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DNA-Less 'Red Rain' Cells Reproduce At 121 C

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the that-beats-most-hot-tubs dept.

Biotech 149

eldavojohn writes "A new paper up for prepublication from the controversial solid-state physicist Godfrey Louis claims that the cells Louis collected from a Keralan red rain incident divide and produce daughter cells at 121 degrees Celsius. While unusual, this is not unheard of as the paper recalls cells cultivated from hydrothermal vents are known to reproduce at 121 C as well. Of course, caution is exercised when dealing with the possible explanation surrounding the theory of panspermia but the MIT Technology Review says researchers 'examined the way these fluoresce when bombarded with light and say it is remarkably similar to various unexplained emission spectra seen in various parts of the galaxy. One such place is the Red Rectangle, a cloud of dust and gas around a young star in the Monocerous constellation.'"

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Monocerous(sp) (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456528)

That's Monoceros - Unicorn. It's not an adjective with the "ous" ending.

Re:Monocerous(sp) (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456688)

Maybe the adjective is appropriate if we have panspermia coming from the horny constellation.

Re:Monocerous(sp) (-1, Redundant)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457382)

Mod up funny please!

- Dan.

Controversial Solid and a State physicist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33457112)

So he works for the state and, what, is he shaped like a gofukahedron?

Re:Monocerous(sp) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33460398)

Why all the consternation over declanation.

"Up for prepublication"? (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456626)

What does that mean? Has it been peer-reviewed yet? Has it been accepted? Or is it just at the stage where the author's submitted it, and those other steps still need to happen? The linked page only says its "submitted".

If it hasn't been accepted, posting it here is rather silly on a lot of counts. Not to mention that, with some journals, doing something like that can result in the paper being summarily rejected (e.g Nature, Science).

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456708)

Would you *really* keep it to yourself if you thought you found evidence of extraterrestrial life? Assume that you see yourself as logical and rational, instead of crazy as this guy seems.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457102)

If it was me, I would make sure that every i was dotted and t was crossed. I would keep it damned quiet, and ask anyone I shared the data with to do the same. I would probably spend six months just running through it all again, and maybe once more after that.

The one thing I wouldn't do is leak it, or fantastically optimistic interpretations of it to the press. When things appear first in the media and then in peer-reviewed journals or at conferences, people begin to think strange thoughts like "Hyperbole" or, sometimes even "Fraud". Researchers who leave the confines of accepted publishing and announcement practices are taking a big chance that they're going to undermine the whole damned thing.

But how many times, folks, have we been bit by incredible announcements in the press "New Discovery Will Rewrite biology/astronomy/physics/neurology/whatever" only to find out that the actual paper is considerably more mundane.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458224)

Somehow I suspect we would not be discussing this if a crackpot was not involved.

The wiki article pretty much nails it down to spores of a lichen-forming alga belonging to the genus Trentepohlia, plentiful in the area where the red rain was found, as well as many other places in the world.

Yet, we are now treated to the suggestion that because the same wave lengths of light as are found in some remote part of the galaxy can be induced when samples are bombarded with some (conveniently unspecified) light source..

The clear implication being that we should all believe that some extraterrestrial life has chosen this particular part of India, (and no where else) to fall in rain for a solid month, totally ignoring high winds aloft.

I wager my rear end could be made to fluoresce certain shades of red found in other parts of the galaxy given the right form of bombardment.

Thank you sir, Mr Louis needs another.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458466)

I wager my rear end could be made to fluoresce certain shades of red found in other parts of the galaxy given the right form of bombardment.

Well now at least we have an explanation for Rudolf and his red nose.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (2, Interesting)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33460920)

I must admit, I'm developing a healthy skepticism of any such announcement coming out of India. I'm sure there are millions of very capable, respectable scientists there but there's also a large element of superstitious nonsense, and it seems to be this element that's running the media. *sigh* It's like that guy claiming to have not eaten for 60 years because he sustains himself purely on yogic vedic nonsense. Funny how they announced they were observing him closely, and then just went quiet about it after a few days... no big article saying "yep, old guy is just another faker" though.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (4, Insightful)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456748)

None of this guy's (Godfrey Louis) stuff on the subject seems to be peer reviewed. It is all just up on arXiv. I think he is more interested in getting publicity than getting his facts checked. Now that last statement is an ad hominem, so it doesn't say anything about his research one way or the other. But I think it does give a few clues.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (2, Informative)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456812)

None of this guy's (Godfrey Louis) stuff on the subject seems to be peer reviewed.

