Life in Space – India’s first Astrobiology Conference


On 24th of October general public and students got an opportunity to listen and interact with imminent scientists Prof. Jayant Narlikar, Prof. Chandra Wickramsinghe, Sir Pushkar Vaidya and Prof. Sashikumar Chitre and Dr. Henry Throop at Astrobiology Conference in Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai. The event was organised by Mumbai based Indian Astrobiology Research Centre and IARC centre for united Nations in collaboration with Nehru Science Centre. Did the Scientists manage to answer the question, whether life exists in space? Read on to find out.

Juggling with my job, I was late by one hour (the conference was scheduled from 02:00pm to 06:00pm). On reaching  I found many school and college students waiting outside, as the auditorium was chock-full. Luckily I managed to cram in through the students standing in doors of the auditorium.

Prof. Jayant Narlikar – First to speak

Prof. Jayant Narlikar, only renowned Scientist most of us are well aware of, had just finished his part of presentation and had answered few questions from the students. I was late and too far behind to raise any questions. I guess his lecture included for the most part his successful experiment with balloon for search of microscopic life in stratosphere indicating that earth is being bombarded with life from space. Sir Pushkar Vaidya had challenged the conclusion of this work of Prof. Narlikar and his team as read from one of the internet news article. Whether the counter-argument raised by Sir Pushkar Vaidya was presented at the event or has he accepted Prof. Narlikar and his team’s conclusion as correct is unknown. I apologize readers expecting to read about Prof. Narlikar’s ideas presented on the topic. I hope someone who has attended the event will be able to narrate his version in the comments to this blog.

Prof. Chandra Wickramsinghe – On Panspermia and Microscopic Life in Space

Shri. Chandra Wickramsinghe was next to speak. I had never heard of his work before probably because his major and more interesting works dated before I was born. The technical team initially struggled to get his presentation working. After Prof. Jayant Narlikar’s presentation this seemed boring. But his work and conclusions were the most startling. He alongside science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who himself is a scientist, had made many predictions regarding discovery of life in outer space in the novels “2001: space odyssey” and “3001:Space odyssey”, many of which have already come true well before their predicted time. He also showed his many other interesting books in his slides. He had included a video of him in some television interview making predictions of life in space. Unfortunately due to technical issues audio from the video clip and another audio clip did not come through. But that did not in anyway made his presentation less interesting.

Here is the Video I got from the Professor’s website:
1977 : Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe talk to Patrick Moore – BBC’s Sky at Night

But it would have been great to see how exactly his predictions compared to (his) findings till date. He mentioned the ability of microbes to survive in harshest of conditions. Also interesting were microbial life like patterns found matching those predicted by him in galactic dusts and comets. He presented a scatter chart with predicted and actual findings of microbial life in space, which was bit technical but everyone got his point. Many school students decided to leave after his session probably for the reason that this event was more about Astrobiology, and indeed it was, than about aliens. He also mentioned that life on earth probably started from space, which has a term ‘Panspermia’, for search of which most of his life was dedicated. ‘Chandra Wickramsinghe fund for Panspermia Research’ was announced during the event to encourage Astrobiology research among students in India.

Evolution on earth too is attributed to life from outer space as such mutations are possible due to viruses getting in our genes which are well known for there ability to rapidly change genetics structure of beings. He said there are millions of viruses in one drop of ocean water, which can be attributed to viruses bombarding from space. He gave example of squids and octopuses which have more than 33000 genes compared to 25000 genes in humans. Octopuses are the earliest known multicellular organisms. It’s complex genes could only be formed with lot of external genes from viruses. He also mentioned of epidemics during the evolution of humans that could have wiped the whole human race more than six times and still humans managed to come this long. Probably he meant to say humans became extinct during this period and reappeared. He actually said that modern humans genes have around 20% viruses as part of genes. Thus Darwin’s theory plays a small part to evolution. He also mentioned of a disease that was detected both in Mumbai and New York on the same day while it spread in nearby cities only after few days. That was when it took six months to travel between Mumbai and New York. This could only be possible if the disease was infected from outer space. If this is the case then we would need to keep track of outer space for detecting newer infections to find timely cure!! All audience also got his taste of wit, when a school kid mentioned that dangerous ozone layer could possibly kill all such life from outer space. He said yeah that is definitely possible and we will take note of it during our experiments. I had got down my set of questions ready but was unlucky.

Dr. Henry Throop PSI and NASA Scientist – On Life in Outer Solar System

Next one to speak was NASA and PSI Scientist Dr. Henry Throop. He was ready with what seemed to be Apple MacBook and it’s accessories for presentation which he presented to the technical person to be connected to projector. He had a remote for his presentation slides which also included a laser to pin point things in his slides.

