CCNet 131/2000 - 12 December 2000

"It is a major step in Britain's participation in the extrasolar
planet-hunting business."
   --Hugh Jones, Liverpool John Moores University, 11 December 2000

"Improved satellite coverage will make it possible to collect these
data over all of Earth`s 600 potentially active volcanoes weekly or
even daily, allowing researchers to forecast volcanic events to a much
greater degree than is currently possible."
       --Paul Segall, Stanford University, 11 December 2000

"The recent discovery of two long-lost cities off the coast of Egypt
has been hailed as one of the most exciting finds in the history of marine
archaeology. But the location of the sunken cities of Menouthis and
Herakleion might have remained a mystery if not for a unique
collaboration among scientists, archaeologists and underwater explorers.
'These ancient cities disappeared more than 1,500 years ago,' says
geophysicist Amos Nur, the Wayne Loel Professor of Earth Sciences.
'Offshore geophysical surveys led to their discovery, and earthquakes
may have been responsible for their demise."
--Mark Shwartz, Standford University, 11 December 2000

    Andrew Yee <>

    Space Weather News for Dec. 11, 2000


    Stanford News Service <>

    Stanford News Service <>

    National, 8 December 2000

    Larry Klaes <lklaes@BBN.COM>

    Andy Smith <>

    Andrew Glikson <>


From Andrew Yee <>

Anglo-Australian Observatory
PO Box 296
Epping NSW 1710

11 Dec 2000

Anglo-Australian Telescope Finds New Planets

Three planets have been found around distant stars by scientists from the
Anglo-Australian Observatory and nine institutions in the UK and USA, using
a new high-precision system on the 4-m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) near
Coonabarabran, NSW. They are the first planets to be discovered from

Forty-six other extrasolar planets have been found since 1995. None are
believed to be capable of supporting life.

Most planet searches have been able to find only planets more massive than
Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System. "As a result searches are
picking up all the weird giant planets first," says team leader Dr Chris
Tinney of the Anglo-Australian Observatory.

The new planets were found around nearby stars within 150 light-years of

The smallest is a kind planet hunters call a 'hot Jupiter'. It has a mass at
least 84% that of Jupiter's but lies scorchingly close to its parent star,
far closer than Mercury does to the Sun. Its 'year' is a mere three Earth

The middle-weight planet lies in an Earth-like orbit inside the 'habitable
zone' where liquid water could exist. But the planet itself is not
Earth-like: weighing at least 1.26 Jupiter masses it is almost certainly a
Jupiter-like gas giant. It takes a leisurely 426 days to complete the voyage
around its star, epsilon Reticulum in the constellation of the Net.

The third planet is another gas giant, of at least 1.86 Jupiter masses. Its
orbit extends just a bit further from its star than Mars does from the Sun
and it takes 743 days to crawl around its star, mu Ara, in the constellation
of the Altar.

Since 1998 the AAT search has looked at 200 nearby stars in the southern
sky. There are probably more planets in the pipeline, says Dr Tinney. "In
three years you can catch only the short-period planets," he explains. "To
pick up ones with longer orbits you have observe for a few more years."

The AAT search complements searches of the northern sky being done by
veteran planet hunters Drs Geoffrey Marcy, Paul Butler and Michel Mayor.

Both these and the AAT search use the 'Doppler wobble' technique. As an
unseen planets orbits a distant star it tugs on it, causing the star to move
back and forth in space. That wobble can be detected by the 'Doppler shift'
it causes in the star's light.

"The AAT search is the most sensitive search in the Southern Hemisphere,"
says team member Dr Alan Penny of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.
"It can detect planets moving at only 10 ms**-1 -- the speed of a
world-class sprinter."

The precision comes from simple glass tube containing specks of iodine, and
"a bunch of clever software" written by Dr Paul Butler, says Dr Tinney.

