Saturday, June 03, 2006
Alien Bacteria or Out of this world bacteria
Indian Scientist Believes He's Found Extraterrestrial Bacteria
Saturday June 3, 2006
Were Kerala 'Blood Rains' Caused By A Form Of Alien Life?
This story is, admittedly, on the more esoteric side of the aerospace world... but when you're talking about the very real possibility of alien life, we'll make an exception.
A scientist in southern India believes samples of reddish droplets that fell from the skies over his country in 2001 (above) may very well contain alien microbes from space. Why? Because, according to Popular Science, the particles don't seem to fall into the textbook, earthbound definition of "life," and are unlike anything else found on this planet.
In his paper published in April, Godfrey Louis says the particles -- thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size, that lack DNA -- still reproduce actively up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit (the upper limit so far for life on this planet, in water, is about 250 degrees).
Louis believes the particles could be an form of extraterrestrial bacteria, from a comet or meteorite that broke apart in the upper atmosphere somewhere around the time the "blood rains" fell on Kerala, India -- a phenomenon an Indian government investigation postulated could have been caused by algae.
Other theories for the reddish rain include dust from the Arabian peninsula... or, a meteor that struck a high-flying flock of bats. (Eww!)
Louis (below, right) dismisses all of those theories -- as algae contains DNA, and dust and red blood cells don't reproduce.
To confirm his findings, Louis sent some of his samples to astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe at the Cardiff University in Wales. In a paper published 25 years ago, Wickramasinghe speculated that life on Earth was seeded by such bateria-riddled space rocks.
"We've already got some stunning pictures -- transmission electron micrographs -- of these cells sliced in the middle," Wickramasinghe said. "We see them budding, with little daughter cells inside the big cells. If it's true that life was introduced by comets four billion years ago," one would expect that microorganisms are still injected into our environment from time to time. This could be one of those events."
Not surprisingly, others in the scientific community are skeptical that Louis has, indeed, found the first evidence of extraterrestrial "life."
"Life as we know it must contain DNA, or it's not life," said University of Sheffield microbiologist Milton Wainwright. "But even if this organism proves to be an anomaly, the absence of DNA wouldn't necessarily mean it's extraterrestrial."
Louis himself admits he may be wrong... but adds that "if [my] ideas are wrong then I wish to know a better explanation for the strange nature of the red rain phenomenon and also for the strange nature of the red cells."
We'll keep you posted.