Claim: Meteorite discovered with signs of life in it

This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds up. I would remind readers that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“. This needs to be confirmed by others in the science community before it can be taken seriously.

This is from a recent meteorite find in December 2012. A large fire ball was seen by a large number of people in Sri Lanka on December 29th 2012, during that episode a large meteorite disintegrated and fell to Earth in the village of Araganwila which is few miles away from the city of Polonnaruwa.

Look at what the electron microscope shows of a sample purported to be from the meteorite:

Polonnaruwa_meteor_SEM_fig3

It looks convincing, and the paper says: “Contamination is excluded by the circumstance that the elemental abundances within the structures match closely with those of the surrounding matrix.“, but I remain skeptical of the claim.

At first I thought this was somebody mistaking a Tektite (Earthly origin ejecta from impact that makes it into space briefly) but this meteorite found in Sri Lanka does not appear to fit that category, being a chondrite. Further, this is a (supposedly) peer reviewed paper in the Journal of Cosmology, just published, but looking at the Journal of Cosmology, I have some doubts about its veracity.

I asked our resident solar expert Dr. Leif Svalgaard what he thought of it:

Credible? Yes and No. Several good scientists that I know personally have published in the Journal. There is also a good deal of junk. The kind of stuff that gets trotted out at WUWT by our resident [commenters] asking us to ‘open our minds’. So, there is both. It is difficult for a layman to sort the wheat from the abundant chaff.

Wickramasinghe is a credible scientist, student and long-time collaborator of Fred Hoyle. I assume you know Hoyle’s theory of continuous creation of matter at just the right rate to make the Universe expand as we observe it in order to keep the density constant. Hoyle coined the ‘derogatory’ [from his point of view] term The Big Bang. Hoyle’s greatest achievement was to co-author the epoch-making paper that explained in quantitative detail how all elements heavier than Lithium are formed in our universe [in supernovae explosions].

So, the jury is still out on the journal, though the scientist gets a +1.

According to the  paper:

…the parent body of the Polonnaruwa meteorite would have had most of its interior porous volume filled with water, volatile organics and possibly viable living cells. A remarkable coincidence that should be noted is that within several days of the meteorite fall, an extensive region around the site of the fall experienced an episode of red rain. The red rain analysed at the MRI in Colombo has been shown to contain red biological cells that show viability as well as motility. Preliminary studies from EDX analysis show that these cells are similar to the cells found in the red rain of Kerala that fell in 2001, cells that have not yet been identified with any known terrestrial organism (Louis and Kumar, 2006; Gangappa et al, 2010). Abnormally high abundances of As and Ag in the Sri Lankan red rain cells have been provisionally reported, thus favouring a non-terrestrial habitat, possibly connected with a cometary/asteroidal body, the fragmentation of which led to the Polonnaruwa meteorite fall (Samaranayake and Wickramasinghe, 2012).

The paper is (h/t to Willis Eschenbach):

FOSSIL DIATOMS IN A NEW CARBONACEOUS METEORITE
N. C. Wickramasinghe*1, J. Wallis2, D.H. Wallis1 and Anil Samaranayake+3
1Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham, Buckingham, UK
2School of Mathematics, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
3Medical Research Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

ABSTRACT
We report the discovery for the first time of diatom frustules in a carbonaceous meteorite that fell in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka on 29 December 2012. Contamination is excluded by the circumstance that the elemental abundances within the structures match closely with those of the surrounding matrix. There is also evidence of structures morphologically similar to red rain cells that may have contributed to the episode of red rain that followed within days of the meteorite fall. The new data on “fossil” diatoms provide strong evidence to support the theory of cometary panspermia.

The full paper is here:

Polonnaruwa-meteorite (PDF)

Source from the University of Buckingham website: http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Polonnaruwa-meteorite.pdf

Here is a news story on the paper, including an interview with Wickramasinghe

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249 Responses to Claim: Meteorite discovered with signs of life in it

  1. Not that I would propound the theory, but it is possible that meteor impacts on the Earth drives pieces of terrestrial rocks [limestone with fossils?] into space [we have observed how that process works on Mars by collecting meteorites on Earth that definitely came from Mars] where they are scooped up by a passing comet or other meteorite parent.

    REPLY: That’s why I thought “tektite” at first – Anthony

  2. Michael says:

    Totally pretentious to say a journal is good or bad (its the argum expertium fallacy) and any article is of limited value in itself until duplicated.

  3. Michael says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:16 pm
    Totally pretentious to say a journal is good or bad (its the argum expertium fallacy)
    Experts can [and do] judge a journal that way, and there are good journals and bad journals, the latter perhaps with sloppy, poor, lax, or no peer-review process.

  4. Paul Adomshick says:

    Once they went into the red rain of non-terrestrial origin hooey, they lost all credibility. Big. Fat. Fail.

  5. Harold Ambler says:

    My first thought, too, was that this was a piece of life “coming home.” Regardless, it’s interesting.

  6. Doug says:

    I would pull this post in a flash. It will be used to ridicule all the good science on this blog.

  7. Paul Adomshick says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm
    Once they went into the red rain of non-terrestrial origin hooey, they lost all credibility.
    Wickramasinghe was also pushing the idea that biological viruses causing SARS was of extraterrestrial origin. Something for the ‘open-minded’ to soak up…

  8. Jeremy says:

    I read Hoyle’s Intelligent Universe as a Physics Major in the 1980’s and was convinced he is on the whole right.

    The specifics of Hoyle’s theories may be found to be faulty but I share his conviction very deeply that life (DNA) is so incredibly adaptable that it MUST be present in space and it MUST get from one place to another given enough time. Similarly, I believe we will find life below the moho in the earth’s mantle.

    I think that our generation suffers the same syndromes as previous generations that did not believe Copernicus when he realized we were not central to the solar system. Our generation remains convinced and all our text books preach that Earth (Gaia) is somehow special – a “goldilocks planet” and that it is one of the infinitely few places that has just the right conditions for life.

    I am convinced that we will find that this is not the case and that DNA or other life forms not yet discovered have long inhabited many of what we thought were inhospitable places in the universe and another paradigm will fall – man will once again no longer be special or find ourselves in a “special place”.

    If I had not got a “job” then this is the kind of research is precisely what I would have pursued.

  9. John in NZ says:

    Sounds a lot like a “piltdown man” type hoax. As in genuine scientists being fooled by a well placed fake sample. Time will tell.

  10. Jim B says:

    On the likely hood scale I give it about a 2 out of 10. Looks like a common fossilised diatom a very terrestrial one. I’m hoping alien life won’t look exactly like terrestrial.

  11. Jeremy says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm
    The specifics of Hoyle’s theories may be found to be faulty but I share his conviction very deeply that life (DNA) is so incredibly adaptable that it MUST be present in space and it MUST get from one place to another given enough time.
    It is not a given that all life has to based on DNA. I do agree that DNA [namely us] will colonize the whole Galaxy in a few hundred million years [if we survive ourselves for the next couple of hundred years]. Which may provoke Fermi’s question “Where is everybody”.

  12. markx says:

    Most fascinating!

    But I’m surprised the structure of an ‘extra terrestrial diatom’ would so much replicate that of a modern terrestrial example.

    Michael says: January 14, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    “….. of limited value in itself until duplicated….”

    Reports of microfossil discoveries in meteorites have a long and tangled history stretching over half a century. Early claims of microfossils in carbonaceous chondrites by Claus and Nagy (1961) were quickly dismissed as arising from contaminants because there were indeed some instances in which contaminants (eg pollen grains) were mistakenly attributed to microfossils (Anders, 1962; Anders and Fitch, 1962).

    H.D. Pflug’s more careful studies in the 1980’s provided much stronger evidence of microfossils (Pflug, 1984; Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1982).

    Richard Hoover at NASA Marshall Space Flight Centre has continued to discover structures in carbonaceous meteorites that he identified as fossils of cyanobacteria (Hoover, 2005,2011).

    (from the Wickramasinghe paper) http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/polonnaruwa-meteorite.pdf

  13. Chris B says:

    At least it’s not the jawbone of an Orangutan.

  14. tokyoboy says:

    Jim B says:……. I’m hoping alien life won’t look exactly like terrestrial.

    I’ll second that.

  15. Paul Westhaver says:

    Oh God….

    Watts. Not good. Science here only, SVP.

    I don’t believe any of this hyperbolic alien-hyping shite.

  16. etudiant says:

    Hoyle was the champion of the idea of life being distributed through the universe with the earth seeded by meteors.
    So this find would be direct confirmation of his theory.
    His long time collaborator Wickramasinghe must be thrilled to finally have found corroborative evidence.
    The photo looks interesting and presumably if additional specimens are found on further study, it would be provocative. It looks so normal, so similar to other Earth based organisms that one wonders if it was really from elsewhere.

  17. jimmi_the_dalek says:

    The meteorite falls in Sri Lanka on the 29th of December, they collect a sample, fly the sample to Cardiff, run it through the electron microscope, write a paper, submit it, have it referred and published all in 12days! Very fast…. too fast to have been checked properly.

  18. hast0n says:

    Yeah, no… The red rain baloney was a dead giveaway. As Doug suggests, I’d delete this post.

  19. We should hold judgment until other teams can get a look, and hopefully at other samples, contamination still being a real possibility. Is there any more information on the meteorite? There are many varieties.

  20. mpainter says:

    What expertise have the co-authors in meteorites, diatoms, or paleontology? And “red rain” with “cells” in it? falling within a few days of the meteorite? It all sounds too mysterious.

  21. eqibno says:

    Did you say CARBONaceous?

    We’re DOOMED! It’s worse than we thought. Aliens are sequestering carbon here…THAT may be causing global warming… /sarc off

  22. Paul Westhaver says:

    Drake equation has been superseded by the Westhaver Equation…

    1= A^a x B^b x C^c …. N^n; where 1 is the number of planets where there is evidence of life,
    and A, B, C, ….N are the number of coefficients raised to whatever power necessary to include any and all variables such that the product of all variables raised to their respective powers yields a probability of life on 1 planet in the universe.

    The probability of # of planets with life in the universe is 1:infinity. Because THAT is what the evidence shows.

  23. RobertInAz says:

    Random thoughts:
    – Could it have been ejected from Earth 500-1000 million years ago?
    – Some theories have Venus suffering a massive collision that reversed its rotation and slowed it to almost nothing,
    – If from outside the solar system – how long might it have been in transit?

  24. This claim, like those of warmist types, is bogus and is wrong
    Cite “Louis, Kumar 2006,” and no one goes along
    Wikramasinghe notes his “remarkable coincidence”
    But fails to note the meteor came after “red rain” events

    He doesn’t mention papers that belie his silly claim
    And skips that one that shows him wrong has actually got his name!
    The paper’s bogus science is just what this group deplores
    We’ve known for ten years plus that these red rains are algae spores.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  25. Roger Dewhurst says:

    Look at the geology of the area. Reliant on my very distant recollections, diatoms do not fit the area. Open to correction of course.

  26. I agree with Dr. Svalgaard on Fermi’s paradox and the inevitability of human descendants populating all regions of our galaxy that we can engineer to habitability, given, as Dr. Svalgaard stipulates, that we assume humanity carries on long enough to accomplish it.
    As to the meteorite, I lost confidence while watching the video and the scientist said it was “decisive proof” of living organisms from outer space. Perhaps it is a humility problem, but it makes me figure something is wrong. Chain of custody is unknown so far. Still, it is easy to fool oneself even if no one pulled a fast-one.

  27. Eric Worrall says:

    I call bullish*t sorry. I’ve read the David Brin story too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_of_the_Comet , but liquid water only exists when there is significant atmospheric pressure, otherwise it alternates between ice and vapour, without a liquid stage.

    As for the rock coming from a distant star system, what are the odds? Only a handful of meteors make it here from other planets in our own system, the chances of a rock from a planet orbiting another star making it here are incomprehensibly remote.

  28. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Me, I find the paper curious, but doubtful. I suspect a more mundane explanation of some kind.

    However, I don’t agree with those saying it should not be posted. In my experience, there’s no faster way to separate wheat from chaff than to expose it to the unblinking eye of the populi on the web …

    w.

  29. Jimmy Haigh says:

    Any biostratigraphers out there who can identify the bug? I’ve sent a note to a palynologist mate of mine to see what he thinks.

  30. Byron says:

    Hmmmm ? I`m in two minds over this (as usual ) the theory that there is microbial life out there and some evidence of it`s existence has survived a trip to earth via meteor is within the realms of possibility (at Our current level of understanding at any rate ) , It`s the evidence itself that I`m sceptical about . I`ll suspend judgement until after the poking it with sticks ( metaphorically speaking ) stage is passed

  31. Keep a skeptical eye and remember Mother Nature plays with loaded dice. Diatoms are interesting little things. In the paper Wickramasinghe et al. show more images. They do appear to be diatoms, not unlike some of the ones I would draw in my note book in micropaleontology lab. These fragments are very small. I fondly remember Hoyle as a boy (in the 50’s) reading several of his books. It is obvious that in the natural world our collective level of ignorance is still astonishingly high. All that said my first thought like other was tektite. This red rain stuff is new to me so I will need to upgrade.

    Just a reminder when ever you think you know something about early life do a reality check. Think Burgess.

  32. MarcH says:

    Another “biological”? Fragment in lower right of the photo. Presumably the authors ran this past an experienced biologist.

  33. Gary Pearse says:

    This is highly unlikely. Diatomite is a rock type or formation (100s of thousands of tonnes) made up almost entirely of the remains of diatomes. These little critters are gregarious as hell. I have never seen a rock sample with only on lonely diatome in it. It would be like finding a shale sample with one pollen grain. They should have chosen a different species.

  34. WTF?

    I’m bothered by a few things about this paper. Not just that the “fossilized diatom” in an extraterrestrial meteorite of “interstellar cometary” origin happens to be identical to a specific Earthly diatom. Not just that such an easily identified fossil was even found in pristine condition. Not just the “red rain cells”. But the Journal of Cosmology claims that “All articles are peer reviewed.”

    So: The meteorite fell December 29, 2012. In 15 days they managed to recover a substantial fragment, isolate it from contamination, take it apart in uncontaminated conditions, scan the whole thing microscopically, find the perfect fossil, write the paper, sumbit it to JoC, GET IT THROUGH PEER REVIEW, and publish.

    But wait! There’s more. They managed not one, but TWO peer reviewed papers! And a set of Ginsu knives guaranteed to cleave diamonds and still cut tomato

    Sorry. Just read the second paper.

    ON THE COMETARY ORIGIN OF THE POLONNARUWA METEORITE, N. C. Wickramasinghe, J. Wallis, D.H. Wallis, M.K. Wallis, S. Al-Mufti, J.T. Wickramasinghe, Anil Samaranayake and K. Wickramarathne, pp 9572-9578
    http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/Polonn2.pdf
    “We conclude by reporting that an extract from the interior of a Polonnaruwa meteorite
    sample, studied under a light microscope at the Medical Research Institute in Colombo, was
    found to contain living diatoms (See Fig.4).” [page 5 of the PDF]

    The picture of the “living diatom” can be found in the PDF, or you can see it here: http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/meteordiatom.png

    Sorry; my BS meter just pegged out.

  35. scarletmacaw says:

    Paul Westhaver says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm
    Oh God….

    Watts. Not good. Science here only, SVP.

    I don’t believe any of this hyperbolic alien-hyping shite.

    Science only? Isn’t presenting and debunking pseudoscience one of the main reasons this site exists?

  36. Gary Pearse says:

    While I’m at it, can someone explain how, after reaching white heat and exploding we can have such wonderful little bacteria fossils, and the like? I know when collecting fossils you have to take care in the process to prevent damage and you even wrap them up in something soft to transport them. No paleontologist I ever knew would think it okay to fire them out of a cannon.

  37. Bear says:

    (Mods: First attempt to post this seems to have evaporated in a puff of fading photons with no confirmation. If this is a repeat, delete it.)

    WTF?

    I’m bothered by a few things about this paper. Not just that the “fossilized diatom” in an extraterrestrial meteorite of “interstellar cometary” origin happens to be identical to a specific Earthly diatom. Not just that such an easily identified fossil was even found in pristine condition. Not just the “red rain cells”. But the Journal of Cosmology claims that “All articles are peer reviewed.”

    So: The meteorite fell December 29, 2012. In 15 days they managed to recover a substantial fragment, isolate it from contamination, take it apart in uncontaminated conditions, scan the whole thing microscopically, find the perfect fossil, write the paper, sumbit it to JoC, GET IT THROUGH PEER REVIEW, and publish.

    But wait! There’s more. They managed not one, but TWO peer reviewed papers! And a set of Ginsu knives guaranteed to cleave diamonds and still cut tomato

    Sorry. Just read the second paper.

    ON THE COMETARY ORIGIN OF THE POLONNARUWA METEORITE, N. C. Wickramasinghe, J. Wallis, D.H. Wallis, M.K. Wallis, S. Al-Mufti, J.T. Wickramasinghe, Anil Samaranayake and K. Wickramarathne, pp 9572-9578
    http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/Polonn2.pdf
    “We conclude by reporting that an extract from the interior of a Polonnaruwa meteorite
    sample, studied under a light microscope at the Medical Research Institute in Colombo, was
    found to contain living diatoms (See Fig.4).” [page 5 of the PDF]

    The picture of the “living diatom” can be found in the PDF, or you can see it here: http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/meteordiatom.png

    Sorry; my BS meter just pegged out.

  38. marchgeo says:

    This papers provides a bit of an analogue…Preferential soft-tissue preservation in the Hot Creek carbonate spring deposit, British Columbia, Canada

    The relict Holocene Hot Creek carbonate spring deposit in southeast British Columbia is characterized by excellent preservation of soft-tissue organisms (e.g. cyanobacteria), but poor preservation of organisms with hard-tissue (e.g. wood, diatoms). The deposit is formed mainly of calcified cyanobacteria, with fewer mineralized macrophytes (plants), bryophytes (mosses), wood, and diatoms

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0037073810000618

  39. Rud Istvan says:

    This site should stick to climatology.
    For example, Svalgard’s hopefully misquoted assertion about non-supernovae nucleosynthesis proceeding through lithium. All standard nuclear physics says it proceeds through iron, which also accords with relative stellar abundance in the universe. (Although to be open minded and complete, there may also be weak force transmutations proceeding through LENR reactions as discussed in my book The Arts of Truth). Wrong.
    Red rains have been definitively shown ( including from Sri Lanka) to comprise spores of the lichen like fungi genus Trentepilon. Most definitely terrestrial. Wrong.
    And then there is the problem pointed out above that the meteor burst was after, not before, the red rain. Wrong.
    Finally, contamination of the entire field in the micrograph is possible, which could explain similar elemental abundances. No information about the sampling method from the chondrite, or the location of the sample ( was it from a lab cleaved interior solid section?) was given. The climate analogy is to the temperature record problems from UHI effects so ably documented by WUWT. Same issue, different context, unaddressed. Wrong.

    The same critical thinking skills that serve this site so well on climate change simply need to be extended. But that takes time and domain knowledge. Either take the time to acquire the knowledge, or don’t bring up such extraneous debatable matter. Dilutes the focus and the message of an important site on a very important topic, AGW.

