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Medicine Biotech Earth Science

Toxic Montana Lake's Extremophiles Might Be a Medical Treasure Trove 133

Posted by timothy
from the toxic-waste-pit-is-half-full dept.
EagleHasLanded writes "The Berkeley Pit, an abandoned open pit copper mine in Butte, Montana — part of the largest Superfund site in the U.S. — is filled with 40 billion gallons of acidic, metal-contaminated water. For years the water was believed to be too toxic to support life, until Andrea and Donald Stierle, a pair of organic chemists at the University of Montana, discovered that the Pit is a rich source of unusual extremophiles, 'many of which have shown great promise as producers of potential anti-cancer agents and anti-inflammatories.' In the course of their ongoing investigation, the two self-described 'bioprospectors' have also discovered an uncommon yeast, which might play a significant role in cleaning up the site. In the meantime, the Pit has become a tourist attraction in Butte, which charges $2 for the opportunity to take in the view from the Viewing Stand."
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Toxic Montana Lake's Extremophiles Might Be a Medical Treasure Trove

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  • Two dolla (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:33AM (#38256824)

    One does not simply pay $2 to get into Mordor.

    • by msauve (701917)
      If you don't want to pay $2, then just visit the /. "tourist attraction." timothy strikes again.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:18PM (#38257338) Homepage

      Superfund? More like superfun!

      (yes. i stole that line from spacechem [spacechemthegame.com].)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      One does not simply pay $2 to get into Mordor.

      lol

      I grew up in MT, the Pit has been a tourist attraction since the days the mine was still in operation. And scientists have been studying life in the Pit since the mid to late 90's.

      In fact, the article linked to in the summary is just reminiscing of an event in 1995 which sparked the research. Not new, not News.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@nosPam.comcast.net> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:42AM (#38256850)

    Nature is extremely versatile and life has and will always find a way. Change the environment enough and most of what's out there will die except for a few things that survive, learn to adapt an ultimately thrive. Mass extinction simply means new opportunities for new creatures and the geological record shows this time and time again.

    This has been the case from the small mammals that replaced the dinosaurs to the those that learned to thrive in the oxygen that was poisonous to the life that lived before that.

    Man is very arrogant, to think that we should be the judge and jury of every species on the planet. We need to remember that we only one of countless other species of this planet and to be good neighbors.

    Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

    It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

    • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:56AM (#38256902) Journal
      I agree with your basic viewpoint, but consider the benefits of at least getting a decent chance to study a wide variety of organisms before they go extinct. Shouldn't we try to preserve as much as possible until we have the resources to understand them fully? From a purely economic POV, more valuable compounds like those found from these extremophiles 'many of which have shown great promise as producers of potential anti-cancer agents and anti-inflammatories.' surely has to be a consideration? If an organism or species is wiped out before we have a decent chance to study it, don't we lose those sorts of opportunities?
      • by Tanktalus (794810) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:19AM (#38257014) Journal
        It's all in the reading. You could take this example to show the opposite: we need to clear out our biosphere of animals, plants, etc., that aren't helping us cure cancer so that new ones can emerge.
        • Yes, but my point was that shouldn't we try to study them first to understand if there *is* any benefit prior to extinction. It's a cold point of view, but we'd need to know before these species become extinct. I don't necessarily believe in the views I'm espousing here. I'm treating the OP as an intellectual exercise.

          The appropriate /. QOTD at the bottom of the page is "IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988."

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Surt (22457)

            It's an interesting theory, but how will you know what you don't know? That is, it might be hard to identify, today, what might turn out to be an absolutely vital compound 40 years down the road. Or even one year down the road. And we have to weigh that potential discovery against the potential progress man might make by wiping out some species. Maybe Giraffe tongues cure Ekeeber's syndrome, which turns out to be what tends to kill old people when you take cancer out of the mix. I don't think that shou

            • by Anonymous Coward

              'frankly, Giraffes are creepy, and we're better off without them.'

              Insightful? Really?

