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Tiny amount of rare chemical found on Venus; it is NOT a sign of life

The coming dark age: Scientists today announced that they had detected a tiny amount of the rare chemical phosphine in the upper atmosphere of Venus, and immediately jumped to the absurd conclusion that this was a sign of life.

The international team, which includes researchers from the UK, US and Japan, estimates that phosphine exists in Venus’s clouds at a small concentration, only about twenty molecules in every billion. Following their observations, they ran calculations to see whether these amounts could come from natural non-biological processes on the planet. Some ideas included sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning, but none of these could make anywhere near enough of it. These non-biological sources were found to make at most one ten thousandth of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw.

To create the observed quantity of phosphine (which consists of hydrogen and phosphorus) on Venus, terrestrial organisms would only need to work at about 10% of their maximum productivity, according to the team. Earth bacteria are known to make phosphine: they take up phosphate from minerals or biological material, add hydrogen, and ultimately expel phosphine. Any organisms on Venus will probably be very different to their Earth cousins, but they too could be the source of phosphine in the atmosphere.

To leap from finding twenty molecules out of a billion of a single rare chemical to claiming this is a sign of life is absurd. And yet, this is what these scientists do, in the European Space Agency (ESA) press release at the link above, as well as this Royal Astronomical Society press release.

This discovery is not giving us “a hint of life on Venus.” All these scientists have done is detect a chemical whose formation in Venus’ very alien environment is a mystery. Yes, on Earth this chemical comes from life related activities, but to claim that the presence of biology must explain it on Venus is not science, but witchcraft and the stuff of fantasy. We know practically nothing about the full make-up of Venus’ atmosphere, its chemistry and environment, which makes it impossible to hint at any theories, no less life.

The worst part of this is that we can expect our brainless media to run with these claims, without the slightest effort of incredulity.

We live in a world of make believe and made-up science. Data is no longer important, only the leaps of fantasy we can jump to based on the slimmest of facts. It was this desire to push theories rather than knowledge that locked humanity into a dark age for centuries during the Middle Ages. It is doing it again, now, and the proof is all around you, people like zombies and sheep, wearing masks based not on any proven science but on pure emotions.

Conscious Choice cover

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  • Matt in AZ

    CNN’s headline for this is rich:
    “Gas found on Earth that signifies life has been detected in clouds on Venus”

  • Patrick Underwood

    Usually on board with you Mr. Zimmerman, but your reaction seems oddly filled with emotion, that thing you often disparage in others when they fall short of your standards.

    I don’t have the expertise for this. I do understand probability and logical argument to some extent. I’m an INTJ after all. :) Instead of instantly reverting to a defensive and reactionary position, I’ll wait (impatiently) for confirmation OR the rising tide of refutation.

    Matt… I find myself in the world-shattering position of defending CNN. (I’ve already thrown up so at least that’s out of the way.) I don’t see anything glaringly wrong with the headline—that’s what actually happened. Now it could be a false positive, a misinterpretation of data, and even if it’s not, it still could be abiotic. But at this point, who knows? I choose to be excited and hopeful. I’ve never had my soul crushed by turning out to be wrong in that.

  • LocalFluff

    Dave Stevenson is a planetary scientist who still has the integrity to publicly shrug at all the empty talk about habitability and alien life. Headline hunting sensationalists who want their 15 minutes of fame in the shape of a stupid so called “journalist’s” horribly erroneous news paper article. He studies magnetic fields.

    He said once that he asked a friend chemist whether detection of an exoplanetary atmosphere with both O2 and CH4 really would be a strong indicator for biological processes?
    “- Oh no, we could easily find abiotic processes for that! It’s just that no chemist has had any reason to care about that yet.”

  • Patrick Underwood

    I bet I’m going to get “signifies” thrown at me. In my understanding of the English language, “signifies” does not equal “proves.” Any *signal* must be *interpreted*. It’s somewhere near the middle of the long subjective road between “suggests” and “destroys all doubt.”

    Not that I think the CNN person cares. Every news service on Earth uses provocative headlines, and actually this one is pretty mild. Especially for CNN.

