I am trying to understand a new word I discovered during my morning science articles and tea, the only waking ritual I’ve found soothing in this era of Moore’s Law.


Or pan-sperm-ia, as my brain originally compartmentalized it,

like a panacea, an ointment transferred by nanotech to individual sperm cells in the name of 21st-century designer babies.

That’s where my imagination went, the what-ifs fueled by memory. Yet Merriam-Webster defines panspermia as,

a theory
propounded in the 19th century in opposition to
the theory of spontaneous generation
and holding that reproductive
bodies of living organisms
exist throughout
the universe,
developing wherever
the environment is favorable;

Whereas when offered Panspermia in context—when describing Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, just after Loeb said,

It is generally accepted
that the innermost region
of the Milky Way is not favorable for life;

—no “theory” was affixed, no questions posed; simply:

Even though the deck seems stacked
against life in this region,
the likelihood of panspermia,
where life is transmitted via interplanetary
or interstellar contact, would be much more
common in such a dense environment. This
process might give life a fighting chance
to arise and survive.

On the other hand of the Internet, over at Wikipedia—where artificial intelligence already vies for power,

from Ancient Greek pan, meaning all
and sperma, meaning seed;

—the etymology is clear. The original meaning, once an incandescence in a hopeful, deep-space dark, since polymorphed; one form, shaped by the intellect of scientists and dreamers; another, held tightly to their chests by the religious and skeptical. Now we are left with the Wiki-bot rubble:

A hypothesis of life
existing throughout the Universe
distributed by space dust, meteoroids,
asteroids, comets, planetoids—

Like cookie-crumb trails,

And also by spacecraft
in the form of unintended
contamination by microorganisms.

The article continues its blossoming of a divergence in thinking, in definition and subliminal context alike, flashing so many brilliant word choices, it’s as much shock-and-awe as a science fiction thriller:

debris ejected into space
after collisions between planets
and Solar System bodies that harbor life

organisms travelling dormant
an extended amount of time

colliding with other planets

intermingling with protoplanetary disks

under ideal impact circumstances
into a body of water, for example
and under ideal conditions
on the new planetary surface

Panspermia is not meant to address
how life began
just the method that may cause
its distribution in the Universe
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