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Evidence For Comet-Borne Microfossils Supports Panspermia

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the aliens-always-start-small dept.

Earth 169

New submitter onyxruby writes "On December 29th of last year a comet exploded over Sri Lanka. When examined by Cardiff University one of the comet samples was found to contain micro-fossils akin to plankton. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center tested additional samples with similar results. The research paper was published in the Journal of Cosmology. In practice this means that the argument that life did not start on Earth has gained additional evidence." Update: 03/12 16:59 GMT by S : On the other hand, Phil Plait says the paper is very flawed; the sample rocks the researchers tested may not even be meteorites.

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What If? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149453)

Its just a piece of the earth's ocean that was blasted into space during the theoretical asteroid extinction event?

Re:What If? (1)

cshark (673578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149471)

That would be fascinating.
Question would be this: Does it match anything in the fossil record?

Re:What If? (5, Informative)

durrr (1316311) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149489)

Nah, it's a freshwater contaminated sample, the diatoms found are not fossilized and they are all existing species. Go read the Bad Astronomy blog for details.

BA link (4, Informative)

Scareduck (177470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149521)

Here [slate.com] . Interesting stuff.

Re:What If? (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149867)

Indeed it hasn't even been officially classified as a meteorite

It's Junk Science (5, Informative)

Maddog Batty (112434) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149789)

Re:It's Junk Science (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150257)

Bad Astronomer has done a good hatchet job on this story

If by "hatchet" you mean bardiche [wikipedia.org] or one of the other candidates in our recent poll.

Re:It's Junk Science (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150293)

Like "more than three ounces of shampoo?"

I'm sure that would clean up the story.

"Panspermia" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149467)

Isn't that something that mainly the Germans are into?

Re:"Panspermia" (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149627)

Isn't that something that mainly the Germans are into?

You're confusing Germans with satyrs.

Re:"Panspermia" (1, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149943)

Isn't that something that mainly the Germans are into?

No, it's a meme of the Intelligent Designer retinue: The belief that the seeds of life are spewed throughout the Universe.

You know, like, in the beginning, the Intelligent Designer created the Heavens and the Earth, and then He wanked off all over them.

Re:"Panspermia" (3, Interesting)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150191)

I have never heard of Panspermia being associated with Intelligent Design. I have heard people who believe in Intelligent Design shooting down Panspermia as some kind of new age nonsensical unscientific crap.
Basically, Panspermia solves the issue of the unlikelihood of life developing sporadically on Earth, by saying "Space did it", which is the scientific equivalent of "God did it".

Re:"Panspermia" (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150609)

You know, like, in the beginning, the Intelligent Designer created the Heavens and the Earth, and then He wanked off all over them.

I'll have you know I just spilled my drink. Thanks for the laugh. =)

Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

scottnix (951749) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149475)

Proof of extra-terrestrial life.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149589)

Wickramasinghe has been "proving" panspermia for decades. This isn't any bigger a story than the last dozen times.

He once claimed that influenza was from space because it struck everywhere simultaneously - a patently false claim. You can learn more than he knows about it on Wikipedia.

He should give it up and go into creationism, where there's money to be had.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (0)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149815)

But despite that, he is still probably right. What is the chance of micro-organisms NOT getting into space? On the scale of the Universe, it would be a survival and dispersal strategy for a certain class of extremophiles if they can survive those events and reproduce. You just need one or two to survive within a rock and away you go. Whether he has found sufficient evidence for it yet is a separate question.

It's dangerous out there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150007)

It's dangerous for a complex chemical like any form of life we'd be willing to label as such to exist out there.

Massive radiation belts. Cosmic rays. No protection.

Water Bears. (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150383)

Water Bears. Freaky little microscopic animals. They go into a suspended state in unfavorable conditions and ca remain there indefinitely. While in that state they'll survive unshielded exposure to space - radiation, temperature extremes, the whole nine yards. When they encounter a benign environment again and reanimate they're good as new - they can even repair considerable radiation damage to their DNA. If they're not panspermic creatures they're certainly candidates to become such. Now imagine they get frozen into the heart of a fair-sized comet where they're shielded against most radiation, they could potentially even cross between stars. Disclaimer: we have no idea what the upper limit on suspended duration is, assuming there even is one. I imagine freezing to near 0K could extend it considerably though.

