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Space Science

Raining Extraterrestrial Microbes in Kerala? 255

Posted by Zonk
from the edge-of-science dept.
jdfox writes "World Science is reporting on a controversial paper to be published shortly in the peer-reviewed research journal Astrophysics and Space Science, describing a strange red rain that fell in India in 2001, shortly after a meteor airburst event in the area. The authors posit that the red particles found in the raindrops may be extraterrestrial microbes. The authors' last two papers on the subject were unpublished: this published paper is more cautious. The paper can be viewed online, and should obviously be considered in context. More info on the 'panspermia' hypothesis can be found at Wikipedia."
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Raining Extraterrestrial Microbes in Kerala?

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  • by Unknown Poltroon (31628) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:15AM (#14415561)
    Just what we needed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:17AM (#14415564)
    Spreading his Glorious seed.

    Case closed! Who wants lunch?
  • Pern? (Score:4, Funny)

    by IdolizingStewie (878683) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:17AM (#14415567)
    At least it's not Thread.
  • sing along~ (Score:2, Funny)

    by dartarrow (930250)
    it's raining spacemen, Alleluia it's raining spacemen! Ramen!
  • First ... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Contact!
  • Venus (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheBlairMan (929930) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:20AM (#14415578)
    It was just Venus' time of the month, and it made it's way through space to reach us here.
  • Red particles... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mhore (582354) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:24AM (#14415584)
    I skimmed over his paper briefly... looking at the images of the red cells and all of that. I noticed that in a few pictures, the cells resemble red blood cells. Perhaps the meteor smashed into a flock of birds? Hah.

    Mike.
    • "Perhaps the meteor smashed into a flock of birds?"

      Didn't this happen back in the 80's?

      Oh wait, that was a flock of seagulls.

      (OK, I'm sorry already, jeez)
      • Hehe, that was funny.

        But I wonder: you often see cloud formation when a sonic boom is about to occur. Could it be that there was something in the air already that rained down from these clouds? Something that didn't come from the alleged meteor?
    • Re:Red particles... (Score:5, Informative)

      by onco_p53 (231322) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:08AM (#14415700) Homepage Journal
      Interesting idea, but when you prepare SEM samples, they often shrivel up a bit.

      They are about the right size though, these particles range in size from 4 to 10 m. And human RBCs [wikipedia.org] are about 6-8 m. It would explain the lack of a nucleus and DNA too.

      But the TEM images are all wrong (thick "cell wall"), and the low Iron and high silicon content makes it very suspect too.

      Spock's blood?

      But seriously I hope they send some of these things over to other labs for investigation (like mine!) I would start with universal primers, PCR can amplify the tiniest amount of DNA, all they did was dunk the `cells' in Edithium bromide.
      • But seriously I hope they send some of these things over to other labs for investigation (like mine!) I would start with universal primers, PCR can amplify the tiniest amount of DNA, all they did was dunk the `cells' in Edithium bromide.

        In the interst of science they took the remaining samples and finally subjected them to a 4 million degree inferno created in a supercollider, just to see what would happen.
      • these particles range in size from 4 to 10 m. And human RBCs are about 6-8 m.


        OK so that was micrometres not metres, I guess slash does not like unicode mu symbols.
      • Re:Red particles... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Angry Toad (314562)

        I would start with universal primers, PCR can amplify the tiniest amount of DNA, all they did was dunk the `cells' in Edithium bromide.

        I call shenanigans on their methodology. All they did was manually grind up the cells - once with a mortar and pestel, once with the same under liquid nitrogen. That **does not** ensure any breakage of many kinds of protist cells.

        We do this kind of stuff in my lab. We frequently have to use a French Press with monstrously high pressures to get many single-celled euk

      • by Oldsmobile (930596)
        I read the article. Very intersting, kinda creepy.

        But I don't like the way he (?) leaves other explanations out:

        "Above arguments and facts indicate that it is difficult to explain
        the red rain phenomenon by using usual arguments like dust storms etc."