  40. Climate Ace says:

    I am skeptical about this paper. All other cogent arguments aside, what are the chances of ‘diatoms’?

  41. [snip - lets not start a fight]

  42. marchgeo says:

    Looks remarkably similar to this diatom… Seminavis atlantica Garcia.

    See photos from…Seminavis atlantica Garcia, a new psammic diatom (Bacillariophyceae) from southern Brazilian sandy beaches.

    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1519-69842007000400026

  43. Gary Pearse says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm
    While I’m at it, can someone explain how, after reaching white heat and exploding we can have such wonderful little bacteria fossils, and the like?
    Meteors are extremely cold and travel so fast through the atmosphere that they have no time to heat up. Newly fallen meteorites are often icy cold.

  44. D. Cohen says:

    Lief S. asks Fermi’s classic question, if extra-terrestrial life, where is everyone? This is what every physics or engineering based scientist goes, based on the well-known tendency of living organisms to increase their numbers exponentially. However, based on how systems of multiply interacting living organisms behave here on earth, this thinking comes from entirely too simple a model of what would be going on if the rest of the universe were filled with intelligent life.

    Consider an earthly jungle, full of relatively uninteresting plant life. A naive individual walks in and looks for large animals (analogous to intelligent life out their among the stars). He will have to look long and hard to find any, even though everyone knows jungles are full of large and often dangerous critters. Why? Because these critters serve as each others prey and predators — which also happens to explain why their numbers do not exponentially increase. They as well hidden as they can be consistent with taking reasonable risks to ensure their survival. This is because the prey species are hiding from their predators and the predators are hiding so they have a good chance of surprising their prey. And here we are on earth, fat and happy, blasting away with all the energy at our command advertising our existence to the rest of universe because here on earth nothing scares us any more.

    Based on this model for what is going on there among the stars, I am not surprised that SETI and similar projects have found no other evidence of intelligent life. Any civilizations which have lasted a reasonable length of time astronomically speaking have undoubted learned the wisdom of concealment, just like large animals in the jungle.

    Here on earth life lives on other life, and out there I suspect intelligent civilizations exploit others if they can — “eat” them if you will. That’s certainly what has happened here on our own planet, when two different human civilizations or cultures met.

    Something to think about

  45. Rud Istvan says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    For example, Svalgard’s hopefully misquoted assertion about non-supernovae nucleosynthesis proceeding through lithium. All standard nuclear physics says it proceeds through iron
    The pseudo-experts are beginning to their their heads.

    “The r-process is a nucleosynthesis process, occurring in core-collapse supernovae (see also supernova nucleosynthesis) and to a slight extent in nuclear weapon explosions, which is responsible for the creation of approximately half of the neutron-rich atomic nuclei that are heavier than iron.”

    “The s-process or slow-neutron-capture-process is a nucleosynthesis process that occurs at relatively low neutron density and intermediate temperature conditions in stars. Under these conditions the rate of neutron capture by atomic nuclei is slow relative to the rate of radioactive beta-minus decay. In the S-process, a stable isotope captures a neutron, but the radioactive isotope that results decays to its stable daughter before the next neutron is captured. This process produces stable isotopes by moving along the valley of beta-decay stable isobars in the chart of isotopes. The S-process produces approximately half of the isotopes of the elements heavier than iron, and therefore plays an important role in the galactic chemical evolution. The S-process differs from the more rapid R-process of neutron capture by its slow rate of neutron captures.”

    “In contrast to the R-process which is believed to occur over time scales of seconds in explosive environments, the S-process is believed to occur over time scales of thousands of years, passing decades between neutron captures”

    When the star explodes as a supernova or throws off most of it atmosphere while a red super-giant, the results of the r- and s-process enriches the interstellar medium

    The building up of heaver element does not proceed through lithium, but explains elements heavier than lithium [should have been Boron to be exactly right - but no matter].

  46. D. Cohen says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm
    Here on earth life lives on other life, and out there I suspect intelligent civilizations exploit others if they can — “eat” them if you will.
    A planet with life has an atmosphere that is not in chemical equilibrium with the surface. The spectrum of such a planet gives it away. If there were many intelligent civilizations in the Galaxy they would discover us by our atmospheric spectrum and be here to eat us already. It is not about us discovering them [although we are presently looking for planets with atmospheres out of equilibrium], but about them discovering us. We are the food blundering about in the jungle [or in the Arctic - polar bears consider us food].

  47. Mark says:

    This is mildly interesting but almost certainly will be proved to not be signs of extra-terrestrial life. I suggest that we rational, science-centric skeptics keep our distance. I don’t think at this point of verification it deserves posting here on WUWT.

  48. Gary Pearse sais, at January 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm :
    “While I’m at it, can someone explain how, after reaching white heat and
    exploding we can have such wonderful little bacteria fossils, and the like?
    I know when collecting fossils you have to take care in the process to
    prevent damage and you even wrap them up in something soft to transport
    them. No paleontologist I ever knew would think it okay to fire them out of
    a cannon.”

    Meteorites often land with their interiors cool. Their surfaces were
    white-hot for only a few seconds.
    As for a meteor that crumbles due to aerodynamic drag? That tends
    to make a big kaboom. But any fragments big enough to pick up
    probably had their surfaces white-hot for only a small fraction of a second.

    As for care needed to preserve fossils that small? I think, put the rock in
    a padded envelope, and use an express/overnight shipping company.
    What doesn’t break a rock won’t break most of any microscopic fossils
    within it.

    What I am more concerned with: Chain of custody, including traceability
    of all human contact with the analyzed piece of rock, starting when it
    landed. I doubt there is an unmodified video anywhere showing the
    landing, and every second of what the piece of rock goes through, until
    and including when it gets shipped to where it gets analyzed – including
    receipt with a tracking number.

  49. marchgeo says:

    The tubular diatom shown in the appendix looks similar to earth bound species (eg Aulacoseira search google images). On the whole these extra terrestrials appear very earth like!

  50. Climate Ace says:

    D. Cohen

    He will have to look long and hard to find any, even though everyone knows jungles are full of large and often dangerous critters.

    I am skeptical about this statement and therefore also of the analogy it purports to support. It reminds of the sort of poor quality arguments often run by BAU boosters.

    In general, jungles tend to be rather depauperate in large critters of any kind, and therefore especially depauperate of dangerous critters (which tend to operate at a higher trophic level). The operating mechanism might be something like that in general the standing veg locks up the nutrients that the rainfall does not leach out. There are some exceptions.

    If you want lots of large terrestrial critters you should probably head for savannahs and especially grasslands. Hiding in savannahs will save some large animals from predation, in grasslands big animals cannot hide very well at all. So they tend to grow big horns, get belligerent themselves, run as soon as they are born, grow very big, get very fast, or breed very fast in order to maintain their species’ existence.

    Some disruptive foxing, by way of zebra stripes or giraffe camouflage does help but again, this tends to be the exception to the rule.

  51. Rud Istvan says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    For example, Svalgaard’s hopefully misquoted assertion about non-supernovae nucleosynthesis proceeding through lithium. All standard nuclear physics says it proceeds through iron
    A different interpretation of your muddled statement might be that you think the heavy element beyond Lithium [or Boron] were also build during the first few minutes of the existence of the Universe. Well, they were not because matter cooled too rapidly for this to happen and the formation of Helium ate up the available neutrons: http://www.leif.org/research/Helium.pdf

  52. Sandor says:

    Wickramasinghe collaborated with Hoyle in the eighties on a theory that influensa is caused by extraterrestrial organisms. IIRC they used the spatial distribution of outbreaks to prove that such a pattern can nit originate if the illness was transmitted by humans.

    hardly an unbiased researcher, I would say.

  53. Lawrie Ayres says:

    Dan Brown wrote about it in 2001 in a book called “Deception Point”. Good yarn.

  54. Michael Jaye says:

    Likely that the meteorite originated from the Earth – see slides here: http://www.threeimpacts-twoevents.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/SIMULTANEOUS-IMPACTS-3JAN2013-WEBSITE.pdf

    Perhaps the supposed Mars-originating meteor was a product of this event, too (impacting object remnant)?

    The presentation uses new data (Google maps, satellite view) to update Earth history….. It is not yet peer-reviewed.

  55. john robertson says:

    Interesting claims, material for endless speculation, is this the escape from CAGW ,from the UN, alien life forms rain down, we are doomed, doomed…must spend billions to go to space and stop it?
    Or more false precision, the determination to see patterns against all odds?
    I too have never heard of such a speedy response, from discovery to publishing.
    Oh wait IPCC -AR approved cover papers are produced this fast.

  56. davidmhoffer says:

    D. Cohen;
    Based on this model for what is going on there among the stars, I am not surprised that SETI and similar projects have found no other evidence of intelligent life. Any civilizations which have lasted a reasonable length of time astronomically speaking
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    While I’ve seen no evidence of alien life, this particular argument has never been persuasive to me. The idea (as I understand it) is that we’ve been broadcasting radio and other signals to space that travel at the speed of light and have since propagated to stars (and hence planets) may light years away. These signals should be detectable, and hence the opposite ought to be true. Intelligent species ought to have developed things like radio and TV and hence should also be broadcasting signals that WE can detect.

    I don’t buy that argument. The vast bulk of our EM communications these days runs over wires or point to point devices. What percentage of TV’s these days have an aerial? We’ve only been “broadcasting” for a century or so, a century hence our broadcast signals may well be zero.

    So suppose the aliens next door went through the exact same technology revolution but got there just 1% of the timeline since the Big Bang faster than we did. They’d have ceased broadcasting and possibly have gone extinct tens of millions of years before we came up with this idea that we should listen for them. A two or three hundred year timeline to listen for (and be listened to) in a galaxy billions of years old makes looking for a needle in a hay stack look like a promising endeavor.

    Leif on the other hand makes a case that is hard to argue with.

  57. D. Cohen says:

    Here on earth life lives on other life, and out there I suspect intelligent civilizations exploit others if they can — “eat” them if you will.
    A planet with life has an atmosphere that is not in chemical equilibrium with the surface. The spectrum of such a planet gives it away. If there were many intelligent civilizations in the Galaxy they would discover us by our atmospheric spectrum and be here to eat us already. It is not about us discovering them [although we are presently looking for planets with atmospheres out of equilibrium], but about them discovering us. We are the food blundering about in the jungle [or in the Arctic - polar bears consider us food].

    I was thinking more of how useful the existence of relatively weak interstellar civilizations would be to stronger ones. I believe Fermi originally postulated self-replicating robots moving from star to star using the raw material of the stars’ planetary systems to build more of themselves, and calculated how long it would be before these robots filled up the galaxy. It was a very short period of time compared to the age of the galaxy, so we look around, don’t see these robots, and have strong evidence that no other intelligence exists in our galaxy.

    OK, this type of reasoning already makes an implicit exponential growth assumption that I object to. Suppose Fermi’s robots existed, and some developed random mistakes in their programming so that they concentrated on finding not raw materials on planets, comets and asteroids but rather raw materials by consuming the original type of robots, where the useful elements and substances have already been gathered and concentrated. (That is, I just assume these robots are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes, just like all other forms of life, when reproducing themselves.) Their numbers would increase at the expense of the originals, until the originals learned to hide from them — and now we are back at the predator-prey analogy and an expected overall balance in the numbers of robots. So, Fermi’s self-replicating robots do not fill up the galaxy unless they replicate perfectly — a less than plausible hypothesis.

    The relevance to us here on earth? I can imagine extra-terrestrial intelligence showing up in our solar system, dropping a few asteroids on us to get our attention, and then sending down demands that we build stuff for them. This is one civilization exploiting another, and could easily diminish our wealth enough to curtail our expansion to other stars. If we say no to this, better be able to defend against those asteroids! Hence, it is not really wise for us to be blasting out EM signals showing we exist as a technological civilization because this hypothetical intelligence is interested not in planets where plain old life exists but rather in planets where technological civilizations exist. Planets with life obviously incapable of building stuff for them are as useless to their “business plan” as lifeless planets.

    I realize this is tending to hijack this thread, which is concentrating on the possibility of plain old extraterrestrial life, but I did want to set out my objection to Fermi’s basic reasoning — and also explain why I wish we were more cautious about advertising our technological abilities.

  58. Alex Heyworth says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    …Which may provoke Fermi’s question “Where is everybody”.

    Aren’t they busy abducting and anally probing Americans on an industrial scale?

  59. GregK says:

    So…….we’ve got diatoms in a carbonaceous chondrite. !! Yeah, right.
    The oldest known diatoms on this planet are of Lower Cretaceous age [around 140 million years ago].

    If panspermia is proposed we are suggesting that diatoms evolved somewhere else and colonised earth. So where did they come from? Mercury…..too hot, no water to speak of and no oxygen. Venus…too hot, clouds of acid, not a nice spot either.
    Mars…indications of water, possibly former seas so a faint possibility. Elsewhere in the solar system….no chance. No water, too cold etc. Outside the solar system? We are getting too Star Trek, Red Dwarf here for serious consideration.

    If the diatoms originated from Mars their fossils would be found in sedimentary rocks, diatomaceous “earths” – a bit like powdery limestone but siliceous [you might find some in your toothpaste] – but would have somehow to be incorporated in to a meteor/meteorite.
    So how did they get into a meteorite? A possibility is that a meteor collided with a patch of diatom- bearing sediments on Mars, ricocheted back into space and continued on its merry way until it collided with earth in December.
    Or that a meteor collided with a patch of diatomaceous sediment on Earth, ricocheted back into space and re-collided [more permanently] with Earth at a later date [December].
    Or possibly bits and pieces of diatom bearing rocks bounced to and fro between Earth and Mars through history as result of various collisions. This is vaguely possibly but we have yet to spot Martian diatoms. Now that would really be significant.

    I notice that none of the authors appear to be micro-palaeontologists or diatomists [believe it]. However they have managed to identify one of the diatoms as being similar to Sellaphora blackfordensis. Similar? Give us a break ! Roaming around the solar system in a comet rather than swimming around in a puddle in Edinburgh?

    From http://tolweb.org/Sellaphora_blackfordensis
    “Sellaphora blackfordensis was described formally by D.G. Mann & S. Droop in Mann et al. (2004), after having been referred to previously in several papers as phenodeme 3 (Mann 1984) or the ‘rectangular’ deme of the morphospecies S. pupula sensu lato (e.g. Mann 1999, Mann et al. 1999). Sellaphora blackfordensis is named after the small urban pool (Blackford Pond) in Edinburgh where it was first found. It seems to be common in the epipelon of muds that are rich in organic matter, in eutrophic lakes and ditches”.

    Occam’s Razor could do a bit of slashing here. If I was a betting man I’d be betting on contamination.

  60. Jimmy Haigh says:

    The sample in the photo looks like a porous sedimentary rock – not a chondrite. Maybe they got their samples mixed up in the lab… (It happens.)

  61. BlameCo2ForEverything says:

    The factors that would create an intelligent race are not always occurring everywhere. The vastness, age, and inconsistency of incubators for life in our universe all falsify Fermi.

    Cool that Dr. Svalgaard believes the human race will be successful, as I do.

  62. denniswingo says:

    The building up of heaver element does not proceed through lithium, but explains elements heavier than lithium [should have been Boron to be exactly right - but no matter].

    Uh Leif

    Iron 56 is the last element that is produced by fusion reactions in stars. Fusion of iron consumes energy. The other poster was correct that elements up to an including iron are created by the stellar fusion process. It is only elements heavier than iron that are made in a supernova.

    I hate to use Wikipedia but there are many other sources as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_evolution

    Here is essentially the same discussion from Harvard

    http://chandra.harvard.edu/edu/formal/stellar_ev/story/index10.html

    You may be thinking of low mass stars.

    As for this meteorite, there seems to be some confusion in the description. It is called a chondrite (presumably an ordinary chondrite) yet the description is of a carbonaceous chondrite. I have actually held a piece of the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite and it looks and feels like dirt. An ordinary chondrite is much like a rock.

  63. Hoser says:

    Jeremy says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Why should DNA be ubiquitous? And even if it is, why would the genetic code be identical? Certainly, if elemental abundances are different, you won’t have DNA as we know it. A shortage of P will eliminate DNA, but won’t necessarily eliminate life.

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    DNA may very well spread throughout the galaxy if we make it past the next few hundred years. However, it won’t be human DNA. It is far more likely our machines will colonize the universe, but we won’t, unless we hybridize with them. If we survive, we will be the Borg. While we might digest alien technology, it is very unlikely we will be able to digest alien life any more than we can digest styrofoam.

    Since human DNA is actually unlikely to spread far, what DNA might? Microbial. Most exciting would be the potential interactions of species originating on different planets. The potential of symbiosis occuring between organisms having radically different biochemistries is practically unlimited, and very exiciting to think about. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t see the results for several hundred million years. I guess I’m not planning to be around that long.

    Yes, I think we are the Old Ones. Or will be. If we survive.

  64. While I disagree with Carl Sagan, who thought that a civilization developed enough to cross interstellar distances would, by the same token, be “civilized” enough in our sense of the word, and would not be bent upon destroying us, I don’t see, how and why such a civilization would necessarily regard us as “food”. As a resource for exploitation, maybe. But as “food”? Only a person with a very closed mind, indeed, would think that interstellar travelers’ ambitions would likely be on the level of polar bears’.

    Regarding the Fermi’s question (“Where are they?”), the best answer, in my opinion, was given by Stanislav Lem, the famous Polish philosopher and author of such famous SF books about possible problems of the first contact and of the space exploration as “The Invincible,” “Solaris,””Return from the Stars,” “Eden,” and “Fiasco.”

    Lem pointed out that life not necessarily develops into something resembling a technological civilization, and even in those relatively rare cases when it does, such civilizations are separated not only by vast distances in space that, probably, make any invasion not worth the trouble, but also by vast distances in time — that is, “time windows” in which civilizations become sophisticated enough to fly to other stars but don’t yet destroy themselves or develop into something not interested in such endeavors, are so widely distributed in time that it would be extremely unlikely for two civilizations of this type to be close to each other both in space and in time.

  65. Matt says:

    The guy sounds like a cranck, which is probably why he is publishing in a crancky magazine.

    How do I know? This Kerala story has been turned over and over and of course we know very well what happened. The cited Louis and Kumar scientists are the only ones who think the red cells could be extraterrestial, which is obviously what the author wants to suggest in relation to the rain fall in the present case by way of parallel (while mthe rest of the scientific world has established the opposite).
    Of course there is a parallel, namely that the cells are perfectly natural, as in the Kerala case:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rain_in_Kerala

    It is not difficult to know these things I can find within 10s on Wiki, on top of having known this for ever simply by reading the daily news paper. So we can already see where this is going…

  66. Peter says:

    I agree that this story is a bit ‘sketchy’ and Jim B giving it 2 out of 10 doesn’t sound far off to me. But come on people, to suggest that this story be deleted from the blog when it’s no worse than much of what Michel Mann has published is being a bit harsh.

