SIR FRED HOYLE (1915 - 2001)

Professor Sir Fred Hoyle, Britain's best-known and most
controversial astronomer, cosmologist and science author has died. Sir Fred,
who contributed to a number of issues and debates on CCNet, was known for
his opposition to the Big Bang theory and his critical views on Darwinism.
Moreover, the cometary resesarch by Fred Hoyle (and Chandra Wickramasinghe)
have also been extremely instrumental in the development of astrobiology and
scientific neo-catastrophism far back in the mid 70s. Fred's
quintessentially British eccentricity and his courageous opposition to a
number of mainstream paradigms will always remain an inspiration for people
interested in science in general and researchers in particular. I hope that
Fred's path-breaking influence on the development of cosmic catastrophism
will be described and outlined ino greater detail at some time.

Benny J Peiser



>From BBC News Online, 22 August 2001

'Big bang' astronomer dies
Sir Fred challenged the belief the cosmos was caused by an explosion

The English astronomer who coined the term "Big Bang" to describe an
academic theory on the creation of the cosmos, has died at the age of 86.

Despite popularising the theory by giving it a name, Professor Sir Fred
Hoyle challenged the belief that the cosmos was caused by a huge explosion
12,000 million years ago.

He advocated the "steady state" theory - that the cosmos had no beginning
but new galaxies were formed as others moved apart.

Sir Fred also rejected Darwin's theory of evolution, putting forward the
so-called Panspermia Theory, which suggests that life, or the building
blocks of life, could be carried to planets by comets or drifting
interstellar dust particles.

Sir Fred wrote A For Andromeda, which became a BBC-TV series

He believed it had all been arranged by a super-intelligent civilisation who
wished to seed our planet.

Sir Fred used this theory as the inspiration for one of his many
science-fiction novels, The Black Cloud.

Published in 1957, it described an intelligent cloud of cosmic dust sapping
the Sun of solar energy to create a second Ice Age on Earth.

In 1962, Sir Fred wrote A For Andromeda, which became a BBC-TV series, and
his play for children, Rockets In Ursa Major, opened in the West End.

Star gazing

Born at Bingley in the West Riding of Yorkshire to wool merchant parents, he
could navigate by the stars at the age of 10 and often stayed up all night
gazing through his telescope.

Sir Fred was educated at Bingley grammar school and Emmanuel College,
Cambridge, where he studied mathematics.

In 1939, he was elected a fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and
married Barbara Clark.

They had a son and a daughter.

Conducted research

During World War II, Sir Fred conducted research for the Admiralty .

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957 and knighted in 1972.

Sir Fred founded the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, where he was
Plumian Professor of Astronomy from 1958 until 1972.

Copyright 2001, BBC


>From The Daily Telegraph, 22 August 2001

PROFESSOR SIR FRED HOYLE, who has died aged 86, was Britain's best-known
astronomer and (until Stephen Hawking's work became generally known)
physicist, as well as a much-admired writer of science fiction; he was also
an outrageous mischief-maker who took a delight in enraging his academic

He and his close associate, Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe, head of mathematics
at University College, Wales, used to make other scientists so angry that
some even wrote a special sub-program for their word processors which, by
pressing a single key, caused the words "Contrary to the views of Hoyle and
Wickramasinghe . . . " to appear on the screen.

The H & W keys were pressed liberally in January 1990, when the two men
published an article in the journal Nature claiming that sunspots caused
'flu epidemics. Their conclusion, which infuriated medical scientists, was
based on their rigidly held belief that space is full of viruses that cause
not only 'flu but Aids and Legionnaire's disease as well. Storms on the
Sun's surface (indicated by sunspots) were supposed to drive these viruses
into the Earth's atmosphere, whereupon diseases spread.

Still greater fury arose from their claim that Darwin's theory of evolution
by natural selection was wrong, and that evolution occurred because mutating
life forms continually fall from space. Nor, Hoyle thought, was this an
accident. It was deliberately arranged long ago by a super-intelligent
civilisation who wished to "seed" our planet.

To establish this case, they made claims that outraged their critics still
further. The accusation that caused the most anger was that Archaeopteryx,
one of the most significant pieces of evidence for natural selection, was a

Archaeopteryx was a creature, half reptile, half bird, that lived about 60
million years ago. The fossil of this feathered reptile, one of the prides
of the British Museum, showed that the creature was in the process of
evolving from one species to another. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe rejected this
inconvenient evidence by claiming that its feathers were actually made of
concrete and were surreptitiously put there in 1861 by its discoverer, Carl

Their book Archaeopteryx, the Primordial Bird: A Case of Fossil Forgery
(1986) was reviewed with unprecedented savagery in the New Scientist by the
Reading University zoologist Beverly Halstead:

"This book is couched in such intemperate language and contains such
demonstrable falsehoods, as well as hardly imaginable calumnies of persons
unable to defend themselves, that it is exceedingly difficult not to fall
into the trap of exploding into an emotional tirade. ts main thesis is
patently ludicrous and can be proved to be false . . . We must ask the
question: what is this all about? This is the unsavoury aspect, which makes
this one of the most despicable pieces of writing it has been my misfortune
ever to read.

"It displays utter contempt for minimal standards of scholarship - the book
seems to portray a hatred of Charles Darwin and a most involved and twisted
mentality towards zoologists. This libellous nonsense will remain for a long
time a stain on the reputations of both authors."

Dr Tom Kemp, curator of the University Museum at Oxford, added: "Certainly
the claim that Archaeopteryx is a fake should be investigated. But the
investigation should be done by those who actually understand fossils, not a
couple of people who exhibit nothing more than a Gargantuan conceit that
they are clever enough to solve other people's problems for them, when they
do not even begin to recognise their nature and complexity."

Hoyle himself denied writing anything objectionable, but conceded: "We may
have included a few mild sarcasms." The most puzzling aspect of these
disputes was that Hoyle made many genuine and significant contributions to
physics and astronomy. These included monumental examinations of the
modelling of the structure of stars, nucleosynthesis, accretion theories,
cosmology, and theories of star formation and planet condensation.

The most important was his discovery in 1958, with the American physicist
William Fowler, of the way that the heavy chemical elements that fill our
bodies, such as oxygen, carbon and iron, were forged in the nuclear furnaces
of giant stars which later exploded and from whose relics the solar system
was born. In short, we are literally made of stardust. But this epochal
discovery was strangely rewarded. Fowler won a Nobel prize for it, but
Hoyle, to his justifiable annoyance, did not.

Until the end of his life, Hoyle championed the "steady state" theory of the
universe which maintained that the cosmos had no beginning. This was despite
increasing evidence, amounting in the view of many to proof, that the cosmos
began in a Big Bang some 12,000 million years ago. (It was Hoyle himself
who, mockingly, coined the term "Big Bang". But the phrase stuck.) In 1992,
when the American George Smoot found tell-tale ripples in the fabric of the
cosmos, Hoyle refused to accept it. "I have an aesthetic bias against the
Big Bang," he admitted.

