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Space Science

Plankton in the Clouds 84

Posted by timothy
from the pray-for-rain dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NASA is reporting that the September 1997 Pacific hurricane, Nora, was able to deliver sea salt and plankton as far inland as Oklahoma. The tale-tell signs of prismatic light halos around cirrus clouds pointed to ice crystals with nucleated hexagons and sea-salted clouds. Various proposals have been made previously about such 'life in the clouds' proposals on other planets like Jupiter and Venus."
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Plankton in the Clouds

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  • by MosesJones (55544) on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:20AM (#5823628) Homepage

    Is now only a few billion years of evolution away... :-)
  • by MeanE (469971) on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:29AM (#5823663) Homepage
    when you have sea salt and plankton.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... or plankton in the sky with diamonds?
  • Dead or alive? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:32AM (#5823670)
    Scientists were surprised to find what appeared to be frozen plankton in some cirrus crystals collected by research aircraft over Oklahoma, far from the Pacific Ocean.

    So they found some dead plankton. I'd be much more impressed about the connection with Venus if they were still alive while in the clouds some how.

  • by Crasoum (618885) on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:34AM (#5823679) Journal
    Means I can be the first to get the crabby patty recipe

  • Moon rainbows (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ojQj (657924) on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:37AM (#5823693)
    A few years ago, in Houston I saw a pale rainbow around the almost-full moon at night. It was a very cold night for Houston (below freezing), but since it was Houston, the humidity in the air was very high. Someone explained to me that the rainbow was because the humidity in the air was frozen into ice crystals which then had special refractory properties.

    Based on this article, I have to ask: Could saltwater have been a better explanation for this beautiful phenomenon? Does anybody here know?

  • life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by prmths (325452) <prmths@noSpaM.f00.org> on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:38AM (#5823701) Homepage
    life as we know it is possible anywhere there is water. At this point, simple life forms like algea and bacteria on an extra-terrestrial world wouldn't excite me more than a "that's damn cool" type reaction. I'm to the point now that I'd expect there to be simple life on some of the other worlds in our solar system. I'd be a lot more surprised of all the planets and moons around us were completely dead. Now if they found concrete proof of extinct complex organisms on mars, or a sea full of life on Europa, It'd be a very exciting day. Jupiter's natural radiation could heat Europa's innards enough for life to thrive. Some say that the amount of radiation from jupiter would kill everything off; but life has a tendency to find a way to overcome obstacles. After all, despite all our efforts, spammers exist, trolls keep posting and the Saddams of the world keep on having their way.
    • Re:life (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GigsVT (208848) *
      The big deal is that it would cause all the religious people to freak out, and they would have to rewrite their religion in a major way. I'm not naive enough to believe it would be the end of religion, they've adapted before in the face of overwhelming evidence that they were wrong.
      • Re:life (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by prmths (325452)
        religion does seem like it'd have a cow. After all there are people out there who still belive the earth is flat and we're riding through the universe on the back of a turtle.
        Personally I couldnt care less about the religious people anymore.. I've lived in the bible belt for so long i'm immune to some of the residents' 'blind faith'. Blind faith has always bothered me to no end. Even when I was a naive kid of 5 or 6. I believed what my parents told me to believe; but i didnt like it. None of it made any sen
        • That's OK. Some day you'll realize you aren't half as smart as you think you are, and don't have a tenth of the world figured out the way you think you do.

          Well, that of course assumes your ego gets out of the way, so maybe I'm exercising a little too much blind faith here as well.
          • Re:life (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Oh come on -- he isn't asserting that he's smarter than anyone else; he's simply saying that he questions things before blindly believing them. Big difference.

            Try not to belittle others for not blindly believing something. Skepticism is a good thing.
        • Re:life (Score:2, Insightful)

          This is not flamebait. Religions don't have a very good track record when it comes to accepting new discoveries that contradict them. Besides, this view is fairly common among those of us who choose to think for ourselves... FWIW, although I was raised in church, I started tuning out uber-religious people after a "good christian" woman called me a fairly nasty name over a debate about whether dinosaurs had really existed. Her view was since they were not mentioned explicitly in the Bible, they never exi
      • Re:life (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Zaak (46001)
        The big deal is that it would cause all the religious people to freak out, and they would have to rewrite their religion in a major way.

        You're painting with an awfully big brush there. I don't know of many religions where "life only exists on earth" is a major doctrine.

