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Alien Bacteria May Have Landed in India 116

Posted by Zonk
from the quite-the-little-travelers dept.
coastal984 writes "CNN & Popular Science are reporting that a scientist in India believes he may have discovered alien life in water collected from a unusually colored rainstorm. From the article: 'So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India.'"
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Alien Bacteria May Have Landed in India

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  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by 0311 (796591) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:41PM (#15457069) Journal
    ...now even bacteria are being outsourced to India.
  • Um (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hawkbug (94280) <psx@noSpAm.fimble.com> on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:42PM (#15457072) Homepage
    Yeah, or they could be from some mountain top somewhere or from any other number of sources.
    • Because Bacteria from mountaintops don't have DNA. Everyone knows that!
      I think that a low flying flock of alien super-bats was hit by a commet while flying through algae covered red dust and the alien super-bats' blood was sprayed in the air and mutated and now is able to reproduce on it's own to create a new super-bat army.
      • by thc69 (98798)
        ...and now is able to reproduce on it's own to create a new super-bat army.
        It brings to mind the line "...a super race of alien butt babies" -- which I can't seem to remember on what tv show or movie I heard it.

        Er, that was quite the malformed sentence. Yee-haw!
  • by Aging_Newbie (16932) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:44PM (#15457103)
    This story has been surfacing periodically since

    "blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis's home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001"

    but it never seems to reach a conclusion. Precisely why the sample has not been distributed to a variety of scientists continues to amaze me. I would think it would not take too long for a group of scientists to qualify or reject his hypothesis.

    Panspermia is not a bad hypothesis but lack of rigor in evaluating it does little for its credibility.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Precisely why the sample has not been distributed to a variety of scientists continues to amaze me.

      If you bothered to RTFA, you'd notice that it has infact been "been distributed to a variety of scientists" for evaluation. Excerpts for your kind perusal:

      In April, Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that the samples -- water taken from the mysterious blood-colored s

      • Even this is behind the times. NewScientist ran an article on this a few months back, including pictures of the "alien" cells. Several readers then wrote in identifying said cells - IIRC it was some variety of bacterium after all (sadly I don't keep my copies of NS so I couldn't tell you exactly what). Mystery over.

        Grab.
        • This letter (22 April 2006)? [newscientist.com]

          You need to be a New Scientist subscriber to read the full text, but it begins:

          Now that Milton Wainwright and his colleagues have confirmed that the Indian "red rain" cells contain DNA, it seems most likely that they are algae, and as he suggests in his letter, are not in the least mysterious...

          and goes on to say

          Researchers in Kerala suggest that the red rain could be cells of a red-pigmented green alga, Trentepohlia, but there are other likely candidates. The gr

    • Precisely why the sample has not been distributed to a variety of scientists continues to amaze me. I would think it would not take too long for a group of scientists to qualify or reject his hypothesis.

      Exactly what I was thinking as I RTFA.
      Why send a sample to an astronomer? Send it to a molecular biologist who can do DNA testing.
      • by LionMage (318500) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:38PM (#15457644) Homepage
        That's assuming there's any DNA to find. There are many self-replicating molecules in the universe, of which DNA is one kind. If researchers don't find DNA, then the next logical step IMHO is to find evidence of any other self-replicating molecules present inside these "cells."

        Preliminary tests don't seem to indicate the presence of DNA. This shouldn't be the end of the inquiry. Furthermore, repeated testing for the presence of DNA is only so useful; yes, it's good to independently verify results, but after you're satisfied that something isn't there, it's time to find out what is there.
        • Preliminary tests don't seem to indicate the presence of DNA. This shouldn't be the end of the inquiry. Furthermore, repeated testing for the presence of DNA is only so useful; yes, it's good to independently verify results, but after you're satisfied that something isn't there, it's time to find out what is there.

          Absolutely. But this is work for an open-minded biologist, not an agenda-driven astronomer.
          • I'm totally with you, although I should point out that there are many people who work across disciplines. Carl Sagan did some of the initial research on reproducing the earliest building-blocks of life in conditions that mimicked the conditions of the primordial Earth. Sagan is usually remembered as an astronomer, although he was trained as well in the biological sciences, and is one of the earliest exemplars of the field of astrobiology as a result.
        • Even so, you don't send it to an astromomer. Send it to a biologist, a chemist, or, hey, even a biochemist to evaluate. Does this guy go to a lawyer for medical advice (or vice versa)?

