07 October 2009

Microorganisms in space? You can't be serious!

In the 03 October 2009 issue of the New Scientist, there is a review of a book called Comets and the Origin of Life by Wickramasinghe et al. The reviewer, someone named Marcus Chown, who is apparently judged to be qualified to write for the New Scientist, makes this claim:

...the case for planetary panspermia - the idea that micro-organisms transfer between planets - is now widely accepted...
This is a very bizarre remark. I would like to know which serious scientist has claimed that there are live microorganisms in transit between planets.

Putting such an ludicrous statement in print doesn't do anything good to the credibility of the New Scientist.

2 comments:

Marcus Chown said...

The transfer is deep inside rocky ejecta - that is, meteorites. We know that Mars, being smaller than Earth, cooled more quickly after its formation and that water once ran on its surface, as evidenced by the water-carved channels we see. Many people believe microbial life got started there first and then was transferred to Earth. We have several examples of Martian meteorites on Earth. This is the idea of planetary panspermia not that that microorganisms are tranferred unprotected through space. Hope this helps.
Marcus Chown

AYDIN ÖRSTAN said...

Thanks for the response.

Panspermia refers to the passive transportation of life forms across space from one planet to another. There has never been an unequivocal demonstration yet of the presence of microorganisms in meteorites. The 1996 paper in Science that claimed that there were microorganisms in the meteorite ALH 84001 has been severely criticized & the results have not been replicated.

First, you need to demonstrate that there are live, dormant or otherwise, microorganisms in meteorites before you can claim that "the idea that micro-organisms transfer between planets - is now widely accepted".
Your statement that "Many people believe microbial life got started there first and then was transferred to Earth" is also groundless. In science, beliefs don't count unless they are supported by solid data.