He also challenged the evidence of the radio astronomer Sir Martin Ryle, who
in the 1960s had found similar, if less conclusive, evidence of cosmic
origins. Barbara Gamow, the wife of the pro-Big Bang astronomer George
Gamow, was inspired to describe their dispute in verse:

"Your years of toil,"
Said Ryle to Hoyle,
"Are wasted years, believe me,
The steady state
Is out of date
Unless my eyes deceive me,
"My telescope
Has dashed your hope;
Your tenets are refuted.
Let me be terse:
Our universe
Grows daily more diluted!"
Said Hoyle, "You quote
Lemaitre, I note,
And Gamow, well, forget them!
That errant gang
And their Big Bang -
Why aid them and abet them?
"You see, my friend,
It has no end
And there was no beginning.
As Bondi, Gold,
And I will hold
Until our hair is thinning!"

In 1985, when Halley's Comet visited the Earth, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's
theory of space viruses gave them the chance to start another furious
quarrel. They accused an American astronomer, J Mayo Greenberg, of

Greenberg developed a theory that space contains "pre-organic" material
which Hoyle and Wickramasinghe said was an unacknowledged copy of their own
theory. "We must congratulate him on his startling accuracy," they said
slyly. "These two men are constantly making these stupid accusations against
me," Greenberg retorted. "I think they have never forgiven me for pointing
out some years ago at a public meeting that they had made an elementary
scientific error."

Hoyle was a masterly science fiction writer. One of his finest novels, The
Black Cloud, published in 1957, described a mysterious cloud of cosmic dust
which approached the solar system and parked around the Sun, blocking light
and creating a temporary Ice Age. It turned out that the cloud was
intelligent and using solar energy to replenish itself. The plot closely
mirrored Hoyle's contempt for politicians and his ideas about a cosmic

Equally frightening was his A for Andromeda (1962), which became a
television series, in which radio instructions were received from aliens,
telling humans how to build an all-powerful and destructive machine. He also
wrote a children's play, Rockets in Ursa Major, which in 1962 ran in the
West End, and a libretto, The Alchemy of Love.

He wrote many other works of fiction and non-fiction including (with his son
Geoffrey) Common Sense and Nuclear Energy (1979). In this he made a
convincing case for nuclear power. Ryle, still smarting from the
cosmological dispute, attacked the book bitterly, and a furious
correspondence ensued. Hoyle, in his autobiography Home is Where The Wind
Blows (1994), remarked cryptically that Ryle lacked his own "sense of

Fred Hoyle was born on June 24 1915, at Bingley in the West Riding of
Yorkshire. He was educated at Bingley Grammar School and Emmanuel College,
Cambridge, where he studied Mathematics. In 1939, he was elected a fellow of
St John's College, Cambridge. He conducted research for the Admiralty during
the Second World War.

Hoyle received numerous scientific prizes, honorary degrees and
professorships. His many other books included Frontiers of Astronomy (1955),
Man and Materialism (1956), Star Formation (1963), Galaxies, Nuclei and
Quasars (1965), The Relation of Physics and Cosmology (1973), Ten Faces of
the Universe (1977), On Stonehenge (1977) and The Cosmogony of the Solar
System (1978).

Hoyle was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957 and knighted in
1972. He served as president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1971-3.
He held visiting professorships at numerous British and American
universities, including the California Institute of Technology (in both
astrophysics and astronomy) and Cornell University, where he was
Professor-at-Large. He founded the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge,
where he was Plumian Professor of Astronomy from 1958 until 1972. In 1997,
he was awarded the Crafoord Prize, designed to honour work in fields
ineligible for Nobel Prizes, by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

He married, in 1939, Barbara Clark. They had a son and a daughter.

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2001. 


>From CCNet, 12 July 1999


By Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe

      "The renewal of ice-age conditions would render a
      large fraction of the world's major food-growing
      areas inoperable, and so would inevitably lead to the
      extinction of most of the present human population.
      Since bolide impacts cannot be called up to order, we
      must look to a sustained greenhouse effect to
      maintain the present advantageous world climate.     
      This implies the ability to inject effective     
      greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the opposite of
      what environmentalists are erroneously advocating."

1. The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect raises the Earth's temperature by about 40oC
above what it would otherwise have been. Without the greenhouse effect
the Earth would be locked into a permanent ice-age. This fact gives the
lie to those renegade scientists, who in their anxiety to get their
hands into the public purse, are seeking to persuade the public that the
greenhouse effect is a bad thing greatly to be feared. The reverse is
true. The greenhouse effect is an exceedingly good thing, without which
those of us who happen to live in Britain would be buried under several
hundreds of metres of ice.

Water vapour and carbon dioxide are the main greenhouse gases. Carbon
dioxide produces essentially the whole of its effect through absorption
at infrared wavelengths from about 13.5mm to 17.5mm. Because the
blocking by carbon dioxide over this interval is large, the band having
steeply-falling wings, additions of carbon dioxide have only a
second-order influence on the greenhouse effect and are inconsequential
compared to the major factors which control the Earth's climate.  The
blocking effect of water vapour rises all the way from 17.5mm to almost

The wavelength 13.5mm is important in two respects. In the energy
distribution of radiation emitted at ground and sea-level it marks the
halfway point, one-half of the energy being at wavelengths shorter than
13.5mm and one-half at wavelengths longer. It also marks a division in
the effectiveness of the blocking of greenhouse gases. Shortward of
13.5mm the blocking is comparatively weak, longward of 13.5mm it is
strong, excepting for a partial window from 17.5mm to about 20mm. 
Shortward of 13.5mm there is a broad weak absorption from water vapour
with its minimum in the region of 10mm, together with narrow bands from
03 and CH4. Of these, some current fuss is being made about CH4.  But
blocking by methane is somewhat shortward of 8mm, which is so far out
on the short wavelength tail of the Earth's reradiated spectrum as also
to be of no great consequence. Thus the Planck maximum for a reradiated
spectrum of, say, an effective temperature 290K is at 17.6mm with
respect to energy, and at 12.7mm with respect to maximum photon
emission. Thus methane makes its contribution in a region of the
reradiated spectrum where there is only 10 percent of the energy, for
which reason fluctuations in atmospheric methane can produce only minor
effects, like those produced by fluctuations of CO2.  The gas that can
produce major effects, and towards which one must therefore look for an
understanding of large shifts of the Earth's climate, is water vapour.

Without the greenhouse effect the Earth's mean temperature, averaged
with respect to latitude, between day and night and between land and
sea, is given by the formula

T= [1.37 x 106 (1-A)/ac]l/4,

where 1.37 x 106erg cm-2 s-1 is the solar energy flux outside the
Earth, A is an averaged value for the Earth's albedo, c is the velocity
of light, and a is the radiation density constant, equal to 7.565 x
10-15 erg cm-3deg-4. Thus for an albedo of 0.4 one would have 245K,
very cold indeed.

