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Microbes Alive After Being Frozen for 32,000 Years 527

An anonymous reader writes "LiveScience is reporting on a new type of bacteria that after being frozen 32,000 years in the Arctic was ready to swim, eat and multiply instantly upon being thawed. Researchers are excited because they're the sort of microbes that might thrive in the ice sea announced on Mars yesterday. The instant revival abilities mean a future mission, if it found anything on Mars, could conceivably culture it and bring it back alive. Maybe NASA could market them as Martian Sea Monkeys."
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Microbes Alive After Being Frozen for 32,000 Years

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  • by muqo ( 843303 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:15AM (#11762792)
    LiveScience is reporting on a new type of bacteria that after being frozen 32,000 .... yeah, new... only 32 Kyears...
  • cane toads (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oo_waratah ( 699830 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:20AM (#11762820)
    Sounded like a good idea at the time is now a major problem.

    Don't bring them back!
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syphax ( 189065 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:22AM (#11762831) Journal

    But seriously, discovering unicellular life on Mars would be the greatest scientific discovery of the last 200 years.

    I suppose it depends how you define scientific discovery, but I'll stick with, I don't know, let's say the general theory of relativity. That theory (I'd call it a discovery) has pretty profound implications about the nature of our universe. On the other hand, Mars is just the next rock over; I wouldn't find it all that shocking if life were found there (although it would certainly raise some interesting questions).
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rhizome ( 115711 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:26AM (#11762876) Homepage Journal
    >But seriously, discovering unicellular life on Mars would be the
    >greatest scientific discovery of the last 200 years

    I think it's impact would be much greater on the theological world than the scientific.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:28AM (#11762890)
    "...I wouldn't find it all that shocking if life were found there (although it would certainly raise some interesting questions)."

    You're probably not a religious fundamentalist either. Remember, the vast majority of the religions on the planet make Earth out to be something special in "all of God's work", and challenging that with something like, "Life has come to be elsewhere without spawning from Earth" would be a real problem for many religions, assuming that the message about life spawning managed to reach the people in these congregations.

    If religious leaders condemn it they could advocate open violence against anyone spreading the knowledge or believing it. Since there are a LOT of people who fall into the Fundamentalist category or are influenced by them this could have really nasty ramifications.

    Most people can't handle a major change in their world view.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy&tpno-co,org> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:32AM (#11762943) Homepage
    Most people are idiots.

    And I have proof: Look at human history.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:32AM (#11762945) Homepage Journal
    To hell with religion, the impact on the life sciences is what we're talking about. The effect of having a completely different organism to study would be phenomonal. Of course, if it turns out that earth was seeded by metorites thrown up from mars (or visa-versa) the effect will not be so great. Of course, now that I mention that I've given the religous a way to save their creationist theories.
  • Re:Martian Life... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:43AM (#11763084)
    Wow, you sure do make some hair-brained assumptions.

    1: Life does exist outside of Earth.
    2: Mars has life.
    3: Our immune system cannot adapt to (possible) extraterrestrial microbes.
    4: The microbes would have the similar makeup of chemistry to interface with Earth Chemistry.

    Of course you have an interesting.. You made up plenty of stuff. Lets find some microbes and then make wild-ass guesses.
  • by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:50AM (#11763184) Homepage Journal
    Generally religions tend to get round such things in time (though not without much wailing and gnashing of teeth).

    Most of them will probably be happy accepting that it is "our kind of life" that is the special thing and that the existance of microbes etc elsewhere doesn't diminish how special us higher beings are. After all, most of them don't seem to like the thought that we and simpler organisms have common origins anyway.
  • Re:Martian Life... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:52AM (#11763204) Journal
    at the same time the martian bacteria would not "know" how to do anything with our biological systems and probably would not find our bodies to be a suitable environment.
  • by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:54AM (#11763234) Journal
    we found that bacteria can live after 32000 years in frozen condition and we are considering the possibility of Martian bacteria, but we still don't know all bacteria living on Earth. We explore other planets and we know very little about our own planet. For example, we recently identified three new bacteria species [] by closely examining publicly available DNA data. It is surprisingly how easily we can look at a DNA sequence and miss vital information in it. All that data were available to all scientists, but just one understood that there were new species footprints hiding in them.
  • blind eye (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DreadSpoon ( 653424 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:59AM (#11763269) Journal
    Why is it that religious leaders can always incite their zealot followers to violence against those who are different, but they can never incite their zealot followers to embrace the tranquillity, harmony, sanctity of life, forgiveness, mercy, tolerance, and passiveness that pretty much all of the major religions are based on?