  • Lee S

    I am in full agreement with Patrick here… The reporting is overblown by a metric mile, but so is your rage Bob…
    The ironic thing is that this era of “choose your own facts” is an artifact of the current administration over there.. I’m not saying the left or right are in the right when it comes to being factual…. But it would be nice to return to a world where the scientific method decided the most likely truth, and not the person that shouts the loudest.
    All that digression aside…. Even tho there is obviously nothing proven by these results, for me at least, this is encouraging… The atmosphere of Venus contains the most earth like conditions in the solar system, and has my vote for the best chance we have of finding microbiological life elsewhere… Same pressure, same temperature, more acidic, and floating rather than sitting in a puddle…. But those dark streaks are interesting… And let’s not throw that baby out with the bathwater!!

  • Patrick Underwood

    Thanks Lee, but I have to disagree with this part:

    “The ironic thing is that this era of “choose your own facts” is an artifact of the current administration…”

    Uh… no. The so-called “reality-based community” (talk about irony) on the Left has been hammering American conservatives for decades now. Just look up the origin of that phrase. It happened long before Trump.

    People keep asserting all this incivility started with Trump, even BECAUSE of him. Come on. You don’t remember “BusHitler”? Look up some headlines from 1980s and see how the media treated Reagan.

  • Ryan Lawson

    Hey, if it is life, it means the most catastrophic greenhouse models of the doomer left are not capable of killing *all* life on Earth as they always claim :-p

  • Ryan Lawson

    Lee S, I would still say the subsurface oceans of Europa will have the most Earth-like conditions with possibility of ecosystems built around Europan versions of black smokers. In Mr. Zimmerman’s defense, Venus is one of the planets/moons I would put on my list of least likely places in the solar system to find life, right behind Mercury. I would think the Jovian atmosphere has layers more conducive to life than Venus.

  • Porkopolis

    I call it consensus science. It’s what’s given us the idiot, virtue-signalling “science is real” crowd.

  • I wonder how does this level of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, compare with the levels seen at Jupiter and Saturn? And at what depth/pressure in the atmosphere?

    See this 2009 paper “Phosphine on Jupiter and Saturn from Cassini/CIRS”

  • Patrick Underwood

    This evidence is not sitting in a vacuum, so to speak. Jason Wright tweeted

    Morowitz & Sagan in 1967 suggested that life could exist in the Venetian [sic] clouds. There is a height in its atmosphere with roughly the same pressure, temperature, and UV flux as Earth—”habitable”!

    Okay granted, it’s habitable if you like concentrated sulphuric acid. Still… extremophiles are a thing.

    Have always wondered about Jupiter—another of Sagan’s speculations. Now that is one BIG chemistry set. Personally, not that it matters much, but I expect there is biology in there somewhere. YMMV.

  • LocalFluff

    @Lee S “The atmosphere of Venus contains the most earth like conditions in the solar system”
    Sorry, but Venus’ atmosphere only contains 20 ppm (0.002%) H2O. On Earth the atmosphere never contains less than 100 times more than that, up to 2,000 times more.

  • Patrick Underwood: My disgust here (not rage) is the immediate attempt to leap from an interesting and puzzling discovery to “the possibility of alien life!” It is just uncalled for, and is in fact an attempt by both press releases to generate clickbait. Scientific organizations like ESA and the Royal Astronomical Society should know better.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Mr. Zimmerman, I get it, I really do. All these people and organizations have their agendas. Everyone does, not telling you anything you don’t know. So happens this is an agenda I can deal with, or at least understand. It’s amazingly benign compared to everything else I could find objectionable on this day.

    And, a gentle reminder that I never used the word “rage.”


  • Banned

    but of course…… more research will be needed!

    “All them scientists – they’re all alike. They say they’re working for us but what they really want is to rule the world!” – Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974).

  • ray

    I would expect the CNN headline to read, “Smog Monsters discovered on Venus, Trump to blame”

  • Hotstuff

    Titan’s atmosphere contains ~5% methane, and we all know that here on Earth, cows produce methane. Omg. There must be cows living on Titan! Of course those titanium cows are much smarter than us humans. At least they offer their calves courses in basic ‘logic and critical thinking’ at Bovine U! ;-)

  • Max

    Here I go again, sometimes I feel like a broken record.