Incorrect. Quoting from the linked article: "Louis published his results in the peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space in 2006, along with the tentative suggestion that the cells could be extraterrestrial."

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (2, Interesting)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456868)

When did astrophysicists start peer-reviewing biology-related articles authoritatively?

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (4, Informative)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457040)

From the journal's website (http://www.springer.com/astronomy/journal/10509):

Astrophysics and Space Science publishes original contributions and invited reviews covering the entire range of astronomy, astrophysics, astrophysical cosmology, planetary and space science and the astrophysical aspects of astrobiology.

Note the last one: astrobiology is within the scope of that journal. Given that, the editors are certainly knowledgeable about who else works in that field, and can find appropriate reviewers for an astrobiology article.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (3, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457062)

Yeah, seriously. Somebody mod the parent up here. An astrophysicist fails to extract DNA? Well how about letting a Biologist have a go. It's kinda there thing.

Besides (according to Wikipedia), the official report said they cultured them already. They are alga spores belonging to the genus Trentepohlia.

I think Occam's razor applies here.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (2, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457082)

Sorry, should be "It's kinda their thing."

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33461456)

I modded your original post down and this one up.

No net change for you, but my daily grammar Nazi work has been done.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456948)

It isn't really an ad hominem at all. If you say "This guy is a loon, therefore his arguments are crap" then that is an ad hominem, but if you say "This guy's arguments are crap, therefore he's a loon" it isn't. His being a loon doesn't necessarily make his arguments crap, but just saying his arguments are crap or even calling him a loon isn't an ad hominem. An ad hominem is a specific type of logical fallacy, it is not a general insult.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (0, Troll)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458446)

>implying that arguments made by a loon aren't crap.

Please, learn to think.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458818)

>implying that arguments made by a loon aren't crap.

Please, learn to think.

Huh? I'm not implying that arguments made by a loon are good or bad. Loons can make any sort of argument, and even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The argument is either logical or it isn't, that holds true for whoever makes the argument. That is why ad hominem is a fallacy.

Now, there are times when calling someone a loon is not an ad hominem. For instance, "Don't listen when George tells you he is king of Siam. George is certifiably insane" is not an ad hominem if George is in fact insane and not the king of Siam, the fact of his insanity a good reason not to listen to his claims, and therefor this argument is not a fallacy.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33461112)

>implying that arguments made by a loon aren't crap.

Please, learn to think.

What? He's implying (correctly) that while the looniness of the arguer does not determine the looniness of the arguments, the inverse is not true.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 4 years ago | (#33461148)

Ok, so we have ad hominem straightened out ... now on to irony.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33461708)

And ad hominem isn't a noun. So you don't call something an ad hominem; you call it ad hominem.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (4, Informative)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456782)

arxiv.org is a non-peer-reviewed preprint repository widely used by the physics community. "Submitted" means exactly what it says: it's just listing the date that article was submitted to arxiv.org. This work will undoubtedly be submitted elsewhere also. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arxiv [wikipedia.org] .

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456922)

Why modded as troll? Someone with an axe to grind regarding the for-profit science journals?

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456994)

I can't vouch for the following, but.... According to critics, the reason that DNA wasn't seen in light microscopy was because a) he used the wrong kind of stain, which doesn't typically work for algae, b) this is an algae spore, c) the walls of the spore are too strong for most stains to absorb into it, and d) the walls also impede light microscopy, making it even more challenging if he did use the right kind of stain. There is a discussion of that in wikipedia under "criticisms" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rain_in_Kerala

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (3, Informative)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457216)

You may also note that the guy who did use the right stains and looked for algal DNA made certain it was clear that he could not make a solid determination one way or the other.