It is known from model calculations of stellar atmospheres that the
situation becomes complex and difficult when opacity sources are highly
wavelength dependent, as they are for the terrestrial greenhouse
effect. The same must arise here so that it seems desirable to seek an
approximation with the virtue of physical rectitude rather than to set
up a supposedly accurate computation in which approximations of
uncertain physical validity are nevertheless made in the end. Owing to
the fortunate circumstance that the wavelength 13.5mm has the special
properties described above, such a useful approximation lies
immediately to hand. Suppose the half of the reradiated energy longward
of 13.5mm to be completely blocked by the heavy opacity of the
greenhouse gases and suppose the half shortward of 13.5mm to be
completely free to escape. Then it is easy to see that the greenhouse
effect must raise the Earth's mean temperature by 21/4 above what it
would otherwise be, about 292K instead of 245K, a result agreeing very
well with experience. One can see that the weak blocking which actually
takes place shortward of 13.5mm is approximately compensated by the
partial window from 17.5mm to 20mm. With a first approximation that is
evidently close to the truth it is possible to calculate the effects of
changing individual greenhouse gases as fluctuations from this first
approximation, thereby keeping close contact with physical reality.

The above remarks concerning the opacity of water vapour refers to a
so-called standard atmosphere which is taken to contain 1 cm cm-2 of
precipitable water. Reducing the water content appreciably to only a
few millimetres of precipitable water weakens the greenhouse, dropping
the Earth's mean temperature (for the same A) to about 280K, which
corresponds closely to what is required for ice-age conditions.  The
conclusion is therefore that reducing the average water content of the
atmosphere to about a third of its present-day value, while maintaining
the albedo, would produce an ice-age.

2. Ice-age Conditions

Ice-age conditions were dry, dusty and cold. The great deposits of
loess, wind-blown soil, in E. Europe and China, imply a climate that
was dusty in the lower atmosphere, a situation implying a low
precipitation rate. Low precipitation is not a handicap to the
accumulation of large glaciers, which will grow even at annual
precipitation rates as little as a few centimetres per year, provided
the temperature is low enough to prevent summer melting.

During the ice-ages the whole Earth was cooled, including the tropics. 
This is proved by glaciers extending down to about 10,000 feet on
tropical mountains, mountains which at present do not hold glaciers,
such as the mountains on the island of Hawaii. The need for the whole
Earth to be appreciably cooled disposes of astronomical theories of the
cause of ice-ages, in particular of the Milankovitch theory of small
oscillations of the tilt of the Earth's rotation axis to the plane of
the ecliptic, and of small oscillations in the eccentricity of the
Earth's orbit. Neither of these effects produces any change in the
amount of solar energy incident on the Earth and so could not lead to
widespread cooling. Oscillations of tilt merely produce slight latitude
variations in the incidence of solar energy, which are in any case much
smaller than the transport in latitude of heat by atmospheric storms and
ocean currents. Indeed the transport of oceanic heat towards the poles
gives a far larger effect than would easily buffer slight latitude
variations of insolation. Oscillations in eccentricity of the Earth's
orbit produce small shifts of solar energy between one geographical
hemisphere and the other, and so should tend to cool one hemisphere and
warm the other. But ice-ages occur contemporaneously in both
hemispheres, not alternatively, a disproof that was already
well-understood more than half a century ago. Claims in favour of the
astronomical theory, made from numerical computer studies, say more
about the work of computer studies than they do about ice-ages.

If we were to imagine such an atmospheric state being brought about
today, evaporation from the relatively warm surface layers of the ocean
would quickly resupply water vapour to a typical amount of 1 cm of
precipitable water per cm2 and the cooling due to a reduced greenhouse
effect would quickly be gone. Thus it is the heat of the ocean which
saves us from the possibility of an immediate onset of ice-age
conditions. Reckoning the heat of the ocean as being the energy content
above freezing point, which can be thought of as available heat, almost
all is contained in a surface layer with depth no greater than a few
hundred metres, the amount being equivalent to a supply of sunlight over
a time interval of a few years, say 3 to 5 years. It is because the
ocean has this back storage of heat that we do not drop almost
immediately into an ice-age.

In distant geological periods the heat storage in the oceans was
considerably greater than it is at present. Today the ocean bottom
waters are close to freezing, whereas only 50 million years ago the
bottom temperature was about 15'C and the available oceanic heat was
then equivalent to a 50 year supply of sunlight. The difference has
been caused by drifting continents, especially by the positioning of
Antarctica and Greenland at or close to the poles. Melt water from
arctic glaciers has gradually filled the lower ocean with water close
to freezing, greatly reducing the margin of safety against ice-age
conditions developing. This is why the past million years has been
essentially a continuing ice-age, broken occasionally by short-lived
interglacials. It is also why those who have engaged in lurid talk over
an enhanced greenhouse effect raising the Earth's temperature by a
degree or two should be seen as both demented and dangerous. The
problem for the present swollen human species is of a drift back into
an ice-age, not away from an ice-age. Manifestly, we need all the
greenhouse we can get, even to the extent of the British Isles becoming
good for the growing of vines.

The present-day situation is best seen as one of neutral equilibrium
unlike an ice-age which is a position of stable equilibrium. The
present-day situation is one in which over relatively short intervals
the world climate stays the way it is, but over longer intervals can be
subject to drift. Looking through climatic records for the recent
millennium the drift over a century or two is by 1-2oC. Drift from the
present-day down by 10o C into an ice-age requires an excess of about
ten downward steps over upward steps, say each step of 1o C. With a
century between steps, random shifts would bring on the next ice-age in
an interval of about 10,000 years, the typical length of an
interglacial. Without some artificial means of giving positive feedback
to the climate, such an eventual drift into ice-age conditions appears

All this is on the assumption of a fixed albedo, a point which now
requires consideration.

3. The Albedo

The remarkable feature of the Earth's albedo is that atmospheric water
does not lift A close to unity. If even a very small fraction of even a
very dry atmosphere were to condense into tiny ice crystals, this
would happen. The mass exclusion coefficient, through the scattering
back into space of sunlight, produced by dielectric crystals with radii
of a few tenths of a micrometre, is about 3000 cm2 g-1 . Thus a
condensation of only 0.1 percent of the water in a very dry atmosphere
with only 1 mm of precipitable would yet contribute about 0.3 to A.
Essentially no water must be condensed into ice crystals if A is to be
appreciably less than unity. Otherwise the Earth would appear from the
outside as an intensely bright white planet with an albedo even higher
than Venus, while below the haze of ice crystals it would be
exceedingly cold at ground-level.

The saving grace is that ice crystals do not form in supersaturated
water vapour except at very low temperatures, below say -50oC. For the
Earth's emission into space of radiation at wavelengths longer than
20mm we can think of a photosphere at which the optical depth out into
space is of order unity. If only radiation were involved in determining
the water vapour temperature at this photosphere the temperature would
be of order 290 t -1/4 where t was the optical depth from ground level
up to the photosphere, suitably averaged at wavelengths longer than
20mm. In a typical atmosphere t would be about 19, leading to a
photospheric temperature for water vapour (and hence for surrounding
air) of as little as 163K, i.e. -110oC, far below that needed for ice
crystal formation. The circumstance that ice crystals do not form
profusely except under special conditions in Antarctica shows that
calculating for radiation only cannot be correct. A convective
transport of energy from ground-level to the water-vapour photosphere is
required. This cannot be carried by air movements but must come from
the upward transport of the latent heat of condensation of the water
vapour itself. To keep the photospheric water vapour temperature above
-50oC, and so to prevent ice crystal formation, the transport of water
vapour must be such as would lead to an annual precipitation rate of
about 50 cm. For comparison, the present-day world-wide average of the
precipitation rate is about 80 cm of rain, sufficient to prevent ice
crystal formation, but not by a wide margin.