    A Wikipedia entry on the solar wind:

    “The composition of the solar wind plasma also includes a mixture of materials found in the solar plasma: trace amounts of heavy ions and atomic nuclei C, N, O, Ne, Mg, Si, S, and Fe. There are also rarer traces of some other nuclei and isotopes such as P, Ti, Cr, Ni, Fe 54 and 56, and Ni 58,60,62.”

    P= Phosphorus. All these elements located within a hydrogen atmosphere as a plasma will attract and bind with that hydrogen. As trace elements, it doesn’t amount to much.

    Wikipedia again:
    “The total number of particles carried away from the Sun by the solar wind is about 1.3×1036 per second.[29] Thus, the total mass loss each year is about (2–3)×10−14 solar masses,[30] or about 1.3–1.9 Mt/s. This is equivalent to losing a mass equal to the Earth every 150 million years.”

    The heavier elements the solar wind is gathered by every gravity well in the solar system. This may account for the trace elements of phosphorus in Venus atmosphere.

    We recently had Northern light events when the sun was not active. (Strange colors) It is proposed the material came from the local fluff, gases from outside our solar system.

    If I was to jump to absurd conclusion, does this mean there’s life on the sun?

    Venus rotates slower than it revolves around the sun. But the wind is over 400 mph. The only place a “human colony cloud city” could survive comfortably is in the vortex of the north and south pole where there’s no turbulence. Light and heat at one bar atmosphere, carbon, oxygen. Everything you cant survive without. A challenge that one day the human race will tackle.

  • Max

    Mr. Zimmerman said;
    “We live in a world of make believe and made-up science. Data is no longer important, only the leaps of fantasy we can jump to based on the slimmest of facts. It was this desire to push theories rather than knowledge that locked humanity into a dark age for centuries during the Middle Ages. It is doing it again, now, and the proof is all around you, people like zombies and sheep, wearing masks based not on any proven science but on pure emotions”

    I read something similar recently;

    “The left cannot win with facts, and they know it. In the world of politics, reality matters. Voters want the entire truth. Democrats have become masters of cloaking emotional topics with untruths. They present their causes as factual, but when they are broken down with critical thinking and logic, the argument often falls apart. Unfortunately, their voters are sheep and believe them”

    Cherry picked from this article.–not-facts-n2564982

  • LocalFluff

    @Max “We recently had Northern light events when the sun was not active. (Strange colors) It is proposed the material came from the local fluff,”

    Interesting! It is an interstellar phenomena, in Earth’s atmosphere. I took my user name after this local fluff surrounding us (because of the funny naming tradition in astronomy). Maybe it is a cloud of virus… :-)

  • pzatchok

    What happens if we actually find life someplace else in the solar system than Earth?
    Seriously. We will never bring it back to Earth. Ever. We will not even let the probe that catches it to come back.
    It will be 100 years before we even get a biologist with enough equipment even close enough to it to fully investigate or test it.

    And if its not on a planet we could possibly inhabit then I just don’t care.
    And even if its on a planet we could inhabit, test it and if it does not kill Earth life then ignore it.
    It has had just as long as us to evolve. I am not waiting a billion years to move off of this planet just because some microbe can fart.

  • LocalFluff

    If the leftists are in charge, it won’t be done by the West. But they won’t stop the Chinese from doing it. That will make them by far dominate all life science, such as medicine and agriculture (and new materials and environmental management). Not bringing home alien life to study it has the same effect as murdering billions and billions of people and devastating the environment.

    Alien life would immediately oxidize and die in Earth’s atmosphere. Life that has adapted to the hostility of Venus atmosphere or barely survived energy and nutrition starvation in the cold of Europa or Titan, stands no chance against Earth life that not only has flourished for 3½+ billion years, but also created our atmosphere, oceans and minerals taylor made by and to the unique evolution of life here. They will become food, oh carbon, yummy! I wonder whether it’s better raw or fried or boiled, and what wine goes best with it?

  • Don Fletcher

    I am positive that Venus does NOT have any kind of life at all. Almost everything you read now is a lie for the dumbed down masses.

