Mass Extinctions, Evolutionary Leaps, and the Virus-Information Connection

How much fine cosmic dust might settle per year per km2, and at what altitude is it generated
Today, I saw an FB post about meteorite dust, which led me to some calculations:

If the Earth receives about 5200 tons per year (source:, and the area of the Earth is 510072000 km2, then if one km2 is 1000000 m2, and one ton is 1000000 gram, then the relation is preserved in grams per m2 if we divide 5200 by 510072000 which is 5.2/510072 or roughly 1/100000 of gram/m2 At this point it got much more complicated, because then one has to look at many other factors, including that the sizes of these dust particles are not uniform, so 1/100000 gram/m2 is a rough idea. Perhaps it is easier to remember if one translates the previous number into gram/km2. Then I get 10 grams per km2 per year. And if a year has 8,765.82 Hours, then one can divide the 10 grams per km2 by 10000 and find one may not be exaggerating if one says 10/10000 or 1 milligram of cosmic dust per hour per km2,

That was about the extent of the calculation. Now, if one wants to find the dust settling time, one issue is that meteoric dust particles are not of a uniform size:
Much of the mass of most meteoroids entering the Earth's atmosphere is consumed in the process of ablation. Larger meteoroids (> 10 cm), which in some cases reach the ground as meteorites, typically have survival fractions near 1-25 per cent of their initial mass. The fate of the remaining ablated material is unclear, but theory suggests that much of it should recondense through coagulation as nanometre-sized particles. No direct measurements of such meteoric 'smoke' have hitherto been made. Here we report the disintegration of one of the largest meteoroids to have entered the Earth's atmosphere during the past decade, and show that the dominant contribution to the mass of the residual atmospheric aerosol was in the form of micrometre-sized particles. This result is contrary to the usual view that most of the material in large meteoroids is efficiently converted to particles of much smaller size through ablation. Assuming that our observations are of a typical event, we suggest that large meteoroids provide the dominant source of micrometre-sized meteoritic dust at the Earth's surface over long timescales.
Another challenge is that the dust from meteorites is generated at different altitudes, depending on speed, angle and composition:
How high up are meteors in Earth’s atmosphere when they become incandescent and begin to glow?

Meteors light up almost as soon as they hit Earth’s atmosphere. On average, when you see a meteor, you’re looking at a piece of dust burning bright about 50 to 75 miles (80 to 120 km) in altitude above Earth’s surface. But the height at which they entirely burn up in the atmosphere varies.

Some meteors, such as August’s Perseids, burn up in the atmosphere at about 60 miles (100 km) above Earth’s surface. Other meteors, such as the Draconids in October, fall to about 40 miles (70 km) before they heat up enough to glow and vaporize.

The difference is that the Draconids are much slower meteors than the Perseids. The height in the atmosphere at which a meteor begins to glow depends on its arrival speed. Meteoroids dive into the atmosphere at speeds ranging from 25,000 to 160,000 miles per hour (11 and 72 km per second).
Here are some meteor arrival speeds:

Leonids: 44 miles (71 km) per second
Perseids: 38 miles (61 km) per second
Orionids: 42 miles (67 km) per second
Lyrids: 30 miles (48 km) per second
Geminids: 22 miles (35 km) per second
Fall Taurids: 19 miles (30 km) per second
Delta Leonids: 14 miles (23 km) per second
Draconids: 14 miles (23 km) per second

By the way, the length of a meteor’s path across the sky doesn’t depend entirely on the meteor’s arrival speed. It depends mostly on the angle at which the particle of dust slices through the atmosphere. If the particle arrives at a low angle, it enters the atmosphere more gradually, heats up more slowly, and cuts a longer swath across the sky, than if it barrels in at a steep angle.

The size, composition and density of the dust particle probably also affect the length of the path, but scientists still aren’t sure exactly how. Bottom line: How high up are meteors when they begin to glow? Meteors start glowing almost as soon as they hit Earth’s atmosphere, but tend to vaporize at varying altitudes.
For the above reasons, there are many factors involved when considering how fast cosmic dust settles, and how long time it takes. If one settles for a certain amount of time, it will probably come with a ± sign, say two years plus-minus a year, or about two years plus-minus half a year, depending on altitude, size, and composition, and assuming the speed slows down quickly when a dust particle is small. To make it more complicated, if one has the same size, form, composition and altitude for a group of dust particles; on the way to settling there are both up drafts and down drafts, different wind systems, with some particles perhaps catching a ride on a grain of hail, an ice crystal, a particle of volcanic ash, or settle on the snowy top of a high mountain peak.
This post is different from most I have posted in this thread, but I came to think of two Indian stories while writing the last post, and both stories can be related to the topic of mass extinctions, viruses and, if you like, the intriguing question what people before the modern era might have known or suspected.

