Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Antarctic Expedition To Track Down Extreme Living Creatures 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-forget-your-swimsuit dept.
WirePosted tips us to a story about a group of scientists who are heading to Antarctica to study organisms that thrive in climates too extreme for most other life forms. The team will be visiting a lake that has a pH "like strong Clorox," the sediments of which "produce more methane than any other natural body of water on our planet." The scientists hope to learn about the potential for life in other unforgiving climates, such as those on Mars or the various ice-covered moons in the Solar System. Expedition leader Richard Hoover was quoted saying, "This will help us decide where to search for life on other planets and how to recognize alien life if we actually find it." We've previously discussed Antarctic microbes as they related to conditions on Mars.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Antarctic Expedition To Track Down Extreme Living Creatures

Comments Filter:
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:09PM (#22370640)
    Sounds even more fun than extreme ironing! [extremeironing.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by gaspar ilom (859751)

      Finding out more about the *origins* of life is far more interesting than terraforming,in my view.

      Terraforming is a far-off prospect, at best -- and quite possibly, not even feasible anywhere in this solar system. (the "gravity problem" of Mars may be impossible to overcome.)

      On the other hand, if more of these extremophiles and endoliths [wikipedia.org] are found, and their DNA sequenced -- we could gain true insights in to the first lifeforms that lived on earth and how they arose. Furthermore, it is exactly t

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#22370654) Homepage
    Besides showing us how to recognize alien life, wouldn't a better understanding of extreme creatures help us decide which species to first release in a terraforming effort? In Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy beginning with Red Mars [amazon.com] , Sax Russell's choice of initial seedings is inspired by an earlier sojourn in Antarctica.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ahhh, another dork who doesn't seem to know what the words SCIENCE FICTION mean. Here's a hint - we know so little about our own planet and its environment that we can't even begin to effect serious change here. After all, if we knew how to do it with the precision that would be needed to terraform a planet, don't you think it would be a hell of a lot easier to work on the planet we're on instead of one 35 or so million miles away? Here's another hint - you won't see terraforming of another planet happen in
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        But, I've seen it on Star Trek. The TV doesn't lie.

      • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:57PM (#22371094)
        Ahhh, another dork who doesn't seem to know what the words FORWARD THINKING mean.

        If you'd read the books, you'd know that while it is all fiction, those series are one of the few books out these days that had serious science done in them. Robinson was a fantastic writer, and very little was far from fact in that book. Terraforming a planet will in a number of ways be asier than changing our because we'd have a clean slate. Initial challenges aside, once we get the process going we can set up a runaway series of "reactions" to get the planet how we'd like it to be. On Earth, we're faced with the fact that the entire planet is alive and resisting nearly any change we put into it. We also have to account for the fact that we can't do anything radical because we're trying to keep everything currently alive still alive.

        Nothing needs to change in even my great-grand children's lives, but a long process needs to start somewhere, and it's with parent's thinking.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Hmm. If we're going to plan ahead, how about not making your great grandchildren so numerous that they need to terraform whole planets, eh? Sounds a lot easier, a lot more reliable, and a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

          I will never figure out the blind expansionism of the space-colonizer types...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by khallow (566160)

            Hmm. If we're going to plan ahead, how about not making your great grandchildren so numerous that they need to terraform whole planets, eh? Sounds a lot easier, a lot more reliable, and a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

            You don't need population growth for a reason to go somewhere else. Besides Earth is out of room for many things. If you want to start a new nation, for example, it's hard to start one on Earth.

            I will never figure out the blind expansionism of the space-colonizer types...

            It helps to first try to understand a different viewpoint.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Ahhh, another dork who doesn't seem to know what the words SCIENCE FICTION mean. Here's a hint - we know so little about our own planet and its environment that we can't even begin to effect serious change here. After all, if we knew how to do it with the precision that would be needed to terraform a planet, don't you think it would be a hell of a lot easier to work on the planet we're on instead of one 35 or so million miles away?

        I dunno about you, but I prefer to test on a lab system before deploying to the production systems. Just a thought.

      • by khallow (566160)

        After all, if we knew how to do it with the precision that would be needed to terraform a planet,

        Precision? That's the word to use here. If one looks at successful terraforming efforts on Earth (here, I define terraforming as making an environment more habitable for humans rather than more Earthlike), we don't need to be precise. Irrigation, city building, etc. These are very imprecise methods. We don't know what our cities will look like in 50 years, for example. So much for precision.

        don't you think it would be a hell of a lot easier to work on the planet we're on instead of one 35 or so million miles away? Here's another hint - you won't see terraforming of another planet happen in your lifetime, or in your kid's lifetimes.

        Yes. I agree that it is easier to work on Earth. Further, given the current short human lifespan, you are correct

      • I don't know... I read Spin, and it all seems pretty plausible to me.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:50PM (#22371620) Homepage Journal
      The problem with the idea terraforming Mars is that it doesn't seem to be able to hold its own atmosphere that well. It has a weak gravity and little magnetic field. To make terraforming an actual long-term project, there needs to be a good way to keep the atmosphere trapped, or else it's not going to last, maybe not even take hold.
      • by Hizonner (38491) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:31PM (#22372006)

        The problem with the idea of terraforming Mars is that there's no good reason to try it in the first place. Why would you want to do a thing like that?

