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#1 2006-03-06 10:50:01

MathsIsFun
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Registered: 2005-01-21
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Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Makes an interesting read: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/st … 13,00.html

Plausible?


"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  - Leon M. Lederman

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#2 2006-03-06 12:08:45

Ricky
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0601022

That's a liink to the actual paper.  And quite an interesting paper at that.  But they step way out of bounds when they say, "The present study of red rain phenomenon of Kerala shows that the particles, which caused the red colouration of the red rain, are not possibly of terrestrial origin."  The only thing they can conclude is that they haven't figured out a way to terrestrially expalin the origins.

But the article (the link MathsIsFun posted) took "cells" to mean "life" which is not really the case.  Just because there are cells doesn't mean a think has to be living.


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#3 2006-03-06 17:31:00

MathsIsFun
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Cell-like structure but no DNA, how interesting!

Perhaps life abounds in the universe ...


"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  - Leon M. Lederman

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#4 2006-03-06 18:20:59

ganesh
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Registered: 2005-06-28
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Panspermia! Fred Hoyle would be impressed!

Had it occured five hundred kilometers Northeast, I would have collected a sample!


Character is who you are when no one is looking.

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#5 2006-03-07 01:51:48

ashwil
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Registered: 2006-02-27
Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Whatever next? Maybe someone on this forum can show the probability "proof" that life exists elsewhere. Alas, there is none. All that exists is us and our incurable desire not to be alone.

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#6 2006-03-07 04:52:16

Ricky
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

ashwil, what lead you to that conclusion?  Especially since we have found biological material on asteriods.


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#7 2006-03-07 05:19:27

ashwil
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Ricky, please define "biological material".

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#8 2006-03-07 05:33:10

Ricky
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Amino acids


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#9 2006-03-07 06:25:23

ashwil
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Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Before continuing, I should explain that my outspoken and sweeping statement was purely designed to prompt reaction!

Amino acids in themselves are not evidence of life. Nor do they prove that life must exist. They are simply a chemical structure based around hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. The fact that they are components parts of the proteins that, in turn, form part of living organisms on this planet does not require that they will, in the absence of other influence, form life wherever they occur any more than the cheese I had in my sandwich today is proof the cheese will always find its way into a sandwich!! All that it proves is that life elsewhere is, at this time, a theoretical possibility. (Its also pssible that I may have a cheese sandwich tomorrow!)

You see, Ricky, we really do suffer from the syndrome of being the centre of our own universe. The fact that something happened here (or was made to happen) cannot be used as direct evidence that it will happen elsewhere, but we do tend to make that assumption before we have the evidence. In reality we seem to have only 2 very limited choices:

1. Life on earth was created. This neither proves nor disproves life elsewhere
2. Life on earth evolved. This could just have been a zillion to one probability that has never happened elsewhere.

Both of these possibilities have their fanatical supporters, but usually, they comprise people who follow passionate belief rather than genuine sceintific evidence.

The skill for wise men is to keep our minds open to possibilities, but closed to unfounded assumptions.

My personal belief is that we are, indeed, the only life in the universe! I am open to persuasion, but only by genuine evidence, not assumptive reasoning.

Last edited by ashwil (2006-03-07 06:26:43)

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#10 2006-03-07 06:47:29

Ricky
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Before continuing, I should explain that my outspoken and sweeping statement was purely designed to prompt reaction!

Then it has been a major success!

You see, Ricky, we really do suffer from the syndrome of being the centre of our own universe.

I completely agree.  But by stating that we are the only place in the universe that contains life, it is you who are emphasizing that syndrome.

My personal belief is that we are, indeed, the only life in the universe! I am open to persuasion, but only by genuine evidence, not assumptive reasoning.

That fine for a belief.  But you were stating that as fact in your other post.

You also seem to imply that the default stance is "There is no life other than on earth." although you never directly say it (and if you didn't mean to imply that, my apologies).  The default stance is "There may or may not be life in the universe."  This is the one I choose to take until we somehow show that there is no life anywhere else in the universe, or we find life.

But the whole point is that finding amino acids makes it much more likely to find life elsewhere.

Last edited by Ricky (2006-03-07 06:51:21)


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#11 2006-03-07 07:05:24

ashwil
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Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

I think we are agreeing to agree - just taking different routes to do so!

