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Q&A on Coronavirus and disease from space
event February 23, 2020 comment One Comment

Update: Tusk sends protest letter to Space.com

Hello readers new and old. Below is the 3rd in a series of communications from Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe regarding panspermia and the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Please refer to two recent Tusk posts, one concerning Dr. Wickramasinghe’s recent communication to The Lancet, and an earlier post concerning Dr. C’s challenging career.

Opinions vary on the relative danger of the virus, as do recommendations to combat the pending pandemic. One thing that does not vary is there are only two opinions regarding its origin communicated on the internet and elsewhere: 1) The virus originated from eating an infected exotic animal; or, 2) The virus was borne from a laboratory based conspiracy or accident near Wuhan.

Given the bafflement of the planet to prove either of the first two opinions, allow the Tusk to facilitate the communication of a 3rd hypothesis, yet untested or widely considered: It came from Outer Space.

The pedigree of this hypothesis is much stronger than you might first suspect, and certainly stronger then 2), so do not reject this idea out of hand. If you have questions about the publishing record of the space borne virus hypothesis, it might help to read and follow the links in previous Tusk posts for more information on Dr. Wickramasinghe and Sir Fred Hoyle [here, here and earlier here].

FYI, this particular post will be improved and updated in coming days with additional links and info. Other related but separate posts may also appear on the Tusk.

Thanks!

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Q: Dr. C, thank you for joining us here at the Tusk. Do you believe person-to-person viral transmission occurs with Coronavirus or other viruses?  If the infection comes from space, how do you account for the “close quarters” effect where infection rates run so much higher on cruise ships and such?

It appears that this new virus can be infective only on very close contact. The many cases occurring simultaneously on cruise ships or chalets in ski resorts can be explained if clouds carrying the virus come down in local regions. As for freak superspreaders this is a myth based on ignorance. If a group of people were exposed to a cloud of the virus and became simultaneously infected from a non-human environmental source of any kind, there would be a dispersion in the times before illness shows up. That is to say the incubation period would have statistical spread, so one case will appear first. To crown him/her a superspreader with a mysterious power is akin to a medieval myth (explained in the attached article.

This idea was first discussed scientifically by the late Sir Fred Hoyle and me in two books – Diseases from Space (1979) and Evolution from Space (1980). Here we introduced the theory that comets carry bacteria and viruses and that impacts by comets were important for both the beginning of life on Earth and for its further evolution.  The first point to make is that the standard view that life originates spontaneously on Earth in a primordial soup or in deep sea thermal vents has no evidence whatsoever to support it. Every experiment that has been done to demonstrate this possibility has been a dismal failure over more than 50 years. The molecular complexity of life – the information content of life – is of an exceedingly specific kind and is superastronomical in quantity, and so the origin of life could not have happened on Earth. A few years ago the very oldest evidence of microbial life on Earth was discovered in rocks dated 4300 million years ago – and this was at a time when the Earth was being relentlessly pounded by comet and asteroid impacts. So there is little doubt now that life on Earth came from impacting comets, and the subsequent evolution of life happened against the backdrop of new bacteria and viruses being introduced via comets, adding new potential for evolution.  It is this potential for evolution with new cosmic genes against which Darwinian evolution takes place. So there is no doubt cosmic viruses are in our genes. And this is the reason that new viruses coming from space today can relate to evolved life forms like ourselves.

Q: There is, to say the least, a lot of research and brain power being applied globally to Coronavirus. What are all those big brains and esteemed virologists missing in the data?

It is only relatively recently that scientists have been able to fully grasp the enormous magnitude of the microbial and viral content of the terrestrial biosphere. We now know that a typical liter of surface seawater contains at least 10 billion microbes as well as some 100 billion viruses—the vast majority of which remain unidentified and characterized to date (See here.) Two years ago an international group of scientists collected bacteria and viruses that fell through the rarefied atmosphere near the 4000 meter peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain.  They arrived at an astonishing tally of some 800 million viruses per square metre per day and an associated slightly smaller tally of bacteria – all of which would of course ultimately fall to the Earth’s surface (eg. Reported here).  The assumption normally made is that all such viruses and bacteria necessarily originate on the Earth’s surface and are swept upwards in air currents. But in such a model many horrendous difficulties associated with the upward transport processes of bacteria and viruses are ignored. I think a significant fraction of this vast number of falling microbes must actually originate outside the terrestrial biosphere and come from cometary sources – viruses and bacteria that are expelled from comets.

Further evidence comes from sampling the stratosphere for its bacterial and viral content. By sampling the stratosphere at a height of 41 km, using equipment carried using balloons already in 2002 we arrived at an estimated in-fall from this height of 20-200 million bacteria per square meter per day, and 10 to 100 times more viruses, falling downwards to the Earth. These are facts that cannot be ignored, but all too often they are!  So, if we take into account all the facts available to date we cannot avoid the conclusion that vast numbers of bacteria and viruses continue to fall through the Earth’s atmosphere, and it seems inevitable that a significant fraction is of external origin.