Heating the glass cell turns the iodine to a purple gas. Starlight passing
through the gas has its spectrum modified. This 'reference' spectrum is then
compared with unmodified starlight. "This helps us get much of the junk out
of the spectrum," Dr Butler explains.

Seeing wobbling stars directly is the next step in planet hunting. That job
will fall first off to the Very Large Telescope Inteferometer (VLTI) now
being built in Chile and NASA's Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), due to
launch in 2009. SIM will spend five years probing nearby stars for
Earth-sized planets. "The AAT will provide target lists for the VLTI and
SIM," says Dr Tinney.

Is it worth finding more planets? Absolutely, says Dr Butler. "It will be at
least five years before we find enough planets to even begin making sensible
guesses about the whole population out there."

But the planets found to date are so different from those in the Solar
System that theories of planet formation have been "turned on their head,"
he adds.

The members of the AAT planet search team are: from Australia, Dr Chris
Tinney (Anglo-Australian Observatory); from the UK, Drs Hugh R. A. Jones
(Liverpool John Moores University), Alan J. Penny (Rutherford Appleton
Laboratory) and Mr Kevin Apps (University of Sussex); and from the US, Drs
R. Paul Butler (Carnegie Institution of Washington), Geoffrey W. Marcy
(University of California Berkeley), Steven S. Vogt, (University of Colorado
and University of California Santa Cruz) and Gregory W. Henry (Tennessee
State University).

The Anglo-Australian Observatory is funded by the UK's Particle Physics and
Astronomy Research Council, in the UK, and by the Australian Government.

More information:

Dr Chris Tinney
Anglo-Australian Observatory
0416-092-117 (mob) until 1600 AEST Tues. 12 Dec.
(Please contact by e-mail therafter to arrange interview)

Dr Hugh Jones
Liverpool John Moores University
+44-151-231-2909 / 2919 (w)
0956 945 276 (mob)

Dr Alan Penny
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
07941 721 733 (mob)

Dr Paul Butler
Carnegie Institution of Washington

Notes for editors

The AAT searchers also found a single 'brown dwarf' -- a small 'failed' star
-- in orbit around HD 164427, one of their target stars.

The results for HD 179949 and HD 164427 have been accepted for publication
by the Astrophysical Journal and are available at
Results for mu Ara and eps Reticulum are being prepared for publication (see
images below).

Details of new objects

[NOTE: If this table does not display properly, see the original table at - A.Y.]

Parent Star   Minimum Mass     Orbit Period    Orbit Size     Eccentricity
             (Jupiter masses)     (days)       (a.u. - The
                                               Earth orbits
                                               the Sun at 1

HD179949          0.84              3.1           0.045         0.05 (ie.
(in Sagittarius)                                             almost

HD160691          1.86              743           1.6         0.62 (ie.
mu Ara                                                          elliptical)

HD27442           1.26              426           1.1           0.02 (ie.
epsilon Reticulum                                            almost

HD164427           46               109           0.46        0.55 (ie.
(in Telescopium)                                                elliptical)


General images of the AAT can be found at

The following images related to this press release are also available

[Image 1]
Two of the newly discovered planets and the brown dwarf are in a region of
the sky near the constellation of Sagitarius, visible low in the sky towards
the south-west just after sunset at this time of the year (in the southern
hemisphere).  The third planet lies in the constellation of Reticulum, which
is almost overhead to the south after sunset.
Image credit: C.Tinney, AAO.

This image is available in three sizes:
1. constell.gif (1.6Mb)
2. constell_smaller.gif (500Kb)
3. constell_small.gif (the image to the left) (190Kb)

[Image 2]
The image compares the orbits of the four new planets -- each discovered
around its own star -- with the orbits of the inner Solar System planets.
Like the planets of our own solar system, epsilon Reticulum and HD179949 lie
on nearly circular orbits. In comparison the brown dwarf HD164427 and mu Ara
lie on very elongated orbits. If mu Ara lay in our own Solar System it would
swing between the orbits of the Earth and Mars once every year.
Image credit: C.Tinney, AAO.