  67. Matt says:

    I forgot to add: This sort of Kerala rain was not the first in India and not the last; and it comes in different colours, too, and happens elsewhere on earth. So suggesting that it could be extraterestial is suggesting that extraterestial cells rain on earth ALL THE TIME! – Which is does not, of course.

    Do read the Wiki I linked above.

  68. jollygreenwatchman says:

    As more than one person basically said the last time this kind of topic/subject came up, “what goes up, must come down” …

  69. D. Cohen says:
    January 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm
    Hence, it is not really wise for us to be blasting out EM signals showing we exist as a technological civilization because this hypothetical intelligence is interested not in planets where plain old life exists but rather in planets where technological civilizations exist
    EM doesn’t matter, our atmosphere gives us away. And you are making the unwarranted assumption that the goals of all alien civilizations are the same. This would be highly unlikely. Some would be interested in our planet, others in us, and perhaps even more wouldn’t give a damn.

  70. wayne Job says:

    Carbonacious say’s it all really, if carbon is manufactured by natural processes and we have moons around other planets swimming in methane, not only is our oil and gas supplies a natural product of the Earth, but life in the universe is most probably teeming. It would be the rule rather than the exception. The elemental tables are a universal constant and so it will be found is DNA as here on earth we have had some weird and wonderful creatures, eventually it will be found that DNA has steps much like the tables for the elements and when we eventually come across alien life forms, there will be similarities that can be recognised. There is but one set of maxims for the entire universe, it has been a disappointment in my life time that the physical sciences have not progressed an IOTA and our progress into the modern world has been achieved by experimental engineers. Climate science has been only the latest failing of science to progress.
    Take all things with a pinch of salt but do not throw out the baby with the bath water as our scientists have done.

  71. denniswingo says:
    January 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm
    Iron 56 is the last element that is produced by fusion reactions in stars. Fusion of iron consumes energy. The other poster was correct that elements up to an including iron are created by the stellar fusion process. It is only elements heavier than iron that are made in a supernova.
    Some confusion here. Elements from Carbon and up to Iron are made during the evolution of a massive star that when iron is made explodes as a supernova. During the explosion half of the elements heavier than iron are made by the so-called r-process. In the last few thousand years of the life of a massive star [asymptotic giant branch], the other half is made by the s-process.

  72. tty says:

    Why should it be extraterrestrial? We know that meteors found on Earth have been ejected from Mars, the Moon and possibly Mercury by large impacts. It is perfectly possible (indeed likely) that a rock ejected into solar orbit by a large impact on Earth would eventually re-impact on Earth. However, contamination is even more likely. Diatoms are often found far from water dispersed by wind.

  73. quelgeek says:

    Howling, howling bunk. Pathetically deluded. A sorrier exhibition even than Fleischmann and Pons stampeding to ruin their own reputation.

    Remember the investigation on the tachyonic neutrino at CERN? That’s how it’s done.

  74. Steve C says:

    If this object fell on Sri Lanka on December 29th 2012, how come the University of Buckingham copy of the paper is filed under ” …content/uploads/2011/09/…”, presumably over a year earlier?

  75. Jimbo says:

    The meteorite fell on December 29th 2012
    The paper was published on the 10 January 2013.
    That gives us 13 days from the event to the publication of the paper. Is this correct? Is this normal?

    This ‘find’ will be dismissed at best as being inconclusive.

  76. Jack Simmons says:

    This has been fun.

    It always amazes me to see the breadth of knowledge possessed by folks hanging around here.

    I always learn something. How about that word depauperate? Its always good to add to one’s vocabulary.

    Leif, would you be so kind as to list a few of what you consider to be good journals?

    I will wait to see how this discovery gets picked over by people knowing something about diatoms and contamination of samples. Not looking good so far for the alien life explanation. But, we’ll see.

  77. Jimbo says:

    Paul Westhaver says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Oh God….

    Watts. Not good. Science here only, SVP.

    I don’t believe any of this hyperbolic alien-hyping shite.

    Indeed, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“.

    However, have you ever thought “Why am I alive and typing?” My point is that life is here and now and originated either here or from somewhere else and came to Earth. A bit like when NASA first claimed to have found life on a meteorite from Mars and a scientist speculated that IF indeed it was life it could have been ejected from Earth.

  78. Lewis P Buckingham says:

    The last time extraterrestrial life was discovered it was announced by Bill Clinton.A definite maybe.
    Could events represent themselves and this one be announced by the Obama administration around April first.

  79. Could it still be a terrestrial ‘extraterrestrial’ diatom? Could it be that a large impactor on earth could have send terrestrial debris into space, which ultimately returned as this meteor? Maybe some specialists should try and identify it from the earth fossil record.

  80. Friends:

    I am not a biologist or a cosmologist but Have conducted much SEM. I therefore make comment on the provided images and interpretation of them in the paper by N. C. Wickramasinghe, et al..

    1.
    The paper states sample preparation as

    Fragments from a freshly cleaved interior surface of the Polonnaruwa meteorite were mounted on aluminium stubs and examined under an environmental scanning electron microscope at the School of Earth Sciences at Cardiff University.

    The images appear to be secondary electron maps of Au-coated fracture samples.

    2.
    The paper says

    EDX studies on all the larger putative biological structures showed only minor differentials in elemental abundances between the structures themselves and the surrounding material, implying that the larger objects represent microfossils rather than living or recently living cells. For the smallest structures, however, such a distinction could not be easily made from EDX studies alone. Other criteria will be required.

    EDX (i.e. energy dispersive analysis of X-rays) elemental mapping would have been useful. If the items are diatomous then they could be expected to have higher Si-concentration than their surroundings. But Figure 4 of the paper shows the Si concentration of the objects is similar to their surrounding material. It provides EDX spectra from points in and adjacent to the putatively ‘biological’ specimen in Figure 3 (i.e. the image reproduced in the above article).
    This is the major evidence in the paper.

    5.
    The paper interprets the similar elemental composition of the apparent diatoms to their substrate as being evidence that the apparent diatoms being microfossils.
    This interpretation requires much investigation.
    5(a)
    If the apparent diatoms do have the same elemental composition as their surrounding material then this indicates they are very probably not terrestrial biological contamination.
    5(b)
    If further examination of e.g. isolated apparent diatoms indicates the EDX has provided a misleading indication then the interpretation in the paper is wrong. This is a possibility because the beam eV is not stated so the excitation volume (and depth) is not reported in the paper and, therefdore, cannot be estimated from the provided information (the SEM images suggest ~30eV was used so it seems likely that the EDX used a similar eV). Again, EDX elemental mapping would have been useful.

    It is interesting to note that the paper claims the EDX spectra of Figure 4 are “elemental maps” and it is surprising that peer review did not comment on this. If elemental maps were obtained then it would have been useful if they were presented or, alternatively, if the maps showed uniform elemental distribution then that was mentioned.

    6.
    The paper says

    In the higher resolution image of Fig3 we can unambiguously identify an object as being a diatom from its complex and highly ordered microstructure and morphology, a structure that cannot result from any conceivable mineralisation or crystallisation process. The mineralised fossil structure of the original diatom has been preserved intact and displays close similarities in elemental abundances with the surrounding material. This is shown in the EDX maps in Fig.4, that compares the distribution of elements inside and outside the fossilised object.
    One of the many slender cylinders seen in Fig.2 is examined under higher magnification in Fig.5. The intricacy of the regular patterns of “holes”, ridges and indentations are again unquestionably biological, and this is impossible to interpret rationally as arising from an inorganic crystallisation process. Here too the near identity of elements inside and outside the structures point to a ineralised fossil rather than a recent diatom.

    This interpretation is the main conclusion of the paper.
    It assumes that such regular microstructure and surface morphology can only arise from biological processes. This assumption is not correct; e.g. buckminster fullerines can be similar and the samples are in a carbonaceous substrate.
    The interpretation in the paper may be correct but requires MUCH more work before being considered to be conclusive.

    Additionally, I can say with certain knowledge that – for the reasons I have here stated – peer review would have rejected the paper in its present form as being acceptable for publication in E&E.

    Richard

  81. Philippe Chaniet says:

    I would like to believe this but as stated: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“ and that is not quite “that”. And then there is the huge question mark that I am surprised nobody raised: Diatoms are relatively advanced cells that date at most to the Jurassic period (about 200 million years ago) If such cells exist in space you would expect to find some on earth much earlier… Looking at the question from the other side, you would expect whatever arrives on earth to be extremely primitive, enabling the following 3.5+ billion years of evolution to take place. If advanced cells like diatoms which belong to the phytoplankton (plants often with Chlorophyll) were “falling from the sky”, evolution would probably have taken a different and shorter path.

  82. Andy says:

    Oh dear.

    When the name Wickramasinghe pops up in scientific stories I can only be reminded of the risible claims of Archaeopteryx being a faked fossil made in the book he co-authored with Sir Fred Hoyle.

    Hoyle, Fred and Wickramasinghe, Chandra, 1987. Archaeopteryx, The Primordial Bird, Christopher Davis, London.

    They claimed the fossil was actually a specimen of Compsognathus to which feather impressions had been added.

    A slight problem with this claim is that Compsognathus whilst roughly similar in general appearance has very short forelimbs and very short fingers.

    Archaeopteryx on the other hand has very long forelimbs with extremely long fingers and so one thing it cannot possibly be is a Compsognathus.

    Bizarrely on one of the early pages of that book they had a picture with an overlay of the two species which graphically illustrated their assertion that they were one and the same species was utterly groundless, not to say ridiculous.

    The dragging in of an extraterrestrial origin of the red rains, despite previous episodes of these events in that region having been demonstrated to be caused by large quantities of spores from the Trentepohlia genus of algae, is equally bizarre.

  83. alleagra says:

    Goodness me Doug, you’re a treasure. We can use you – i.e., your unsupported opinion, to distinguish good and bad science at a stroke. At least take the trouble to say why you have that view.

  84. alleagra says:

    Wayne Job: ‘Carbonacious say’s it all really’. What is the purpose of the apostrophe?

  85. Björn says:

    What if a meteor knoked an earth rock to mars, and then another meteor knocked that rock back to earth? Then that worm, or whatever it is, would have been the first biological lifeform to visit Mars and come back to fool us it developed on mars?
    There must be an abundance of rocks on mars, the moon etc that originated from the earth, judging from the size of some of earth craters. How on Earth or Mars do we know from where that life first came? Say a Mars vehicle finds a ock with a fossil in, first suspicion must be that it once came from Earth?
    This is all very confusing for me.

  86. Tony McGough says:

    “Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, …” it what the WUWT masthead proclaims.

    With Wickramasinghe being a prominent collaborator of Fred Hoyle, giving the paper an airing is fair enough; steeped in scepticism we may be, but not, I trust, closed to all esoteric musings. Let’s always find room for Wickramasinghe on astrobiology, as well as Willis’s adventures in Manila.

  87. Merovign says:

    It is more of a language issue, but I have always hated the “extraordinary claims” statement. It’s mundane claims for which we modify our standards, we accept them because they are mundane.

    Extraordinary claims simply require the evidence that is required to prove them.

    I believe the statement is used as often to dismiss what people don’t want to consider as anything else, kind of like skeptical science doesn’t exist to those comfortably ensconced in the “consensus.”

    It sounds less dramatic, but “extraordinary claims are not accepted like mundane claims, they must be proven” is more accurate, but makes one’s standards look a little silly.

  88. Gail Combs says:

    Doug says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I would pull this post in a flash. It will be used to ridicule all the good science on this blog.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Disagree.

    It shows a skeptical open mind. The paper is in a journal and not the National Inquirer. Anthony is very up front in the first paragraph:

    This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds up. I would remind readers that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“. This needs to be confirmed by others in the science community before it can be taken seriously.

    The conjecture has been tossed out there now others can do what science is supposed to do, verify and validate these first results.

    My first thoughts are earth material that has been ejected by a major impact in the past has returned home.

  89. Gail Combs says:

    Keith DeHavelle says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm
    …. The paper’s bogus science is just what this group deplores
    We’ve known for ten years plus that these red rains are algae spores.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Nice poem and thanks for the info on the red rain being algae spores. Another link

    This is why Anthony includes puzzling things. Crowd Source debunking!

  90. Gail Combs says:

    scarletmacaw says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm
    ….Science only? Isn’t presenting and debunking pseudoscience one of the main reasons this site exists?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Yes and the site has done a great job of it in less than an hour and a half.
    (Leif Svalgaard says @ January 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm was the first comment)

  91. Gail Combs says:

    Rud Istvan says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    This site should stick to climatology.
    …. Red rains have been definitively shown ( including from Sri Lanka) to comprise spores of the lichen like fungi genus Trentepilon. Most definitely terrestrial.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    And you just proved why Anthony commenting on puzzling things at this site works so well.

    The variety of talent on this site is truly astonishing for Dennis, a plant ecologist to jbird a professional psychologist to engineers, geologists, economists, chemists, physicists and who knows what else, many with Phds. Why ever shouldn’t Anthony toss a bit of different meat to the viewers of this blog. He knows darn well someone with a lot more knowledge than he has will spring out of the ether, savage and debunk any bad science within a day.

  92. tadchem says:

    I smell a Fortean obsession with the “red rain.”
    Given that air masses are hardly ever motionless for days (typically moving steadily at 20-40 mph), the air from which the ‘red rain’ fell would have been thousands of km away from the impact when the meteor fell, rendering the rain irrelevant to the meteorite.

  93. milodonharlani says:

    IMO, the diatom is almost certainly terrestrial.

    However, some meteorites are loaded with complex organic compounds, the precursors of life. The jury is still out on the alleged nanobes in the Martian meteorite found on Antarctica.

    One hypothesis for abiogenesis gaining support relies on the formation of RNA in pockets of water within ice, which needn’t be on earth, but could exist on or in other planets, moons, comets or asteroids.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22660387

  94. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, I’m from the “show me” camp. Nice bit of rock. Nothing impossible about it. But…. how about they take those ones they claim are alive and do a DNA sequence on them. Once shown to have about a half billion years of ‘drift’ compared to anything terrestrial, then we can talk.

    For those saying “pull it, hide it, can it, oh the horrors”: Saying “This got published” is not endorsement. How many times has Anthony said “This AGW paper got published” and it was complete schlock? Frankly, I think this posting can serve as a very good “bad example” just like those others. Yet more evidence that really sloppy junk passes as high class science.

    Now, with that said: I’m quite happy with folks having “wacky” speculation and “odd” hypothesis. The whole point of that stage is to brainstorm and try to find something novel that might be explanatory. THEN you shove it into the crucible and watch 99% of it go POOF! Great fun especially if you like pyrotechnics!

    Eventually, a few thousand dozen further on, some things start to get some folk saying “maybe we ought to call it a thesis now?” Yet further on, it might even make it there.

    But if you demand that 100% of stuff, when first observed, meet the requirements of “polished law” or “accepted and acclaimed theory”, well, you miss all the fun and adventure of actually learning surprising new things as nothing ever meets those standards. They come only after the crucible is shoved onto the coals and the billows pumped a few years…

    Short form: It’s fun, and can serve as a good example of what not to do… ;-)

    Sidebar: There really isn’t any reason that bacteria and other things can not live in space. Bacteria from inside one of the Apollo Cameras were brought back to earth, cultured, and had stayed alive in space. We know lots of things live deep inside rocks. Looks like a natural to expect some of the same in space. Loads of living things just go into stasis when frozen. It’s not at all out of the question for that to be the norm in space. So what we really need to do is get out there and collect some sample from the asteroid belts and such and look them over…Anything else is just too likely to be a contaminant.

  95. Tom in Florida says:

    Jack Simmons says:
    January 15, 2013 at 2:15 am
    “This has been fun.
    It always amazes me to see the breadth of knowledge possessed by folks hanging around here.
    I always learn something. ”

    Exactly. Where else could someone like myself, sitting at a desk early in the morning in a small house in a small community a mile from the beach on the southwest coast of Florida, be exposed to so much commentary from such a wide range of people from all corners of the Earth. I am even allowed to put in my two cents.(or if I scaled it correctly, my .000000000000000000000002 cents)

    Remember the purpose of this site: “Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news…”

  96. lynn says:

    I think we should scrutinize the article and not the journal or authors.
    It is a little suspicious how little attention this story has gotten…. compared to reports of fires in NJ etc.

  97. Gary says:

    Ok, this is either a hoax or a mistaken conclusion. As someone who trained as a phycologist (one who studies algae) I’ve examined many specimens and this clearly is a pennate diatom of earthly origin. From the photo there are enough features to identify it to genus level and possibly species. The fact that the substrate is limestone is further evidence of Earth origin. Stoney meteorites are not made of limestone. I would be suspicious of Wickramasinghe’s motives as well. He and Hoyle advocate the panspermia hypothesis and this “discovery” reeks with confirmation bias.

  98. Alan Bates says:

    If we really are going to give scientists + or – grades then it might be worth considering:

    During the 1981 scientific creationist trial in Arkansas, Wickramasinghe was the only scientist testifying for the defense of creationism and against evolution.[18][20] In addition, he wrote that the Archaeopteryx fossil finding is a forgery, a charge that the expert scientific community considers an “absurd” and “ignorant” statement.[21][22]

    Quote from Wiki but I have seen a lot of the Archaeopteryx arguments which involves the British Natural History Museum specimen and the quote is reliable.

    I would suggest this gives him a -. Respectfully, I would have my doubts about expert scientists in one field being given a pass in others.

  99. Rick says:

    I always thought Bill Bryson nicely listed the ‘necessary ingredients for life’ in his book A Short History of Nearly Everything.
    1. Excellent location; the right distance from the right sort of star.
    2. The right kind of planet; molten interior whose out gassing helped to build an atmosphere, provided us with a magnetic field that shields us from cosmic radiation and plate tectonics.
    3.The right size of moon; the moon’s steady gravitational influence provided the necessary stability to the earth for the long incubation process required for the development of life.
    4. Timing “If a long and unimaginably complex sequence of events stretching back 4.6 billion years or so hadn’t played out in a particular manner at particular times…………you might well be six inches long with whiskers and a tail and reading this in a burrow”.

  100. Gary Pearse says:

    denniswingo says:
    January 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    “As for this meteorite, there seems to be some confusion in the description. It is called a chondrite (presumably an ordinary chondrite) yet the description is of a carbonaceous chondrite. I have actually held a piece of the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite and it looks and feels like dirt. An ordinary chondrite is much like a rock.”

    I was in a mining exploration camp on Tagish Lake (Yukon, Canada) 30 years before the meteorite arrived – dang I already feel born too soon on many other accounts!

  101. NoAstronomer says:

    I’ll go along with everyone else saying that since that is obviously a terrestrial diatom, and apparently not a deep-space diatom, the picture is either a tektite or a fake. Probably a fake.