Q: How are comets and their debris stream meteor showers related to the hypothesis?

Comets have of course been regarded with fear by many ancient cultures. Almost without exception comets have been thought to be bad omens – bringers of pestilence and death. The evidence for comets being implicated in the origin of life and also of diseases on Earth was intensely controversial when these ideas were first proposed. Now there is a growing consensus that comets are in some way be connected to the origin of life. But most people  are still fearful about going any further. But facts tell us a different story. If one looks at all the available facts on epidemics throughout history, comets and epidemics appear to be causally linked.

Stories of the sudden spread of plagues and pestilences punctuate human history throughout the millennia. The various epidemics, scattered through history and throughout the world often bear little or no resemblance one to another. But they share a common feature. They often affect entire cities, countries or even widely separated parts of the Earth in a matter of days or weeks.

The Greek Historian Thucydides describes one such epidemic – the plague of Athens of 429 BC thus:

“It is said to have begun in that part of Ethiopia above Egypt….On the city of Athens it fell suddenly, and first attacked the men in Piraeus; so that it was even reported by them that the Peloponnesians had thrown poison into the cisterns…..”

This event from Classical Greece bears striking similarities to the modern events relating to the outbreak of the corona virus in China. Thucydides writes that many families were simultaneously struck by a disease with a combination of symptoms hitherto unknown. The idea of an enemy (the Peloponnesians) poisoning the drinking water rings true to what has happened in the Corona virus outbreak in China.

Very similar descriptions of a sudden onset and rapid global spread is relevant to almost all earlier as well as later epidemics. Extreme swiftness of transmission is hard to comprehend if, as is usually supposed, infection can pass only slowly from person to person or be carried by vectors such as lice and ticks, and more recently, monkeys, bats or snakes. Such explanations are particularly untenable for the many epidemics that occurred before the advent of air travel when movement of people across the Earth was a slow and tedious process.

The general belief, that is by no means well-proven, is that major pandemics, such as influenza, start by random mutation or genetic recombination of a virus or bacterium which then spreads across a susceptible population by direct person-to-person contact. If this is so, it is somewhat surprising that major pandemics tend to be relatively short-lived, usually lasting about a year, and that they do not eventually affect the entire human population, which would not have a specific immunity of any totally new pathogen. We might argue that a primary cometary dust infection is potentially the most lethal, and that secondary person-to-person transmissions have progressively reduced virulence resulting in a diminishing incidence of the disease over a limited period. Infections of a human population could occur directly by contact with “infected” meteoritic dust from an exploding cometary bolide, or indirectly by the original cometary infection passing first to rats, lice, primates, bats, snakes which can act as intermediaries.

One important piece of historic evidence that emerged 101 years ago relates to the great Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 that caused some 20-30 million deaths worldwide.

Reviewing all the available data Dr. L. Weinstein wrote as follows:

“Although person-to-person spread occurred in local areas, the disease appeared on the same day in widely separated parts of the world on the one hand, but on the other, took days to weeks to spread relatively short distances.  It was detected in Boston and Bombay on the same day, but took three weeks before it reached New York City, despite the fact that there was considerable travel between the two cities. It was present for the first time at Joliet in the State of Illinois four weeks after it was first detected in Chicago, the distance between those areas being only 38 miles……”   L. Weinstein, New Eng.J.Med, May 1976

The lethal second wave of the influenza pandemic of 1918 thus showing up on the same day in Boston and Bombay defies the realities of human travel at the time. Before the advent of air travel so it was impossible for people to transfer the virus from Boston to Bombay or vice versa.  As Sherlock Holmes would have said: “The case is clear as daylight, my dear Watson:  a new virus (or genetic trigger for a circulating virus) clearly fell through the skies simultaneously in locations that were separated by tens of thousands of kilometres.”

Over the following 12 months the infective agent probably became dispersed through the troposphere and came down with an expected seasonal modulation across much of the world.

The abrupt appearance in the literature of references to particular diseases is also significant to recall in that they probably indicate specific invasions of new pathogens.  Thus the first clear description of a disease resembling influenza was probably recorded in the 17th century AD, while the earliest reference to the common cold in the literature was about the 15th century AD.  Also, it is significant that many historic plagues such as the Plague of Athens (described in meticulous detail by Thucydides) have not been linked to easily recognisable modern counterparts.

A realisation that a cause of the kind we propose may be the most plausible possibility was hinted at by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who expressed concern about the number of coronavirus cases “with no clear epidemiological link”.  Whilst the total number of cases outside China remains relatively new independent clusters continue to arise sporadically across the planet and is causing consternation and concern. This is precisely the pattern of incidence that we expect from a meteoroid dispersal model that we propose to represent the most likely cause.  Whilst many of the clusters of COVID-19 far from Wuhan have been connected with travel to China, others have not.  Of particular importance in this connection is the report of some 730 cases in Japan, over 400 in South Korea, over 100 in Northern Italy and 28 Iran – as on 20 February 2020.

