William E. Smith, BSc (Special Maths), MBA, CITP, CEng, AKC
In 1996 at the age of 50, Bill took 2 years off to do an MBA at UVIC. This led to a work term in Malaysia with Microsoft where represented Microsoft on the revolutionary Malaysia Smart School project. From 1998-2002 Bill was employed by Microsoft in London and Paris.
In 2004, Bill was invited to teach a pre-MBA boot camp at Sharif University in Tehran (The MIT of IRAN).
Bill moved back to Victoria in 2005 and since that time has focused his time and energy between managing the IT aspects of his family’s 25 year old successful travel agency, Athlone Travel; contributing to local municipal committees; and continuing his study of physics and astrobiology. The latter is a lifetime passion, from his undergraduate days in London, where he studied relativity under the great scientist Sir Herman Bondi, later to become Head of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Over the past 2 years, 2013-2014, Bill has become a friend and colleague of one of Bondi’s peers, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, and has dedicated his time to the study of Astrobiology co-authoring two published academic papers with Wickramasinghe.
Bill shares the Chandra Wickramasinghe vision that "Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon" and takes pleasure in the fact that he lived to see a time when Panspermia finally moved into mainstream science - in 2013 with the Kepler Mission discoveries.
July 6, 2015 : by Bill Smith – post graduate student of Chandra Wickramasinghe.
As NASA has now changed its overall mission tag from “Search for Water” to “Seeking the Signs of Life”; and as missions to Titan, Enceladus, Europa and Mars are planned to “seek for the signs of life”, the astrobiologists of this new generation are no longer constrained to seek life just on earth.
The spread of material from Mars to Earth and back, is proven and accepted; the associated spread of viruses and bacteria, live, dessicated or fossilized, is statistically likely and studied by astrobiologists in Universities around the world. It is now mainstream science, so get over it.
The Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of Panspermia has remained the most likely model for over 40 years and over the last 5 years discoveries in deep earth, deep rock and deep space have increased the likelihood that we will find our “little friends” on most solar system bodies – from Mars, Titan, Europa and Enceladus.
Comets with their short orbits contained within the inner solar system, (ie short period comets), have likely seen continuous transfer of microbes since “Day 1”. Rosetta’s Comet 67P is a 8 year orbit comet, so it falls into the category of very likely containing solar system microbes. Personally I am more excited about long period comets like ISON coming in from the Oort Cloud and likely even adjacent stars. There is every possibility they contain new strains of microbes.
But 67P is “one of ours”. So if Rosetta and Philae experiments find “NO” microbes, this will indeed be a major discovery and will be a start of a huge rethink. Even challenging the validity of Panspermia.
The probability is Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe will be again proven right and their vision acknowledged. Surely, in this birth centenary year of Sir Fred, the champagne will flow at Churchill College, Cambridge University, UK.
The pressure exerted by sunlight (radiation pressure force) would not be significant for the comet, but only act on the dust escaping from the surface. That is why the dust tails curve away from the gas tails in comets. At perihelion the solar energy arriving at the surface would be greater and so raise the surface temperature. This could have the effect of increasing the sublimation rate of ices, and along with the water vapour gas dust particles could also escape.
However, my view is that the extra solar heat conducted into regions tens of metres deep would lead to warm lakes containing biology, and biological replication with gas production (methane, CO2) would rupture the surface and produce geysers carrying microbes with the gas.
Nuclear energy sources (radioactive decay of Al-26, for example) would be confined to the early history of comets in the solar system.
Does this answer your question?
Chandra: Yes, the tidal forces are totally negligible.
Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Dear C, thanks. Perfect answer. I assume as you do not mention gravity, that the sun’s gravitational attraction , max at the perihelion, is not contorting the comet? Sent from my Windows Phone
Dear Chandra: In my student days I would not have had to ask you this question. But I have not enough time to relearn orbit mathematics even though I have “scanned” this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbit
I am thinking about the force exerted on a orbiting comet as it approaches its perihelion. I assume the force is maximum at the perihelion.