    Mike

  102. beng says:

    Just a first impression, but this is not credible IMO. There’s almost no way an “alien” lifeform would look just like a terrestrial diatom. It should look like nothing seen before…

  103. banjo says:

    I recall watching a documentary years ago on this subject, algea if i remember properly. Or possibly
    Red rain at skeptoid
    http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4224

  104. Jimbo says:

    Red Rain contains spores of a lichen-forming alga belonging to Trentepohlia. It is from planet Earth.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2002EO000250/abstract

  105. Silver Ralph says:

    Leif Svalgaard says: January 14, 2013 at 7:39
    It is not a given that all life has to based on DNA. I do agree that DNA [namely us] will colonize the whole Galaxy in a few hundred million years [if we survive ourselves for the next couple of hundred years]. Which may provoke Fermi’s question “Where is everybody”.
    ______________________________________

    Well, if you are on the other side of the galaxy, or in another galaxy, its going to take you a very long time to get here. Light speed may mean that many technical civilisations are born, live and perish, all in splendid isolation. (And I doubt that advanced civilisations will use radio frequency communications for long, in their development.)

    .

  106. wws says:

    concerning the distant future and the distribution of intelligent life in the cosmos – there is one explanation that fits all observed data to this point, and yet it is surprising how even the most rigidly scientific minds react against it so viscerally. It’s precisely that revulsion that leads me to at least suspect it may be the truth.

    potential explanation: Sentience is fascinating to us because we possess it, but in itself it conveys no long term survival advantage to those species which develop it, and in fact may hinder survival. (self-sacrifice for the next generation is more reliable when it’s purely instinctual, for example) For that reason sentience may arise briefly in a number of worlds which support life, but it rather quickly burns itself out and vanishes without leaving much behind. Combined with the light speed barrier which forever bars significant contact between worlds, sentience can be seen as a mildly interesting byproduct of this universe but one which is transitory and of no great significance.

    The reason we hear nothing from space is because there is nothing there, and we won’t be here much longer either.

    You can’t prove it’s not true! (heh)

  107. Gary Pearse says:

    It is highly likely that collaboration with Wickramasinghe with his SciFi science was responsible for Fred Hoyle not getting a Nobel Prize for his theory of the creation of most of the elements of the periodic table (heavier than C). The Nobel Prize went to collaborators in California (Fowler etc.) even though the idea was Hoyle’s. I think the Nobel Committee didn’t want to give the prize to a cuckoo who, along with Wickramasinghe were pushing a universe bubbling with life. It probably didn’t help that Hoyle was also a science fiction writer. A lot of Nobel Prizes have been given out to much lesser scientific discoverers than Hoyle before his time. Since his time, they are handed out like Crackerjack prizes.

  108. more soylent green! says:

    @Leif Svalgaard

    We just have to consider all the possibilities — we’re the first, there is nobody else out there, Carl Sagan’s thesis about self-destruction from nuclear warfare, and of course, they’re out there, they know about us and they don’t care.

    Myself, I consider the conditions necessary for creating intelligent life and an advanced civilization rare. Our moon protects us from comets, as does Jupiter, to some extent. Without either of these, we likely wouldn’t be here today.

  109. michael hart says:

    I’ve not much knowledge of diatoms, but we’ve had similar situations before where inorganic mineralization and crystal-growth in meteorites were claimed as being due to ET life forms.

    Put enough pieces of bread into a toaster and one of them is bound to come out looking like Jesus or the Prophet. Look at enough grains of sand under a microscope and you will find one that looks like Abraham Lincoln.

  110. Kip Hansen says:

    I agree with all those who point out that the timing is extremely suspicious.

    There is just no way that careful diligent science was done on this 29 Dec 2012 meteorite and a paper produced and published in two weeks (which included the New Years holiday season).

    It appears to be a rush-to-confirm-my-pet-theory job.

    No matter what happens now, there will be no way to erase that error — that rush-to-judgement-error. If this were a police investigation, the evidence would have to be thrown out as there is no way it could have resulted from approved, normal, necessary chain-of-evidence protecting procedures. The speed with which this ‘result’ was produced condemns it and will always, hereafter, cast suspicions on it.

    It would have been oh so much better had Wickramasinghe obsessively followed procedures necessary to forestall accusations of contamination — and called in steady, conservative co-authors to steady the boat.

    Unless the dates given are wrong, I am afraid that no one will ever accept his findings.

  111. ferd berple says:

    Climate Ace says:
    January 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm
    In general, jungles tend to be rather depauperate in large critters of any kind, and therefore especially depauperate of dangerous critters
    =============
    The most dangerous creatures in the jungle are among the smallest. Most often they attack you on the lower leg, and once they get hold they are almost impossible to stop. They most definitely regard humans as food. Go live in the tropics. It is rare to find someone that doesn’t bare the scars. As a visitor without the immunity developed in childhood you make a fine meal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_ulcer

  112. Tammie lee Sandoval says:

    Thanks Dr Watts for posting this.

    If its true, it is most important and others havent picked it up.

    The most interesting thing to me is that it resembles life on earth so much.

    REPLY: Mr. Watts, no Dr. here, but thanks for thinking of me that way – Anthony

  113. milodonharlani says:

    Mr. Berple:

    You’re right about the jungle.

    Famed reporter Maggie Higgins died of leishmaniasis contracted in Vietnam.

  114. Jack Simmons says:
    January 15, 2013 at 2:15 am
    Leif, would you be so kind as to list a few of what you consider to be good journals?
    Value judgments are always a bit subjective, but scientists themselves have a measure [albeit imperfect, but an indicator nevertheless]. It is called the ‘impact factor': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_factor
    “The impact factor (IF) of an academic journal is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to recent articles published in the journal. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed to be more important than those with lower ones.”.
    The top two are Nature and Science for general science. The Astrophysical Journal, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Geophysical Research are tops in my own field(s). Needless to say, I have published in all five [and others]. Why? Because I think they are good and that my work would get to a wider audience than with lesser journals. That these journals also routinely reject about half of what I try to publish in them tells me that they are good [and ruthless when needed].

    Silver Ralph says:
    January 15, 2013 at 7:01 am
    Well, if you are on the other side of the galaxy, or in another galaxy, its going to take you a very long time to get here.
    Three hundred million years is a very long time. To colonize our own Galaxy. Reaching other galaxies may be a different matter.

  115. Michael Moon says:

    fos·sil·ize
    [fos-uh-lahyz] Show IPA verb, fos·sil·ized, fos·sil·iz·ing.

    verb (used with object)
    1.
    Geology . to convert into a fossil; replace organic with mineral substances in the remains of an organism.

    There are no fossilized diatoms. Diatoms have a skeleton made of silicon. The remains of dead diatoms are the actual skeletons themselves. How could the surrounding material be the same as the actual skeleton? This story makes no sense.

  116. ferd berple says:

    wws says:
    January 15, 2013 at 7:09 am
    Combined with the light speed barrier which forever bars significant contact between worlds.
    ===========
    The light speed barrier only exists for the observer.

    At 1 g acceleration a spaceship can travel about 1/4 of the way across the observable universe within 1 human lifetime. To people on earth it will appear that the trip took some 10 billion years, but on the space ship only some 70 years will have passed. Such a trip would feel the same as standing on the surface of the earth.

    Life exists everywhere we look on earth. Why should the rest of the universe be any different? The earth only has a finite number of particles with finite energy levels. The laws of probability dictate that it cannot be unique in an infinite universe. Eventually every pattern must repeat.

    If the universe is not infinite, then what lies outside? Doesn’t the universe include everything, past present and future? Impossible exists more in the mind than in reality.

  117. John West says:

    ferd berple says:
    “The laws of probability dictate that it cannot be unique in an infinite universe. “

    It does? How come there’s only 0ne “42” on an infinite number line?

  118. Luther Wu says:

    Living here north of the Red River, West of Red Rock Canyon and in the midst of Redlands this, that and the other, I think I’ll put on a Red Dirt Rangers disc and secretly enjoy thinking about a red rain somewhere else on the planet.

  119. John West says:

    Michael Moon says:
    “How could the surrounding material be the same as the actual skeleton?”

    My guess is that it is some type of filiform crystal growth, that would explain why it would have the same chemical makeup of the matrix.

  120. psi2 says:

    Paul Westhaver says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm
    Oh God….

    Watts. Not good. Science here only, SVP.

    I don’t believe any of this hyperbolic alien-hyping shite.

    So you believe that God created life in seven days on planet earth? And the rest of the cosmos, billions upon billions of other worlds, have no life? How touching.

  121. Billy Liar says:

    I think the paper was accidentally released early: it was meant for publication on April 1.

    /sarc (for those that find it necessary)

  122. psi2 says:

    ferd berple says:
    January 15, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Life exists everywhere we look on earth. Why should the rest of the universe be any different? The earth only has a finite number of particles with finite energy levels. The laws of probability dictate that it cannot be unique in an infinite universe. Eventually every pattern must repeat.

    Thank you, Fred, This is so obvious as to validate the speculation that a primary source of so-called “skepticism” over life on other worlds is an unexamined hangover of religious literalism, which like any other hangover lasts long after the original joy is gone.

  123. beng says:

    ***
    Silver Ralph says:
    January 15, 2013 at 7:01 am

    And I doubt that advanced civilisations will use radio frequency communications for long, in their development.
    ****

    Not sure what else they’d use. Lasers are fine for unobstructed short-range, but doesn’t penetrate gas/dust. IMO, they’d use broadband, encrypted radio that would be indistinguishable from radio noise if you don’t have an encryption key.

  124. Pat Frank says:

    As a chemist, the morphology of the “diatom” is very difficult to reconcile with inorganic crystal growth. However, hydrothermal depositional processes can lead to very organic-looking semi-microscopic inorganic morphologies. These led astray the scientists who worked on the Mars meteorite, ALH84001.

    However, the only really convincing evidence of extraterrestrial life would be if the isotopic ratios within a given element are different from their common ratio on earth. The 12C/13C ratio in the carbonate, for example, should be checked. The min/max mole fraction of terrestrial 13C is 0.009629 to 0.011466. If it falls well out of the terrestrial ratio, an extra terrestrial origin is indicated.

    Likewise, the atomic weight of terrestrial calcium is 96.9% 40Ca. But the isotope 44Ca is stable and present at 0.02082 to 0.02092 mole fraction. These ratios can all be checked by accelerator mass spectrometry. Other elements should be checked opportunistically. An extraterrestrial origin, or not, can be established pretty definitively by checking isotope fractions.

  125. Kitefreak says:

    scarletmacaw says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Paul Westhaver says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm
    Oh God….

    Watts. Not good. Science here only, SVP.

    I don’t believe any of this hyperbolic alien-hyping shite.

    Science only? Isn’t presenting and debunking pseudoscience one of the main reasons this site exists?
    —————–
    Like what you did there Scarlet.

  126. John Whitman says:

    Leif Svalgaard on January 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Which may provoke Fermi’s question “Where is everybody”.

    – – – – – – –

    Leif,

    I do not know if Fermi said that cynically / satiracally to people who are very focused on extraterrestrial life theories and possibilities. If he was being cynical / satiracal , on what scientific basis could he have been? He did not have any privileged info unless he was being unscientifically secretive.

    As the question stands, one possible scenario is extraterrestrial life might be in approximately the same position as life on earth is. We are not yet even infinitesimally close to being in a position to remotely contact anyone across the immense breadth of the universe except at immense timescales; much less even less infinitesimally close go physically going out to look.

    As to the paper, I hope they maintained the physical integrity of the meteorite fragment and had a very detailed continuous chain of custody documentation for it since its discovery and also hope they will do so into the future. If they did then it serves all science well for objective verification of their results. If they didn’t then it is a disappointment.

    Extraterrestrial life? That we exist is incontrovertible evidence that nature does have in its internal structures viable life making processes. Extremely rare? Actually given we have only an infinitesimally tiny fragment of temporal and spatial evidence makes that question naive at best, n’est ce pas? Rare => it sounds like an absurd human conceit to me.

    John

  127. Day By Day says:

    jimmi_the_dalek says:
    The meteorite falls in Sri Lanka on the 29th of December, they collect a sample, fly the sample to Cardiff, run it through the electron microscope, write a paper, submit it, have it referred and published all in 12days! Very fast…. too fast to have been checked properly.

    Ditto–was the date wrong? It fell in 2011? makes more sense that there is a typo somewhere.

  128. John Whitman says:
    January 15, 2013 at 10:02 am
    I do not know if Fermi said that cynically / satirically
    I think Fermi was dead-serious. Considering that it would be highly likely that many alien civilizations would be way ahead of ours [in time] and that we could colonize the Galaxy in 300 million years, so could they. Since they haven’t, they don’t exist.

    As to the paper, I hope they maintained the physical integrity of the meteorite fragment and had a very detailed continuous chain of custody documentation for it since its discovery and also hope they will do so into the future. If they did then it serves all science well for objective verification of their results. If they didn’t then it is a disappointment.
    I think the various suggestions about checking the isotopic composition should settle the question, and then it doesn’t matter how the meteorite is handled.

    Extraterrestrial life?
    Assuming you mean higher life, Fermi’s paradox has three ‘solutions’.
    1) we are alone [the first civilization]
    2) civilizations don’t live long enough to even start colonizing [blow themselves up]
    3) interstellar travel is too hard or dangerous

    Each of those have various objections against them.

  129. John Whitman says:

    The following has been stated in the lead post and many times by numerous commenters:

    “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“

    – – – – – – –

    Any scientific theory is established as part of a snapshot in time of developing scientific knowledge by showing sufficient and necessary evidence of observed conformation to real identified entities and their actual behaviors.

    A most unforeseen revolutionary theory may be scientifically established with a mundane set of overlooked minor observations. It only needs to be sufficient and necessary, it does not need to be extraordinary . . .

    Abandon the mythic “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“ claim.

    John

  130. John Whitman says:
    January 15, 2013 at 11:00 am
    Abandon the mythic “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“ claim.
    I would tend to agree with you. Such mundane evidence as Aliens simply landing on the White House lawn [assuming the Secret Service don't get them first] and demanding “take us to your leader” would do the trick. The issue can be twisted around: if some evidence confirm an extraordinary claim, then, clearly, that evidence must be extraordinary.
    I would rather prefer the phrase ‘solid evidence’.

  131. Why would “Red Rain” fall near by several days after the meteorite fell. The earth is spinning rather fast, and moving around the sun rather fast. What would make this “Red Rain” just hapen to fall nearby. Surly the fine biomater that caused the red rain would have a different trajectory through the atmospher. Or is the implication that biomater survived intact inside the meteorite, then somehow made its way into the rain. This just seems very rediculous.

  132. SpartanCanuck says:

    Shenanigans are afoot. Not only is the purported timeframe (12 days) a ludicrously short time in which to secure the samples, secure SEM access, examine the meteorite, write and edit the paper, and have it accepted for publication, but note that there is no sign of this paper on Journal of Cosmology’s (decidedly geocitiesesque) website. Note also the header in this paper, and pull any article from Journal of Cosmology and compare. Right. Journal of Cosmology publishes volumes, but not numbers.

    We are being spoofed. The paper isn’t real. Someone likely just whipped it up as a prank, and slapped a few seemingly appropriate names on it. With this in mind, that one of the frustules is clearly from a terrestrial genus of diatom makes me suspect that we’re looking at a rock of thoroughly terrestrial origin which is being misrepresented for the sake of the prank, and not a meteorite, or even a tektite.

  133. AnonyMoose says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 15, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I think Fermi was dead-serious. Considering that it would be highly likely that many alien civilizations would be way ahead of ours [in time] and that we could colonize the Galaxy in 300 million years, so could they. Since they haven’t, they don’t exist.

    Or they’ve colonized Jupiter, which is a lovely planet for them.

    Extraterrestrial life?
    Assuming you mean higher life, Fermi’s paradox has three ‘solutions’.
    1) we are alone [the first civilization]
    2) civilizations don’t live long enough to even start colonizing [blow themselves up]
    3) interstellar travel is too hard or dangerous

    4) everyone else is hiding from the wolves and xenophobic religious zealots who prowl the galaxy.

  134. Sparks says:

    Could the meteorite have come from Titian? that would be an interesting link to make.

  135. Silver Ralph says:

    beng says:
    January 15, 2013 at 9:48 am
    Silver Ralph says:
    January 15, 2013 at 7:01 am

    And I doubt that advanced civilisations will use radio frequency communications for long, in their development. ………….
    Not sure what else they’d use. Lasers are fine for unobstructed short-range, but doesn’t penetrate gas/dust.
    ______________________________

    Nutrino comms. Stands to reason – nothing gets in their way. Clear comms across the galaxy.

    .

  136. Sparks says:

    Extremophiles from earth may already be populating our solar-system, they survive in volcanoes and sometimes volcanoes can launch material into space.

  137. markx says:

    SpartanCanuck says:January 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

    “…We are being spoofed. The paper isn’t real…”

    Listed in Volume 21 here… Article number 37 in Volume 21 …shown 4th from the bottom of the page; (amongst several publications on the subject, all by Wickramasinghe, and just above the photo of “the living diatom extracted from the meteorite” !!)

    http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/indexVol21CONTENTS.htm

  138. dlgriscom says:

    Dave Griscom says:

    I believe there is a near consensus that if Wickramasinghe’s sample isn’t a fake, then it must be a meteorite from the Earth. (I think that most of us agree that the red rains are red herrings).

    Meteorites from the Earth are regarded to exist but are believed by these authors as unlikely to ever be recovered:
    Gladman, B. J., Burns, J. A., Duncan, M., Lee, P., and Levison, H. F.: The exchange of
    impact ejecta between terrestrial planets, Science, 271, 1387-1392, 1996.
    DOI:10.1126/science.271.5254.1387

    If there were to be any meteorites from the Earth, it has been deemed likely that some of them would have originated with the Chesapeake Bay impact ca. 35.5 Ma:
    Faucett, P. J., and Boslough, M. B. E.: Climatic effects of an impact-induced equatorial debris ring, J. Geophys. Res. 107 (D15), 4231-4249, 2002. doi:10.1029/2001JD001230.

    There are diatomaceous sands in the impact area of the CB crater.
    (general knowledge)

    Perhaps the most successful mechanism for putting fragments of the Earth into distant orbits that do not return to the Earth’s atmosphere for ~35.5 m.y. is the jetting phase, wherein ejecta is launched nearly tangentially to the Earth’s surface “at speeds usually faster than the projectile itself.”:
    Melosh H. J.: Impact Cratering – A Geological Process, Oxford Monogr. Geol. Geophys
    Ser., vol. 11, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989. p.51

    So all we have to do now is to find some of these meteorites from the Earth and study them.
    And in fact I have found one:
    Griscom D L., In plain sight: the Chesapeake Bay crater ejecta blanket, Solid Earth Discuss., 4, 363—428, 2012, http://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/4/363/2012/sed-4-363-2012.html
    doi:10.5194/sed-4-363-2012
    (Sections 10 and 11 treat jetting-phase ejecta (which didn’t leave the Earth) and a recovered meteorite from the Earth, respectively.)
    The link above shows my abstract and permits downloading the full article. However, if you wish to read it I recommend downloading my reader-friendly version (figures inline w/ text) here: http://www.drivehq.com/file/df.aspx/publish/dlgriscom/CBcraterResearch

  139. John West says:

    AnonyMoose says:
    “4) everyone else is hiding from the wolves and xenophobic religious zealots who prowl the galaxy. “

    LOL!