I can only imagine that similarly durable single-celled creatures exist as well.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150075)

he is no more likely to be right than he ever was before. Which, without evidence, the chance remains at a firm 0%.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150317)

"he is no more likely to be right than he ever was before. Which, without evidence, the chance remains at a firm 0%."

That's even less "science" than Wickramashinge's critics believe he is performing.

Without real evidence either way, the "chance" of his being right is completely indeterminate. And if it could be determined, it would likely not be 0%. A lot closer to 0% than 100%, though.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150291)

But despite that, he is still probably right. What is the chance of micro-organisms NOT getting into space?

There's a rather large gap between "there are some microorganisms in space" and "he is probably right".

He's claiming to have found something specific, and he is wrong. Again.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150459)

But despite that, he is still probably right.

No, he is almost certainly wrong. It is plausible that a rock containing live microorganisms could be ejected from a planet during an asteroid strike, drift to another planet within the same solar system, land, and survive. But it is implausible that this mechanism could spread life through interstellar space. To eject a rock fragment with enough force to completely escape a solar gravity well would melt it. Once it was ejected from the solar system, it would take eons to reach another star system. Once it reached another system, it would have an infinitesimal chance of hitting a life supporting planet. It would be far more likely to fall into the star, hit a gas giant, or just orbit for a few billion years. The chance of this happening, even once, in the lifetime of the universe, is remote. The chance of it happening repeatedly, in some sort of chain reaction, is as close to zero as anything can get.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149665)

Because there is no proof, and not even any evidence for it.
It's been pretty thoroughly debunked, and at most it seems to be proof of Chandra Wickramasinghe's incompetence as a scientist, lackluster con man abilities, or both.
Oh, and certain slashdot editors accepting bad articles without spending two minutes on Google first.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149803)

So is Cardiff University just a diploma mill with an all-hack staff, or are they a credible uni that happens to tolerate eccentrics like Wickramashinge?

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150201)

From what I hear they are the latter. Although in the interest of full disclosure I do live fairly close to it and have a few friends who have attended. The place is regarded fairly well, although it has dropped a little in recent years. http://www.topuniversities.com/node/2253/ranking-details/world-university-rankings/2012 [topuniversities.com]

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150319)

I would guess that it's a tenure thing.

Universities usually worry whether they'll give tenure to someone who will spend the rest of their career loafing. Perhaps they should be more worried that they'll give tenure to someone who will spend the rest of their career embarrassing them.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150445)

So is Cardiff University just a diploma mill with an all-hack staff, or are they a credible uni that happens to tolerate eccentrics like Wickramashinge?

The latter, although they fired Wickramashinge [lankaweb.com] a few years ago. He's still working in Cardiff, but not for Cardiff University.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150537)

In other words, Wickramashinge is a more accredited version of Archimedes Plutonium [iw.net] .

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150023)

All I've seen is criticism of the analysis techniques involved. No real "proof" either way, just a bunch of opinions...

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150055)

All I've seen is criticism of the analysis techniques involved. No real "proof" either way, just a bunch of opinions...

No real proof either way on Russell's Teapot [wikipedia.org] either, just a bunch of opinions. We should keep an open mind until someone goes and has a look.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150239)

All I've seen is criticism of the analysis techniques involved. No real "proof" either way, just a bunch of opinions...

No real proof either way on Russell's Teapot [wikipedia.org] either, just a bunch of opinions. We should keep an open mind until someone goes and has a look.

Ironically, Russel's teapot is falsifiable, albeit a very large pain in the butt to prove false.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150573)

I see NASA's Mars team announced yesterday that they had soil sample analysis to share next week at a conference.

Then, they bumped it up to 1pm today.