This image is available in two sizes:
1. orbits.gif (13Kb)
2. orbits_small.gif (5Kb)

[Image 3:]
Folded Doppler velocities for mu Ara with a fitted orbital motion plotted
over the top.

Also available in black and white,

[Image 4:]
Doppler velocities for eps Reticulum with a fitted orbital motion plotted
over the top.

Also available in black and white,

Relevant links

* Chris Tinney's Home page
* The Anglo-Australian Planet Search page
* Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler's Planet page
* The Anglo-Australian Observatory home page


From Space Weather News for Dec. 11, 2000

GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: Scientists at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
have established a radio meteor detection system to monitor this week's
Geminid meteor shower.  Although the shower doesn't peak until December
13th, plenty of Geminid meteoroids are already streaking through Earth's
atmosphere.  You can listen to their eerie-sounding radio echoes in realtime

SUBMIT YOUR PHOTOS: The glare from this week's nearly-full Moon will
substantially reduce the number of visible Geminid meteors. Nevertheless,
sky watchers in rural areas will likely spot 20 or more shooting stars per
hour -- a fairly pleasing shower.  We invite photographers who capture
images of Geminid meteors to submit their photos for display on  Simply send your files as email attachments to


From, 11 December 2000
By Robert Roy Britt
Dec. 11 -  The annual Geminid meteor shower, an oddball among such events,
peaks Wednesday. Though a bright moon will outshine many of the shooting
stars, scientists say the Geminids are still worth a look. But you'll want
to get up early.   



From Stanford News Service <>


CONTACT: Mark Shwartz, News Service (650) 723-9296;

COMMENT: Paul Segall, Department of Geophysics (650) 725-7241;

EDITORS: The American Geophysical Union (AGU) will hold its annual fall
meeting Dec. 15 to 19 at the Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard St., San
Francisco, CA 94103. Professor Paul Segall will moderate AGU Session V51C -
``Volcanology 2010: How Will the Science and Practice of Volcanology Change
in the Coming Decade?`` - on Friday, Dec. 15, at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time in
Room 306. Professor Howard Zebker will participate in a press conference
immediately after the session at 12:15 p.m. in Room 112. For more
information, visit the AGU website at

Relevant Web URLs:

Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are two of the most destructive forces on
Earth. But while scientists can do little more than guess when an earthquake
will strike, tremendous strides have been made in forecasting deadly
volcanic explosions.

In 1991, for example, volcanologists accurately predicted the eruption of
Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, enabling the safe evacuation of tens of
thousands of residents.

The Pinatubo success came after an all-out emergency effort by Philippine
and American scientists to closely monitor physical changes in and around
the volcano. Today many volcanologists are looking forward to the creation
of a permanent, worldwide volcano early-warning network.

That proposal and others will be the focus of a special panel on the future
of volcanology to be held during the fall meeting of the American
Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco on Friday, Dec. 15, at 8:30 a.m.

A press conference will follow at 12:15 p.m.

Panelists from the United States, Iceland and Germany have been invited to
the AGU session to discuss advances in technology and communication that
could revolutionize the entire field of volcanology in the coming decade.

"It`s not so much that we expect one technical breakthrough," says Stanford
geophysicist Paul Segall, who will moderate the half-day AGU session.

"There`s a confluence of a lot of things going on that should improve our
ability to make predictions in the next 10 years," he notes.

Segall and Stanford colleague Howard A. Zebker, an associate professor of
electrical engineering and geophysics, will discuss the increasingly popular
use of spaceborne satellites to monitor volcanic activity on Earth.

Tiny movements on the surface of a volcano often indicate the build-up of
magma below. Segall and Zebker speculate that, in the next decade, the Earth
may be orbited by an array of specially equipped radar satellites capable of
detecting millimeter-sized changes in the Earth`s crust.

