On November 25th, 2019, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe made the following stark warning, weeks before the coronavirus emerged.
On the basis of this data, there appears to be a prima facie case for expecting new viral strains to emerge over the coming months and so it would be prudent for Public Health Authorities the world over to be vigilant and prepared for any necessary action. We need hardly to be reminded that the spectre of the 1918 devastating influenza pandemic stares us in the face from across a century.
More intriguing is the discovery of bacteria and microbes in unlikely places, such as the stratosphere, 30 to 40 kilometres above the surface of the planet, and more excitingly on the outside of the International Space Station. In the case of the ISS, contamination has been ruled out and the physics suggests that it is not possible for the microbes to have been lofted up from the earth’s surface.
Wickramasinghe is an internationally respected Sri Lankan polymathmatical scientist in his 81st year, who has maintained since his days at Cambridge in the early 1970’s that viruses transit more or less constantly to earth from space and infect our planet’s fauna.
Over the course of the next thirty years Chandra and his dearest friend, the late Sir Fred Hoyle, engaged in an historically significant scientific disagreement with consensus 20th century astronomical, biological and medical opinion. Their evidence for “Panspermia” and disease from space was mocked, their ideas actively suppressed, and their peers abandoned them without responsibly reviewing their work.
Despite the new evidence their predictions are now forgotten.
Let me be clear: Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe are scientists — not “pseudoscientists,” as libeled by Space.com on March 19th. Fred Hoyle was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his astronomical contributions and science communication. Wickramasinghe has maintained a lifetime of distinguished global professorships and has continued to publish evidence for disease from space for fifty years, despite being branded a heretic:
Research Fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1965 Professor of Mathematics, Vidyodaya University of Ceylon, 1966 Visiting Professor at Universities of Arizona and Maryland USA, 1966-1970 Visiting Professor at Yukawa Institute, Kyoto University, Japan, 1969 Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge; Tutor, Jesus College, Cambridge and College Supervisor in Mathematics; Member of the Graduate Staff of the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, University of Cambridge, 1966-1973 Visiting Professor at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, 1974 and 1976 Director, Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka, 1982-1984 UNDP Consultant/Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka, 1982-1984 Visiting Professor at Institute of Space and Astronautical Studies, Japan, 1993 Visiting Professsor, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, 1994 Professor and Head of the Dept.of Applied Maths and Astronomy, Univ. Coll., Cardiff, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy, University of Cardiff, Wales, 1990-2006 Professor and Director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology (2006-2020)
On November 25th, 2019, Dr. Wickramasinghe specifically warned us the Pandemic was coming. After corresponding regularly for two months on Coronavirus, Chandra shared this paper with the Tusk this week in an email, attached without comment as an aside. I suppose he considered it irrelevant right now.
But Chandra’s spot-on warning is relevant. Heretics deserve vindication and Chandra is right. “Superspreaders” and “Community Transmission” are bullshit. These assumptions are unscientific “patches” to the current failed paradigm of virology, akin to “spirits” invoked in medieval times to explain what seemed inexplicable.
In light of this information, there may be very relevant and inexpensive mitigation measures such as widespread outdoor spray disinfection, which deserve reevaluation. Spraying public areas is well underway in many nations, but may be underappreciated as a control measure as the trillions of virus makes “in-fall” from the Troposphere in winter months. For instance, South Korea apparently has a comprehensive spray program, but none is underway in the United States.
The critical mass of public interest necessary for the public and gatekeepers to finally listen to Wickramasinghe may be at hand, even if it is too late for this pandemic. I apologize for the long-winded introduction and hope you enjoy the wisdom of Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe below.
This exchange will be updated periodically with additional questions and answers as things develop.
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.
March 23rd questions
Q: Chandra, I have noticed many nations are spraying disinfectant in public areas, but not the US. Does your comment above suggest the United State should spray disinfectant in order to remove the virus from public spaces? I thought Coronavirus did not live long on surfaces, or is still falling in?
I think it is vitally important that we approach such questions with humility. There remains much about this virus – its origin and modes of spread that is very poorly understood. The prevailing confidence of “expert” opinions stems firstly from the assumption that the virus is known to have originated via animals, or perhaps a sequence of animals. This is far from proven; and if this one assumption turns out to be wrong all that rests upon it is open to serious question. Ongoing genetic studies that are currently being carried out by my collaborator Ted Steele, who is a distinguished biomedical scientist, is showing this could not be true. The alternative view that scientists have been taught to disregard as being crazy and inadmissible is that it came from space. Following the work that was started in the late 1970’s in collaboration with the late Sir Fred Hoyle I have examined the epidemiology of many epidemics of respiratory viral diseases over several decades and presented a cogent case to say new viruses, in many instances, have an extraterrestrial origin. This sounds crazy and science-fiction like only because we have been locked into a paradigm of Earth-centred biology and Earth-centred evolution. There is now growing evidence for life – its origin and all its evolutionary history – being inextricably linked to the universe at large.
A major paradigm shift is now staring us in the face, and we are trying desperately to resist it at all cost. If the Earth’s biosphere extends to infinity – as is now absolutely clear – the concept of COVID and other viruses coming from space is no longer to be considered impossible or outrageous in any way.
I believe there are good arguments for asserting that the present pandemic was a combination of several massive infall events (infall of virus laden dust) over the general latitude belt 40-60 degrees north followed by contagion and person to person spread. We have argued that the sudden onslaught starting in China and moving to South Korea, Iran, Italy looks very much like such events. In these cases, one has an instinct to think that surface cleaning will have an effect. The Chinese were seen disinfecting road surfaces, exterior of buildings – everywhere – with high speed jets of disinfectant. This may well have worked in their favour.
Q: Is there reason to believe that unprecedented attention and data gathering, and subsequent epidemiological follow-up studies, may reveal flaws in the current paradigm so egregious that the scientific thinking is forced to shift to disease from space?
I believe that in the fullness of time this will be so. Neglecting to admit our biological connection with the external universe could be a matter of life and death for humanity. We have stated many times that the technology for monitoring the stratosphere for incoming viruses does indeed exist at the present time. Having a stratospheric surveillance programme in place could forewarn us of future pandemics before they hit the ground and hit us hard. A paradigm shift towards admitting our cosmic connection and cosmic destiny is in my view long overdue.
April 3rd question
Q: Please describe what you believe to be the most likely general scenario for the manner in which viral particles survive the entry into earth’s atmosphere. My understanding is that you believe viruses are orders of magnitude smaller than the tiny bits of comet they are encapsulated in, does that in some manner provide them protection from high speed atmospheric conditions? If they cant survive soap, how do they survive atmospheric entry?
The entry of microbes and viruses is discussed in an appendix in diseases from space. Whilst large fragments like pebbles and millimetre-sized bits get heated as they enter the atmosphere at speeds of 10km/s, and many burn as meteors, smaller structures survive. For example an atom or molecule survives and even a virus coated with a submicron sized coating survives high speed entry. Also a larger cm sized fluffy, highly porous particle can survive entry because they have vibrational modes that get rid of the energy of impacting atoms. Clumps of viruses have been stuck onto the outside of a rocket and found to survive at it was shot through the atmosphere. Soap acts chemically with the virus and is another matter, I suppose
All the best to you and your family – and keep safe and well. All the best, Chandra