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A.DIM
2014-Jan-16, 03:10 PM
Wainwright, Wichramasinghe et al have published more research (http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC23/MiltPaper34.pdf) on putative lifeforms being inbound from space rather than lifted from Earth's surface.

Abstract: A sphere of diameter 30 microns was isolated from the stratosphere at a height of between 22–27 kilometres. It was found to be mainly composed of titanium (with smaller amounts of vanadium). Nanomanipulation and EDX analysis showed that the titanium sphere contains a carbonaceous non-granular material which we suggest is a biological protoplast. Damage to the surface of the sphere revealed a carbonaceous, filamentous material, having a “knitted” appearance”, which we also suggest is biological in nature. The titanium sphere produced a distinct impact crater when it impacted the carbon sampling stub. We conclude by suggesting that this largely titanium sphere contains biological elements which impacted the sampling stub at speed as it made the journey from space to the stratosphere.

It's reasonable to assume material arriving from space is found in the stratosphere, whether or not it contains life or its detritus, but to suggest such particles are hoisted from Earth's surface would mean, as the authors conclude, "that there must be an, as yet unknown, force by which particles of 30 microns and larger can be elevated to 22–27km, without carrying contaminating Earth debris, and at a sufficient speed to cause an impact crater on a graphite stub. We await news of such a mechanism, the discovery of which will enable us to claim that our work has, at least, led to the discovery of a remarkable force which is new to atmospheric physics."

marsbug
2014-Jan-17, 12:41 AM
I have no idea what to make of this. Titanium particle from space, fine. There's lots of titanium debris up in LEO, some of it is probably spherical, some might even match the description.

An odd find. That's about all I can say.

Van Rijn
2014-Jan-18, 02:33 AM
That article is from the infamous Journal of Cosmology. We've discussed that before. They claim peer review, but it is unclear just what is actually reviewed. One article we discussed in a prior thread was actually an anti-BBT rant by someone who had little understanding of modern cosmology. It would have fit in well in our ATM section. And as informal as it is, I think the peer review in our ATM section is actually superior to that of the JoC. In our ATM section at least, major problems with an idea usually are brought up immediately by other posters, and the proponent has an obligation to answer pertinent questions.

So, bluntly, I take ATM threads more seriously than JoC articles.

And Wainwright has been making claims about ET life in the stratosphere for a while now, but other biologists generally have not been very impressed. So here he's suggesting life in a titanium sphere that he's hinting is more likely to come from space than the Earth's surface, but has nothing definitive. Until he can show something that definitely contains life or former life that definitely came from space with no prior contact with Earth, who cares?

Solfe
2014-Jan-18, 03:22 AM
It sounds like some of the alloys used for space flight. I would place my money on that, over even naturally occurring titanium objects.

Swift
2014-Jan-21, 09:02 PM
Claiming a biological basis for this sample based on EDX detection of carbon and the fibrous nature of some of the sample is absurd. There are plenty of non-biological carbon materials, as well as plenty of fibrous minerals and non-biological materials. It is also just as easy to assume that this particle was lofted into the stratosphere from Earth as it is to assume it is from space.

It actually looks like the spray-dried materials I make on a routine basis; I know I've made Titania (titanium oxide) of almost exactly that size.

A.DIM
2014-Feb-06, 03:54 PM
So, any ideas as to what mechanism hoists such particles to those altitudes and at those speeds?

I'm as inclined to think it's debris from a passing comet/asteroid without knowing of such a mechanism.

Whether or not it's biological remains to be seen.

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-06, 08:17 PM
I think the first issue should be establishing the claimed titanium spheres exist in that environment. Is it just his claim that there are titanium spheres roughly 30 microns in diameter in the stratosphere? Can you point to other papers that establish the existence of these spheres? And if so, have those other papers been generally accepted by the scientific community to be correct?

Obviously it would be very important to establish that their collection experiments were designed to exclude any possible contamination, and before I started taking it seriously, I'd at least want confirmation from independent scientists that don't share Wainwright's panspermia biases.