  • wayne

    “There’s a Fire, Sir…”
    Andromeda Strain 1971

  • Patrick Underwood

    “I’m confident our models and data reduction are good, but I’m still skeptical,” team member and molecular astrophysicist Clara Sousa-Silva told Scientific American. “I expect the world to come and point out the mistakes I’ve made.”

    Somehow this doesn’t accord with the characterizations that have been made here.

  • Patrick Underwood: If you read my post and my comments carefully, you will note that the bulk of my criticism is aimed at the writers of the press release, not the scientists.

    Note also that any criticism I have of the scientists is fulfilling exactly what this one scientist expected.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I cannot recommend this week’s issue of the “Big picture science” podcast….

    This is the line up of guests…


    Clara Sousa–Silva – Research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. She and Sara Seager co-authored a paper in January 2020 titled, “Phosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres”

    Sara Seager – Professor of physics and planetary science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “The Smallest Lights in the Universe”

    Nathalie Cabrol – Planetary Scientist and Director of the Cal Sagan Center at the SETI Institute

    David Grinspoon – Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, author of “Earth in Human Hands.”

    A real deep dive into every aspect of this announcement, without hyperbole… The only person gushing is Seth Shostak… But that is his job!
    Seriously guys and gals… If this topic interests you then spend 52min of your life to give this a listen!

  • Patrick Underwood

    Guess I’m reacting to the general tone the posts have taken on… Commenters have targeted the media and the scientists indiscriminately, in my opinion.

    But… again, I get it. It’s not just the clueless mainstream media. “Science” sites such as nasawatch, arstechnica, sciencealert, and even (among many others) have become blatant, unapologetic propaganda machines. So I understand and share the frustration with science reporting.

    My favorites are the “scientific studies” that purport to explain the unreasoning fear, irrational beliefs, and seemingly inexplicable political choices of anyone who is not an outright Marxist. “Conservatives in the Mist”, as the pre-nevertrumper Jonah Goldberg used to say.

  • Lee Stevenson

    “I am positive that Venus does NOT have any kind of life at all. Almost everything you read now is a lie for the dumbed down masses.”
    A kind of ironic statement given the nature of this discussion…. You might be positive about something, but I would rather get my facts from the results of science than some guy on the internet.

    @Ryan Lawson
    I did say “has my vote for the best chance we have of finding microbiological life elsewhere”…. I should have added “any time soon”… My bad! This view is due to our proximity to Venus…
    I also believe Europa and Enceladus are relatively accessable candidates for life as we know it, and I’m excited about the next mission to Titan regarding life as we don’t… But I’m not expecting to see any proof in my lifetime. A mission to Venus could be built, launched and return data in a handful of years.
    I’ve spent a lot of time pondering and researching the essential requirements for something we would recognize as “life” to either evolve, or indeed thrive ( I have no problem with the idea of panspermia )
    As far as I see, the main ingredients are an energy gradient that can be exploited, some sort of fairly complex chemistry going on, and a big spoon to mix it all up.. ( I also consider the moon to have been a possible vital factor in live evolving on earth)… “Open air” tides could play a huge part in mixing the soup.. Titan is the only other body in our system to have surface tides…
    This is all wonderful speculation, and I hope, but doubt we will find any answers in our lifetimes. Fingers crossed anyway!
    Once more… Give the SETI podcast a play… I gained a deeper understanding from less than an hour listening than I have from anything I have read on this “news” item.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Meh!!!! I meant to say “cannot recommend enough” regarding the podcast!!
    It is genuinely essential listening for greater understanding of this announcement…. Sorry for the typo!

  • Lee Stevenson

    And on a completely unrelated subject…. Local fluff…Do I remember you saying you also live in Sweden? I feel I might remember it… But occasionally I remember things that never happened ( fortunately I don’t see dead people :-) )

  • Lee Stevenson: Yup, you and Localfluff are BtB’s resident Swedes.

  • LocalFluff

    I wonder if this hype has to do with NASA’s upcoming decadal selection of space probes, where Venus once again is a hot candidate. “It’s her turn now!” :-D

    I love a NASA mission proposed a few years ago (I don’t think it’s on the table now), that would sample Venus’ atmosphere and return it to Earth. It’s a simpler thing to do than to land, or to orbit with a multi instrument probe. And it could be done with Mars, Titan and perhaps the gas giants and Enceladus’ plumes too. An atmospheric sample from Venus would reveal when it was last volcanically active, because of the isotope ratios.

