MWC480 system (Image montage by Kerry Hebden, Coutesy, Astronomy Now)
With the recent discovery of vast quantities of complex organic molecules (CH3CN) around an infant star system, MWC480, situated455 light years away, the possibility of comets seeding planets with life has come to the fore (https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/alma-molecules-disk). The fallacy being propagated, however, is that such protoplanetary disks are chemical factories churning out just the right molecular components that will be spontaneously fitted into simple life forms when they land on embryo planets. In our view this is not a likely story.
The disc of molecules around MWC480, detected by the ALMA array of telescopes, is a veritable “graveyard” of microbiology. Embedded within the detritus of life there remains a small fraction of surviving spores, viruses and genetic material ready to be reassembled into fully fledged living forms. There is no need to invoke multiple repetitions of the horrendously improbable “origin of life event”.
Whilst ISPA waits patiently for formal authorisation of its building plans at a historic site in the Gifu prefecture, we continue to make progress on several scientific fronts. Takafumi Matsui and Nori Miyake have successfully concluded the first part of their programme to sequence DNA from the Sri Lankan red rain cells; and work on the Polonnaruwa meteorite also continues. Some of the new results will be presented at an Astrobiology Conference in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka (21-23rd August, 2015), which will also serve as an international launch-pad for ISPA (http://www.pdn.ac.lk/uop/inrc/AbReCon2015/index.php) . This event is particularly propitious for panspermia because it marks the 50th year since the first publication by Chandra Wickramasinghe and Fred Hoyle on organic and biological dust in space. It is also the centenary of the birth of Sir Fred Hoyle. Some weeks earlier, on June 24, 2015, the actual day of Fred’s birth, a meeting organised by the Indian Planetary Society will also be devoted to a celebration of his remarkable contributions to science.
Fred Hoyle Centenary
To mark the Hoyle centenary a commemorative volume of scientific papers (edited by Chandra Wickramasinghe) with the title Vindication of Cosmic Biology will be published shortly by World Scientific/Imperial College, London Press. The opening two papers of this book are authored by Gensuke Tokoro and Chandra Wickramasinghe.
In other news, we note that Chandra Wickramasinghe has renewed his old links with Cambridge University by accepting an appointment as Visiting By Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge (http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/people/view/nalin-chandra-wickramasinghe/), He hopes to interact with the newly-formed group at the Institute of Astronomy devoted to the study of planets outside our solar headed by Professor Didier Queloz. This is a subject of crucial relevance to panspermia.
Whilst we are still awaiting planning permission to construct the buildings that would house ISPA at a historic site in Gifu, and hold a formal inauguraton conference relating to science, we continue to make progress in pushing forward the frontiers of panspermia.
We have analysed a wide range of new data that relates to panspermia, including data from the Rosetta Mission to Comet 67P/C-G, and published some of our findings in two issues of the online Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach. The following are links to these issues:
In a recent paper (in press) Milton Wainwright, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their team report the discovery of DNA in 30-micrometre size clumps of cometary dust collected in the stratosphere at a height of 41km. Because clumps of such large size cannot be lofted from the surface of the Earth we conclude that they must fall from space and represent collections of nanobacteria or viruses. This result gives us confidence for the success of our proposed programme for balloon launches, the start of which has been unfortunately delayed for logistical reasons.
Takafumi Matsui, working with Normuni Miyake, has recently made a provisional identification of the red rain cells in the Sri Lankan red rain of 2013. DNA extraction and sequencing has shown similarities to a rare class of extremophilic microbes known to exist on the Earth. This does not, however, imply that the red rain cells were lofted from the Earth. The theory of cometary panspermia implies that genotypes similar to forms that already exist on the Earth must continue to be re-supplied from space. This is what we think is happening.
A recent report of extensive genetic homologies in subpopulations of Themogota in totally disconnected oil wells - as far apart as Norway and Japan - gives rise to a mystery for conventional microbiology, but is easily understood in terms of panspermic events delivering the same microbes to widely separated and disconnected locations below the seabed (Journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology, December 12, 2014).
Publications and events
Two new books by Chandra Wickramasinghe, both relating to panspermia, have been published this year by World Scientific and Imperial College London Press:
The Search for Our Cosmic Ancestry and Where Did We Come From?
Life of an astrobiologist
Japanese translations of these books are currently in progress.
This year (2015) marks the centenary of the birth of Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) and to celebrate this event Chandra Wickramasinghe is editing a volume entitled Vindication of Cosmic Biology.
There is also a conference to mark this event to be held 22-24 June 2015 in Rajkot, India.
Chandra Wickramasinghe has been elected Visiting Bye-Fellow of Churchill College Cambridge for the academic year 2015-2016. The intention is to interact with the newly formed Exo-planet group at the Institute of Astronomy led by Prof Didier Queloz. The recent estimate of some 100 billion habitable planets in the galaxy has a profound bearing on the theory of panspermia.
The following have been appointed Honorary Distinguished Fellows of ISPA:
Professor Milton Wainwright, University of Sheffield, Sheffield UK
Dr. Max K. Wallis, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology
In addition Mr. William E. Smith has been appointed Honorary Research Fellow of ISPA. We welcome them aboard!
Sri Lanka’s premier research institution (http://slintec.lk/) dedicated to scientific and technological innovation, SLINTEC (Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology) entered into an informal partnership with the newly-formed Institute for the Study of Panspermia and Astroeconomics (ISPA) based in Gifu, Japan. The Japanese-based Institute (http://ispajapan.com/) is the brainchild of the Japanese scientist, economist and entrepreneur Gensuke Tokoro who is its chief Executive, and the Sri Lankan born scientist Chandra Wickramasinghe is a Director of Research and one of its Board Members. One of ISPA’s main endeavours will be to collect samples of cometary material in the stratosphere on a regular basis and examine them for the presence of viruses and bacteria. The samples will be made available to affiliated institutes for examination on a collaborative basis, the ultimate goal being to verify and validate the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe theory of cometary panspermia for which there is now a growing body of evidence. The newly affiliated institute in Sri Lanka is well equipped with state-of-the-art technology to contribute to this historic endeavour.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and Professor Gehan Amaratunga of Cambridge University and SLINTEC (Chief of Research and Innovation) signed a memorandum of affiliation between the two institutions in Colombo this week.
Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe in Discussion with Prof K.M. Nalin de Silva (Science Team Leader) and Prof Gehan Amaratunga at SLINTEC
SLINTEC Offices near Colombo