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33457250)

It is not peer reviewed. I took a look at it and in its current form it is unlikely to pass muster for peer review (at least in a molecular biology journal). There are a number of clear flaws. Cells of some species will often show a characteristic doubling time. In this case, the "cell" population appears to less than double from 30 to 60 minutes. Then from 60 to 90 more than double before any increase in cell number stops. This odd behavior is consistent with micelles treated at high heat breaking apart into smaller micelles before reaching a stable size (which, assuming these data are not falsified, seems to be what is occurring here).

Re:"Up for prepublication"? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457380)

Mod parent up. That's the real insight.

Just sequence them.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456658)

Proving they are not common terrestrial microbes is easy: just sequence them. Run them trough an extraction kit, PCR with pro- and eukaryote specific primers, sequence and BLAST in NBCI. If they don't amplify (and the controls do), then they might be unique. If they do amplify, the BLAST will tell you what they could be, or at least what they are related to. Der....

Re:Just sequence them.. (3, Insightful)

ElektronSpinRezonans (1397787) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457460)

Ah, youngling, you have many years until you have that PhD in your hand. What you're suggesting is a negative results, caused from "not seeing what we wanted to see", which can be rebutted in a million different ways, most of which you probably do not know yet. This is one of the reasons the peer review process exists. I personally do not believe anything I read on a non-peer reviewed paper, unless of course it is coming from well documented, well funded full professors.

Red blood cells also do not have DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456670)

and are not of extraterrestrial origin. Just saying.

Re:Red blood cells also do not have DNA (3, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456698)

That's what you thin-

**NO CARRIER**

Re:Red blood cells also do not have DNA (2, Interesting)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456788)

And the material [wikipedia.org] found in the rain bears a striking, if superficial, resemblance to red blood cells [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Red blood cells also do not have DNA (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456890)

and they're in your blood too!
just saying.

(that has to be the most retarded thing to say.. "just saying.")

Re:Red blood cells also do not have DNA (1)

KumquatOfSolace (1412203) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457018)

I recall one explanation put forth was bats getting sucked into jet engines, or something similar. But there are a lot more birds around than bats, so if that happened you'd expect to see other red rains where the cells do contain DNA (as birds' red blood cells do).

Apologies in advance... (2, Funny)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456702)

But I've had a few drinks and I just can't resist...

I'm in ur nightskiez panejaculating on ur planetz!

Soooo worth the karma.

What? (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456718)

I had to look over that summary a bit to understand what context this information occurred. Does this sound about right?

1) There was some rain in India that was red color for some reason.
2) Various theories were put forth as to why, including some earth-born algae in the rain.
3) The guy from this article claims that there are some space-borne cells (that don't have DNA) that caused the red rain.
4) This guy also claims that these space-borne cells divide at 121 degrees Celcius
5) This is 'possible' because there are some cells on Earth that apparently divide at 121 degrees Celcius.
6) This also explains some weird lighting patterns in various constellations.

Assuming this is all true, you would think alien cells that are not made from DNA would be something the general scientific community would love to have samples of, for analysis. The whole thing sounds like bunk to me. An obvious question is that if these cells divide at 121 degrees Celcius, what do they do in the extreme cold of space, just hibernate?

Re:What? (5, Funny)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456916)

Cthulhu is resting... :P

More recent publications... (4, Informative)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457002)

It looks like more recent publications have resolved this: "The alga was identified as a specie belonging to the genus Trentepohlia. The region in Changanacherry from where the red rain was reported was found to be densely vegetated with plenty of lichen on trees, rocks and lampposts. Samples of lichen collected from there also were cultured in the microbiology laboratory of TBGRI. The study showed that the lichen collected from the site gave rise to algae similar to the ones cultured from the spores obtained from the rain water samples. The spores in the rainwater, therefore, most probably are of local origin." http://web.archive.org/web/20060613135746/http://www.geocities.com/iamgoddard/Sampath2001.pdf [archive.org]

Re:More recent publications... (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458032)

IANAS but it would seem to me that the presence of enough spores in the water samples to grow a culture from in not truly indicative of the red color being primarily or even partially from the spores. Given the concentration of spores needed to color water red, the probability of rain containing that concentration is very, very low.