    Don’t forget the logizomechanophobic zealots, just think what the Butlerian Jihadists would do to us if they find us! The precautionary principle demands we stop broadcasts NOW!

    /sarc

  140. AnonyMoose says:
    January 15, 2013 at 11:26 am
    4) everyone else is hiding from the wolves and xenophobic religious zealots who prowl the galaxy.
    since we are doing anything to hide, the Wolves would have found us already. Since they haven’t [Men in Black, notwithstanding],one or more of the three ‘solutions’ must be operating.

  141. John Whitman says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I would rather prefer the phrase ‘solid evidence’.

    – – – – – – – – – –

    Leif,

    I will stick with ‘necessary and sufficient’ evidence.

    ‘Solid’ evidence might be ‘necessary and sufficient’ evidence. I would think ‘solid’ is subsumed under ‘sufficient’?

    John

  142. John Whitman says:
    January 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm
    I will stick with ‘necessary and sufficient’ evidence.
    I don’t think ‘necessary’ is necessary…

  143. J. Gary Fox says:

    Wickramasinghe’s belief, faith is probably more accurate, is that extraterrestrial life is raining down on earth for decades and all life on Earth is the result of comet panspermia.
    When person with a Cause, provides evidence we should take that evidence with a grain, no shovel full of salt.
    A scientist may have all the credentials, publish in respected journals and still be a Quack.
    Just read a few of his arguments and logic in the statement he provided during the 1981 trial in Arkansas concerning teaching alternate theories to evolution.
    http://www.panspermia.org/chandra.htm
    “In our view every crucial new inheritable property that appears in the course of the evolution of species must have an external cosmic origin.”
    In criminal trials, violations or gaps in the “chain of custody” may immediately put into question the validity of an admitted piece of evidence.
    “Fig 1b shows a photograph of a small piece of the meteorite that was sent by one of us (AS) for study at the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology and Cardiff University.”
    How convenient for a True Believer to receive and analyze this “small piece”.
    Chain of Custody anyone?

  144. lynn says:

    Interesting that there is a rather large effort to find meteorites at the south pole

    http://geology.cwru.edu/~ansmet/

  145. AnonyMoose says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:

    > 4) everyone else is hiding from the wolves and xenophobic religious zealots who prowl the galaxy.
    since we are doing anything to hide, the Wolves would have found us already. Since they haven’t [Men in Black, notwithstanding],one or more of the three ‘solutions’ must be operating.

    Or it takes a lot of resources or centuries to travel here. SF writers have covered this ground, with bad results for us. I gave examples where reasoned logic is not the driving factor, because the arguments which are based upon a logical civilization don’t necessarily apply to everyone. Totally destroying an enemy doesn’t make sense if you don’t benefit from it, or if the time delay does not allow the home of the attackers to benefit. Maybe they’re not driven by logic. Maybe they’re zealots who are trying to protect their nest from everyone else, or maybe they’re planet-consuming plants who seek dry concrete as a fast breeding ground.

    As for this meteorite, I missed the expert evaluation of why this black-and-white image is limestone rather than CC meteorite. Because it would be fascinating, whatever it means, I hope this study is somehow reproducible, of course, but hoping won’t make it so.

  146. Michael Moon says:

    Slate Magazine

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy.html

    trashes this. Those are freshwater diatoms, not fossils at all. And there is no evidence whatsoever that the specimen is from a meteorite.

  147. John Whitman says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 15, 2013 at 10:55 am

    John Whitman says:
    January 15, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Extraterrestrial life? That we exist is incontrovertible evidence that nature does have in its internal structures viable life making processes. Extremely rare? Actually given we have only an infinitesimally tiny fragment of temporal and spatial evidence makes that question naive at best, n’est ce pas? Rare => it sounds like an absurd human conceit to me.

    Assuming you mean higher life, Fermi’s paradox has three ‘solutions’.
    1) we are alone [the first civilization]
    2) civilizations don’t live long enough to even start colonizing [blow themselves up]
    3) interstellar travel is too hard or dangerous
    Each of those have various objections against them.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Leif,

    Appreciate your continuing dialog.

    The existence of human beings is sufficient evidence of the capability of natural processes to result in some kind (maybe like us and maybe nothing like us) of other intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe, but it is not the necessary evidence that the processes of nature yielded another intelligent life form. Given the rather almost incomprehensively immense scale of the spatial and temporal universe, we may be in for an unimaginably long effort to get the necessary evidence of other intelligent life forms.

    Step one perhaps is just establishing whether any kind of life form exists independent of Earth, even if just the most primitive of forms. That would give more energy to the consideration of there being other intelligent life forms in the universe.

    Fermi’s paradox seems too presumptuous. I think his paradox presumes that another intelligent life form is social (e.g. forms a civilization) and it presumes other ‘intelligent’ life will have an intelligence like ours and has the same basic interests as ours. If he also presumed other intelligent life is probably much much more ancient than us then to me that appears to be an unnecessary and an insufficient constraint; it is just one of many scenarios with no more probability than many other scenarios. Anyway, Fermi’s paradox appears to have too much presumption for me.

    John

  148. Gunga Din says:

    I haven’t been able to read read all the comments. Some have said this story doesn’t belong here because of the shoddy science behind it.
    I disagree. It has a place here even though it sounds fishier than Jackson’s email release because it is the kind of thing that might get wide MSM coverage. Prove the boat won’t float before it’s launched.

  149. Tony Mach says:

    … Preliminary studies from EDX analysis show that these cells are similar to the cells found in the red rain of Kerala that fell in 2001, cells that have not yet been identified with any known terrestrial organism…

    What BS. Either they have done gene sequencing, then they can say it definitely whether they are terrestrial (and to what other already known organisms they are related), or whether they are unrelated to anything known here on Earth.

  150. AnonyMoose says:
    January 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm
    the arguments which are based upon a logical civilization don’t necessarily apply to everyone
    If the Galaxy is teeming with life there will be such a wide spectrum of motives of so diverse civilizations to cover almost everything one can come up with. So Fermi stands. If the Galaxy is not teeming with life, Fermi still stands as it is clear why nobody has come. The murky area is where there are some, but few, civilizations. Then the spectrum of motives narrows. On the other hand those few civilizations are all way ahead of us [it is too much of a coincidence that in the 12 billion years of existence, a few civilizations would be just at our stage right now], so where are they?

  151. Tony Mach says:

    forget to say: Either they have done gene sequencing, … or they have not done it – in which case they are not worthy to be taken seriously.

  152. John Whitman says:
    January 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm
    I think his paradox presumes that another intelligent life form is social (e.g. forms a civilization) and it presumes other ‘intelligent’ life will have an intelligence like ours and has the same basic interests as ours.
    See my reply to AnonyMoose January 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

  153. Gunga Din says:

    PS They claim live critters in the second paper? What kinds of containment protocols have been put in place? Didn’t they ever see “The Andromeda Strain”?

  154. D Böehm Stealey says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:

    “…so where are they?”

    Yes, that is the question, isn’t it?

  155. D Böehm Stealey says:
    January 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm
    “…so where are they?”
    Yes, that is the question, isn’t it?

    To me, the conclusion to draw is that the Universe is friendly. Either we are [effectively] alone, so have nobody else to fear. Or if there is somebody out there, they either can’r get to us, or they know about us, but leave us in peace. If they were hostile, we wouldn’t be here, they would. That leaves another question: are we them? [but don't know it]. Wickramasinghe may think so.

  156. Greg Laden says:

    It is a researcher who has made numerous bogus claims about alien life in a bogus “journal” reporting on a rock that is contaminated, as pretty much any rock might be, with the ubiquitous fresh water diatoms that are everywhere. The diatoms do make nice proxyindicators for both environment and age. In this case, they seem to indicate the present, and the habitat is … recently warmed!

    Ha.

  157. D Böehm Stealey says:

    One typical human failing is that we [meaning people in general] tend to think too small. That is especially evident when discussing this subject.

    We can’t be alone in the universe [says my belief system]. There are just too many billions of galaxies, with billions of stars in most of them, and too much elapsed time in the universe.

    And that is just the visible universe, which may be either a tiny fraction of the whole, or the universe may well be infinite.

    If the universe is infinite, then intelligent life must have appeared ipso facto an infinite number of times. If the universe is finite, it is still vastly bigger than the average person suspects. The visible universe is but a tiny part of the whole.

    There is a reason that we haven’t encountered other signs of intelligence. At this point we can only speculate about the reason(s). But I’m not speculating. It might sound like crazy talk. ☺

  158. Philippe Chaniet says:

    Of course they are “friendly”, whatever that means.
    The universe can have two causes: A God or probabilities. Probabilities are so low that there must be a lot of “others”, an infinite number necessarily, and these others have had far more time to evolve than us. Whatever they have become is probably well beyond our imagination. So the answer to the question: “Where are they?” must be: “We don’t know but clearly they do not need to be here.”

  159. Sparks says:

    There is something fishy about this or there is a genuine misunderstanding or they can’t see the wood for the trees. They seem to be trying to link algae like cells that cause the “red rain” phenomenon to the fossilized objects believed to have came from comet Encke.

    In the News interview above they clearly report that “some of the algae like cells are alive” and others are dead. But in the paper they state

    “Again we stress that contamination is decisively ruled out because the structure in the meteorite is deemed to be a fossilized object, and fossils diatoms were not present near the surface of the Earth to contaminate a new fall of meteorites.”

    If they have found fossilized objects in an uncontaminated Meteorite, Which is important by itself, why include a speculative link with the “red rain” phenomenon?

    Is it possible that these scientists have been pushing the “red rain” phenomenon as having an extraterrestrial origin before this meteorite was found?

  160. jimspice says:

    “This needs to be confirmed by others in the science community before it can be taken seriously.”

    Making an exception in this case, are we?

  161. Ben Darren Hillicoss says:

    Leif, “they” have seen Al Gore, and they don’t like us!!!!!!

  162. Climate Ace says:

    ferd berple says:
    January 15, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Climate Ace says:
    January 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm
    In general, jungles tend to be rather depauperate in large critters of any kind, and therefore especially depauperate of dangerous critters
    =============
    The most dangerous creatures in the jungle are among the smallest. Most often they attack you on the lower leg, and once they get hold they are almost impossible to stop. They most definitely regard humans as food. Go live in the tropics. It is rare to find someone that doesn’t bare the scars. As a visitor without the immunity developed in childhood you make a fine meal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_ulcer

    We concur. I was responding to a common misperception about the nature of jungle fauna posted upstring. Indeed, if we were to use concepts about jungle fauna as a prism for searching for nasty ETs, the best bet would be to start with anything that is either microbial or Anopheles-sized.

  163. Paul Westhaver says:

    D Böehm Stealey says:
    January 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    “We can’t be alone in the universe…”
    ———————————————————————–
    Scientific evidence shows otherwise. If you do the math, which nearly nobody does, rather than hand wave, I think you will numerically conclude that life, any life, is improbable.

    As a scientist I advocate doing the math behind the model, AND making observations to confirm or deny the model, which is exactly what Richard Feynman would do.

    Promoting Panspermia because you “believe it” to be so is quaint, but it isn’t science.

  164. GregK says:

    Professor N. C. Wickramasinghe, the leading author of the paper, does not make it clear that he is “Executive Editor, Astrobiology Cometry Panspermia” at the Journal of Cosmology which published the paper.

    This is an illustration of the failings and advantages of on-line journals. An advantage is that claims of new discoveries can be disseminated quickly. A disadvantage is that these claims may not have been peer reviewed, or only reviewed by like-minded peers.

    However an over-riding advantage is that, because on-line journals are much more accessible than those controlled by Dutch publishers [ie most scientific journals] poor quality work will be quickly recognised as such.

    This is certainly the case here. The paper was published on-line and has within weeks been recognised for the utter rubbish that it is. if the Journal of Cosmology wishes to be known as a serious journal standards will have to be raised.

  165. Peter Hannan says:

    On Journal of Cosmology: it has had some good articles, for instance from members and associates of the Glasgow team on the origin of life (whose ideas seem to me most promising), but it also has a serious bent towards panspermia and the origin of life elsewhere. The problem with panspermia is that it is currently unscientific: the hypothesis that life did not originate on Earth, but elsewhere, cannot be disproved, i.e. it is unfalsifiable, so, according to a Popperian view of science, non-scientific; it also pushes any research on the origin of life into realms where we have little hope of doing detailed study.

    Diatoms on Earth are eukaryotes with chloroplasts, but not primary chloroplasts such as those in plants and algae, which are descended directly from endosymbiotic cyanobacteria; diatoms have secondary chloroplasts, from an endosymbiosis of a red alga (already carrying a cyanobacteria-derived chloroplast) and a eukaryote. The photos in the article show a remarkable resemblance between the claimed extraterrestrial fossil and an existing earthly diatom, and the authors ‘conclude therefore that the identification of fossilised diatoms in the Polonnaruwa meteorite is firmly established and unimpeachable. Since this meteorite is considered to be an extinct cometary fragment, the idea of microbial life carried within comets and the theory of cometary panspermia is thus vindicated.’

    Nothing of the sort! The authors’ claim implies that on some other planet (presumably) there was an evolution of life from bacteria- and archaea-like unicellular organisms to various symbioses which produced more complex organisms similar to eukaryotes, and that the fine structure of this particular exemplar of that extraterrestrial evolution (which on Earth took a few billion years) is almost identical to the fine structure of the results of a similar evolution here. That really does strain credulity!

    If it looks very much like an earthly diatom, it most probably is one! The question then is, how did it get into this meteorite sample? That’s an interesting question which can be tested scientifically (not anti-Popper-‘vindicated’). If anyone wants (extensive) references, ask.

  166. Peter Hannan says:

    By the way, I disagree with some posters (or one, at least, I admit I skimmed the 160 or so posts a bit) that this topic has no place on WUWT: the blog header includes far more than climate, and what makes this blog so good is the critical and informed thinking and argument; we can and should exercise that in all fields, in science and the rest of life.

    Exobiology is a science that at present has nothing concrete to study, except endobiology (that is, life on this planet); it still is a science, if conducted properly. The study of the origin of life on this planet (excluding for methodological reasons panspermia) is an aspect of science that has progressed immensely despite a severe paucity of concrete data in comparison with other fields.

    I think it’s interesting to compare these rather arcane fields with current climate ‘science’, which is rich in data, relatively. The thing is, there’s a lively, and at times acerbic, debate in the exobiology and origin of life fields which is conducted excellently, with respect for persons but not ideas, and with proposals of testable hypotheses, and with an awareness that nobody really knows and nothing is uncontrovertibly proved – everyone is working with hypotheses and models, and experimental tests are difficult to do.

    I really am sad to have to write climate ‘science': but the prominent warmists, and many others whose articles I’ve read and who cite IPCC reports as if they were peer-reviewed scientific articles, have lost it in terms of science, which I understand in terms of Popper’s clearly articulated philosophy of science. Just look at another field that grabs your interest, and you’ll find that the scientists are working pretty well: the origin of life is a field that particularly grabs me, and in general I find that the work being done fulfils Enlightenment, and Popperian, standards; there are a few in this broad field (because it inevitably involves other fields such as the reconstruction of the history of life) who seem to be influenced by relativist and post-modernist thinking (which I detest with a passion, and with reason), but still they adhere in the end to the demanding standards of evidence and falsifiability.

    Our warmist ‘scientists’, on the other hand, are lost in a relativist and post-modernist morass, viz. ‘The appliance of science’, Mike Hulme The Guardian, Wednesday 14 March 2007
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/mar/14/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange

    By the way (another), guys and gals, I had seen this quote from Mike Hulme in various climate-sceptical articles and posts, but, being sceptical, I wanted to check if the quote was real, and it took me some time to finally land on the article in the Grauniad (sorry, this is a very Brit in-joke: The Guardian in the pre-computer-setting days of newspapers was famous for its misprints). Let’s all provide findable and reliable references for the things we claim.

  167. James Cross says:

    I am guessing there is no way of dating the fossil.

    Assuming this is not a fraud or some huge misinterpretation of data, the simpler explanation is that this originated from Earth, was ejected into space during some previous impact (65 million years ago?), got picked up at some point, and now has come back home.

  168. David says:

    Leif S says…
    Extraterrestrial life?
    Assuming you mean higher life, Fermi’s paradox has three ‘solutions’.
    1) we are alone [the first civilization]
    2) civilizations don’t live long enough to even start colonizing [blow themselves up]
    3) interstellar travel is too hard or dangerous
    Each of those have various objections against them.
    ============================================================
    If one limits the solutions to three, when there are many more possible, then perhaps one is indulging in a circular arguement. Life can perhaps evolve in many different forms, perhaps they find ours uninteresting. Perhaps they feel a moral directive not to interfere with a developing civilization, aka, “the prime directive” Perhaps we are not alone, but perhaps more rare then some think, so they have not progressed to the point of traveling vast interstellar distances. Perhaps we are far more common then some think, so they have many other advanced worlds to deal with, you know, “Federations” and what not, and so do not have the time or interest to check out some hicks in a remote corner of the cosmos, when the “rebels” are threatening. It is a big universe with room for far greater imagination then three possible solutions.

  169. Kip Hansen says:

    Hey SpartanCanuck,

    You following up on the spoof angle?

  170. David says:
    January 16, 2013 at 6:25 am
    Life can perhaps evolve in many different forms, perhaps they find ours uninteresting. Perhaps they feel a moral directive not to interfere with a developing civilization, aka, “the prime directive”
    If there are many out there, there will be a large spread in their ‘directives’. It only takes one to be interested. Which is the essence of Fermi’s paradox.

  171. beng says:

    ***
    John Whitman says:
    January 15, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Rare => it sounds like an absurd human conceit to me.
    ***

    Not necessarily. I see more & more evidence that our situation for intelligent life development is a “Goldilocks” one — perhaps nearly unique. The types of planetary systems being discovered is supporting this.

  172. dlgriscom says:

    Answer to how earthly diatoms could get into a meteorite.

    Meteorites from the Earth are regarded to exist but were believed by these authors unlikely to ever be recovered:
    Gladman, B. J., Burns, J. A., Duncan, M., Lee, P., and Levison, H. F.: The exchange of impact ejecta between terrestrial planets, Science, 271, 1387-1392, 1996. DOI:10.1126/science.271.5254.1387

    If any meteorites from the Earth were to be found, it has been deemed likely that some of them would have originated with the Chesapeake Bay impact ~35.5 Ma:
    Faucett, P. J., and Boslough, M. B. E.: Climatic effects of an impact-induced equatorial debris ring, J. Geophys. Res. 107 (D15), 4231-4249, 2002. doi:10.1029/2001JD001230.

    It is generally known that there are diatomaceous sands in the area surrounding the Chesapeake Bay crater.