            • by Belial6 (794905)
              Sure, but how do we know that Bakarraas ( the creature that fills the ecological niche left after the extinction of the Giraffes ) tongues don't cure Ekeeber's syndrome? A dozen years ago, I remember watching a nature show where an environmentalist was bemoaning the "Damage" done to the ecology by the installation fo a hydroelectric dam. His evidence of damage was that the frogs below the dam were developing different traits than the frogs above the dam.
        • by Anonymus (2267354) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:29PM (#38257432)

          If you're fine with waiting at least few hundred thousand years for that kind of diversity to even think about beginning to reappear.

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            How long did it take in this case? A few decades? Evolution can occur pretty quickly. How long did Darwin's finches take? Not hundreds of thousands of years
      • by onyxruby (118189)

        Climate change is inevitable, we will see Darwin's theory of evolution whether we want to or not. By no means do I argue that we should be reckless and allow widespread extinctions of our own making.

        I fully support that we should be environmentally responsible and should fight pollution. My point is that we should do these things for their own sake and to get away from the straw man argument that is climate change.

        I'm not here to drive a pro pollution political agenda. I'm making my comment because I think

      • Devils Advocate (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @05:42PM (#38259978)

        From a purely economic POV, more valuable compounds like those found from these extremophiles 'many of which have shown great promise as producers of potential anti-cancer agents and anti-inflammatories.' surely has to be a consideration?

        Here you just buried your case though. Who created the conditions for these things to thrive after all? Was it people like you who would have let the mining site along until we could perfectly "understand" every jackrabbit and pine tree in the area? Or the miners who probably didn't care about that much whatsoever but have created a garden for a wide variety of potentially amazingly useful organisms?

        So from a purely economic point of view it is better to let nature take it's course in all ways possible (including whatever mankind will do) and then study the results to see what might be gained from it.

        Just saying'...

    • by vlm (69642) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:57AM (#38256906)

      Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

      In some ways its even more extreme... I looked it up and there was no mine there until 1955, relatively recently in the evolutionary history of birdies by any timescale. Living in glacial territory, there are no lakes of any sort in my area older than ten thousand years or so.

      The numbers are impressive, a good fraction of a cubic mile was scooped up and hauled away in less than a quarter century. Wowzers. I'm sure more rock was moved in my little city over the last 20 years building mcmansions for the housing bubble, but obviously not all in one hole.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:59AM (#38256918)

      Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

      It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

      The problem with global warming isn't so much that it will produce change, but that it will produce change caused by and unfavorable to humans.

    • by quasius (1075773) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:05AM (#38256944)
      People who support dealing with climate change don't seriously think nothing will ever change again. They think that since we now have the ability to effect global climate we should probably be at least trying to do it in a way that isn't terrible for us. Of course the Earth and its life would survive a massive climate shift. But, as a human, I'd rather us go to the stars instead of bombing and polluting ourselves into a regressed society or even extinction.
      • They think that since we now have the ability to effect global climate we should probably be at least trying to do it in a way that isn't terrible for us.

        If they thought that they would not be speaking out so strongly against warming as wholly evil; warmer climates historically led to improved living conditions for civilizations across the globe.

        Instead they have been trying to promote that warming, whatever the cause, is inherently bad and must be stopped by pouring money into (A) research performed by the

    • by khallow (566160)
      So human civilization is just another change in a world that's always changing? Why do we need to be "good neighbors" again?
    • by kanto (1851816)

      Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

      It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

      It's not that most tree huggers are against change, it's mostly about letting nature run it's own course. In this the Berkeley Pit is a good testament to what happens when people don't think in the long term; it's inhabitable to life such as ours unless you count things living in rectums.

      On the positive side, yes, some birds still stop there.

      • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:21PM (#38257362) Journal
        From this page: [pitwatch.org]

        In fact, hundreds of waterfowl land on the surface of the Berkeley Pit every month during migration seasons, and they typically fly off unharmed within a few hours, either on their own or through Montana Resource's hazing activities, also known as the waterfowl mitigation program. The 2002 Consent Decree recognizes that "birds exposed to Berkeley Pit water for less than 4-6 hours should not be at substantial risk." ... In November 1995, a flock of snow geese landed on the Pit lake. After several days of stormy weather and fog, 342 birds were found dead.

