The mysterious coronavirus has a new name (The World Health Organization (WHO) changed it from 2019-nCoV to COVID-19), a new tally of victims (over 63,000 in mainland China at the time of this writing) and a new potential cause. No, the experts haven’t eliminated bats or another animal obtained at a market in Wuhan, or animals like the pangolin which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. A scientist in England claims that the deadly virus was brought to Earth by a meteorite that crashed in China last year. Viral panspermia?
“In the case of the current Corona virus pandemic in China it is interesting to note that an exceptionally bright fireball event was seen on October 11 2019 over Sonjyan City in the Jilin Province of NE China. It is tempting to speculate that this event had a crucial role to play in what is now unfolding in throughout China. If a fragment of a loosely held carbonaceous meteorite carrying a cargo of viruses/bacteria entered the mesosphere and stratosphere at high speed ~30km/s, its inner core which survived incandescence would have got dispersed in the stratosphere and troposphere.”
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of the Buckingham Astrobiology Center contributed to a paper submitted last week to The Lancet in which he proposes that a meteorite which crashed in October 2019 in Sonjyan City (also called Songyuan) some 2200 km (1360 miles) north of Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, may have spread “hundreds of trillions of infective viral particles” that were “embedded in the form of fine carbonaceous dust” as it blazed through the Chinese atmosphere until it fell to Earth. Wickramasinghe is a well-known British mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist who strongly supports the idea of panspermia – space rocks and spacecraft carrying and spreading living organisms around the universe.
“Following the initial deposition of infective particles in a small localized region (e.g. Wuhan, Hubei province, China) particles that have already become dispersed through over a wider area in the troposphere will fall to ground in a higgledy-piggledy manner, and this process could be extended over a typical timescale of 1-2 years until an initial inoculant of the infective agent would be drained. This accords well with many new strains of viruses including influenza that have appeared in recent years.”
Yes, this renowned scientist actually said “higgledy-piggledy” – a 16th century British reduplicated phrase (like hanky-panky, helter-skelter, hurly-burly, etc.) that may or may not refer to the herding of pigs that are scattered about but definitely means in a chaotic or disorderly fashion. Wickramasinghe proposes that the main drop from the October 2019 meteorite occurred over Wuhan, but its viral cargo may still be falling over cities under its path. Does this mean other cities are in danger of a concentrated outbreak of the coronavirus like that in Wuhan?
“We conclude by noting that we expect the pattern of further spread of the new coronavirus (nCoV) to be dictated mostly by primary infall until a high level of person-to-person infectivity might possibly be achieved and the virus then acquires the status of an endemic virus.”
When all you’ve been getting in bad news, Wickramasinghe’s conclusion that person-to-person infections occur far faster than getting the virus from meteorite-delivered space dust could be considered good news … at least in the case of the coronavirus. However, there are plenty of other meteorites burning up in the atmosphere on a regular basis. If they’re carrying other deadly viruses, no matter where in the world they burn up, they could still show up in China first. Why? In a previous letter to The Lancet written in 2003, Wickramasinghe said this:
“A small amount of a virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fallout east of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighboring areas. Could this explain why new strains of the influenza virus that are capable of engendering epidemics, and which are caused by radical genetic mutations, usually originate in Asia?”
Is Wickramasinghe on to something, or is he creating and connecting dots to support his belief in panspermia?
It’s all higgledy-piggledy to me.