The poetry of panspermia

A poem I wrote for my first year at university. The task – to produce a scientific poster. While I now understand the role of posters in scientific debate and conferences, at the time I thought it a bit of a silly assignment. So I did mine in poetry. Expecting to fail I was hardly suprised when I was called into the office of the head of the course.

“I’m very sorry”, she said. “I know you must have put in a lot of work but I have had two other people check it and we all agree it is not all that easy to understand.”

Here it comes, I thought…

“So I can only give you 8 out of 10”.

I think she mistook my trembling jaw for unhappiness but I couldn’t stay to re-assure her – I barely made it out the door before collapsing into giggles.

Anyway, here is the poem written by me (with a little help from some friends). Some of the numbers may have been superseded by newer research. And the rhymes are a little dodgy – as is the meter (poetic license?) . Now panspermia (the theory that life did not originate on Earth, but was seeded here) is more popular.

**********************************

Gradually, over passing time,
Inorganic elements combine
Forming simple amino acids,
That later mix and meld,
Into proteins; thus to cells.

Earth’s crust solidified 3.8 billion years ago,
But the first acknowledged fossils
Are aged 3.5 billion years or so.
Thus this complex process to a living planet
Had only 300 million years to span it.

During Earth’s 3.5 billion years
Since bacteria first appeared,
Cell chemistry shows changes insignificant,
Yet the evolution from elements to life,
Shows progress quite magnificent.
Thus life may derive from outer space,
Where interstellar granules,
Had time to nurture proteins;
Life’s first trace.

In the ’86 visit of Halley’s comet,
Infrared spectroscopy analysed
Dust and gases streaming from it.
For organic molecules, the evidence was clear,
And verified from spectra as Giotto drew near.

Comets probably deposited Earth’s oceans,
And organic debris too,
Potentially dwarfing present organic pools
By a million times or two.

Into our atmosphere have been thrust,
Many grains called Brownlee particles,
Coming from comets
Or interstellar dust.

10 000 tons of “space aliens”,
Land on earth each day,
And many of these are covered
In sticky organic clay.

Such is the Murchison meteorite,
(Victoria, Australia, ’69)
A carbonaceous chondrite
A 4.7 billion year old find.
Which analysis has proved
Inside, not just inorganics,
But amino acids too.

So if the reactants that were needed,
For life to have begun,
Are found on extra-terrestrials,
Landing since our world was young,
It’s easy to conclude,
That ancestral aliens of hydrocarbon chains,
And even life itself, were transported to Earth
On the interstellar chains.

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