    • by idji (984038) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:17AM (#38257000)
      people who are "vehement about global warming" are not rejecters of change, are really aware we are one of countless other species, say we should stop being arrogant, and are trying to convince the rest that we should all be good neighbors. A good neighbor willfully doesn't destroy the environment for others within a few generations and fixes up his mistakes. I agree, our world has never had a "normal", but there is a MASSIVE difference between natural change on geological time scales, and deliberate change WITHIN a few generations, giving species no time to adapt.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:17AM (#38257004)

      Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

      You misreading the target of that vehemence to suit a political perspective... They're vehement because, when the bird stops at a new place or runs out of places to stop, that is a signal that things are changing rapidly enough that our own survival may be at stake. Further, we have evidence that suggests our own influence may be a major contributing factor to changes that may or may not be a good thing for us and our neighbors..

      We need to be good neighbors? Fine... That's a two way street. Just as we shouldn't stand in the way of change with a judge/jury perspective; we should neither represent a solitary agent of change that could destroy or alter our current ecosystem far outside the bounds of a natural sequence of events. If it's possible or probable that we've already done this, then we owe it to our neighbors to investigate means of stopping and/or reversing these changes. Finally, it's not likely we will ever be a good enough neighbor to set aside our survival instincts to the point that we will ignore evidence that our own survival might be at stake for the sake of *maybe* being the ultimate neighbor and allowing our home to crumble into the sea so a bunch of acid lake extremophiles can evolve into bipeds simply because we needed to pull some metal out of the ground.

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        Actually what I mean by being good neighbors is that we should not pollute for the sake of not polluting. My point is that global warming / climate change is a straw man and we need to move away from that argument.

        Look at the damage that was done from the East Anglia University emails. The entire thing has been a distraction at best and caused years of scientific setback in terms of public credibility.

        When the climate change straw man gets propped up than it becomes the focus instead of things like conserva

      • by shentino (1139071)

        It's like humans think they OWN the world.

    • by BlueCoder (223005) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:26PM (#38257408)

      I find it so hard to even have an opinion about global warming because the questions and subject is so loaded.

      First of all the global temperature doesn't stay the same, it's constantly rising and falling. Earth has ice ages which are defined as ice sheet existing on planet as is the case currently at our poles and we have glacial periods and interglacial periods which are defined as more extensive ice sheets and the times between them.

      The earth naturally undergoes periods without any ice caps all at the poles. Volcanoes erupt all the time (in the geological sense) and put out way way more gases that change the atmosphere more profoundly than man. A bunch of small volcanoes can cause global warming in a few thousands of years and a large super volcano explosion can send us into an ice age and or glacial period overnight.

      Earth weather does indeed change and that is the norm.

      Human beings are unquestionably contributing to climate change. But how bad is it really vs the climate shifts that would occur anyways if we didn't exist? Where no one makes the distinction is calculating where the climate would be without humans. Global temperatures and been consistently rising since modern man appeared at the beginning of the decline of the last glacial period approximately 12,000 years ago. We probably didn't significantly effect climate until at the earliest 2000 years ago although I suspect is more like after 1200AD. But the earth was warming anyways...

      Second they don't comment on possible benefits climate change can have in some areas vs the bad in others. No one seems to even notice that without ice caps we get a new continent to inhabit.

      Further it seems to me we are overly focused on greenhouse gases and the atmosphere and temperature. I think a bigger issue of consequence is deforestation of unoccupied land and the over farming of the oceans. The more variety of life the quicker the adaptation rate.

      And while we may be totally fuck up this planets current ecology I doubt we could destroy it completely even intentionally. Given our best shot to turn the earth into a desert I bet the earth would be teaming with life again 100 million years later.

    • Consider: men can't destroy a planet's ecology, not with hydrogen bombs, not with nonreturnable bottles (remember them?). All they can do is change it. Even a featureless radioactive ball of a planet has an ecology, albeit not a complex one.