As expected he was a young and vibrant speaker and made everyone laugh and enjoy his presentation. He made it clear that his talk was about life within the solar system. He started with how philosophers, scientists and generally everyone always had this basic question of uniqueness of our existence in universe and “Are we Alone?”. He mentioned how we thought we were at the center of the universe and were unique in some way. Then with advancement of our knowledge, we found out progressively that sun was at the center and planets including earth revolved around it. Then we found our solar system and our sun was just one out of many in our milky way galaxy. Then we realized that that our galaxy was just one of the many many galaxies in this vast universe. Thus we have come to realize that we are in no way unique. He also mentioned how we have found many ideal planets revolving around stars that could possibly have life on it. But he also emphasised that all these planets are still very harsh compared to earth for existence of life. So he had made it clear at the start of his presentation that he would be talking only about life the inner solar system. He also mentioned that NASA had stopped funding SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) because of inefficient and expensive method of sending and receiving radio signals and no hopes of finding life in outer space. SETI is now a privately funded organization. After conclusive proof of microbial life in outer space NASA have changed their policy and they can now fund projects like SETI for search of life in outer space. Still support for SETI is nowhere near. He mentioned that much cost effective way to communicate with intelligent life would be optical/lasers. That is what an intelligent life would do to communicate on earth. He also said that all recent NASA space probes did not have search of life, not even microbial life, in their agenda. Regarding Life on Mars, he said it is very unlikely to find life on it because of it’s long history of barrenness. Though earth and Mars formed at almost the same time, Mars had a very small window of ideal conditions of life and most of it’s water and atmosphere was lost quite early. So any possibility of finding life on Mars is very dim. More promising would be Jupiter’s Moon Europa which has ocean of water under its icy crust. He also showed a picture of Europa with it’s Ice Crust and displaced huge pieces of ice visible in it.

One of the questions asked to him included whether JUNO will be studying Europa (for possible life). To which he replied JUNO will be studying Jupiter’s atmosphere and other conditions and studying Europa or any of Jupiter’s Moon is not in its agenda.

I raised my hand for my set of questions, again relating it to his particular lecture and framing in my mind how I would speak it. Again I could not get hold of the mic, still I was confident to get my question across.

By this time most of the school students and others had vacated their seats and left. Some had mostly came to listen and ask questions to Prof. Jayant Narlikar, who had left soon after his presentation. For others it was too technical and uninteresting and not everyone is interested in Science definitely not Astrobiology. Experience with Mumbai local trains helped me grab a seat coming from auditorium door to middle row where I would be seen prominently to ask my set of questions.

Panel Discussion – Do Aliens or Intelligent Life Exist in Space

Sir Pushkar Vaidya as coordinator understanding well that most would not be interested in Astrobiology started a panel discussion next on intelligent life in outer space and whether aliens exist. To lighten up the audience, he cracked a few jokes during the discussion, like, “The aliens may have already visited us but did not find any intelligent beings here”. Another one being, “The aliens may have received our television signals and decided never to contact earth!”.

unites2016_astrobiology_conference_26

Panel Discussion : Do Aliens or Intelligent Life exist in Space

Prof. Chitre was offered to open the discussion topic. He did not agree on probability of intelligent life or aliens, but said that we may consider ourselves intelligent, but may be other smaller (indicating microbial) life forms are more intelligent too. For eg. He said, ants manage to form such large groups and find their way interacting with each other. They must likewise be having communication with each other. He also mentioned different levels of consciousness relating to different sizes of organisms. (I again tried to relate my set of questions too ask the panelists). One of the women in audience later commented that ants use decentralized communication which is being studied for use in AI or other computer systems.

Prof. Wickramsinghe sticked to topic on microbial life and agreed on Prof. Chitre’s version and there is possibility that intelligent life can be found in outer space. Dr. Throop too was reserved on this topic and did not agree on higher forms of life or aliens. (Actually I was concentrating on my questions and how I am going to ask it and missed most of the discussion as it still revolved around microscopic life only).

Sir Pushkar Vaidya related their earlier talk and said whether Religion will receive a shock if they find higher forms of life in outer space. To which Prof. Wickramsinghe said they have already received their share of shock through these centuries from since their earth centered world. (I was wary of how I will frame my question which related to religion which is a sensitive issue).

My Questions – I finally manage to ask the Panel Scientists

After their panel discussion audience were asked for the queries and opinions. I had raised my hand prominently and was of course noticed. After thinking all this time I regret asking single question instead of asking all related questions together. And the choice of question to raise was not good either.

I asked the panelists, “Why scientists do not acknowledge non-physical life forms like ghosts and God and rebirth?”. All religions are based on concept of God, and Buddhism is based on concept of Nirvana where there is no further rebirth. If science does not support it, all our religions are baseless (over emphasized and wrong comment!).

unites2016_astrobiology_conference_31_milind-2

Me asking questions to the panel scientists

Prof. Wickramsinghe explained non-physical means consciousness and it does not occur independently. He also explained it as neurological signals interpreted by our brains. (I would explain it as duality between consciousness and body, as concluded in my earlier blog. Consciousness is reflected through bodily signals and bodily signals through consciousness.) Another point I emphasised was, “Why science does not acknowledge and accept or reject once and for all these long pending question of ghost, rebirth and God?” (again revolving on same question, which I regret now).