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-07, 12:21 AM
Quick follow-up: I did a general google search and a google scholar search with phrases like "stratosphere titanium" "stratospheric titanium spheres" and so forth, but I didn't see anything obviously relevant except for pages or papers that included the name "Wainwright." A check on Arxiv turned up an article on an exoplanet, but didn't appear to have anything to do with this topic. Otherwise, I found no articles there.


It's certainly possible I missed something, but it doesn't appear that this is a well established subject.

A.DIM
2014-Feb-07, 01:22 AM
I did some searching myself and found various papers from the last couple of decades examining such spherules in interstellar grains, meteorites et al. For examples: Silicon and Titanium Isotopic Compositions of Interstellar Graphite Spherules (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1992Metic..27R.237I) and Interstellar Grains Within Interstellar Grains (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1991LPIP...22...11B) wherein The discovery of crystals of titanium carbide in an interstellar graphite spherule is reported. The new species is particularly interesting in that it came in a protective wrapping (the graphite spherule) which eliminated the possibility of chemical alteration during its residence in the interstellar medium and in the meteorite in which it was discovered.

So it seems to me that such a claim as "titanium sphere (in) stratosphere" is not so far out (intended). I don't know how well established it is but decades of research appears to suggest this stuff is falling to Earth constantly.
Or, if someone could suggest a mechanism ...

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-07, 07:46 AM
I did some searching myself and found various papers from the last couple of decades examining such spherules in interstellar grains, meteorites et al. For examples: Silicon and Titanium Isotopic Compositions of Interstellar Graphite Spherules (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1992Metic..27R.237I) and Interstellar Grains Within Interstellar Grains (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1991LPIP...22...11B) wherein [i]The discovery of crystals of titanium carbide in an interstellar graphite spherule is reported.


Wow, that's a stretch. Those abstracts are discussing carbon spherules found inside meteorites, where the titanium, in the form of titanium carbide, amounts to a small fraction of the mass of the carbon spherules ("Titanium has been found in graphite spherules as TiC at a level of ~10^-5 (Bernatowicz et al., 1991)."

This is in contrast to a claim of "mostly titanium" titanium/vanadium particles where the point of interest is that they are supposedly being found flying freely in the stratosphere.


So it seems to me that such a claim as "titanium sphere (in) stratosphere" is not so far out (intended). I don't know how well established it is but decades of research appears to suggest this stuff is falling to Earth constantly.
Or, if someone could suggest a mechanism ...

And again, I see no reason to bother discussing a mechanism for the existence of 30 micron titanium particles in the stratosphere until it is well established that 30 micron titanium particles are actually being found in the stratosphere. We're already talking about an article containing absurd claims (jumping to conclusions about "biological elements" just based on carbon content and a "look at the picture" argument), so that doesn't fill me with confidence that careful experimental procedure was used to support other claims made in the article.

A.DIM
2014-Feb-07, 09:34 PM
My mistake, Van Rijn, I assumed you’d see the relevance and make the connections. If the LSO was inbound, I think we’re talking ablation of meteoritic material.

But you want evidence of individual spherules floating around in the stratosphere, eh?
Would an early Smithsonian contribution, Sampling Dust From The Stratosphere (http://www.sil.si.edu/SmithsonianContributions/Astrophysics/pdf_hi/SCAS-0040.pdf) convince you there are such things?
How about this NASA report (http://nix.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19990102901&qs=N%3D4294957355%2B4294947757%2B4294724772) where it explicitly states, “At least one 30 micron particle agrees morphologically to a smooth, unmelted spherule and compares most closely in non-volatile elemental ratios (Mg/Si, Al/Si, and Fe/Si) to compositional data in surface/ocean meteorite collections.”?

I think it's quite clear, if not "well established" these things are found in the stratosphere.

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-08, 02:51 AM
But you want evidence of individual spherules floating around in the stratosphere, eh?


What I want is a well supported argument with well established evidence. You have been skipping ahead to mechanisms for the existence of 30 micron titanium spherules in the stratosphere, without establishing there is general agreement that 30 micron titanium spherules are found in the stratosphere.