    I've never believed religion to be anything more than a crutch. It's a crutch for the immoral to have a reason to stay moral, just like law and prosecution are reasons for the criminally-minded to avoid crime. It's too bad that the crutch can be used both ways, and can facilitate the very thing the crutch was invented to stop.

    Behold, mankind.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by salemlb ( 857652 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:11AM (#11763317)
    Religious fundamentalists will have no trouble with this one. The will be, something along the lines of... "See? We TOLD you life had to be created! How else can you explain something that you can't even do in a laboratory appearing in TWO different places! All this time you've been saying life is rare, and shuckey-durn, we were right all along when we said GOD could make it when, where, and how he pleased." The ones having trouble will likely be the biologists and biochemists... who will now be likely to have yet another chemistry that resulted in life to attempt to explain. The inability to explain the formation of life is the greatest failure of science today... and life on Mars likely will only make that more obvious.
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:11AM (#11763328)
    "Suppose that, in a rather obviously impressive way, God descended from Heaven. Suppose he drops by your place and performs a few miracles. Maybe then he beams you down to Hell for a 5-minute tour, either Star Trek style or via the Earth just opening up for a moment..."

    Okay, I don't normally, but I'll bite this time...

    If God exists and did this, or part of this, and it was obvious to all of those involved that he actually did these things and that there was absolutely no other way that these things could have happened then those involved would have a reason to believe in him. Fact of the matter is that none of these things have happened to me or to anyone I know, and those that I know who claim that God did something in their lives that's overly special are either crazy or are so bad at stastics that they're not accounting for the 10x number of bad things that happen for the one "miracle" that is simply fortuitous coincidence.

    The British didn't defeat the Spanish Armada in Queen Elisabeth I's day because God helped, they had several unexpected advantages. Likewise, 1910-1920 era Germany lost the first World War despite asserting to themselves in some national motto "God is Great." The man referred to as "Comical Ali" the Iraqi Information Minister continually ranted how the Americans were losing, and how Allah was going to see the Iraqi army to victory over the Infidels.

    This is the same damn argument that Science has had with religion from the earliest days of the discipline; skeptics don't blindly accept "truth" simply because people insist that it's true. Continual restatement of a position doesn't have anything to do with reality.

    Show me one 'miracle' and I'll show you ten anti-miracles, like my 30 year old friend who was a vegetarian and otherwise the picture of health who died of completely natural causes, not realising that she had pulmonary hypertension until it was far, far too late to do anything about it.

    In the mean time, I'm not going to believe something transcribed by hand over generations, across multiple languages, and at times by organizations with manipulative agendas. It was also originally written by people who didn't understand the natural world like we do. I don't doubt many of the positive "lessons" that are the ultimate theme of the parables, but the exact verbatim message can't be literally interpreted in my opinion.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Queer Boy ( 451309 ) * <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:15AM (#11763354)
    If religious leaders condemn it they could advocate open violence against anyone spreading the knowledge or believing it. Since there are a LOT of people who fall into the Fundamentalist category or are influenced by them this could have really nasty ramifications.

    I think you're speaking from a very US-centric view. There are very few people outside the US that fall into the sort of "fundamentalist" category that you are describing. There's nothing in the Torah or Koran that says that there's only life on Earth and that Earth is special. To the best of my knowledge there's nothing in the Bible to that effect, either.

  • by FreshMeat-BWG ( 541411 ) <bengoodwyn@m[ ]om ['e.c' in gap]> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:19AM (#11763385) Homepage
    A more interesting scenario to me would be one where it is discovered that these organisms, when thawed, begin multiplying and emitting quantities of gasses (or have some other global effect) whereby the effects of global warming are reversed until they are frozen again, thus bringing our planet back into harmony again.

    Or then again, maybe everyone else is right and they are just going to kill us.

  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Flavio ( 12072 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:22AM (#11763398)
    Please explain how extraterrestrial life contradicts theology from the world's major religions.

    Christianity certainly makes humans special, but in no way precludes the existence of other extraordinary mortal creatures. Doing so would actually be inconsistent, since the scriptures mention other special creatures (angels and demons) which don't exist exclusively on Earth.

    Therefore, even intelligent extraterrestrial life wouldn't pose a threat to Christian theology. Since Mars is expected (at best) to harbor bacterial life, there's no point in having this discussion.

    It seems like you're trying to find reasons to condemn religion, but this certainly isn't one. Atheism is the most fashionable belief, but in the end it just rejects every concrete point of view without actually explaining anything.

