Veteran astrobiologists criticise article calling for relief of anti-contamination requirements for the Return Mars Sample Mission (21 August 2017)
Astrobiologists Gilbert V. Levin and Patricia A. Straat have published an op-ed piece (ICAMSR 8-21-17) commenting on an article in Science (DOI:10.1126/science.357.6351,2017) that downplays the hazards involved in NASA’s Mars Return Sample Program. The Science article, by staff writer Paul Voosen, also addresses the difficulty imposed on the Mars rover, Curiosity, in looking for life while avoiding the possibility of contaminating the red planet with hitch-hiking Earth germs.
The two astrobiology veterans argue, with reference to the possibility that life has already been detected on Mars, for the “classical dictate of science: when an experiment produces a new result, repeat that experiment to check its validity, and, if it proves true, expand the experiment to gain new facts.” Their proposals to do just that have not been accepted.
Conference paper (4 July 2017)
Max Wallis, Chandra Wickramasinghe and Steve Coulson gave a paper at RAS NAM2017 National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Hull: “Early Life Traces in the Hadean – compatibility with post-Accretion Bombardment”. They argue that bombardment of the early Earth by comets and asteroids created favourable conditions for primitive life rather than sterilising the planet. Click here to read the abstract.
Sky at Night Magazine (July 2017)
The July 2017 edition of the BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine has an article by Nick Spall: “Life from space: The debate continues” (pp.33-37), which is also featured on the front cover. It includes an introduction to the concept of panspermia, a survey of the forms it might take, and a summary of the evidence found so far. There is a debate about “Is panspermia possible?” between Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, who says “Yes, definitely” and Professor Ian Crawford, who says “it has still to be proven”.
Findings from the International Space Station (June 2017)
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and Professor Milton Wainwright were quoted extensively in an article in the Daily Express (8 June): “Scientists find proof aliens exist as samples from ISS reveal something extraordinary.” They were quoted in another article on the findings by Russian scientists: “Russian scientists say alien life may exist on the surface of the ISS” (Inquisitr, 10 June). Professor Wickramasinghe said: “We are closer now than ever before to acknowledging that extraterrestrial life forms exist, it is a very exciting development.”
Professor Wickramasinghe quoted in National Geographic (22 March 2017)
An article by Shannon Hall looks at the cosmic grouping called TRAPPIST-1, where seven planets densely arranged around a star could exchange bacterial life much more easily than Earth and Mars. Professor Wickramasinghe compares it to throwing seeds in the wind: “a very few could take fruit—and that’s all that’s needed.” Read the article.
Article by Barry diGregorio (20 March 2017)
A new paper published in the Journal of Geology by BCAB researcher Barry E. DiGregorio and others makes parallels between manganese oxide rock varnish on Earth and on Mars. They calculated the growth rate of rapidly forming rock varnish found on rocks on the Erie Canal in Western New York State in the USA. If microbes are creating varnish on Mars in a similar way, any organic material entombed within it should be able to be detected by analyzing the manganese oxides by the Mars Science Laboratory organic analysis instrument known as SAM. Read more in the Publication of the week section.
The dawn of a new Enlightenment (February 2017)
An article by Professor Wikramasinghe was published in The Island in Sri Lanka on 14 January, in which he argues that cosmic viruses “appear to have controlled the evolution of life on the Earth from the first microbes brought here by comets to all life – plants, animals, humans”. Read the article.
A 30-minute interview with Professor Wikramasinghe was broadcast on Sri Lanka TV1 on 7 February. It can be seen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PGmVLFDpvI
Interview with Professor Gilbert V. Levin (5 July 2016)
Patrick Rowan’s Skywatch included an extensive interview with Professor Levin in an article entitled “40 years after Viking landing questions remain about life on Mars”. The interview discusses the Labelled Release experiments which Professor Levin designed for Viking, his recent proposal for high resolution images of rocks cracked open by the Curiosity rover, and growing acceptance that Mars is not a sterile planet. He expresses his hope that “the HABIT experiment on ExoMars 2020 … will get evidence confirming that Viking detected life.” Read the article.
New NASA close-up images of freshly broken open rocks by the Curiosity rover wheels could incidentally verify that the 1976 Viking Mission found microbial life (1 June 2016)
A possible new test for extant life on Mars has been implemented by NASA largely based on an idea put forth by a rejected proposal submitted last year by BCAB researchers Barry DiGregorio and Gilbert V. Levin. Levin is a former biology experimenter on the twin NASA Viking Landers in 1976 who designed and built a life detection instrument on both Viking Landers and for the last 30 years has claimed his biology experiment on Viking detected living microbes. The BCAB proposal titled, “A search for extant endolithic and hypolithic microbial communities in broken and overturned rocks by the MSL rover wheels using MAHLI” (NASA ROSES AO 2015: NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP) was submitted to NASA’s ROSES 2015 Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist program on 3 June 2015. Other co-investigators on the proposal were Ronald I. Dorn from Arizona State University, Robert Lodder from the University of Kentucky and Giorgio Bianciardi from Siena University (Italy). Read the full BCAB press release: New NASA close-up
Evidence of life outside earth (7 May 2016)
This article by Professor Wickramasinghe was published in The Island. Please click here to read the full article. He summarises recent scientific developments, which he believes “all spell out a single cosmic truth. Homo Sapiens as a sentient species appears to be hard-wired to seek out its cosmic origins, perhaps intuitively sensing that we cannot be alone.” He writes that “over the past few years there has been a gradual realisation that life must be a truly cosmic phenomenon”. Intelligent extra-terrestrial life might be a threat; bacteria and viruses coming to Earth could bring pandemic disease affecting humans, animals or plants.
Greenhouse gases and the world climate (15 January 2016)
In an essay published in 1999, Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe wrote that mankind’s ability to inject greenhouse gases into the atmosphere was essential to “maintaining the present advantageous world climate, the opposite of what environmentalists are erroneously advocating.” A new study published by the Global Warming Policy Forum has vindicated their climate scepticism. Read more on the GWPF website.
Centaurs as a hazard to civilization (4 January 2016)
The article in the Royal Astronomical Society’s journal Astronomy & Geophysics co-authored by Professors Bill Napier and Duncan Steel, “Centaurs as a hazard to civilisation“, has received extensive media coverage for its suggestion that the Earth is in more danger of colliding with the debris of a giant comet than with an asteroid. There have been reports of the findings in Astronomy Magazine (22 December), Royal Astronomical Society website (22 December), Daily Express (22 December), Science Daily (22 December), Daily Mail (22 December), Phys.org website (22 December), The Guardian (23 December), Sky News (23 December) and many other places.
Royal Astronomical Society conference (8 October 2015)
The RAS is holding a special conference to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sir Fred Hoyle, who was President of the Society 1971-73: Fred Hoyle Birth Centennial – his remarkable career and the impact of his science. It will take place at Burlington House, London. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe will speak on “Fred Hoyle and the foundation of astrobiology as a new discipline”. More information about the conference.
Liquid water on Mars (2 October 2015)
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe had letters published in The Times and The Guardian after the news about water on Mars. Click here for the letter in The Guardian. In The Times, he wrote:
The announcement that liquid water exists on Mars was accompanied by the comment that the discovery raises the chances of microbial life existing on the planet. Although we have no knowledge of how non-living matter turns spontaneously to life anywhere in the cosmos, it is a fact that Mars and Earth are intimately linked in the solar system. Over the past four billion years comet impacts have taken place regularly on both planets, and these impacts could have brought life to both Mars and Earth from a common source. The most violent of these impacts could also have exchanged ejecta in the form of meteorites that carried viable microorganisms from Earth to Mars and vice versa. In either scenario, the newly discovered watery planet Mars and our home planet Earth would form a single connected biosphere for microbial life. This would ensure the certainty of microbial life existing in the watery environments of Mars.
Case for life on Pluto (9 September 2015)
Max Wallis and Chandra Wickramasinghe argue in the current issue of the Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach that the first results from the New Horizon Mission to Pluto shows evidence of a fluid interior with a radioactive heat source driving mountain tectonics and surface restructuring. The presence of methane ice suggests past or ongoing biological sources. Read the full article: “Pluto’s surprises: Mountain tectonics, methane and evidence of biology”.
Press coverage (August – September 2015)
The Daily Express (4 September) published a picture (shown on the right) from Professor Milton Wainwright’s current study in the stratosphere, showing a bull-shaped particle erupting from a crystal of salt, which Professor Wainwright believes to be an alien microbe of the sort which is continually arriving from space. Read the article on the Express website.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe had a letter published in The Independent (8 August) putting the Rosetta mission to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the context of other research. Read the letter on the Independent website. In another letter to The Independent (3 August) he explained how new evidence supports the theory of panspermia. Read the letter: Comet evidence supports theory of cosmic life.
The UK Space Agency has endorsed an experiment proposal submitted to the NASA ROSES-2015: The Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist Program by a group of scientists including two members of BCAB, Barry E. DiGregorio and Gilbert V. Levin. Ronald I. … Read more
Dr Max Wallis and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe argue that the features of Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko (currently being studied by the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander) are consistent with a mixture of ice and organic material warmed by the sun … Read more
24 June 2015 was the centenary of the birth of Sir Fred Hoyle, pioneering scientist, astronomer and astrobiologist. In honour of the occasion, The Island published an article about him by Kamala Wickramasinghe: A man who changed the way we … Read more
In an article published in Earth Magazine, Barry diGregorio looks at NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft’s mission to the outer solar system: Pluto, the Kuiper Belt and beyond. Apart from Pluto itself, new understanding of comets and planet formation can be … Read more
The Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach 3.1 (2015) includes a number of review articles by BCAB members: N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, Gensuke Tokoro and Milton Wainwright, “The Transition from Earth-centred Biology to Cosmic Life“ N.C. Wickramasinghe, M. Wainwright, W.E. Smith, G. … Read more
Professor Milton Wainwright and his team have found a microscopic metal globe in dust and particulate matter collected from the stratosphere. Professor Wainwright said the structure is made from the metals titanium and vanadium with a “gooey” biological liquid oozing … Read more
The Daily Express published images of a spectral ‘ghost particle’ discovered in debris gathered from the stratosphere. They quote Professor Milton Wainwright, who speculates “that in its space environment this ‘ghost particle’ is a living balloon which an alien microscopic … Read more
Max Wallis, Milton Wainwright and Chandra Wickramasinghe have published two articles about the Rosetta mission in the Journal of Cosmology: “Rosetta images of Comet 67P / Churyumov–Gerasimenko 1: Near-surface icy terrain similar to comet Tempel-1” (24.19, 12297-12304) and “Rosetta images … Read more
DNA carries the blueprint of all life, and its survival during space travel is essential if life is to be regarded a cosmic phenomenon. DNA (plasmid DNA) mounted on the exterior of a TEXUS-49 rocket was launched from Kiruna in … Read more
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe has been appointed Editor in Chief of the Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach. He has published an open letter asking for contributions to the journal about the Rosetta mission: Today’s landing on a comet has been hailed … Read more
A Russian-US-German team of astronauts landed in Kazakhstan after 165 days in space, with their discovery of new forms of life labelled “one of the most important discoveries” in recent history. Professor Wickramasinghe is quoted extensively in an article by … Read more
Professor Wickramasinghe argues in an article in the Daily Express that dinosaurs were probably wiped out by a virus which originated in space. Other lethal viruses which have appeared during human evolution could have been carried by comets and entered … Read more
A balloon sent into the stratosphere has collected a structure colloquially called ‘the dragon particle’, made of carbon and oxygen, and completely free of Earth-derived debris. Professor Wainwright and his team at Sheffield and Buckingham argue that it proves extra-terrestrial … Read more
At a UN-sponsored Symposium on the “Space Science and the United Nations” held in Graz, Austria, from 22-24 September 2014, Chandra Wickramasinghe presented a paper entitled “The transition from Earth-centred biology to cosmic life” with co-authors Gensuke Tokoro and Milton … Read more
The recent discovery of an interstellar molecule, isopropyl cyanide, C3H7CN with a branched carbon structure has been much publicised and hailed as evidence for the beginnings of life interstellar space. Whilst the researchers should be congratulated for the detection of … Read more
The September 2014 issue of the Journal of Cosmology contains a number of papers authored or co-authored by BCAB members: N. Chandra Wickramasinghe & Gensuke Tokoro, “Life as a Cosmic Phenomenon: 1. The Socio-Econonomic Control of a Scientific Paradigm“ Gensuke … Read more
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe delivers the Ray Wijewardene Memorial Lecture to a packed hall in Colombo
Read a report of the lecture, which was entitled “Extraterrestrial life and the future trajectory of humanity”, in the Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), and find out more on the Ray Wijewardene Trust website.
BCAB Visiting Professor Duncan Steel has said that the original search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was in the wrong place. Based on available data, the plane probably ended up much further south. He also suggested … Read more
Gil Levin, Honorary Professor at BCAB, demands that NASA release evidence of Martian life under Freedom of Information Act
The results of experiments that were recently conducted by the Mars Science Laboratory Rover “Curiosity” appear to be withheld for reasons that are best known only to NASA. Such results may be crucial for backing up evidence obtained by Gil … Read more