          We have yet to determine how he came to the conclusion there is not DNA (he's a solid state physicist). Its really hard to go to any "puddle" of water and not find DNA, even if there aren't any living organisms (just ask anyone who does DNA work how careful they have to be to avoid contaminating samples).
          • Agreed, although there are astronomers and astrophysicists who also dabble in astrobiology, as I pointed out in a response to a sibling comment to yours. Just because someone specializes in one field doesn't mean they don't have a right to diversify and branch out into other fields. Furthermore, what input would a carbon-chauvanist biologist have about a life form that was not recognizable to biologists as "life as we know it?" A biologist can speak authoritatively about biological processes that are und
          • Chemist (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mark_MF-WN (678030)
            I'd say the chemist/biochemist might be the best bet. Really, what is the hallmark of life, other than that it causes unusual chemical reactions to take place? You don't typically see CO_2 turning into sugar when bombarded by sunlight, unless there's a cyanobacteria or something around to do the job. Sugar tends to be fairly stable in O_2 without monsters to catalyze its breakdown. So if you seal up a wee little ecosystem, and catch it changing in some way that is inconsistent with simpler, non-living c
    • You say the story has been surfacing periodically before... any examples of that in a peer-reviewed journal? I skimmed the actual article (in Astrophysics and Space Science which is 13 pages long so won't be copied here) and he basically suggests a couple hypothesis that don't work, i.e. dust, pollen, fungal spores etc. The fact that the cells look like biological cells but have no trace of DNA/RNA is the oddity. If it is terrestrial in origin, then it's something never seen before. Or his tests are wron
    • Precisely why the sample has not been distributed to a variety of scientists continues to amaze me.

      Especially if they are truly multiplying, as hinted in the article.

      OTOH, a meteor (possibly containing much Fe) soars across the sky, burning up as it goes (burning another term for a fast oxydation reaction), and suddenly the rain has a red tinge to it.

      Obviously, there must be some form of life involved, it couldn't be just chemistry.

      And they always told me the reddish water pumped from farm wells was just du
      • So that lettuce that got left in the refrigerator too long, that's really alien bacteria/fungus/whatever turning it reddish and slimy.

        Man... They should send some scientists over to my place... I think I have a whole colony of aliens!
      • The red tint can easily come from bacteria called iron bacteria. I am familiar with water wells and the necessity sometimes for disinfecting and filtering the water before use from those microbes.(having the old lady go medieval on you from her losing a set of all-whites in the wash is a good motivator for research and corrective actions with said infected well :p ) Here is a URL for your perusal on this subject

        http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/wells/ironba cteria.html [state.mn.us]
        • by Anonymous Coward
          except the iron bacteria 1) have DNA and these (apparantly) do not, and 2) iron bacteria have a totally different structure (iron bacteria are elongated, almost like a cigar or wand, while these other cells (?) are oval).
          • I was only commenting on the red tinted water from wells, I have no idea whatsoever on the Indian sky/rain falling bacteria or whatever it is.

            That it fell off and on for a couple of months I *think* would eliminate a rogue meteor and transpermia action*, which would leave wind patterns normal for that time of year picking up dust upwind someplace with a tint to it and/or something like red tide algae from over water, or, less likely but still possible, some sort of extensive black ops missions with
    • "blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis's home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001"

      Note the word "sporadically".
      It seems just a tad peculiar that something extraterrestrial hit Kerala several times, but not anywhere else. Comet fragments were arriving exactly at 24 hour intervals, so as to hit the same spot as the Earth rotated?

    • And here's what the scientists has to say:

      On microscopic examination, the substance was seen to consist of tiny circular particles that resembled spores. The sample was therefore transferred to the microbiology laboratory of the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI). The spores were found to grow well in algal culture medium. The alga was identified as a specie belonging to the genus Trentepohlia. The region in Changanacherry from where the red rain was reported was found to be densely v

    • Well, it's unfortunately not that easy, easy even here on Earth. We're still working out the boundaries of what life is, with discoveries like the mimivirus, nanobes, viroids, and the fact that the Archaea appear to be fantastically abundant in the oceans, yet remain virtually undetectable there. Life is a slippery beast, even when dealing with plain old carbon-based DNA critters. Unless you know what you're looking for, or are looking for something big and colourful and obvious like Euglena in pond wate
  • Rainbows... (Score:3, Funny)

    by talkingpaperclip (952112) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:44PM (#15457104) Homepage
    "...may have discovered alien life in water collected from a unusually colored rainstorm..."