    In the interest of fairness, try to be more open minded and less prejudiced.
  • Re:Martian Life... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:27AM (#11763447)
    That's not really the way the immune system works. It attacks things that are different. The differenter the better.

    The germs that are most dangerous are ones that have evolved tricks to evade detection.

    Germs from Mars would be the first against the wall when the T-cells rolled into town.

  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:34AM (#11763513)
    There are people who believe in creation as the concept that everything was created. Even life on other planets.

    There are only a minority of hard-core types that believe that Earth is the center of the universe.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:40AM (#11763560) Journal
    Well,With any luck SETI would overhear a fleet of warships are headed our way in the next 300 years or so.Then we could stop killing each other over stupidity and join together to get out there and kick ass.Just like us and the soviets in WW2 nothing gets us to band together like a common enemy.Sad but true.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cmallinson ( 538852 ) * <c.mallinson@ca> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:49AM (#11763610) Homepage
    I personally would prefer that such missions be financed voluntarily by people who do find them interesting and valuable. Ditto for the arts.

    So research should only be done to satisfy the interests of the wealthy and/or Wal-Mart?

  • Re:Martian Life... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @01:52AM (#11763623)
    yeah like how the immune system doesnt deal with ever-changing and evolving new things like cold and flu viruses...

    oh wait... heh.

    immune systems attack anything remotely suspicious and sometimes even things that they shouldnt, like ones own cells. thats what an allergic response is. martian bacteria wouldn't do anything pathologically interesting compared to what millions of years of bacterial evolution have done on earth.

  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:12AM (#11763745)
    Not really.

    Being an idiots increases your odds of being in the history books by a hundred times, as does being powerful. The few, the proud, the Idiotic Powerful are the ones that end up in history books, as opposed to the millions of froods that just had enough power to get by.

  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:17AM (#11763766)
    Even if debris from an asteroid collision manages to reach escape velocity from the Earth's gravity well, it damned sure isn't going to fall another 100,000,000 miles straight up, which is what it would take to reach Mars. It would end up in the Sun, or, at the very least, on Venus or Mercury.
    Okay, what about debris sent hurling through space fifteen or twenty degrees just past the Sun, spun by the Sun into a highly elliptic orbit, where it goes from in as far as the fringes of Mercury's orbit (abeit for a short time) to as far out as Jupiter?

    Or, instead of the Sun, which has nasty radiation, maybe the impact was terribly strong, which could send stuff out past Mars (like, every probe Earth has sent out into deep space ever)...
  • by DarkRecluse ( 231992 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:45AM (#11763895)
    We have 32k year old bacteria discovered in Antarctica that wake from the deep freeze and people take this time to bash religion for inciting violence and being a mental crutch for the weak willed. Very easy to make statements like that on slashdot, but try doing it in a forum where a majority of the people you're speaking to are "crippled". I'm tired of hearing it, and I'm sure people are tired of responses to responses like mine, condemning said responses with a conscending moral tone.

    BTW I can't help but parallel this story to Jesus's life, crucifixion, and resurrection. I for one, welcome our new microbe lord.
  • Two issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:46AM (#11763904) Homepage
    1. It's "possible ice sea", not "ice sea". The paper hasn't even been peer reviewed yet, let alone actually examined for the presence of ice, let alone liquid water. There is just as much reason to believe that it's *not* an ice sea (similarity to regions viewed as volcanic flows, the rate of sublimation of even insulated ice as Mars' equatorial temperatures, and greatly exaggerated claims about things like the viscosity of ice vs. lava).

    What's with this culture of "one scientific team says so, so it is an absolute fact"? That's why you all were suckered by the "methane from life" claim that turned out to have been a misinterpreted overheard conversation at a party.

    2. Why was Mars even mentioned at all? We're talking about Earth life here; if there is any life on Mars, it will likely be playing by significantly different "rules" at a molecular level. This discovery on its own was neat; no need to try and jazz it up by trying to distantly connect it with Mars.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @02:57AM (#11763973) Homepage Journal
    Hasn't anyone ever read Andromeda?? Don't thaw them out!!

    More likely these things aren't up to the 1337 5ki112 today's evolved fauna (bacteria,virii,fungi) and wouldn't last long outside the petri dish. Makes for some what sci-fi, but what you have today is the stuff tough enough to last through whatever nature and errant meteorites have chucked at it.

    On another note, immortality is overrated. Survive 32K years and you get to swim around a petri dish among strangers. Hmph.

