Living cloud

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Fred Hoyle's 1956 The Black Cloud, speaks about a dark cloud of dust in space with super-intelligence. His 1978 Lifecloud, coauthored with his graduate student Chandra Wickramasinghe, conjectures how "life" arose in a nebula, e.g. the Horsehead Nebula, in the Orion constellation.[1]

In terms, living cloud (LH:6) refers to the hypothesis of a cloud of dust that is animate, super-intelligent, and alive, in some way; such as conjectured, independently, by Howard Lovecraft (1916), in respect to hypothetical science fiction creatures or life or intellect in general as "form of atomic and molecular motion", and Fred Hoyle (1957), in respect to a fine-tuned origin of life theory from space nebula, made largely of: carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen (Hoyle, 1981).


In the 18th century, several thinkers, namely: Jean Meslier (1729), Emanuel Swedenborg (1734), Immanuel Kant (1755), William Herschel (1790), and Pierre Laplace (1796), proposed that stars arose, formed, or came into heated existence, in nebula, generally via the rotation of gaseous clouds, which contracted or heated in the central region to ignite the star, as shown below:

Nebular hypothesis.png

with planets, e.g. the earth, later forming around the star, via accretion of matter found in rotating orbital rings, into globe-like structures, such as shown below:

Nebular hypothesis (living cloud).png

This came to be known as the "nebular hypothesis".

In the early 20th century, in the wake of Darwin's theory evolution (1859), and the rise of chemical evolution models, some began to ruminate on this model, in respect to the "origin of life", e.g. if there was "life" in the primordial or pre-ignition cloud of dust, e.g. step #1 above, prior to the sun becoming inflamed or to begin to release heat and light.


In 1916, Howard Lovecraft, in his correspondence letters, speculated about how some type of “invisible gas” might be a higher form of “atomic and molecular motion” that we refer to “life”, or dominate, rational, creature, being, or species:

“How do we know that that form of atomic and molecular motion we call ‘life’ is the highest of all forms? Perhaps the dominate creature — the most rational and god-like of all beings — is an ‘invisible gas’. Or perhaps it is a flaming and effulgent mass of molten stardust. Who can say that men have souls while rocks have none?”
— Howard Lovecraft (1916), “Letter to Rheinhart Kleiner, Ira Cole, and Maurice Moe”, Aug 8 [2]
“My attitude has always been cosmic, and I looked on man as if from another planet. He was merely an interesting species presented for study and classification.”
— Howard Lovecraft (1922), “A Confession of Unfaith” [3]


In 1955, Fred Hoyle, while doing research on the nebulosity of nebulae, specifically by measuring so-called "interstellar grains" or small particles in nebula that produced a so-called "fogging effect" of the distant light, which in the 1950s, at Caltech, were believed to be water ice particles. The following is the horsehead nebula, which shows the fogging effect Hoyle speaks of, which supposedly is the foggy light behind the head-shape of the horse at center:[4]

Horsehead nebula.jpg

In 1957, Hoyle, in his The Black Cloud, a science fiction novel, tells a future 1964 story astrophysicist become aware of certain dark black cloud, comprised of gas and dust, initially thought to be a "Bok globule"[5], that is heading for the solar system. The cloud unexpectedly decelerates as it approaches and comes to rest around the Sun, causing disastrous climatic changes on Earth and immense mortality and suffering for the human race. As the behaviour of the cloud proves to be impossible to predict scientifically, the team at Nortonstowe eventually come to the conclusion that it might be a life-form with a degree of intelligence. The following,The Black Cloud [pg. 150-51], seems to be the key dialogue:[6]

  • Chris: “Just the sort of mistake that I’d be natural to make if, instead of the cloud being inanimate, it were alive.”
  • John: “I’d like to know, Chris, what you mean in this context by the world ‘alive’?”
  • Christ: “Well, John, you know better than I do that the distinction between ‘animate’ and ‘inanimate’ is more a matter of verbal convenience.”

The scientists try to communicate with the cloud, and succeed. The cloud is revealed to be an alien gaseous superorganism, many times more intelligent than humans, which is surprised to find intelligent life-forms on a solid planet. It reconfigures itself to allow sunlight to return to the earth and humanity is saved.