"The Creator of the world within a rock" and "Kartkati" are found in the sanskrit poem, Yoga Vasistha, 6th CE or 7th CE — 14th CE or 15th CE. The Wiki about the book includes:
Vasishta Yoga Samhita (Sanskrit: योग-वासिष्ठ, IAST: Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha; also known as Maha-Ramayana, Arsha Ramayana, Vasiṣṭha Ramayana,[1] Yogavasistha-Ramayana and Jnanavasistha.[2]) is a historically popular and influential[3][4] syncretic philosophical text of Hinduism, dated to the 6th CE or 7th CE — 14th CE or 15th CE. It is attributed to Maharishi Valmiki, but the real author is unknown.[3] The complete text contains over 29,000 verses.[3] The short version of the text is called Laghu Yogavasistha and contains 6,000 verses.[5][6]

The text is named after sage Vasistha who is mentioned and revered in the seventh book of the Rigveda, and who was called as the first sage of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy by Adi Shankara.[7] The text is structured as a discourse of sage Vasistha to Prince Rama.
Evolving text theory[edit]
Mainkar states that Yoga Vasistha probably evolved over time. The first work, states Mainkar, was the original ancient work of Vasistha that was an Upanishad with Brahamanical ideas, a work that is lost.[18] This text was, suggests Mainkar, was expanded into Moksopaya in or after 6th-century, which is now commonly known as Laghu-Yogavasistha.[18] The Laghu (shorter) version was then expanded into the full editions, over time, in the centuries that followed the completion of Laghu-Yogavasistha.[18] The syncretic incorporation of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism ideas happened in the Laghu-Yogavasistha edition, states Mainkar, while ideas from Kashmiri Shaivism, particularly the Trika school, were added to the growing version by the 12th-century.[18] Similar serial expansion, revisions and interpolation is typical in Indian literature. Peter Thomi has published additional evidence in support Mainkar's theory on Yoga Vasistha's chronology.[17]

The oldest surviving manuscript of the Moksopaya (or Moksopaya Shastra) has been dated to have been composed in Srinagar in the 10th century AD.[19][20][21]
The Yoga-vasistha is throughout a philosophical work, in the form of popular lectures, and the same idea is often repeated again and again in various kinds of expressions and poetical imagery. But the writer seems to have been endowed with extraordinary poetical gifts. Almost every verse is full of finest poetical imagery; the choice of words is exceedingly pleasing to the ear. — Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Cambridge University Press[24]
The Yoga Vasistha is a syncretic work, containing elements of Vedanta, Yoga, Samkhya, Jainism, Pratyabhijña, and Mahayana Buddhism, thus making it, according to Chapple, "a Hindu text par excellence, including, as does Hinduism, a mosaic-style amalgam of diverse and sometimes opposing traditions".[8][25]
After having written the main text of the post, I found an online translation of the mentioned Laghu Yoga Vasistha, It has the second story about Karkati, but I did not find the first story, which is:

"The Creator of the world within the rock"
This tale has hints about mass extinction and earth changes. It is around page 552 in the red numbers, or 556 in this PDF, of Vasistha’s Yoga translated by Swami Venkatesananda published by STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS, 1993.
VI.2:71 VASISTHA* continued:

Having said this, the Creator (of the world in the rock) entered into the deep and final state of meditation. He uttered OM and contemplated on the last phase of its intonation. His mind was utterly calm. He remained as if he were a painted picture. Vasana * (the embodiment of the psychological conditioning in the form of the lady) also followed the Creator and entered into deep meditation. She attained the form of space. I too entered into deep meditation and witnessed all these, having become the omnipresent, infinite consciousness.

As the notions in the cosmic mind of the Creator began to die down, at that very moment itself the earth with its mountains, continents and oceans began to disappear.

The grass and the trees ceased to be. The earth is one of the limbs of the cosmic person, the Creator. Hence, when the cosmic person withdrew his awareness from it, the earth ceased to be, even as in a state of paralysis when our awareness of a limb is withdrawn, it withers away and disintegrates.

The earth was hit at the same time by numerous natural catastrophes. The evildoers were burnt by fire and they headed for hell. The earth had lost all its charm and its fruitfulness. The women had become immoral and men had lost their selfrespect. A dense duststorm arose veiling the sun. The people were distressed by the pairs of opposites which in their foolishness they subjected themselves to. On account of floods and famine, wars and pestilence, humanity had been decimated. On account of numerous sufferings, people had become uncivilised and uncultured.

