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.

2017-7-1 : 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.”

Academic Paper

 

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2017-5-26 : Russia thinks microorganisms may be living outside the space station

Russian officials claim scientists with their space agency have discovered microbes in dust samples collected by cosmonauts from outside a window on their space station module.

Photo by NASA/UPI

| License Photo
 
“The micrometeorites and comet dust that settle on the ISS surface may contain biogenic substance of extra-terrestrial origin in its natural form,” Roscosmos officials said in a news release. “The ISS surface is possibly a unique and easily available collector and keeper of comet substance and, possibly, of biomaterial of extra-terrestrial origin.”
 

2017-2-27 : Life’s Beginnings

Letter to the Editor of The Times

LONDON, 27 February 2017 .

Sir, The recent report of Winston Churchill’s unpublished essay News, Feb 16. 2017), in which he argues that planets outside the solar system are likely to be inhabited, came days before Nasa’s announcement of the discovery of seven Earth-like planets
39 light years away orbiting the star Trappist-l (News, Feb 23).

The two announcements have a rare consonance. If life does indeed
exist on a multiplicity of planets, it would mean either that life starts
everywhere de novo with ease or it spreads from a single unknown
starting point. In view of the continued failure of science to demonstrate that life can start spontaneously in a planetary
environment, the more likely option is the latter — one proposed and developed by the late Sir Fred Hoyle and myself over the past four decades.

Microbial life from which all other life derives is transported with
comparative ease and spreads across the galaxy like an infection.

Churchill’s conjecture would then be verified.

PROFESSOR CHANDRA WICKRAMASINGHE

Director, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology,

University of Buckingham