I merely adopted a negative stance because (as a race) we clamour for life to exist elsewhere. I do that sometimes if I feel that it can stimulate an interesting discussion, but rarely do I actually hold such dogmatic or unrealistic views.

As to whether the existence of amino acids makes life statistically more likely, I am less convinced. I think it just keeps the subject open. Whether we find or dont find amino acids, we still have the possibility that life either does or does not exist, so it remains at 50% for me!!

Interestingly, I heard a weather forecaster recently say there was a 50% chance of rain. In other words, it may rain or it may not OR "I have no idea if its going to rain"!!!

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#12 2006-03-07 07:18:38

mathsyperson
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Well, it kind of depends on where the forecaster was coming from. For example, if that report had been in a desert or during monsoon season, then a 50% chance could actually be very low or high.


Why did the vector cross the road?
It wanted to be normal.

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#13 2006-03-07 07:28:20

Ricky
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

As to whether the existence of amino acids makes life statistically more likely, I am less convinced. I think it just keeps the subject open. Whether we find or dont find amino acids, we still have the possibility that life either does or does not exist, so it remains at 50% for me!!

If you knew absolutely nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing like, "What is an asteroid?", then the possibility that life either does or does not exist would be at 50%?  Right?

Are you saying finding complex chemicals that also happen to be the building blocks of our life on asteroids doesn't change that percentage at all?


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#14 2006-03-07 13:33:06

ashwil
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Registered: 2006-02-27
Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Schoolboy statistics trick question:

If you flip a coin 99 times and it comes down heads every time, what is the probability that it will come down heads on the 100th time?

The fact that observation may suggest something doesnt actually change the statistical probability. My level of knowledge (or lack) doesnt change the probability either. Actually, the probability on this issue is irrelevant anyway, as the answer is an absolute - either there is life elsewhere or there isn't. It is 100% one way or the other, we just don't yet know which.

By the way, what is an asteroid?

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#15 2006-03-08 03:30:24

Ricky
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Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

The fact that observation may suggest something doesn't actually change the statistical probability. My level of knowledge (or lack) doesn't change the probability either. Actually, the probability on this issue is irrelevant anyway, as the answer is an absolute - either there is life elsewhere or there isn't. It is 100% one way or the other, we just don't yet know which.

You aren't looking at it from your perspective though.  The answer is an absolute, but you don't know that answer.  Let's play a little game.

I have 10 cups, overturned, one of them has a ball inside.  What's the chance that any one cup has the ball in it?  1/10, right?  I point to a cup, tell you (and I must tell the truth) that this cup doesn't have the ball inside it, and so I remove it from the table.  What's the chance that any one cup has the ball inside it?  1/9.  I do this till we get down to 2 cups.  What's the probability that there is a ball in the left cup?  You would say 50%, right?  Did you know that from the beginning?  Absolutely not.

And the ball, being in that cup the entire time, is an absolute.  But the more information you gain about the system, the more probable it is to find the ball.  The same applies to finding life on other worlds.


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#16 2006-03-08 06:37:17

ashwil
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Registered: 2006-02-27
Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Ricky, you're really quite good at this kind of logical reasoning, aren't you?

Let me think about that one, as I'm sure it doesn't quite work in the "life on other planets" example, but it does deserve some more thought. For the mean time, let me leave you with this thought:

Once we are down to 2 cups and the probability is 50%, I either pick the right cup or the wrong cup. Irrespective of the probability (which is really only an aid to forecasting), I will either be 100% right or 100% wrong.

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#17 2006-03-08 07:40:03

mathsyperson
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Registered: 2005-06-22
Posts: 4,900

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Quantum theory says that if absolutely no one knows which of the two cups the ball is under, then it is under both of them until an experiment is performed which determines its location.

I've probably spelt his name wrong, but it's something like the Schroeder's cat theory.


Why did the vector cross the road?
It wanted to be normal.

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#18 2006-03-08 10:15:47

ashwil
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Registered: 2006-02-27
Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Does a tree falling in a forest when nobody is present make a noise?

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#19 2006-03-08 10:23:18

Ricky
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Posts: 3,791

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

mathyperson, one mistake many people make is trying to apply the principles of quantum theory to the macroscopic.  Quantum physics only applies to the quantum level.

ashwil, you can see it directly applies to life in the universe.  Knowing absolutely nothing, there is a 50/50 chance that life doesn't exist elsewhere in this universe.  If we find that the building blocks of life (amino acids) somehow form in other places, then this will make life more likely to exist.  If, however, we found that this wasn't the case, that amino acids are extremely hard to form, then it would make life less likely.