As 67P’s perihelion is further out from earth (between earth and mars) I was wondering what the “pressure” really was on the comet? Are you sure this is what is causing the geysers to increase? Somewhere you wrote/implied that the geyser-causing pressure might be nuclear?
One of the first papers released post Rosetta landing states “the Rosetta mission found that the comet’s water contains more of a hydrogen isotope called deuterium than water on Earth does”.
I have always thought that the source of water on earth was more likely long period Comets coming in from the Oort Cloud – or even in fact comets sling-shot in from an adjacent star.
To me this is no surprise. Just like Halley, 67P is a short period comet. But could its water have been ejected from MARS or VENUS? I must check the Rosetta paper and the hydrogen isotope ratio compared to that of water measured on other bodies such as on Mars.
The hydrogen isotope measure could be thoughts of as a fingerprint of the water’s source : ie from
another solar system planet
Asteroid (usually rock with minimal water)
Kuiper Belt Comet
Oort Cloud Comet
Adjacent Solar Systems
We still seem to be looking at evidence from an “earth centric” point of view. I expect one day we might discover the hydrogen isotope fingerprint ratio is ideal to determine the source star. I think though this will not be as useful a fingerprint as the DNA/Protein Fingerprint of the Viruses and Bacteria.
It was a paradigm shifting moment when in the summer of 2013 NASA’s Mars Curiosity Press Conference displayed the following backdrop :
So NASA was tacitly acknowledging that its umbrella mission was no longer the “Search for Water” but was now “Seeking the Signs of Life”. The Kepler Mission had caused a “consciousness change” in human expectations for life off the planet earth. With Kepler telling us that almost every star in the Milky Way Galaxy has at least one habitable planet, it was suddenly much more likely that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon” than that “Life started on Earth and is unique to Earth”.
By 2013 , the 2009 book “Virolution” by Frank Ryan was already having a profound impact on man’s understanding of “symbiosis” – the idea that the most successful life-forms across the earth and likely the Universe, were viruses and bacteria, and that even “sophisticated entities” like humans perhaps existed as an environment for their occupation.
The realization that viruses and bacteria thrive in the most extreme conditions on earth : in deep ice; in deep rock below deep oceans and even outside the International Space Station, makes it more than likely that humans have inadvertently contaminated every body where we have sent probes, even though we have worked diligently to avoid contamination.
2013 was also the year NASA’s chief Astrobiologist Chris McKay started talking about Panspermia and how asteroid and meteor collisions likely carried microbes from planet to planet in the early days of the formation of the planets. It is now mainstream science that of the 60,000 meteorites found on earth, 124 have been confirmed to come from Mars.
Universe Today, Dec 3, 2014 : According to a recent paper submitted by an international team of scientists, that evidence may have arrived on Earth three and a half years ago aboard a meteorite that fell in the Moroccan desert. Believed to have broken away from Mars 700,000 years ago, so-called Tissint meteorite has internal features that researchers say appear to be organic materials. The paper appeared in the scientific journal Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences. In it, the research team – which includes scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) – indicate organic carbon is located inside fissures in the rock. All indications are the meteorite is Martian in origin. “So far, there is no other theory that we find more compelling,” says Philippe Gillet, director of EPFL’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory. He and his colleagues from China, Japan and Germany performed a detailed analysis of organic carbon traces from a Martian meteorite, and have concluded that they have a very probable biological origin’.
As one of the original Rosetta Mission Principal Investigators, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe has a long history of studying the interstellar medium. He and Sir Fred Hoyle, who would have been 100 next year (2015), developed the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of the Panspermia. This was first proposed over 3 decades ago (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1981). According to this theory comets carry not only organic molecules that could serve as chemical building blocks of life, but life itself in the form of freeze-dried microorganisms – bacteria and viruses.
There are two types of comets : the long period comets with orbits of 100,000 years originating in the Oort Cloud at the very edge of the Solar System; then the short period comets like 67P and Halley . The orbit of 67P is just 7 years. Wickramasinghe studied 67P last time around the sun 7 years ago, in 2007. One of the biggest questions concerning these short period comets is about what is causing the “geysers” to shoot out water and particles creating the well known cometary tails. It is much easier to understand the long period “Sungrazer Comets” like ISON which pass very close to the Sun and are often “sublimated” by the heat. But when the closest a comet gets to the Sun is between Earth and Mars, then there is no extreme heat? So just what is causing the pressure that forces the “geysers”, already seen coming out from 67P.
