Did a scientist predict a pandemic was imminent immediately before COVID-19 emerged in China (1)? Yes, but to put it politely, the specific observations and deductions that underpinned that prediction are radically out of line with conventional opinion.
Viruses From Outer Space?
The scientist claimed to have correctly prognosticated pandemic was on the way is Dr. N. Chandra Wickramasinghe (1). In subsequent publications (2, 3) he and coauthors claim both the COVID-19 and the 2002 SARS pandemics commenced after the Earth was seeded with virus-harboring debris from Halley’s Comet.
Some meteorites harbor complex organic molecules inviting the logical extrapolation that under the right circumstances living organisms might make some far-flung journeys through space as well. Although hypothetical, the general tenets of panspermia have been persistent and now seem to have broad general support in the scientific community. So, was the correct warning of imminent pandemic a visionary deduction based on solid scientific evidence? While critical of the conclusions and interpretations of infectious disease experts, Dr. Wickramasinghe and his colleagues issued some additional, quite specific and testable, predictions regarding the future course of the COVID-19. How well will they match up with on-the-ground events as the pandemic follows its course?
Halley’s Comet has intrigued Dr. Wickramasinghe and a key colleague (2-4) for many years, but connecting October fireballs to disease agent seeding events from that particular celestial body is tentative. While an annual meteor shower associated with Halley’s Comet debris occurs in October, other showers are also predictably active within that same time frame, leaving some doubt about the true origins of the fireballs.
Assuming for the moment, Halley’s Comet was the source of the bolides correlated with pandemics, the next question involves the genesis of the viruses. How did both distinct types of coronaviruses, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, come to be entrained within that comet and seed out separately? Coronaviruses require living host cells to reproduce, when were conditions on Halley’s Comet conducive to the production of what must have been prodigious quantities of these viruses? How much time had elapsed before the debris flung off by the comet ended up as a bolide in Earth’s atmosphere and how could easily-inactivated enveloped viruses have survived inimical conditions of space and perilous journeys through hazardous environmental conditions on Earth in numbers and physical condition competent to produce disease?
Contradictions and Questions
The authors write in one manuscript Abstract (2) the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 arrived as a pure culture in cometary debris dispersed over China. However, a few sentences later in the Introduction the infalling bolide material is described not as a pure culture, but a mixture of bacteria and viruses. The condition of the presumed inoculum is important because it has bearing on how many viruses could have been seeded by the bolide. Given that human SARS-CoV-2 infections can be markedly decreased by social distancing measures, the original numbers dispersed randomly in the atmosphere – thousands of kilometers away from points of first disease outbreaks – must have been stupendous. No meteorite samples of this bolide exist for study and although such a situation is certainly not unexpected, it does make it impossible to decide whether the bolide material dispersed over China was pure virus culture, a mix of bacteria and viruses or contained no complex biotic structures at all.
The authors postulate cometary bolide debris-contaminated environments were the terrestrial reservoirs for coronavirus pandemics. These assertions leave unclear why for both the COVID-19 (2) and 2002 SARS (3) pandemics the geographically most proximate locations to presumptive meteor seeding events, presumably the most heavily tainted sites, were spared as these diseases first emerged weeks later and thousands of kilometers to the south in limited sites in China. The deadly dust harboring SARS-CoV-2 finally settled out in a single distant Chinese city, as some of it was circumnavigating the planet to hit far-flung places like Mont Blanc (2) without apparent diminishment in disease-production potency. This proposed world-wide atmospheric dispersal mechanism weakens the case any causal link exists between putative cometary bolide sightings and later pandemic emergence. With pandemics first beginning so far in both space and time from the presumed source bolide events and then globe-hopping unpredictably (2), the authors try to have it both ways and strain to somehow maintain a link to Halley’s Comet.
If massive environmental deposition of virus-laden cometary dust was the dominant disease agent reservoir, why, instead of draining out of the atmosphere over several years (2), did the 2002 SARS outbreak terminate with the virus going extinct in nature? How could quarantine and isolation measures ever suppress the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the presumably heavily contaminated epicenter of Wuhan (3).
The authors predict (2) the COVID-19 outbreak in China will terminate in a few weeks when the “entire population of China” has been “sub-clinically affected” and herd immunity established. Putting aside questions about why SARS-CoV-2 infections would suddenly become less virulent, this bizarre prognostication is directly testable and it will be interesting to see whether it is confirmed or refuted by ongoing studies. If this prediction is true, China, perhaps the entire world, could abandon development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, dispense with monitoring and do away with travel restrictions. The environmental deposition model also suggests some of that settled out deadly dust ought to be collectable in hot spots like Wuhan, Mont Blanc, Iran, etc. Unless the viruses which survived untold eons in outer space, rained down on Earth after a bolide explosion and persisted suspended for weeks in the atmosphere are now suddenly inactivated, those contaminated areas might remain a lethal threat to tourists for some time.