Because of the suddenness with which all these terrible things happened, the noble people of the earth perished and there was hue and cry everywhere. There was scarcity of water and people began to dig deep wells. There was indiscriminate mixing between men and women and the social order broke down. Everyone lived by trade. Women lived (earned their living) by exhibiting the beauty of their hair. Kings followed the dictum 'might is right'. There was unrighteousness everywhere. The leaders were devoted to intoxicating drinks. They harassed and tortured the learned and the saintly men. People resorted to other ways of living or other faiths than that which was natural to them. The learned men became subject to violence and aggressiveness. Temples were looted. Even the holy ones abandoned the performance of the religious rites on account of laziness.

The cities had been burnt down by the fire that showered from the skies. Seasons became erratic. Thus had the earthelement reached its destruction, since the Creator had merged himself in the infinite consciousness.

VASISTHA* continued:
Once the earthelement had thus been absorbed in the infinite consciousness and had transcended its limitation, the waterelement turned towards its own dissolution. When the water got agitated, it exceeded its own natural bounds and the oceans transgressed their bounds, overflowing in all directions. Making dreadful sounds, the waves lashed at the forests and began to destroy them.

These mighty waves mingled with the clouds in the space and it became one mass of water. All the mountains were submerged under water. The aquatic creatures were in panic and ran helterskelter in an attempt to escape from the calamity. When the waves destroyed the mountain caves, lions ran out of them, destroyed other creatures and were eventually themselves destroyed. The tumult raised by all this reached even the region of the sun.

It appeared as if the oceans had invaded the regions of the gods themselves and had occupied them. On account of the destruction of the forests and mountains caused by the power of the tidal waves, it looked as if the whole space were a big forest of trees and mountains. The great mountains were being dissolved in the waters of the ocean. At one stage it looked as though the mountains were laughing with their teeth bared, because, washed by the tidal waters, the precious and semiprecious stones that remained underground had become exposed on the mountain sides.

It looked as though even the celestial bodies were affected by this. The earthmountains fell on some of them, making a loud noise. Even the fires of cosmic destruction appeared to be afraid of being put out by these tidal waves. At one stage there was terrible warfare between the earthelephants and seaelephants!

The single ocean shone with a supernatural radiance at that time when so many earthly objects were getting drowned in it. Then it looked as if the space itself were falling into the waters of cosmic dissolution. The firmament with all its light and its precious jewels fell into the flood.

Flames of fire spread out in all directions, consuming all that existed in space. Since the Creator had withdrawn his realisation of the world, the demons and others were let loose to cause what havoc they pleased. All the gods (Indra, etc., who are the deities presiding over the natural elements to maintain order among them) had been overpowered by the demons. There was chaos. Even the abodes of Siva *, etc., were shaken and disturbed. The stars and planets collided with one another and there was cosmic destruction.

One story from the Yoga Vasishtha, frequently interpreted to include the idea of a virus, is the story of Karkati, which can also be seen to include hyper-dimensional elements. Karkati is a demoness, that is very hungry, she does penance and becomes as a needle that causes sickness in people. Through experience and penance, she is gradually transformed. The following is from page 92 in red letters and 101 in this PDF. While it is quite a bit of the story, it is not the whole, but enough to explain why the story has been associated with the idea of a virus. And I ought to add, a virus as a destructive force, but also a virus that

The Story of Karkati*
III:68, 69
VASISTHA* continued:
In connection with this, O Rama*, there is an ancient legend which I shall now narrate to you.

There once lived to the north of the Himalaya* mountain a terrible demoness known as Karkati *. She was huge, black and dreadful to look at. This demoness could not get enough to eat, and she was ever hungry.

She thought, ''If only I can eat all the people living in Jambudvipacontinent* in one meal, then my hunger will disappear even as a mirage disappears after a heavy rain. Such a course of action is not inappropriate, since it is appropriate to preserve one's life. However, since the people of Jambudvipa* are pious, charitable, devoted to god, and endowed with a knowledge of herbs, it is inappropriate to harass these peaceloving people. Let me engage myself in penance, for through penance is attained that which would otherwise be extremely difficult to attain."

Karkati* then went up one of the snowpeaks and commenced her penance, standing on one leg. She was as firm as a marble statue and did not even notice days and months pass by. In course of time, she had grown so thin that it looked as if she was a skeleton clad in transparent skin. Thus she remained for one thousand years.