Two Papers are offered by Professor Wickramasinghe which Provide Background Reading for Rosetta Scientists Wickramasinghe has made available two papers to help the next generation of scientists understand the history of Cometary Panspermia theory and to encourage debate on these hypotheses as experimental evidence starts to be published by the Rosetta Team :
1. with Max Wallis : Outgassing due to ice-sublimation was already evident in September 2014 at 3.3AU, with surface temperature peaks of 220-230K, which implies impure ice mixtures with less strongly-bound H2O. Increasing rates of sublimation as Rosetta follows comet 67P around its 1.3 AU perihelion will further reveal the nature and prevalence of near-surface ices.
2. with Milton Wainwright : The evidence of refrozen seas and lakes plus the early outgassing activity point to the action of microbiology, which could also explain more distant outbursts. While microorganisms probably require liquid water bodies for their early colonising of a comet, they can inhabit cracks in ice and sub-crustal snow, especially if they contain anti-freeze salts and biopolymers. Some organisms metabolise at temperatures as low as 230K, explaining the coma out at 3.9AU and our prediction is that they would become increasingly active in the near-surface layers as the comet approaches its 1.3 AU perihelion. The detection of organic molecules at the surface by Philae and through IR imaging
These three scientists seek not to publish early to stake any claims. Rather they seek only to encourage and guide their younger peers – the Rosetta and NASA scientists- as they embrace the NASA challenge of “Starting the Difficult Challenge of Seeking the Signs of Life”.
Today’s NASA press release seems to have forgotten that NASA and ESA have moved passed searching for water , and have started the difficult endeavour of seeking the signs of life.
For you to state the NASA instruments are looking for the signs of water, misses a huge opportunity to help the human community understand that we are now seriously seeking the signs of life ie amino acids /DNA etc
I recommend this should be the focus of the high level PR over the next few weeks. If we fail to find signs of life then that WOULD also be serious news.
So far Rosetta has detected vast quantities of water, methane and alcohol.
Instruments on Philae (eg MIDAS instrument) can detect proteins, viruses and bacteria sized nanoparticles. If none are detected, then this would be a serious setback to intersolarsystem Panspermia. Some are predicting fossilized diatoms in the surface pebbles; as well as dormat or even active Viruses and Bacteria under the surface.
Conversely finding such particles would be as significant as the Russian discovery of life growing on the outside windows of the ISS – samples returned to earth last week.
Which discovery will be published first to confirm that life is likely to be a cosmic phenomenon?
Dear Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe : In March 2014, I completed a paper entitled “Comet ISON – The Carrier of Life from Another Star System” See free PDF at http://1drv.ms/1o9sIhk . This is in the format of a magazine article but has not been published. The conclusion on p.38 includes the following paragraph :
3.10 Can we expect new Viruses in 2014? And of course anyone and everyone intrigued by the possibility that Comets deliver pathogens to Earth, will be carefully tracking any instances of new virus breakouts over the next 12 months (2014), hoping none are found and that Panspermia is untrue, as the consequences of Comets carrying new viruses is troubling at best.
Also in March 2014, I wrote the following paper on the Preliminary Results of Observations in January 2014 of a meteor shower of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1). Free PDF at http://1drv.ms/1o9t73m
The meteor counts are consistent with the hypothesis that earth did pass through Comet ISON’s long tail in January 7-23, 2014, and that this caused a significant increase in meteor counts as detected by observers in Minsk, Belarus.
Status – October 2014
It is with some concern that in October 2014, the Ebola and Enterovirus outbreaks are now accelerating. It also appears that the first instance of the current Ebola outbreak occurred on December 31, 2013. Wikipedia states “Researchers traced the outbreak to a two-year old child who died on 28 December 2013”.
I have felt that there were two contact moments when earth was potentially exposed to pathogens from ISON.