        A thorough study of other possibilites would have led more credit to his pet theory. I don't think it is a good idea to use "etc." in a scientific paper. I am not saying that the "above arguments" mentioned in the quote are not valid, but he sure does not dwell
    • The article claims that about 50.000kg fell down. Now that is a heck of a turkey even by US standards. (How 50.000kg becomes 55tons is anyones guess)

      Anyway you would expect other things, like hail of McNuggets in a meteroid vs bird incident.

      It is a weird incident in anycase. If it is a life form then the fact that so much of it fell down could this mean the entire meteroid was made of it?

      The previous theories suggested that small microbes might hide among the rocky part of the asteroid. Not the entire as

      • (How 50.000kg becomes 55tons is anyones guess)


        50.000kg is, logically, 50 metric tons, but it's also 55 short tons (US measurement system) or 49.21 long tons (UK system).

        (How any educated writer could use anything but the metric system in a science-related article is anyone's guess) ;)

        Cheers,
    • IIRC (from my days when I ran an EM), bird RBS are NOT eunucleated and do not have the same appearence.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:24AM (#14415586)
    Seems this theory has gained some flack from the Intelligent Design community.

    http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.p hp/id/849 [ideacenter.org]
    • by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:38AM (#14415774)
      The text at the link [ideacenter.org] provided asserts that When it comes to religious questions, the IDEA Center's staff and founders believe that compelling evidence shows that the universe was as a whole designed by a "superintellect" that was not natural.

      They aren't interested in understanding nature. They're just trying to redefine science.

      There are a thousand ways to collaborate scientifically using the Internet. Intelligent Design propenents need to immediately begin describing their ideas more concisely and subjecting them to peer review and public criticism. Without these, their wild speculation will remain subject to extreme ridicule among the educated and their movement will continue to be shunned and exposed as a political and anti-intellectual project, standing for everything science is not.

      The continued silence from ID is not an encouraging sign for their "theory". But there is no shortage of new research that tests, supports, and expands upon the existing evolutionary framework. Evolutionary biology is the only theory which is making real progress with understanding nature.

      • > > When it comes to religious questions, the IDEA Center's staff and founders believe that compelling evidence shows that the universe was as a whole designed by a "superintellect" that was not natural.

        > They aren't interested in understanding nature. They're just trying to redefine science.

        To let their preferred answer in.

        And the quoted text reveals that after the Dover spanking they're not bothering to pretend ID isn't religion anymore.
        • I'm not sure how closely the Discovery Institute associates itself with ideacenter.org, but a cursory review of ideacenter.org gives me the impression that it's mostly a bunch of garbage. ideacenter.org gives readers guidance on suggestions as not to how not to incur scoldings from Darwinists who may not use the "common" or "non-technical" definitions. of the word "theory". Oh my.
      • "Intelligent Design propenents need to immediately begin describing their ideas more concisely and subjecting them to peer review and public criticism."

        Were you serious? They won't because they can't. The reason being, the "intelligence" cannot under any circumstances be described because that would let open an avenue of coherent attack against their incoherent idea.

        The "continued silence" is, in fact, their entire "theory".
      • They aren't interested in understanding nature. They're just trying to redefine science.

        It's not just science, they want to redefine Christianity into a simplistic thing that looks suspiciously like a death cult. Once God is responsible for absolutely everything you find details that turn God into a devil or some sort of vengeful weather spirit that kills children in floods.