    @Lee Stevenson
    Yup, I’m Swedish. I live in Malmoe now, the antisemitic capital of Europe. The front line outpost of the islamic war against the West. The city where 2 out of 3 under the age of 18 are first or second generation immigrants (mostly from muslim countries).

  • Max

    Localfluff said;
    “They will become food, oh carbon, yummy! I wonder whether it’s better raw or fried or boiled, and what wine goes best with it?”

    That reminds me of something I learned in college. My professor said, “they developed a way to turn hydrocarbons (crude oil) into carbohydrates (food) essentially solving world hunger.” That was 60 years ago.
    The problem was, it tasted terrible and most people couldn’t keep it down. Even animals would not eat it. It also could not be stored for very long, “carbohydrates” spoil and go rancid.

    I remember you telling us how you chose your name, Local Fluff, and taught us all about the chimney and how supernova debris was blown up through our neighborhood of the Orion arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
    You gave us/me a Lotta good information to chew on and study.

  • LocalFluff

    This is PH3, but in the news, and click hungry astronomy podcasts, it is as if it were chlorophyll C55H70MgN4O6.

    Yeah, I love stuff like that, our local stellar neighborhood and the structure of the interstellar medium around us. The local fluff has been puffed out by a nearby stellar forming region where young stars expel the rest of the gas and dust in the cloud they formed from. Stars don’t start their fusion process in a moment, it is on and off again for a while until gravity and friction and whatnot stabilizes them. Forming stars can be pretty violent. And the largest ones quickly go supernova.

    The Stardust comet Wild-2 tail dust sample return mission caught 7 dust grains of interstellar origin (they were individually named, but I can’t find them now). Perhaps part of the local fluff. So Oumuamua was only the 8th interstellar object known to pass through the Solar system! There is now a JAXA instrument on the ISS that aims to collect cosmic dust, Tanpopo. Actually, cosmic grains have been found in meteorites too, they make up an entire fraction of the Solar system. We live in a dust storm.

  • Edward

    xkcd commented on this topic:
    Remember to read the rollover text.

    Scott Manley is a bit excited about this: (8 minutes “Why Astronomers Think A Poisonous Gas On Venus Could Suggest Life”)
    He is still skeptical

    This is not proof, and while it would be amazing if it were true, I think the world will expect more evidence

    Scott seems more positive about the world reaction than Robert, but Robert is right that the press release used the word “hint” in referring to finding life on Venus. This is a word that is used when finding clues to solve a problem or question, and “hint of life” suggests that life is the question and we will use this “hint” to find it.

    From the second article linked by Robert:

    When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’ spectrum, it was a shock!”

    See? They got hints of phosphine, and they found it. It was just a matter of time and equipment. How far behind can be the discovery of life itself in the Venusian atmosphere?

    wayne, Lee Stevenson, and Max,
    Speaking of “The Andromeda Strain,” the book has a group discussion of what constituted life, because if they were going to go look for it then they needed to define it so that they knew it when they found it. I don’t have the book with me, but I remember one attempted definition was that life transformed one form of energy into another, but that was shot down as a definition alone, because a rock turns light energy into heat energy, and we would not consider a rock alive. If we don’t define life properly, we could find it on the sun.

  • pzatchok

    It eats, excretes and reproduces.

  • Spectrum Shift

    I’m surprised the press releases failed to be inclusive by also declaring there could be cows living on Titan. We know how much methane has been discovered there. Perhaps the European Space Agency and the Royal Astronomical Society both decided to abstain from this declaration so as to not increase the angst felt by climate change zealots worried about too many cows on earth, let alone an off world herd on Titan as well!