        I'm sure there are some people for whom it is a strongly held belief, but for each one of those there are many more who do not have a strong belief either way, and even quite a few for whom the discovery of life on other planets would be a
      • Well, not all the religious people---but quite a few of them. There are some people who have certain religious beliefs but don't seem to really believe them. I don't know; I gave up trying to understand that years ago.
    • Jupiter's natural radiation could heat Europa's innards enough for life to thrive.

      I do not think it has anything to do with radiation from Jupiter (since any radiation would simply be reflection from the Sun), but instead the heat is caused by the intense gravitational tidal forces from Jupiter (similar to the tidal effect of the moon on Earth). Gravity is constantly compressing and altering the shape of Europa and this friction causes it to heat up to the point where liquid water can exist (under the sur
  • Jumping the Gun? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tanveer1979 (530624) on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:52AM (#5823746) Homepage Journal
    I guess the guys being too hopeful. Even if it is micro-biological life, it needs some time to form out of basic building blocks.

    Up in the clouds the conditions are too violent and volatile and material transfer is past, so life may land up there, but it is difficult for it to develop from there, unless the whole cloud is made of primodial soup, like the depths of jupiter where there is thich murky cloud where scientists think life is possible.

    But life forming in clouds like venus has, sorry i dont bite.
  • by sn0wcrash (223995) on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:54AM (#5823752)
    There have been reports of dogs, people and farm animals to name a few in the clouds during several tornados! This must say alot about the possibility of life on Jupiter!!!
  • by Rhinobird (151521) on Monday April 28, 2003 @08:07AM (#5823812) Homepage
    Plankton in the sky with algea?

    I seem to remember someone finding spiders and vaious bacteria way up before, and as soon as they brought them back down to eath they came back alive. Curse my bad memory.
  • by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday April 28, 2003 @08:24AM (#5823867) Homepage Journal
    Where the plankton comes sweeping down the plains!!!
  • in other news (FISH) (Score:3, Informative)

    by oliverthered (187439) <oliverthered.hotmail@com> on Monday April 28, 2003 @08:37AM (#5823921) Journal
    Plankton, pffft I want fish to rain down from the sky. [abc.net.au]

  • by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Monday April 28, 2003 @08:43AM (#5823955) Homepage Journal
    I always kind of thought the term was tell-tale.

    I guess once the FAA gets word of this, they'll require algae impact testing on airliner windshields .
  • ...about those Slylandro gas bags. Don't ask them about their glowy bits!


  • Hey this plankton came from cloud No 9, came with a tiny harp.
  • A good book... (Score:3, Informative)

    by binner1 (516856) <bdwalton@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:38AM (#5824629) Homepage
    If you find this concept interesting, and enjoy Sci-Fi, try the book Wheelers [amazon.com] by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. It's a neat book that fleshes out this concept in intricate detail. I picked it up in a clearance sale at my local book store, and was glad of the purchase!

    -Ben
  • by shancock (89482) * on Monday April 28, 2003 @11:53AM (#5825198)
    by Freeman Dyson talks about this in his wonderful book published in 1999. Specifically he talks about the chances of finding lifeforms on Mars and Europa (a satellite of Jupiter). He suggests looking into the space around Europa instead of on the surface for "freeze dried fish".

    From the final chapter: "Every time there is a major impact on Europa, a vast quantity of water will be splashed from the ocean into the space around Jupiter. The water will partly evaporate and partly condense into snow. Any creatures living in the water not too close to the impact (meteor impacts) will have a chance of being splashed intact into space with the water and quickly freeze dried."

    I'm not sure if this book has been reviewed in slashdot, but it deserves another shot since so much here is relevant especially after the last shuttle disaster. Dyson is dead on track here.


  • IAJAP, I am just a programmer, but

    If this living material is present at that level, do we think it can precipitate out ? and if so, what impact do you think this would have on projects that analyse the minute traces of life in remote areas [sciencenews.org] ? Actually, what impact might that have on umbrella sales ??? ;)
  • How long until we all get to move to the Smoke Ring?

  • plankton that was picked up by a hurricane out of the water, died and didn't originate there is a hell of alot different than life that developes in the clouds. I would thinkl that someone who knows how to type and use a computer would be smart enough to realize this but hey, maybe I've overestimated the inteligence required to do those kinds of things.

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