Would an early Smithsonian contribution, Sampling Dust From The Stratosphere (http://www.sil.si.edu/SmithsonianContributions/Astrophysics/pdf_hi/SCAS-0040.pdf) convince you there are such things?


That's an improvement. 1.6% of the particles found were in the 24-27 micron size range, 0% above that. Percentages drop off with increasing size. There doesn't appear to be a mention of titanium particles. It does mention aluminum particles, and notes that it is clear these were from the collection device (which shows the importance of accounting for possible contamination).



How about this NASA report (http://nix.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19990102901&qs=N%3D4294957355%2B4294947757%2B4294724772) where it explicitly states, “At least one 30 micron particle agrees morphologically to a smooth, unmelted spherule and compares most closely in non-volatile elemental ratios (Mg/Si, Al/Si, and Fe/Si) to compositional data in surface/ocean meteorite collections.”?

Nice! A definite improvement, though again that isn't a titanium/vanadium spherule.



I think it's quite clear, if not "well established" these things are found in the stratosphere.

It's clear that things are found in the stratosphere. For the things argued in the paper, it's not so clear. The author obviously thought that there was something unusual about 30 micron titanium spherules in the stratosphere - otherwise he would just have pointed to the other papers on the subject, and not made the comment about origin.

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-08, 09:12 AM
I looked at the article, and he seems to be saying this is titanium/vanadium metal, though he doesn't go into more detail than that::

A remarkable feature of the LSO shell, however, is that it is made up of only two metals titanium and, to a lesser
extent, vanadium - a fact that rules out its origin as an Earth-derived pollution particle.

If that's the case, I believe that pretty well kills the "from space" idea. Those metals are found in meteorites as compounds, and in small quantities in larger bodies along with iron, carbon, and so forth. Though A.DIM, if you find any reference to pure titanium meteorites, let us know.

Oh, and the article starts out with this:

In our earlier papers we suggested that the biological entities (ranging in size from 10–300 micron) which we have isolated from the stratosphere originate from space, rather than Earth (Wainwright et al., 2013a, b).

So there they are claiming they picked up biological entities that were 300 micron in size. When do we get to the sky whales?

A.DIM
2014-Feb-14, 02:48 PM
“Sky whales,” Van Rijn, seems an obtuse thing to say.

An estimated 40,000 tons of debris fall upon Earth each year, but only a fraction of that reaches the surface. Most burns up, is deflected by, or is trapped in the atmosphere. No doubt this material is cometary or meteoritic debris as well as cosmic “dust”, and through ablation effects such particles as the LSO are exposed. To me it seems more likely a spherule this large was inbound, but if you think this is ruled out, have you any suggestion as to what mechanism hoists ~30 micron spherules to the stratosphere, whether or not they’re made of Ti–V? And if such a mechanism exists would it then be OK to find biological material associated with these particles? Of course, we don’t know this is biological in nature but you seem to think they made the whole thing up.
If that's the case I don't know what to say, so I’ll leave you with Numbers, types and compositions of an unbiased collection of cosmic spherules (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1945-5100.2000.tb01450.x/pdf) with hopes that you'll learn something.
I certainly have!

JustAFriend
2014-Feb-14, 03:07 PM
Project Scoop (from Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain)

Swift
2014-Feb-14, 03:37 PM
An estimated 40,000 tons of debris fall upon Earth each year, but only a fraction of that reaches the surface. Most burns up, is deflected by, or is trapped in the atmosphere. No doubt this material is cometary or meteoritic debris as well as cosmic “dust”, and through ablation effects such particles as the LSO are exposed. To me it seems more likely a spherule this large was inbound, but if you think this is ruled out, have you any suggestion as to what mechanism hoists ~30 micron spherules to the stratosphere, whether or not they’re made of Ti–V? And if such a mechanism exists would it then be OK to find biological material associated with these particles?
The idea that the object of the paper cited in the OP is extraterrestial is not particularly remarkable. As you say, there is ample evidence that such material comes to Earth from space. I don't concede that the authors have completely proved it, but I'm game to go along.