  • wayne

    “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin or Just Misunderstood?”
    Sue Smrekar, Rocky Planet Geoscientist
    JPL– von Karman Lecture
    August 2020

  • Lee Stevenson

    Just a matter of interest… Did anyone actually listen to the podcast? And if so, any opinions?
    ( I understand we have an older demographic here…. So perhaps I should have called it “an internet radio show” ;-) )
    But seriously, there is a little dissonance between the guests… Which I find interesting… And I am interested in the opinions of minds greater than my own.
    Once again, I find this evidence
    ( or “hint”…. that term works in English English… “A possible clue”..)
    very flimsy, but flimsy evidence is very much better than no evidence. So even tho the mainstream media is jumping all over this… ( And who can blame them for looking for an alternate to the latest WuTang flue update?) , I find the results intriguing, and well worth a much deeper dive.
    Viva la phosphine!!!

  • pzatchok

    This is all planed by the Venusian’s.

    They have been poisoning their own atmosphere for thousands of years just to keep humans from invading.

    I hear there is a trace of an iron/carbon mixture in the atmosphere also. This must mean they are using advanced manufacturing below ground on Venus.

  • LocalFluff

    @Lee Stevenson
    Which podcast? ALL astro-podcasts are full of it. I’ve listened to a few, but avoid most that I regularly follow because they have nothing to say but to regurgitate this hype. One astronomer interviewed said that the paper hadn’t excluded other phosphore compounds that could’ve generated the same spectral lines.

    It is PH3, but people talk about it as if it were chlorophyll, C₅₅H₇₂O₅N₄Mg.

  • Max

    Edward, “hint of life”
    Is it alive?

    Here’s some examples of stuff I’ve pieced together. (I may have overdone it, I sometimes get carried away)

    The key difference between virus and prion is that the virus is a tiny infectious particle composed of nucleic acids and a protein coat while the prion is a small infectious particle composed of a single protein.

    virus and prion are two types of acellular infectious particles. They are not considered as living organisms since they show more non-living characteristics than living characteristics. Similarly, they do not contain ribosomes and enzymes to synthesize proteins. Hence, they need a living organism (host) to multiply. Furthermore, they cannot be observed under the light microscopes, and they cannot be filtered out by Chamberland filters. Moreover, they are not culturable in nutrient media.
    There are different types of virus based on the host organism that they use to multiply. A bacteriophage is one type which infects bacteria. Mycoviruses infect fungi while archaeal viruses infect archaea. Furthermore, there are animal viruses, plant viruses, protists viruses, and mammalian endogenous retroviruses. As the name suggests, these virus use different host organisms to multiply while causing diseases to them. (natural selection?)
    A viroid (an infectious RNA molecule) is similar to a virus but not quite the same thing. It’s smaller than a virus and has no capsid. A viroid is a coiled, “naked” RNA molecule that can affect a cell. Although RNA (unlike DNA) is single-stranded, the RNA in a viroid coils around itself to become double-stranded for strength. Its claim to fame is its ability to infect plant life. Although it has no protein of its own, a viroid’s RNA affects a plant’s ability to produce essential proteins

    Prions are proteinaceous infectious particles. In mammals the only prion is the pathogenic conformer of the protein cellular PrP (PrPC) after its discovery in scrapie infected sheep. It was found that when infected sheep were ground up and fed to cattle as a protein source, the cattle became infected with what was known as mad cow disease. The medical name for mad cow disease comes from — bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). When humans eat infected cows, they formed lesions in the brain. Patient will exhibit symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s or dementia. (the human form is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). It is believed cannibals suffered from this condition often.
    Once eaten, injected, infected, there is no known cure.
    Vaccinations/immunizations formulated in animal parts will carry any materials present. Viruses from monkeys cannot be filtered out. Improper filtering of undigested, chemically preserved chicken egg/animal proteins will circulate throughout the body, attaching themselves to organs in the body such as brain/kidneys ect. which causes an inflammatory rejection of those organs. If health problems occur after an immunization shot for an adult or child, anti-rejection drugs will be necessary for 5 to 20 years. (It took my daughter 15 years to stop rejecting her kidneys)

    What a prion is is unknown, it is believed that it’s a simple crystal that grows inside of mammals fluids under the right conditions. (in the presence of electricity created by neurotransmitters)
    You cannot destroy prions by sterilization or by cooking (although incineration works). Prions are resistant to heat, radiation and chemicals, so they are almost unstoppable. The best way to avoid spreading prions in humans and animals is to prevent brain and spinal cord tissue from getting into the food supply (Hot dogs/pet food) or onto medical equipment.

