What'sNEW January - March 2013
Some comments include imaginative proposals to rebut the basic conclusion from Jamie Wallis et al. For example: even if the stones are meteorites, and even if they contain biological fossils that are too old to be recent earthly contaminants, still, maybe, somehow old earthly fossils got incorporated into the new meteorite! For another example: maybe the stones recovered were not the ones seen when the meteorite fell. Of course, this objection also could be made for any other witnessed meteorite, such as the one that fell spectacularly, 15 February, over Chelyabinsk, Russia. It isn't, but the point is not crucial anyway. The important question is this: are the actual biological fossils themselves unearthly? Preliminary indications say yes.
Jamie Wallis, Nori Miyake, Richard B. Hoover, Andrew Oldroyd, Daryl H. Wallis, Anil Samaranayake, K. Wickramarathne, M.K. Wallis, Carl H. Gibson, N. C. Wickramasinghe, "The Polonnaruwa meteorite: oxygen isotope, crystalline and biological composition" [abstract | PDF], arXiv:1303.1845 [q-bio.OT], posted 6 Mar 2013.
NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars, NASA, 12 Mar 2013.
Life on Mars! is the main related local webpage.
Thanks for alerts, Ellen Klyce, Stan Franklin, Ronnie McGhee and NPR. And David S. McKay!
David S. McKay, biographic page at Wikipedia.
Antarctic Lake Vostok yields 'new bacterial life' by Paul Rincon, BBC, 7 Mar 2013.
'Unclassified' Life Found in Antarctic Lake..., RIA Novosti, 7 Mar 2013.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets? has related links. Thanks, Bob Sweeney.
"...Lack of detectable nitrogen and an anomalous C/O ratio (similar to bitumen)" show that these fossils can hardly be recent contaminants. The case for panspermia is looking stronger than ever.
Jamie Wallis, Nori Miyake, Richard B. Hoover, Andrew Oldroyd, Daryl H. Wallis, Anil Samaranayake, K. Wickramarathne, M.K. Wallis, Carl H. Gibson and N. C. Wickramasinghe, "The Polonnaruwa Meteorite: Oxygen Isotope, Crystalline and Biological Composition" [610Kb PDF | local PDF], n2 v22 Journal of Cosmology, online 5 Mar 2013.
Deep below ground some microbes may "live without dividing for millions to tens of millions of years."
Deep Underground, Worms and 'Zombie Microbes' Rule, book review by Alister Doyle, ScientificAmerican.com, 5 Mar 2013.
Bacteria... is a related local webpage. Thanks for an alert, Theodore Rigley.
Thanks, Theodore Rigley, for careful proofreading.
Kuraku S, Qiu H, Meyer A, "Horizontal transfers of Tc1 elements between teleost fishes and their vertebrate parasites, lampreys" [open access abstract], doi:10.1093/gbe/evs069, p929-936 v4, Genome Biol Evol, online 9 Aug 2012.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related local webpage — What'sNEW about HGT |
Thanks for alerting us, Sascha Wageringel.
Viruses are notorious for their role in disease, but only about 1% are actually pathogenic. What are all those other viruses doing?
Podcast: Are There Good Viruses? by Sarah Crespi, ScienceNow, 15 Feb 2013.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related local webpage — What'sNEW about HGT |
Anil Samaranayake et al., "Microorganisms in the Colored Rain of Sri Lanka" [446Kb PDF], v22 n1, Journal of Cosmology, 13 Feb 2013.
N.C. Wickramasinghe et al., "Living Diatoms in the Polonnaruwa Meteorite – Possible Link to Red and Yellow Rain" [444Kb PDF], v21 n40, Journal of Cosmology, 8 Feb 2013.
As I have said, doubts about the reductionist account of life go against the dominant scientific consensus, but that consensus faces problems of probability that I believe are not taken seriously enough, both with repsect to the evolution of life forms through accidental mutation and natural selection and with respect to the formation from dead matter of physical systems capable of such evolution. The more we learn about the intricacy of the genetic code and its control of the chemical processes of life, the harder those problems seem.
For giving comfort to "the enemy" Nagel is catching hell from many orthodox scientists. Meanwhile, in cosmic ancestry, the prior existence of genetic programs for all of life would make the story of evolution far less unlikely than the strictly darwinian account — and it would have an appearance of teleolgy. We wonder if this concept would interest Nagel. With sufficient genetic programs, could even consciousness be an emergent property of advanced life? If so, scientific materialism might be adequate after all.
Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False [publisher's promo], ISBN10: 0199919755, Oxford University Press, USA, 26 Sep 2012.
Lake-drilling team discovers life under the ice, doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12405, by Quirin Schiermeier, Nature News, 11 Feb 2013.
...First Evidence of Life Under Antarctic Ice by Carolyn Gramling, Science Now, 7 Feb 2013.
Buried Antarctic Lake Yields Hints of Life by Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet (+Fox News, +NBC News), 30 Jan 2013.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets? has related links. Thanks, Ronnie McGhee.