In 1960 to 1965, Hoyle began working with Chandra Wickramasinghe, his graduate student, to test to see what sort of chemicals, e.g. graphite, magnesium oxide, silica, calcium oxide, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, and iron, would fit the data in respect to wave frequency and wavelength of the fogging effect. They were eventually led to the conclusion that the mass of the grains had to come largely from carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. This led the pair of them to start thinking about the origin of life from a space cloud, and about "information carried by biomolecules".[4]

In 1978, Hoyle, together with Chandra Wickramasinghe, published Lifecloud, wherein they begin by pointing out the improbability of the "chemical evolution" scenarios that have been postulated, after which the conclude that life arose via comet, and via an E coli bacteria on the comet in particular.[1]

In 1981, Hoyle, in his "The Universe: Past and Present", gave an historical overview of the origin of his living cloud theory, concluding that the ratio of carbon and oxygen made during stellar nuclear synthesis was "fixed" by a super-intelligence, which he alluded to be like Einstein's non-malicious god.[4]


In 1999, Paul Davies, in his The 5th Miracle: the Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life, reflected about his thoughts on Fred Hoyle’s 1957 science fiction novel The Black Cloud, wherein a large cloud of gas from interstellar space arrived in the solar system, which was said to be ‘alive’, as follows:

“How can a cloud be alive? I puzzled over this at length. Surely gas clouds just obey the laws of physics? How could they exhibit autonomous behavior, have thoughts, make choices? But, then, it occurred to me, all living things supposedly obey the laws of physics.”
— Paul Davies (1999), The 5th Miracle (pg. 14)[7]

Hoyle’s "living cloud" theory left Davies ‘baffled and vaguely disturbed’, leaving him questioning the ‘what exactly is life question’ and ‘when did it start?’ issue. He also declared the second law to be the "ultimate problem of biogenesis".[7]

“Is life written into the laws of nature, or just a bizarre accident, unique in the universe? How can a mix of non-living chemicals be transformed into something as complex as the living cell?”
— Paul Davies (2003), The Origin of Life (pg. #)[8]

In 2006, Davies, in his The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?, argued that the earth, with its so-called "bio-friendly" conditions habitable zone, was fine-tuned by accident, and found in one of many universes.[9]


The solution to the problem, aka "ultimate problem of biogenesis" (Davies, 1999) and gaseous clouds, is called "abioism" viewpoint. Namely, if "life" is defined as a form of "atomic and molecular motion" (Lovecraft, 1916), than, by repercussion, animate things such as: AQ (AnthraQuinone), formula: , a type of synthetic heat-powered walking molecule, or retinal, formula: , a light-sensative bending molecule, among others would be defined as "life", and hence we enter the range of objectionable nonsense. Thus, the solution to the problem, is to deanthropomorphize our thinking, and instead of trying to project the myth-based property of "life" into the mechanism of physics, chemistry, and motion, we have to reverse things, and project the mechanisms of physics, chemistry, and motion, to ourselves and to reformulate our conception of ourselves as a species of atomic and molecular motion, as Lovecraft would say. It would always be kept in mind, that "life" is god's "backdoor" key, using a programming metaphor, into the mind of an atheist.

End matter


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hoyle, Fred; Wickramasinghe, Fred. (1978). Lifecloud: the Origin of Life in the Universe (abs). Harper & Row.
  2. Lovecraft, Howard P. (2010). Against Religion: the Atheistic Writings of H.P. Lovecraft (editor: S.T. Joshi; foreword: Christopher Hitchens) (abs) (Amz) (rocks, pg. 9). Sporting Gentlemen.
  3. (a) Lovecraft, Howard P. (1922). “A Confession of Unfaith”, Liberal, Feb.
    (b) Lovecraft, Howard P. (2010). Against Religion: the Atheistic Writings of H.P. Lovecraft (editor: Sunand Joshi; foreword: Christopher Hitchens) (abs) (Amz) (pg. 5). Sporting Gentlemen.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hoyle, Fred. (1981). “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections” (pdf), Engineering & Science (pgs. 8-12), Nov.
  5. Bok globule – Wikipedia.
  6. Hoyle, Fred. (1975). The Black Cloud (alive, pgs. 75, 150-51). Penguin. 1960.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Davies, Paul. (1999). The 5th Miracle: the Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life (cloud alive, pg. 14; ultimate, pg. 19). Orion Productions.
  8. Davies, Paul. (2003). The Origin of Life (Amz). Penguin.
  9. Davies, Paul. (2006). The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? Publisher.

Further reading

  • Tsytovich, V.N. (2007). “From Plasma Crystals and Helical Structures towards Inorganic Living Matter” (coauthors: G.E. Morfill, V.E. Fortov, N.G. Gusein-Zade, B.A. Klumov, S.V. Vladimirov) (abs), New Journal of Physics, 9:263, Aug 14.

External links

Theta Delta ics T2.jpg