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"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse


2.23.2004

Panspermia 

Nature has an article on the work of William Napier, an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland. Napier is interested in so-called panspermia theories which claim that life migrates across galatic scales, carried on frozen bits of space dust, in comets, and meteorites. While this theory isn't particularly new - co-discoverer of DNA Frances Crick has been a long-time adherent - Napier has revised and updated the theory to address common claims that any such life would be quickly destroyed by radiation in space.
A grain less than a tenth of a millimetre across would still be capable of carrying microscopic life, says Napier. And the pressure of sunlight can quickly blow grains this small out of the solar system. The same force might one day propel spacecraft through the cosmos.

Such a grain could travel about six light years from Earth in 70,000 years - far enough to reach other stars. We could be surrounded by a huge 'biodisk' of frozen organisms floating on grains of rock, says Napier, all of which can wander in and out of our solar system quite easily. "The solar system is as leaky as a sieve," he says.

Compare this with Terence McKenna's theory that the spores of hallucinogenic mushroom species Psilocybe cubensis originated extra-terrestrially.
"I think in a hundred years if people do biology they will think it quite silly that people once thought that spores could not be blown from one star system to another by cosmic radiation pressure."


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