Let the world climate drift downward, however, sufficiently for the
surface layers of the ocean to cool to the point where an annual
average rainfall of 50 cm cannot be maintained and the consequent
formation of an atmospheric haze of ice crystals would plunge the Earth
immediately back into an ice-age.

4. Emergence from an Ice-age

The cooling of the ocean over the past 50 million years eventually made
an ice-age the norm of the Earth's climate, as it has been throughout
most of the Pleistocene, with brief changes only during interglacials
lasting for times of about 10,000 years or less. Left to itself, it is
hard to see how anything internal to the Earth could ever break the
stable grip of an ice-age. Thus to understand the cause of
interglacials we must look to catastrophic events. The impact of a
comet-sized object into a major ocean appears essential to the ending
of an ice-age. An object of mass 1016g would have sufficient energy to
throw up some 1020g of water into the stratosphere, immediately
creating a powerful greenhouse effect as the water spread around the
world to give some 10 g of precipitable water per cm2. Such a
greenhouse effect lasting for some months, and at a lesser level for
several years, would produce a sufficient warming of the surface waters
of the ocean to jerk the Earth almost discontinuously out of a long
drawn-out ice-age into the beginning of an interglacial.

The 18O/16O analysis of Greenland ice cores shows that an immense
melting of glacier ice began about 13,000 years ago and was essentially
completed within a millenium. But this information is slow-moving in
time, although it possesses the great merit of being of world-wide
significance. On a more restricted geographical scale, fossil insect
records show that the summer temperature in Britain rose by 10oC or
more in as little as 50 years, an essentially decisive indication of a
catastrophic event as its cause. The fossil insect record also shows
that a second catastrophic event of a similar nature occurred 10,000
years ago, again with a major temperature rise in only a few decades. 
It is therefore cometary impacts that we must thank for the equable
spell of climate in which human history and civilisation has prospered
so spectacularly.

The renewal of ice-age conditions would render a large fraction of the
world's major food-growing areas inoperable, and so would inevitably
lead to the extinction of most of the present human population. Since
bolide impacts cannot be called up to order, we must look to a
sustained greenhouse effect to maintain the present advantageous world
climate. This implies the ability to inject effective greenhouse gases
into the atmosphere, the opposite of what environmentalists are
erroneously advocating.

5. Conclusions

Ice-age conditions are dry and cold, the local temperature being
reduced over the entire Earth. The high atmosphere probably had a haze
of small ice crystals while the lower atmosphere was dusty.  Such
conditions were stable, capable of persisting until a large bolide hit
one of the major oceans. The water then thrown high into the
stratosphere provided a large temporary greenhouse effect, but
sufficient to produce a warming of the world ocean down to a depth of a
few hundred metres. It is this warming that maintains the resulting
interglacial period. The interglacial climate possesses only neutral
equilibrium however. It experiences random walk both up and down, until
a situation arises in which the number of steps downward become
sufficient for the Earth to fall back into the ice-age trap. 
Thereafter only a further large bolide impact can produce a departure
from the grey, drab iceage conditions. This will be so in the future
unless Man finds an effective way to maintain a suitably large
greenhouse effect.

Copyright, Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and
educational use only. The attached information may not be copied or
reproduced for any other purposes without prior permission of the
copyright holders. The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from
February 1997 on, can be found at



"There would, I expect, be few scientists who have agreed with all
of Sir Fred Hoyle's ideas and yet I for one have always looked forward
to his submissions to CCNet. Scientists, such as Sir Hoyle, who
challenge the establish dogma on the basis of conviction make a
contribution to science that goes far beyond their established achievements
and discoveries because they pose the questions that stimulate
discussion and thought. It is through 'giving a theory a good shake to see
what falls out' that revolutions in understanding often occur."
--Matthew Genge, The Natural History Museum, 22 August 2001

"Home for Hoyle is not a cozy cottage with an overstuffed chair in
front of the fireplace. Not for him the comforts of academic tenure
and the polite respect of colleagues. He is at home on the tops of
mountains, at the cusps of controversies, where the winds blow fiercely
and even God is not omnipotent but, as Hoyle says, just `doing his best' to
make an adequate universe."
--Stephen G. Brush, science historian, 1995

(1) SIR FRED HOYLE (1915 - 2001)
    New York Times, 22 August 2001

    Matthew Genge <>

    BioMedNet, 20 July 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Arvind Paranjpye <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    BBC News Online, 31 July 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    American Scientist, September-October 2001

     Richard Taylor <>

(1) SIR FRED HOYLE (1915 - 2001)

Fred Hoyle Dies at 86; Opposed 'Big Bang' but Named It

>From The New York Times, 22 August 2001

Sir Fred Hoyle, one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of
the last half century, who helped explain how the heavier elements were
formed and gave the name Big Bang, meant to be derisive, to the theory of
cosmic origin he vehemently opposed, died on Monday in Bournemouth, England.
He was 86 and lived in Bournemouth.

He suffered a severe stroke last month and never recovered, said Dr.
Geoffrey Burbidge, an astrophysicist at the University of California at San
Diego who had collaborated with Dr. Hoyle on many research projects.

"Fred was probably the most creative and original person in astrophysics
after World War II," Dr. Burbidge said.

Dr. Virginia Trimble, an astrophysicist at the University of California at
Irvine, said that Dr. Hoyle's opposition to the Big Bang, while considered a
mistake, "was significant in that it went a long way toward making cosmology
a true science" in which competing theories were tested by observations.

A versatile scientist brimming with ideas and a lifelong rebel eager for
intellectual combat, Dr. Hoyle was most widely known as an author of the
cosmological theory, which now has few adherents, that the universe exists
in a steady state. The theory, published in 1948, contends that matter is
constantly being created, so the expanding universe remains roughly the same
at all times and has no beginning or end.

In a series of popular radio talks in Britain in the 1940's, he coined "big
bang" to ridicule the rival concept of an explosive origin of the universe,
but the term is now widely used and the explosion theory is generally
accepted. In recent years Sir Fred joined those arguing for a universe that
- while eternal - expands and contracts.

The astronomer was instrumental in establishing the Institute of Theoretical
Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in England and became its first
director. From 1958 to 1972 he was also Plumian professor of astronomy at
the university, a post previously held by such leading scientists as Sir
Arthur Eddington, whose groundbreaking experiments confirmed the general
theory of relativity.

A historic development in astrophysics was explaining how the elements came
to be synthesized step by step in the stars, starting from hydrogen and
helium. In the 1930's, Dr. Hans Bethe and others showed how stars could
derive their energy from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei (protons) to form

The problem Dr. Hoyle and colleagues faced was how slightly larger elements
like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen were formed by stars. An element called
beryllium-8, which was an intermediate stage in the process of element
formation, stood in the way. It did not survive long enough for the fusion
process to reach carbon-12, the next stage in the element building process.

Dr. Hoyle solved the problem: he pressed nuclear physicists to look for a
special state of carbon-12, that was stable enough for the fusion of heavier
elements to occur.