      Mindbridge by Joe Haldeman

    • Organisms as a whole do not "learn to adapt." Some organisms possess intelligence which is a trait allowing conscious adaptation to a changing environment. Most just happen to be born with a trait which suits the changing environment. For instance, say a litter of wolves are born at the beginning of the last Ice age. One or 2 of these wolves have thicker coats than the rest. While the warmer temperature were previously suitable, now the colder temperatures kills off the offspring with thin coats and th
    • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @02:11PM (#38258376) Homepage

      It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

      Nature can adapt readily to slow change. The dying off of a species to make way for a new one. But history shows that it does not deal well with rapid change. Nature does not have the time it needs to adapt to the changes that we are doing to this planet. Species are dying off at a catastrophic rate. If the eco system collapses, we go with it. Nature is strong and will survive, but we are just a tiny fragile part of the whole. Man has the capability of causing massive destructive change, to the point that we would not survive it.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      So you're saying extinction in nature is like bankruptcy in the market?

      I like the analogy.

    • Man is very arrogant, to think that we should be the judge and jury of every species on the planet. We need to remember that we only one of countless other species of this planet and to be good neighbors.

      Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

      Ridiculous post is ridiculous.

      We shouldn't be the "judge and jury", as you say. The problem with global warming is that we ARE being the judge and jury - we're condemning thousands of species to death for no reason at all through our own voluntary actions. We should be trying not to do that as far as possible.

      Basically, you are confusing inaction in the face of some natural change with "inaction" in the face of huge change caused by our own actions. I.e., you are apparently in favour of some random actio

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        At no point did I every champion 'inaction'. Please read more carefully what I actually wrote and not what you thought that I wrote.

        At no point in time did I say that I was opposed to fighting pollution, that our current course of action or inaction was ok or otherwise.

        My point was the people are too hung up on 'change' and that we have lost sight of the core basics of being good environmental stewards based on it's own merits.

        I tried to make my point on change by showing that it was inevitable and that lif

  • Not really BP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:51AM (#38256882)

    "BP-owned toxic lake"
    I'll be the last to support our crony commie-capitalist system, but that's pretty far fetched agitprop.
    ARCO ran the place until '82, mothballed it, and then BP bought ARCO 18 years later in '00.
    Its a "sins of the father afflicting the sons" argument at best. At worst its a "my great-great-great grandfather immigrated here two decades after the civil war ended, therefore I'm liable and should pay restitution to the g-g-g-g-g-g-great grandsons of former slaves.". BP has about as much to do with what happened to this mine, as I do with what happened on plantations in the 1830s.
    Anyone painting with a broad brush, no matter how noble the goal, is usually a crook. Thanks but no thanks.

    My geologist ex-roomie did some fieldwork involving acid runoff from mining operations "somewhere out west" donno if this was related. Its a pretty serious local problem. Ironically the more toxic the water, the more likely you'll find someone wanting to refine metals out of the water, making the problem go completely away. Unfortunately sounds like this site is a local maxima of destruction, if the concentration were lower it would just be another boring manmade pond, and if the concentration were higher, you'd have armies of refineries fighting over who gets the refine valuable metal outta the water.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      "BP-owned toxic lake" I'll be the last to support our crony commie-capitalist system, but that's pretty far fetched agitprop.

      They did say BP-owned, not BP-caused/created. So technically it's accurate.

    • Legally liable. That liability was part of the purchase. Just sayin'
      • by shentino (1139071)

        Then BP needs to go after ARCO.

        • by Miseph (979059) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:50PM (#38260628) Journal

          BP could certainly try to recover the funds from ARCO, but since they acquired ARCO's assets and turned them into BP's assets, it would be a pretty pointless exercise.

          • by JRowe47 (2459214)

            Contracts at the time made it impossible for BP-ARCO to recover what was lost in the acquisition. The Wikipedia article about the Berkely Pit and Montana Resources is a good starting point if you're interested in the story. It's kinda ironic, but the profit from the other mines acquired with the Pit more than make up for the loss in keeping it clean and research into cleaning technology. Butte provided a helluva lot of copper and other resources to the world - and our mines continue to do so.

