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Mars Science

Slo-mo Microbes Extend the Frontiers of Life 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it dept.
ananyo writes "A newly-discovered microbial community living tens of meters beneath the Pacific Ocean floor uses so little oxygen that researchers believe they may be living at the absolute minimum energy requirement needed to subsist. For years, scientists thought that the ascetic conditions of the deep sub-seabed — high pressure, minimal oxygen and a low supply of nutrients and energy — made such environments uninhabitable to any form of life. The discovery extends the lower bound for life (abstract). The surface of Mars, for instance, may be inhospitable, but there may be conditions below the surface that are reminiscent of the deep subsurface on Earth. As microbiologist Bo Jørgensen comments in the Nature piece, while the discovery does not mean there is life on Mars, 'it's now really challenging to show where there is no life.'"
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Slo-mo Microbes Extend the Frontiers of Life

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... they work at the DMV.

  • Life on Mars (Score:5, Informative)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:32PM (#40042417)

    Mars is a really challenging environment, between the radiation, near-vacuum atmosphere, where there is water its -150, where its warm there is no water, with a boiling point of something like -40. Is it more or less challenging than tens of meters below the Pacific sea floor? I would guess more, although this is not insurmountable. Maybe if we merged these organisms with ice worms or snow algae (which is red, interestingly), we could have a viable hybrid. Of course maybe nature beat us to it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_geyser [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Life on Mars (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:37PM (#40042477)

      The thing is, every time we try to say "This is the boundary where life cannot exist" we end up being proven wrong... Something tells me that if life has even a slim chance of finding a purchase on a rock floating around a star, it'll exist. Maybe not thrive, maybe not evolve nuclear bombs or Pepsi, but it will exist.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The thing is, every time we try to say "This is the boundary where life cannot exist"

        Every time we try to say "This is the boundary where life cannot exist" we fail to define life.

      • One day we will find life around another star. But it will be microbial, and the population of mankind will let out a collective grumble and say it doesn't count.
      • I hope developing nukes or soft drinks aren't examples of the high points of life.

        Maybe having the capability to develop nukes, but choosing not to is.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        A better question might be is it possible for life to start on Mars. These microbes evolved their ability to survive in that harsh, but had to start from somewhere more hospitable.

      • by tjhart85 (1840452)
        Even worse is that we find evidence that it's possible on our OWN planet!
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_geyser [wikipedia.org] Thanks for that link - very interesting reading.

      I'm not really sure what finding life on Mars will do for us though. It will show us that life on another planet is possible (something I personally believe already), but other than that knowledge, what will we gain from it? It won't help solve our current environmental, economic of political problems, will it?

      The harsh conditions on Mars aren't suitable for humans, so there's no hope of living there anytime s
      • I'm not really sure what finding life on Mars will do for us though. It will show us that life on another planet is possible (something I personally believe already), but other than that knowledge, what will we gain from it? It won't help solve our current environmental, economic of political problems, will it?

        Well, the human race can multitask, after all. If that really is a sign of complex life on Mars, and it looks uncannily biological, it will give us our first glimpse of a completely new permutation of life. If its similar to our own, we have immediately given huge weight to innumerable theories, and undermined many more. If its something completely alien, the same applies in reverse. What practical uses we might put the knowledge to are a complete unknown at this point. Maybe it will help cure cancer, maybe

      • You make some good points and I'm not sure anyone has the right answer, but I do know that having definite proof of life on another world will change our culture and reinvigorate our quest for knowledge. That alone might well reshape the political landscape by forever changing our perception of the Universe around us. It might also change our economic future by stimulating space exploration.

        Some might say that money is wasted, but a great many technical advances were made in our quest to put a man on the m
      • by dissy (172727)

        It won't help solve our current environmental, economic of political problems, will it?

        Neither does posting to Slashdot, or most all of the things you do on a daily basis. We still do them anyway.

        Knowledge for the sake of knowing is great, but what will this information help us achieve?

        It will achieve knowledge for the sake of knowing (Which yes is great.)
        That's it. That is enough reason alone.

        There is no reason to poopoo on another persons research topic, simply because it does not aid in the fairly short list of reasons you state as worthwhile. Especially so when you are just as guilty as the rest of us in "wasting" our time on not those things.

      • For all we know, we may find life on Mars that has evolved to subsist in such a hostile environment using some completely novel feature or novel energy conversion process we can take advantage of or that excretes some waste product that we might find very useful that no life on Earth excretes. The point is we won't ever know until we know. Knowledge is great for its own sake, yes, but knowledge certainly isn't useful until you possess it.
  • Slackers! (Score:5, Funny)

    by coinreturn (617535) on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:40PM (#40042519)
    Get a job and quit using just the absolute minimum energy to subsist. Damn teenagers.
    • Actually, I would say teenagers would do the absolute minimum to exist, but use the absolute maximum. These microbes are kind of the anti-teenagers of the biosphere.

  • by rssrss (686344) on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:46PM (#40042611)

    It is merely pining for the fjords.

  • Honestly, at this point I would not be terribly surprised if they discovered life extends all the way to the core.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      We, humans, have found life in every soil sample we have taken, no matter how deep. It was a hard challenge to get this soil sample in an area they hoped to finally hit a limit. It difficult to get soil from the bottom of the ocean and keep it partitioned enough from the ambient water to ensure there is no cross contamination.

      We have found life in 212 degree water (100 C ) we have found life in -1 F water (-1 C) it lives on ice, in volcanoes, with air, without air, with water, and without water sources.

  • This is all still based on earth bound life as a model for other life in the universe. Fact is we simply don't know.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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