1. On Nov 28, 2013, when the comet reached its perihelion and “exploded”, I calculated the “particles”, now small enough to be swept by the solar wind, would take just minutes to reach earth distances. BUT there were two unknowns :
a. What was the “cone size and shape” from the explosion and
b. would this “solar wind” created blast be directed into or close to earth. Would the solar wind pick up the pathogens whole before they were reduced to just complex molecules. Ie would a nanoparticle of the size of a virus (10-8 meters) be swept up by the solar wind before the heat broke it up into molecules?
2. On January 7-23, 2014 as earth passes through ISON’s tail
I am hesitant to associate either of the current pathogen outbreaks to ISON, but do ask your guidance :
Here is my question : How would we begin to determine the possible bacterial/viral effect of ISON? Would we not expect outbreaks of Ebola and Enterovirus to occur, over the next few months, in people and places with no contact with existing patients?
If this does NOT occur then this would disprove the ISON/Pathogen Conjecture. Correct?
I think your conjecture of a connection between new viral disease outbreaks and Comet Ison is valid on the basis of the comet virus theory. However both the Ebola virus and the enterovirus have been endemic viruses for some time, In the case of Ebola, particular localised reservoirs of have been identified and these may have been initially arrived from space. Recent events are consistent with a transformative virion being delivendered at the times you suggest, and this has the effect of enhancing the virulence of the endemic viruses. On this basis I would not expect to find new cases outside the existing reservoir areas except by means of aerosol transport if that was possible. Perhaps a transforming virion addition could have the effect of rendering the Ebola virus more robust in becoming able to survive such transport.
Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology and Honorary Professor, University of Buckingham, UK
Visiting Professor University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Member of the Board of Trustees and Director of Research of the Institute for the Study of Panspermia and Astroeconomics, Gifu, Japan
I am updating WIKIPEDIA and have a question on the dust particles. I understand that contrary to popular belief, there ARE some experiments on Rosetta which will in fact show how NASA and ESA since 2013 really are “Beginning the Difficult Endeavor of Seeking the Signs of Life”.
BUT I would appreciate your guidance on how far ESA (and you) will be able to analyse the dust particles perhaps using this diagram as a guide for “layman understanding”.
Ie do your experiments only provide data relevant to organic and then perhaps complex molecules? Or would you be able to detect RNA? Or even “see” Viruses or Bacteria?
You already write : From the measured momentum of the impacts, it was possible to estimate the sizes of the collected grains, which range from a few tens of microns (comparable to the width of a human hair; size of Bacteria) up to a few hundreds of microns across (about 0.35 millimetres). See below :
Bacteria and archaea are 1->100 microns
Viruses 10nm -> 1 micron
Although 67P is a short period comet, it is possibly the result of an ancient massive planetary impact and as such it would be reasonable to hypothesize that you should be able to measure complex molecules of RNA/DNA – perhaps even viruses and bacteria, and maybe fossilized diatoms. Would Rosetta or Philae have experiments that could see or test for such objects?
From January 10-17, 2014 the Earth was calculated to be passing through the long tail of COMET ISON. This project was designed to look for meteors possibly connected to ISON. I assisted a (Ukraine + Belarus) team of astronomers to analyze data collected from analysis of 54,000 images from Belarus, Ukraine and Spain. 43 meteor phenomena were detected. The results were statistically significant and confirmed the earth did pass through the tail of ISON even though by that date, ISON had already vaporized. My role was involved in the study of the radiant (the point in the sky where meteors radiated) : i.e. to confirm this meteor radiant was consistent with NASA’s published ISON comet orbit parameters. This required a collaboration between myself and Dr. Lubos Neslusan of Slovak Academy of Science (who had written a FORTRAN app which calculates a radiant given an orbit) . We were guided by NASA/JPL Comet orbit expert Dr. Alan Chamberlin who provided the ever-changing Comet ISON orbit parameters.
PS words of caution : although the paper documents what appears to be compelling results, I have recommended the team repeat the experiment next January 2015 to confirm the meteor statistics over the same period, drop back to the 2012, 2013 levels.