31 May 2006

Red Rain over Kerala: New Update from Central Programming?

Of the many theories of the origin of life on earth, one of the most fascinating is the theory of panspermia. Panspermia suggests that life originated outside of earth, and survived passage through outer space, and entry through earth's atmosphere--to seed life on the new planet earth.

A relatively recent earthfall of red cell-like particles over India raises the question again--this time leaving real specimens for scientists to examine.

In April, Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that the samples—water taken from the mysterious blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis’s home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001—contain microbes from outer space.

Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600˚F. (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250˚F.) So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India. If his theory proves correct, the cells would be the first confirmed evidence of alien life and, as such, could yield tantalizing new clues to the origins of life on Earth.

Panspermia developed a touch of giggle-factor when Hoyle and Wickramasinghe blamed extraterrestrial viruses for flu epidemics. But it has come back into fashion of late, and proponents argue there's plenty of evidence for it. Experiments have shown that some tough bacteria can survive for years in space, despite the extreme cold and high levels of radiation. Others have proved that some of these bugs could survive the high-speed collisions that they would experience if they slammed into the Earth on a comet.

The idea of primitive microbes flying around the solar system in its early days is not as wild as it seems. "Most of the rocks near the surface of the Earth are shot through with microbial life. It would be a fairly simple thing for a little piece of the crust to be ejected and life survive and land somewhere else," says Walker. On balance, he says, he'd bet that life began here on Earth. But he wouldn't be that surprised if evidence emerged that life started somewhere else and was delivered to Earth by a hunk of space rock.

These red cell-like specimens measure very close to the size of a human red blood cell. Their seeming ability to reproduce by budding is not at all erythrocyte-like, however. Further study in more modern research laboratories may provide more information.

A number of blog reports have covered this topic, including here and here.
These micro-particles are unlikely to be a threatening form of Andromeda Strain, but a certain amount of caution in dealing with unexplained phenomena is warranted.

Perhaps the United Nations could dispatch a special team of scientists to Kerala to observe the local population for anomalies, such as extra eyes, arms, or sensory organs of unknown type?


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Blogger mcarrieri said...

There's a major problem with the idea of Panspermia. If life did come from outerspace and uses DNA/RNA, why hasn't it evolved here on Earth into something else? Also the other problem is that if all current and evolutionary DNA came from outer space, then there's one source that's scattered over local interstallar space. We should find it on every planet and moon, probably fossilized. That also implies another planet or set of planets grew the DNA and blew up, sending the DNA all over.

Monday, 24 March, 2008  

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