Re:More recent publications... (2, Insightful)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458986)

IANAS but it would seem to me that the presence of enough spores in the water samples to grow a culture from in not truly indicative of the red color being primarily or even partially from the spores. Given the concentration of spores needed to color water red, the probability of rain containing that concentration is very, very low.

That isn't necessarily an argument for why the red color couldn't be spores; that's an argument for why red rains are quite rare, and why they require ideal and unusual conditions under which to occur. I would rephrase your statement to, "Given that the rain was red, the probability of the rain containing a sufficient concentration of spores to cause the coloration approaches unity". Given that we get full-scale animals falling from the sky [wikipedia.org] from time to time, it's not that much of a stretch for occasional freak meteorological conditions to pick up a bunch of teeny tiny algal spores. From the last decade, the Wikipedia article I linked has stories about frogs and toads (several occasions), fish (twice), worms, and spiders. Spores are child's play.

Re:More recent publications... (-1, Redundant)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458604)

The spores in the rainwater, therefore, most probably are of local origin."

Or, since we're keeping an open mind, the local lichen could be a result of spores in the rainwater. "most probably" is not science.

Re:What? (4, Informative)

seanellis (302682) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457014)

The official investigation concluded that they were spores from local algae, and that the initial DNA tests were flawed. Wikipedia has the details, as usual.

To go from "our test found no DNA" to "there is no DNA" to "they must be extraterrestrial" to "they look like the dust clouds in Monocerous" is a series of leaps that go wayyy ahead of the available evidence, in my view.

It would be very interesting to be proven wrong, however.

Re:What? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457214)

Stupid question: why don't they run the DNA test again if they think it was flawed? Surely there is a lab somewhere with the equipment lying around that could answer the question one way or the other what the red rain is caused by. Isn't that the kind of thing that many undergrad applied genetics classes do for lab work? If nothing else, it would sure make the locals happy. I can't imagine the locals are happy about getting rain that looks suspiciously like blood, I would think they'd like an answer.

Re:What? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458496)

To go from "our test found no DNA" to "there is no DNA" to "they must be extraterrestrial" to "they look like the dust clouds in Monocerous" is a series of leaps that go wayyy ahead of the available evidence, in my view.

Awww, but Panspermia is so cute...

I don't know why people go through all this effort to defend a theory that creates another level of complexity. It looks like an inverted Occam's Razor. If life is too complex to have appeared on earth, then why would it have appeared somewhere else and then have drifted to earth?

OK, in principle one could argue that it's not impossible, but at least let's wait to see if there's any sort of plausible evidence for it, before we go stretching the arguments to the limit to defend it.

Re:What? (1)

Thyrsus (13292) | more than 4 years ago | (#33459084)

I'm of the opinion that panspermia has so far no confirmed evidence behind it (including this incident), but the argument from first principles is that the universe is larger and older than the earth with a larger variety of conditions, and therefore is more likely to have generated the chemical reactions we might classify as "life". It's not an absurd hypothesis, but I entirely agree that it lacks evidence.

Re:What? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33460750)

Panspermia is a theoretical solution in search of a problem it actually applies to.

It's been invoked to explain the origin of life, or deal with some step in the origin of life problem that seems to have ultra low probabilities or otherwise be a real sticking point.

The whole universe is now believed to be a little over 12 billion years old, whereas Earth is about 4.5 Billion years old. If there is actually something that seems very improbable with just 4.5 Billion years, then it is still a pretty long shot with 2.5x to 3x the time. Now if the Universe was thousands or billions of times as old as Earth, that might make a real difference, but Earth's age is simply too large a fraction of the total time for the whole universe for Panspermia theories to buy a process much additional time.
        Beyond that, matter doesn't drift around inside the universe all that fast. Most of the universe is so far away from here that the normal travel time for a comet or interstellar cloud becomes tremendous. If spores of some sort started evolving in, say, the Great Andromeda Whirlpool a billion years before life started on Earth, that whole extra billion years would be eaten up in travel time, making their evolution there no more likely at best than them evolving right here. To get around this, Panspermia theories have to postulate exotic events such as comets ejected from their solar systems at very much faster speeds than are predicted by regular astronomy. The levels of complexity, as you put it, increase very rapidly.