Then, working with three other scientists, Dr. Hoyle figured out how all the
heavier elements could have been formed. Their historic paper was published
in 1957 in Reviews of Modern Physics. In addition to Dr. Hoyle, the
scientists were Dr. William A. Fowler, ofCalifornia Institute of Technology;
Dr. Burbidge and Dr. Margaret Burbidge, his wife.

While the formation of the lighter elements, up to iron, could be explained
by processes inside stars, extremely high temperatures and violent events
were needed. The answer proposed by the four was the supernova, in which a
giant star collapses to extreme density, then cataclysmically rebounds.

For this and his subsequent work in astrophysics, Dr. Fowler was awarded the
Nobel Prize in Physics. The other three were omitted, probably in part
because the prize is rarely, if ever, awarded to more than two people.

Fred Hoyle's noncomformity manifested itself at an early age. Born in
Bingley, Yorkshire, he found school boring, preferring to remain at home
studying a textbook in elementary chemistry and doing chemistry experiments
with equipment he found in his home. As recounted in his 1994 autobiography,
"Home Is Where the Wind Blows," in his parents' absence he enjoyed making
gunpowder and creating explosions.

As school was compulsory, his absence led to difficulties with the local
authorities. The family did not have the funds to send him to a private
school, but he finally won scholarships, including one from the West Riding
of Yorkshire, and started on the path that eventually led him to Cambridge.

As soon as he reached Cambridge he came under the tutelage of such top
physicists as Rudolph Peierls, Eddington, P. A. M. Dirac and R. H. Fowler,
whose calculations set the stage for the concept of black holes, stars whose
collapse has yielded such density that the gravity prevents even light from

During World War II he led a radar development group at an Admiralty Signal
Establishment center in West Sussex, near the south coast. Working under him
were two refugees from Vienna: Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi. During the day
the trio worked on radar. At night they discussed astrophysics, developing
the steady-state cosmology. They accepted the evidence for its constant
expansion, but proposed that matter is constantly formed to fill the gaps.
In 1995 Dr. Bondi and Dr. Gold credited Dr. Hoyle with first proposing such
continuous creation of new matter.

Dr. John Faulkner, of the Lick Observatory in California, said that during
the "magical six years" after establishment of the Institute of Theoretical
Astronomy at Cambridge in 1966, it became "an obligatory mecca" for young
American astronomers, many of whom felt the institute "fostered their best

But by his own account Sir Fred never shrank from controversy, and in 1972,
after a falling out with Cambridge officialdom and rancorous debate on the
future of British astronomy, he resigned as director of the institute.

Sir Fred's work on interstellar organic molecules led him to propose that
life originated in space. Working with a student, Chandra Wickramasinghe, he
championed the unorthodox theory that the seeds of life, including disease
viruses, periodically fall from space.

They attributed the onset of various epidemics to such viruses, attempting
to document this in the simultaneous appearance of influenza at schools in
remote parts of England and Wales.

These theories are reflected in titles of the books he did with Dr.
Wickramasinghe: "Lifecloud" (1958), "Diseases from Space" (1979), "Space
Travelers: The Origins of Life" (1980) and "Cosmic Life Force" (1988). His
more conventional writing produced "Frontiers of Astronomy," a widely used

Dr. Hoyle, along with Dr. Geoffrey Burbidge and Dr. Jayant V. Narliker,
renewed their fight against Big Bang orthodoxy with the book "A Different
Approach to Cosmology" (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Dr. Hoyle was also a prolific author of science fiction, producing almost
one book a year between 1950 and 1990, some written with his son, Geoffrey.
Among the best known were "The Black Cloud" (1957) and "Ossian's Ride"

In 1957 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and in the early 1970's
he was president of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was knighted in 1972.

In recent years he lived in Bournemouth. In addition to his son, also of
Bournemouth, he is survived by his wife, the former Barbara Clark, whom he
married in 1939, and a daughter Elizabeth Butler, a London stockbroker.

"Home for Hoyle," Stephen G. Brush, a science historian, wrote in 1995, "is
not a cozy cottage with an overstuffed chair in front of the fireplace. Not
for him the comforts of academic tenure and the polite respect of
colleagues. He is at home on the tops of mountains, at the cusps of
controversies, where the winds blow fiercely and even God is not omnipotent
but, as Hoyle says, just `doing his best' to make an adequate universe."
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company 

>From Matthew Genge <>

There would, I expect, be few scientists who have agreed with all of Sir
Fred Hoyle's ideas and yet I for one have always looked forward to his
submissions to CCNet. Scientists, such as Sir Hoyle, who challenge the
establish dogma on the basis of conviction make a contribution to science
that goes far beyond their established achievements and discoveries because
they pose the questions that stimulate discussion and thought. It is through
'giving a theory a good shake to see what falls out' that revolutions in
understanding often occur.

Matthew Genge
The Natural History Museum
Dr Matthew J. Genge
Researcher (Meteoritics)
Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
Tel: Int + 020 7 942 5581
Fax: Int.+ 020 7 942 5537
Staff internet page


>From BioMedNet, 20 July 2001

by Emily Willingham
Posted July 20, 2001 Issue 108

Maybe life on Earth began somewhere else. Perhaps the seeds of life even
came from outer space. Or so says a theory called panspermia, which
literally means "seeds everywhere." Although this might sound outlandish,
recent discoveries showed some panspermia hypotheses as being closer to fact
than fiction. Nevertheless, you don't have to be an astrobiologist,
cosmologist, or exobiologist to decide which panspermia bandwagon - if any -
to join. A tour of the World Wide Web supplies a flood of information on
panspermia that is as fascinating to wade through as it might be fanciful,
plausible, inevitable, or ridiculous - depending on your point of view.

The origin of life might involve outer space.

Panspermia's roots stretch back to the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, who
documented theories about extraplanetary seeding in the 5th century B.C.
Today, however, historians call Svante Arrhenius the father of panspermia.
He was a Swedish scientist who thought that bacteria might be capable of
intergalactic travel. Contrary to what you might think, Arrhenius was not a
scientific crank. In 1903, he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry, and he is
most famous for his work showing that electrolytes dissociate into ions in
solution even when no current is present. Over the centuries, panspermia
sprouted varied branches of thought. Some scientists, for example,
hypothesized that interstellar bacteria rode a comet's tail that struck
Earth, and then the bacteria germinated in rich, pro-biotic conditions.
Others propose that the source of life on Earth came from a little closer to
home, perhaps from the fourth rock from the sun - Mars - in the form of
meteorites. Still other researchers propose that robotic spacecraft from
beyond our solar system brought life to Earth.

Some top scientists support other-world hypotheses.

