Category Archives: BLOG

2017-11-22: Are We the Aliens We Seek?

“Aliens have reached Earth, say researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, basing their dramatic findings on a new study of fast-moving extraterrestrial dust that constantly rains down on our atmosphere. These particles serve as tiny ‘spaceships’ for microorganisms from alien worlds that traverse the vastness of interstellar space for eons before reaching Earth. This dusty downpour could also collide with biological particles in Earth’s atmosphere with enough energy to send them careening into space, and conceivably onwards to other planets in other solar systems.

Astrobiologists earlier found evidence of microorganisms reaching the planet in air samples taken at extreme altitudes, and from the discovery in 1984 of fossilised worms in a meteorite from Mars. Exciting data from the 1976 Viking space probes, which actually confirmed the presence of Martian microorganisms but were overlooked for 25 years by careless scientists, back these findings. In 2006, researchers from Columbia University discovered traces of amino acids – the building blocks of life – on meteorites that landed in Australia and the US less than a hundred years ago.

Some scientists argue that these extraterrestrial amino acids mixed with moisture in Earth’s ancient atmosphere to produce an acidic “soup” that then nourished the planet’s first organisms. This ties in with the panspermia theory, which says that outer space seeded Earth with comet-borne primitive life forms over four billion years ago. Panspermia never found favour with modern-day scientists till the 1970s, when the late Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramesinghe came across “traces of life” in interstellar dust. When cultured, two species of bacteria and a microfungus found in space rocks turned out to be similar to terrestrial organisms – just as panspermia had predicted. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe believed that a torrent of such “life-altering stuff from space” reaches Earth in cycles related to solar activity and has affected the evolution of terrestrial life. If this is indeed the reality, the ‘miracle’ of life could happen anywhere, and our microbial ancestors, or more evolved cousins, are scattered like chaff throughout the universe” , by   ON 

 

READ MORE

2017-9-27 : Ada Derana Sri Lankan of the Year 2017

Ada Derana Sri Lankan of the Year 2017, felicitating outstanding individuals and groups of the island nation, was held for the second consecutive year at the Hilton Hotel in Colombo on Wednesday September 27, 2017. 

Fourteen awards in total were presented to a range of individuals from a range of fields and professions. 

2017 Winners:

Sports – Mr Dinesh Priyantha Herath
Entertainer Classical Category – Mr Ravibandu Vidyapathi
Entertainment Distinguished Achievement – Kala Keerthi Irangani Serasinghe
Entrepreneur – Aban Pestonjee
Global Businessman – Mahesh Amalean
Global Scientist – Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Global Entertainer – Mr Rohan de Silva
Global Professional – Mr Cecil Balmond
Popular Category – Mr Chamara Weerasinghe
Public Service – Mr Gamini Wijesinghe
Unsung Hero – Mrs Lily Violet & Ms. Thilini Nadeeka Shalwin
Bravery Award – Mr Naveen Danushka & Nihal Sarath Kumara & Mr. Eranga Wikumsiri
Lifetime Achievement – Sri Lankaabhimanya Lester James Peiris
ICON of the Year – Mr Muttiah Muralitharan

The Ada Derana ‘Sri Lankan of the Year’ is designed as an exhaustive, rigorous and credible platform to nominate and select Sri Lankans whose dedication and commitment in their chosen fields have inspired pride and patriotism.

In recognising such achievement, it is hoped that fellow Sri Lankans, especially the younger generations, will be inspired to emulate the hard work, passion, and vision of their idols.

READ MORE

2017-8-3 : Sir John Kotelawala Defence University,  Sri Lanka

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe’s address to the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University,  Sri Lanka upon the award of an Honorary Professorship at that University in August 3-4, 2017.

“Each year, the university attracts more than 2000 researchers from all over the world and it receives more than 500 submissions of research papers. Out of a similar number of submissions, 320 papers have been selected to be presented at this year’s conference.

This year, the organizers have invited the world renowned Sri Lankan scholars –  Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe, an astronomer and astrobiologist residing in UK, and Dr  Bandula Wije, a scientist and a Biomedical Engineer, and KDU expects bestow Honorary Professorships on these two scientists in recognition of their invaluable contribution to the advancement of science.”

READ MORE

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.”

READ MORE

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” .

READ MORE