    Perhaps the most successful mechanism for putting fragments of the Earth into distant orbits that do not return to the Earth’s atmosphere for ~35.5 m.y. is the jetting phase of the impact, wherein ejecta is launched near tangentially to the Earth’s surface “at speeds usually faster than the projectile itself.”:
    Melosh H. J.: Impact Cratering – A Geological Process, Oxford Monogr. Geol. Geophys Ser., vol. 11, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989. p.51

    So all we have to do now is to find some of these meteorites from the Earth and study them. And in fact I have already found one (sorry, no diatoms):
    Griscom D L., In plain sight: the Chesapeake Bay crater ejecta blanket, Solid Earth Discuss., 4, 363—428, 2012, http://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/4/363/2012/sed-4-363-2012.html
    Sections 10 and 11 of this paper treat jetting-phase ejecta (which didn’t leave the Earth) and a recovered granite meteorite from the Earth, respectively. The link above displays the abstract and permits downloading the full article. However, if you wish to read it in its entirety, I recommend that you download my reader-friendly version (figures inline with the text) here: http://www.drivehq.com/file/df.aspx/publish/dlgriscom/CBcraterResearch

    –Dave

  173. phlogiston says:

    Where is the DNA analysis of the “red rain” cells? That would immediately place it in a terrestrial family if they are terrestrial.

    What is a diatom? it is a marine alga with a calcified shell evolved to achieve a particular buoyancy in an ocean of particular density and salinity, and to photosynthesise with an atmosphere like ours. If diatoms are riding to earth on comets it must mean there is “another earth” out there – something practically the same as ours. Hmmm..

    Even if (a big if) the panspermia idea is proved correct, what is its significance? Very small indeed. So this cell evolved / lived on another planet then travelled here. Just – wow! OK, but that says NOTHING absolutely about how life first evolved. It evolved here and somewhere else as well. What insight does it give about how this first happened. None. It changes nothing at all about the origin of life debate. It is trivial that the universe is full of life, it cannot be otherwise. Even if the conditions for life are so exacting that only 0.000001% of planets have it (and this is unlikely) then there are so many stars and planets that there will still be millions of life supporting planets. (A recent study found that about 1 in 6 of stars have an earth-like planet. So as Fermi asked – “where is everyone”.)

    In fact panspermia would merely be a subcategory in a well known evolutionary mechanism, that of “rafting”. Read “the ancestors tale” by Richard Dawkins to learn more about this. Careful palaentological and genetic analysis combined with knowledge of historic plate tectonic and continental movements makes it clear that at certain times, certain animals crossed large oceans. This is most likely due to rafting – a clump of fallen trees from a flood or landslide or something drift out to sea. Some animal find themselves on the raft. They somehow survive a long journey to another continent – and include a male and female. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_dispersal . Primates have rafted from Africa to both Madagascar and even south America millions of years ago (They first evolved in Africa much later than the separation of either island/continent.).

  174. phlogiston says:

    Kind of curious that this fell in Sri Lanka – the home of Holye and Wikramsinge.

  175. Chris R. says:

    To Sparks:

    You wrote: “Could the meteorite have come from Titian?”

    I would love to see a meteorite created by the famed Italian painter!

    However, I think you meant “Titan”, the moon of Saturn, known to
    have an atmosphere of nitrogen, methane, and other constituents.

  176. dlgriscom says:

    I agree. It has to be a meteorite from the Earth.

    Meteorites from the Earth are regarded to exist but were believed by these authors that they are unlikely to ever be recovered:
    Gladman, B. J., Burns, J. A., Duncan, M., Lee, P., and Levison, H. F.: The exchange of impact ejecta between terrestrial planets, Science, 271, 1387-1392, 1996. DOI:10.1126/science.271.5254.1387

    If any meteorites from the Earth were to be found, it has been deemed likely that some of them would have originated with the Chesapeake Bay impact ~35.5 Ma:
    Faucett, P. J., and Boslough, M. B. E.: Climatic effects of an impact-induced equatorial debris ring, J. Geophys. Res. 107 (D15), 4231-4249, 2002. doi:10.1029/2001JD001230.

    It is generally known that there are diatomaceous sands in the area surrounding the Chesapeake Bay crater.

    Perhaps the most successful mechanism for putting fragments of the Earth into distant orbits that do not return to the Earth’s atmosphere for ~35.5 m.y. is the jetting phase of the impact, where ejecta is launched near tangentially to the Earth’s surface “at speeds usually faster than the projectile itself.”:
    Melosh H. J.: Impact Cratering – A Geological Process, Oxford Monogr. Geol. Geophys Ser., vol. 11, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989. p.51

    So all we have to do now is to find some of these meteorites from the Earth and study them. And in fact I have already found one:
    Griscom D L., In plain sight: the Chesapeake Bay crater ejecta blanket, Solid Earth Discuss., 4, 363—428, 2012, http://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/4/363/2012/sed-4-363-2012.html
    Sections 10 and 11 of this paper treat jetting-phase ejecta (which didn’t leave the Earth) and a recovered granite meteorite from the Earth, respectively. The link above displays the abstract and permits downloading the full article. However, if you wish to read it in its entirety, I recommend that you download my reader-friendly version (figures inline with the text) here: http://www.drivehq.com/file/df.aspx/publish/dlgriscom/CBcraterResearch

    –Dave

  177. phlogiston says:
    January 16, 2013 at 10:22 am
    Some animal find themselves on the raft. They somehow survive a long journey to another continent – and include a male and female.
    More likely just a pregnant or impregnated female.

  178. dlgriscom says:
    January 16, 2013 at 10:32 am
    I agree. It has to be a meteorite from the Earth.
    If it is a chondrite [as claimed] it cannot be from Earth, but it could have picked up some material ejected from Earth. It may be possible that Dr. W has been had in some way or has simply lost it.

  179. scarletmacaw says:

    RE: David says:
    January 16, 2013 at 6:25 am

    First off, let’s be clear what we are discussing. We are talking about intelligent life capable of interstellar travel. Human beings are capable of interstellar travel, although presently it is too risky and way too expensive.

    If there is another race also capable of interstellar travel, it is extremely unlikely that it is at the same stage of development as humanity. Millions of years is a short time period compared to the age of the galaxy. The galaxy is roughly 100,000 LY across, so Leif”s estimate of 300 MY to completely colonize the galaxy is probably overly conservative. 1/10th light speed should not be unlikely for humanity to eventually achieve, and the time it would take our descendants to colonize a new solar system (SS), then build and send out a new colony ship, is on the same order as the travel time to get to the next SS. I’d estimate the galaxy will be colonized by humans within 10 MY if not stopped by internal or external destruction. Once about ten SS have been colonized the race is fairly safe from anything but another more powerful race. The first race to get interstellar travel would most likely be strong enough to defend itself against a younger upstart, and if such a race existed the galaxy would already be filled with them.

    If there were another race biologically capable of living on Earth, then Earth would have been colonized by them long ago, and we would not be here. The one way out of this is that there exists a race that rules the galaxy, prevents any other race from competing, and has preserved Earth as a zoo. If there is a race needing different living conditions, it’s possible that that race could have already colonized the galaxy and is ignoring us, but we would likely see some signs of that in unusual chemical abundances, electromagnetic signals, or unusual thermal signatures. If they have colonies everywhere, then there should be some close enough to detect.

  180. David says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:

    January 16, 2013 at 8:20 am

    David says:
    January 16, 2013 at 6:25 am
    Life can perhaps evolve in many different forms, perhaps they find ours uninteresting. Perhaps they feel a moral directive not to interfere with a developing civilization, aka, “the prime directive”
    If there are many out there, there will be a large spread in their ‘directives’. It only takes one to be interested. Which is the essence of Fermi’s paradox.
    —————————————————————————————–

    It sounds more like an assumption to me. One thing that always bothered me about the “Klingon” agresssive dominate and destroy mentality, is that the chances of such a society getting very deep into nature’s secrets and power is logically limited by the capacity for self destruction. The middle and dark age kingdoms, full of evil bastard dictator mentality, would fare very poorly with nuclear capacity, let alone with command of whatever force required for light speed plus travel. Today, we have the opportunity to observe Islamist as a throw back to such mentality, not that it is entirely lacking in one world goverment types, or in the robber barons of unrestrained capitolism. (IE, the evil bastard is the lower part of human nature and infects all systems, but must be overcome as we advance or if not brothers in peace, we will l be brothers in violent death) It appears to me quite a stretch to say that we should have been found by now by the one or hyper agressive species that is super advanced and super agresssive. It may welll be that there are other limitations to galatic travel more then a few thousand light years, and we are simply of little to know concern to a an advanced civilization thirty thousand light years away, that has thousands of closer rock like planets to explore.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&ved=0CFwQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.nationalgeographic.com%2Fnews%2Fbillions-of-earthlike-planets-found-in-milky-way%2F&ei=hQH3UMH_HMbtiQLZwYDgCQ&usg=AFQjCNGUR7R0R6WN8-qSWMpEvJB68b6ftg&sig2=xPx_27t0ojYZ3UFBKlz_0g
    “Tens of billions of Earthlike worlds are strewn across the Milky Way, many of them circling stars very much like our own sun, astronomers said today.

    Earlier research suggested that rocky planets might be much more abundant around small stars than sunlike ones. (Also see “New ‘Super Earth’ Found at Right Distance for Life.”)

    But a fresh analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler mission, which launched in 2009, suggests this is not the case, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.

    “We found that the occurrence of small planets around large stars was underestimated,” said astronomer Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts”.

    The Kepler mission has now discovered 1,094 additional potential planets (many of which could very well be Earth-like), bringing the total number of planet candidates discovered to date to 2,326.

  181. David says:
    January 16, 2013 at 11:51 am
    It sounds more like an assumption to me
    It is, indeed, an assumption, namely that it is not reasonable to think that all alien civilizations think like us. In other words, there must be a very broad spectrum of motivations. If there are multitudes of alien civilizations it is likely that there would be some that are motivated to colonize the Galaxy, and it only takes one. If there are no others we’ll be the first to accomplice that in about 300 million years, if our civilization survives the next few centuries.

  182. Kip Hansen says:

    I have checked the Journal of Cosmology — which is edited by Carl H. Gibson and Chandra Wickramasinghe himself. The paper does not yet appear in the online (the only) journal yet. It is numbered correctly to be the next volume in order. There is no indication there whatever that this paper has been peer reviewed — as it is written by one of the journal editors.

    The video shows what appear to be rice farmers picking up and handling the meteorite fragments in a rice paddy (the rice is still quite short, but the paddy doesn’t appear to be flooded, at least at the time of collection). Who knows what contamination has taken place in this reportedly porous sample, pre-soaked in a muddy rice paddy, collected by rice farmers and the Sri Lankan Health Minister.

    I do not think we have a Eureka! moment here yet.

    PS: I am a firm believer that there is, must be, life on other planets circling other stars — but have yet to see physical evidence of this yet here on Earth.

  183. D. Patterson says:

    Assuming for the sake of discussion the suspected lifeform is in fact a diatom, it follows that the lifeform is virtually certain to have originated from the Earth and not from an extraterrestrial location. Diatoms are relatively modern organisms about 200 million years old give or take some. Their less sophisticated predeceessors were around at least 4,000 million years or longer before diatoms showed up on the scene. The likeliehood of parallel evolution between separate lifeforms on Earth and an extraterrestrial location to produce similar photosynthetic and pelagic lifeforms is virtually nil. If a diatom like organism arrives on Earth in a meteorite, it is pretty much a given that the diatom and rock were ejecta from a major impact on the Earth, which has subsequently been drawn by gravity back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

  184. dlgriscom says:

    I agree that it can’t be a true chondrite. But it could look like one. Anything ejected in the jetting phase at a speed greater than that of the impactor seems likely to condense into chaotic breccias. By contrast, my 27 kg granite boulder has to be interference-zone ejecta wherein the upward moving shock waves are partially canceled by tensile waves reflecting downward from the free surface, leading to pressure-gradient launching of relatively undamaged fragments at twice the particle velocity of the undisturbed shock waves (Melosh, p. 72)!

  185. Jim G says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:

    “If they were hostile, we wouldn’t be here, they would. That leaves another question: are we them? [but don't know it]. Wickramasinghe may think so.”

    If so, since we have proven to be “hostile”, then so are they, unless they perhaps out grew it, which would seem unlikely. So, we cannot be them or they would have eaten us by now or at least taken over, even if we are them. Ask the American Indian, or anyone else standing on a piece of land anywhere on our planet, where they got it.

  186. mpainter says:

    Of the thousands of meteorites that have been catalogued and examined, is there one that has been accepted as earth-derived? An earthly origin for this specimen cannot be be reconciled with its description as a chondrite. At this point, the article appears to be the work of quacks. The allusion to red rain confirms the quackery, in my view.

  187. dlgriscom says:
    January 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm
    I agree that it can’t be a true chondrite. But it could look like one. Anything ejected in the jetting phase at a speed greater than that of the impactor seems likely to condense into chaotic breccias
    The chondrules are so characteristic and unique that no-one with even the smallest amount of expertise would to fooled by anything else.

    Jim G says:
    January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm
    So, we cannot be them
    How do we know? Now, the point is that if they can be here, they will be everywhere [as we'll be in 300 million years] and we should see more signs of them. But we don’t.

  188. Captain Obvious says:

    Not a diatom, its a sunken hull from a very tiny boat.

    Problem is; finding the tiny passengers to determine if they came in peace.

  189. Jack Simmons says:

    Does everyone remember the days in the past when there were pictures of flying saucers and the like? These were grainy and of poor quality. Believers in aliens would say there is no proof because cameras were not available to document these visits.

    What I think is interesting is what has not happened.

    There are millions of cameras out there. Yet, there are no pictures of flying saucers!

    Pictures of cute nephews, dogs, wonderful dishes at quaint restaurants in the neighborhood, sunrises, sunsets, self portraits, girl and boy friends, beaches, forests, ….

    But no flying saucers!

    Proof positive there is no such thing.

    Why would anyone travel light years to come here in the first place? There’s plenty of raw materials along the way. You name it, water, alcohol, gold, silver, diamonds, etc. is available in abundance. No need to plunder the Earth.

    It would make perfect sense to send messages, but, so far, no messages.

    If they do arrive, I hope they start with Washington. It would be nice to deal with less noise from there.

    Maybe we could give them the national debt.

  190. John Whitman says:

    Jim G on January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Leif Svalgaard says:

    “If they were hostile, we wouldn’t be here, they would. That leaves another question: are we them? [but don't know it]. Wickramasinghe may think so.”

    If so, since we have proven to be “hostile”, then so are they, unless they perhaps out grew it, which would seem unlikely. So, we cannot be them or they would have eaten us by now or at least taken over, even if we are them. Ask the American Indian, or anyone else standing on a piece of land anywhere on our planet, where they got it.

    And . . .

    Leif Svalgaard on January 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    @Jim G says:
    January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    So, we cannot be them

    How do we know? Now, the point is that if they can be here, they will be everywhere [as we'll be in 300 million years] and we should see more signs of them. But we don’t.

    – – – – – – – –

    Jim G & Leif,

    I am enjoying you discussion. Thanks.

    I think we know only one thing wrt other intelligent life in the universe.

    What we know is that because human beings exist we know natural processes are capable of combining to establish viable intelligent life of some form (which may be nothing like human beings). That is all we know.

    A Corollary of that single thing we know is: nature’s capability to establish other viable intelligent life does not imply that it has or will.

    Now for only a few if the many things that are just presumed out of nothing:

    a) presumption of picking a estimate when an intelligent life (including ours) would have capability of either exploration focused travel or colonization focused travel on the intergalactic scale or the intragalactic scale.

    b) presumption of the duration of travel of some presumed capability to go intergalactic or intragalactic. It could take longer than the duration of human beings existence to date

    c) presumption of the age of an intelligent life’s existence

    Ad nauseum presumption.

    It is turtles presumptions all the way down. : )

    This is fun.

    John

  191. phlogiston says:

    Peter Hannan says:
    January 16, 2013 at 1:23 am

    I agree strongly with your comments concerning Karl Popper and the scientific method and its corruption in politically motivated non-science. Mike Hulme’s 2007 Guardian article is clearly a “smoking gun” in this regard.

    Its curious that Popper built on the work of another Hulme in his scientific rejection of induction. The Hulme in question argued against induction but in the context of a rejection of the scientific method. However Popper turned around Hulme’s work on induction to formulate principles that, conversely, strengthen and safeguard and more correctly define the true scientific method – see The Problem of Induction.

    Karl Popper: “I hold with Hume that there simply is no such logical entity as an inductive inference; or, that all so-called inductive inferences are logically invalid – and even inductively invalid, to put it more sharply. We have many examples of deductively valid inferences, and even some partial criteria of deductive validity; but no example of an inductively valid inference exists.

  192. Tammie Lee Sandoval. says:

    I agree its probably from Earth.
    The professors could have faked it. Wont be the first time nor the last.
    Or it was ejected from teh earth, or teh metor got comtamianted, or, who knows.

    But if IS from space, its a great finding.
    It strongly suggests life is quite common out there.

    But the most remarkable thing, its very similar to life on earth.
    How did that happen?
    Say they found a car . It had 3 deuces and a 4 speed and a 389. Just like my uncles GTO
    I’d figure this. Thy were both designed by Pontiac.
    What would you figure?

    .

  193. John Whitman says:
    January 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm
    What we know is that because human beings exist we know natural processes are capable of combining to establish viable intelligent life of some form (which may be nothing like human beings). That is all we know.
    No, we know a very important fact: there is no sign of other intelligent life either on earth on in the sky.

    a) presumption of picking a estimate when an intelligent life (including ours) would have capability of either exploration focused travel or colonization focused travel on the intergalactic scale or the intragalactic scale.
    We actually had that capability 40 years ago when we launched the Voyagers who are now leaving the solar system. Expanding on that to include life-support, etc, is just engineering.

    b) It could take longer than the duration of human beings existence to date, and
    c) presumption of the age of an intelligent life’s existence

    None of this matters, when a [autonomous] probe is launched it could arrive, build, and launch similar probes, etc, without requiring the original civilization to continue existence.

  194. phlogiston says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    “If they were hostile, we wouldn’t be here, they would. That leaves another question: are we them? [but don't know it]. Wickramasinghe may think so.”

    Jim G says:
    January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm
    So, we cannot be them
    How do we know? Now, the point is that if they can be here, they will be everywhere [as we'll be in 300 million years] and we should see more signs of them. But we don’t.

    We share 98-99% of chimpanzee DNA, and 60% of the DNA of fruit flies. We are not a xenobiotic on earth – if we were it would be obvious genetically, and its not.

  195. D. Patterson says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 16, 2013 at 6:18 pm
    [....]
    No, we know a very important fact: there is no sign of other intelligent life either on earth on in the sky.

    Given our limited technological capabilitiees, resources, and time, it should be no surprise that extraterrestrial civilizations in this and other galaxies have not yet been detected. Radio transmissions are generally difficult to detect at present beyond a distance of one light year, which is less than a fourth of the distance just to thee nearest Centauri star system. Any attempts to inter-communicate by radio transmissions over distances of 100 to 100,000 light years require future technologies involving difficult to imagine levels of power. Also, the transmissions would need to be narrowly focusedd and thereby miss most other targets in the Milky Way Galaxy unless specifically targeted.
    .