After a thousand years had passed, the creator Brahma* appeared before her, pleased with her penance: by intense penance one can attain anything—even poisonous fumes are extinguished. She bowed to him mentally, and began to wonder what boon she should ask of him. "Ah, yes," she thought, "I shall request that I should become a living steel pin (Sucika*), an embodiment of disease. With this boon I shall simultaneously enter the hearts of all beings and fulfil my desire and appease my hunger." When Brahma* said to her, "I am pleased with your penance; ask a boon of your choice," she expressed her wish.

BRAHMA*. said: So be it; you shall also be Visucika*. Remaining a subtle thing, you will inflict pain on those who eat the wrong food and indulge in wrong living, by entering their heart. However, one can attain relief by the use of the following mantra:

himadrer* uttare parsve* karkati* nama* raksasi*
visucikabhidhana* sanamna* 'py anyayabadhika*
om* hram* hrim* srim* ram*
visnusakttaye* namo bhagavati visnusaktti* ehi enam* hara hara daha daha hana hana paca paca
matha matha utsadaya* utsadaya* dure* kuru kuru svaha* visucike*
tvam* himavantam* gaccha gaccha jivasara* candramandalam* gato 'si svaha*

One who is proficient in this mantra should wear it on his left arm and, thinking of the moon, pass that hand over the patient who will be cured at once.

Immediately, O Rama*, the demoness with the mountainous body began to shrink gradually to the size of a pin. She became so subtle that her existence could only be imagined. She was like the extremely subtle susumna* nadi* that links the base of the spine with the crown of the head. She was like the alayaconsciousness* described by the Buddhists. She was constantly followed by her other form known as Visucika* (cholera).

Though she was extremely subtle and unseen, her demoniacal mentality underwent no change at all. She had gained the boon of her choice; but she could not fulfil her desire to devour all beings! That is because she was of the size of a needle!! How strange: the deluded ones do not have foresight. The selfish person's violent efforts to gain his selfish ends often lead to other results, even as a person is unable to see his face when he runs to the mirror puffing and panting—his own breath mists the mirror.

Significantly, again, the demoness who had a huge form gave up that body, died to it, in order to fulfil her ambition to become a needle: even death becomes desirable when one is keen on some selfish gain and when one is possessed by excessive craving.

Visucika* was radiant and was as subtle as the aroma of flowers. Dependent upon the lifeforce of others, she' was devoted to her own work.

With her twofold form of Sucika* and Visucika*, the demoness roamed the world afflicting all the people. By her own wish she had become small: indeed, people become what they intensely wish to be. Meanminded people even pray for trivia; just as the demoness prayed to be transformed into a cruel needle. One's inborn nature is not easily counteracted even by penance.

Sucika* entered into the physical bodies of people who, on account of previous illness had been greatly debilitated or had become obese, and transformed herself into Visucika* (cholera). Sucika* entered into the heart of even a healthy and intelligent person, and perverted his intellect. In some cases, however, she left that person when the latter underwent a healing treatment either with the aid of the mantra or with drugs.

Thus, the demoness roamed the earth for many many years.

VASISTHA* continued:
Sucika* had her numerous hiding places. Among them were: dust and dirt on the ground, (unclean) fingers, threads in a cloth, within one's body in the muscles, dirty skin covered with dust, unclean furrows on the palms and on other parts of the body (due to senility), places where flies abound, in a lustreless body, in places full of decaying leaves, in places devoid of healthy trees, in people of filthy dress, people of unhealthy habits, in treestumps caused by deforestation in which flies breed, in puddles of stagnant water, in polluted water, in open sewers running in the middle of roads, in rest houses used by travellers, and in those cities where there are many animals like elephants, horses, etc.

Being Sucika * (a sewing needle), she wore dirty pieces of cloth thrown on the roads, sewn together; and she roamed freely in the bodies of sick people. Even as a sewing needle which has been well used by a tailor feels fatigued and falls to the ground to take some rest, as it were, Sucika* also got tired of her destructive activity. Just as sewing (piercing) is the natural function of a needle, cruelty was the nature of Sucika*. Just as the needle keeps on swallowing the thread that passes through it, Sucika* continued to claim her victims.

It is seen in the world that even wicked and cruel people are sometimes moved to pity when they see others who have been povertystricken and miserable for a long time. Even so, Sucika* saw the endless thread that had passed through her in the cloth (her own karma) in front of her. This worried her. She fancied that this dark cloth, which had been woven by her (as Sucika* or sewing needle) was covering her face and that she was blindfolded. She wondered "How shall I tear this veil?" She (the needle) passed through soft cloth (good people) as also hard cloth ( the wicked ones), for what fool or wicked person discriminates between what is good and what is not?

