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A red rain's a-gonna fall...
November 14, 2006 1:20 PM   Subscribe

The latest on the so-called "Red Rain of Kerala." The authors of this study suggest the mysterious red biological material provides evidence of Panspermia. The BBC offers this updated look at the topic. (Previously discussed here on MeFi.)
posted by saulgoodman (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Red Rain in Kerala. The "official" finding is it is algae pulled up from the ocean.
posted by stbalbach at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2006


Um... wow. That's pretty interesting.

Isn't it pretty easy to find out if there's DNA? Just run a polymerase chain reaction and see if it replicates?

And algae has DNA, doesn't it? It's single-celled life...
posted by zoogleplex at 2:26 PM on November 14, 2006


zoogleplex: Yeah, you'd think. I found this tidbit in the wikipedia article that stbalbach cited interesting.


A sample of the rain was also sent to Cardiff University for analysis by noted panspermia proponent Chandra Wickramasinghe. Wickramasinghe has reported that “work in progress has yeilded [sic] positive for DNA”.


Hope the guy's better at sequencing amino acids than spelling.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2006


[this is good]

I don't go for any of that sasquatch or UFO stuff, but panspermia via extremophiles is my favorite fringe theory!
posted by ernie at 2:44 PM on November 14, 2006


Heh yeah. Although, just sending a sample of the rain might get you a positive DNA from anywhere on earth, if you just test the raw sample. Lots of other organisms in the atmosphere. You'd have to isolate out the spores in a sterile solution before doing any testing, right?
posted by zoogleplex at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2006


So how can I get some?
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:08 PM on November 14, 2006


Panspermia = Earth bukkake?
posted by dhartung at 3:21 PM on November 14, 2006


Wow. Has there ever been a phenomenon more terribly named then panspermia?
posted by Alex404 at 4:06 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Isn't it pretty easy to find out if there's DNA? Just run a polymerase chain reaction and see if it replicates?

Don't think they didn't try to at least indirectly test for it. They ran a test to stain the cell nucleus, but that didn't receive conclusive results that point to these cells having compact nuclei like terrestrial cells. In some cases, the stain didn't even get past the outer layers of the cells.

Read the whole paper for their detailed procedure.

Here's a tantalizing quote from the last paragraph:

"As further supporting work we have investigated the growth conditions and the reproduction techniques of the red rain extremophiles. We will be reporting immediately the extraordinary results of this study in another paper."
posted by taursir at 6:06 PM on November 14, 2006


Reminds me of the (possibly related, if the red rain isn't actually Space Bukkake) recent discovery about the Bodélé depression's dust contributions (previously on mefi).
posted by hattifattener at 8:10 PM on November 14, 2006


As further supporting work we have investigated the growth conditions and the reproduction techniques of the red rain extremophiles. We will be reporting immediately the extraordinary results of this study in another paper.
posted by dreamsign at 12:17 AM on November 15, 2006


Someone better post that other paper when it comes out!
posted by taursir at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2006


This is clearly the first stage of being Chtorraformed.
posted by flaterik at 11:49 PM on November 15, 2006


This paper reports the extraordinary biology of the microorganisms from the mysterious red rain of Kerala, India. These chemosynthetic organisms grow optimally at an extreme high temperature of 300 degrees C in hydrothermal conditions and can metabolize inorganic and organic compounds including hydrocarbons. Stages found in their life cycle show reproduction by a special multiple fission process and the red cells found in the red rain are identified as the resting spores of these microbes. While these extreme hyperthermophiles contain proteins, our study shows the absence of DNA in these organisms, indicating a new primitive domain of life with alternate thermostable genetics. This new biology proves our earlier hypothesis that these microbes are of extraterrestrial origin and also supports our earlier argument that the mysterious red rain of Kerala is due to the cometary delivery of the red spores into the stratosphere above Kerala.

Sound very interesting. But... saying "This new biology proves our earlier hypothesis" seems a bit odd. Doesn't real science rather use language like "provides strong evidence for"?
posted by Anything at 8:44 AM on December 4, 2006


Hmmm... aren't the phrases "extreme hyperthermophiles" and "lives on comets" kind of incongruous? Isn't this flagrant contravention of Occam's Razor? What about when it rains frogs? Sheesh, if you guys would just read the Bible more you would know about these things. </kidding, just kidding.>
posted by XMLicious at 11:23 PM on December 4, 2006


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