        Some of the same bunch cancelled Christmas services last year and gave people DVDs to take home instead. It just makes me shake my

      • The great thing about the I.D. argument is that we can now put blame on this 'intelligence' for the screw-ups. Like the poor design of human's knees. Seems this 'intelligence' is not so intelligent after all

        jeff
    • Yes, I see why we should draw intelligent designers into this so we can ridicule them again, even though ID has nothing to do with this subject and we're all sick of it anyway.
    • Hehe, that's pretty funny... They say this, about extra-terrestrial "design":

      If one accepts that life on earth was designed, the problem with this theory is that although it might explain the design of life on earth, it cannot explain the design of extra-terrestrial components of the universe which are crucial to our existence. As noted in our Anthropic Principles page, there appears to be a design of the universe, going all the way back to a creation event implicated in the Big Bang theory. The extreme "fi
  • by qwave54 (671614)
    welcome our new red extraterrestrial microbe overlords!

    Ah well ......
  • "The present study of red rain phenomenon in Kerala shows that the particles, which caused the red colouration of the red rain, are not possibly terrestrial in origin. It appears that these particles may have originated from the atmospheric disintegration of cometary meteor fragmants, which are presumably containing dense collections of red rain particles. These particles have much similarity with biological cells though they are devoid of DNA. Are these cell particles a kind of alternate life from space?

    • There's a teeny wittle woblem with panspermia. Remember the Shoemaker comet, the one that crashed into Jupiter ? Remember the resulting explosions that were visible from Earth ? If Shoemaker was carrying microbes, those microbes were in the middle of the explosion. See the problem ?

      • It's a good thing that comets don't leave trails and that all things entering the atmosphere either explode into nothingness or disolve.
        • It's a good thing that comets don't leave trails

          They do, but I fail to see how that is relevant, since the particles that make up the trail will fall just as fast as the main comet in a gravity well. If anything, getting down alive in a comet trail particle is harder than getting down inside the comet, since you won't have any kind of protection from the heat generated by the windblast and/or the impact.

          and that all things entering the atmosphere either explode into nothingness or disolve.

          Those th

      • Not *all* comets were manufactured by Ford in the early 80's, you know...

    • If the red rain particles are biological cells and are of cometary origin, then this phenomena can be a case of panspermia where comets can breed microorgranisms in their radiogenically heated interiors and can act as vehicles for spreading life in the universe.

      The problems with this idea are many. The first is that there is no evidence that life on Earth has more than one origin - all life here is based on the same chemicals and same genetic code. If panspermia was true we might expect more variety. The
  • by ookabooka (731013) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:29AM (#14415597)
    I strongly suggest looking through this article (Yes, I know this is Slashdot, how could I suggest such a thing) as I found the summary made me extremely skeptical. If the information is not falsified, I would say it is certainly worth investigating, even with a hefty grain of salt. . . or would that be grains? . . .anyway I digress. I found the electron microscope pictures quite intriguing, it certainly "looked" like a cell, though I understand this sort of observation is hardly irrefutable. I did not see any evidence of the particles replicating which would suggest life (they could replicate and still not be considered "life" ofcourse). I believe a good analog would be the potential bacteria found in a Martian meteor. [nasa.gov]
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Funny)

    by quantaman (517394) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:29AM (#14415599)
    This human researcher is clearly incorrect.

    The red particles that landed in sector omega-3 were obviously not a virus know as MindGobblers designed to manipulate the portions of your puny brains involved with sensory reception effectivly allow us to transform you into a slave race.

    I suggest you fellow humans all make bad jokes about human researcher and realize his findings are not true.
  • From the paper: "Under low magnification the particles look like smooth, red coloured glass beads. Under high magnifications (1000x) their differences in size and shape can be seen,"

    These are iron oxide chrondules from the vaporisation of a nickel-iron meteorite. There's no need to invoke aliens or intelligent designers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not flaming you or anything (I skimmed the paper myself, and the quality of it is shoddy at best - just check out the references), but Google isn't turning up anything on "chrondules" - enlighten us? The paper jumps to outrageous conclusions, and makes the claim that they are "cell-like" with fine membranes but doesn't bother analyze membrane composition!
    • by barakn (641218) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:10AM (#14415702)
      Iron oxide chondrules with carbon as the main ingredient? I don't think so... did you see the elemental analyses?
      • I don't think so... did you see the elemental analyses?

