Onlanka News – By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles
Over the past two decades astronomers and space scientists have discovered vast quantities of organic molecules everywhere in the universe – in planets, comets and moons of our solar system, in clouds of gas and dust that are the birthplace of stars, and even in the most distant galaxies.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology (Univesity of Buckingham, UK), working in collaboration with Rudolph Schild (Harvard University) and Carl Gibson (UCSD) recently published a theory that argues for the first microbial life in the Universe originating in the watery interiors of primordial planets numbering about 1080 (1 followed by 80 zeros), just a few million years after the Big Bang. This paper is published in the International Journal of Astrobiology (1). As the Universe expands this primordial legacy of life is distributed in galaxies including our own Milky Way system. A single event of life’s origin is therefore responsible for life everywhere, including on the Earth. Comets, which are derived from the disintegration of a primordial life-bearing planet, distribute life within our solar system. A colliding comet brought the first life to Earth nearly 4 billion years ago.
In another paper published in the online Journal of Cosmology (2), Professor Wickramasinghe and an American colleague Rhawn Joseph made a mathematical study of the genetic evolution of life from single microbes. Using standard statistical techniques they analyse how the genes in life forms have increased with time, from microorganisms to the entire spectrum of life including plants animals and humans. From their analysis they conclude that the origin of the first primitive gene must predate the Earth to a time about 3 times the age of our planet. The progressive evolution of life on Earth involved the assembly of genes delivered by impacting comets from the time when then first microbial life became established. Wickramasinghe said:
“The astronomical observations indicating that about one third of all the C in interstellar space is in the form of life-like molecules is incorrectly interpreted as representing steps towards life occurring everywhere. This must surely be wrong. The correct answer is that we are witnessing everywhere the degradation products of biology, the detritus of life.”
“On the Earth some 99.999% of all organics come from the decaying of life. Why do we not apply the same logic for the vast store of life-like material in space?”
According to Wickramasinghe an obsolete pre-Copernican philosophy still prevails. We gave up our place at the centre of the Universe half a millennium ago, but we still cling tenaciously to the idea that life is in some way centred on Earth.
(1)The origin of life from primordial planets
Carl H. Gibson, Rudolph E. Schild and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, International Journal of Astrobiology 10 (2) : 83–98 (2011) doi:10.1017/S1473550410000352 f Cambridge University Press 2010
(2) Genetics Indicates Extra-terrestrial Origins for Life: Did Life Begin Following the Big Bang?
Rhawn Joseph and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Journal of Cosmology, Volume 16