Re:What? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457150)

Even ignoring items 1, 2, 5, and 6, just parts of points 3 and 4 would be an incredible scientific find. Life as we know it is practically by definition powered by DNA, finding anything that reproduced similar to the way living cells do but lacked DNA would be amazing. If even that much is true, the guy is going to get a Nobel prize in 30 years (I am in no way saying that it is true or that he will get a prize). It would literally open up whole new areas of science that are currently little more than science fiction.

If said cells are from the red rain that would be a bit more interesting besides, if they're from space or not is going to be almost impossible to prove after the fact. More interesting than being able to divide at 120 degrees C would be if they can be frozen, dried out, and exposed to vacuum for a few years and still reproduce. If their spectra lines up with the spectra of clouds in interstellar space... I think you're going to need a bit more evidence to prove that that is significant. Life in general is made out of elements that are quite common in the universe, unless you can show otherwise I would be prepared to write that off as coincidence.

Assuming this is all true, you would think alien cells that are not made from DNA would be something the general scientific community would love to have samples of, for analysis.

Well... yeah. That's why what the guy claims is such a big deal. He would have been the first to discover the phenomenon. It would be cool if it's not bunk, but I'm going to wait until this gets confirmed by a few other labs around the world before I start to get too excited.

Re:What? (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457476)

Life as we know it is practically by definition powered by DNA

Not [wikipedia.org] really. [wikipedia.org]

Re:What? (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457686)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life#Biology [wikipedia.org] I think you'll find prions and retroviruses don't meet the definition of life(btw retroviruses do in fact have RNA)

Re:What? (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457822)

Here, lemme quote that Wikipedia page to you:

Since there is no unequivocal definition of life

Indeed, that every web page lists several alternative definitions, all but one of which would apply to viruses and prions.

Btw, that definition that Wikipedia claims is 'accepted' is far from accepted. The actual situation is far closer to the page's "Proposed" definitions, with different people believing different ones. (Btw, their 'accepted' definition is a restatement of #3 in the 'proposed' section).

Most biologists don't really give a damn about defining it, since any line will be unsatisfactorily arbitrary.

Re:What? (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458554)

The points they list are what they teach in just about any biology course you take at the college level as the definition of life.

Re:What? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33460598)

Temporary definitions are often made to limit the range of discussion. Saying "when we talk about X in the course of our discussions, we're limiting ourselves to definition Y" is common even in non-scientific magazine articles.

You don't think that when CNN reports an unemployment rate without qualifiers that they're talking about global unemployment, right? Yet such a concept exists, and would still be called an unemployment rate. It's just outside the contextual definition that a US national news network would assume.

Saying that "life" means X, Y, and Z in the context of a certain set of studies doesn't mean there aren't other processes that resemble life. It just means those other processes aren't useful to the current discussion.

Re:What? (1)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 4 years ago | (#33459136)

Life as we know it is practically by definition powered by DNA

Not [wikipedia.org] really. [wikipedia.org]

Yes, really. You can't make more retroviruses without going through reverse transcription and a DNA intermediate. Similarly, you can't propagate a prion without a supply of protein -- protein which was translated from RNA, which in turn was transcribed from DNA. Both retroviruses and prions ultimately depend on DNA to make more of themselves; they've just managed to convey information about their replication process without using their own DNA as the medium.

Re:What? (3, Funny)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457386)

An obvious question is that if these cells divide at 121 degrees Celcius, what do they do in the extreme cold of space, just hibernate?

Yes. That's how they get from planet to planet. Then, when some of them reach a planet and it gets hot enough, they divide and reproduce, and start growing other, more complex types of cells, and then quickly form intelligent beings who reproduce quickly into an army and take over the planet.