        Yes I did, but I don't believe it. I think they've messed up the analysis. SEMs are better suited to thin films than particulates, and the components listed in their analysis don't seem a good match for the physical characteristics of the particles.

        If there actually is a high proportion of carbon in the material, it's likely to be from an iron-rich calcium carbonate meteorite instead.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You'd think carbon was rare or otherwise exceptional in meteorites. It isn't. It is abundant in carbonaceous chrondites. Some of them practically look like charcoal. But you're right, the analysis shows these things aren't mainly iron.

        I don't see anything clearly biological here, and even if there was, the connection to something extraterrestrial rather than terrestrial is tenuous. Don't get me wrong -- it's interesting, but A) there's already a long history of such hunts in ordinary meteorites, and B)
    • At this point, there is no particular reason to have a bias in favor of life evolving on this planet, in space, or on some other planet. Stubbornly clinging to the notion that life on earth must have evolved on earth is unscientific, as is equating panspermia with "aliens" or "intelligent designers".
      • The fact that life is on earth, and nowhere else we can see so far, seems like a reasonable reason to favour earth as our working assumption for the origin of earthly life.

        Sure there are other possibilities, but in the absence of evidence of life, let alone origins of life in other locations, those ideas must remain speculation at best.
        • The fact that life is on earth, and nowhere else we can see so far, seems like a reasonable reason to favour earth as our working assumption for the origin of earthly life.

          We had missed most of the biomass on earth itself until a decade ago, as well as huge branches of the phylogenetic tree.

          Given what we now know, many bodies in the solar system may contain life, including Mars, Europa, Callisto, Ceres, Venus, Jupiter, Charon, and even many comets. Given the conditions under which we now know life can exis
        • The fact that life is on earth, and nowhere else we can see so far, seems like a reasonable reason to favour earth as our working assumption for the origin of earthly life.
          Having thoroughly searched my shirt pocket and finding nothing but a piece of lint there, I can say conclusively that lint exists only in my shirt pocket.
          • Well your analogy is all off, but anyway...

            Even though unlike life, we actually know pieces of lint exist in other shirt pockets, I think I can say with reasonable expectation of being correct that the lint in your shirt pocket originated from your laundry, and did not arrive there from someone elses. Of course it's possible it originated in someone elses, and arrived in your pocket as a part of a lint panspermia, but the balance of probability is that lint has started independantly many times in suitable e
      • While it doesn't prove anything, Occam would probably tell you that life starting in a place friendly to tons of kinds of life is more likely than it germinating someplace more harsh and then traveling millions of miles to get here. Even given equally good life-starting conditions, life beginning anywhere but Earth and then moving to Earth is less likely than it just popping up here. So, until someone comes up with a reason life is much more likely to begin outside a big gravity-having object with an atmo
        • While it doesn't prove anything, Occam would probably tell you that life starting in a place friendly to tons of kinds of life is more likely than it germinating someplace more harsh and then traveling millions of miles to get here.

          And where would that be? Most of the biomass on earth appears to be in rocks and ocean floors, thriving under conditions that likely exist in lots of other bodies in the solar system and that only 20 years ago, we would have considered hostile. It appears increasingly likely th
    • by krel (588588)
      If you read the second paper, you'll see the cells are clearly alive. The only question is whether they came from space.
    • Unless they botched their elemental composition analysis, they appear to be mostly carbon and oxygen. Page 9 of the latest preprint (pardon the formatting):

      Element Wt % Atomic % Standards
      C 49.53 57.83 CaCO3
      O 45.42 39.82 Quartz
      Na 0.69 0.42 Albite
      Al 0.41 0.21 Al2O3
      Si 2.85 1.42 Quartz
      Cl 0.12 0.05 KCl
      Fe 0.97 0.24 Fe

