Chandra Wickramasinghe

14 April 2020

At … an interview conducted by Dr Predrag Slijipcevic of Brunel University in Hillingdon in west London. Chandra Wickramasinghe, on the other hand, hails from Sri Lanka and was educated at the Royal College in Colombo and the University in Ceylon. He later attended Cmbridge University and his tutor was none other than Fred Hoyle. He went on to co-author a number of books with Hoyle and a mountain of scientific papers. In all he has published 350 papers – many of them published in Nature.

The interview was conducted on 5th April and goes some way to describe his collaboration with Hoyle who he regards as an important astronomer and astro physicist, not always regarded as such in the modern politics of academia. He says there is scarcely any area of modern astronomy that does not rely on some of his work – at the deepest level. He demonstrated that we are all made of star stuff – atoms of carbon, oxygen, niotrogen, phosphorus etc. He said this was the first step in unlocking our genesis. The next step taken by Holye was in collaboration with Wickramasinghe – the idea of Panspermia. The transition from non life to life has never been discovered in spite of 50 years of experimentations.

It all  began with interstellar dust. This was thought at the time to be icy (similar to ice crystals in cumulus clouds in the atmosphere of the earth). Panspermia was born when Wickramasinghe discovered cosmic dust was mainly composed of carbon. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe disputed the idea that life began in a primordial soup on earth. By 1982 astronomers were finding carbonaceous dust everywhere in the universe – in particular in comets. Seeds of life in the form of bacteria, viruses, and viral genes are distributed thoughout the cosmos and have been assembled into living forms on habitable planets such as the earth (or that is the basic idea). There is no mention of any role plasma and ionisation might play in the process but presumably that can be integrated into the panspermia model. Likewise, although it is recognised that many of the building blocks of life could have arrived from space exactly how they transition into living things, even simple RNA or DNA, is still not understood – which is where plasma may play a role. In spite of that the interview goes on to illustrate how panspermia came into being and the realisation of the role of comets and asteroids in the delivery of life. Even the discovery of bacteria in rocks about 4.2 billion years of age coincided with a cometary bombardment of the earth. The Cambrian Explosion (much later) also came in the wake of a cometary or asteroidal bombardment of the earth. One might also note that other major geological boundary events may also have come about as a result of a cosmic interloper – including the K/T boundary event. These were followed by a flurry of new life forms and innovations. The point he is making is that encounters with cosmic objects can introduce new life forms (in some manner, if only an adaptation of older life forms), but such encounters can also be destructive – by introducing new viruses. He has previously compared the 1918 flu epidemic with disease with an origin from space – and one may also bracket the bird flu epidemic of a few years ago (spread through the atmosphere) as having a similar origin. What he says about corona 19 is possibly something he should have not said until after the effects had dissipated and people were more open to such ideas – but he is now on record as making a claim that it had an origin in space (in a meteor that exploded over China in the vicinity of Wahun last November). I will leave readers to continue on this theme by reading the interview for themselves.  

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