As I stated in my previous post, I completely reject that they have shown that this object has any biological nature; I see absolutely no evidence of that.

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-16, 02:24 AM
“Sky whales,” Van Rijn, seems an obtuse thing to say.


He (and the group he's worked with) have been making various claims about larger objects in the stratosphere, either life or stuff he thinks indicates life, with the same "How does big stuff like this get to the stratosphere? I don't know, therefore aliens!" type of argument for years. Aside from the leap of logic inherent in this type of argument, his methodology and conclusions have been questioned by various scientists, including well known astrobiologists like Chris McKay. I don't see much reason to take him seriously.

Here's a paper back in 2006, titled "How do microorganisms reach the stratosphere ?" where he doesn't know how some of the bigger bacteria clumps get there, so he "suggests" they came from space.

http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/1556/1/wainrightm1.pdf

Last September he had another paper in the infamous Journal of Cosmology that was about a claim very much like the current one, and got a fair bit of media attention. In that case, the entire argument was apparently based on a single object that he thought looked like a broken diatom shell and his comments were anything but conservative. From here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10321227/Alien-life-found-living-in-Earths-atmosphere-claims-scientist.html

he's quoted as saying:

“In the absence of a mechanism by which large particles like these can be transported to the stratosphere we can only conclude that the biological entities originated from space."

“Our conclusion then is that life is continually arriving to Earth from space, life is not restricted to this planet and it almost certainly did not originate here.”

He's not suggesting anything here. He's flat out insisting that the ONLY conclusion for a single diatom-like object is that it must be from space. Of course, since it showed up a bit in the news, it got some responses. Phil Plait, for instance:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/09/20/et_claims_of_alien_life_in_earth_s_atmosphere_are_ unfounded.html

I'm not going to detail his post, and there are a variety of other articles worth reviewing that can be found by searching on "diatom Wainwright". But the general issues pointed out are (1) sloppy methodology (such as very little discussion of how they established there was no contamination) and (2) jumping to conclusions (like going from "I don't know how it got there" right to "must be from space").

So now we have essentially a repeat of that argument, again with sloppy methodology, but with some of the details changed.


have you any suggestion as to what mechanism hoists ~30 micron spherules to the stratosphere, whether or not they’re made of Ti–V?


(1) Again, this is premature, since this appears to be about a single claim of a single titanium sphere. Let's see some independent evidence for 30 micron titanium spheres in the stratosphere.

(2) Let's stick to titanium-vanadium, since that is what that part of the claim is about. Composition is very important. In his paper, he tries to exclude volcanos due to composition, but I don't see where he compares it to any meteorites, nor does he seem to have evidence of any other titanium balls found in the stratosphere (and do note, this isn't about whether some meteorites contain some amount of titanium - this is supposedly nearly pure titanium-vanadium, and of that, mostly titanium). If he could show a very close match to some meteorites, that could be a useful argument. I don't see anything like that.

(3) It isn't up to me to provide a mechanism for titanium balls to reach the stratosphere. It doesn't matter if anyone knows a mechanism. The issue is that it is a possibility, and he's leaping to conclusions without thorough evidence that excludes the possibility. (Though some of the commenting papers did suggest that moving air currents can keep larger objects up than you'd assume from a simple analysis.)


And if such a mechanism exists would it then be OK to find biological material associated with these particles? Of course, we don’t know this is biological in nature but you seem to think they made the whole thing up.


I'm not claiming they deliberately made things up (though that is a possibility that shouldn't be ignored). Rather, I think their methodology is ridiculous. There's something that he thinks looks like life, on a single metal ball, that he insists must be from space, but he hasn't begun to properly establish his claims. And I'm sure you know very well that the life claim is a critical aspect. My concern about the titanium ball is that I don't see where he has established that foundational aspect of the claim - it's a sloppy argument - but even if he established it was from space, he would also need to establish the life claim. His "It looks like life to me" argument is useless.



If that's the case I don't know what to say, so I’ll leave you with Numbers, types and compositions of an unbiased collection of cosmic spherules (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1945-5100.2000.tb01450.x/pdf) with hopes that you'll learn something.
I certainly have!