"Improved satellite coverage will make it possible to collect these data
over all of Earth`s 600 potentially active volcanoes weekly or even daily,"
they predict, allowing researchers to forecast volcanic events "to a much
greater degree than is currently possible."

Segall points out that earthquakes often foreshadow major volcanic events.

"You can`t move lots of magma through the Earth`s crust without
earthquakes," he says, noting that volcanologists have developed specialized
seismic arrays for imaging volcanic systems.

Panelist Bernard Chouet of the U.S. Geological Survey will describe some of
the latest advances in volcano seismology, including portable broadband
seismic instrumentation; high-resolution tomography to create images of
underground volcanic structure; and other tools to measure the acoustic
properties of magma and hydrothermal fluids.

Several researchers will discuss the use of the global positioning system
(GPS) to detect bulging of the ground, as well as geochemical devices to
monitor sudden changes in atmospheric gas chemistry that often precede

Andrew J. L. Harris and his colleagues from the University of Hawaii will
describe their pioneering thermal monitoring system that records
second-by-second temperature changes at Hawaii`s Pu`u O`o volcano, then
instantly transmits the data to a computer via satellite. 

"We advocate that such remote systems should be installed on other volcanoes
by 2010 in order to better monitor ongoing eruptions," say Harris and his

Scientists from NASA`s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will demonstrate the use of
digital animation to illustrate potential volcanic hazards, and researchers
from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Pacific Disaster Center will
discuss ways to improve volcanic risk assessment.

"Much work remains to be done toward a synthesis of seismological,
geochemical and petrological observations into an integrated model of
volcanic behavior," Chouet concludes.

Segall agrees and is optimistic about volcanology`s future.

"Unlike earthquake prediction," he says, "we can actually do something about

By Mark Shwartz

Photographs of erupting volcanoes are available on the Web at (slug: ``AGU Volcano.jpg``).
News Service website:
Stanford Report (university newspaper):
Most recent news releases from Stanford:

To change contact information for these news releases:
Phone: (650) 723-2558


From Stanford News Service <>


CONTACT: Mark Shwartz, News Service (650) 723-9296;

COMMENT: Amos M. Nur, Department of Geophysics (650) 723-9526;

Scientists, archaeologists and historians will unravel the mystery of
Egypt's sunken cities

The recent discovery of two long-lost cities off the coast of Egypt has been
hailed as one of the most exciting finds in the history of marine

But the location of the sunken cities of Menouthis and Herakleion might have
remained a mystery if not for a unique collaboration among scientists,
archaeologists and underwater explorers.

"These ancient cities disappeared more than 1,500 years ago," says
geophysicist Amos Nur, the Wayne Loel Professor of Earth Sciences.

"Offshore geophysical surveys led to their discovery, and earthquakes may
have been responsible for their demise," he adds.

Nur will moderate a special session about the Menouthis/Herakleion
discoveries on Monday, Dec. 18, at 8:30 a.m. at the fall meeting of the
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Among the researchers scheduled to attend the half-day session is Franck
Goddio, the French marine archaeologist who last June announced the
discovery of the submerged cities in the Bay of Aboukir about 15 miles (25
kilometers) east of Alexandria, Egypt.

Goddio and his divers made headlines when they unearthed from the bottom of
the Mediterranean Sea giant marble statues and fractured columns - some
dating back to the time of the pharaohs.

"In the ancient world, a major center of various religions and cults existed
here," says Goddio, director of the European Institute of Submarine
Archaeology in Paris.

"Numerous sources of ancient literature verify the existence of the once
famous region," he adds, noting that some authors described Herakleion and
its sister city, Menouthis, as opulent and decadent.

"These cities were not only renowned for their riches and lifestyle, but
also for their many temples dedicated to the gods Serapis, Isis and Anubis,"
says Goddio.

"Among others, the Greek historian Herodotus described a temple of Hercules
in Herakleion, which he visited during the journey through Egypt he began in
450 B.C.," he adds.