  196. D. Patterson says:

    Prior to the Second World War flight tests of the Vought XF5U Flying Flapjack disc shaped aircraft, UFO in the United States and elsewhere around the world were more commonly described as huge cigar shaped flying objects, rather than flying saucers. Kinda funny how the aliens changed model styles about that time.

  197. mpainter says:

    I would figure that I was on the wrong thread.

  198. GregK says:

    Re mpainter’s query about any evidence for origin earthly [earthian?] of meteorites……there’s plenty and the little beasties are called tektites. There’s hundreds of thousands of them. A low trajectory meteorite impact throws material up through the atmosphere which melts on re-entry.They are all glass.
    Wikipedia gives a good summary…..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tektite

    Meteorites derived from Mars.There’s some evidence for them and even, some suggest, possible evidence of biochemicals. That’s extremely equivocal though.
    See Wikipedia again..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_meteorite

    Carbonaceous chondrites are a different matter. They are probably derived from the asteroid belt and represent bits and pieces of the solids that aggregated to form the solar system.
    And Wikipedia yet again…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonaceous_chondrite

    Diatoms have no right to be wandering around in this sort of material.
    Diatoms in Prof. Wickramasinghe’s meteorite came from the mud in which it landed.

    Life else where in the solar system, galaxy or universe ? A totally different question. Most likely somewhere but we have no evidence for it. Our first encounter with extra-terrestrial life is unlikely to be with creatures identical to those currently living in muddy ponds on our planet at the moment.

  199. D. Patterson says:
    January 16, 2013 at 7:28 pm
    Given our limited technological capabilities, resources, and time, it should be no surprise that extraterrestrial civilizations in this and other galaxies have not yet been detected.
    It is not about us detecting them via radio [which they may not use anymore], but about them detecting and visiting us.

  200. Rick says:

    “If they were hostile, we wouldn’t be here, they would. That leaves another question: are we them? [but don't know it]. Wickramasinghe may think so.”
    Conjecture and science fiction are fun because they give license for grand ideas. I remember that Arthur C Clarke’s notions were rather large. In 2001 A Space Odyssey mankind has achieved the stage of development where a spacecraft is able to reach Saturn’s largest moon, Iapetus. There, the astronaut becomes God and He returns to earth to save humankind from total destruction, sort of like Michael Mann.

  201. mpainter says:

    GregK says: January 16, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Re mpainter’s query about any evidence for origin earthly [earthian?] of meteorites……there’s plenty and the little beasties are called tektites. There’s hundreds of thousands of them. A low trajectory meteorite impact throws material up through the atmosphere which melts on re-entry. They are all glass.
    ==================================
    But in fact, tektites are not meteorites. They are formed from melt that is ejected from the point of impact when a cosmic body strikes the earth. This view is adhered to by a vast majority of those who study these things. A handful of individuals believe that tektites derive from the moon.

    As you pointed out, tektites are glass, and no meteorite is glass. To call a tektite a meteorite is simply incorrect terminology.

  202. mpainter says:

    Re above, my query was to indicate that no meteorite has ever been identified as definitely of earth origin, to my knowledge. I was aware that a few meteorites have been attributed to Mars, but none to earth.

  203. D. Patterson says:

    mpainter says:
    January 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm
    Re above, my query was to indicate that no meteorite has ever been identified as definitely of earth origin, to my knowledge. I was aware that a few meteorites have been attributed to Mars, but none to earth.

    Perhaps they have been misidentified as being related to volcanism and therefore overlooked because they are identifiable as material with an origin on the Earth.
    Also see:
    Has Earth Brand(TM) Life Seeded the Galaxy?
    Aug 22, 2011 // by Ian O’Neill
    http://news.discovery.com/space/has-earth-brand-life-seeded-the-galaxy-110822.htm

    Search for: Tardigrades and TARDIS (Tardigrades In Space)

  204. GregK:

    At January 16, 2013 at 7:48 pm you say

    Diatoms have no right to be wandering around in this sort of material.
    Diatoms in Prof. Wickramasinghe’s meteorite came from the mud in which it landed.

    You raise an important point concerning possible sample contamination.

    My post at January 15, 2013 at 2:48 am assessed the inadequate electron microscopy reported in the paper (incidentally, one of the typographical errors in that post was “~30e V” which should have been “~30 keV”.

    The investigation reported in the paper should have included optical reflectance microscopy of a polished section of the sample to indicate the porosity of the material. Also, porosimetry would have indicated the open porosity.

    If the sample contains open pores of adequate size to incorporate the putative diatoms then it is difficult to claim that the putative diatoms are not sample contamination from water following the meteorite reaching Earth.

    As my earlier post said, peer review should have rejected the paper for publication because the reported work is not sufficient to provide the conclusion of the paper. My comments in this post add to that.

    Richard

  205. John Whitman says:

    Leif Svalgaard on January 15, 2013 at 10:55 am

    John Whitman says:
    January 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    What we know is that because human beings exist we know natural processes are capable of combining to establish viable intelligent life of some form (which may be nothing like human beings). That is all we know.

    No, we know a very important fact: there is no sign of other intelligent life either on earth on in the sky.

    – – – – – – – – –

    Leif,

    The corollary to my above quote which directly followed my quote that you cited was:

    John Whitman says:
    January 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    A Corollary of that single thing we know is: nature’s capability to establish other viable intelligent life does not imply that it has or will.

    So knowing the capability of nature through its natural processes to establish human beings verifies by observation a reasonable possibility that other intelligent life can exist. As of today we do not have evidence of other intelligent life so interested scientists do keep looking and I think science will not stop.

    By your response to me quoted above, you seem to presume that because science has not found other forms of intelligent life then there is reason for disinterest by science. I think quite the contrary. Science is increasingly interested in the question of searches for other life. It is not diminished by the state of current science’s efforts . . . science is challenged by it.

    John

  206. D. Patterson says:

    Did you not view the photograph of the purported diatom in the matrix? It appears to have been fossilized in place.

  207. beng says:

    Since this is a free-wheeling discussion, I’ll throw this in.

    Prb’ly 99% of UFO “sightings” are explainable. There are a few, tho, w/multiple witnesses, that seem inexplicable. For arguments sake, let’s assume these could be “aliens”.

    If so, they are very, very careful to stay mostly hidden. Why? Because it wouldn’t take any effort for them to expose themselves — just hover over the DC White House for a few hrs in the daylight until the press corps and military gather. Then just fly away.

    So IF there were aliens, they are apparently following some kind of hands-off “ethics” of non-interference, a “prime directive” as someone mentioned. It would be simple to disrupt human civilization, but they don’t. So, IMO, either there are no visiting aliens (most likely), OR they follow very stringent ethical “non-interference” rules and are not a direct danger.

    In addition, I doubt any useful communication would be possible w/them. We can’t communicate w/ants (all we can do is alarm them), and the “aliens” likewise would find our air-vibration language incomprehensible.

  208. John Whitman says:
    January 17, 2013 at 5:06 am
    By your response to me quoted above, you seem to presume that because science has not found other forms of intelligent life then there is reason for disinterest by science
    No, on the contrary, the search is important because of the ramifications.

  209. D. Patterson:

    Your post at January 17, 2013 at 5:38 am says in total

    Did you not view the photograph of the purported diatom in the matrix? It appears to have been fossilized in place.

    Please read my post at January 15, 2013 at 2:48 am.
    The only evidence in the paper that any of the specimens is “fossilised” is the EDX which is not adequate to show whether the specimen is or is not “fossilised”. At very least, windowless EDX for carbon analyses should have been conducted.

    In addition to the studies which my two posts say should have been conducted, I would have liked to see optical micrographs of the specimens viewed under UV illumination to observe any fluerescence.

    Richard

  210. dlgriscom says:

    I’ve found a meteorite from the Earth. Go here and download the full text:
    http://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/4/363/2012/sed-4-363-2012.html
    Then go to Sect. 11 and study Fig. 17

  211. John Whitman says:

    Leif Svalgaard on January 17, 2013 at 7:11 am

    John Whitman says:
    January 17, 201

    By your response to me quoted above, you seem to presume that because science has not found other forms of intelligent life then there is reason for disinterest by science. I think quite the contrary. Science is increasingly interested in the question of searches for other life. It is not diminished by the state of current science’s efforts . . . science is challenged by it.

    No, on the contrary, the search is important because of the ramifications.

    – – – – – – – – –

    Leif,

    I concur that science has a high interest in the subject of extraterrestrial intelligent or non-intelligent life. I have great interest too.

    ¡VIVA!

    John

  212. D. Patterson says:

    richardscourtney says:
    January 17, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Setting aside for the moment the need for more extensive testing of the composition and charateristics of the apparent diatoms and purported biological cells, I was skeptical about these structures being post-falling contamination because of their appearances within the meteorite. The diatoms appear to me to be too large in relation to the surrounding matrix to have been intorduced through alleged pores. Granted, I could be unaware of mechnisms explaining such circumstances, but for the present I must be highly dubious until I can see such explanations.

    The paper troubles me in a number of ways, such as the claim for the potential ages of the diatoms. The paper says for one example, “Diatom fossils of a wide range of types are found marine sediments dating back to the Cretaceous Tertiary boundary 65 million years ago.” It has been my understanding that diatoms have been around since sometime around the Early Jurassic or somewhere around 200 million years ago. This makes me wonder why the authors said “Cretaceous Tertiary boundary 65 million years ago….”

    It also bothers me in how the authors seem to assume there must have been a non-Earth sorce for the purported biological inclusions. They assume the material to have necessarily originated from cometary and/or asteroidal sources. It seems highly probable to me that the ejecta from a major impact on the Earth would form carbonaceous meteors in space from the vapors, dust, and fragments in the ejecta, including microfossils from Earth’s biosphere. It needs to be explained to me how such a meteor composed from impact ejecta on Earth would be notably different than other Solar meteors, aside from silica-rish biological fossils.

    However, this meteorite may become moot to such a question if further testing of the composition demonstrates a post-fall contamination by biological organisms.

  213. D. Patterson:

    Thankyou for your reply to me at January 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm.

    I stress a point I made in my post at January 15, 2013 at 2:48 am ;i.e.
    “I am not a biologist or a cosmologist but have conducted much SEM. I therefore make comment on the provided images and interpretation of them”.

    Hence, I am not competent to discuss the history of diatoms. Sorry.

    In my post at January 17, 2013 at 2:04 am, I addressed the failure of the study to make any assessment of open porosity in the sample. As you say, this failure is a severe flaw in the study. If it were shown that the sample contained no open porosity capable of delivering the putative diatoms to the interior of the material then that would be important evidence concerning possibility of sample contamination.

    At the moment, the standard of the work and the limitations of the reported investigation do not enable the conclusion reported in the paper. Therefore, and as I said, in my opinion peer review should have rejected the paper for publication. That it was not rejected is a pity because the conclusion in the paper may possibly be correct and – if so – the publication of this study will provide doubt to any additional studies which support that conclusion.

    Richard

  214. John Whitman says:

    The sole basis of the paper is the meteorite fragment that still exists and that can still be inspected by numerous independent scientists. So the paper stands or is reduced by independent observation. Feynman would have been happy with that process.

    I look forward to numerous independent inspections of the meteorite fragment.

    John

  215. John Whitman says:

    John Whitman on January 17, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    In addition to my most recent previous comment I think a critical factor is full documentation of the chain of custody from the moment someone found the impact crater to the current location of the meteorite fragment. Just seems like that would be part of sound scientific practice. N’est ce pas?

    John

  216. John Whitman says:
    January 17, 2013 at 3:52 pm
    I think a critical factor is full documentation of the chain of custody from the moment someone found the impact crater to the current location of the meteorite fragment.
    Probably too late. And I think it doesn’t matter. Analysis of the isotopes in the ‘fossils’ [no matter how poorly handled] would establish if they are extraterrestrial. This is almost impossible to fake and would convince me if the analysis showed the isotope ratios to be significantly different from those found on Earth.

  217. D Böehm Stealey says:

    I’m a believer in the philosophy: “Anything not forbidden is required.”

    Life exists hundreds of feet straight down, in solid rock. Life exists in 500ºC undersea vents. Life exists at both poles. Anywhere there is energy and raw materials, life forms, grows, and evolves into more complex living organisms.

    There may not be any proof yet of extraterrestrial life, but I have no doubt that it’s out there. I guess that makes me a True Believer that we are not the only living organisms in the universe. And I suspect that once life is found, then, just like discovering the first planet around another star, we will shortly be discovering evidence of life in numerous places.

    If I’m wrong, the universe would be a pretty boring place. ☹

  218. Sparks says:

    Chris R
    Re Titain/Titan.

    “I would love to see a meteorite created by the famed Italian painter!

    However, I think you meant “Titan”, the moon of Saturn, known to
    have an atmosphere of nitrogen, methane, and other constituents.”

    Thanks Chris R, I’ve been loaded with the flu this past week, and you have caused me to have a painful convulsion of laughter and coughing. No harm done, I think most of my sight has returned. :)

  219. Leif Svalgaard:

    In your post at January 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm you say to John Whitman:

    Analysis of the isotopes in the ‘fossils’ [no matter how poorly handled] would establish if they are extraterrestrial. This is almost impossible to fake and would convince me if the analysis showed the isotope ratios to be significantly different from those found on Earth.

    Hmmmm. Isitope analysis would probably but not certainly determine if the origen of the putative diatoms is extraterrestrial.

    But there is a serious objection to conduct of any existing method for isotope analysis. The possibility that the putative diatoms are extraterrestrial makes then very valuable specimens. Indeed, if they are extraterrestrial biological material then they are uniquely valuable.

    Hence, the putative diatoms are too valuable for them to be subjected to destructive testing such as the mass spec. for isotope analysis which has been repeatedly suggested in this thread. Indeed, unless the meteor is packed with very many of the putative diatoms, it would be a scientific outrage to destroy any of them.

    As my posts in this thread show, I am dubious of the study reported in the paper. It may still be possible to obtain a proper examination of the putative diatoms and how they came to be in the meteor, but that proper examination has been hindered by publication of the severely flawed paper.

    Richard

  220. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 4:03 am
    Hence, the putative diatoms are too valuable for them to be subjected to destructive testing such as the mass spec. for isotope analysis
    If there are more than one, it would be OK to destroy one.

  221. Leif Svalgaard:

    re your reply to me at January 19, 2013 at 4:32 am

    Sorry, but no. You are wrong when you say,
    “If there are more than one, it would be OK to destroy one.”

    As I said, if there were many then destroying some for analysis would be acceptable, but if there are a few it would not.

    A single measurement which destroys the only specimen is not replicable.

    And we would be looking for possibly small differences in isotope ratios.

    Also, the initial problem would be isolation of the putative diatoms from the matrix. The advantage of non-destructive in situ analyses is that no separation of the microscopic objects is required.

    Examinations of polished sections of meteor samples using optical reflectance microscopy, SEM, EDX elemental mapping, and QEDX is required. Porosimetry of a meteor sample is also needed. (That these studies were not done provides doubt to the quality of work which is reported in the paper). Only after that would other investigations possibly be needed.

    Richard

  222. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 5:12 am
    A single measurement which destroys the only specimen is not replicable.
    If the are several specimens I would not hesitate to ‘destroy’ one [e.g. cutting it in four pieces for three independent measurements by different labs - keeping the fourth for later]. More precious than the specimen itself is the knowledge of its origin. But I can see your argument for keeping the case unsolved for as long as possible [forever?].

  223. Leif Svalgaard:

    I take severe exception to your post at January 19, 2013 at 5:27 am which says to me

    If the are several specimens I would not hesitate to ‘destroy’ one [e.g. cutting it in four pieces for three independent measurements by different labs - keeping the fourth for later]. More precious than the specimen itself is the knowledge of its origin. But I can see your argument for keeping the case unsolved for as long as possible [forever?].

    Say what!?
    I have NOT made an “argument for keeping the case unsolved for as long as possible”.

    I have provided clear explanations of needed investigations of the samples to determine if the putative diatoms
    (a) are fossilised
    (b) are possible terrestrial contamination
    and
    (c) are crystalised matrix.

    Using equipment for which I was once responsible I could conduct those investigations within an afternoon.

    On the other hand, you have made assertions which demonstrate you don’t have a clue what you are talking about. For example, how do you propose to conduct “cutting it in four pieces” when its size is approximately 30 microns by 10 microns and it is integral with the matrix?

    Richard

  224. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 6:22 am
    I have NOT made an “argument for keeping the case unsolved for as long as possible”.
    You make an argument for NOT making the really crucial test, namely isotopic analysis. The other tests you mention are also important, but the results can be disputed and argued about. The isotope analysis is much clearer.

    Using equipment for which I was once responsible I could conduct those investigations within an afternoon.
    Are you familiar with isotopic analysis [and if so, how long would that take?]

    how do you propose to conduct “cutting it in four pieces” when its size is approximately 30 microns by 10 microns and it is integral with the matrix?
    Obviously the ‘cutting’ is virtual only, i.e. allocating a section to a given lab for analysis. The assumption I’m making is that isotopic analysis can be made on a 10 by 10 micron section. If that is not possible the discussion is moot anyway. My point is that the knowledge of origin is more important that the specimen. You might disagree, but that will only delay the outcome.

  225. Leif Svalgaard:

    I am replying to your post addressed to me at January 19, 2013 at 7:57 am.

    Firstly, the thread is about the paper. All my posts have been about the inadequacies of the study reported in the paper.

    Secondly, if those investigations had been completed in the manners I described then they may have resolved the issue by showing the putative fossilised diatoms are
    (a) organic material which is not fossilised which
    (b) could have entered the meteor through open porosity
    or are
    (c) fossilised material which
    (d) could not have entered the meteor through open porosity.
    Thus, the investigations would have shown the putative diatoms could or could not have been contamination of the meteor following its deposition on Earth..

    Thirdly, you attributed to me a false and unjustifiable motive for my criticisms of the work reported in the paper.

    Fourthly, yes, I am fully conversant with mass spectroscopy.

    Fifthly, it is clear from your posts that you don’t have even the foggiest notion of the capabilities and limitations of the various methods of microanalysis. Your knowledge of the Sun is profound and I bow to it, but your posts in this thread demonstrate that my knowledge of microanalysis is much, much greater than yours.

    Finally, in the event that studies are warranted following the required completions of the studies reported in the paper (which I have stated), then decisions on what – if any – those studies should be. Initially, any such further studies should be non-destructive in so far as is possible. (Mass spec. destroys the analysed material.)

    Richard

  226. Gary Pearse says:

    richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Re your list of criteria for assessing the provenance of the creature, I add my post from earlier on:

    Gary Pearse says:
    January 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    This is highly unlikely. Diatomite is a rock type or formation (100s of thousands of tonnes) made up almost entirely of the remains of diatomes. These little critters are gregarious as hell. I have never seen a rock sample with only on lonely diatome in it. It would be like finding a shale sample with one pollen grain. They should have chosen a different species.

  227. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 9:35 am
    Thirdly, you attributed to me a false and unjustifiable motive for my criticisms of the work reported in the paper.
    No, just of your reluctance to do the isotope analysis which was not something reported in the paper.