Cool! I didn't see anything there about titanium spherules though. Look at figure 3a regarding the chemical composition. Titanium is mentioned in the form of titanium dioxide, and there's no case where it gets even up to 1% of the total for a spherule.

Selfsim
2014-Feb-16, 05:50 AM
...(2) Let's stick to titanium-vanadium, since that is what that part of the claim is about. Composition is very important. In his paper, he tries to exclude volcanos due to composition, but I don't see where he compares it to any meteorites, nor does he seem to have evidence of any other titanium balls found in the stratosphere (and do note, this isn't about whether some meteorites contain some amount of titanium - this is supposedly nearly pure titanium-vanadium, and of that, mostly titanium). If he could show a very close match to some meteorites, that could be a useful argument. I don't see anything like that. Titanium - Aerospace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium#Aerospace_and_marine):

Due to their high tensile strength to density ratio, high corrosion resistance, fatigue resistance, high crack resistance, and ability to withstand moderately high temperatures without creeping, titanium alloys are used in aircraft, armor plating, naval ships, spacecraft, and missiles. For these applications titanium alloyed with aluminium, zirconium, nickel, vanadium, and other elements is used for a variety of components including critical structural parts, fire walls, landing gear, exhaust ducts (helicopters), and hydraulic systems. In fact, about two thirds of all titanium metal produced is used in aircraft engines and frames. The SR-71 "Blackbird" was one of the first aircraft to make extensive use of titanium within its structure, paving the way for its use in modern military and commercial aircraft. An estimated 59 metric tons (130,000 pounds) are used in the Boeing 777, 45 in the Boeing 747, 18 in the Boeing 737, 32 in the Airbus A340, 18 in the Airbus A330, and 12 in the Airbus A320. The Airbus A380 may use 77 metric tons, including about 11 tons in the engines. In engine applications, titanium is used for rotors, compressor blades, hydraulic system components, and nacelles. The titanium 6AL-4V alloy accounts for almost 50% of all alloys used in aircraft applications.Titanium 6AL-4V: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium_6AL-4V#Categories)

Grade 5, also known as Ti6Al4V, Ti-6Al-4V or Ti 6-4, is the most commonly used alloy. It has a chemical composition of 6% aluminium, 4% vanadium, 0.25% (maximum) iron, 0.2% (maximum) oxygen, and the remainder titanium. It is significantly stronger than commercially pure titanium while having the same stiffness and thermal properties (excluding thermal conductivity, which is about 60% lower in Grade 5 Ti than in CP Ti). Among its many advantages, it is heat treatable. This grade is an excellent combination of strength, corrosion resistance, weld and fabricability.
"This alpha-beta alloy is the workhorse alloy of the titanium industry. The alloy is fully heat treatable in section sizes up to 15mm and is used up to approximately 400°C (750°F). Since it is the most commonly used alloy – over 70% of all alloy grades melted are a sub-grade of Ti6Al4V, its uses span many aerospace airframe and engine component uses and also major non-aerospace applications in the marine, offshore and power generation industries in particular."
...
(3) It isn't up to me to provide a mechanism for titanium balls to reach the stratosphere. It doesn't matter if anyone knows a mechanism. The issue is that it is a possibility, and he's leaping to conclusions without thorough evidence that excludes the possibility. (Though some of the commenting papers did suggest that moving air currents can keep larger objects up than you'd assume from a simple analysis.)I agree that 'it doesn't matter if anyone knows a mechanism'.

Accelerated spacecraft/booster debris dropped from orbit, or produced during launch, or aircraft component debris are 'possible' mechanisms. Wainwright should have attempted to formally discount those obvious 'possibilities'.

Van Rijn
2014-Feb-17, 02:37 AM
Yes, I was wondering if any part of the collection or test equipment might have been made of titanium alloy. But if you read the paper, he seems to spend more time hypothesizing based on his assumptions than establishing evidence.

It's very similar to other "it looks like it to me" arguments I've read, much like some of our own board's ATM threads. This fellow has better equipment, but the argument follows the same pattern.