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FQXi BLOGS
April 25, 2014

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Life Before Earth [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Aug. 28, 2008 @ 13:19 GMT


Because this is FQXi, I want to post another radical suggestion – this time related to the possibility of life on the moon.

Before I do, though, one reader has asked a reasonable follow-up question to the last post: why was NASA ever concerned about “lunar germs”? How could microbes have gotten to the moon in the first place?

About NASA’s quarantine program back in...

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John Baryczka wrote on Dec. 30, 2008 @ 13:43 GMT
Accepting Reality.

The gap between the Dreamer and the Academic, the Historian and the Physicist, the Inventor and the Mathematician seems just too big to our own detriment. Religious wars start through ignorance and bigotry and modern man denies the very roots of his existance. OK then folks, just "who" was around to record the Earth as being a hothouse (EDEN) surrounded by the up to three...

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Eric S. wrote on Jan. 10, 2009 @ 01:48 GMT
I love the downright Blakean response this kind of topic can evidently elicit!

Regarding your blog post though:

I think the notion of transpermia is very enticing, and not too hard to believe. After all, endolithic life can be extremely hardy and long-lasting. There are also (less extreme) models for sort of thing on Earth. For example, microscopic coral larva are broadcast throughout our planet’s oceans on the off chance they will happen to end up in waters of exactly the right temperature, depth, etc. to support a new colony. It’s not impossible to imagine that a similar model might function at the scale of solar systems. In fact it’s a rather reassuring thought.

Transpermia is also a fun idea to play around with. I remember reading a cold-war era science fiction story that involved an advanced hominid race which was (tragically!) too warlike for its own good. They end up blowing themselves up (and their entire home planet too!) in a final, all-out war. The lone narrator (sitting on a space station, I presume) realizes that the chunks of his beloved home world whizzing past him are ripe with bacteria, and he flashes on the idea that total, globally-annihilating nuclear war is part of the natural cycle for “planetary life”, that nuclear war is a planet’s (literally orgasmic?) way of reproducing.

About the possibility that dormant lunar endoliths might have originated on Earth and survived on the moon’s surface *from it’s very moment of creation*, this seems a little unlikely to me. You say that “most of what was ejected would be molten, but not all of it.” Even if some of the ejecta was not initially molten, wouldn’t it have become molten pretty quickly when it combined with the rest of the matter that forms our moon? I admit I have a difficult time imagining what this cataclysmic event would have looked like, but with the amount of energy required to liberate that much matter from the home planet’s gravity well, it seems like there would be a lot of heat left over for a very long time.

Certainly endolithic microbes could have been ejected from subsequent impacts and made it to the Moon’s surface once it had already cooled, but this wouldn’t provide the same kind of snapshot of “pre-biosphere earth biota”.

Thanks for the blog post. Fascinating stuff!

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