    Fifthly, it is clear from your posts that you don’t have even the foggiest notion of the capabilities and limitations of the various methods of microanalysis.
    This is false and unjustified. Instead of a dismissive comment you could have responded to my assumption: “The assumption I’m making is that isotopic analysis can be made on a 10 by 10 micron section” as fitting somebody claiming to be an expert in the subject. This link http://www.geology.wisc.edu/~wiscsims/pdfs/Kita_ChemGe2009.pdf suggests that analysis can be done on samples smaller than 3 micron.

    my knowledge of microanalysis is much, much greater than yours
    Appeal to authority is not a good argument [especially at WUWT]

    any such further studies should be non-destructive in so far as is possible. (Mass spec. destroys the analysed material.)
    If it is not possible to be non-destructive I submit that it is acceptable to destroy one specimen [if there are several] as the knowledge gained would be more valuable than the specimen as such. The other analyses you mentioned have their place, but will be disputed and will not convince everybody. Isotope analysis has a much better chance of deciding the matter.

  228. Gary Pearse:

    Thankyou for your post addressed to me at January 19, 2013 at 9:54 am.

    As I previously said (repeatedly) I am not a biologist so I have constrained my comments to the inadequacies of the study in the paper.

    Your point does seem important to me but my knowledge of biology is not sufficient for me to assess it: I leave it to others to do that.

    Please note that your point does seem to be reasonable to me.

    Richard

  229. Leif Svalgaard:

    I am responding to your post at January 19, 2013 at 10:13 am.

    Not content with having attributed a fallacious motivation to me, you now accuse me of “appeal to authority”.
    NO!
    I said I bow to your knowledge of Solar science but your posts make it clear you don’t have a clue about microanalysis which I have decades of experience conducting. Therefore, I trust my knowledge of microanalysis above your ignorance of it. That is not appealing to anything: it is relying on my experience. As anyone can see, you do the same when challenged abot matters on which you have significant expertise.

    Others can assess our comments for themselves, but I reject your assertions concerning the capabilities of microanalysis. And I said why I reject them: simply, if I cannot see how I would do it with confidence in the result then I don’t think it can be done easilly unless somebody tells me how. You have merely asserted it can be done.

    The problems are several, but the first is to isolate the putative diatoms from the meteorite.

    Before trying anything so difficult it would be sensible to have completed the study reported in the paper in the manners I suggested and for the reasons I stated.

    Richard

  230. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 10:30 am
    you now accuse me of “appeal to authority”.[...]
    As anyone can see, you do the same when challenged abot matters on which you have significant expertise.

    The difference is that I would try to explain the matter, even with links if necessary to give some background information, while you do not.

    You have merely asserted it can be done.
    When confronted with issues outside of one’s field of expertise, one ordinarily consults the scientific literature on the subject. I did that and showed you a link that to me indicates that analysis is possible on very small ‘spot’ size [less than 3 microns]. Instead of explaining to me how I have [if I have] gotten that paper wrong, you simply assert that you can’t see [don't know?] how it can be done.

    The problems are several, but the first is to isolate the putative diatoms from the meteorite
    Why is that necessary? The paper I linked to does not suggest such separation is needed.

    Before trying anything so difficult it would be sensible to have completed the study reported in the paper in the manners I suggested and for the reasons I stated.
    Those things can be done easily [as you state] but would not be compelling to everybody, isotope analysis would and so must be done if we want to take the claim seriously. I don’t know how many ‘diatoms’ there are, but the paper uses the word in plural ["diatom frustules"] so I assume there are several. If so, the loss of one is not serious. Your main criticism seems to be that even one of the several is too precious to be sacrificed to gain compelling evidence. I disagree with that. If professor W. would have made your argument I would smell a rat.

  231. Leif Svalgaard:

    I have made several posts in this thread which explain that the paper under discussion is rubbish.

    For a variety of reasons which I have explained it is not possible to draw the conclusions stated in the paper from the work reported in the paper. And I stated that the paper should have been rejected for publication by peer review.

    In addition, I have explained how the work should have been – and should be – completed. And I have stated what that additional work would reveal. I also said that if subsequent work is warranted then it should be considered. Initially, such additional work should be non-destructive because if the putative diatoms are extraterrestrial then they are the only existing specimens of extraterrestrial life in human possession.

    But in your post at January 19, 2013 at 11:02 am you say to me

    I don’t know how many ‘diatoms’ there are, but the paper uses the word in plural ["diatom frustules"] so I assume there are several. If so, the loss of one is not serious. Your main criticism seems to be that even one of the several is too precious to be sacrificed to gain compelling evidence. I disagree with that. If professor W. would have made your argument I would smell a rat.

    Well, I don’t know how many there are, either. But the illustrations in the paper show three and I (also Gary Pearse) infer there are few. Unless there are many then it would be reckless to destroy any unless that is essential (they are possibly the only examples of extraterrestrial life in human possession).

    I also don’t know why you choose to infer there is any reason to suppose my “argument” provides any reason to “smell a rat”. That is a gratuitous, defamatory and unwarranted assertion.

    Please note that I suggested EDX elemental mapping and optical reflectance microscopy of polished sections including observation under UV light with a view to determining
    (a) porosity of the matrix
    and
    (b) if the putative diatoms are fosillised or are organic.
    If there are few putative diatoms then such a section may not contain any. If there are many then the quantatative mass spectrometry (QMS) such as described in your link could also be conducted on the polished section: please note that the analysis needs to be conducted on polished sections as does QEDX for elemental analysis.

    If there are only a few specimens of the putative diatoms then QMS and QEDX would require isolation of at least one of the putative diatoms, mounting it in e.g. resin then grinding and polishing the mounted specimen for analysis. QMS provides isotope analysis but ablates the analysed volume so harms the specimen but QEDX is non destructive.

    I repeat, the existing study needs to be completed and then additional studies may be warranted. The completion may reveal that the putative diatoms are sample contamination by organic material. In that case I think it would be unreasonable to conduct any additional studies although that could be done.

    Additionally, I saw no reason to link to papers on measurement techniques and equipment. Similarly, you don’t link to papers about telescopes when discussing Solar behaviour.

    Richard

  232. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm
    I have made several posts in this thread which explain that the paper under discussion is rubbish.
    We do not disagree on this. Unfortunately Anthony [for his own reasons] chose to omit the last sentence in my email to him on this: “I would be skeptical of the claim”. I think it is important that this be established beyond doubt as only the isotope analysis could do [as all the other indications will be disputed].

    Well, I don’t know how many there are, either.
    In addition to the three large ones there are many smaller ones: of which the authors say:
    “One of the many slender cylinders seen in Fig.2 is examined under higher magnification in Fig.5. The intricacy of the regular patterns of “holes”, ridges and indentations are again unquestionably biological, and this is impossible to interpret rationally as arising from an inorganic crystallisation process.”
    Destroying one of those would not be problematic, and even sacrificing one of the three large ones would be OK if that is what it takes to remove the doubt.

    I saw no reason to link to papers on measurement techniques and equipment.
    Especially not when such papers show that one does not need to remove the sample from the matrix first, so you reluctance is understandable.

  233. Leif Svalgaard:

    I fail to understand why you continue with your obnoxious behaviour in your post at January 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm.

    You say

    In addition to the three large ones there are many smaller ones: of which the authors say:

    One of the many slender cylinders seen in Fig.2 is examined under higher magnification in Fig.5. The intricacy of the regular patterns of “holes”, ridges and indentations are again unquestionably biological, and this is impossible to interpret rationally as arising from an inorganic crystallisation process.

    Destroying one of those would not be problematic, and even sacrificing one of the three large ones would be OK if that is what it takes to remove the doubt.

    Your quote from the paper is part of a quote in my post at January 15, 2013 at 2:48 am where I said of it

    This interpretation is the main conclusion of the paper.

    Importantly, the “Filamentous diatom” of Figure 5 in the paper has a diameter of less than 4 microns. So one can reasonably suppose that the smaller ones are typically half that diameter; i.e. ~2 microns diameter.

    You quote my having said

    I saw no reason to link to papers on measurement techniques and equipment.

    and you comment saying

    Especially not when such papers show that one does not need to remove the sample from the matrix first, so you reluctance is understandable.

    Well, if you had bothered to read “such papers” then you would have known you are spouting nonsense.

    For example, the paper you linked says

    Accuracy can be even better for multiple analyses of a homogeneous sample. Furthermore, reproducibility at the ≤1‰ level is achieved by using multicollection FC–Electron Multiplier (EM) analyses for primary ion beam spots of 1 to 3 μm in diameter. These results present a trade-off vs. conventional laser fluorination techniques; sample sizes are 106 to 109 times smaller, at the expense of a factor of 2 to 10 in analytical precision.

    lf the beam is 2 microns then it will ablate more than the diameter of a typical filament and few filaments will align in a polished section to provide a suitable section for analysis.

    Simply, it is extremely unlikely that in situ specimens of the filaments could be analysed in a polished section from the meteor by use of spot analysis in a scanning image mass spectrometer. However, if the analyses of polished sections which I suggested were conducted then those analyses could reveal if it is possible in this case.

    Lief, seriously, you know a lot about the Sun but you are embarrassing yourself in this discussion.

    Richard

  234. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 9:35 am
    Fourthly, yes, I am fully conversant with mass spectroscopy.
    Fifthly, it is clear from your posts that you don’t have even the foggiest notion of the capabilities and limitations of the various methods of microanalysis.

    In my own field we use methods that are many orders of magnitude more sensitive than ordinary mass spectroscopy; the technique is called Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy [AMS] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerator_mass_spectrometry with which I’m quite familiar.
    So, I would assume that you are an expert in AMS as well, right?

  235. Leif Svalgaard:

    re your post at January 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm.

    I fail to understand what you are trying to do in this discussion but it seems to be unpleasant.

    If you have a valid dispute with anything I have written in this thread then I am willing to discuss it or – if shown to be wrong – admit my error. If all you want to do is to show your opinions are more important than evidence and information then talk to a mirror because you will then be addressing the only person who is interested.

    Richard

  236. richardscourtney says:
    January 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm
    Simply, it is extremely unlikely that in situ specimens of the filaments could be analysed in a polished section from the meteor by use of spot analysis in a scanning image mass spectrometer
    We have much better methods, namely AMS [see my comment above] which are up to a million times more sensitive on sample sizes 1000 smaller. I’m not sure who is embarrassing himself here, as well as using inappropriate language.
    But, the issue was whether it is worth sacrificing a specimen to gain knowledge about its origin. I take it that you don’t think so, while I certainly do. But your replies are beginning to deteriorate into non-science and emotions [' obnoxious behaviour' etc], so perhaps it is time for you to call it a day…

  237. D. Patterson says:

    How useful may it be to take an intermediate step by testing the surrounding matrix material for its extraterrestrial and terrestrial origins before risking the samples of the putative lifeforms? Assuming the following scenarios for the origins of the meteorite and its putative diatoms and cells, what tests can be used to discriminate between the scenarios without risking damage to the putative diatoms? In the event Scenario 3 represents the origins of the meteorite, will the tests of the meteorite be capable of discriminating between Scenario 3 and Scenario 2, and how?

    Scenario 1
    The meteorite is composed of material with extraterrestrial origins, and the apparent diatoms are composed of material with extraterrestrial origins.

    Scenario 2
    The meteor is composed of material with extraterrestrial origins, and the apparent diatoms are composed of material with terrestrial origins. The meteorite has a composition typical of an extraterrestrial meteorite, but the apparent lifeforms and and other material are embedded contaminants with terrestrial origins.

    Scenario 3
    The meteor is composed of material with extraterrestrial and terrestrial origins, and the apparent diatoms are composed of material with terrestrial origins. The meteorite is composed of a mixture of material with extraterrestrial and terrestrial origins, and the apparent lifeforms are biological inclusions with terrestrial origins. The meteorite originated in space by the formation of the meteorite from the cloud of ejecta into space from a major asteroidal impact on the Earth. The cloud of ejecta from which the meteorite was formed includes material from the impacting asteroid having an extraterrestrial origin and material from the Earth having a terrestrial origin, including apparent terrestrial lifeforms.

  238. D. Patterson:

    Thankyou for your considerations in your post at January 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm.

    I agree. And your Scenario 3 would probably be revealed by the EDX elemental mapping which I say should have been conducted as part of the published study.

    Richard

  239. D. Patterson says:
    January 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm
    Scenario 3
    The meteor is composed of material with extraterrestrial and terrestrial origins, and the apparent diatoms are composed of material with terrestrial origins. The meteorite is composed of a mixture of material with extraterrestrial and terrestrial origins, and the apparent lifeforms are biological inclusions with terrestrial origins. The meteorite originated in space by the formation of the meteorite from the cloud of ejecta into space from a major asteroidal impact on the Earth. The cloud of ejecta from which the meteorite was formed includes material from the impacting asteroid having an extraterrestrial origin and material from the Earth having a terrestrial origin, including apparent terrestrial lifeforms.

    It seems we are converging on a common view as a possibility, like I suggested in the very first comment on this topic:
    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm
    “Not that I would propound the theory, but it is possible that meteor impacts on the Earth drives pieces of terrestrial rocks [limestone with fossils?] into space [we have observed how that process works on Mars by collecting meteorites on Earth that definitely came from Mars] where they are scooped up by a passing comet or other meteorite parent.”

    The proof of the terrestrial origin of the diatoms will, however only come from isotopic analysis of one of them [or of one the many 'frustules']. Only then will the claims of extraterrestrial life [in this meteorite] be stilled.

  240. u.k.(us) says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    ” In my own field we use methods that are many orders of magnitude more sensitive than ordinary mass spectroscopy; the technique is called Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy [AMS] ”
    ============
    Throw us a bone, Leif.
    What have you seen ?

  241. u.k.(us) says:
    January 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm
    Re AMS: Throw us a bone, Leif. What have you seen ?
    Nothing about meteorites, but we use AMS to count atoms of 10Be in ice cores. The total global production of 10Be is 55 gram per year. You can imaging how little of that ends up a yearly section [~10 cm x 15 cm] of an ice core. Slide 17 [upper left] of http://www.leif.org/research/On-Becoming-a-Scientist.pdf shows the AMS machine that is used to measure that incredibly small concentration [note the man in the oval].

  242. Jack Ball says:

    Allen Bates (Jan 15, 2013 5:52am) says:

    “I would suggest this gives him a -. Respectfully, I would have my doubts about expert scientists in one field being given a pass in others.”

    Careful with that type of thinking Allen. It hurts the credibility of the Oregon Petition that Watts has so gallantly fought for in the past. It also discredits some of our champions. Obviously, Watts, in adding this to his blog, was showcasing a modern day Galileo – someone not afraid to go against the sociopolitical grain to seek out what is real.

    What we need to do, before the warmists start giving us heck about this post is:

    1) Show that modern chemical analysis cannot be 100% certain that the so called ‘diatoms’ are of limestone origin. At any rate, it is probable that wherever they came from, the same physics here applies there, so limestone fossils could be a universal occurrence.
    2) Show that there is a significant probability that the physical structures of diatoms are archetypal in nature. That is to say, that if 3 sets of unrelated systems developing life in the universe were at the stage of the birth of microorganisms, that it is probable that the diatomatic structure would be a natural form that is evolutionarily hardy, so that it would occur in all 3 of the said sets.
    3) Showcase the caveats of radio-dating. That way it cannot be said for certain these things are of modern origin.

    I’d hate to see the credibility of this blog questioned, so any other suggestions are welcome :)

  243. D. Patterson says:

    Allen Bates (Jan 15, 2013 5:52am) says:
    the same physics here applies there, so limestone fossils could be a universal occurrence.

    On the contrary, physics appears to indicate that the limestone found in fossils here on Earth is highly unlikey to have the same isotopic composition anywhere else in the Solar system. A near eexception may be found on Mars, but even a Martian limestone can be expected to have some rather obvious differences if it did exist. The Earth’s limestone deposits were created by life and geological processes taking an atmosphere of carbon dioxide up to about one hundred times more massive than today’s atmosphere and removing 99 percent of it in the form of carbon dioxide to deposit in the Earth’s lithospheere. A like geochemical and biochemical pprocess elsewhere in the Solar System should result in an atmosphere stripped of all but trace amounts of carbon dioxide to leavee behind an atmosphere of other formerly trace elements such as Nitrogen and Oxygen.

    It remains to be seen how it would be possible to produce greater than trace amounts of limestone in extraterrestrial environments in the absence of a formerly Carbon dioxide dominated planetary There are some trans-Jovian moons suspected of having an ocean beneath their crustal ices, but water does not supply a substitute for the Carbon dioxide atmosphere which servees as a source for the limestone production.

    These are only some of the many reasons why it cannot bee assumed that limestone would be formed els elsewhere in the Solar System.

  244. Jack Ball:

    re your post at January 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm.

    You are ignoring the most important initial consideration of whether or not the putative diatoms are contamination by terrestrial material. As D. Patterson points out at January 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm, such contamination could have occurred prior to or after the meteor fell to Earth.

    If, for example, the meteor contains inclusions of material from the Earth and all the putative diatoms are within the inclusions, then the only reasonable deduction is that the putative diatoms are from the Earth. The work reported in the paper should have reported the homogeneity of the meteor material, and would have reported it if the work had been completed prior to its publication. Hence, this possibility would have been confirmed or rejected by the published study.

    Importantly, it has been suggested that only isotope analysis would resolve the issue of whether the putative diatoms are – or are not – of extraterrestrial origin. As my previous paragraph shows, this is not so.

    However, those with strong bias will never accept any evidence. For example consider the following hypothetical scenario.

    It is observed that the putative diatoms are all enclosed within inclusions of Earth-derived material within the meteor. This is accepted as being evidence that the putative fossil diatoms were in the Earth-derived material that was ejected from the Earth (e.g. by ancient meteor impact) and later accreted to become part of the examined meteor. However, others say the putative diatoms may be extraterrestrial biota which contaminated the meteor while in space. So, isotope analyses are conducted in attempt to resolve this issue.

    The results of those isotope analyses will fail to resolve the matter because if the isotopes have Earthly ratios then
    (a) ‘believers’ in an terrestrial origin will say, “See, we told you they came from Earth”
    but
    (b) ‘believers’ in an extraterrestrial origin will say, “So what? Earthly biota fractionate isotopes so extraterrestrial biota would, too.”
    Alternatively, if the isotopes have extraterrestrial ratios then
    (c) believers’ in an terrestrial origin will say, “So what? Isotope ratios are altered by radiations in space”
    but
    (d) ‘believers’ in an extraterrestrial origin will say, “See, we told you they came from space”.

    Simply, no result can give conclusive proof.

    Richard

  245. Howard T. Lewis III says:

    When it spoke, did it sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor? This IS a very strange find.

  246. Howard T. Lewis III:

    At January 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm you say

    This IS a very strange find.

    Perhaps, but not if the putative fossilised diatoms are sample contamination. And it is sad that this possibility was not properly evaluated as part of the published study.

    As I said in an earlier post, the publication of the flawed study will provide doubt to any additional studies of the meteor. This is very sad because it is possible that the meteor may contain evidence of extraterrestrial biota.

    Richard

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