The second challenge is that the microbes in the meteorite are Earthly contaminants. This is especially plausible because some of them closely resemble earthly species, and some are alive. (Most are fossilized.) The final answer for this challenge must await further testing including chemical and isotopic analysis of the fossils (diatoms, cyanobacteria and other, unrecognized species) and other parts of the meteorite. Meanwhile, some of the fossils are embedded in the rock matrix — hard to explain away with recent contamination. An example, a fractured diatom fossil, is shown above (picture width = c. 16 μ.)
In cosmic ancestry, life from space would be closely related to life on Earth and would necessarily sometimes arrive intact — alive.
Antarctic lake mission reports historic breakthrough by Quirin Schiermeier, Nature News Blog, 28 Jan 2013.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets? has related links. Updates, 7-11 Feb 2013
Yet many orphan genes have important functions; ...a few even seem have played a part in the evolution of the human brain. Important, functional genes with no history of gradual, step-wise composition are not explained by mainstream Darwinism.
Now genomic researchers are finding that close homologs of many orphan genes can be found in silent, or "junk" DNA among species including yeast, rice, mice and fruit flies. When these sequences are activated in more advanced species, they are designated de novo genes. Of course, how unexpressed sequences of hundreds or thousands of nucleotides acquired their programmatic meaning de novo is the issue we just mentioned. The genes remain unexplained by mainstream Darwinism.
Orphan genes are a basic prediction of cosmic ancestry.
Helen Pilcher, "Genes from nowhere: Orphans with a surprising story" [html], p40-43 n2900, New Scientist, 24 Jan 2013.
Last Thursday, 17 January, your correspondent visited The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, where (near to far) Hoover, SEM operator Greg Jerman, and I studied an especially interesting apparent fossil in the just-opened interior of one sample.
Fossilized Life Forms in the Murchison Meteorite is our oldest related webpage, with links to more articles about meteoritic research, beginning 29 Jan 1997.
No, Diatoms Have Not Been Found in a Meteorite by Phil Plait, Slate, 15 Jan 2013.
Extraterresterial Life Exists, Scientist Chandra Wickramasinghe Claims by Lee Speigel, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 18 Jan 2013.
Meteorite particles in Polonnaruwa? (1.3-minute video), Newsfirst Sri Lanka (+YouTube), 31 Dec 2012.
Portions of Richard Hoover's video interview with NewsFirst of Sri Lanka are available online, along with a counter-opinion from Geologist Rohana Chandrajith at the University of Peradeniya.
N.C. Wickramasinghe et al., "On the Cometary Origin of the Polonnaruwa Meteorite," n38 v21, Journal of Cosmology [420Kb PDF | local PDF], online 13 Jan 2013.
Algae in meteorite prove life in comets (2-minute video), Newsfirst Sri Lanka (+YouTube), 12 Jan 2013.
Polonnaruwa Meteorite with Evidence of Life from Outer Space Described the Most Important Find in 500 Years by Walter Jayawardhana, LankaWeb (+LankaNewspapers.com), 13 Jan 2013. Thanks, Jack Foster, iii.
Diatoms are easy to recognize because of their unique, articulated, perforated, geometric shapes. They grow in water or wet environments almost anywhere photosynthesis is possible. The cell walls are mostly rigid, brittle silica. (Larger versions of the figures here are available in the article linked below.)
The SEM images, made at the School of Earth Sciences at Cardiff University, also show round cells similar in size and shape to those found in the "red rain" that fell in Kerala, India, in 2001. Several days after the fall of the Polonnaruwa meteorite in Sri Lanka, red rains fell there, too. The source of these cells is not clear.
But the diatoms are easily identified and clearly part of the meteorite. While this evidence is new, and therefore not yet widely accepted, it seems conclusive to us — it looks like life from space. Chandra Wickramasinghe has pioneered the theory of cometary panspermia for decades. We expect this evidence from his group to advance the theory considerably.
N.C. Wickramasinghe, J. Wallis, D.H. Wallis and Anil Samaranayake, "Fossil Diatoms in a New Carbonaceous Meteorite," n37 v21, Journal of Cosmology [860Kb PDF | PDF from BCAB | local PDF], online 10 Jan 2013.
Bion-M project to test Panspermia theory, Interfax.com (+Russia Beyond the Headlines), 9 Jan 2013.
Introduction: More Than Panspermia is a related local webpage. Thanks, Google Alerts.
The subject retrotransposon is designated BovB, a long interspersed element (LINE) of about 3,200 nucleotides. LINEs are a class of Transposable Elements (TEs) known to copy and paste themselves widely within genomes, often with profound evolutionary effects. However, extracellular TEs are not viable, so they require vectors such as parasites or viruses to horizontally transfer (HT) them among species.
HT of retrotransposons is significant because conservative estimates of their prevalence indicate that they make up between a third and a half of typical vertebrate genomes. Thus, demonstration of widespread HT for retrotransposons has significant implications for our understanding of genome structure and evolution. ...The frequent horizontal movement of BovB illustrates the significant impact HT has had on animal genomes; expansion of BovB in various lineages has contributed large amounts of sequence (and presumably structural variation) to the genomes of distantly related species. It is tempting to speculate that BovB is not the only retrotransposon to have jumped between species....
Ali Morton Walsha et al., "Widespread horizontal transfer of retrotransposons" [abstract], doi:10.1073/pnas.1205856110, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, online 31 Dec 2012.