December 9: Did ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’ (UFOs) cause life on earth? Those UFOs that are supposed to float around in space, which are more like distant dreams of an outer space enthusiast?
To test this theory, special balloons filled with neon gas (used in electric lamps) were launched into space from Hyderabad recently by a team of Indian scientists. The balloons are expected to collect air samples at different altitudes in space ranging between 10 and 35 km.
The bacterium or microscopic live organisms from the samples will be analysed to see if they are similar to the first life forms on earth.
Far fetched as it sounds, this is not the first time that such a balloon launch has been made from India. In April 1999 a balloon was launched by the Hyderabad based premier Indian research institute, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. They collected air samples from the stratosphere (the layer of air above the troposphere in the atmosphere).
These samples were then analysed at another research center and they were able to trace six identical clones (exact replicas) of bacterium from them.
A team comprising Dr Shivaji and Dr G S Reddy from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, analysed the first samples. This institute conducts research on the most basic components that build life. The scientists found that the bacterium behaved differently from the known types of this species.
The second balloon launch is expected to provide fresh insights to support their theory.
The project is being funded by the Indian Space Research Institute (ISRO). ISRO is at the forefront of conducting research in space. Noted Indian astrophysicist Professor Jayant Narlikar, too is involved in the project. An astrophysicist is an astronomer dealing with the physical and chemical constitution of celestial bodies.
The findings of the Indian scientists promise to support theories of Nobel laureate S A Arrhenius that life might have been seeded on earth by living organisms from space. Francis Crick seconds this theory.
Two other scientists, Professor Fred Hoyle and Dr Chandra Wickramsinghe, later took this theory forward by suggesting that microorganisms from space might be floating into earth continuously even now.
So the next time you read a science fiction account about UFOs and earthlings, don’t dismiss it as another spaced out yarn. The account might just be right.