I think there is concern that they might be scooped, by someone who had it fall into their hands, after NASA went to the effort to get off the planet to do their soil analysis.

Re:Why is this not an even bigger story? (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150261)

"Proof of extra-terrestrial life."

It's not a bigger story because it's not new. This particular meteorite may be new, but this has all been done before.

On earth... (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149487)

We're all illegal aliens.

Re:On earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149519)

But if we're illegal aliens, that implies there are legal aliens here on earth; who is the authorizing agency?

Re:On earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149735)

Who said that any alien is legal ?
There is no authorizing agency, because by galactic law every alien is illegal.

Re:On earth... (1)

donutz (195717) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149799)

What do you mean illegal? I think the immigration laws at that time consisted of "gravity" -- you're not suggesting the cometary debris disobeyed that law, are you?

wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149499)

This is basically bad science.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/03/11/meteorite_life_claims_of_fossils_in_a_meteorite_are_still_wrong.html

Re:wrong (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150053)

Don't assume that just because it's bad science it must absolutely be wrong. Bad science can still be right, once in a while... Not saying this is one of those cases, but still better to not jump to conclusions, otherwise you shut the door on possibilities you should have explored more thoroughly

Re:wrong (1)

HappyHead (11389) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150323)

The problem there is that the guy making these wild claims has about as much chance of being right as I would if I picked up a random rock with some algae on it on the street corner, and started claiming the algae was aliens and the rock was from space - I'd have exactly the same amount of proof of all of my claims that Wickramashinge has, and in my own favor would be the fact that I at least haven't made a large number of similar claims in the past that have all been shown false. It's not that the possibility of alien life existing is being discounted, it's that this particular hack is being called out on not doing any of his research and verification properly, and is simply making wild claims without showing that they're accurate.

Re:wrong (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150349)

I don't think anyone is saying "there could never be biological organisms on a meteorite". Rather, they're saying that this specific claim is bad science.

NASA made essentially the same claim a while back. The difference is that the debunking wasn't quite as trivial.

Already debunked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149503)

Phil Plait has thoroughly debunked this (again).

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/03/11/meteorite_life_claims_of_fossils_in_a_meteorite_are_still_wrong.html

-Phil

On Bad-Ass Tronomer (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149513)

Phil Plait rips the paper to shreds. Wickramasinghe is a crank, and that Journal publishes all kinds of nonsense.

Re:On Bad-Ass Tronomer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149607)

If panspermists want to support their claim they should get some samples from comets still floating in their odd orbits and look for fossiles in those.
Anything on earth will be contaminated by local life.

Re:On Bad-Ass Tronomer (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150431)

"Phil Plait rips the paper to shreds. Wickramasinghe is a crank, and that Journal publishes all kinds of nonsense."

This deserves more than a short mention. I do not always agree with Phil Plait, but I think he nailed it pretty solidly here.

First, Plait points out [slate.com] that the diatoms are (A) all known Earthly varieties, and (B) almost certainly not "fossilized".

Then, he gives us other good reasons to question whether the "fragment" is a meteorite at all.

Phil Plait says no... (5, Informative)

janeuner (815461) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149527)

Re:Phil Plait says no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149683)

A few seconds reading JOC or about JOC reveals it's a complete farce of a "journal".

Re:Phil Plait says no... (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150617)

A few seconds reading JOC or about JOC reveals it's a complete farce of a "journal".

More to the point, the Executive Editor of the Journal of Cosmology is none other than Chandra Wickramasinghe himself [journalofcosmology.com] .

Re:Phil Plait says no... (0)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149725)

QFT.

End of thread. Stop posting.

Re:Phil Plait says no... (3)

quixote9 (999874) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149765)

I'm a biologist, and I'd second Phil Plait. Definitely wait for second, third, and fourth opinions on this before getting excited. The fact that they're seeing ET "dinoflagellates" and "cyanobacteria" in their samples is a fair indication that they're seeing things.

