Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Panspermia

Prof. N. Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University's Astrobiology faculty claims to have discovered life of extraterrestrial origin high in the stratosphere. Some concluding comments from a recent work, below:


"7. Discussion

The first unequivocal recovery of any culturable microorganisms from 41 km in the stratosphere using modern aseptic collection protocols and molecular identification criteria must surely be deemed of historic importance. With instrumental and laboratory contamination excluded at all stages of the experiment two options remain.

Firstly, one might think that they were carried from the ground in a volcanic eruption or in an exceptional meteorological event. The other is that they arrive from space. A volcanic origin is ruled out for the simple reason that there was no volcanic eruption recorded in a two-year run-up to the balloon launch date on January 20, 2001, and for reasons already stated a settling rate at 0.18cm/s from 41 km as calculated by Colbeck would drain out particles of 3 m m radius in a matter of weeks. A similar objection applies to rare meteorological events. Assuming our collections on January 20, 2001 gave us representative stratospheric samples at 41km no process that is purely terrestrial can sustain the high densities of bacterial clusters as are implied.

The alternative extraterrestrial origin (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1981, 2000), although controversial, is more attractive as an explanation of our findings. The bacterial material, cultured in the present experiment, and detected earlier through fluorescence microscopy, can be regarded as forming part of the 100 tonnes/day input of cometary material known to reach the Earth.

Critics of panspermia may argue that 3 m n radius particles get burnt through frictional heating and end up as meteors. Some fraction may do, but others would not. Survival depends of many factors such as angle of entry and mode of deposition in the very high stratosphere. Several modes of entry can be considered that permit intact injection into the stratosphere, possibly starting off as larger aggregates released from comets that disintegrate into a cascade of slow-moving smaller clumps at heights above 270km where frictional heating would be negligible. Evidence for such disintegrations have been available for many years (Bigg, 1983), and more recent studies of Brownlee paricles collected using U2 aircraft have also shown the survivability of extremely fragile organic structures (Clemett, et al, 1993)."


From: SEM Imaging of Stratospheric Particles of Non-terrestrial Origin. 2002. Max K. Wallis, Shirwan Al-Mufti, N. Chandra Wickramasinghe (CCAB), P Rajaratnam (ISRO), J V Narlikar (IUCAA). Paper delivered at the conference, Microscopy and Chemistry of Airborne Particles; Current Research at the University of West England, Bristol.

Few believe the professor at this time; DNA analysis will surely identify whether or not extraterrestrial life is being found by these methods in the stratosphere.

Extraterrestrial or not, we do know some form of life is up there, in the stratosphere, a place we barely know; we go up there in jets and then get down again as quickly as possible; we tear through it at speeds too high for contemplation or understanding; we have ripped through it for fifty years with aircraft equipped for nuclear annihilation, not for learning a single thing.

I will go up to stay up, to move slowly, to collect impressions, data, and life...maybe life of extraterrestrial origin.

2 comments:

Flynn Renard said...

FANTASTIC! That makes my stomach flip.

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