Invaders from an unknown planet entered Earth's atmosphere on December 29 last year, riding in a fiery comet that burst 10km above Sri Lanka. Before Hollywood gears up for an orgy of CGI and bad plot lines, it should be pointed out that the invaders in question are microscopically small and flash-frozen – but the discovery …
I think I'll take this as the official "last Reg" article I read. Unless this was a sarcastic/comedy snippet? Are they honestly posting a made up science article and believing it to be true? If they fall for such obvious false claims with this article, how can I consider the rest of the site anything more than some entertaining "fiction"?
So I'll say bye, and thanks for all the fish...
To be fair, El Reg is in good company... http://www.technologyreview.com/view/512381/astrobiologists-find-ancient-fossils-in-fireball-fragments/ , and it's not like most of us come here expecting the editorial staff to have fully-fledged astrobiologists ready to pick apart such stories. It is predominently an IT rag, after all.
Although, perhaps a little less credulity would've been in order...
It's not "to be fair". If a archeologist/Egyptologist claimed the pyramids were made by aliens and they found a bit of paint off the mothership, would you expect the papers/sites to post the story or to post "archeologist might have gone a bit looney"?
Or if a scientist claims they invented teleportation, but only if you close your eyes first?
Some things demand a careful examination before passing on the story.
"Well, I am very skeptical of the existence of life anywhere in the universe other than on this planet"
Why, as a matter of interest?
The universe is so stupidly big that it would defy all probability that we are alone.
To my mind; if we are alone, then there must be something in this 'god' thing. Because it'd be a genuine miracle if in all of those galaxies out there there isn't so much as another single-cell organism.
Too true. To deny that life exists elsewhere, in whatever form, is to deny that life exists here.
There are very reasonable hypotheses that Mars once sheltered life but the planetary environment wasn't stable enough to support it as a lack of an atmosphere is usually considered bad for life so it didn't last long nor was likely to have developed much past "slime".
As for Intelligent Life: Well, we're no closer to finding any of that anywhere... :)
Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown, and things seem hard
and people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
and you feel that you've had quite enouuuuuuuuugh...
member that your standing on a planet that's evolving,
and revolving at nine hundred miles an hour...
That's orbiting at ninety miles a second, so it's reckoned,
the sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
are moving at a million miles a day.
in an outer spiral-arm at forty thousand miles an hour
of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars,
it's a hundred thousand lightyears side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand lightyears thick,
but out by us it's just three thousand lightyears wide.
We're thirty thousand lightyears from galactic central point,
we go 'round every two hundred million years.
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions,
in this amazing and expanding universe.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
in all of the directions it can whiz.
As fast as it can go, that's the speed of light you know;
twelve million miles a minute, that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember when your feeling very small and insecure,
how amazingly unlikely is your birth,
and pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'cause there's bugger-all down here on earth!
"Why, as a matter of interest?"
That's a very fair question but I can't really give you a short synopsis or overview.
But I will point you to a book, "Where Is Everybody?" by Stephen Webb. (The full title of which is actually "If The Universe Is Teeming With Aliens, Where Is Everybody: Fifty Solutions To The Fermi Paradox And The Problem Of Extraterrestrial Life".) I would consider this to be required reading for anyone interested in the subject. (As you can easily imagine, Google will find you reviews; Amazon will be happy to sell you a copy.)
Not only are the astrophysical reasons for skepticism powerful, but once having found out about the biological reasons for skepticism, the effect is only reinforced. Abiogenesis is at this point, and maybe forever, an insoluble problem, but certain occurrences necessary for the emergence of life on earth can be reasonably (but not, of course, definitively) shown to have probabilities that are "indistinguishable from zero".
Here are a few of the influences, some hypothetical, on the genesis of life on earth: the sun and its specific characteristics, the earth and its specific characteristics (what if there was even less molybdenum?), the moon and its specific characteristics, the location of the earth in the Continuously Habitable Zone, tides, plate tectonics, Snowball Earth, Jupiter, being effected (or not!) by gamma ray bursters or supernovae or supervolcanoes, and more! Note that these factors only concern the physical and environmental conditions that were necessary for the origin of life on earth. Some of these conditions are quite common: stars like the sun abound, obviously. Some of these conditions might in fact have no bearing on the matter at all. But as the you look for planetary systems that satisfy the conditions, probabilities diminish precipitously. And that is even before we look at the biological considerations:
The biological considerations: the genesis of prokaryotes (eubacteria and archaea) and especially eukaryotes, the origin of proteins, polypeptides and amino acids, enzymes, nucleic acids (RNA and DNA)... Again, the probabilities against some of these things having arisen have been estimated by some to involve "probabilities indistinguishable from zero". (And when two necessary conditions have "probabilities indistinguishable from zero" - well, it's possible to end up dealing with numbers that exceed the number of atoms in the universe, let alone stars or planets.)
Think about panspermia for a moment. It's a respectable theory even if not accepted by all knowledgeable parties. I consider panspermia to be a theory meant to show that there can be life elsewhere in the universe while evading the incredibly long odds of life arising from non-life in the first place. I.e Life is so hard to get from non-life, that even if it only happened *once* we can still be not alone - we have cousins... somewhere!
( I certainly do not want this post to convey the impression that I have any great knowledge of the matters under discussion - especially the biology of it. My knowledge is at best that of a layman. But some of the numbers involved really do make skeptical conclusions inescapable.)
Check April 1st ... no.
Check Mayan Apocalypse ... no.
Possible influence by Saturn ascendant in the Sign of Scorpion ... no.
Ok, that would be AMAZING IF TRUE but I remember the "Red/Blood Rain Over India" flap, which was originally panned to be panspermiotic interlopers TRANSPORTED BY METEORITE but could be explained away standard terrestrial microbiologic CELESTIAL PHENOMENA somehwat related to FROG RAINS!