    Last time I checked it was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, not alien bacteria.
    • Last time I checked it was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, not alien bacteria.

      Last time I checked I took the pot of gold. The leprechauns must have replaced it with the aliens.

    • "...may have discovered alien life in water collected from a unusually colored rainstorm..."

      Last time I checked it was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, not alien bacteria.


      Are you sure? Could be a pretty good yoghurt or chese. I'm not willing to allow a cheese gap.
  • by prurientknave (820507) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:44PM (#15457105)
    there was actually another report of red rain in russia two weeks ago. No mention of alien bacteria though.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:45PM (#15457110)

    Much more detail about this phenomenon can be found here [world-science.net] and here [guardian.co.uk].
  • You know this could be the end of life as we know it. If this is "extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space", in time we could be replaced.

    Or perhaps not.

    • Yup, I totally agree that slime that seems to be able to replicate itself could eventually develop into something that could replace us.

      However, history indicates that the time required will be somewhere around 500 million to two billion years, depending on where you draw the line.

      This is not something that keeps me up at night.
    • Re:The End (Score:2, Funny)

      by craXORjack (726120)
      in time we could be replaced.

      Maybe Indians who drank the water were taken over by the alien parasites and are now infiltrating the U.S. on H1-B Visas. So when Chandresh, the new employee, brings in food for everyone in your department, whatever you do, don't eat the red chutney.

  • by objekt (232270) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:52PM (#15457179) Homepage
    H.G. Wells was wrong! They aren't going to be killed by bacteria--THEY *ARE* BACTERIA!

  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:53PM (#15457189) Homepage Journal
    It should be noted (atleast in the new Slashdot "Related Story" section) that this is a continuation of these [slashdot.org] two [slashdot.org] earlier stories published on /. earlier this year.

    It would also be fruitful to mention that that Google turns up these stories with the most obvious of keywords: alien rain India site:slashdot.org [google.com].

    • Not only is it pseudo-science garbage, but it's a pseudo-science garbage double-dupe (or pseudo-science "tripe," for short). After the homeopathy / carpet fuzz / schizophrenia article, I've just about lost all repsect for him. Could someone please take away his rights to post articles in the Science section?
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:57PM (#15457236) Journal
    ..more like "hysterically overblown science with little basis for their hyperbole but it sounds pretty cool..." ie the Weekly World News of Science.

    When you consider that JUST in ONE LAKE (Yellowstone Lake) in a heavily-studied US national park: "...One park biodiversity expert believes that 99% of the park's microbes and 75% of its invertebrates remain undiscovered.", I guess I'd assume that these strange little structures are Earth-generated, before I'd start reaching to outer space for explanations of their origin.

    • Pretty much every issue has some kind of "gee-whiz, look at how cool it is to be a soldier and play with these high tech gadgets," article. BTW, it's no Weekly World News, because Popular Science actually takes itself seriously, whereas WWN, I believe, is in on the joke.
    • ...I would have considered that a gross overestimate for dramatic purposes on the part of the park expert. Within the past year, ice worms were discovered in the Cascades in Washington State, 13 new species of scorpion were found in California, and they've now found that 2.5 km cave system in Israel with who knows how many species that are totally new to science.

      99% of the microbes in Yellowstone Park being undiscovered (or, at least, unidentified) sounds a whole lot more reasonable to me today, and I am co

    • I didn't note any hypebole at all in the article. Sounds like everyone involved has an appropriate amount of skepticism. The one thing that makes it unlikely that this is a case of an as yet undiscovered bacteria is that these red cells don't seem to contain DNA. All life on Earth has DNA as far as we know. If this proves to be life without DNA, that is good evidence that it is not from Earth. Not proof, but certainly evidence.

      -matthew
      • All life on Earth has DNA as far as we know

        Incorrect. Single celled organisms began with RNA, as far as we know, and there are still some surviving lines with this simple architecture. DNA was a major upgrade to RNA. There could be other, pre-RNA versions of information storage that we have yet to find evidence of.

        • What "surviving lines" are you talking about? Do you subscribe to the theory of (some) RNA viruses actually being highly modified descendants to that primordial life, or something else?

          Anyway, one form of life that lacks DNA, and is red, is of course just that - mammalian red blood cells. No nucleus and no mitochondria. And they make a pretty red. I guess an Indian Dracula was hit by a lightning strike (or a flying alien garlic) in mid-air.

