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Fossil found in meteorite

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#1 Kon Dealer

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 07:14 AM

A very interesting paper has just been published in the
"Journal of Cosmology".
Can be downloaded at http://wattsupwithth...a-meteorite.pdf

Quick reading gives me doubts- e.g. Fig 4.
They really need to show a profile of material from where the meteorite was collected. Is it different or similar?
i.e. I don't believe a proper control has been provided.
I would reject publication on this alone.

But what if this fossil IS extraterrestrial?

#2 Ravenous

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 08:20 AM

Initial reaction: too good to be true.

Wait a few weeks for more people to look at the OTHER bits. (Note that the sample was a fragment of the meteorite supplied by another party.)

#3 D_talley

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 08:44 AM

What a poorly written paper! It is clear that they are jumping to conclusions.

1. Did they take a sample of the area were the meteorite fell to see if there are diatoms in the soil to contaminate the meteorite?

2 Have they taken other samples of the meteorite to see if there are other signs of the fossils?

3. Have samples been examined by a third party?

4. Where are the photos of the Red Rain that they claim are simular to the fossils?

5. I would like to see clearly detailed photos of the meteorite and the sites they chose to examine under the microscope. At the moment I have no point of reference to show what they are looking at. I can't tell if it is a piece of dirt picked up with the meteorite.

#4 Ravenous

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 08:52 AM

Having read the paper a bit more, I'll correct the comment I made about the supply of the sample. The paper DOES name the person who sent the sample.

Still looks too good to be true though. Also a quick web search for the name of the journal immediately revealed some other controversial items published in the past.

So I'm still very doubtful. Reminds me of the infamous worms in the ALH84001 (or whatever it was) meteorite.

#5 Ravenous

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:01 AM

Also, can they prove a meteorite (if that's what this one is) did not originate from the surface of the Earth in the first place? (They seem sure it's from an old comet, but I have no idea how you'd prove or disprove either case.)

#6 Kon Dealer

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:45 AM

Quote from the paper
"Diatom fossils of a wide range of types are found (sic) marine sediments dating back to the Cretaceous Tertiary boundary 65 million years ago"

There was a large marine impact event 65 million year ago. It was probably responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Who knows how much material was ejected into space?

#7 dickbill

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 01:26 PM

hmmm...the iss uses to trash everything in the stratosphere. What did the astronaut eat recently?

#8 llanitedave

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 01:27 PM

Diatoms predate the K-T event. They've been around since at least the Jurassic. They are planktonic, specialized sea creatures. They're photosynthetic eukaryotes, which means they're highly advanced biologically, and require abundant sunlight to survive. Even if one were to make the argument that life could be carried by comets, to assert that the life happened to consist of a highly evolved sun-dependant ocean specialist (living on primordial ice in the Kuiper belt?) is a bit ridiculous.

Kon's point seems a bit unlikely, but it's far more plausible that small chunks from some terrestrial impact were launched into solar orbit(or even high Earth orbit) and are occasionally returning, than that fossil diatoms would have been carried by a comet from the outer reaches of the solar system.

The most likely possibility in my view is that the rock is not a meteorite at all.

#9 Kon Dealer

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 01:50 PM

Diatoms predate the K-T event. They've been around since at least the Jurassic. They are planktonic, specialized sea creatures. They're photosynthetic eukaryotes, which means they're highly advanced biologically, and require abundant sunlight to survive. Even if one were to make the argument that life could be carried by comets, to assert that the life happened to consist of a highly evolved sun-dependant ocean specialist (living on primordial ice in the Kuiper belt?) is a bit ridiculous.


Kon's point seems a bit unlikely, but it's far more plausible that small chunks from some terrestrial impact were launched into solar orbit(or even high Earth orbit) and are occasionally returning, than that fossil diatoms would have been carried by a comet from the outer reaches of the solar system.

The most likely possibility in my view is that the rock is not a meteorite at all.


I didn't say this.
What I said was who knows how much material was ejected into space at the KT event?
I believe this "meteorite" is not derived from a comet, rather ejecta from Earth, eventually finding its way back.