The search for the missing cities began in 1996 - a challenging task,
recalls Goddio, because it required surveying a 100-square-mile area of the

"We recognized that the work would be only successfully achieved if a team
gathered from diverse disciplines could be formed," Goddio says, so he and
the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities assembled specialists in
geophysics, archaeology, history and marine diving to find evidence of the
vanished metropolises.

To map the sea floor, geophysicists used a catamaran specially equipped with
echosounders, side-scan sonar and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
magnetometers towed in parallel.

"The scientists only had one day left aboard the ship when they finally
discovered Herakleion submerged in silt less than 24 feet [8 meters] below
the sea surface," according to Nur.

What caused these great cities to collapse and sink?

A likely answer is earthquakes.

"In Alexandria itself," writes Nur, "both historical records and
archaeological evidence of collapse have shown that the city was devastated
both onshore and offshore by an earthquake in the mid- to late-eighth
century A.D., and by one or two earlier earthquakes sometime during the
period 200 to 600 A.D."

He points to rows of columns that all fell in the same direction - strong
evidence that a devastating earthquake struck the Alexandria region.

The sinking of the cities is more difficult to explain, Nur concedes, but he
says land may have subsided as a result of earthquake-induced liquefaction
of the sea floor, or by tsunamis - giant walls of water that sometimes sweep
across the shoreline in the aftermath of a marine earthquake.

The Smithsonian Institution`s Daniel J. Stanley, a specialist on the geology
of the Nile River Delta, also will address the Dec. 18 AGU session. He
points out that Herakleion - originally a shipping port at the mouth of the
Nile - may have been destroyed and flooded after a branch of the river
abruptly shifted course during the first millennium.

Italian historian Emanuela Guideboni will provide evidence from Arabic,
Latin and Byzantine sources documenting 14 centuries of earthquakes in the
Alexandria region from 320 to 1303 B.C.

However, Jean Yoyette of the College de France in Paris will argue against
the earthquake theory, noting that some ancient texts say nothing about
major tectonic activity having occurred in the region 1,500 years ago.

"Because the historical and archaeological information in this region is so
sparse and incomplete," says Nur, "it is not possible as yet to identify the
earthquake faults that devastated Alexandria and Aboukir."

However, he will discuss three likely locations of the fault system when he
addresses the AGU.

"The case of Alexandria and Aboukir highlight the emerging importance of
archaeological information in general in helping to predict earthquakes,"
Nur adds, noting that other densely populated coastal regions around the
world face similar earthquake hazards today.

A one-hour television special about the expedition to Egypt will premiere on
the Discovery Channel USA on Jan. 29, 2001, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). The
documentary, called "Ancient Earthquakes, Sunken Cities," was filmed on
location and features Goddio, Stanley and Nur.

Betacam video clips and photographs from the film will be available during a
press conference on Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m.

By Mark Shwartz

Photographs of the sunken cities expedition will be available from Beth
Foster at the Discovery Channel. Call (301) 771-4108 or e-mail her at


From National, 8 December 2000

DNA Helps Unravel Ancient Persian Riddle

By Michael Theodoulou
The Christian Science Monitor

A shiver of excitement rippled through the team of Egyptian oil prospectors
when they chanced upon human bones, daggers, and arrowheads scattered across
the shifting sand dunes. But it was nothing compared with what Egyptologists
felt when they learned of the discovery.

What set hearts thumping was not so much the relics of ancient warfare,
which are common in Egypt. It was their location not far from the Siwa oasis
near the Libyan border that raised hopes of unravelling an ancient mystery
that has baffled scholars.

It was in this area that a powerful Persian army of 50,000 men was said to
have vanished without a trace in 523 BC. The desert strike force was
dispatched by the "mad" Persian King Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus the
Great, to sack a sacred oracle in Siwa that had prophesied his downfall. His
men were engulfed by a cataclysmic sandstorm in the vast desert before
reaching their destination, according to Herodotus, the celebrated
5th-century BC Greek historian who portrayed Cambyses as mad, bad, and

Several attempts in the past century to find any evidence of the hapless
warriors ended in failure, and some historians suspected Herodotus
fabricated the tale.

