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Biotech Earth Space Science

DNA-Less 'Red Rain' Cells Reproduce At 121 C 149

Posted by timothy
from the that-beats-most-hot-tubs dept.
eldavojohn writes "A new paper up for prepublication from the controversial solid-state physicist Godfrey Louis claims that the cells Louis collected from a Keralan red rain incident divide and produce daughter cells at 121 degrees Celsius. While unusual, this is not unheard of as the paper recalls cells cultivated from hydrothermal vents are known to reproduce at 121 C as well. Of course, caution is exercised when dealing with the possible explanation surrounding the theory of panspermia but the MIT Technology Review says researchers 'examined the way these fluoresce when bombarded with light and say it is remarkably similar to various unexplained emission spectra seen in various parts of the galaxy. One such place is the Red Rectangle, a cloud of dust and gas around a young star in the Monocerous constellation.'"
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DNA-Less 'Red Rain' Cells Reproduce At 121 C

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:20PM (#33456626)

    What does that mean? Has it been peer-reviewed yet? Has it been accepted? Or is it just at the stage where the author's submitted it, and those other steps still need to happen? The linked page only says its "submitted".

    If it hasn't been accepted, posting it here is rather silly on a lot of counts. Not to mention that, with some journals, doing something like that can result in the paper being summarily rejected (e.g Nature, Science).

  • by DamienRBlack (1165691) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:29PM (#33456748)
    None of this guy's (Godfrey Louis) stuff on the subject seems to be peer reviewed. It is all just up on arXiv. I think he is more interested in getting publicity than getting his facts checked. Now that last statement is an ad hominem, so it doesn't say anything about his research one way or the other. But I think it does give a few clues.
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:45PM (#33456948) Journal

    It isn't really an ad hominem at all. If you say "This guy is a loon, therefore his arguments are crap" then that is an ad hominem, but if you say "This guy's arguments are crap, therefore he's a loon" it isn't. His being a loon doesn't necessarily make his arguments crap, but just saying his arguments are crap or even calling him a loon isn't an ad hominem. An ad hominem is a specific type of logical fallacy, it is not a general insult.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:56PM (#33457102) Journal

    If it was me, I would make sure that every i was dotted and t was crossed. I would keep it damned quiet, and ask anyone I shared the data with to do the same. I would probably spend six months just running through it all again, and maybe once more after that.

    The one thing I wouldn't do is leak it, or fantastically optimistic interpretations of it to the press. When things appear first in the media and then in peer-reviewed journals or at conferences, people begin to think strange thoughts like "Hyperbole" or, sometimes even "Fraud". Researchers who leave the confines of accepted publishing and announcement practices are taking a big chance that they're going to undermine the whole damned thing.

    But how many times, folks, have we been bit by incredible announcements in the press "New Discovery Will Rewrite biology/astronomy/physics/neurology/whatever" only to find out that the actual paper is considerably more mundane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @05:11PM (#33457250)

    It is not peer reviewed. I took a look at it and in its current form it is unlikely to pass muster for peer review (at least in a molecular biology journal). There are a number of clear flaws. Cells of some species will often show a characteristic doubling time. In this case, the "cell" population appears to less than double from 30 to 60 minutes. Then from 60 to 90 more than double before any increase in cell number stops. This odd behavior is consistent with micelles treated at high heat breaking apart into smaller micelles before reaching a stable size (which, assuming these data are not falsified, seems to be what is occurring here).

  • by ElektronSpinRezonans (1397787) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @05:26PM (#33457460)
    Ah, youngling, you have many years until you have that PhD in your hand. What you're suggesting is a negative results, caused from "not seeing what we wanted to see", which can be rebutted in a million different ways, most of which you probably do not know yet. This is one of the reasons the peer review process exists. I personally do not believe anything I read on a non-peer reviewed paper, unless of course it is coming from well documented, well funded full professors.
  • by icebike (68054) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @06:26PM (#33458224)

    Somehow I suspect we would not be discussing this if a crackpot was not involved.

    The wiki article pretty much nails it down to spores of a lichen-forming alga belonging to the genus Trentepohlia, plentiful in the area where the red rain was found, as well as many other places in the world.

    Yet, we are now treated to the suggestion that because the same wave lengths of light as are found in some remote part of the galaxy can be induced when samples are bombarded with some (conveniently unspecified) light source..