Unharmed and unprovoked by others, Sucika* works for the destruction and death of others: bound by this thread, she is dangling perilously. Known also as Jivasucika*, she moves in all beings as the lifeforce with the help of prana* and apana*, subjecting the jiva* to sorrow, by causing terribly sharp pain (of gout, rheumatism) which makes one lose his mind. She enters into the feet (like a needle) and drinks blood. Like all wicked people, she rejoices in others' sorrow.

(As Vasistha* was saying this, the sun set and another day came to an end. The assembly adjourned for prayers.)
III:71, 72
VASISTHA* continued:

After living in this manner for a long long time, the demoness Karkati* was thoroughly disillusioned and repented her foolish desire to devour people, which entailed severe penance for a thousand years and the degraded existence as a needle (and cholera virus). She thus bewailed her own selfinflicted misfortune:

"Alas, where is my mountainous body and where is the form of a needle? Sometimes I fall into mud and filth, I am trampled upon by people. Alas, I am lost. I have no friends, no one takes pity upon me. I have no fixed abode, nor have I a body worth the name. I have surely lost my mind and my senses! The mind that is heading towards calamity first creates delusion and wickedness: and these themselves later expand into misfortune and sorrow. I am never free, ever at the mercy of others. I am in the hands of others and do what they make me do. I desired to appease the goblin of a desire to devour all; but that has led to a remedy worse than the disease, and a greater goblin has arisen. Surely, I am a brainless fool; hence, I threw away such a great and gigantic body and deliberately chose this despicable body of a virus (or a needle). Who is now going to liberate me from this miserable existence as a being smaller than a worm? The very thought of such a vicious creature as I am may not even arise in the heart of sages. Ah, when will I again be as large as a mountain and drink the blood of large beings? ... Let me become an ascetic again and perform penance as I did before."

At once Karkati * abandoned all wish to devour living beings, and went to the Himalayas* for doing intense penance again. Standing as if on one foot, she began her penance. The fire of penance generated smoke from the crown of her head, and that too became another Sucika*, a helpmate. Her shadow became yet another Sucika*, yet another friend.

Even the trees and creepers of the forest admired Sucika's* penance and radiated their pollens for her to eat. But she would not consume anything at all. She stood firmly on her resolve. The god of heaven also sent small particles of meat to where she stood; but she would not even let them touch her. Thus she stood for seven thousand years, utterly motionless, unmoved by wind, rain, or forestfire.

Karkati's* whole being became completely purified by this penance. All her sinful tendencies had been washed away by the penance and she gained the highest wisdom. The energy of her penance set the Himalayas* on fire, as it were. Indra the king of heaven learnt from the sage Narada* of Karkati's* unprecedented undertaking.

In answer to Indra's request, SAGE NARADA* narrated the story of Karkati*:

This despicable goblin Karkati* became a living needle embodied in a metal needle. As such she entered into the bodies of sinful people and afflicted their muscles, their joints and their blood. She entered these bodies like wind, and caused stabbing and pricking pains. She inflicted such pain on those bodies which had been nourished on impure food like meat, etc.
The story continues, but I hope the above gives an idea of what can be found in this often beautiful and sometimes mind-blowing work. For instance, there is a tale named: "The Story of the Sage from Outer Space" which indicates that there are more than viruses and microscopic organisms out there in our cosmic neighbourhood.
Hello Pierre
Many thanks for this chapter, once again fascinating.
Here is the chapter 23 in PDF in French.
It's a bit late but I went to France in August to visit my son, on vacation and to find a house and I was very sick for 3 weeks.
Back home, I'm trying to recover my strength and this is the first subject I was able to read yesterday, without being exhausted.
So, a lot to catch up on reading on the forum!!!
Is my translation still of interest to some?
Please let me know.

To all of you, good luck!

Translated with (free version)
Thank you so much, Pierre for your generosity to publish the chapters for download. I read it now. It's so interesting and well written. Thank you for this thrilling research.

To learn that "viruses seem more fundamental than even life itself", and that it is the relation between viruses and host (immunity) what it's all about, this is such a game changer for understanding disease and the meaning of relations. What a paradigm shift. I am very grateful to be able to read your work.
Hello Pierre
Many thanks for this chapter, once again fascinating.
Here is the chapter 23 in PDF in French.
It's a bit late but I went to France in August to visit my son, on vacation and to find a house and I was very sick for 3 weeks.
Back home, I'm trying to recover my strength and this is the first subject I was able to read yesterday, without being exhausted.
So, a lot to catch up on reading on the forum!!!
Is my translation still of interest to some?
Please let me know.

To all of you, good luck!