            It's a perfect

    • Re:Not really BP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:49AM (#38257116)

      "BP-owned toxic lake"
      I'll be the last to support our crony commie-capitalist system, but that's pretty far fetched agitprop.
      ARCO ran the place until '82, mothballed it, and then BP bought ARCO 18 years later in '00.
      Its a "sins of the father afflicting the sons" argument at best. At worst its a "my great-great-great grandfather immigrated here two decades after the civil war ended, therefore I'm liable and should pay restitution to the g-g-g-g-g-g-great grandsons of former slaves.". BP has about as much to do with what happened to this mine, as I do with what happened on plantations in the 1830s.

      I'm actually one who does support our crony capitalist system, but you're apologizing too much. One of the tradeoffs of corporate personhood is that since corporations cannot die like a real person (taking their knowledge, skills, and ethics to the grave), their liabilities must be transferred when they're bought and sold. So in this case, BP is in fact liable for the sins of ARCO, and any companies whose liabilities ARCO likewise acquired.

      It does bring up an interesting question though. According to TFA, the biologists studying the organisms in the lake patented some of the yeast they found. Shouldn't the patent belong to ARCO/BP, as the progenitor of said yeast? It sounds like a repeat of that spat where some researchers patented some gene derived from a patient's excised cancer tumor, with the patient arguing that the patent rightfully belongs to him since the gene was originally from his body part. "Invention" vs. discovery.

      • No, ARCO should not be given the patent - nor should the researchers - because there should not be such a patent. Assuming the patent is simply on something they discovered then it should be invalid. Patents should be limited to a subset of human creations. Things you find in nature should not be patentable.
        • by shentino (1139071)

          Nature gets the patent.

        • In many ways I agree with you, but what if the discovery of X, then considered to be applied to system Y, with Z modifications is the case.... at that point it isn't the discovery, but the creative and inventive application of the discovery for novel purposes... that should be patentable.

          Jack Thompson patented the "human embryonic stem cell", and he didn't even dscover it! Its ridiculous, and his patent does not pertain to any specific utility, just the cells... that's bullshit.

          On the other hand, my boss in

      • The responsibility for the disaster fall rightfully on those who created it in the first place (not BP), even if BP is liable for the clean up. It is an important distinction.
    • by Anonymus (2267354)

      If I steal $50 million dollars and give it to my son, does he have to give the money back? What about when he passes it on to his kid? And they pass it on to their kids? What if they spend the $50 million on building a business empire, or buy a massive mansion, or convert it to gold, or (hint hint) spend it on the best connections and education money can buy, guaranteeing them an advantage over everyone else around them?

      What do you believe the statute of limitations should be on reparations?

      • by russotto (537200)

        If I steal $50 million dollars and give it to my son, does he have to give the money back?

        If you're 100% broke and steal a dime, and through shrewd investment build it up into millions, which in your will you pass on to your son who builds it up to billions, then the descendants of the rightful owner of the original dime have to give you their entire fortune down to the last penny. Or so I learned from "Duck Tales". Possibly the real world does not work this way. :-)

      • The death of the injured person. There are statutes of limitations on all kinds of torts. Otherwise I want my compensation from the Ruskys for my family's land in Estonia. You see how this is unworkable?

        I don't understand why the race baiters don't go after separate but equal education. They have live victims (for a little longer anyhow). They also have sovereign immunity to get past.

      • by adolf (21054)

        What do you believe the statute of limitations should be on reparations?

        In the US, I believe it should be equal to the term of copyright protection -- whatever that may be today.

    • by Rakishi (759894)

      BP is not ARCO's child. It is ARCO.

  • I hope slashdot doesn't, er, slashdot itself.
  • by cvtan (752695) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @10:54AM (#38256898)
    You realize that new creatures inhabiting the the toxic lake must now be protected from anyone wishing to clean up the water. The toxic lifestyle must be preserved! My head is going to explode.
  • by bbartlog (1853116) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:16AM (#38256998)
    Unanswered but interesting question - where did these extremophiles come from? Are we looking at evolution on a very short time frame (plausible for microorganisms) or are there actually very small numbers of these critters drifting around all the time, just looking for a toxic, acidic lake they can call home?
    • by Surt (22457)

      Well, there was at least one answer in there. Some of the organisms are arriving and evolving. There's specific mention of an interesting yeast which arrived in the bowels of some geese that had the misfortune to try to rest there while migrating.