    The clear implication being that we should all believe that some extraterrestrial life has chosen this particular part of India, (and no where else) to fall in rain for a solid month, totally ignoring high winds aloft.

    I wager my rear end could be made to fluoresce certain shades of red found in other parts of the galaxy given the right form of bombardment.

    Thank you sir, Mr Louis needs another.

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:11PM (#33458818) Journal

    >implying that arguments made by a loon aren't crap.

    Please, learn to think.

    Huh? I'm not implying that arguments made by a loon are good or bad. Loons can make any sort of argument, and even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The argument is either logical or it isn't, that holds true for whoever makes the argument. That is why ad hominem is a fallacy.

    Now, there are times when calling someone a loon is not an ad hominem. For instance, "Don't listen when George tells you he is king of Siam. George is certifiably insane" is not an ad hominem if George is in fact insane and not the king of Siam, the fact of his insanity a good reason not to listen to his claims, and therefor this argument is not a fallacy.

  • Re:Doubtful claims (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:24PM (#33458964) Homepage

    . This one does have the advantage of offloading the origin-of-life-on-earth, in which case you can at least claim that maybe biogenesis only happened once somewhere else and is being blown all over the Universe, rather than having only one planet and only a billion years in which to fit your explanation.

    How does that help, exactly? You still have the problem of abiogenesis somewhere. At least here on Earth you know you have the right ingredients in abundance and you don't need to invoke a low-probability transfer mechanism to explain how it got here.

    I'm not saying that this rules out panspermia, but it does make it seem like rather the more complicated option, all else being equal.

  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:25PM (#33458986) Journal

    IANAS but it would seem to me that the presence of enough spores in the water samples to grow a culture from in not truly indicative of the red color being primarily or even partially from the spores. Given the concentration of spores needed to color water red, the probability of rain containing that concentration is very, very low.

    That isn't necessarily an argument for why the red color couldn't be spores; that's an argument for why red rains are quite rare, and why they require ideal and unusual conditions under which to occur. I would rephrase your statement to, "Given that the rain was red, the probability of the rain containing a sufficient concentration of spores to cause the coloration approaches unity". Given that we get full-scale animals falling from the sky [wikipedia.org] from time to time, it's not that much of a stretch for occasional freak meteorological conditions to pick up a bunch of teeny tiny algal spores. From the last decade, the Wikipedia article I linked has stories about frogs and toads (several occasions), fish (twice), worms, and spiders. Spores are child's play.

  • by yyxx (1812612) on Friday September 03, 2010 @04:26AM (#33462338)

    The wiki article pretty much nails it down to spores of a lichen-forming alga belonging to the genus Trentepohlia, plentiful in the area where the red rain was found, as well as many other places in the world.

    Spores don't divide at 121C or 300C.

    Yet, we are now treated to the suggestion that because the same wave lengths of light as are found in some remote part of the galaxy can be induced when samples are bombarded with some (conveniently unspecified) light source..

    Fluorescence doesn't work that way.

    Somehow I suspect we would not be discussing this if a crackpot was not involved.

    Well, what defines a "crackpot"? The people described their materials, methods, and results. Those are not consistent with spores. There are three possibilities: (1) the experiments were carried out incorrectly, (2) the authors deliberately lied, or (3) the experimental results are as described.

    How can one proceed? Peer review may uncover gross errors in their experimental procedures, in which case they would have to go back and redo their experiments.

    If there are no gross errors, there's no reason not to publish the results; they are still implausible, but not obviously wrong.

    The only way to figure out what's going on is to try and replicate the experiments a few times. Once people do that, we'll know. Until that's done, the issue is simply unresolved. There's no need to call people "crackpot" over it, but there's no reason to believe the results either.

  • by yyxx (1812612) on Friday September 03, 2010 @04:41AM (#33462400)

    I personally do not believe anything I read on a non-peer reviewed paper,

    A peer reviewer is just someone working in a field. If you need to rely on peer reviewers to determine whether a paper in your field is credible, you're simply not competent and should find a different job. For people working in a field, peer review is useful for cutting down the crap, not for establishing credibility.

    What you're suggesting is a negative results, caused from "not seeing what we wanted to see", which can be rebutted in a million different ways, most of which you probably do not know yet.

    Negative results like that are incredibly useful: either they show that a particular experimental approach fails, saving other people the effort to go down that path, or they are a new phenomenon. Keeping such results from getting published is really quite harmful to science, causing needless duplication of the same dead ends again and again.

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