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June 21-24, 2015 : INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE TO MARK THE CENTENARY OF EINSTEIN’S THEORY OF GENERAL RELATIVITY AND THE BIRTH OF SIR FRED HOYLE

Report by Chandra Wickramasinghe

A sleepy little Indian town called Changa in the district of Anand in the State of Gujarat came alive from 21st-24th June with the descent of scores of astronomers and physicists from across in India and abroad.  The publication of the very first paper by Albert Einstein on the General Theory of Relativity in 1915 and the centenary of Fred Hoyle’s birth on 24 June 1915 were the dual reason for this noteworthy event.  The venue was a modern, well-appointed campus of the Charusat University of Science and Technology, located some 40 minutes drive away from a 3-star hotel in which all the participants were housed.

Charusat

The conference was convened by Dr. J.J. Rawal under the auspices of the Indian Planetary Society and chaired by the eminent industrialist and sponsor Dr.Mohanbhal Patel.  Following the opening ceremony on 21 June, with the traditional lighting of oil lamps to signify a new awakening, the meeting was launched.

The first two days of formal sessions on 22nd and 23rd June were largely devoted to matters connected with Relativity and Cosmology.  Jayant Narlikar’s father V.V. Narlikar, who was a student at Cambridge in the 1930’s and a pupil of Sir Arthur Eddington, was the trail blazer for Relativity research in India and he had inspired two generations of young Indians to explore ideas in this field.

The distinguished cosmologist, Professor Thanu Padmanabhan, who was one time Sackler Distinguished Professor at Cambridge University and is now a Professor at the Inter-Universities Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pune India, gave a stimulating opening talk on 22 June in which he described his new ideas about the geometry of space-time and gravity being an emergent property from some deeper thermodynamic principle.  J.V. Narlikar next talked about his collaboration with Fred Hoyle on C-field (creation field) cosmology which was an attempt to formulate rigorously the Steady-State Theory of the Universe.  This was followed by other speakers who covered a variety of more conventional aspects of cosmology and general relativity.

The Fred Hoyle day on 24th June 2015 (Hoyle’s birth centenary) started with a brilliant presentation by Hoyle’s oldest living student Professor Leon Mestel (92).  Leon Mestel was unable to attend in person, but his contribution was read out by Jayant Narlikar.  Then came a talk by Peter Eggleton who had collaborated on stellar structure with Fred Hoyle in the 1960’s.   The session included a talk by Fred Hoyle’s daughter Elizabeth Butler who gave some of her personal reminiscences.  This presentation also peered beyond Fred Hoyle’s relatively impoverished childhood to a more distant lineage that included one noted poet (Ben Preston) and members of the British aristocracy and intellectual elite.

The meeting closed with my 50-minute talk on “Convergence to Cosmic Biology”.   Here I traced the steps in my 40-year-long collaboration with Hoyle that had led us from studies of carbonaceous interstellar dust to the theory that life is a cosmic phenomenon.

The Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of Panspermia is now globally acknowledged as the most likely hypothesis of how life spread throughout our Solar System, Galaxy and even Universe.

Since Fred Hoyle’s death in 2001 new results from astronomy, geology and biology, including DNA sequence studies, have shown our theory to be amply vindicated.  A major scientific paradigm shift with far-reaching societal implications appears to loom large on the horizon.

June 20, 2015 : Vindication of the theory of our cometary origins

An article from The Island Online – Sri Lanka, June 20, 2015.

June 24, 2015 marks the centenary of the birth of one of the most illustrious figures of modern science – the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001). Hoyle’s discoveries straddled many branches of astronomy, but he is perhaps best remembered for his long and distinguished collaboration with Sri Lankan scientist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe concerning the origin of life from comets.
They developed this theory over four decades and when first propounded in 1975 it sparked off a long and bitter scientific controversy. Over a period of several years evidence from various branches of sciences have converged to show that Hoyle and Wickramasinghe were right after all – we are indeed be creatures of the cosmos.
At the time of the first space mission to a comet in 1986 – the European Space Agency’s Giotto Mission to Comet Halley – the prevailing view was that comets were lifeless inorganic “snowballs”. Weeks before the Giotto encounter on March 13, 1986 Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe announced their prediction that the surface of this comet would be “darker than coal”. On the night of March 13 it turned out that their prediction was startlingly verified when, to the dismay of everyone, the comet did indeed appear to be so dark as to be virtually invisible.
The most recent ESA (European Space Agency) mission to a comet – the Rosetta Mission – arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Comet C-G) last year. A small lander called Philae equipped with scientific instruments arrived at the comet’s surface in November 2014, but its solar batteries went dead shortly after transmitting the first batch of data, These first results already confirmed the dark organic-rich nature of the comet’s surface. Science writers frequently reported that these results supported the idea that the building blocks of life came from comets but they rarely credited or recalled the names of the originators of this theory.
With the news this week that the Philae has “woken up”, with its batteries recharged, the expectation is that more data confirming our cosmic origins will come to light. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe may well find their theories vindicated in this auspicious centenary year of the birth of Fred Hoyle.