Re:Phil Plait says no... (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150305)

Plait is kidding nobody this time. I can clearly make out infinitesimal strings of starch based polymers, with a scattering of ball-like protein cores. Deny not the touch of His Noodly Appendage.

No, it doesn't. Again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149545)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/03/11/meteorite_life_claims_of_fossils_in_a_meteorite_are_still_wrong.html

Chandra Wickramasinghe publishes this crazy nonsense every few months with flippant disregard for the scientific method.

Nothing to see here.

Not a meteorite nor fossilized diatoms (1, Informative)

jmichaelg (148257) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149547)

Re:Not a meteorite nor fossilized diatoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150345)

It's not diatoms this time. They seemed to have moved on to generic organic glop and calling them "hystrichospheres", which is an impressive-sounding but abandoned term for dinoflagellate cysts, which these things don't look like either.

Chicken or egg? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149551)

If the best way to populate the galaxy is to seed it with primitive, unicellular life, perhaps the ultimate function of multicellular life is to help scatter and feed bacteria (and the like) all over the world, so when something big finally hits us, enough of the well-distributed, well-fed spores might survive on blasted chunks of rock to colonize the next world.

Re:Chicken or egg? (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149639)

So we're all just cattle to our subtle microbial overlords? Interesting. I kinda like that.

Re:Chicken or egg? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149819)

By number of cells, the bacteria we carry, outnumber our own cells [npr.org] by an order of magnitude.

Re:Chicken or egg? (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150165)

Bingo. If you define evolution as the process by which you maximize your species' survivability, then bacteria are WAY more evolved than we will ever be, quite counter-intuitively. It wouldn't take much to rid the universe of humans, but try that with bacteria. Even if the Earth exploded or something, bacteria would ride on the debris to some other planet and colonize, almost guaranteed. And they do it without intelligence, complex biological structures, or technology. We think we're so advanced evolutionarily, but really we're one of the least adapted species on the planet, in terms of survivability.

Re:Chicken or egg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149689)

Bacteria (and the like) have done a pretty good job of scattering itself all over the world already. An alien "opportunity" probe landing on Earth, at a totally random location, would be EXTREMELY unlucky (ie fractions of 1%) to land somewhere that wasn't teeming with microscopic life. It would pretty much have to land in the middle of a lava flow, or possibly in the most extreme polar cold to find a sterile environment.

But if that is our function, why stop at just this world? We could load up shipping containers with samples of every variety of spore, fungus, bacteria and unicellular squidgy thing we can find and launch them to Venus, Mars, Europa, Io, Titan and a dozen other moons and rocks.

Astroturfing (1)

dmini (1151177) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149569)

Read the title as "Evidence For Comet-Borne *Microsoft*..." That's would be some heavy astroturfing!

Plankton? Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149585)

IANAbiologist, but I would have thought that even something as "simple" as plankton is pretty advanced, evolved stuff - My understanding of (mainstream) panspermia theories was that the stuff delivered to Earth would have been very simple self-replicating chemicals: Not so much early life as the immediate precursors to life, or possibly the very earliest forms of life. Nothing with a cell wall, for example.

But the discovery of extra-terrestrial plankton would be a huge deal.

Re:Plankton? Wow! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149611)

But the discovery of extra-terrestrial plankton would be a huge deal.

Yeah, it would mean whales can live in space.

Re:Plankton? Wow! (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150479)

Didn't you see Star Trek: The Voyage Home [imdb.com] ? Whales have giant Grogan-looking spaceships, for Pete's sake.

Re:Plankton? Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150597)

Ahhhh....clears up my main question about "good bye & thanks for all the fish".

Re:Plankton? Wow! (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149849)

You are right. Eukaryotic cells are quite evolved from what are thought to be the earliest cells to form.

Comet? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149631)

Must have been a very small comet, I didn't hear of a mass die-off near Sri Lanka.

