how this parabola-like relationship between body size and speed comes about.

The mathematical model can calculate, with 90 per cent accuracy, the top speed any animal can reach - and the only information it uses is the weight of the animal and whether it moves on land, air or water.

But it also makes some assumptions.

With a top speed of 27km/h, the mighty T-Rex wasn't as fast as you might think. Photo / 123RF
With a top speed of 27km/h, the mighty T-Rex wasn't as fast as you might think. Photo / 123RF

The first is related to the fact that animals reach their maximum speeds during comparatively short sprints, and not while running over long distances.

Unlike running over longer distances, where the body constantly resupplies the muscles with energy, sprinting uses energy that is stored in the muscles themselves but which is exhausted relatively quickly.

It seems logical enough: the larger the animal, the more muscle it has - and thus the faster it can sprint.

Yet Newton's laws of motion also apply in the animal kingdom, and we know mass has to overcome inertia, so a five-tonne African elephant simply can not start moving as quickly as a 2.5g Etruscan shrew.

By the time large animals such as the elephant get up to full speed while sprinting, their rapidly available energy reserves also soon run out.

Taken together, the model can tell us that a beetle is slower than a mouse, which is slower than a rabbit, which is slower than a cheetah, which is faster than an elephant.

"To test whether we can use our model to calculate the maximum speed of animals that are already extinct, we have applied it to dinosaur species, whose speed has up to now been simulated using highly complex biomechanical processes," said Myriam Hirt, of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena.

Their model showed the top speeds of Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, Brachiosaurus and others that matched those from complex simulations - and wasn't exactly record-breaking for Tyrannosaurus, which reached a speed of only 27 km/h.

"This means that in future, our model will enable us to estimate, in a very simple way, how fast other extinct animals were able to run."