If the origin of life makes you think of electrical charges surging through
the artificial primordial soup in the Miller/Urey experiment, then the
concept of panspermia might really stretch the limits of your imagination.
Nevertheless, this hypothesis has attracted some pretty prestigious backers.
For example, Francis Crick of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
endorsed what is known as directed panspermia, a type of "seeding" of the
Earth involving purposeful intent on the part of unidentified
extraterrestrials. Still, the concept that life on Earth sprang from whole
cells arriving here on a cosmic express train hovers at the edges of
accepted scientific thought, regardless of the mechanism proposed for this
extraterrestrial seeding. Two of today's most well-known proponents of
panspermia are Chandra Wickramasinghe and Sir Fred Hoyle, both of Cardiff
University in Wales. Both of these astronomers reported finding living
bacteria in the upper levels of the Earth's atmosphere, which is described
in the Web sites Analysis of Interstellar Dust and Scientists Discover
Possible Microbe From Space. These bacteria, which appeared to be a novel
strain of a common earthbound species, could have been deposited by a comet.
Wickramasinghe and Hoyle also reported that a spectral analysis of "space
dust" revealed a spectral signature specific to organic compounds high in
the Earth's atmosphere, which is described in Cross-Linked Hetero Aromatic
Polymers in Interstellar Dust. Further analysis indicated that this spectral
signature was unique to bacterial components.

Can bacteria survive a meteor ride?

Some scientists maintain that bacteria, or just about anything else,
wouldn't make it to Earth because the force of the impact would destroy
them. Nevertheless, Jennifer Blank of the University of California at
Berkeley has recently demonstrated that short peptide chains can handle such
an impact. Even these short chains provide a viable potential link to
extraplanetary origins of life on Earth. Blank plans to carry her
experiments further by examining how the shock of impact affects bacterial
spores, which are purported to protect bacteria during outer-space travel.
You can read more about this work in Was Johnny Appleseed a Comet? Many
academics argue that the scenario described as panspermia still does not
answer the fundamental question of how life began. Whether life originated
on Earth or elsewhere, it had to originate somewhere, right? Maybe. Hoyle
speculates that life has always existed, which would make any debate about
the origins of life - whether on Earth or beyond the sun - moot. Although
Hoyle coined the phrase The Big Bang, it was while making fun of that
concept; he actually supports the Steady-State Theory, which is an
Aristotelian idea that the universe always existed and always will.

The odds of life always seem small.

How unearthly is the concept that life exists elsewhere in the universe and
traveled across galaxies to land on our lonely little planet? Such
cosmological notables as Carl Sagan did not dismiss the idea out of hand, as
you can see in his article entitled The Search for Extraterrestrial Life.
Instead of searching for life itself, those seriously involved in the search
for extraterrestrial origins seek places amenable to life, places like Earth
where seeds in the form of single cells could take root and grow.
Nevertheless, many scientists point out that the confluence of factors
required to create the kind of complex life we have here on Earth has a very
low likelihood of occurring once, much less twice or several times over, as
explained in galactic habitable zones. If complex life is highly unlikely,
then the likelihood that complex life forms could send spacecraft across the
universe to seed new planets seems even more unlikely. But Crick, in the
book Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, written with Leslie Orgel, also of
the Salk Institute, maintains that the kind of scenario required for life to
originate on Earth is the most unlikely set of circumstances of all. For
example, in the famed Miller/Urey experiments on life's origins, atmospheric
conditions for pre-biotic Earth were assumed to be what has been termed
primordial - lots of ammonia and methane and very little oxygen.
Nevertheless, Earth's early atmosphere might have been oxygen-rich and,
therefore, not conducive to originating life. In addition, Crick says the
Earth is not old enough to have created life. Perhaps on older planets, life
evolved and achieved technical heights beyond our imagination, and seeded
the universe with life via rocket ships.

Mars grabs the headlines on life.

Although "directed panspermia" might get hooted out of the auditorium if any
less-respected scientific figure proposed it, some investigators give more
thought to another idea: Life on Earth Could Have Come From a Mars Rock. In
Tests on Mars Rock Reveal Life Can Jump Between Planets, you can read about
a meteorite that was discovered in Antarctica. Scientists found that the
interior of this rock never got too hot for bacteria to handle, even as it
entered the Earth's atmosphere. As New Life for the "Mars Rock"? explains,
some investigators believe that this meteorite contained bits of Martian
bacteria. The findings that bacteria could travel through space in
comparatively cool conditions added fuel to the panspermia speculation and
made this hypothesis more difficult to dismiss. Nevertheless, many
investigators simply say that panspermia takes too many steps. Moreover,
some think that it fails the basic scientific search for the most
parsimonious explanation of a phenomenon. Still, meteorites from Mars and
proteins surviving space travel make us wonder where the origin of life
might lie. As with any examination of events that took place billions of
years ago, we might never know the real answer. In the end, however, we
might conclude that the truth is even stranger than science fiction.

Emily Willingham is a writer based in Austin, Texas.
Matt Morrow is a freelance illustrator from Omaha, Nebraska.

Copyright 2001, Elsevier Science Limited 2000


>From Andrew Yee <>

Cardiff University
Cardiff, Wales

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe
+44 (0)29 2075 2146   mob: 07778 389243

Embargo: 29 Jul 2001 00:01

New evidence of living bacteria from space

Evidence of living bacterial cells entering the Earth's upper atmosphere
from space has come from a joint project involving Indian and UK scientists.

The first positive identification of extraterrestrial microbial life will be
reported on Sunday, 29 July 2001 at the Astrobiology session of the 46th
Annual SPIE meeting in San Diego, USA by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of
Cardiff University. He will speak on behalf of an international team led by
Professor Jayant Narlikar, Director of the Inter-Universities Centre for
Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India.

Samples of stratospheric air were collected on 21 January 2001 under the
most stringent aseptic conditions by Indian scientists using the Indian
Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) cryogenic sampler payload flown on
balloons from the Tata Institute Balloon Launching facility in Hyderabad.
Part of the samples sent to Cardiff were analysed by a team at Cardiff
University led by Professor David Lloyd and assisted by Melanie Harris.

Commenting on the results, Professor Wickramasinghe said: "There is now
unambiguous evidence for the presence of clumps of living cells in air
samples from as high as 41 kilometres, well above the local tropopause (16
km), above which no air from lower down would normally be transported."

The detection was made using a fluorescent cyanine dye which is only taken
up by the membranes of living cells. The variation with height of the
distribution of such cells indicates strongly that the clumps of bacterial
cells are falling from space. The daily input of such biological material is
provisionally estimated as about one third of a tonne over the entire

This new evidence provides strong support for the Panspermia theory of Sir
Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe.

"We have argued for more than two decades that terrestrial life was brought
down to Earth by comets and that cometary material containing microorganisms
must still be reaching us in large quantities," said Professor


Notes for Editors

1. For a copy of the seven-page report, entitled "The detection of living
cells in stratospheric samples", including images, contact Debra Lewis,
Cardiff University Press Officer on Tel: + 44 (0)29 2087 4499, mobile
   07970 963633.

2. Cardiff University is home to the UK's first Centre for Astrobiology
   [], which provides the UK with a facility to
   contribute to space missions probing for life on solar system bodies. The
   Centre is a joint initiative between the University and the University
   of Wales College of Medicine. The Centre combines research interests in
   astronomy and molecular cell biology to throw light on the emergence and
   development of life in the cosmos and planetary bodies. The work of the
   Centre will also provide information essential for the emergent
   of space medicine.