Greetings from World Scientific!

Dear Prof. Wickramasinghe,
Greetings from World Scientific!
Thank you for choosing to publish your book with us. Vindication of Cosmic Biology: Tribute to Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) is officially published!
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Replay : 2015-1-25 : 67P’s perihelion

From: Chandra Wickramasinghe Sent: ‎2015-‎01-‎25 14:13 To: William (Bill) E. Smith Subject: Re: Simple orbit mathematics

Dear Bill

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?

Best

Chandra: Yes, the tidal forces are totally negligible.

C

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

 

2015-1-25 : 67P’s perihelion is further out from earth (between earth and mars) I was wondering what the “pressure” really was on the comet?

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?

2014-12-10 : Rosetta Water Isotope Measure. Source of Earth’s Water not the same as 67P

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

  • Earth
  • 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.

2014-12-08 : Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe offers guidance to those “seeking the signs of life” .

It was a paradigm shifting moment when in the summer of 2013 NASA’s Mars Curiosity Press Conference displayed the following backdrop :

NASA Search for Life
NASA Search for Life

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”.

2014-11-26 : DNA is shown hardy enough to survive space travel

DNA carries the blueprint of all life, and its survival during space travel is essential if life is to be regarded a cosmic phenomenon.  DNA (plasmid DNA) mounted on the exterior of a TEXUS-49 rocket was launched from Kiruna in Northern Sweden in November 2011.  On its 13 minute flight the external temperature peaked at 1000 degrees C, and to the surprise of the investigators the DNA was not denatured. Their biological function, which was to impart antibiotic resistance to a colony of bacteria, was shown to have remained intact.  This shows that DNA (and viruses) can survive the rigours of space travel – escape at high speed through the atmosphere of one planet and land in tact on another.  The result, if it is shown to hold also for chromosomal DNA, gives strong support for  the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Theory of Evolution from Space.

Along with the well-attested modern data on Horizontal Gene Transfer (viruses aiding evolution by transferring genes), and the presence of viral sequences in our own genes (Tokoro and Wickramasinghe, 2014) the new result extends the operation of the same processes across the boundaries of planets.

The work also lends very strong support to the theory of cometary panspermia.

The work also shows that incoming virions from space can change the virus population already on Earth and cause the flare-up of pandemic disease.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0112979

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11256420/DNA-can-survive-re-entry-into-Earths-atmosphere.html

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe

Personal website: www.profchandra.org

ISPA website: www.ispajapan.com

2014-11-12 : ROSETTA MAY REVEAL OUR COSMIC ANCESTRY

Timeline – 12 November 2014 – Today’s landing on a comet has been hailed as a one big step for civilisation. The importance of this epoch making achievement and its potential for unravelling our origins cannot be overstated. The scientific theory that comets are connected with the origins of life was first developed by the late Sir Fred Hoyle and the present writer from 1980 onwards, and evidence for this point of view has grown steadily over the years. Today it is widely accepted that at the very least the chemical building blocks of life were delivered to the Earth by comets, and this process effectively kick-started the evolution of life on our planet. At the time of the first space mission to a comet in 1986 – ESA’s Giotto Mission to Comet Halley – the prevailing point of view was that comets were lifeless inorganic snowballs. Weeks before the Giotto encounter on March 13, 1986 Fred Hoyle and I published a prediction that the surface of the comet would be “darker than coal” and this prediction was reported in the London Times of March 12 1986. On the night of March 13 it turned out that our prediction was startlingly verified when, to the dismay of everyone, the comet did indeed turn out to be so dark as to be virtually invisible to the heavily shuttered-down cameras that had expected to photograph a bright snowfield. Comet Halley was indeed blacker than the blackest coal; and the largely organic composition of comets have come to be steadily vindicated since this time. The dark surface of comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Comet C-G for short) has already been established and no doubt will be confirmed in the weeks that lie ahead.

The lander Philae that arrived safely on Comet C-G carries a mobile laboratory that will hopefully give us a better understanding of how the solar system originated nearly 4500 million years ago. But what further evidence of our cosmic ancestry will be eventually unravelled by this mission is left to be seen. It is somewhat strange that references to life in comets appear to have been somewhat muted in the publicity covering today’s event. My prediction would be that the connection between life and comets would be the most exciting outcome that will emerge in due course.

Chandra Wickramasinghe