Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back from ISME 14

I just left Copenhagen, where the 14th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology took place from August 19 to 24. This was a busy meeting, with 2,200 attendees (a new record), hundreds of presentations and countless posters. ISME is the biggest meeting of microbial ecologists – a wide crowd that covers everything from molecular biologists to bioengineers, ecologists and evolutionary biologists.

This diversity is part of what makes ISME an interesting meeting. Not only the diversity of the participants’ background, but also the variety of topics: within the same day you can follow talks about forest soil, deep-sea vents, biogas plants or the human body.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Francis Crick and Directed Panspermia

Francis Crick. Photo Marc Lieberman
Every biologist knows that Francis Crick is the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. What is less known, probably, is the fact that Crick was a proponent of a theory that stands at the border of science, the theory of directed panspermia.

In 1973, Crick (together with chemist Leslie Orgel) published an article describing the theory, and in 1981 he dedicated a full book to directed panspermia, entitled Life itself

According to Crick, the idea of panspermia – which means “seeds everywhere” – was proposed by the physicist Arrhenius at the end of the 19th century. Arrhenius suggested that life on Earth originated from space, that our world was seeded by spores of micro-organisms traveling between planets. 

But because the radiations in space were thought to be too intense for the spores to survive, Crick and Orgel postulated a variant of the theory in which spores were transported by an interplanetary spaceship sent by an alien civilization!