It has all the trappings of a pretty standard science fiction story. A mysterious weather phenomenon occurs in India — red rain. A scientist from Mahatma Gandhi University gathers a sample of the mystery substance and, examining it under a microscope, discovers that it contains microbes. The microbes deny easy classification. They seem healthy and they are reproducing, but they don’t fit any known categories.
And oh, by the way — they don’t have DNA.
This is life, but not life as we know it. After considering other possible explanations, the scientist comes to a startling conclusion: these microbes are an alien life form, specially evolved to survive the hardships of outer space. They were transported here via a meteor or comet.
That would be the opening chapters of the book. In the following chapters, the microbes would start growing out of control or trying to communicate with the scientist. But not in this version. In this version of the story, the scientist publishes his findings in a peer-reviewed journal and the debate begins as to whether alien life has been discovered. That’s not nearly as exciting, I realize, except for one little factoid — this isn’t fiction.
Okay, let’s not get all excited. Every time we find “proof” of alien life, it inevitably turns out to be something else. This probably will, too. Which might account for the low-key coverage in the linked CNN story:
If his theory proves correct, the cells would be the first confirmed evidence of alien life and, as such, could yield tantalizing new clues to the origins of life on Earth.
Really, do you think? Gee, it might also be considered the single most important scientific discovery…ever. I guess that is pretty tantalizing.
One little twist that I like about this story. Remember that scene in ET where the scientists have quarantined ET and Eliot and they’re trying to figure out what, medically, they could do to save the creature? One scientists excitedly declares, “It’s got DNA. That’s confirmed, it has DNA!” In real life, it turns out that it’s more exciting to find a life form without DNA. Who would have guessed?