      In any case, the first two preprint's language made me cringe. The whole "life-cycle" section.... [shudder]
  • Common occurance (Score:5, Informative)

    by Belseth (835595) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:33AM (#14415607)
    I've read about quite a few of these colored rain falls and most of them have an obvious terrestrial source. They usually are volcanic or caused by birds or insects. It's one thing for trace amounts of organic matter to survive reentry but large amounts are highly unlikely. Organic material would mostly be incinerated. A comet fragment would have a better chance with the ice protecting the organic matter. I doubt the paper will survive peer review.
    • Generally only a thin layer on the surface of a meteor endures the extreme heat of reentry. Most of the heat is carried away through ablation of the surface material. And if it breaks up, the particles quickly slow to a speed at which atmospheric heating is not a factor.
    • Actually, all meteorites that land (hence the name) are actually cold due to ablation. While the meteor exterior gets quite hot, it begins to ablate, and lose mass due to friction. This keeps the temperature of the main mass nearly the same as it was in space, Very cold indeed. However, as another poster pointed out, the rain was likely red due to iron and not xenobacteria.
    • Of course any -organic- (protein-based) material would be incinerated. Why are you so DNA-centric when it comes to extraterrestial life?
  • by phorm (591458) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:45AM (#14415644) Journal
    Look for the woman infected with an alien micro-organism that gives her the powerful urge to mate quickly in order to produce her world-dominating alien-human crossbid progeny. Of course, she'll probably kill you afterwards, but it's all the change some of you will get before you die anyhow!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now even the aliens are sending microbe jobs to India! Where does it end? Not at the atmosphere, apparently. Somewhere in space, some alien GE executive overlord has gotten his or her bonus for the year. Oh well, the quality will suck, quality assurance will suck, they'll miss their deadline for taking over the planet, and the project will fail.

    I guess we're safe.
  • by titzandkunt (623280) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @03:59AM (#14415680)

    I was going to post a longer comment, but two Marine officers have arrived at my house in an unmarked car. All they said was:

    "Dr Titzandkunt? There's been a fire."

    Gotta go!

    T&K.

    ...a clue for the clueless:clicky clicky [imdb.com]
  • by S3D (745318) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:14AM (#14415711)
    The /. editorial doesn't mention elemental composition of the particles. From TFA:
    45.4% quartz (!) 49.5% carbonate calcium
    Doesn't look like life or organic at all. Another case of wishful thinking.
  • My $.02 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barakn (641218) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:21AM (#14415730)
    The elemental analyses provided in the paper suggest a composition of of mostly carbohydrate with a smattering of something like a hydrocarbon. My guess is that they're some sort of pollen that had their DNA destroyed by ultraviolet light high in the atmosphere and then absorbed water and swelled. Nothing that couldn't have come from our own planet.
  • by liangzai (837960) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:34AM (#14415763) Homepage
    This could be the ultimate proof the ID camp has been looking for... God jerking off, spreading his seed, instilling life into the lifeless soil. The Beloved Gardener in the Heavenly Paradise Cometh unto us.
  • by barakn (641218) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:46AM (#14415793)
    The prevalence of the red rain along the southwest coast of India is explained in the paper as being the trail of a meteor that happened to follow the coast. I explain it with this June- Sept precipitation map [ernet.in], which shows the coast receiving 150 cm of rain while areas immediately to the east get 30 cm. Red rain fell in areas where rain is likely to fall. No need to invoke a meteor for which there is little evidence.
  • bad paper (Score:3, Interesting)

    by penguin-collective (932038) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:52AM (#14415813)
    If this were related to panspermia, one would expect to find DNA or RNA and they didn't. But their experiments were pretty poor to begin with: it's easy to test for lipids, proteins, sugars, amino acids as well and they didn't.
  • by bremstrong (523910) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:03AM (#14415831)
    This illustrates a problem with the way science is presently conducted.

