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Earth Science

No Microbes In First Sample From Lake Vostok 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-about-ancient-sea-monsters dept.
ananyo writes "A first analysis of the ice that froze onto the drillbit used in last February's landmark drilling to a pristine Antarctic lake shows no native microbes came up with the lake water, according to Sergey Bulat of Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (Russia). The very uppermost layer of Lake Vostock appears to be 'lifeless' so far, says Bulat, but that doesn't mean the rest of it is. Bulat and his colleagues counted the microbes present in the ice sample and checked their genetic makeup to figure out the phylotypes. They counted fewer than 10 microbes/ml — about the same magnitude they would expect to find in the background in their clean room."
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No Microbes In First Sample From Lake Vostok

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  • by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@g ... om minus painter> on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:51AM (#41705865) Homepage Journal
    ...will now buy the lake, for its water to serve as the main and sole ingredient in its "Cool Water" perfume.
  • they should be piping this water out for the high end bottled water market

    "No Microbes In First Sample From Lake Vostok" is of course then the ultimate marketing tool

    $9.99 for a 32 oz frosted white glass bottle with images of a pristine Antarctic mountain range.

    Hire me Coca Cola!

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is a case where "Good Enough" is not good enough.

      Looking for microbes, any microbes, the clean room must be made a sterile room, Class 0, with zero possibility of contamination. In this case, it's doubtful they even tried to get as close as possible.

      Microbes observed can be compared to microbes known in the testing environment. A similar process is used in Class 10 and better semiconductor clean rooms to evaluate and investigate contamination sources. An thorough DNA and RNA comparison would tell them

  • by Jeng (926980) on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:13AM (#41706179)

    So what exactly do they suspect these bacteria have been eating down there in the deep dark cold?

    • each other

    • Re:Nutrients (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:29AM (#41706387)

      They're expecting to get more microbes from the sediment at the bottom of the lake. Sediments are comparatively stuffed with nutrients, and the lack of light and cold aren't much of a problem (there is probably stuff growing [jamstec.go.jp] at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, just very slowly).

    • Re:Nutrients (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:43AM (#41706575) Homepage

      So what exactly do they suspect these bacteria have been eating down there in the deep dark cold?

      Cthulhu has been feeding them bits of the Snickers bar he was given as campaign contribution... Or perhaps he's been feeding them bits of the campaign contributors themselves.

      But seriously, a background of 10 critters / cc isn't all that 'clean' and

      Bulat and his colleagues counted the microbes present in the ice sample and checked their genetic makeup to figure out the phylotypes. They counted fewer than 10 microbes/ml — about the same magnitude they would expect to find in the background in their clean room. And three of the four phylotypes they identified matched contaminants from the drilling oil, with the fourth unknown but also most likely from the lubricant.

      points to one of the bigger concerns about this experiment - you are going to contaminate the lake at this point as the drilling technology is pretty primitive - basically pouring hot water into a hole.

      • As the AC mentioned: why are they using drilling oil and lubricants. I understood that the reason they were drilling a new hole (rather than the one the Russians started) was that they wanted it completely clean, with no oils or lubricants contaminating it.

        Furthermore, if you're ruling out the "unknown" microbe you find as probably being from the lubricant, then what do you hope to achieve with the experiment?

    • magnetic field lines

    • I think they are simply saying that the count is not statistically significant, as it is at about the background level of the clean room they are working in, and three of the four types identified match contaminants on the equipment.
      • by Jeng (926980)

        Yes, and the reason that there is not a significant amount of bacteria in a clean room is because there is nothing for them to eat.

        So really this shouldn't be a surprise since one should ask, if there are no nutrients in the water why should we expect there to be bacteria there?

    • by plover (150551)

      The article is concluding that there are zero microbes down there, so any nutrients present would be irrelevant.

      The article states that the 10 microbes per mL figure is likely due to contaminants being carried down on the drill or present in the measuring equipment, because it is similar to the levels found in a clean room environment.

      • by Turbio (1814644)

        The article states that the 10 microbes per mL figure is likely due to contaminants being carried down on the drill or present in the measuring equipment, because it is similar to the levels found in a clean room environment.

        My guess is that the unit of measure is wrong. It should be 10 microbes per MICROliter (not milliliter!), as 10000 microbes per microliter is actually very stinky water!!
        Current regulations in Argentina allow for a maximum of 20 microbes per microliter in drinkable water (and zero enterobacteria).
        The problem is that greek letters (eg: mu) are not easily displayed (as in this same post!).

        • Miscalculation, there.

          10 microbes/ml * 1 ml/1000 ul = 0.01 microbes/ul, not 10,000/ul.

          So yeah, it's probably correct as originally written. I was a little surprised that 10 per ml is clean room levels, though, but I don't work in or near one.

          • by Turbio (1814644)

            How silly I am! My mistake. And my point is weakened, but still valid.
            Regulations in Argentina call for a maximum of "2 microbes / 100 mL". That is 0.02 microbes/ml and is correct (I hope this time it is!).
            So at 10 microbes/ml = 1000 microbes / 100 mL the water from this lake is not allowed for dinking in Argentina.
            I am a biologist working at a molecular biology lab. One test I did on water from a mountain river surrounded only by wildlife had 23 microbes / 100 mL, and that is clearly not a clean room! Anot

            • by plover (150551)

              Yeah, I agree with you that number seems off. TFA has a little more insight, though. This is a sample from ice carried back on the drill bit, and they found a total of four microbes on it - three of which matched contamination from the drilling oil, and they suspect the fourth is as well. Maybe they only recovered 0.4 mL of water total - but then, why not report it that way?

              • by plover (150551)

                My mistake too. I just re-read TFA - it's three out of the four phylotypes that matched, not three out of four total microbes.

      • by Jeng (926980)

        The article is concluding that there are zero microbes down there, so any nutrients present would be irrelevant

        If there is no food you will not find things eating said food.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We should probably take the opportunity to make Steamboy [wikipedia.org] a reality now.

  • Did they not see The Thing? Who knows the dangers in the dark of that lake.
    • by rubycodez (864176)

      yes, and all antarctic camps are equipped with a length of copper wire, flamethrower and dynamite for that reason. Anyone refusing the copper wire blood test is incinerated as a precaution

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:30AM (#41706399)

    Did they find water on Antarctica?

  • by 3ryon (415000) on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:33AM (#41706433)

    I for one welcome our continued dominance of Earth.

  • ... I'm sure there's bacteria down there now from the Drill Bit.... DOH!

    • Not quite - they have used tons (literally) of antifreeze and lubricants to achieve these depths, and then a pool of freon and a heated drill tip to breach the lake. These chemicals froze before reaching the lake, and I can't name too many bacteria which would survive the barrage of chemicals/hot/cold temperatures on the way down. So far so good!

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.

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