    It is much more likely that extraterrestrial life should be afraid of us because we have things, once released in their biosphere, that will wipe them out.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @pzatchok…. You just made me spit my Wednesday wine over the stove ! :-)
    Bob…. In your current funk you prefaced this article with “the coming dark ages”…
    Admittedly some news agencies jumped, but every reputable news sauce I visit has included “possible” somewhere in the text… Mainstream media are reporting a space related extrobiology story… some may have taken it too far, but I haven’t read one report that claims “proof of life” as a headline.
    In the world I live in, a little exposure for the folks doing research in this area wouldn’t go amiss, especially if they genuinely have found something worth digging deeper into…
    Is the possibility, that tenuous evidence, even tho not proven of life elsewhere exists not a reason for a little publicity… This by no means the coming dark age you so fear… This is paid researchers reaching out to show their findings and asking for a little more funding to continue.
    I postulate your “coming dark age” hypothesis is getting the better of you… Something’s may be worse right now .. but science will remain science, some things will remain bullcrap… And onward we go…

  • LocalFluff

    However could a protein infect a cell?
    Oh, don’t waste time trying to explain. I occasionally fall asleep watching and have nightmares about what the heck is going on inside of me. Then comfort myself in the safe and sane world of curved space time, quantum physics, dark matter and neutron stars.

    “It is much more likely that extraterrestrial life should be afraid of us ”
    Exactly my point of view too. Come and get us, take home snacks!

  • Edward

    You wrote: “Life It eats, excretes and reproduces.

    You may have just described glaciers: they consume snow and water, they excrete water vapor through sublimation and liquid water through melting, and their offspring are icebergs.

  • pzatchok

    And they attack large ships.

  • pzatchok

    “they consume snow and water, they excrete water vapor through sublimation and liquid water through melting, and their offspring are icebergs.”

    But icebergs do not grow up to become glaciers without being totally destroyed and reformed into glaciers.

  • LocalFluff

    “And they attack large ships.”

    I heard that the average age on the corona struck Diamond Princess cruise ship was 70 years. I bet such ships are built with a morgue onboard. I’m sorry, but we don’t live forever. Ending it with a nice cruise sounds like a good idea.

    I really recommend the best science fiction ever written, War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells 1897 (but the movies are the worst ever made). A highlight is when the pre-dreadnought battleships fight the tripods on the river Thames, talking about aliens and ships.

    A funny detail is that in the beginning the main character, who is a grown up married man, learns how to ride the bicycle. That was novel back then. It is very futuristic with technological predictions that largely came true. A negative in the narrative is the overly elaborate description of London geography. And a strange thing is that the main character, although separated from his wife in the chaos, almost never gives her a thought. The Victorian age was another time.

    A well read audiobook here:

    I don’t think that the molecule PH3 poses that kind of threat.

  • Max

    You guys make me laugh!


    “War of the worlds” was the first sci-fi book I ever read, an original copy that burned to death with my mother on Christmas Eve.
    It was literally the hardest book to understand, written in a different Age. But I was a preteen graduating from Nancy drew and Hardy boys mysteries. I should give it another go, now that I’ve learned the English language.

    You said;
    “Then comfort myself in the safe and sane world of curved space time, quantum physics, dark matter and neutron stars.”

    From the “here we go again” department.

    Why does mass get all the credit for the lensing effect when magnetism, and time distortions have similar effect on light?
    The time barrier at the event horizon seems more important to me because it creates a one-way force field. Stuff goes in, but cannot come out… At least not without extreme distortion.
    The mass about black hole is important but time stopping never gets talked about. Is that so we don’t think about black holes colliding?
    The theory is that the collision will take 1/ 10th of a second and then the entire event is over. With time moving so slowly, I believe it would take centuries for two holes to collide. But then maybe when they get within a quarter of a light year from each other, a sub space wormhole forms through the space/time distortion. The bigger one sucks up the little one like a drink through a straw. This will continue until the mass at one end is too small to maintain the tunnel.
    The gravity wave they detect is actually the collapsing wormhole like snapping a rubber band. The material left behind would be more dense than a neutron star, but no longer a black hole. Like Thor’s hammer, The stuff of cosmic theory and fantasy…