Now that these researchers have figured out how to activate the seed cells, I expect the red-cell alien overlord army to rise up in a few weeks.

It's life, Jim. (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456802)

But not as we know it.

Re:It's life, Jim. (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456958)

Is this the stuff that turns into "Red Matter", then?

If so, should the article contain more, I dunno, lens flare?

Re:It's life, Jim. (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457730)

Extraterrestrial cells? Check.
Delivered by meteor? Check.
Reproduce rapidly when heat is applied? Check.

Start stockpiling Head & Shoulders!

Re:It's life, Jim. (1)

Sygnus (83325) | more than 4 years ago | (#33461390)

Extraterrestrial cells? Check.
Delivered by meteor? Check.
Reproduce rapidly when heat is applied? Check.

Start stockpiling Head & Shoulders!

But do they have pulpy orange juice for blood?

Young stars experiment with asexual reproduction. (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456820)

One such place is the Red Rectangle, a cloud of dust and gas around a young star in the Monocerous constellation.

Seriously, how could they miss such a great headline opportunity?

You know the degree symbol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456864)

...can be created using Alt-01712 ...

Re:You know the degree symbol (1)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457048)

Assuming a windows machine.

Re:You know the degree symbol (1)

armanox (826486) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457050)

Alt-0176 in Windows.

Re:You know the degree symbol (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33460640)

You know that it should be created by ° or ° in HTML regardless of OS, right? Except Slashdot hates HTML entities.

Old info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33456896)

I read about them reproducing under the right conditions years ago. It doesn't detract from the fact it could be a massive discovery. A cell wall was always a hard one to explain since we seem to jump from viruses to one cells organisms. Viruses infecting these naturally occurring ready made cells may have been the basis for cellular life. If they are starting to detect these structures in other solar systems it could be a strong indication of life favorable conditions. It's a massive leap though claiming to see signs of them since it would require densities we don't have in our system.

Re: Old info (2, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#33456984)

A cell wall was always a hard one to explain since we seem to jump from viruses to one cells organisms.

Actually, the cell wall is just about the easiest thing to explain. Just take a bunch of short-chain molecules that are hydrophobic on one end and hydrophilic on the other and throw them in water, and the self-organize into pockets very like the cell wall.

Re: Old info (3, Informative)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457090)

What you're referring to is called a cell membrane which is formed by lipid bilayers. Cell walls are usually more rigid and are located outside of the cell membrane.

However, the parent is still confusing because algae, plants, protozoa, etc. all have different structures of cell walls. He doesn't really specify which specific one(s) are hard for us to explain.

Re: Old info (2, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457126)

Indeed. And you probably have a bottle of suitable short-chain molecules, hydrophobic on one end, hydrophilic on the other end sitting on your kitchen sink. You probably know it better as "dish soap".

Terminology needs to be less hyperbolic (2, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457004)

Actually reading the paper shows that the terminology used tends to assume what is to be demonstrated. Calling the objects "cells" and the structures that appear in them "daughter cells" is a little bit hyperbolic. They could equally well be called "bubbles" and "internal bubbles".

Which is not to say they are wrong. There is a lot of speculation that neither DNA nor RNA were the actual encoding means of early life, but some other double helix that was more stable in the radiation and temperature extremes of early Earth. If this research justifies an in-depth study of what is in those hypothetical "nuclei" and what comprises that "cell membrane", that should tell us whether this is for real or whether it's some kind of nonliving artefact.

Luckily... (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457052)

Your standard flamethrower is capable of operation at well above 121c. Should be no big deal...

I for one... (2, Funny)

obiquity (658885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457120)

...welcome our Red Rain daughter cell overlords.

Activate Wildfire (2, Interesting)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457154)

Andromeda has arrived.

Red Rain (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457186)

No Peter Gabriel tag?

Re:Red Rain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33461960)

A Slayer tag seems more appropriate.

Doubtful claims (4, Informative)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457190)

I am a microbiologist and this claim in my opinion is very weak. Remember, extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof to be accepted. This guy is a physicist, not a biologist, so that already raises many red flags.