        To preempt the most common answers--

        • It's not going to be a home for the teeming billions of Earth. It would cost too much, mostly in the form of energy, to transport that many people there. Anyway, it would just be a stopgap even if transport were free. Geometric growth is still geometric growth. The amount of time you'd gain may not even be the amount of time it would take to do the terraform job.

        • It's not a particularly efficient way to provide a "backup" habitat in case of the destruction of the human species on Earth. Open-space colonies would be cheaper and easier. Even that, of course, is only interesting if you really care about the issue in the first place. Personally, I don't care very much, definitely not enough to go to all that trouble. The big problem with species-destroying events, from my point of view, is the death of all those individuals, and a backup colony doesn't save many, if any, individuals.

        Complete boondoggle. And politically and economically impossible, as well...

  • by Nylathotep (72183) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:13PM (#22370678)
    Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
  • Mix 'em up! (Score:4, Funny)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:25PM (#22370774)
    Add the Clorox to the methane producing dudes. Kill 'em off! Need to fix the gloabl warming.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:32PM (#22370840) Homepage
    Spock: Captain, sensors indicate that this creature subsists on a diet of Slim Jims and Cheetos... Fascinating. It's blood is a substance you humans know as 'Mountain Dew'.

    Kirk: SPOCK! How. Can that... BE... possible?

    McCoy: If what you're describing is true, we've discovered the most extreme organism in the entire galaxy.

    Spock: Indeed, Doctor. Most intriguing.
  • Very interesting, if somewhat unclear - are these extremophiles supposed to be the source or the consumers of the methane? If it is the latter, it would be nice to draw some comparison with, let's say, Lake Kivu [wikipedia.org]. Reading TFA somehow didn't help. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888)
      I think the article is perfectly clear on this--methane would be a waste product (or by-product) of any extremophiles living there (note that they haven't actually found any yet). If life there consumed methane, a different chemical compound would be given off as waste.
  • by Chakka! (524992) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:33PM (#22370846)
    May seem like such organisms are hardy & tough, but those are super fragile environments - Images of tourists throwing coins into the Yellowstone thermal pools come to mind.... Please remember that not every animal, organism, and scrap of land on this planet has to have a human use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015)
      Fortunately, where these guys are going is unlikely to ever be much of a tourist attraction.
    • Antarctica is hardly a tourist attraction and will never be unless we get severe climate change. I hope the scientists don't screw anything up, but I think preventing contamination is a primary consideration on their minds anyway.
  • by Fallen Seraph4 (1186821) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @01:33PM (#22370848)
    Has HP Lovecraft taught us nothing?!
    • by gotzero (1177159)
      I wonder if they will find Chuck Norris... Hopefully they find something beneficial, but not immediately promising enough that they tear up the environment and species of whatever the paydirt turns up to be.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They're going to the antarctic to show that things can live at the antarctic.

    Logically, if nothing could survive in the antarctic, then any expedition would be doomed, no?

    The mere fact that they are planning to go (and return) proves that things can be expected to survive out there. ...But it would make for some entertaining television otherwise.

    -Z
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888)
      Logically, if nothing could survive in the antarctic, then any expedition would be doomed, no? The mere fact that they are planning to go (and return) proves that things can be expected to survive out there.

      I'm not sure why I'm responding to such an idiotic post as this, but here goes. They're looking for self-sustaining life in this Antarctic lake. I can guarantee that the scientists would die up there if we didn't send them along with food and fresh water.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by g0dsp33d (849253)
      ... We are approaching the ring of deat[no carrier]...
  • Tekeli-li! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by jollyreaper (513215)
    Tekeli-li!
  • by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @02:04PM (#22371156)
    I read about this already. Either this is a dupe or they're just repeating an expedition made years ago (1931 or something).

    Here's [dagonbytes.com] a description of the trip from one of the members of the expedition.

    Here's [wikipedia.org] a Wikipedia entry on the expedition.

  • Oh, oh! And shoggoths!

    Oh, and shit! Those giant, albino penguins!

  • Wilford Brimley isn't getting any younger...
  • Stanley Miller's experiments were the first efforts (of which i'm aware) to challenge the enormous chauvinsim implicit in the conventional definitions of Life, with a capital 'L'

    the discovery of volcanic 'smokers' did much to challenge the conventional definitions

    i found it perplexing that cosmologists proposed Life might needed to have been 'seeded' by asteroids as though the Earth itself were not more varied and complex in orders of magnitude than an asteroid and teeming with "Life" not yet discovered

    simi
  • Perhaps now we will finally catch live specimens which will prove the existence of the hotheaded naked ice borer [tamu.edu] once and for all!
  • So now we'll have even more examples of earth life that could stand conditions in some niche elsewhere in the solar system. Not only can we grow stuff on Mars, we can also find things in underwater smokers and volcanic lakes that will live in the upper atmosphere of Venus. I'd bet that something in Lake Vostok could stand living under the ice on a moon around Jupiter or Saturn. Cool stuff, to be sure. I'd even argue that we have a justifiable, instinctual drive to spread not just humans, but life as far and
  • Am I the only one that has a problem with the 'pH of strong Clorox' statement? Assuming they are talking about household bleach, the active ingredient of which is sodium hypochlorite, an oxidizing agent (as opposed to a reducing agent). This is different chemistry than acid-base chemistry where pH would be a more appropriate measure. Perhaps they meant to say lye.

Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

Working...