All posts by Chandra Wickramasinghe

Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe (born 20 January 1939) is a Sri Lankan-born British mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist. He is currently Professor and Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham, a post he has held since 2011. Chandra Wickramasinghe has written 24 books about astrophysics and related topics; he has made frequent appearances on radio, television and film, and he writes extensive online blogs and articles.

2017-8-7 : A Community Grows around the Geysering World of Enceladus

“As Cassini’s extraordinary 13 years of exploration concludes, enjoy this up-to-the-minute, far-reaching, wide-ranging look at that little moon Enceladus, at Saturn with the big possibilities”,  Carolyn C. Porco, University of California, Berkeley, California.  Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

“The four following papers in this collection address, in one form or another, the anticipated bioloads at Enceladus, and the detectable biosignatures that might be present in its plume. Steel et al. (2017) construct a thermal model that assumes 10% of the geothermal heat emerging from the moon’s core drives hot (90°C) hydrothermal fluid flow, which results, through water/rock interactions, in the production of H2. In their work, 100% of the molecular hydrogen thus produced is subsequently consumed by methanogens to produce biomass. They thus estimate, at the vents, 90 μM of biologically produced amino acids, and microbial concentrations as high as 109 cells/mL; 10% of the latter rise in the thermal plumes that originate at the vents and eventually reach the base of the ice shell. If these authors are correct, and Enceladus approaches this high-efficiency scenario, especially if the process of bubble-scrubbing (see below) is at work, then the search for biosignatures, even microbes, in the samples collected from Enceladus’ plume could be easily accomplished.”

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Chandra Wickramasinghe

PS “Convergence to Panspermia”?

Directed panspermia: a 21st century perspective

Applying 21st century technology to the design and development of a hypothetical extra-terrestrial colonisation programme,  Smith and Sleator reimagine directed ‘panspermia‘ from the perspective
of Crick and Orgel’s’ technological society’,  44 years after the publication of their original.

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/stl/sciprg/2017/00000100/00000002/art00002

 

Limits on Panspermia

I am pleased to refer my followers to this new Russian paper :

Limits on Panspermia 

Problems related to the origin of life and the role of migration of the dust component in the Galaxy and between galaxies in the spreading life are discussed. Limits on possible distances between points of action of panspermia are derived.

Enhanced interplanetary panspermia in the TRAPPIST-1 system

Delighted to read this May 2017 paper by  Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb

Significance

The search for extraterrestrial life is one of the most exciting frontiers in present-day astronomy. Recently, the TRAPPIST-1 star was discovered to host seven rocky planets with masses and radii similar to those of the Earth, of which at least three of them may be capable of supporting life. Our paper addresses the possibility that life on one of these planets can spread to others through the transfer of rocky material. We conclude that this process has a high probability of being operational, implying that this planetary system may possess multiple life-bearing planets. Thus, our work has profound theoretical and observational consequences for future studies of the TRAPPIST-1 system and the likelihood of life in our galaxy.

http://www.pnas.org/content/114/26/6689.abstract

2017-7-1 : Did Life on Earth Come From Outer Space?

I thought my readers might enjoy this article :

A look at the scientific evidence for panspermia.

“The strongest evidence to support a cosmic origin of life and panspermia is the mind-boggling complexity of life.”

My colleague Sir Fred Hoyle famously commented :

In the 16 years since Fred passed,  we have discovered so much more about the complexity of “life” at the nano-scale. The more we learn about viruses and their contribution to our “human” biosystem, the more we become aware of just how intuitively right Fred was.

I thought I would finish this post with a reference to Wikipedia. With all its flaws it does attempt to be a source for the latest thinking even if you need to check what has been recently deleted to see the best latest and best hypotheses.

Here is a clip from Wikipedia on July 1 , 2017 :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life

“Life is a characteristic distinguishing physical entities having biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased, or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate. Various forms of life exist, such as plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. The criteria can at times be ambiguous and may or may not define viruses, viroids, or potential artificial life as “living”. Biology is the primary science concerned with the study of life, although many other sciences are involved.