Re:Comet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150415)

1) The rocks this guy has are most likely not part of a comet, asteroid, meteorite, or anything else from space. He's shown no evidence to prove they were other than his personal convictions, despite the fact that there are tests (which would have to be done by someone other than him to be accepted as valid) which can validate his claims. Additionally, the rocks he's shown pictures of don't even look like the kind of meteorite he's claiming they are supposed to be.
2) The comet in question didn't hit, it just passed through Earth's orbit some time in the past.

Comets in general leave trails of crunchy little bits behind, and if the earth passes through the area they once passed, those bits land on earth. It happens all of the time, but they're mostly so small that nobody can even see meteor trails from them. Essentially, the chances of someone randomly stepping on a piece of dust or a stone that was once part of a comet in the next hour are much larger than the chances that the rock Wickramashinge has was actually part of a comet.

Diatomaceous BS (2)

ttimes (534696) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149643)

Looking at the original article, they are not peer reviewed and they have loads of fun citing only their previous articles that claim the same thing. Are they looking at small dust particles and thinking they see 'plankton' or is it really there? - a greater mystery than their paper can answer.

Isn't the big story "extra-terrestiral life found" (1)

jrifkin (100192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149699)

If true, isn't the big story that "Non-earth life has been discovered"?

The question as to whether non-earth life seeded earth is of secondary importance, it seems to me.

Miller–Urey experiment (4, Insightful)

HaeMaker (221642) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149727)

Miller–Urey experiment created amino acids in the lab with lightning. This is the most likely source of life on earth. Not Mars, not comets.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment

Re:Miller–Urey experiment (1)

Ardeaem (625311) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150001)

Miller–Urey experiment created amino acids in the lab with lightning. This is the most likely source of life on earth.

The Miller-Urey experiments are the source of life on earth? Those experiments were more successful than I thought!

Re:Miller–Urey experiment (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150561)

Yeah, it's too bad the flux capacitor in the next lab malfunctioned and apparently disintegrated the evidence.

Re:Miller–Urey experiment (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150183)

All that Miller–Urey showed was that it's really pretty easy to get the basic ingredients to life, heck, more recently we've found huge clouds of amino acids floating free in space. There are a lot of open questions about how you go from amino acids to self replicating bacteria though, enough so that it doesn't necessarily make sense to dismiss panspermia out of hand, to do so would limit our thinking to only those conditions that could existed on primordial earth.

Re:Miller–Urey experiment (1)

Extremus (1043274) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150581)

Panspermia doesn't really answear the question of how life started. If panspermia is found to be true, then the question just changes from "how life started on earth" to "how life started".

Re:Miller–Urey experiment (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150533)

Well, it's a very likely source of life, but not necessarily on Earth. At present we have absolutely no idea what the odds might be proto-life could spontaneously arise in the organic slime. On the other hand we know that some earthbound animals (water bears - they get their own phylum and are not closely related to any other species on earth) are capable of drying up and entering a suspended state in which they can surviving unshielded in space for prolonged periods, even repairing most genetic damage that may accumulate once they reanimate. Whether they could survive long enough to reach another planet of star if, say, nicely shielded and cryogenically frozen within comet is an open question.

So, two viable explanations for how life got started on Earth, with supporting anecdotal evidence for both. We'd need to know a lot more before we could dismiss either possibility.

Timothy ? Check. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149733)

Timothy with nonsense posts again. Oh dear.

:0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149753)

Panspermia, also known as snowballing

Re::0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150495)

No, that's trans-spermia.

bogus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149881)

Boo boo

Who thinks life began on Earth? (1)

jason8 (917879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149885)

Perhaps I'm not being anthropocentric enough, but does anyone really think that life began on Earth? Perhaps there's no evidence yet to prove otherwise, but just on an intellectual level, it seems roughly similar to claiming that the universe revolves around us, or to expecting that alien life forms will be carbon-based, with arms and legs, symmetrical bodies, a tendency to post as anonymous cowards, etc...

Re:Who thinks life began on Earth? (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150031)

It is only anthropocentric if you believe that live began only on Earth.

Re:Who thinks life began on Earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150045)

Except for the experiments that show that life originating on earth was a distinct possibility

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment

And the complete lack of evidence of any organic matter on the tons and tons of cosmic matter hitting the earth.