    • Frankly, given the fact that outer space is like FIVE TIMES bigger than the Earth, I'd say that Occam's Razor puts the burden of proof squarely on the "It came from Earth" crowd. ;-)

      Five times bigger, folks. That's a lot of space!
  • I, for one, welcome our new microscopic overlords!
  • Sorry. I'm truly sorry. But it had to be said.

    -S
  • It reproduces and it doesn't have DNA?
    OMG! Red goo!!

    Seriously, this could be like the (theoretical) self-replicating clays that supposedly were the precursers to DNA.

  • Where do bacteria go to resolve disputes? The settling chamber. Where do alien bacteria go to resolve disputes? They don't have the right to go to the settling chamber unless they've obtained a legal work visa.
  • More analysis showing possible signs of DNA here:

    http://www.astrobiology.cf.ac.uk/redrain.html [cf.ac.uk]
  • "One scientist who posted a message on Louis's website described it as 'bullshit'."

    Ouch.

    From: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1723 913,00.html [guardian.co.uk]
  • in water collected from a unusually colored rainstorm

    Isn't water basically clear? So aren't rainstorms basically clear as well?

    This sounds more like an article referring to a show on SciFi Channel, than something I should be tuning into National Geographic to watch.

  • If extraterrestrial germs indeed, that would be one hell of a stink comet. That would a holly molly rottenest thing ever.
  • Activate... (Score:3, Funny)

    by idontgno (624372) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:50PM (#15457760) Journal
    Wildfire Complex [wikipedia.org]
  • So has anyone checked to see how the "cells" the weren't collected are doing in the wild? Do they multiply there? Turn whole lakes red?

    -matthew
  • This is just like insect evidence from their planet. More will be coming. The government know about it has entered negotiations.

    Believe it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:45PM (#15458215)
    Wikipedia article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rain_of_Kerala [wikipedia.org]
  • Presigious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Friday June 02, 2006 @06:18PM (#15458434) Homepage
    The article claims that the study was published in the "presigious" journal, Astrophysics and Space Science. I'm an astronomer and I've never heard of it. And yes, this does matter: a major find like ET life will have journals like Science and Nature tripping over themselves to publish it. Every step down from there is an indiciation that someone didn't think that the research was reasonable. Of course, the fact that this is a solid-state physicist who published this and not, say, a biologist is disturbing, too.

    Also, I'm going to be a bit junior-high here and point out that "Astrophysics and Space Science" has a very unfortunate acronym and must be difficult to cite with its abbreviation.
    • The online journal appears to be here [springerlink.com].

      Whether it is pretigious or not, I leave to people who know more than I.

    • The journal is published by springer. which has journals I have heard of, at least in the physical and material science area. You may have a point, however, that a physicist, and a journal reviewed by physicsist, may not be best judge of biological issues.
      • Knowing who the publisher is doesn't equate to having heard of the journal. It's the journal's proported prestige (I didn't use that word to describe it, the original article did) that I question, not that it's a legitimate publication.
  • "Other theories have implicated fungal spores, red dust swept up from the Arabian peninsula, even a fine mist of blood cells produced by a meteor striking a high-flying flock of bats."

    Now wait just a goddamn minute.

    A flock of bats!? I think it's time to have F5 Industries figure out exactly how many bats, of what type, struck by a meteor of what size and velocity, are needed to create a fine red mist across a chunk of land that size.

    • I think it's time to have F5 Industries figure out exactly how many bats, of what type, struck by a meteor of what size and velocity, are needed to create a fine red mist across a chunk of land that size.

      Huh? I.. I don't know that. AAAAAaaaahh!!! [thrown off bridge]
  • Repost (Score:1, Redundant)

    by sydbarrett74 (74307)
    This is the third time I've seen this article in several months..really, can't moderators be bothered to do a quick archive search to see if a story has already been posted?
  • by reezle (239894) on Friday June 02, 2006 @08:54PM (#15459425) Homepage
    http://arxiv.org/ftp/astro-ph/papers/0312/0312639. pdf [arxiv.org]

    He goes into quite a bit of detail about the test they ran on these bugs. Pretty interesting stuff.
  • Do cryptologists get to look at the gene sequences of these bacteria?
  • Alien bacteria in India? Maybe that's why I get the chronic shits everytime I go there.

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