3. Cardiff University has a history of service to Wales and the world which
   dates from its foundation by Royal Charter in 1883. Today, independent
   government assessments recognise the University as one of Britain's
   leading research and teaching universities. Eighty per cent of academic
   staff are in departments assessed as undertaking work of national and
   international excellence and the University is, by invitation, a member
   of the Russell Group of leading research universities. Twenty-one subject
   areas have been assessed as "Excellent" for teaching, one of the highest
   totals in Britain.


From: Arvind Paranjpye <>
Sent: 30 July 2001 12:48


Copied below is the press release that we sent out today


Arvind Paranjpye
Sci./Tech. Officer
Public Outreach Programme
Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics
Post Bag #4,
Pune 411 007

                                                For Press Release


Evidence of living bacterial cells entering earth's atmosphere from space
has been established from the analysis of data collected by ISRO's cryogenic
sampler payload flown on-board a balloon on 21st January, 2001.

Indian Space Research Organisation developed the cryosampler payload as part
of its Geosphere Biosphere Programme (ISRO-GBP). It is employed to measure
ozone depleting substances in the stratosphere and greenhouse gases in the
troposphere. The first successful flight was conducted in April 1994
followed by two more successful flights in 1998 and 1999. The data from
these experiments were analyzed at PRL/DOS laboratories which led to the
reporting of new findings on the abundances of Methyl Bromide and Sulphur
Hexafluoride in addition to a number of other Montreal Protocol substances.

While this programme continued, Professor J.V. Narlikar of IUCAA and
Professor N.C. Wickramasinghe of Cardiff made a joint request to ISRO to
make available the ISRO's state-of-the-art cryogenic sampler payload in
order to `Test the Presence of Extra-Terrestrial Microorganisms Entering the
Earth's Surface', thus providing an experimental evidence in support
Panspermia theory of Sir Fred Hoyle and propounded over two decades ago.

Consequent to the approval by Government of India, Department of  Space,
ISRO conducted the experiment after developing special highly sterilized
probes together with associated avionics, sophisticated sterilization
systems, etc. from National Scientific Balloon Facility of Tata Institute of
Fundamental Research, Hyderabad on 21st January, 2001. Parts of the samples
are analysed at Cardiff University and the other at Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

The analysis at Cardiff done so far has brought to bear unambiguous evidence
of living cells at several altitude points above troposphere and up to 41
kms. The analysis indicated that about a third of a tonne of
extra-terrestrial bacterial matter enters every day into the earth's
atmosphere possibly forming part of over 100 tonnes of cometary material
that enters earth's atmosphere daily. These results are being reported on
29th July, 2001 at the Astrobiology Session of the 46th Annual SPIE
Conference at San Diego by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe on behalf of
the Indo-UK team of scientists.

While further analysis is in progress both at CCMB and Cardiff, the evidence
so far is indeed dramatic and path breaking and could lead to several
discoveries as to life and diseases from outer space.

This research is conducted by Professor J.V. Narlikar and his team assisted
by Mr. P. Rajaratnam, Project Director of  ISRO's Cryosampler based
Experiments Programme.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note that ISRO's Advisory Committee on
Space Sciences, conceptualized the plan of experimental investigation as to
evidence of extra-terrestrial life forms entering earth's surface around
1990.   Several scientists' teams world over too had similar plans. However,
complexity of the instrumentation required deterred many a scientists group
world over in attempting such experimental investigation which India today
has succeeded through this Indo-UK collaborative programme.


>From Andrew Yee <>

[,3858,4230987,00.html ]

Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Bacteria point to life in outer space
By John Ezard, The Guardian

Scientists from Cardiff University have discovered live bacteria so high in
the earth's atmosphere as to indicate "strongly" that they come from outer

An announcement from the university called them "the first positive
identification" of life existing outside Earth.

The claim was met with scepticism but was not immediately rejected. Doubts
hinge on "a strong possibility" that the micro-organisms will turn out to
come from Earth.

Duncan Steel, reader in space technology at Salford University, said, "Most
scientists would be very dubious. But it is an interesting theory which
deserves verification".

The bacteria were found in air samples collected by altitude balloons, from
a research facility at Hyderabad, India, which went up to 41 kilometres --
twice as high as similar probes launched by NASA.

This took them above the tropopause, the boundary between the troposphere
(the lowest atmospheric level) and the stratosphere.

"There is now unambiguous evidence for the presence of clumps of living
cells in air samples from as high as 41km, well above the tropopause --
above which no air from lower down would normally be transported", said team
leader, Chandra Wickramasinghe, professor of astronomy and applied
mathmatics at Cardiff.

Presenting results at a meeting of the International Society for Optical
Engineering in San Diego, California, Prof Wickramasinghe said, "A prima
facie case for a space incidence of bacteria on to the Earth may have been

Devices on the balloons kept the air samples in sterile conditions to avoid
contamination. A fluorescent dye only absorbed by the membranes of living
cells was used to detect the presence of the organisms.

Electron microscope images showed coral-like clumps of material measuring
between five and 15 micrometres across.

The team said the way that distribution of these in the samples varied with
height indicated that the bacteria had fallen from space rather than risen
from Earth.

This assumption is a point which troubles other scientists. "There is
nothing to show that things cannot be transported upwards in the
atmosphere", one said, "The idea that nothing can be transported over the
tropopause is dubious. But I would love Chandra to be right".

Another Cardiff team member, David Lloyd, said, "What we found look like
normal bacteria. They are the right size and have a cell wall, and it's not
unusual to find bacteria in clumps like this.

"It may be they are just ordinary terrestrial bacteria, but we don't know
how they could have got to these heights."

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001


>From the BBC News Online, 31 July 2001

Space bugs? Other scientists think they probably come from Earth

The claim that alien bacteria had been found high up in the Earth's
atmosphere was greeted with a large degree of scepticism on Tuesday.

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, from Cardiff University, UK, told a
weekend conference that a balloon flight at an altitude of 41 kilometres had
recovered clumps of microbes that most probably had their origin in outer

"They look like terrestrial cells but it's exceedingly unlikely that they
could have been lifted up from the ground in the quantity that we find -
something like 100 bacteria per litre of air," Professor Wickramasinghe

But scientists working in the field of astrobiology - the study of life in
the Universe - said they had yet to be convinced by the Cardiff evidence.

Clusters of cells

Professor Wickramasinghe outlined the findings of joint UK/Indian research
at a meeting of the International Society for Optical Engineering in San
Diego, California, US.

Balloons were sent up from a research facility in Hyderabad to collect
samples of air at high altitudes. The samples were then sent to Cardiff
where microbiologists were able to isolate clusters of cells.

About of a third of a tonne of the "space bugs" fall over the entire planet
each day, Prof Wickramasinghe estimates
"My colleagues have identified these as living cells because they take up a
certain dye and show up as a fluorescent spot on the microscope," Professor
Wickramasinghe said.

"But the team haven't yet been able to culture them and that gives added
confidence that the microbes are something alien. Because, if they were
ordinary run-of-the-mill bacterial contaminants, they would be very easy to

The professor has long argued that comets and space dust probably brought
the seeds of life to Earth. He and the eminent astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle put
forward the so-called Panspermia Theory, which suggests that life, or the
building blocks of life, could be carried to planets by comets or drifting
interstellar dust particles.

