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NASA Space Science

Worm Descendants From Columbia Disaster Relaunched 80

Posted by timothy
from the they're-delicious-in-space dept.
astroengine writes "In 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia burned up on reentry, killing all seven astronauts on board. However, from the wreckage, a sample of C. elegans worms survived. On Monday, descendants from the worms that survived the disaster were launched on board Endeavour for experiments on the space station. 'C. elegans is a common, well-studied organism used in biomedical research as a model for human development, genetics, aging and disease,' says NASA. 'The organism shares many essential biological characteristics found in human biology.'"
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Worm Descendants From Columbia Disaster Relaunched

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  • Let's hope the little bastards didn't cause the crash.

    "Take us into zero-g, will you!"

    • by Sp0r (206177)

      Ahhh! Mind Worms! Sid Meier was right!

    • Re:Dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

      by guyminuslife (1349809) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @06:27PM (#36159572)

      We are talking about worms from space. Worms so tough that you can blow them up and have them tumble miles to the ground in a giant collapsing fireball...and they come out basically unharmed.

      I don't know whether they caused the crash or not, but I am pretty sure that if they ever turn against us, we're fucked.

      • by treeves (963993)

        Not as tough as waterbears, I bet.

      • Re:Dangerous (Score:5, Informative)

        by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @06:50PM (#36159754)
        I've worked with C. elegans before. It gets worse.

        They have males and hermaphrodites. The males can fertilize the hermaphrodites, but the hermaphrodites can fertilize themselves as well. This is gross, and as a guy, kind of feels like nature telling me I'm non-essential.

        In lab, the worms eat lawns of e.coli. They'll eat up all the bacteria on a petrie dish in a week. If you leave a plate of worms on ecoli and come back a month later, you'll see the worms have made balls of themselves, but are still alive. Worm biologists call that "dauer," and one was trying to explain something about it to me, but all I got out of it was the terrifying fact that even starvation can't kill them.

        Holy water does not kill C. elegans. It just makes them sparkle.

        Certain mutations cause the worms to be born without neurons. They survive, they're just "uncoordinated." Neurotoxin wouldn't be able to stop them either.

        Certain other mutations cause the "bag of worms" phenotype. Remember how I said the hermaphrodites can fertilize themselves? If the worm can fertilize the eggs but not lay them... the embryos will eat their way out. It's like Aliens.

        If you want a plate of worms all at the same age, you just soak them in bleach. One stage of development is evidently resistant. To bleach. Bleach even kills ebola. Not C. elegans.

        Lastly, scientists have recently discovered that at night, the worms crawl into our eyes and control us like puppets, erasing nearly all evidence of it before dawn.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by creat3d (1489345)
          Mod parent traumatizing.
        • The males can fertilize the hermaphrodites, but the hermaphrodites can fertilize themselves as well. This is gross, and as a guy, kind of feels like nature telling me I'm non-essential.

          Check this [sciencedaily.com] out about boas. I sometimes wonder if we're just PWBs. Parasites With Benefits

          • You're not a male worm or snake, though.

            You're supposed to be strong, with stamina, and intelligence/perception of surroundings that is beyond that of the female. Your job is to better provide for her and the offspring you've created.

            Females and Males of the same species are still different organisms genetically. The species is carried forward, in our case, on the backs of both sexes.

            I hope I don't get bashed for giving our scientifically deduced roles, lol.

            • by casi0qv (1184909)
              While you're correct that men are stronger than women, "intelligence/perception of surroundings that is beyond that of the female" is a sexist claim with no scientific basis.
              • by casi0qv (1184909)
                Instead of "are" I should say tend to be... I've met several women whom were stronger than most men.
              • That was poorly worded, by the way. I meant that mens' intelligence is greater in spatial perception, not as a whole.

            • The only reason males tend to be stronger is to fight other males. A genetic mix between two organisms helps survival (sort of not putting all your genes in one form). As males we are able to insert our DNA into another organism in order to reproduce. While male support after that point is helpful and historically beneficial (for humans) it is not absolutely necessary and could certainly be performed by other females in the community. So my 'Parasites With Benefits' comment.

              We're parasites that benefi
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by FatdogHaiku (978357)
          Ok, I'm going to need $250,000,000 right away to get "Project Early Bird" up and running... let's just hope we have enough time to breed the correct giant mutant birds.
        • C. elegans also exhibit a rare phenomenon called Eutely, where an exact number of cells is produced to make each adult worm. The mapping/division of each and every one of those 959 somatic cells is well known and studied.