Now, four years after the finds, a new quest into the inhospitable western
desert could finally solve the ancient riddle.

An Egyptian expedition including archaeologists, geophysicists, and other
scientists is to survey the area this month using satellite technology while
the bones will be sampled for DNA testing.

The mission will be led by Dr. Mohamed el-Saghir of the Supreme Council of
Antiquities in Cairo, who believes the long-lost warriors may lie beneath
the Saharan sands. "I think we will find Cambyses' army," he says.

After sacking the Temple of Amon in Siwa, later made famous by a visit of
Alexander the Great in 332 BC and which still exists on a hilltop there
today, Cambyses' men were to have attacked the Libyans and reduced them to
slavery, according to Herodotus.

However, nature sealed the fate of the invaders when they were midway
through their journey, wrote Herodotus, who heard accounts from the
inhabitants of Siwa.

It was one of three military campaigns planned by Cambyses to conquer the
rest of Africa after he invaded Egypt in 525 BC, putting an end to the 26th
Dynasty of the Pharaohs and beginning a period of Persian rule that covered
much of the next two centuries.

Cambyses later personally led a force up the Nile to conquer Ethiopia, but
after annexing the north of the country, he ran short of supplies and had to
return, according to Herodotus, who portrayed it as another rash and
ill-planned adventure.

"All this about Cambyses being mad comes from a Greek, and the Greeks and
the Persians didn't exactly get on well together," says Dr Gaballah Ali
Gaballah, the secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Herodotus, who was in Egypt at about 450 to 460 BC, also got much of his
information from Egyptians during a time of major rebellion against Persian
rule, when they were unlikely to cast Cambyses in a flattering light.

Whether Cambyses' lost desert army will now be unearthed to cast new light
on warfare 2,500 years ago is the subject of divided opinion among senior
Egyptologists. Dr. Saghir, who will lead the expedition, is confident of
success. His colleague at Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr.
Gaballah, is phlegmatic, however.

"Classical writers said his army had been drowned in a sandstorm, but there
is no other source for this information.

It could have happened. But where? The western desert is a huge area,"
Gaballah says. "Everyone has his dreams, but we deal in facts, and we don't
want to raise hopes. The site will be surveyed, and even if they don't find
anything, a negative result is still a result."

The mystery of the lost Persian army may yet linger on.

(c)2000 The Christian Science Publishing Society.


From Larry Klaes <lklaes@BBN.COM>

Archaeologists have discovered a mysterious 4,700-year-old temple that is
the largest Stone Age structure ever found in Western Europe. More than a
half a mile across and covering 85 acres, the site in mid-Wales is 30 times
the size of Stonehenge.




From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and the CCNet,

Here is a brief update on the "hunt".

The MPC is reporting 339 NEA, so far, this year. This is about 50% above
last year. It is 5 times the 1990's average annual find. It is more than 40
times the average annual rate for the 1980's.

The top ten teams were listed by the Center, on their very interesting and
well prepared "Summary of PHA and NEA Discoveries...". LINEAR found the most
(72%). LONEOS was next, with 10%, and SPACEWATCH and CATALINA found 7% and
4%, respectively. 2/3 of the new NEA were less than a kilometer wide. About
1 in 5 were PHA.

At a discovery rate of 8 per year (1980's), it would have taken us about
12,000 years to complete the hunt, for the 100,000 or so NEA bigger than

At the 1990's average annual rate (about 75 per year), it would have taken
about 1,350 years. At the present rate (about 1 per day), it will take about
275 years. At 5 per day, we will need about 55 years. Bottom-line, we have a
very long way to go and we are making great progress.