Translated with (free version)
I hope you are doing better now. Yes, your translations are valuable as far as I am concerned. In this regard, chapter 23 in PDF in French does not appear in your post.

Chapter 24: Upper Atmosphere Microorganisms​

The discovery of microorganisms - including viruses – in the higher atmosphere was unexpected to mainstream science because microorganisms cannot normally be transported from the lower atmosphere to the upper one because of the tropopause barrier:

The tropopause acts a barrier to the free movement of particles above 17km thereby making such transfer from Earth to the stratosphere very difficult.[1]

troposphere_diagram_tropopause + fireball.jpg
The troposphere, the tropopause and the stratosphere

One of the few documented event able to pierce up the tropopause and possibly carry surface micro-organisms to the stratosphere is very large volcanic eruptions[2].

But the large volcanic eruption hypothesis was dismissed when two of the papers reporting the presence of microorganisms in the stratosphere were conducted two years or more after the last major volcanic eruptions[3]. Knowing that in two years or less, all the volcanic dust drops to the lower atmosphere[4].

eru^tion etna.jpg
© Guiseppe Famiani
The 2015 Etna eruption. The most violent in 20 years.
The plume reaching the tropopause was blocked hence the characteristic anvil shape

So, not only microorganisms, including viruses, are present in cometary material as shown in the previous chapter, they are also pervasive in Earth’s the upper atmosphere. The first discoveries date back to the 1930’s, almost one century ago:

[In 1936] a manned US high-altitude balloon, Explorer II, became the first air sampling mission to reach the stratosphere (up to 21 km ASL), and several viable microbes were isolated within the genera Bacillus, Macrosporium, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Rhizopus [5]

Notice that this experiment already used autoclaved collection tubes discarding de facto the possibility terrestrial contamination.

In the 1960’s, the air balloons flew even higher - 30 km and above – and they kept returning positive identification of microorganisms:

Although microbiological techniques available at the time were rather primitive compared to the present, there were already some intriguing indications of the presence of extraterrestrial microbes in air samples collected at heights of 30 km and above (Bruch, 1967). Positive detection of microorganisms at 39 km and a population density that increased with height pointed to a possible extraterrestrial[6]

In the 1970’s, the discovery of microorganisms was confirmed once again by the analysis of dust collected during stratospheric flights made by the U2 spy planes:

In the 1970s, high altitude flights (U2 aircraft) were used to collect them from the lower stratosphere, 18-20km altitude, on oiled sheets exposed outside aircraft flying at ~200m/s. This method suffered from the problem of contamination as well as breakage of the particles and a bias against small light ones (which tend to divert with the air stream). Moreover genuine interplanetary particles have to be diligently separated from terrestrial contaminants.
These so-called Brownlee particles, which were mostly in the form of fluffy aggregates of siliceous dust, have been found to contain extraterrestrial organic molecules, with a complexity and diversity approaching that recently reported for the Murchison meteorite. In a few instances microbial morphologies were discovered within individual Brownlee particles.[7]

micron-sized carbonaceous structure in a Brownlee particle .jpg
© Whickramasanghe
Micron-sized carbonaceous structure in a Brownlee particle compared with a microbial fossil

It is in the 1970’s also that the highest elevation was reached when Imshenetsky and his research team collected air sample up to 85 km[8] elevation – higher than the upper boundary of the stratosphere - from which they isolated bacteria and fungus:

In the 1970s, A. A. Imshenetsky and colleagues collected samples of air from even higher elevations, from the stratosphere to the mesosphere (48-85 km ASL), using γ-radiation sterilized meteorological rockets and investigated the characteristics of the bacterial and fungal strains isolated.[9]

A similar experiment was conducted in 2001 in the stratosphere above India. It identified three microorganisms: two bacterial and one fungal species:

An Indian and British team of researchers led by Chandra Wickramasinghe reported on 2001 that air samples over Hyderabad, India, gathered from the stratosphere by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on January 21, 2001, contained clumps of living cells. Wickramasinghe calls this "unambiguous evidence for the presence of clumps of living cells in air samples from as high as 41 km, above which no air from lower down would normally be transported". Two bacterial and one fungal species were later independently isolated from these filters which were identified as Bacillus simplex, Staphylococcus pasteuri and Engyodontium album respectively.[10]

In 2005, air samples were collected at altitudes of more than 40 km[11]. The results were unexpected, not only 15 different known species of microorganisms were identified but also three bacteria species[12] unknown on Earth until then:

In 2005 an improved experiment was conducted by ISRO. On April 20, 2005, air samples were collected from the upper atmosphere at altitudes ranging from 20 km to more than 40 km. The samples were tested at two labs in India. The labs found 12 bacterial and 6 different fungal species in these samples. The fungi were Penicillium decumbens, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Alternaria sp. and Tilletiopsis albescens. Out of the 12 bacterial samples, 3 were identified as new species and named Janibacter hoylei (after Fred Hoyle), Bacillus isronensis (named after ISRO) and Bacillus aryabhattai (named after the ancient Indian mathematician, Aryabhata). These three new species showed that they were more resistant to UV radiation than similar bacteria[13]

The following year, air samples were collected, once again, above in India. Not only the stratospheric air sample led to the identification of four more unknown bacteria species but some of collected microorganisms were viable despite the added stress induced by the cryosampling and the use of a very narrow range of nutrients:

Cryosampling of the stratosphere above Hyderabad (India), resulted in the isolation of four new species from the genus Bacillus: B. aerius sp. nov., B. aerophilus sp. nov., B. stratosphericus sp. nov., and B. altitudinis sp. nov. In many studies, such as this one, the selection of microbes cultivated was dependent on the method of collection (cryotubes were flushed with buffer that was then spread on culture media) in this case and the medium used (e.g. Luria-Bertani agar or Nutrient agar), and effectively allowed for the recovery and cultivation only of specific microbes.[14]

The number of bacteria, archaea[15] and fungi strains found the stratosphere and above is so impressive that DasSama et al. compiled a non-extensive list:

dasarma list stratosphere microorganism.jpg
© DasSama
List of microorganisms found in the stratosphere

Notice that the experiments described above collected air samples with increasingly sterile procedures:

Balloon flights launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the 1990s initially reached heights of ~30 km for sampling stratosphere CFCs, collecting frozen air in steel cylinders with all-metal valves (remotely controlled) immersed in liquid neon. The more recent flights reached heights of 40-45 km with all equipment ultra-clean and sterile to reduce contamination. In January 2001 this technique was used to collect pristine cometary dust aseptically using cryoprobes flown aboard balloons to heights of 41km[16]

In summary, we have, on one hand, meteorites directly carrying new microorganisms, including virus as demonstrated in the previous chapter and, on the other hand, the Earth’s high atmosphere laden with microorganisms as shown in the present chapter. Could the latter be a consequence of the former? Are the Earth in-bound meteorites enabling the deposition of microorganisms in the atmosphere?

Coincidentally or not, it’s in the mesosphere - where microorganisms have been repeatedly found - where meteors begin to fragment:

A variety of microbes have been discovered in the upper atmosphere, including those who are radiation resistant, and at heights ranging from 41 km to 77 km[17] and thus in both the stratosphere and the mesophere which is extremely dry, cold (−85 C (−121.0 F), and lacking oxygen. It is the mesophere where meteors first begin to fragment as they speed to Earth.[18]
One might object that microbes at such altitude would be destroyed by the ambient cold, vacuum and radiation, but it appears that some microbes are anaerobic[19] and resistant to freezing[20]:

© S. Grossmann
Microscope picture of psychrophilic (cold-loving) bacteria.

Some microorganisms are also resistant to radiation[21], more than that, they thrive in such an extreme environment. Here is a striking example:

In 1960, Fowler et al. reported a species of Pseudomonas living in a research nuclear reactor where the average dose was estimated to be more than a million rads[22][23]

Likewise, viruses have been shown repeatedly to survive extraterrestrial conditions including cold temperature, microgravity, vacuum and intense radiations[24].

So it seems that some microorganisms are perfectly able to survive space conditions. The debate about viability of stratospheric microorganisms was seemingly put to an end when metabolically active microbes were launched into the stratosphere and returned to Earth. These cells retained their viability[25] after their stratospheric journey.

Now that we know that some microorganisms their space journey the next question is: how many them fall on Earth? The estimate of the daily input of cometary debris is massive:

With a daily input of cometary debris averaging some 500 tons, the possibility of detecting infalling microbes must surely exist. [26]

Correlated with the substantial infalling of cometary debris, the deposition of microorganisms on Earth is also massive:

Here, we demonstrate that even in pristine environments, above the atmospheric boundary layer, the downward flux of viruses ranged from 0.26 × 109 to 7 × 109 m2 per day. These deposition rates were 9–461 times greater than the rates for bacteria, which ranged from 0.3 × 107 to 8 × 107 m2 per day[27]

You read it right. Everyday there are about one billion viruses falling from the sky for every single square meter[28]. To give a more commensurable example, in a country like Canada, this astounding deposition rate translates into 25 viruses that fall from the sky daily per inhabitant:

"Every day, more than 800 million viruses are deposited per square meter above the planetary boundary layer -- that's 25 viruses for each person in Canada," said University of British Columbia virologist Curtis Suttle, one of the senior authors of a paper in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal that outlines the findings.[29]

Now that we know that microorganisms, including viruses, are present in both cometary material and in the higher atmosphere the questions that are arises is: where do these viruses come from? What is their origin?