As a biochemist, who has published in the area of photosynthesis I agree absolutely with llantedave that photosynthetic eukaryotes are highly unlikely to survive/exist in/on comets.

Hence an earthly origin

#10 Rick Woods

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:16 PM

So I'm still very doubtful. Reminds me of the infamous worms in the ALH84001 (or whatever it was) meteorite.


Ravenous,

ALH84001 is still very much an open issue. There's nothing infamous about it; there are just a lot of people who aren't convinced by the evidence. But then, a lot of people are. We need more information.

I haven't read this paper yet; I'll download it tonight. But just the idea is exciting!

#11 TVG

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 10:07 PM

Even if the meteorite contained lifeforms that were ejected from our planet 65 million years ago, would it still be classified as extraterrestrial? It has existed in space for 65 million years and succumbed to all sorts of evolutionary possibilities. Relatively speaking, everything we know of came from a planet or star or big bang or etc.... at some point, where do astrobiologist draw the line? :question:

Todd

#12 llanitedave

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:46 AM

Well in this case, there are no evolutionary possibilities because the organisms in question are dead.

#13 Glassthrower

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 02:08 AM

Journal of Cosmology is well known in the planetary science community....as being the National Enquirer in the world of science journals. It is not peer reviewed. It does not exist in print. It has a history of publishing poorly written papers by authors with dubious credentials.

FWIW, no fossils have ever been found in meteorites, ALH 84001 included. ;)

#14 Rick Woods

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 02:12 AM

FWIW, no fossils have ever been found in meteorites, ALH 84001 included.


Ah, Mike, you seem so sure.
You have access to information that nobody else has?

#15 Kon Dealer

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:49 AM

Even if the meteorite contained lifeforms that were ejected from our planet 65 million years ago, would it still be classified as extraterrestrial? It has existed in space for 65 million years and succumbed to all sorts of evolutionary possibilities. Relatively speaking, everything we know of came from a planet or star or big bang or etc.... at some point, where do astrobiologist draw the line? :question:

Todd


Todd, it is not living, rather a fossil.
Just how old will need to be determined by radioisotope dating and/or comparative studies of the cell wall (frustule) wih living and extinct species.
There will be no evolution for a eucaryotic cell, in space, that requires an environment with carbon dioxide, oxygen liquid water, plus an above zero degrees C environment to live.

#16 Ravenous

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 06:40 AM

comparative studies of the cell wall (frustule) wih living and extinct species

That's another thing I thought looked dodgy - they show pictures of the diatom and pictures of a known species and seem to imply (not directly state) that it's the same. They look very different in some structural details to me (shape of the ridges around the mid-length). I'm not claiming it is not a diatom, but I do think they seem to be rushing to identify it with a known species. I can't blame them for not being experts on these sorts of creatures (I would guess there are lots of species and a specialist would be needed to identify it) but I am concerned they seem to be jumping to conclusions.

Oh another thing: I think they are too assertive at the end where they seem to think comets carried life to Earth. (If that's what cometary panspermia means - I haven't read the four references they make at that statement.) If comets are carrying these (alive), we would expect to find similar diatoms like this much earlier in the fossil record.

#17 Jarad

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 07:43 AM

If it was exactly like a diatom, that would strongly argue for it being from earth. Diatoms were not the first life forms on earth - if something did seed life on earth, the "seeds" weren't diatoms, they were something much simpler, similar to archaebacteria.

Jarad

#18 deSitter

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:28 AM

Quote from the paper
"Diatom fossils of a wide range of types are found (sic) marine sediments dating back to the Cretaceous Tertiary boundary 65 million years ago"

There was a large marine impact event 65 million year ago. It was probably responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Who knows how much material was ejected into space?


I do - lots!

-drl

#19 Glassthrower

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:36 AM

I have to agree that if any microbial lifeforms or fossils are found inside a meteorite, they will likely be a result of contamination.

The author is welcome to contact me and I will put him in touch with a reputable planetary scientist who will analyze his sample to verify the results. Personally, I have doubts whether the author's specimen is a meteorite. It has terrestrial characteristics and the first step would be to microprobe this rock and rule out a terrestrial origin.

