Friday, 8 August 2008

Panspermia Hypothesis now fashionable

From Wired:
"Studies have shown that microbes can survive the shock levels of being launched into space," said Charles Cockell, a microbiologist at the Open University. "And as more and more organisms are discovered under extreme conditions, it's become more plausible that things could survive in space for the time it takes to go from one planet to another."

Not long ago, Cockell's claims would have been greeted with scientific derision. But as scientists learn more about Earth and space, the theory, which goes by the grandiose name of "galactic panspermia," seems less far-fetched.
More about this hypothesis in previous posts Too Many Planets and Hate, Life, the Universe and Everything.

Just because it's fashionable doesn't mean it's correct of course. I think it is though, fashionable or not. The Universe is not a popularity contest, and facts are facts, whether we like them, or even believe them, or not. I could be wrong, I could be right, Time will tell. The important thing is to retain some measure of intellectual honesty, trying as best one can to be objective, while acknowledging and publicising one's inherent subjectivity. Neither being afraid to forthrightly and firmly express an opinion honestly come to, nor to acknowledge contrary evidence.

Readers of this blog will know I do the first; and I honestly try to do the second as well. How far I succeed is a matter for others to decide, not me.

5 comments:

Leah said...

panSPERMia???

Laserlight said...

Yep, that's what they call it.

Anonymous said...

Be careful...on some sites, forthrightly and firmly expressing an opinion can get you the boot.

Lloyd Flack said...

There is some chemical evidence that life may have been present on Earth as much as 4.2 billion years ago. That is it may have preceeded the Late Heavy Bombardment 3.8-3.9 billion years ago and we are the descendents of the extremophiles who survived the bombardment sheltered in the crust.

This implies that life may have started nearly as soon as it could have. This means that either life was around in space waiting for an opportunity to colonize or that life probably forms easily and quickly given the right circumstances. Either of these means that life is lkely to be widespread in the Universe.

Within the Solar System if life is present on more than one planet it is likely to have a common origin so within the Solar System panaspermia is quite likely. On the interstellar scale it is somewhat more difficult ant less likely. Also of course it merely transfers rather than solves the question of the origin of life.

Dave said...

panspermia makes sense. It solves the question of "what the hell are we doing here?"
the answer is "you're nothing special. this sort of stuff (life) happens all over the place."