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March 5, 2006 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Red Rain of Kerala "A red rain phenomenon occurred in Kerala, the place where I live, during July-September 2001. The characteristics of this phenomenon were very strange. Conventional explanations appeared totally inadequate to account for this phenomenon." Could this red dust be evidence of comet-borne life? More
posted by John of Michigan (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The abstract and fulltext of Louis and Kumar's trip to White Castle paper, published in Astrophysics and Space Science, is available here. I haven't read it yet but I'm about to. It's also the cover story of New Scientist, this month, although one needs to be a subscriber to read the article. (I suppose one could find an actual hard copy, gasp.)

This is actually very very interesting. My first instinct was crackpottery, but it looks pretty exciting. Thanks, John.
posted by blacklite at 4:09 PM on March 5, 2006

Mars needs women rubbers galoshes.
posted by rob511 at 4:23 PM on March 5, 2006

I like how it gets stranger and stranger:

It's tough to explain, however, how 50 tonnes of mammal blood could have ended up in rain clouds. Cockell takes a wild guess that maybe a meteor explosion massacred a flock of bats, splattering their blood in all directions. India is home to around 100 species of bats, which sometimes fly to altitudes of 3 kilometres or more. "A giant flock of bats is actually a possibility - maybe a meteor airburst occurred during a bat migration," he says. "But one would have to wonder where the bat wings are."

posted by vacapinta at 4:25 PM on March 5, 2006

However, if scientists have a favourite quote, it's this one, popularised by Carl Sagan: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". I'm hearing it a lot in discussions about the red rain of Kerala. Grady thinks Louis and Kumar have jumped to the extraterrestrial conclusion far too quickly. "They seem to prefer the most bizarre explanation they could find," agrees Charles Cockell at the Open University, who studies the microbiology of extreme rocky environments.

Smells like crackpottery to me. Evidence for panspermia would certainly be very interesting, but the agenda:science ratio here looks very much like that found in the intelligent design community, to me.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:40 PM on March 5, 2006

They seem to prefer the most bizarre explanation they could find

...as opposed to more logical and sane explanations like meteorites smashing into giant flocks of bats.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2006

Fascinating FPP John of Michigan. Thank you.

Many years ago I was doing research about unusual phenomena and came across historical reports about bizarre rainfalls. Now there is a bit on the web about strange rain, not only strange colors but also rains of various creatures.

BBC News wrote in 2001 about the rain fall in Kerala that there were other colors, not only red: "Soon, a similar phenomenon was reported from eight other districts of the state. These areas witnessed spells of green, yellow, brown and black rains."

And songs to go with the event.
posted by nickyskye at 6:36 PM on March 5, 2006

How come none of this stuff happens where I live?
posted by Talanvor at 7:44 PM on March 5, 2006

Doesn't anyone find it kinda odd that the second link is actually from the Public Enemy (as in the rap group) site? Scientist these days.

Actually I live on the western slope of the rockies, we get mud rain or even snow when storms approach from the lower desert regions. These will drop some weird colored precipitation then when it dries out cars, streets, houses are covered in usually rusty colored mud and dust. Oh wait, we have bats too. . .
posted by cdavidc at 8:32 PM on March 5, 2006

It's on the Public Enemy site because it's the full version of the New Scientist article... for free!
posted by adzm at 8:41 PM on March 5, 2006

Lord, that's weird, and interesting to boot. They look like little red blood cells, as one critic pointed out, but red blood cells sure don't have a cell wall like these guys do!
posted by greatgefilte at 9:15 PM on March 5, 2006

In the Balearic Islands, we get red rain a few times a year. The aliens have a cover story about sandstorms in North Africa kicking up red dust that gets carried across the sea by strong winds. It's good to finally hear the truth. I'll be sure to wear my tinfoil suit next time I have to clean it up. I wouldn't want to get any panspermia on me.
posted by fuzz at 12:08 AM on March 6, 2006

How come none of this stuff happens where I live?

Yes, this is a story about red dust. Or red pollen. Or red spores. Red whatever. But red something from Earth.

And if there were 50,000 tons of it, someone must have a sample that we could analyze now and verify this, right? And level-headed scientists would wait a few days for the results before putting anything on the front cover of a magazine, right? But New Scientist wanted a cool article for the front page, so instead of waiting for test results that could have resulted in an "India Gets A Bit Dustier" article, they published a supposition about alien life falling in a storm:
In the next few weeks, the mystery of Kerala's red rain may finally be solved. Louis sent samples to Wickramasinghe's lab in Cardiff last month. As New Scientist went to press, he and Wainwright were still analysing them.
Or is this their April 1 edition?
posted by pracowity at 12:54 AM on March 6, 2006

I prefer the explanation of a meteor smashing into a flock of bats, if only for the reason that it would create a really cool Superman / Batman cross-over involving Kryptonite bats.
posted by sebas at 1:10 AM on March 6, 2006

Talanvor: It gets even worse. Kerala became this cool only when I moved out of that hicksville.
posted by the cydonian at 5:58 AM on March 6, 2006

It's on the Public Enemy site because it's the full version of the New Scientist article... for free! stolen!
posted by raedyn at 6:18 AM on March 6, 2006

Meteor smashing into bats airwhale.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:46 AM on March 6, 2006

Obviously Chuck Norris got bored during his airplane trip
posted by qvantamon at 9:38 AM on March 6, 2006

Also: pink snow in Moscow.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:03 AM on March 19, 2006

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