Seriously what is more probable? That the experiments that recreate early conditions on earth and lead to creation of amino acids are the likely way in which life started on earth, or that some planet somewhere which had life on it blew up and traveled across stellar distances and the organic matter survived not just the initial apocalypse leading to the destruction of the planet, but the vast journey in space to initiate life on earth.

It's not about thinking that the universe revolves around us, it's just applying Occam's razor.

Re:Who thinks life began on Earth? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150187)

Perhaps I'm not being anthropocentric enough, but does anyone really think that life began on Earth? Perhaps there's no evidence yet to prove otherwise, but just on an intellectual level, it seems roughly similar to claiming that the universe revolves around us

There's a difference between thinking that life began on earth vs. thinking that life could *only* begin on earth.

The observable universe contains something like 100,000,000,000 galaxies with an average(?) of 100,000,000,000 stars each, and heaven knows what's beyond our observability horizon. I would be utterly astonished if we somehow proved that life has never existed in any of those systems. Yet I suspect that life really did begin here on earth, independent of any of the others.

Besides, if you claim that it originated somewhere else and got transferred to earth, you're just relocating the question of how it began. That hypothetical somewhere else isn't the center and purpose of the universe any more than earth is.

Re:Who thinks life began on Earth? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150219)

and heaven knows what's beyond our observability horizon.

BTW, if physicists are right even God doesn't know, because the information can't be transferred. Or, if God is everywhere, the part of him that's "here" doesn't know what the part of him that is "there" knows, due to to the whole speed of light thingy.

Pardon the mental/theological masturbation...

Re:Who thinks life began on Earth? (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150221)

To borrow a phrase I just read in Plait's rebuttal, I'm not sure life began here, but I think it's the way to bet.

Why? Because it's been demonstrated to be chemically possible given the environment here billions of years ago. Because the panspermia theory strikes me as people trying to answer the question "how did life arise?" merely by postulating that it came from somewhere else, which doesn't answer the question how it arose there.

Right now, we don't have any evidence life exists anywhere else in the universe. Personally, I think it probably does. If/when we find it, we can start looking at ways it might be transported from its home to ours. Wickramasinghe's basic idea isn't even a bad one. If you can find evidence of life in something demonstrably not from earth and rule out contamination, that's really compelling. Someday, perhaps, that will happen and qualified scientists will look at the tests and data and say "I can't see where they did anything wrong. I accept this result." That is just not what happened here.

Re:Who thinks life began on Earth? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150313)

Life as we know it started on Earth. Life as other entities may know it may have started elsewhere. The "as we know it" factor in our universe is so mind-bogglingly big that there may be life that we simply wouldn't be able to recognize as life.

Fuck you Kelvin (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149923)

you started this bullshit. You too Hoyle you damn asshole.

Thak greek asshole from ancient aliens or whatever the fuck that crap is called must be uncorking a 10 cases of champagne

Where life started (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149983)

I'm neutral on whether this is good or bad news, however while it's evidence some life may have an extraterrestrial origin it is not evidence life may not have started right here on earth. I have no problem with both being true, terrestrial and extraterrestrial origins of life. The odds may be astronomically high but without proof ruling out one or the other I won't ignore it.

Falcon

Beat the crap out of the rock (1)

mynameiskhan (2689067) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149985)

Wallis and Wikramasinghe are certainly persistent in publishing a paper in every volume of J. Cosmol. on this one polonnaruwa rock. Their last volume pub was discussed here (http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/01/15/2119212/no-life-has-not-been-found-in-a-meteorite). And now this. Seems pretty tough for his peers to counter the claims.

Again? "Hystrichospheres" == archaic terms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149999)

It wasn't hard to debunk this last time it was in slashdot [slashdot.org] when they were finding obviously terrestrial diatom species. Why is it showing up yet again? I mean, yeah, I know dupes are the norm here, but sheesh. This new paper isn't any better. It's just more people not really knowing what the heck they are doing (i.e. they don't really know terrestrial microbiology and meteorite mineralogy/petrology) finding something else and saying the equivalent of "Obviously it's life from somewhere else, because our [actually completely undiagnostic] testing shows it can't be Earthly contamination."