The definition of life is controversial. The current definition is that organisms maintain homeostasis, are composed of cells, undergo metabolism, can grow, adapt to their environment, respond to stimuli, and reproduce. However, many other biological definitions have been proposed, and there are some borderline cases of life, such as viruses. Throughout history, there have been many attempts to define what is meant by “life” and many theories on the properties and emergence of living things, such as materialism, the belief that everything is made out of matter and that life is merely a complex form of it; hylomorphism, the belief that all things are a combination of matter and form, and the form of a living thing is its soul; spontaneous generation, the belief that life repeatedly emerges from non-life; and vitalism, a now largely discredited hypothesis that living organisms possess a “life force” or “vital spark”. Modern definitions are more complex, with input from a diversity of scientific disciplines. Biophysicists have proposed many definitions based on chemical systems; there are also some living systems theories, such as the Gaia hypothesis, the idea that the Earth itself is alive. Another theory is that life is the property of ecological systems, and yet another is elaborated in complex systems biology, a branch or subfield of mathematical biology. Abiogenesis describes the natural process of life arising from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds. Properties common to all organisms include the need for certain core chemical elements to sustain biochemical functions.

Life on Earth first appeared as early as 4.28 billion years ago, soon after ocean formation 4.41 billion years ago, and not long after the formation of the Earth 4.54 billion years ago.[1][2][3][4] Earth’s current life may have descended from an RNA world, although RNA-based life may not have been the first. The mechanism by which life began on Earth is unknown, though many hypotheses have been formulated and are often based on the Miller–Urey experiment. The earliest known life forms are microfossils of bacteria. In July 2016, scientists reported identifying a set of 355 genes believed to be present in the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of all living organisms.[5]

I think Fred would concur with me that although this is an acceptable public representation of life, this misses the profound discovery that all visible life forms are not a simple single “entity” but a complex biosystem of interacting clouds of viruses, bacteria and as yet undiscovered nano-life forms.

I always smile when I think of this as it reminds me of just how great Fred’s  visionary novel was – the Black Cloud.

2017-7-1 : Sky At Night Asks “Did Life Come From Space” – Again after 40 years

It was 11 October 1978, 40 years ago next year, that Patrick Moore interviewed Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe on the  hypothesis that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon”.

Since that time experiment after experiment, have accumulated evidence consistent with the hypothesis;  and today in 2017, Panspermia remains the “best” model for life in space.

Truly mainstream science is on a 40 year scientific journey – a  “Convergence to Panspermia” .

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2017-6-24 : To Confirm “Life on MARS” Do We Need to Put Men On Mars?

O’ the irony!

Having already spread billions of dessicated viruses and bacteria on the surface of Mars and most other local bodies, over so many missions, we now announced that:

“We may need to put men on Mars before we can really rule out life on the Red Planet once and for all”.

So man arrives on the surface of a planet or moon not as a single human entity – but as a biosystem of billions of cells, the majority of which are not human BUT viruses and bacteria.

But we will have little idea which are ours and so came with us versus which were already on Mars or Europa. Quite a quandary.

In 2017, we have only identified 10,000 viruses against millions of virus types that might exist even on earth.  Everywhere we apply the latest virus detection hardware and software we discover breakthrough virus types.

We need to accept that “Life IS a Cosmic Phenomenon”.

Once we accept microbes are everywhere,  on every body in the solar system (and maybe galaxy) we can openly start looking for more intelligent beings.  More intelligent than we humans that is.

 

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2017-6-12 : Alien Life Found Outside ISS in Vacuum of Space

“Russians scientists have started testing dust samples taken from the outer surface of the International Space Station (ISS) to confirm the results of earlier tests that suggested that micrometeorites and comet dust bombarding the ISS in low Earth orbit could contain alien or extraterrestrial life forms”.

“The ISS surface is possibly a unique and easily available collector… of biomaterial of extra-terrestrial origin.”

Meanwhile, the British astrobiologist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, of the University of Buckingham, has hailed the Russian study as potentially the “most significant development of the century” that could revolutionize our understanding of life on Earth and in space.

“We are closer now than ever before to acknowledging that extraterrestrial life forms exist, it is a very exciting development,” he added, according to Express. “For years people have tried to debunk theories of life on other planets, very soon they will simply not be able to do this.”

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