      I would assume that most of the novel organisms are evolving there. Some of those organisms have probably had a million generations by now.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:13PM (#38257840) Homepage

      Unanswered but interesting question - where did these extremophiles come from? Are we looking at evolution on a very short time frame (plausible for microorganisms)

      There's two effects in play here for bacteria evolved locally... The first is that bacteria reproduce rapidly [1], so the bacteria around the pit have gone through an enormous number of generations. (254,000 from the closing of the pit to the present day assuming an average generation time of just one hour [2].) The second is the staggering number of potential ancestors - in the billions in soil surrounding the pit, fecal bacteria from birds and animals, etc... etc...
       
      The result is a essentially a giant distributed memory MIMD [wikipedia.org] parallel processor [3] attacking the problem of colonizing the waters of the pit.
       

      are there actually very small numbers of these critters drifting around all the time, just looking for a toxic, acidic lake they can call home?

      As I point out above, there are numerous potential ancestors. If I had to guess, I'd say they likely didn't colonize the pit directly - they likely colonized the margins and gradually drifted inwards toward the pit with successive generations each able to tolerate a higher level of acid and toxic materials.
       
      [1] As little as half an hour under ideal circumstances - which is why food safety recommendations want things kept cool and cooled/or heated rapidly. A very small amount of bacterial contamination can become a big problem in a short time because bacterial population growth is exponential.

      [2] Which is why fruit flies, with a generation time of ten days, are popular for genetics studies.

      [3] Incidentally, the same is true of the early Earth. Creationists like to point out the unlikelihood of life arising because of the low odds of the right chemical conditions arising - but with thousands of lighting strikes (to take one proposed cause) occurring daily in a wide variety of locations, you have the same distributed memory MIMD effect. Though the chance of a given combination occurring is low, when you're trying multiple solutions in parallel, the odds of that combination appearing rise dramatically.

      • by petsounds (593538)

        [3] Incidentally, the same is true of the early Earth. Creationists like to point out the unlikelihood of life arising because of the low odds of the right chemical conditions arising - but with thousands of lighting strikes (to take one proposed cause) occurring daily in a wide variety of locations

        Actually, according to the NOAA Severe Storms Lab [noaa.gov], lightning strikes the ground of the Earth about eight MILLION times a day. So, a lot more chances than you suggested!

  • ...but did I calculate correctly? Would the volume really fill a 7.7 by 7.7 km 2 m deep pool? Amazing how diligently man destroys the planet. I for one welcome our new extremophile overlords.
    • by Surt (22457)

      Yes, your math is about right, though you actually came out a bit low, presumably because you rounded the 2m.
      And if you look at the video, it's clearly closer in shape to a cubic pool a half-kilometer on a side.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      you calculated a volume that is completely insignificant to the size of the planet. Amazing how man has made so much of the planet useful, liveable and productive for himself.
      • by Crouty (912387)
        Yes, if by "himself" you mean the present generation. Following generations might have a less positive perspective.
        • Yes, if by "himself" you mean the present generation. Following generations might have a less positive perspective.

          You mean the ones who get to benefit from an array of amazing drugs produced by this one tiny pit of pollution?

          Our ancestors, they may not be as down as you think.

    • by Dantoo (176555)

      These unique creatures, spawn of the mother earth, must be protected at all cost! Their precious and dwindling acidic heavy metal environment is threatened by organised international cleanup and restoration societies! They must be stopped! We must act now, band together and join with me in our "Occupy Pit" protest.

      Save the extremophiles now!

  • Aptoymn (Score:4, Funny)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:43AM (#38257080)
    The scientists studying a toxic lake thought to be unable to support life have the last name... Stierle?
  • At 0:54 in the video you briefly catch a glimpse of a 3-eyed fish jumping out of the lake ... eerily reminiscent of the Simpsons.