Pull up PDF and check the authors... ohhh yeahh, it's him - Wickramasinghe. He's been using every opportunity to 'identify' interstellar life since the '60s. SARS was extraterrestrial, y'know. And other viruses. And other bacteria. And ....
Searched for 'NASA' in the PDF. They made some scanning electron microscope pictures. I don't see them being quoted as sourcing the 'explanations' about flagella and friends. I can take any photograph you've taken and announce to the world that you have gotten the definitive evidence of the boojumwicz (in the lower left corner, behind the trash can, it's *there*, see?) Even if _you_ deny it there'll be 1000s of believers. (Ooo, it has pretty fur! Scales! Fur! Scales!)
Nitrogen-depleted flagella? Biologicals throughout the rock? From Sri Lanka and Cardiff? The "Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology"? No, and my purple toed seven eyed friend here is making the wavy movements of the head crest that means they are greatly amused.
Cardiff closed Wickramasinghe's department some while ago. He is now at Buckingham following a rearrangement.
The somewhat embarrassing claims he made from 2006 onwards, and the images of supposed 'spores from space', appear to have vanished from the university web site. The red rain in Kerala in 2001 was more than likely caused by industrial pollution from incomplete incineration of chemical waste from insecticide production.
His latest claims are presumably being made in anticipation of the comet Panstarrs becoming visible.
Assuming that the comet really did contain fossilised life that was present in the rock before it crashed into Sri Lanka, where did it come from? Maybe it originally came from Earth and was knocked out into space a couple of billion years ago? After all, if lumps of Mars frequently fall here, there's no reason why lumps of here shouldn't also be falling here from time to time. So it could be life of terrestrial origin after all - which seems more likely than crossing deep space from a different star system.
If you don't think we are going to find life out there, you might want to watch this:
Get ready - within 24 years, proof of sentient life - or Dr. Shostak is gonna buy your next cup of coffee. Moore's Law is at work in the realm of SETI research, meaning that the search for life is growing exponentially.
Beer - because this is the beverage you will be buying Dr. Shostak - when you find out you aren't getting the free coffee.
Important to note though, these fossilized samples are not biologically active.
We really, really need samples from the bits of the interstellar comet that are going to hit Mars next year. The comet may miss but even so it's likely to cast its interstellar bits where we can find them.
Where do you get the "interstellar" angle from? The article you linked has "probably hails from the distant Oort Cloud" which is still part of the solar system, and believed to be the general source for long-period comets, i.e. no reason to believe this comet is spermier than others, just distinctive for the chance of a Mars money shot,
Lack of knowledge about what's going on + lack of will or ability to develop suitable but highly complicated theory + support by famous people whose brilliance is authenticated time and again and must be taken for granted + ever so slightly lax standards in logic and experimentation = new religion.
... but the other give-away is "nitrogen depleted". Depleted is an implicit hypothesis that there *was* nitrogen there originally, and the nitrogen disappeared because they the fossils are "ancient".
But we also have (as the article acknowledges) no problem with carbon and nitrogen spontaneously forming amino acids in space which survive.
This reminds me of the great life-on-Mars storm in a teacup: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Hills_84001
How did life form on earth? Too fucking complicated for me - lets say it came from outerspace!
Brilliant! But what if someone asks how it formed there? Rinse and repeat.
I'd rather get my science from Jiminy Cricket than Wickramasinghe who should die the death of a million cuts from Occams razor.
This post has been deleted by its author
Was about to comment on the dry matter of fact style of this article considering its content. Content which seemed to suggest evidence of the first non terrestrial organism ever detected, a absolutely gobsmacking stunning truely historical bit of news that represents a major significan landmark in our understanding of the universe ... And the artical seemed so blah ... Ho hum, ... Then looked a little into it all and, Oh, its bullshyte ... ok, then ... Thanks for the let down
It's not a real journal, it's some UFO nuts on a website. They're always pulling crap like this.
Three other points:
- No nitrogen = not life.
- All blobs look like bacteria, which are blobs, but most blobs are just blobs.
- How does something fossilize in outer space?
Mention of the smoke coming off the newly landed meteorite and the injury of a female bystander didn't appear in the early descriptions. When I saw it I wondered that it was perhaps an attempt to drum up a bit of excitement, Wickramasinghe's latest claim having been met in the main with resounding silence.
The story seems to be based on the pub scene in The Quatermass Experiment where ... The barmaid picks up the lozenge shaped meteorite. The end melts. Smoke comes out. And then something leaps towards her face. Struggling and clutching her neck she is carried off by men in bio-protective suits and masks,.
They don't seem to make films any more where you have to hide under a cushion or behind the sofa.
It puzzled me almost as much to note that Benny Peiser is promoting this latest 'spores from space' nonsense as to see it given space in El Reg. It's not getting much coverage anywhere else and Peiser is presently head of Nigel Lawson's pressure group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). So, other than perhaps spreading a bit of general disinformation, what's the link between space invaders and climate change?
Well, back in 2001, together with the late Fred Hoyle to whom he owes much, Chandra Wickramasinghe came out with a paper which said that the Earth would be covered in ice were it not for occasional collisions with comets. We will be safe in the meantime, however, because large emissions of carbon dioxide will help stave off the next ice age.
Presumable the oft-repeated claims that "scientists always used to say that another ice age was coming" seen recently on various blogs are part of the GWPF's latest PR efforts. And now that a comet is visible in the northern hemisphere, as any astrologer would confirm, it's a propitious time to repeat the claim that warming is good, floating it on a tabloid kerfuffle about extraterrestrial life.
Remember: global warming is good for you.
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