Need for publication

However, UK scientists interested in the search for extraterrestrial life
said they would need to see more hard evidence from the experiments before
they could accept the analysis.

Dr Alan Penny, an astronomer from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and a
member of the UK Astrobiology Forum and Network, told the BBC that "there
were unresolved questions about contamination in the experiments". "I think
Chandra is being a bit optimistic," he added.

Experimental error was also highlighted as a potential problem by Professor
John Zarnecki, from the Open University, another network member.

"I would like to be positive but the burning question for me is: how do we
know there is no contamination? Let's see the work published. Let's see it
peer reviewed," he told BBC News Online.

And Professor George Tranter, a biochemist from Imperial College, said: "We
need to see the evidence. They have long-standing theories, which they're
looking to find evidence to support."

Copyright 2001, BBC


>From Andrew Yee <>

>From BBC News Online, 15 August 2001

Astrophysicists say particles swirling around planets could have been
transformed into the building blocks of life by the solar wind, then fallen
to Earth as dust.

A Polish team says it has shown in the laboratory that a biological molecule
is formed when space dust is zapped with a high-energy beam of light.

But other scientists are sceptical about claims that life arrived on this
planet from outer space. Thousands of tonnes of dust from space enter the
Earth's atmosphere each year.

Open question

The astrophysicists, based at Jagiellonian University, say precursors of
life are more likely to have reached Earth in the form of dust than during a
comet impact.

Dust would be more likely to enter the Earth's atmosphere without burning
up, they argue, while any complex biological molecules borne by comet would
be destroyed.

"The formation of terrestrial life is still an open question. It is believed
that abiotic creation of simple biogenic molecules and then later chemical
and physical transformation could lead to the generation of cells and then
contemporary organisms," Professor Lubomir Gabla of Jagiellonian University
told the BBC.

"Some of the molecules synthesised in our experiment have a biologically
active nature," he said.

Space missions

Mark Burchell of the Physics laboratory at the University of Kent at
Canterbury, UK, says that space missions take scientists closer to answering
the question of how life began on Earth.

"The problem in the laboratory is that you always can do things on a bench
top," he told BBC News Online.

"But did it really happen? If you think that you could have generated some
of these building blocks out in space, the thing to do is go out in space
and have a look," he said.

Genesis probe

NASA launched the Genesis mission two weeks ago: an unmanned mission to
collect solar winds and dust.

Its Genesis spacecraft will travel a million miles towards the Sun, open a
lid and expose a series of arrays ready to pick up solar wind particles.

After three years the lid will close and the craft will return to Earth with
about 20 micrograms of solar wind.

It is estimated that around 3,000 tons of interplanetary dust fall to Earth
every year.

The Polish research is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

2001 BBC News


>From American Scientist, September-October 2001

The evidence suggests that a rain of comets brought the Earth its water, its
organic molecules and its atmosphere-key ingredients for life's beginnings

Armand Delsemme

Origin of life, planetology, Hadean, comet impacts, early solar system,
water, protoearth, ocean, atmosphere, Jupiter

The young Earth appear to have been bombarded by comets for several hundred
million years shortly after it was formed. This onslaught, perhaps involving
hundreds of millions of comet impacts, is currently the best explantion for
the origin of the Earth's oceans, atmosphere and organic molecules. Although
historically a controversial idea, there is now a considerable amount of
physical and chemical evidence supporting the theory.  Comet scientist
Armand Delsemme reviews the evidence and argues that comets from the
vicinity of Jupiter contributed the bulk of the constituents found in
Earth's biosphere.

Armand H. Delsemme is an internationally recognized comet scientist who
until 1988 was a professor of astrophysics at the University of Toledo,
Ohio. He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the
origins and chemistry of comets, and has received many honors for his work,
including the Kuiper Prize from the Division of Planetary Sciences of the
American Astronomical Society in 1999. A Sigma Xi member and an avid skier,
he celebrated his 80th birthday in 1998 atop Vail Mountain in Colorado at an
elevation of 11,400 feet (which brought him just a little closer to the
comets). Address for Delsemme: 2509 Meadowwood Drive, Toledo, Ohio 43606.

Copyright 2001, American Scientist


>From Richard Taylor <>

If you are not on the IAU circulation list you may be interested to know of
the following Bioastronomy meeting scheduled for 2002.


International Astronomical Union Symposium 213
Bioastronomy 2002: Life Among the Stars>

Great Barrier Reef, Australia
July 8-12, 2002

Dear Colleague,

This email is to invite you to attend IAU Symposium 213: "Bioastronomy 2002
- Life Among the Stars", to be held on Hamilton Island, on Australia's
tropical Great Barrier Reef. The topics covered will include, but will not
be limited to:

Origin, evolution, and discovery of planetary systems
The solar system
Biogenesis and the astronomical conditions for evolution of life
The search for extra-terrestrial life
Education, outreach and social impact
Where do we go from here?

We are in the process of  inviting a number of leaders in the field to give
invited review talks, and a list of these will be posted on the web shortly.
There will also be contributed oral papers (about 15 min each) and poster
papers. Poster papers will be an important and integral part of the
conference, with allocated conference sessions and ample opportunity for
participants to discuss posters with their presenters in a relaxed and
informal setting.


Hamilton Island, Queensland, Australia, July 8-12 plus a one-day conference
trip to explore the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday July 13. Participants are
advised to arrive no later than Sunday July 7. Conference rates for rooms
apply both prior to the conference and afterwards as well as during the


A block booking of 400 rooms has been made at Hamilton Island's only resort
(there are no other hotels on the island). The rooms are varied from
one-bedroom apartments to Queen-sized twin-bedded hotel rooms, most with an
ocean view, with an average price of around US$100 (or A$200) per night.
Shared rooms will be available for students and those on limited budgets for
as little as US$20 per night.

However, the number of rooms is limited and it is expected that 90% of them
will be booked by December, leaving only limited opportunities for late
registrations. See the www page for more details.


Arrangements are currently being made for charter flights from Sydney
directly into Hamilton Island on Sunday July 7. On other days the number of
seats available commercially are limited to around 150 per day. A special
fare is being negotiated. Further details will appear on the Bioastronomy
web site at <> shortly.


These have not yet been finalised, but are likely to be no more than US$250
for full registration and US$100 for students.


If you wish to be placed on our mailing list, please send your name and
email address to the Local Organising Committee Chair, Carol Oliver, at If you wish to give  a paper, please send an abstract
of about 50-100 words to Carol Oliver, at the same email address. Please
indicate whether you would prefer a poster or oral paper.


For more details see <>
For queries contact Carol Oliver, the LOC chair, on
Prof. Ray P. Norris
Science Organising Committee Chair,
IAU Symposium 213 "Bioastronomy 2002: Life Among the Stars"

Acting Director
CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
PO Box 76 Email:
Epping WWW:
NSW 1710 Phone: +61 2 9372 4416
Australia Fax: +61 2 9372 4310
Mobile: 0417 288 307

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational use
only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
any other purposes without prior permission of the copyright holders. The
fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be found at
DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the articles
and texts and in other CCNet contributions do not  necessarily reflect the
opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the moderator of this network.

CCCMENU CCC for 2001