In the arXiv blog linked, it says that Godfrey collected numerous samples of the "red rain". Since he is not a microbiologist, I doubt he took the necessary precautions to prevent contamination with terrestrial microbes, though it is debatable whether this is even possible. This alone is the biggest stumbling block to his claims. The blog also says that the cell "reproduce" at 121C yet also states that it has no DNA (all form of nucleic acids?). This flies in the face of all known life on earth. Even red blood cells initially have a nuclei before losing them as they mature. The point of reproduction is to pass on your genetic code to your offspring. This suggests to me that we might be looking at a abiological/chemical process. Did Godfrey try to detect the production of metabolite byproducts from his sample? Reproduction is a very energy intensive biochemical operation and should produce detectable metabolites. My research field is hyperthermophilic Archaea that grows at 90C or more and I know the existence of microbes that can grow at even higher temperatures, so this part of the claim is feasible. Overall, I caution extreme scepticism until Godfrey can provide extraordinary proof of his claims.

Re:Doubtful claims (3, Interesting)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457588)

I'm in complete agreement with you, but some stuff occurs to me, in reading more about this.

1. If he's just an attention whore, he could have found some weird bacterium that uses RNA and claim -- and be technically correct -- that there is no DNA. That'd be surprising, but not anywhere nearly as surprising as finding something that appears to be reproducing without nucleic acids.

2. From other reading about red rain, it appears that his attempts to find DNA were restricted to malachite green and ethidium bromide, and the current theory by people who aren't him is that he's got a bunch of yeast spores, which are going to have cell walls impermeable to both so he's not going to detect DNA even if it's there, or at least not by such relatively crude techniques.

3. I wonder about metabolites. If the stuff *is* from outer space, it might not have the typical ultra-fast metabolism we see in common Earth bacteria, where energy is plentiful and the only real competitive tool available to prokaryotes is rapid reproduction. Something from outer space might act more like some of the archaea or mycobacteria that take days to reproduce -- or years -- rather than the half-hour cycles we're used to seeing in many bacteria. If this thing has a reproductive cycle measured in days or months, it's going to take a lot of time and quantitative analysis to actually see it metabolising.

4. While I agree with your statement that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, I do have to wonder: what explanation of the origin of life *isn't* extraordinary? Every theory of earth-bound biogenesis I've read is pretty difficult reading. This one does have the advantage of offloading the origin-of-life-on-earth, in which case you can at least claim that maybe biogenesis only happened once somewhere else and is being blown all over the Universe, rather than having only one planet and only a billion years in which to fit your explanation.

Re:Doubtful claims (2, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458964)

. This one does have the advantage of offloading the origin-of-life-on-earth, in which case you can at least claim that maybe biogenesis only happened once somewhere else and is being blown all over the Universe, rather than having only one planet and only a billion years in which to fit your explanation.

How does that help, exactly? You still have the problem of abiogenesis somewhere. At least here on Earth you know you have the right ingredients in abundance and you don't need to invoke a low-probability transfer mechanism to explain how it got here.

I'm not saying that this rules out panspermia, but it does make it seem like rather the more complicated option, all else being equal.

Re:Doubtful claims (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#33461026)

"what explanation of the origin of life *isn't* extraordinary? Every theory of earth-bound biogenesis I've read is pretty difficult reading."

The just chemistry [youtube.com] explaination seems pretty straightfoward to me, it also comes with a great soundtrack.

Re:Doubtful claims (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457622)

actually, the "red rain" has been cultured and found to be spores of Trentepohlia algae.....why this loon gets press is beyond me.

Re:Doubtful claims (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 4 years ago | (#33459886)

Perhaps, like AGW, it just needs the consensus of more physicists.

Andromeda strain... (2, Funny)

mevets (322601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457212)

Has anybody checked what pH they can reproduce at?
After reading that book, I ingested copious amounts of acid to ensure I would be one of the survivors.

Re:Andromeda strain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33457310)

I did that too. Do you think a gallon of OJ will be enough? Or should I drink two?