    Apparently, two years ago a scientist in India wrote a paper about a long series of tests he conducted on a potential non-dna based life form that can reproduce at 300C and may have arrived on a comet.

    Of course it sounds unlikely, but if he's right, it is the scientific find of the century.

    And, he has samples of the purported organism.

    If scientists were really seeking uncover truth, they'd have repeated his work at five different labs and see if it held up.

    Instead, they're all to scared of looking silly to their peers, and they barely even let the Indian researcher publish his findings!

    Does anyone else see this as a problem?
    • No. It's too easy to be a crackpot.

      If scientists were really seeking uncover truth, they'd have repeated his work at five different labs and see if it held up.

      Right, they're just going to abandon their own research to confirm someone else's. Yeah, that's how science should work.
  • Both warp drives and aliens the same week. It should be clear that the alien bacteria detected the warp drive research and decided to make contact, unfortunately the all perished when their space ship blew up over India.

    Now, we will never know what they wanted, and their friends will believe that we shot them down...
  • Red rain is pouring down Pouring down all over me
  • I went to the link, and got this:
    Sadly, your client "" violates the automated access guidelines posted at , and is consequently excluded.

    wtf??
    You are using an obsolete and buggy version of the browser that has caused many problems here. You should simply upgrade to a more recent version of the browser -- 4.01, 4.02, ... have been available for quite a while.

    No... I'm using Firefox 1.06. I know 1.07 is available, but seriously!

    Sadly, your client does not supply a proper User-Agent, and is consequently excluded.

    Sadly your webmaster is a moron.

    We have an inordinate number of problems with automated scripts which do not supply a User-Agent, and violate the automated access guidelines posted at -- hence we now exclude them all.

    Right, you've never heard of robots.txt. And according to logs generated on my webserver, my User-Agent is: "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv:1.7.10) Gecko/20050912 Firefox/1.0.6 (Debian package 1.0.6-5)"

    (In rare cases, we have found that accesses through proxy servers strip the User-Agent information. If this is the case, you need to contact the administrator of your proxy server to get it fixed.)
    I think it's your administrator that needs contacting.
    • erm... I had absolutely NO problems at all with my firefox on Ubuntu 5.10...

      Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-GB; rv:1.7.12) Gecko/20051010 Firefox/1.0.7 (Ubuntu package 1.0.7)
    • I think it's your administrator that needs contacting.

      Yep. On two occasions I've found them blocking the gateway IP for the UCopenhagen institute of physics - and I'm just one user. Something about bots scanning from our network. Not that I can really think of anyone who'd want to do that. The bot alarm is probably just oversensitive. Now of course you can get around that by using for instance de.arxiv.org instead, but the admin really should cut down on the paranoia.

  • by Jugalator (259273) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @09:33AM (#14416361) Journal
    Raining Extraterrestrial Microbes in Kerala?

    Meanwhile, Occam turned in his grave.
  • Fred Hoyle was an astronomer in the UK who proposed the life from space idea and was widely ridiculed but received a lot of press. He was used to this because some year proir he determined how all of the heavier elements are formed in stars and was ridiculed until he was proved correct. One piece of utter brilliance doesn't mean you know everything - and his influenza from space theory was considered far more complicated than simple mutation so somewhat unlikely.
  • by hde226868 (906048) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @10:41AM (#14416597) Homepage
    Although Astrophysics and Space Science is peer reviewed, you should be aware that this journal is not held in very high esteem by the astronomy and astrophysics community (contrary to, e.g., the Astrophysical Journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics, or the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society). If you don't believe me, take a look at the impact factor of the journal [genebee.msu.su], which is 0.2, while it is greater than 4 for the renowed astronomical journals (the 2.1 for Astronomy and Astrophysics in the list cited is wrong [astro.su.se], but the remaining impact factors for astronomical journals more or less scale with the journal's image in the community).