    But this cosmic lensing affect around dense galaxies does not fit with the physics of light. Any light that passes through a prism is distorted into its various wave length and scattered. Gravity-time will bend light, but robbs it’s energy making it vibrate slower in the red or longer wavelength. A strong magnetic field will cause resistance in the flow of electrons causing distortion. (like a TV tube, or a magnetron in a microwave) Unless there’s a perfectly flat mirror the size of a galaxy, I do not understand how light can bend around an object without distorting itself. Maybe if there was a perfect alignment in a doughnut shape of dense galaxies that can act as a correction lens, taking scattered light and reforming it to its proper shape in perfect focus. Naw

    Then comes the silly proofs for the existence of dark matter. I suppose once you established that the world is being held in the sky by Atlas, and Atlas is standing on an elephant, then you pretty much have to except that the elephant is standing on an invisible turtle. Sigh

  • LocalFluff

    There are plenty of independent proof of dark matter, or at least its gravity and that it doesn’t react with baryonic matter. Bullet galaxy cluster, galaxy rotation, gravity lensing, large structure of galaxy cluster distribution.
    Anton Petrov talks about a computer model that results in small scale dark matter halos. Perhaps that relates to the article you linked? But I don’t get it how a dark matter halo could surround the Solar system without gravity revealing it:

    Btw, that poor guy lives in South Korea, and as a school book example of governmental regulations they’ve decided to freeze rents. So ahead of that rents have been hiked enormously. He later said that he now lives in a hotel, and that that is actually cheaper than his old rent because of the corona panic.

  • wayne

    Royal Astronomical Society
    Press Briefing-Phosphine on Venus

  • Jeff Wright

    I wonder if the Airship to orbit craft could double as a Venus hab.

  • LocalFluff

    I’ve suffered through that press briefing now (so you own me an hour of my life!)

    Questions like: “- I’ve lost sleep over this, but I’ve got a sciency kind of question…”

    Interesting questions like “- But PH3 has been found also on Jupiter and Saturn, and Venus too has a dense atmosphere?” Are skipped over by “- We have written a 100 page paper to exclude every chemical process we can think of.” (Except for a very complicated Earth like anaerobic biological ecosystem.

    “- What else do you expect to detect in order to confirm life on Venus?
    – We haven’t given that much thought.”

    Sara Saeger is a life life life propagandist with little believability nowadays. She’s become a name dropping avatar for sale in this shady exolife business.

    PH3 is like NH3, ammonia. Like CH4 and H2O. Atoms tend to bind to protonium, the by far most common element. 20 parts per Billion is utterly tiny. Where’s the ecosystem? They’ve detected one of the simplest gasses possible, but no forest, still the hype is that there is a forest. It has kind of become common place with false science used for political purposes because the “science” word has become the name of a new priesthood that trumps democracy and reason (here the lobbying purpose is a billion dollar investment in a Venus space probe).

    It’s horrible, terrible as my chess teacher keeps telling me! I have recommended him to widen his vocabulary with abhorrent, appalling, heinous, lurid. But he’s a conservative chess player, winning on time by making his opponent fall asleep.

  • wayne

    Good stuff!
    (I didn’t say that so-called ‘press-conference’ was any good, I just put it out there. But thanks for the summary!)

  • Questioner

    Hello readers,

    I would like to bring to your attention the following highly critical-realistic video on the subject of phosphine as evidence of life in the clouds of Venus. In contrast to the life-origin-theory, the most realistic assumption may be that phosphine just simple comes from the decomposition of phosphoric acid. The latter was detected by the Soviet Venera probes in the clouds/ atmosphere of Venus at the same amount as that of sulfuric acid (5 mg / m³).

  • Questioner

    A correction to my comment above:

    “…. the most realistic assumption may be that phosphine just simple comes from the decomposition of phosphorous acid (not of phosphoric acid, which is also a product of the reaction). ”

    The thermal decomposition of phosphorous acid: 4H3PO3 → PH3 + 3H3PO4

    The thermal decomposition of phosphorous acid to produce phosphine and phosphoric acid. This reaction takes place at a temperature of 205-210°C. The yield was 97%.


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