Wednesday, March 12, 2008

of goats and red rain


I've heard of raining cats and dogs, and even real-life cases of raining frogs and fish, but the idea of red rain sounds altogether freakier than amphibians falling out of the sky. Red rain makes me think of the closing scenes of the world's all-time scariest movie, Carrie. And that's not a good thing at all. The molecules in this picture, however, have nothing to do with Sissy Spacek, or pig's blood - at least, as far as we know. They fell from the sky in 2001, in Kerala, India.

Between July and September of that year, showers of blood-like rain poured from the heavens, staining clothes and scaring the bejesus out of the locals. There were also reports of yellow, green and black rain. Just to make the downpours even creepier, they were preceded by thunderclaps and flashes of light. And more creepy still, leaves on trees apparently shriveled and fell to the ground.

Theories on what was going on started to fly around. Was it fallout from a meteor that flew past the earth or burst nearby? A dust cloud that had been sucked into the passing storm? Airborne spores from algae (trentepohlia) that had grown abundant during recent rains? Blood from bats that had been sucked into some kind of climatic vortex? Or best of all, could they be extraterrestrial cells falling from space?

"In 2003, two scientists (Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar) at the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam suggested that the red rain was made up of cells from a living, possibly extraterrestrial, creature. Could this be alien bathwater? Blue ice from a UFO? The jury is out on whether the particles contained DNA, but it doesn't seem to be beyond the realms of possibility.

"Perhaps the thunderclap was a sonic boom caused by a small comet exploding upon entering the earth's atmosphere and carrying spores of alien lifeforms? No-one knows for sure, and specimens gathered from another reported red rainfall last year have yet to be examined. Exciting stuff. RM

Images: Dr Godfrey Louis

And on a moar cuter note...

Here's a story that's hard to believe at first, but is so well-documented that there's no doubt it's real. Goats that climb trees. Tree-climbing goats. Yes, really. In southwestern Morocco, it seems, goats have a soft spot for the fruit of the Argan tree. So much so that they'll climb these rather spindly-looking branches to get hold of them.

Apparently this tree-climbing activity benefits everyone (though there is some talk of the poor trees being overgrazed). The goats like the fruit but can't digest the pits, which they either spit out or, erm, excrete. Then the farmers collect these to make argan oil. Something to remember when you're next in Morocco - don't sit under an Argan tree.

Images: Remo Savisaar

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