Could you summarize the most important facts with regard to COVID-19 outbreak and how they relate to your long standing theory of disease from space?

  • On October 11 2019 a meteoritic bolide (probably fragment of a comet) exploded in a brief flash in North East China.  We think it probable that this bolide contained embedded within it a monoculture of infective COVID-19 virus particles that survived in the interior of the incandescent meteoroid seen in Fig 1.  Although the fireball lit up the skies some 2000km north of Wuhan (the epicentre of the new virus outbreak) parts of the bolide would have, in our view fragmented before ignition and non-destructively dispersed as fine (virus-carrying dust) over Wuhan and a wider surrounding area.  From the broad range of arguments that we shall develop in this article we consider the seemingly outrageous possibility (no doubt outrageous to many readers) that literally hundreds of trillions of infective viral particles were then released embedded in the form of fine carbonaceous dust from the flash-exploded bolide.
  • In late November to early December 2019 first human cases 2019-nCoV appear in the Wuhan region and its environs (by all accounts unrelated to Wuhan meat and seafood market).
  • Isolates of virus that have been now studied in many laboratories show very low or no mutation indicating that the incoming virus is essentially a “monoculture”. This is dramatically different to the picture one gets if the main spread of the virus was through affected victims replicating the virus and spreading copies which inevitably would show mutations over a broad sample of isolates.  Everyone in the Wuhan region would have been exposed to essentially the identical virus (including many animals , such as mammals, snakes and even perhaps vegetation).
  • Unsubstantiated claims that people pass on the virus to others without, or before, they show any symptoms implies a very strange pattern of epidemiological behaviour forcing difficulties with the straight forward infective model of human-to-human transmission. On the other hand, the meteorite hypothesis is consistent with a wide regional “environmental” contamination which may include clothes, hair, cars, side-walks, trees, grassland, surface water pools and water reservoirs.
  • From a crude look at the evidence it is amply clear that some degree of human-to-human transmission might have occurred, yet it is low or difficult, or confined to intimate family contacts. In the latter instance the contact transfer model is somewhat confused by the fact these intimate social units may have shared or sampled the same infected space.
  • It is also significant that passengers on cruise ships in the China sea and beyond have also been affected without significant evidence of intimate contact with infected individuals. A similar phenomenon was also noticed during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic when outbreaks were recorded in groups of people who were essentially in isolation at sea over many weeks.
  • A very wide area in China is suspect to be contaminated by viral infall and this area is now evidently been quarantined – an operation that would probably have been done rationally based on Chinese government sampling for COVID-19 RNA sequences.
  • Foci of COVID-2019 including instances of no detectable epidemiological link to China have now been identified in countries distant from the Wuhan centre. These include 730 in Japan, over 400 in South Korea, over 100 in Northern Italy and 28 Iran.

The predominant localisation of the virus within China is the most remarkable aspect of the disease, the first cases of which probably began to show up from November 2019 onward. The fatalities reported so far appears to be confined to individuals, particularly the elderly, with underlying health problems, and the death toll so far is said to be less than the thousands who have died in the US in the past 3 months from seasonal influenza.

But I think the evidence is overwhelming that the spread of this virus occurs primarily to environmental contamination – the air and surfaces contaminated with falling virus.

The factors governing the actual pattern of global incidence for any particular extra-terrestrial invasion could be complex. If bacteria or viruses are dispersed in a diffuse cloud of small particles, the incidence of disease may well be global. On the other hand, a smaller disintegrating aggregate of infective grain clumps falling over a limited area of the Earth’s surface could provide a geographically more localised outbreak of disease. This may have been the case for the Plague of Athens in 429 BCE and the Coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak in recent weeks. Systematic effects such as air currents over the Earth’s surface could also be relevant in controlling the transport and dispersal of clumps of infective particles.

In particular certain latitude belts might well be more favoured than others for either the accumulation and/or the settling of these particles, or indeed for their avoidance.  High mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the Alps that puncture the troposphere would be ideal locations that act like “bath plugs” for draining clouds of particles.  So also would arctic regions, where the troposphere is particularly thin (6-7 km) during the winter, be first sites of descent.  It would not be surprising to find a surge of cases of COVID-19 reported in the future in any of these geographical locations. Indeed, during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, arctic communities in Alaska far removed from major population centre were “mysteriously” struck; and like in some current situations reported for COVID-19 no epidemiologic link could be traced to distant centres of infection.

What is clear from the emerging data relating to the COVID-19 outbreak is that its spread is by no means easy via the normal person-to-person transmission routes – eg droplet diffusion.  However, a geographical localisation is evident in clusters that range in size from small to huge, clusters that now seem to be spread over a global scale. What we think is important to do is to begin to think in terms of environmental contamination of villages, towns and cities, rather than sources of virus carried by infected individuals alone

More question submitted…

Chandra Wickramasinghe comets coronavirus covid-19 meteor Sir Fred Hoyle space wuhan