Category Archives: Chandra Wickramasinghe’s BLOG

Chandra Wickramasinghe’s BLOG entries

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.”


Chandra Wickramasinghe

PS “Convergence to Panspermia”?

Enhanced interplanetary panspermia in the TRAPPIST-1 system

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


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.

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 :

“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” .


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.



2017-5-31 : Wickramasinghe – Hoyle theories vindicated – By: Piyavi Wijewardene

Wickramasinghe – Hoyle theories vindicated – By: Piyavi Wijewardene

Prof. Wickramasinghe told me: “…This new discovery combined with very many others that have come to light over the past two decades establishes beyond doubt that life on Earth came from space and still continues to do so. We are well and truly creatures of the cosmos. A major paradigm shift that has been resisted for too long must finally be conceded…”

If the claim that bacteria are constantly falling to Earth from space holds up, this will be an enormous scientific advance that will revolutionise our entire view of life and the universe. Only time will tell.


PS In May 2016, the Rosetta Mission team reported the presence of glycine, methylamine and ethylamine in the coma of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This, plus the detection of phosphorus, is consistent with the hypothesis that comets played a crucial role in the emergence of life on Earth. 

It is also consistent with the Theory of Cometary Panspermia that life came to Earth inside watery comets. 

 – Piyavi Wijewardene, Researcher – Academy For Global Business Advancement.

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.


Director, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology,

University of Buckingham


2016-10-26 : MUMBAI hosts astrobiology conference on life in space

India’s first Astrobiology Conference Life in Space – was organised in the city of MUMBAI by the Indian Astrobiology Research Centre and IARC Centre for United Nations in collaboration with Nehru Science Centre.

The conference was a huge success attended by Astrobiology students from across India. 

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe from Churchill College, Cambridge University, UK delivered the first Arthur C Clarke memorial lecture, based on his four decades long quest for extraterrestrial life.

In particular his lecture reviewed his lifelong efforts to test the Panspermia Theory. In 2016 this remains the most likely hypothesis for the spreading of life across the galaxy.

As humans review the wonderful data from the recent ESA visit to Comet 67P, and as we prepare to visit Mars and moons of Jupiter and Saturn, evidence converges to Panspermia as still the most likely explanation on the spread of viruses, bacteria, algae etc across the Milky Way.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke entertains Chandra at his home in Sri Lanka.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke entertains Chandra at his home in Sri Lanka.


Sir Arthur C. Clarke bronze at the historic Galle Face Hotel in Colombo where CW stayed en route to Mumbai. ACC wrote most of the novel 2001 A Space Odyssey whilst he stayed at this same hotel!

The theory of panspermia hypothesizes that life did not originate on Earth but was delivered to Earth from some other part of the galaxy or even from another part of the universe.

On this occasion, a new fund called, “Chandra Wickramasinghe Fund for Panspermia Research” was announced. This fund will encourage astrobiology research amongst students in India.