But it's much more complex than this.  (Our) Life is very complex.  It extremely rarely (if ever) occurs naturally.  We haven't been able to make it.  A genesis event doesn't happen very often at all, especially with oxygen now in the atmosphere.

Then again....  There is no requirement for life to be like our life.  Maybe somewhere simple life does exist.

There are too many known unknowns, and unknown unknowns to make any kind of guess at what the chances of life are.  But do you agree that there is a chance?


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#20 2006-03-08 10:26:21

Ricky
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Registered: 2005-12-04
Posts: 3,791

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Does a tree falling in a forest when nobody is present make a noise?

Occam's Razor says yes.

Let's assume the answer was no.  Then there would have to be some sort of natural or unnatural phenomena which makes it so that the tree doesn't make any noise when we are not around.  Furthermore, we have things like audio and video recorders.  So this phenomena would have to also recognize them and then make a sound.

On the other hand, answering yes agrees with everything we already know.

The razor shaves off another one...

(Oh, and btw, I wrote this post while shaving....)


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#21 2006-03-08 10:42:48

ashwil
Member
Registered: 2006-02-27
Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

ashwil, you can see it directly applies to life in the universe.  Knowing absolutely nothing, there is a 50/50 chance that life doesn't exist elsewhere in this universe.  If we find that the building blocks of life (amino acids) somehow form in other places, then this will make life more likely to exist.  If, however, we found that this wasn't the case, that amino acids are extremely hard to form, then it would make life less likely.

But it's much more complex than this.  (Our) Life is very complex.  It extremely rarely (if ever) occurs naturally.  We haven't been able to make it.  A genesis event doesn't happen very often at all, especially with oxygen now in the atmosphere.

Then again....  There is no requirement for life to be like our life.  Maybe somewhere simple life does exist.

There are too many known unknowns, and unknown unknowns to make any kind of guess at what the chances of life are.  But do you agree that there is a chance?

Ok, darn it! (am I allowed to say that?). I will, on this very rare occasion, concede that such a scenario does make it more likely when viewed from a standpoint of incomplete and developing knowledge. And, yes, there is a teeny weeny chance that some kind of identifiable life exists somewhere else. Mind you, given that I started from a completely indefensible dogmatic stance, putting forward a point that I don't absolutely believe to be true, that may not be much of a concession! Maybe I should change my name to Devil's Advocate?

Next subject: "Amino acids - Their misconceived role in the formation of living organisms"

Oh yes, please do be careful with the razor!

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#22 2006-03-08 12:18:50

Ricky
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Registered: 2005-12-04
Posts: 3,791

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

I agree that it is only a small chance, but hey, this is a big universe.  Who knows?  But I would watch it with the words, as there can be very young children here.

So what is so misconceived about amino acids and life?  Don't keep me waiting in the dark.

(Moderators/Admin, feel free to edit out the below, as I'm not sure if a plug for another forum is ok)
Oh, and if there are subjects you wish to discuss but you think they are too controversial or would get heated, you can post them over at The Skeptic Friends Network where we debate religion, politics, science, pseudoscience, etc.


"In the real world, this would be a problem.  But in mathematics, we can just define a place where this problem doesn't exist.  So we'll go ahead and do that now..."

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#23 2006-03-08 17:12:41

MathsIsFun
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Registered: 2005-01-21
Posts: 7,552

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Sure you can mention other forums! And feel free to mention us over there, too smile


"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  - Leon M. Lederman

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#24 2006-03-09 11:44:50

ashwil
Member
Registered: 2006-02-27
Posts: 121

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

Ricky, I would love to debate the role of amino acids in the formation of life, but the truth is that I have no idea! Just playing with you. (though I do have a myriad controversial opinions on evolution/creation, god/atheism etc, but best not here)

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#25 2006-03-09 12:58:29

MathsIsFun
Administrator
Registered: 2005-01-21
Posts: 7,552

Re: Red Rain Over India - Alien Life?

It *may* be that simple forms of life are abundant in the Universe, but intelligence such as ours is rare.

Dinosaurs were probably pretty smart, but never developed technology despite hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

If that were true, then one of the factors in the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation would be (sadly) very small.


"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  - Leon M. Lederman

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