    • At 0:54 in the video you briefly catch a glimpse of a 3-eyed fish jumping out of the lake ... eerily reminiscent of the Simpsons.

      Unfortunately, that fish is only visible if you're watching the video on the 30th of February.

  • In the meantime, the Pit has become a tourist attraction in Butte, which charges $2 for the opportunity to take in the view from the Viewing Stand.

    Save your money and go to Crater Lake instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You've never been to butte have you. If your living in butte, chances are thats your entertainment budget for the month, your not going to Crater lake, and that actually is the best use of your two bucks.

  • Migratory game birds land on the tailing ponds in Ft Mcmurry then they die. Green peace starts complaining, and Suncor gets fined even in situations were severe winter storms take out the sonic cannons and other deterrents. Now what system is in place to prevent birds from landing in the pool of acid? And why doesn't Green peace protest against BP? Gulf spill comes to mind.
  • by decora (1710862) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:17PM (#38257866) Journal

    the mining company (and hedge fund and investment banks) PR people are obviously loving this.

    nevermind the hundreds of thousands of people over the world who are sickened and injured by toxic waste over the years. nevermind that these shareholders and boards of directors keep billions in profit while dumping this sludge cleanup bill on taxpayers.

    no. this stuff "might cure cancer!"

    you know what would ACTUALLY cure cancer?

    if you stop pouring cancer-causing chemicals into the air and water. we know FOR A FACT that air pollution leads directly to asthma and cancer deaths, and yet every year these money sucking scumfucks push and push and bribe politicians so that they wont have to clean it up, so they can keep their profits and their mansions and their trophy wives and their cocaine habits.

    fuck them, and fuck the morons who think this is going to 'cure' social problems.

    • OK, jackass, let's go back to the time before civilization, when there was no man-caused air pollution. That'll really reduce cancer and asthma deaths, because people will die of starvation first.

      Don't try telling me you want the benefits of civilization without pollution, because it's not possible. The best we can do is act reasonably within current knowledge.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      you know what would ACTUALLY cure cancer?

      if you stop pouring cancer-causing chemicals into the air and water.

      Um. I'm thinking you need to look up the word "cure". It doesn't mean what you apparently think it means.

      we know FOR A FACT that air pollution leads directly to asthma and cancer deaths, and yet every year these money sucking scumfucks push and push and bribe politicians so that they wont have to clean it up, so they can keep their profits and their mansions and their trophy wives and their cocaine habits.

      Who do you imagine would end up paying for it?

      I know that economics are a poorly understood subject amongst the slashdot crowd, but look, I'll make it really simple; any time you create new obstacles to doing business, it results in one of two things:

      1. Increased cost to the customer.
      2. Loss of industry to nations which have lower standards.

      If you're ok with having all the pollution and jobs outsourc

  • Has demanded that the lake not be cleaned up.

    That the natural habitat of the extremophiles must be protected.

  • by handy_vandal (606174) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:28PM (#38257984) Homepage Journal

    ... an uncommon yeast, which might play a significant role in cleaning up the site.

    Never mind the site cleanup. Let's brew uncommon beer.

  • by crunchygranola (1954152) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:01PM (#38260106)
    This is such an obvious appellation - we should run with it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a native Montanan I assure you that "Butte" rhymes with "cute". Make a "b" sound and then follow it with "yute".

  • http://www.radiolab.org/2010/jun/28/even-the-worst-laid-plans/ [radiolab.org]
    Awesome show, really enjoyed the episode. I find that kind of stuff fascinating.

  • I used to live in montana about six years ago. It was old news even then.
  • There are micro-organisms that live in stone. They would have survived the mining, and they might not be adverse to living in water, as long as there's enough food for them. And proliferating in water ought to be easier than proliferating in stone.

    So perhaps what we're seeing are not new types of microbes.

    Perhaps they're ancient life forms that have been released from the depths of the earth. (Queue dramatic music and image of intelligent sludge rising from the lake.)

    Seriously though, I think that's pefec

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