  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:18AM (#11764435) Homepage
    I don't really understand how you're taken seriously, when you're obviously much more a zealot than any religious person I've ever met. Christianity doesn't have a stance on life on other worlds, although the Catholic church says it's a possibility. Mormons specifically believe in other populated worlds. Muslims believe God created other worlds. Many forms of Buddhism and Hinduism believe in parallel worlds. Scientologists believe in Zetans or some shit.

    Considering it was formerly a commonplace view that other planets were populated, how would it even make sense for religions to be fundamentally opposed to the concept?

    Can you please name a single religion with a dogma that specifically condemns the possibility of life on other worlds? Or are you just blindly opposed to religion?

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:50AM (#11764895) Journal
    Evolution is what happened _after_ the first cells were created from the raw materials.

    And either of them doesn't really involve anything spectacularly improbable, and which can then be ascribed to a God/demi-God/alien/whatever. It just needs time. And time it had. Billions of years of it.

    Statistics and large numbers are a funny thing. If you're one in a million, there are 6,000 just like you world-wide. Think about it. Because therein lies your answer: the key is very large numbers, not divine intervention. (And also that's the usual problem why people just don't get it: human brains has trouble working with really large numbers.)

    Well, the same applies to both evolution and abiogenesis. No matter how improbable a mutation is to happen _and_ get passed on, given enough specimens over millions of years, it _will_ eventually happen. (Note, I said "improbable", not "impossible".)

    Smaller mutations are easier: they happen all the time. An animal is born who's slightly smaller and faster than its parents. Another is born with slightly bigger claws. Another one is born who's slightly bigger and stronger, but needs more food. Etc.

    From there it's merely a question of selection. Some of those deviations will give the animal more chances to survive and have offspring, some will make it less likely.

    This affects the others too: the foxes that have an easier time finding food, might leave less food for the ones who don't. The mutated gazelle which runs faster, makes the _others_ an easier prey for lions. Etc. Essentially the most fit mutation puts the others at a disadvantage.

    And you don't even need to believe in Darwinism to see that in action: artifficial selection is based on exactly the same kind of natural diversity, except the criterion who's the fittest is an artifficial human criterion, and the culling out the "unfit" is much faster.

    See starting with dogs that looked like wolves, and ending up with the Pekinese. That was dilligent selection of those random mutations that were the closest to the desired end result: something (A) looking like a Chinese dragon, and (B) small enough to fit under the Emperor's tea table. It worked. Enough generations of selection turned a wolf ino the Pekinese.

    Well, the same happens naturally too, only slower.

    And here's the fun part: trying the same independently on two planets doesn't reduce the chances in any way. Your chances of rolling a 6 with a die are not influenced by my also rolling my own dice at the same time. The fact that you rolled a 6 doesn't say I can't roll a 6 too.
  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @07:24AM (#11764990)
    Our immune systems are pretty versatile. If the alien microbes are so different from our own that it makes our immune systems useless then it will probably be too foreign to do anything to us. How often have you caught a cold from your dog? Those microbes would have evolved to attack other kinds of animals. They would most likely be harmless to us.
  • Re:Hmm,... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @07:24AM (#11764994)
    "There can't be life on Earth, there's too much oxygen there"

    Martian Chronicles
  • by Derek Pomery ( 2028 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:51AM (#11766158)
    Lot of worry over nothing. Fact is, a lot of martian rock ends up on earth, and some earth rock ends up on mars.
    This has happened often enough that it wouldn't be surprising to find that martian life was an awful lot like life here on earth.

    Heck, there was an interesting discussion on the Mars Society lists about this a while back. With some off-the-cuff calculations of escape velocities, ejecta from planets due to impacts and outer bounds for bacterial spores survivals here on earth - even (especially?) in the frigid extremes of space - of 25 million or so, we were figuring bacteria could easily travel interstellar distances once they got past the odds against having been shot in the right direction.
  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ckaminski ( 82854 ) <slashdot-nospam@ ... om minus physici> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:15AM (#11766389) Homepage
    We can certainly explain it. Like the Big Bang, it's reproducing the experiment that is proving to be the problem...

  • Re:I, for one,... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cat_Byte ( 621676 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:22PM (#11769884) Journal
    I think its mainly ppl looking for a reason to hate religion that make that assumption though. Yes there are some that believe we are the only ones...but it did say God created the heavens AND the earth. Never said the heavens didn't have other civilizations or life. We have oceans separating continents on this planet...same as having space between planets for other areas for life. It all fits.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe