Saturday, July 01, 2006

Aliens Invade India!

Well, maybe. And the aliens (if they are such) are microbes -- they don't even have D.N.A. And "invasion" isn't quite the word -- dumped accidentally by a passing comet would be more like it, which is hardly the same as entering by force while looking for imaginary W.M.D.s.

Still, by my standards, even if qualified to "Microbes that Might Have Been Extraterrestrial Landed in India Five Years Ago!", it's still pretty exciting to think about.

Here's the story. It seems that in 2001, some mysterious red rain fell in India (specifically in the state of Kerala). No one is yet sure what caused it; there are a number of theories, apparently. (In the popular, slang use of "theory" to mean "hypothesis" rather than the scientific sense of "well-confirmed scientific explanation".) One theory, put forward by a scientist named Godfrey Louis, is that (in his words):
the red particles, which caused the red rain of Kerala, are possibly of extraterrestrial origin... the absence of DNA argues against the biological nature of these red rain cells. But I wish to consider the possibility of alternate biomolecules in these cells whose origin is now suspected as extraterrestrial. This way the cells may represent an alternate form of life from space...
Dr. Louis has published one peer-reviewed article putting forward this idea; further are in process.

What can I say but: wow.

Disclaimer: Histrionic image of invading aliens
utterly unrelated to the otherwise factual, or at
least possible, aliens referred to in this blog post.
They're not even invading India.

(This little news tidbit via the blog of SF writer Nick Sagan, whose work, I must admit, I've never read -- but it seems from his blog that he's a local boy, so I suppose I should check out his (doubtless splendid, given his fine place of residence) work.)


Leila Abu-Saba said...

Hey Steven, love the blog. Thanks for stopping by Dove's Eye View. I'll be checking "Attempts" regularly - I am particularly struck by the essay on "for want of a nail..."

BTW have you ever read Joe Sacco's "Palestine" comic?

Stephen said...

Hey, Leila, thank for stopping by!

(For any other readers, Leila's own blog, Dove's Eye View (which I just discovered the other day), is worth a visit, and will be added to the blogroll when I next update it.)

I do indeed know Joe Sacco's Palestine, and would recommend it highly. For those who don't know, Joe Sacco is a reporter who works in the comics medium -- a very fine cartoonist and reporter both. Palestine was his first major work, and while it shows the situation as of some time ago -- fifteen or so years, if memory serves -- it is well worth reading. (Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde is also very good.) If I'd had a general nonfiction section in my intro to graphic novels post -- which perhaps I should have -- Sacco would definitely have gotten a plug.

So, Noble Readers, check out Sacco's work -- and Leila's, too.

Anonymous said...

A rather more plausible explanation for the red rain than alien spores is incomplete incineration of chemical waste in the Eloor industrial zone.

The pattern of fallout matches with the prevailing winds. The reported chemical composition is consistent with a mixture of partly burnt organics plus fly-ash or clay. The morphpology is explained if microparticles of clay coalesced around an aerosol of organics as the incinerator plume cooled. And the 'reproduction' is s simple process of cellular replication that occurs with organics in the prescence of clay; see, for example, the work of Jack Szostak.

Given the scale of the pollution, 50 tons or so, one could be forgiven for wondering that Hanz Blix had been sent to the wrong country.

One could also be forgiven for wondering what will come of the conference in Cardiff next month where Godfrey Louis, Chandra Wickramasinghe and Milton Wainwright are speakers. In 2003 in a letter to the Lancet it was suggested that SARS was caused by spores from space.