          Also, to inspire reasearch among more slashdotters, it is really cool to look at them up close because you can directly observe the growth/development of the organism inside the mom along the conveyor-belt-like uterus they have. Each egg along the belt is at a later stage as you progress

        • by casi0qv (1184909)
          The fact that males still exist despite the existence of hermaphrodites shows that they are essential. Sexual reproduction allows for recombination and greater diversity, increasing the ability of the species to adapt to new environments, diseases, or stressors and to eliminate deleterious mutations. Gradual accumulation of deleterious mutations (called "muller's ratchet") often causes species that lack the ability to reproduce sexually (even just occasionally) to go extinct.
        • kind of feels like nature telling me I'm non-essential

          No, two lesbians with a turkey baster and some David Crosby spoof [britannica.com] does that. Really, can you imagine wanting your kid to look like Crosby. Have you seen that wizened up fucking gnome. But.... come to think of it... if he were a woman he'd look pretty close to Chastity.... wups... Chaz Bono.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "If you want a plate of worms all at the same age, you just soak them in bleach. One stage of development is evidently resistant. To bleach. Bleach even kills ebola. Not C. elegans. "

          It's the eggs - they have an eggshell that's more resistant to bleach than the organism. If you let it sit in bleach for an hour it'll eat through the eggshell and kill the embryo, but there's a short period of time where the adult has dissolved but the eggshells are basically intact

          "In lab, the worms eat lawns of e.coli. They'

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Lastly, scientists have recently discovered that at night, the worms crawl into our eyes and control us like puppets, erasing nearly all evidence of it before dawn.

          I almost don't believe you.

        • by Nerdos (1960936)
          I've also worked with c.elegans before, and it gets better. You can freeze them in liquid for indefinate amounts of time, and unthaw them and they work great. You can also dessicate them completely, keep them around, again for indefinate amounts of time, then sprinkle some water on them, and they resume crawling and laying eggs. Having murdered about half a million of them in bleach, I'm going to hell. P.s. the bleach resistant part the parent mentioned are eggs. To extract them, you just collect worm
        • by PhxBlue (562201)

          Certain mutations cause the worms to be born without neurons. They survive, they're just "uncoordinated." Neurotoxin wouldn't be able to stop them either.

          What about turrets? Can turrets stop them? Or how about thermal discouragement beams?

        • ...and the science gets done & we make a neat gun for the worms that are...still alive.

      • eh, if they got too big, just go fishing with them..
      • by kmoser (1469707)
        "They put little creatures in our ears!"
      • Not just unharmed, some of the worms actually seemed to develop improved abilities after the shuttle crash. One could stretch itself to extreme lengths (though that's not uncommon for worms), another could become transparent. A third could spontaneously burst into flames and a fourth could become a hard rock-like thing. I think it's absolutely fantastic.

  • by rsborg (111459) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @06:16PM (#36159470) Homepage

    At first I thought it was related to Columbia, the country.
    Then I was like, heh, maybe it's about the Worms videogame (Worms: Descendants?)

    Finally, after RTFS, I still don't know what this means for space exploration or the earthworms in specific.
    I guess this will force some folks to RTFA...

  • trying extra-hard to prove that correlation is not causation.

    "The last time these worms went up, the shuttle crashed. But we're gonna prove the two facts aren't related! LIFTOFF!"

  • Holy crap. My automatic, summary-summarizing brain routines skipped the title and the clause containing a date (which I guess I unconsciously find unimportant) and read the first sentence as, "Space Shuttle burned up on reentry, killing all seven astronauts on board." Turns out the story was about worms. Phew.
  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @06:48PM (#36159734)

    Sorry...

  • "First we tried breeding spacemen that could survive a crash. Well, that didn't work. So now we're breeding worms that can survive a crash."
    • by ChipMonk (711367)
      Maybe they're trying to breed worms that can pilot a spacecraft?
    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Then we realized that we had instead created worms that could blow up a goddamned spaceship. On an unrelated note, you will be testing our new "Super Hand Grenade" today. They're pretty slimy to hold, so be careful not to drop them...and if you do drop one, I'd like to remind you again that this job does not include life insurance benefits. If you don't like it, you can always go back to your cardboard house and not get your $60.

  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @07:10PM (#36159954) Journal

    When asked about this achievement for C. elegans, the species did not respond, instead opting to reproduce asexual for a period of three to five days.

  • They didn't make the crew wear red shirts again, did they?
  • but as a practical matter, the worms didn't survive a re-entry by themselves. If you threw a handful of worms from orbit down toward the earth, all of them would burn up in the atmosphere and DIE. They survived the Columbia accident because they were encased in some kind of container that didn't get fully vaporized during re-entry.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      but as a practical matter, the worms didn't survive a re-entry by themselves. If you threw a handful of worms from orbit down toward the earth, all of them would burn up in the atmosphere and DIE. They survived the Columbia accident because they were encased in some kind of container that didn't get fully vaporized during re-entry.

      Why didn't they make the whole shuttle out of the material used for the worm container?

  • I sure as heck would have been a solid NO.

  • Oh Shit Oh Shit Oh Shit

  • The classification C. elegans is short for Caenorhabditis elegans(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_elegans). You would normally only abbreviate the genus if you have already written it in its full form (thus first mention should be of Caenorhabditis elegans and all further mentions can be C. elegans. TFA does this, but the summary should mention Caenorhabditis elegans first before launching into abbreviations.
    • by PhxBlue (562201)
      Welcome to Slashdot, where our editors aren't really "editors" in the traditional sense of the word.
  • Hmmm. Lone survivors of the crash.
    Should we be worried that some super-villainous worm is out there somewhere? Or are they so fragile it doesn't matter?

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