Wednesday, 20 June 2012

An open-minded journalist against a panspermia-denier

The UK's Daily Telegraph on 19 June gave a full page sceptical about life originating in primordial soup “an alien concoction” which discusses panspermia with Chandra Wickramasinghe and Lewis Dartnell of UCL.

Science journalist Tom Chivers sees that the hardiness of micro-organisms – extremeophiles - to space survival and space travel gives substance to the idea of panspermia. Yet his questioning of Dr Lewis Dartnell revealed a panspermia-denier who requires a demonstration that ”terrestrial life isn’t native” before he will consider it.

Dartnell “simply can’t” see life survival on seed-bearing rocks and stones dispatched from Earth to other planetary systems, which arrive at hypervelocity and smash up on landing. But Dr. Dartnell should be aware as a UK astrobiologist that we solved this 'delivery' problem in 2004 (MNRAS 348, 52-61) by considering erosive sputtering in the dust-rich pre-planetary nebula. In this way, the Earth is likely to seed embryonic exoplanets.

The UK astrobiology specialist in hypervelocity collisions Mark Burchell in 2010 wrote Why Do Some People Reject Panspermia? as an open-minded riposte to the UK mainstream panspermia-deniers.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Carbon structures found in Tissint meteorite from Mars


Part of the newly-arrived Tissint meteorite is currently being studied by the Cardiff group led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe with doctoral student Jamie Wallis. The preliminary study reporting carbon structures in the meteorite is published in the current issue of the Journal of Cosmology.

Several carbon/oxygen-rich 10-20m particles have been found within the meteorite, embedded in the porous rocky matrix. The egg-shaped globule pictured shows cracking of the gold coating used for electron microscopy (SEM) due to heating by the electron beam. The working presumption is that these carbonaceous particles were accumulated among largely mineral dust by martian winds, potentially remnants of polysaccharide shells surrounding algal type cells.

The Tissint meteorite was recovered from the Moroccan desert in many pieces soon after it impacted last July.  It belongs to the type of meteorites originating from Mars classed as olivine-phyric shergottites.  The new finding supports David McKay's case for 'biomorphs' as traces of micro-life (including putative fossils) in certain other martian meteorites.