The next chapter aims to provide some answers to these questions.

[1] Wickramasinghe, Chandra et al. (2013) “Diseases From Space: Astrobiology, Viruses, Microbiology, Meteors, Comets, Evolution” Cosmology Science Publishers
[2] Pitari, Giovanni et al. (2016) “Impact of Stratospheric Volcanic Aerosols on Age-of-Air and Transport of Long-Lived Species” Atmosphere 7. 149. 10.3390
[3] Wickramasinghe, 2013
[4] Aerosol particles' lifetime (such as those from volcanic eruptions) in the stratosphere, has been calculated to be 1 to 2 years
[5] DasSarma P. et al. (2020) “Earth's Stratosphere and Microbial Life” Curr Issues Mol Biol. 38:197-244
[6] Burdyuzha, 2006
[7] Wickramasinghe et al. (2010) “Bacterial morphologies in carbonaceous meteorites and comet dust” Proc. SPIE 7819
[8] 53 mi
[9] DasSarma P., 2020
[10] Wikipedia contributors (2022) “Panspermia” Wikipedia
[11] 25 mi
[12] Shivaji, S. et al. (2009) "Janibacter hoylei sp. nov., Bacillus isronensis sp. nov. and Bacillus aryabhattai sp. nov., isolated from cryotubes used for collecting air from upper atmosphere" International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 59 (Pt 12): 2977–86
[13] Ibid
[14] DasSarma P. et al. (2020) “Earth's Stratosphere and Microbial Life” Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2020;38:197-244
[15] A group of micro-organisms that are similar to, but evolutionarily distinct from bacteria
[16] Wickramasinghe, Chandra et al. (2010) "Bacterial morphologies in carbonaceous meteorites and comet dust" Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XIII, vol. 7819, pp. 299-315
[17] 25 to 48 mi
[18] Joseph R. (2010) “Comets and Contagion: Evolution, Plague, and Diseases From Space” Research Gate
[19] Díaz EE. et al. (2006) “Phenotypic properties and microbial diversity of methanogenic granules from a full-scale upflow anaerobic sludge bed reactor treating brewery wastewater” Appl Environ Microbiol. 72(7):4942-9
[20] Torosian S. et al. (2009) “A refrigeration temperature of 4 °C does not prevent static growth of Yersinia pestis in heart infusion broth” Canadian journal of microbiology 55. 1119-24. 10.1139
[21] Singh, O. and Gabani, P. (2011) “Extremophiles: radiation resistance microbial reserves and therapeutic implications” Journal of Applied Microbiology 110: 851-861
[22] Hoover, R.B. et al. (1986) “Diatoms on earth, comets, Europa and in interstellar space” Earth Moon Planet 35, 19–45
[23] For comparison a dose of 1,000 rad is almost invariably fatal for humans
[24] Pavletić B et al. (2022) “Spaceflight Virology: What Do We Know about Viral Threats in the Spaceflight Environment?” Astrobiology 22(2):210-224
[25] DasSarma, S. and DasSarma, P. (2018) “Survival of microbes in Earth's stratosphere” Current Opinion in Microbiology 43, 24-30
[26] Vladimir Burdyuzha (2006) “The Future of Life and the Future of our Civilization” Springer
[27] Isabel Reche et al. (2018) “Deposition rates of viruses and bacteria above the atmospheric boundary layer” The ISME Journal
[28] 10 sqft
[29] Ibid
Now that we know that microorganisms, including viruses, are present in both cometary material and in the higher atmosphere the questions that are arises is: where do these viruses come from? What is their origin?

The next chapter aims to provide some answers to these questions.

This is super interesting. Am looking forward to the next chapter :-)
This is super interesting. Am looking forward to the next chapter :-)
Yes, me too. The lastest chapter, chapter 24, really got me thinking. I mean, 25 viruses each day falling on our heads? That explains a lot! :lol:

Seriously, though, I thought I had seen it all, after reading some of Laura's and Pierre's previous books about our multifaceted reality. But to consider how viruses and other life-forms are capable of withstanding such conditions and most incredibly of all, IMO, how they make life possible, and, may we say it now, up-to-date...

Thank you Pierre for your efforts and all this superb research, really appreciated.
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