    To understand how this article could be published, you should be aware that for all scientific journals the editor has the last responsibility for accepting a paper, not the peer reviewers. In the case of Astrophysics and Space Science, the editorial board [springer.com] contains N.C. Wickramasinghe, who is one of the inventors of the panspermia theory. So, even although peer reviews might have been dodgy, it could have been an editorial decision to accept this paper.

    I happen to know that Astrophysics and Space Science operates this way, as a manuscript I co-reviewed with a PhD student of mine several years ago appeared in the journal without taking any of our recommendations into account. This has not happened to me with any of the 30odd manuscripts I have refereed since and is even more astonishing since the journal decided to print the original manuscript, without even addressing the large number of grammatical mistakes and spelling errors pointed out by us (which were so bad that we, as referees, could not understand what the authors were trying to say). I have declined to referee for Astrophysics and Space Science since and consider the journal a "scientific tabloid" as opposed to a "scientific broadsheet". And you wouldn't believe the "Sun" and the "News of the World" either, right?

    So, to conclude, "peer refereed" does not always mean what you might think it does, and although I am not a microbiology specialist, as long as a report on the "red rain" is not accepted by a mainstream journal, would doubt any claims made in the article.

  • I agree the article is interesting, but a couple things stand out. Four years is enough time to get samples to more broad and credible scientific community. Also, if you read the "structure" the essentially seem to be some sort of "carbon bubbles" with some iron, silicon and oxgyen. IMHO, it would appear more likely these are some sort of space dust versus space life. They claim a "cellular" type membrane, but they appear to be devoid of internal cellular scructures. Also, sitting in a jar for 4 years
  • Sorry, I got here late and I'm disappointed that no one has mentioned Chubby Rain!
  • by Larthallor (623891) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @01:44PM (#14417285)
    So many conclusions, so much jumping, so little logic.

    • First and foremost, this is most likely not a life form. Such a finding would be the greatest discovery in fundamental biology since pinning down the function and structure of DNA. The announcement of such discoveries by frauds and the mistaken are much more common than the actual thing. However, it is possible that these are extraterrestrial spores. If the second unpublished paper describing reproduction [arxiv.org] is accurate (a big "if"), then they most likely are extremeophiles and are possibly extraterrestrial in origin.
    • DNA is not a requirement for life, as many commenters here have written. DNA (and/or RNA) is at the core of all life on Earth because all present life forms appear to have a common ancestor that used these molecules for it's genetics. The fundamental mechanism used to replicate oneself is the most likely of traits to be highly conserved in evolutionary biology and this is exactly what we are seeing. However, this does not imply that DNA (or RNA) is the only such mechanism possible, especially when the environment that fostered the transition from inorganic to organic is in a different temperature/pressure regime (300 degrees C!). Just as DNA would be useless as a genetic mechanism in the kinds of environments the paper's authors say they see replication in, a molecule that is useful in that environment would not likely be chemically functional in our relatively frigid and low pressure Earth surface environment.

      Therefore, absence of DNA is not unexpected.

    • If this does turn out to be extraterrestrial life, then the possibility that life could drift from world to world becomes a fact. This does not, however, mean that the origin of life here on Earth is due to such transport. Just because it is possible doesn't mean it has happened, let alone is responsible for the modern biosphere.

      The people that make the instant leap from the possibility of interplanetary spores surviving to the assumption that this must be how life began here have always puzzled me. After all, the life in such a scenario had to develop somewhere before traveling to Earth. Why is it so difficult to believe that the life we see today is truly indigenous?

      I think I now realize why these people are so ardent that life came from somewhere else: they continue to be mired in the historical notion that the beginning of life required some unique event to get started. In this way, they have much in common with creationists and the general public. The lesson to take from this if it is real is not that life came from space, but that life springs out of non-life with relative ease.

"You don't go out and kick a mad dog. If you have a mad dog with rabies, you take a gun and shoot him." -- Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, about Muammar Kadhafy

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