#20 llanitedave

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 10:55 AM

I have to agree that if any microbial lifeforms or fossils are found inside a meteorite, they will likely be a result of contamination.

The author is welcome to contact me and I will put him in touch with a reputable planetary scientist who will analyze his sample to verify the results. Personally, I have doubts whether the author's specimen is a meteorite. It has terrestrial characteristics and the first step would be to microprobe this rock and rule out a terrestrial origin.


Just from the picture alone the texture looked more like travertine to me. The publication said that there was olivine in the sample, and if so it wasn't travertine, but at this point I'm not really inclined to accept any of their so-called analysis.

#21 Glassthrower

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 11:19 AM

Every so often, somebody will claim to find evidence of extraterrestrial life in a meteorite. In every case, the findings were ruled out because the "proof" turned out to be terrestrial contamination.

Keep in mind, up until very recently, most museums and institutions did not observe any clean protocols in regards to storing and handling meteorites. Ideally, for research purposes, meteorite samples should be stored in an atmosphere of inert gas and should not be exposed or handled without using full protective protocols to avoid contamination. NASA's JSC does a fine job of this.

All old meteorites, including Orgueil and other meteorites from the 19th century or earlier, are hopelessly contaminated. They are essentially useless for research of the type being discussed here.

Times are changing, for the better though. The recent Sutter's Mill carbonaceous fall resulted in the recovery of fresh specimens by NASA-affiliated teams - many of these were recovered before rains and oxidation, and were handled and stored using clean protocols. These specimens have only minimal contamination and would be useful for studies involving the search for extra-terrestrial life.

At least one respected and experienced meteorite hunter recently visited Sri Lanka to investigate this alleged new fall. He was unable to locate a single genuine specimen of the meteorite, despite being offered hundreds of terrestrial rocks, slags, and imposters by locals. He has expertise in working with locals and coordinating searches. He also has an experienced eye. It was his determination that no meteorites have been recovered in Sri Lanka from this new fall (if a fall actually happened). And if a meteorite did fall in Sri Lanka during December 2012, any specimens recovered there would be hopelessly contaminated for research purposes.

Until the author's specimen is officially recognized by the Meteoritical Society, it is not a meteorite. It cannot be published in any reputable peer-reviewed journal until it has been approved by NonCom and published in the Meteoritical Bulletin. This would require that a type sample of the specimen be submitted to a reputable institution for analysis. Until this happens, the author has a common Earth rock and nothing more.

#22 TVG

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 12:03 PM

So comets are not able to sustain life on a small scale, even with close passes/orbits to stars like our sun, no matter how brief the pass? Or are you saying this particular life form can be dated to have been fossilized here on Earth before ejection, how can one tell the difference? This is all very fascinating and I am obviously new to this, so please try not to make my head explode.

#23 Jarad

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:54 PM

Comets are frozen, so they cannot support life as we know it. Life as we know it here on earth (which includes diatoms) requires liquid water, gaseous or aqueous O2 or CO2 (depending on whether it burns sugars or uses photosynthesis to make sugars), and for photosynthesis a decent amount of sunlight (more than is available out where comets spend their time).

If some form of life evolved on a comet that could live in frozen ice and gasses at temperatures near absolute zero, it would not be able to live on earth.

Jarad

#24 TVG

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 02:07 PM

So a comet's mass is not sufficient enough to store the required heat for life or liquid water even if it has a short periodic orbit around our sun. Could life not exist within these constraints, even if it meant a period of hibernation? Perhaps when the comet's orbit increases or decreases its' distance from the sun, freezing and thawing would cause periods of thriving life or hibernation?

Todd

#25 Jarad

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 03:09 PM

The problem is that it doesn't thaw, it sublimates. Frozen water in a vacuum goes straight from ice to gas. The part of the comet that survives the close pass is the part that is made of rock and the ice that stayed frozen. There is never a point where there is liquid water environment on it for life as we know it (like diatoms) to live in.

Jarad






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