Issuing a call to action to launch an upper atmosphere extraterrestrial disease agent surveillance program (2), the authors claim the monitoring effort might typically offer a 1-2 year lead time to prepare before infalling pathogens settle out and unleash mayhem. An interesting proposition, but how does the proposal square with what transpired with two of the most disruptive pandemics in modern human history? Because neither the 2002 SARS nor COVID-19 pandemics conformed to the claimed typical settle-out lead time as the presumptive meteor seeding events were followed by disease outbreaks only a few weeks later (3), this does not appear to a good investment of research funds. In addition, this pattern is hard to reconcile with the proposed regular seasonal atmospheric deposition of disease agents like the common cold rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, influenza viruses and RSV which reliably peak every Winter and recede in Spring (3). Why would some viruses be regularly replenished and spread like clockwork each Winter, others require 1-2 years to settle out and drain from the atmosphere while SARS-CoV-2 turns up “remarkably close on the heels of a cometary bolide” (2)?
Dr. Wickramasinghe and his collaborators have compiled a decades-long publication record in the panspermia realm complete with a bevy of iconoclastic disease epidemic causality and periodicity claims (2-6). Whooping cough epidemic peaks are claimed to correspond directly and precisely with the orbital period of Comet Encke (4) even though its physical distance from Earth varies widely during these journeys around our sun. In contrast, SARS and COVID-19 pandemics were deduced to have been seeded not by the passage of the much longer orbital period Halley’s Comet itself, but instead are linked to one of its two associated annual meteor showers, the one in October. This gives the impression the group takes disease outbreak data and crafts just-so celestial explanations for them post hoc.
Failure to Set in Context
How does the Stardust Mission which collected materials from comet Wild-2 and interplanetary space for direct examination (7) comport with a previous deduction that bulk of particles ejected from Halley’s and other comets are bacteria (4)? Do the authors boldly predict forthcoming asteroid sample return missions will reveal enormous quantities of viable bacterial cells and viruses? Are they warning sample return missions from comets and asteroids pose dire threats to human and animal life? If their hypotheses are correct, meteorite collections must be a hotbed of lethal microbial pathogens and meteorite hunting one of the most dangerous occupations on Earth.
A box of unauthenticated meteorites sold wholesale at the Tucson Fossil and Gem Show
It is hard to reconcile previously published (4-6) mechanistic hypotheses of epidemic disease outbreaks and extraterrestrial virus seeding with the current round of claims and these discrepancies are not discussed. Past work correlated influenza pandemics directly with peak sunspot activity, hypothesizing the atmospheric transit and deposition of cometary particles about the size of viruses were favored at those times by intense solar winds (5). However, the emergence of COVID-19 coincided with a period of minimal sunspot activity (8). Has the idea of a direct sunspot-pandemic virus correlation been abandoned or is there another explanation why some enveloped RNA viruses consistently required big sunspot assists to reach us while another one apparently did not? Perhaps a more parsimonious explanation is that researchers rearrange their explanations as necessary to be consistent with a long favored hypothesis that Halley’s comet is the source of deadly viruses.
(1) Anonymous. 2020. Leading Scientist Predicted Pandemic on November 25, 2019. The Cosmic Tusk, 23 March 2020. https://cosmictusk.com/wickramasinghe-predicted-coronavirus-pandemic-in-november-2019/
(2) Chandra Wickramasinghe et al. 2020. Comments on the Origin and Spread of the 2019 Coronavirus. Virology: Current Research 4:1, 2020, 6 March 2020. https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/comments-on-the-origin-and-spread-of-the-2019-coronavirus.pdf
(3) Chandra Wickramasinghe et al. 2020. Predicting the Future Trajectory of COVID-19. Virology: Current Research 4:1, 2020, 13 April 2020. https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/predicting-the-future-trajectory-of-covid19.pdf
(4) F. Hoyle. 1986. Halley’s Comet and Others: The Bacterial Star Shells. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 79(12):691-693. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1290563/?page=1
(5) F. Hoyle and N. C. Wickramasinghe. 1990. Sunspots and Influenza. Nature 343:304.
(6) Stuart Millar. 2000. Flu Comes From Outer Space, Claim Scientists. The Guardian, 18 January 2000. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/jan/19/spaceexploration.medicineandhealth
(7) NASA. Dust from Comets and Interstellar Space. https://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/stardust/index.cfm
(8) Tom Metcalfe. First New Sunspots in 40 Days Herald Coming Solar Cycle. LiveScience.com, 8 January 2020. https://www.livescience.com/new-sunspot-solar-cycle-begins.html