Saturday, March 5, 2011

Game-Changer

Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites
Richard B. Hoover, Ph.D. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Synopsis

Dr. Hoover has discovered evidence of microfossils similar to Cyanobacteria, in freshly fractured slices of the interior surfaces of the Alais, Ivuna, and Orgueil CI1 carbonaceous meteorites. Based on Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM) and other measures, Dr. Hoover has concluded they are indigenous to these meteors and are similar to trichomic cyanobacteria and other trichomic prokaryotes such as filamentous sulfur bacteria.


Read the rest of the synopsis here.

Meanwhile... wow. I'm still thinking about this. Hoover is certain enough of his results to throw the paper open to discussion by a very large group of scientists. If he's correct - and it seems likely he is - the implications are amazing.

I showed it to Natalie, who observed that on Earth, extremophile bacteria are found under the most astonishing conditions: kilometres underground, in rock; at the bottom of the ocean, drawing energy from geothermal vents; beneath the Antarctic ice. For her, this article was a shrug.

For me, it's much more. What you've got here is... kind of breath-taking. If the material in the Solar System's Oort Cloud is more-or-less seeded with life, then it's statistically certain some of that life has already gone extra-solar, probably billions of years ago. Equally: who's to say life arose in these parts in the first place? If life can potentially travel like this, then there's absolutely nothing to say that our billions-of-years-distant ancestors didn't hitch a ride here on a carbonaceous chunk belched out of another star system altogether.

Either way, one conclusion is virtually inescapable: this planet is not the sole carrier of life in this galaxy.

So. Where the bloody hell are you, ET?


9 comments:

  1. Certainly more significant than that god awful media circus NASA created over those poorly analysed Arsenic bacteria.

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  2. Maybe life is teeming with civilizations wherein obesity and television are the pinnacle of achievement. Sigh.

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  3. Yeah having read up a bit more, the Journal of Cosmology contrary to what it claims isn't a 'peer' reviewed journal. P Z Myers has a contrary view which details a lot of the concerns I have over the paper.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/03/did_scientists_discover_bacter.php

    I am still hoping that this will turn out to be something wonderful, but I suspect this may fall into the same catagory as the Allen Hills ALH 84001 Martian Meteor containing life from back in 1996.

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  4. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that any evidence pointing to life Out There in the form of extremophiles is going to be dubunked or at least poopooed by Vested Interests such as any number of religions. It would certainly throw a spanner in their works if the theory is proven correct.

    Nonetheless, this is very exciting news!

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  5. Bondi - you're probably right, but Mr Barnes is also correct. The Journal of Cosmology has a history of flakiness which does not bode particularly well at all.

    Still. We can keep our fingers crossed, and see what comes of the open review process that they claim they've initiated.

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  6. Indigenous paintings of UFO's sold me.

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  7. I'm not surprised. If lifeforms can exist in, say, the inside of a nuclear reactor, or deep in ice, then certainly there can be life on Mars or on some of the moons of the gas giants. I suppose the day will come when we find an Earthlike extrasolar planet as well.

    I rather figured we haven't had a lot of visitors because Earth is considered the galactic equivalent of East St. Louis. You go around or through as fast as you can-and don't stop!

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  8. My personal theory on the matter is pretty simple. I think intelligence is a problem. A species evolves to be smart enough to change its own environment to enhance its success. This works, so the species expands its territory, and keeps changing its environment.

    Note that since it is now breeding prolifically, there is no longer any particular evolutionary pressure for intelligence to rise. And of course, once it runs out of territory and has changed its environment past the point of no return, it's up shit creek: technological civilisation collapses, the massive overshoot of species numbers corrects itself, and in the environmental upheaval that follows, the species is either wiped out, or the remnants simply no longer have access to the vital resources that gave them a worldspanning technology.

    My version of tomorrow, folks.

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