Thanks For The Progress

As advocates for the global public, we appreciate all that has been done to
get us to this point and we appreciate all that is being done, by everyone,
to advance our knowledge and our readiness.

We are expecially grateful to the U.S. agencies and institutions that have
made LINEAR and the other outstanding telescope programs and the asteroid
development flights possible; to Russia for its support of the interception
and deflection studies and conferences and to all of the other countries now
starting programs.
We pray that these 10 great programs (and the many others, that are starting
to emerge) will continue to prosper and increase, in productivity, next
year. We also pray that we will have the time we need to prepare to defend
ourselves and our beautiful planet.
As we near the completion of another annual orbit, without any major impact,
we wish you all a very merry Christmas, a happy New Year and bright
sunlight, forever.


Andy Smith


From Andrew Glikson <>

Dear Benny

I refer to Max Wallis communication "Panspermia and unscientific notions"
(CCNet 11.12.00), which refers to my article "Extraterrestrial vs
terrestrial biogenesis: when the total is greater than the sum of the part"
(CCNet 1.12.00).

1. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (VIII: 985) "the core of
the scientific method, however it (science) is defined, is related to the
measurement of phenomena and experimentation or repeated observations." By
contrast, philosophy is defined as (VII: 952) "An academic discipline and
itself a name of a concept studied by that discipline" and "In Aristotle's
philosophy, the study of being, metaphysical principles, and first causes".
Philosophy, herefore, does not necessarily require a body of empirical data,
measurements, or calculations - and can be developed by abstract logic. 

2. Whether my statement "there can be little doubt that life abounds
throughout the universe and is not confined to Earth" (CCNet 1.12.00) is a
scientific or philosophical one is a mute point.  Scientifically, this
suggestion is based on concepts regarding the probable distribution of life
in the Universe, as discussed for example by Shklovskii and Sagan, 1966 (Pan
Books Ltd.). The concept is summarized by the Drake equation, which takes
terrestrial life as a starting model, and is derived from observational and
statistical considerations of the rate of star formation, fraction of stars
with planetary systems, fraction of planets favorable for life, and fraction
of planets on which life develops. Philosophically, to suggest that Earth is
the sole haven of life is tantamount to the "worm in the apple" principle,
i.e. the worm believes it is the only worm in the only apple in the world!

3. Proponents of panspermia can hardly object to the Drake equation, as
the notion of universal distribution of life is inherent in their own
hypothesis! The central question is whether life is confined to the surface,
shallow depths and atmospheres of planetary bodies (plus possible
interplanetary transport in ejecta fragments) or can also exist within
comets and intergalactic dust.

4. The question is whether the panspermia hypothesis satisfies the
basic tenets of "science" and/or "philosophy" as defined above. In (1) the
absence to date of evidence for bacteria, viruses, nucleic acids, DNA or RNA
in meteoritic and cometary materials; (2) the contrasted structural symmetry
(chirality) of extraterrestrial vs terrestrial amino acids (CCNet 1.12.00),
and (3) the physical conditions of comets and the physical breakdown points
of nucleic acids, unless and until new evidence emerges panspermia remains
in the category of other untestable claims such as the Anthropic principle
or the Gaia hypothesis.

5. Referring to Max Wallis' comments re-quantum information theory as a
possible clue for the investigation of the principles underlying complex
information systems such as life - nucleic acids being unique and
algorithmically undefinable - the point is best referred to Paul Davies who
has discussed this possibility in "The Fifth Miracle" (1998, The Penguin

Last but not least, the propensity of panspermia advocates to use rather
derogatory expressions in their communications, for example accusing critics
of panspermia of "loose terminology" (Max Wallis, CCNet 11.12.00), or "crazy
interpretation of quantum physics" (Max Wallis, CCNet 11.12.00), or
"unfortunate ignorance" (C. Wickramasinghe and F. Hoyle, CCNet, 20.11.98),
only serves to create a suspicion they regard their idea as beyond
scientific debate.

Andrew Glikson
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200

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