They mentioned that it is very difficult to study such things and it does not fall under domain of science. I agreed. (I do not know why?, as I had Neotic Science noted in my notes for reference). I now think I should have said Scientists should keep track of Neotic research to find better and effective ways of studying the universe. Sir Pushkar Vaidya had mentioned during panel discussion that probably they should think much further, a 100 or 1000 years, to study the whole of Universe for their quest for existence of intelligent life. This would probably be the right direction.

By this time a volunteer rushed towards me saying no such metaphysical questions!! (though these are being studied by Neotic scientists). I got my alarm signal and wrapped up my point that, if Science acknowledges ghosts and rebirth, then it would realize that life (including intelligent life) need not be restricted to earth and can be reborn anywhere in the universe. I also mentioned Psychologist Ian Stevenson’s work of studying and recording around 3000 cases of reincarnation. There was no comment from the panelists. But I think they got my point as a valid argument, as students near me at looked and the student beside me asked what I meant.

I still regret not asking all the questions together and concluding into valid scientific points for study. These points were mostly conclusions from this blog. Here’s the list that I can think of now:

  1. Acknowledge rebirth and ghosts, after all there are many many incidences that science should not turn blind eye to at this time.
  2. Even one rebirth or ghost incident if found valid is enough to conclude, life and intelligent life, can choose to be reborn anywhere in the universe. And whether earth exists or not life will continue to exist.
  3. It is logical to understand different levels of consciousness (mentioned by Prof. Chitre in the discussion) here on earth corresponding to lower and higher levels of life forms (including non-physical life forms) on earth. Life anywhere in universe would definitely have similar levels of consciousness whatever their physical form. So we can definitely expect intelligent life forms and probably humans in the universe.
  4. We could formulate ways to teleport to anywhere in universe as ghost and consciousness would travel anywhere in universe instantaneously. (Based on my blog on souls, ghosts and medical mysteries and my personal encounter).

Students talk to scientists, I meet director

After the conference was concluded, while some students choose to leave, others found an opportunity to talk and discuss their topic of interest with the scientists, who were glad as well to answer all there questions.

I did go forward, but decided not to bug them with the topic revolving in my mind. Instead, I found it an opportunity to meet Nehru Science Centre director Shri. S.M.Khened and proposed him the idea of “model of Time Machine” (based on my earlier blogs on Time Machine) in Nehru Science Centre. He was startled at first at the odd suggestion and the way I asked it with already lost confidence. He still asked me to email him and he will look into it if it is valid and this was not the right time for it. (I haven’t mailed him yet as my prior email to director, Nehru Planetarium did not go well and he wanted it reviewed and verified by good scientists or Journal. Though my paper was published in IJSR at http://ijsr.net/archive/v5i2/NOV161631.pdf, I have yet to seek feedback from any Scientist. I am hopeful to get back to them with some concrete solution/model. For those who do not know Nehru Science Centre and Nehru Planetarium are different and located at some distance from each other.)

Conclusion

Not only did the scientists manage to convince the audience that life exists in space, but also convinced that life may have originated on earth from space. Regarding higher life forms or intelligent life or aliens in space no one was hopeful to find within any near future (though Sir Wickramasinghe had predicted it in his science fiction books and mentioned it in his presentation with specific year). If we are to follow right direction it would definitely not be long, with space travel technology, neotic science and definitely Astrobiological research.

No matter how I had asked the questions, I still could not have managed to present all the ideas and conclusions that are presented in this blog and also get their proper feedback in the limited time. I also now think I had asked the right questions as they relate to a lot of ideas presented in this blog and my book “Attaining Nirvana” for which I am trying to form scientific basis on my own. I may be like one of those asking stupid questions and considering it smart. But if my conclusions are correct it would be science getting it’s share of shock this time around.

I have written about microscopic life, higher life form and of course aliens. Here are some related blogs you can refer:

  1. Alien Life Form : https://mindcanmatter.com/2012/08/15/alien-life-form/
  2. Superstitious Science: https://mindcanmatter.com/2013/12/08/superstitious-science/
  3. Is it Multiple Personality Disorder or Possession : https://mindcanmatter.com/2012/11/27/is-it-multiple-personality-disorder-or-possession/
  4. Apotheosis – Becoming God : https://mindcanmatter.com/2011/09/24/apotheosis-becoming-god/
  5. My book “Attaining Nirvana” which is definitely relevant here : http://AttainingNirvana.com
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