Re:Andromeda strain... (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457388)

always go for the double barrel. Makes everything look orange.

Precautionary acid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33459982)

I've been doing LSD since 1962, am I safe too?

Dear Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33457316)

Dear Slashdot,
Why are you wasting my time with this? It isn't peer reviewed science from a biologist. It hasn't been verified by biologists. It has all the markings of pseudoscience put forth by a crackpot. Please stop propagating such nonsense.

Sincerely,
A Biologist

Re:Dear Slashdot (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#33457568)

They are merely trying to fill the craphole void left by the premature demise of Roland Piquepaille...

He should get these samples to someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33457700)

Ideally, he would overcome his ego and get these samples to another researcher who is detached from the subject and considerably less "controversial". Independent confirmation would go a long way towards bringing legitimacy to his claims about these bacteria.

However, the cynical part of me would also note that this is exactly what he would not want to do if he's got even the faintest internal doubt in the things he's saying, since it could well falsify the only "evidence" he has.

A few questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33457742)

o If these particles really are reproducing, and given the number of particles in the sample, shouldn't we be able to see all the different stages of re-production occurring, including the half-way jettisoning of "baby" particles?

  o If the particles are reproducing, can we see the increase in mass? The increase in the number of particles is shown...but what about mass?

  o Is there a physical description of where the particles get said mass from? From the air? Has the experiment been tried in a vacuum? Where else do the particles get their mass from? are they converting energy into mass???

Come on...seriously folks. These are all easy, basic questions.

121 deg is no coincidence (1)

falken0905 (624713) | more than 4 years ago | (#33458278)

Hmmm, the cells reproduce at exactly 121 deg. Celsius. The Flux Capacitor requires 1.21 jigawatts (gigawatts) to power time travel. It is becoming increasingly clear the the number 121 is a cosmic 'magic number' and we propose that the red rain particles are indeed small time travelers from possibly another dimension sent on a mission to... well, we're just not sure of the mission. Whatever it is it's probably not good. I have a bad feeling about this.

Out of the void (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33458324)

"Out of the void S'ngac the violet gas had pointed the way"...

H.P. Lovecraft in "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath"

(plus aone InforMative) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33458562)

why all the naysaying here ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33459042)

Why all the naysaying? Godfearing people afraid their big childrens tale might not hold water? If this is true its wonderful.

Bring it on, we'll make Dragons. (1)

Tjp($)pjT (266360) | more than 4 years ago | (#33459206)

Have to stock up on agnothre to fight the threads when they come ...

Utter lunacy. (1)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 4 years ago | (#33459614)

From the wikipedia article "From July 25 to September 23, 2001, red rain sporadically fell on the southern Indian state of Kerala."

So, tell me this. How can ANY phenomena based on material being delivered from space hit the SAME small area of the earth multiple times on different days over a period of two months, and not hit other parts of the world? Is there a comet with a particular grudge against this part of india?

You would think a physicist, of all people, would have figured there was a problem with that idea.

Scientists come up with crazy ideas all the time. Crazy ideas are what makes science great. However, if your crazy idea is also wrong, it's probably good to give it up and not keep writing papers about it.

Not extraterrestrial (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 4 years ago | (#33459674)

This red rain event happened multiple times in that specific area. This makes the meteor idea absolutely ridiculous.

No less interesting (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#33460382)

Even if you rip out the whole extraterrestrial and panspermia mumbo jumbo you end up with something pretty interesting. Let go for a moment of the prejudice that terrestrial life requires DNA and/or RNA. Perhaps at some time in the early days of the earth alternative wholly terrestrial "life" existed and competed unsuccessfully with the DNA/RNA life systems. If you allow for that you could be looking at an ancient living fossil, life as we don't know it as opposed to life as we know it. Pretty cool and well worth looking into by people with less kookiness-cred than Godfrey Louis.

"Controversial solid-state physicist"? (1)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33461526)

Okay, stop. Right there.

Slashdot submitters, if your summary includes the phrase "controversial solid-state physicist", then your article is bunk. Click the cancel button and go back to whatever you were doing.

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