Hystrichospheres? Seriously? That's an archaic (pre-1960s) term for spiny organic-walled microfossils that we now know (post-1960s) to be the cysts from dinoflagellates [google.ca] . That link is to a classic paper by Evitt that pretty much settled the issue decades ago. We don't even call these things hystrichospheres anymore because the term is redundant and therefore almost completely abandoned in modern the literature (and that's why you won't find "hystrichosphere" on the Wikipedia page for dinoflagellates). You may as well be referring to phlogiston in a paper about fire. It's also inaccurate to refer to them as "mostly extinct" as the article in Cosmology claims, because plenty of modern dinoflagellates produce cysts that if you found them as fossils would have been historically called "hystrichospheres". Modern examples are *common*. That's one of the reasons it was eventually figured out the fossils were the same things. Anyway, if you want an organic-walled spiny microfossil that isn't a dinoflagellate, those we generally call "acritarchs" [wikipedia.org] , at least until they can be recognized as a known group and properly assigned. It's like a temporary holding pen. Some of those have been found in meteorites before (back in the 1950s and 1960s), but they were just terrestrial contamination or completely unspecific organic spheres that could be produced by non-biological processes too. The lack of understanding of basic modern biology / paleontology terminology and historical work does not inspire confidence.

Interplanetary dinoflagellates? They are indeed durable little aquatic creatures, especially in cyst form, but I don't think so. The SEMs show blobby organic glop that is completely unconvincing of dinoflagellate [wikipedia.org] anatomy or really anything else. Show me a TEM section through them with actual cellular contents, and then maybe I'd be convinced they were once something alive, but there's no diagnostic structure shown in the current paper.

Since this whole thing is going downhill... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150093)

It says sperm, heh, heh.

I'm with Neil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150103)

I'll wait for Neil's statement.

Simply no. (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150245)

The claim is somewhat outlandish. It might be proof that life can form again and again in non-living environments, but that's the only thing one can conclude right now. If we notice building blocks of life everywhere in the universe, and if we can recreate them under sterile conditions on earth, it just means that building blocks of life are very common in the universe which increases the probability of spontaneous life-forming.

It does not mean by any length that life was forming only once, and every other life is the offspring of the first one. Au contraire.

The Journal of Cosmology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150365)

The Journal of Cosmology is a joke. It has a slim-to-nil impact factor, and features articles primarily including the editors as authors. It has never been considered a reputable Journal.

There are those who believe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150391)

There are those who believe, that life here, began out there. With tribes of humans, who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans...

Oh, wait, sorry. THey said plankton, not space humans.

21st Century Slashdot (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150535)

Bringing Discover Channel-quality science to geeks everywhere...

Thanks for making me just a wee bit stupider, editors! You can probably crank up your hits by getting a comment from Kim Kardashian with a nice fake-boobs cleavage shot in the summary.

Polnnaruwa meteorite holds evidence for panspermia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150545)

Scientists who have examined the Polonnaruwa meteorite have found fossilized diatoms and cyanobacteria in it. Others who have not seen it are sure they are wrong. (One group in Sri Lanka, with samples, thought the stones might be fulgurites, but this claim has since been withdrawn.) The evidence deserves careful attention. Please look for yourself. For articles and informed comments, try this link to the Cosmic Ancestry (my) website -- http://www.panspermia.org/whatsnew72.htm#20130111, posted 11 January. Scroll up from there for more recent news. Thanks. Brig Klyce

Real panspermia on Mars (1)

gewalker (57809) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150603)

If I were betting, I would bet that the first real evidience we ever get of panspermia, is when we find evidence of life on Mars that is of terrestrial origin. Those earth rocks splashed up from meteor strikes have got to land on Mars as often as the reverse. And we know Earth rocks are filled with life.

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