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Space Science

Bacteria From Beer Lasts 553 Days In Space 138

An anonymous reader writes "Some specific bacteria colonies from Beer (the place, not the beverage) left for several days outside the ISS actually survived extreme temperatures, UV and other radiations, lack of water and all the like. They were later brought back to Earth for examination: such resistant bacteria may be the base of life support systems or bio-mining on colonies off Earth, and of course for terraforming, eventually. No clue in the article about how dangerous those bacteria might have become after the exposure or when they'll start eating their examiners."
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Bacteria From Beer Lasts 553 Days In Space

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  • by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:13PM (#33343730)

    Just goes to show how difficult it will be to confirm whether or not any life found on Mars was there to begin with, or was introduced accidentally.

    • Not necessarily. It's pretty unlikely that any Martian microbes will be strains at all similar to ones found on Earth - billions of years of evolution will have resulted in wildly different genomes and selected behaviours.

      • by Graff ( 532189 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:25PM (#33343936)

        It's pretty unlikely that any Martian microbes will be strains at all similar to ones found on Earth - billions of years of evolution will have resulted in wildly different genomes and selected behaviours.

        Then if we find microbes on Mars the question will be are they ones native to Mars or just recent ones from Earth that have undergone rapid mutation and evolution in the face of radiation and other radical environmental factors during the journey and the stay on Mars? Yes, there are some ways of classifying such mutated bacteria but it will still muddy the waters a bit.

        In the end the question becomes kind of moot anyways. Either way, if life can survive on Mars it will be an exciting discovery.

        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          Rapid mutation and evolution very, very rarely changes underlying biochemistry used by particular family of organisms. Doesn't even really change genetic code all that much. For evolution it doesn't matter why something works (and tracing origins means really looking at things in the area of "why?"), only how it works.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BobMcD ( 601576 )

        billions of years of evolution may have resulted in wildly different genomes and selected behaviours.

        I remember in my BioII class we were given an 'experiment' to flip a penny one hundred times and record the results. We were the only group that did not record 50% heads and 50% tails. Our professor insisted that we had made a mistake, and that with this 'large' number of flips we would have absolutely reached 50%.

        Personally, I think we were the only group stubborn enough to actually flip the coin that many times.

        Anyway, there's a bit of a gap from what the numbers should do and what they actually do. Wh

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by slyrat ( 1143997 )

          I remember in my BioII class we were given an 'experiment' to flip a penny one hundred times and record the results. We were the only group that did not record 50% heads and 50% tails. Our professor insisted that we had made a mistake, and that with this 'large' number of flips we would have absolutely reached 50%.

          Well with coin flipping there can be huge variance on the 50-50 depending on the coin and how it is caught or where it lands. Here is an article [] I found about it that references some research into it.

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by sexconker ( 1179573 )

            And that article is bunk.

            They like to trot out shitty arguments about the coin not really flipping in the air, just wobbling (bullshit - it flips), or how the two faces aren't the same weight and (bullshit - they're nearly identical, and a coin falls pretty much straight down, as opposed to a weighted die which relies on sliding vs tumbling), etc. (also bullshit).

            Coin flips are really fucking fair.
            Try it yourself if you don't believe it.
            Go flip a coin a few thousand times.

            Anyone suggesting otherwise is a ly

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              With my flipping style, I can land Tails 7 out of 10 flips(tested at 1000 flips). In any case, I wouldn't outright deny something that has been tested under scientific method, especially if you haven't performed the test yourself.

              Coin flips can be very unfair.

              • Again, wrong, and you're lying.

                It has been tested billions of times over.
                Coin flips are very fucking fair.

                No one who claims to have shown it to be unfair has actually demonstrated a non-retarded method of testing their theory. All of their claims hinge on a faked flip - they toss the coin into the air and intentionally try to get it to flip an odd or even number of times. A regular coin toss looks like this [] . You can both see and hear it

        • by Smauler ( 915644 )

          You or your teacher don't understand statistics - it's very unlikely that you'll get 50 heads and 50 tails when flipping a coin 100 times. It's the most likely result, but there are 99 other possible results, some of which are very nearly as likely as 50/50. Someone else can do the maths if they want, but as an estimate, I'd guess that you've got a 1 in 15 or so chance of hitting an exact 50/50 distribution.

          Simple statistics _is_ sometimes confusing though... For example, nearly everyone gets this wrong

          • About 51%? (I'm not a statistician). You have one boy, so the odds are whatever the odds are for a random child being a boy, which is slightly greater than 50%. Do I get the prize?

            • Depends on how he's asking. Could also be ~34%, if he isn't thinking of a specific child's gender. To avoid ambiguity, a better way of phrasing would be "and they are not both girls".

            • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
              It's .333... probably. Phrasing the riddle in English brings in some murkiness... but the idea is there are four possible combinations of two kids: BB, BG, GB, and GG. One of them is a boy, so eliminate GG as a possibility. Therefore there are equal chances of BB, BG, and GB. If one of the kids is a boy, that means there is a 1 in 3 chance that both are boys.

              The reason it gives the seemingly nonintuitive answer is because order isn't specified. If he said "My oldest is a boy; what are the odds the
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by sexconker ( 1179573 )

                Do we have to go over this again, retards?

                I have two kids.
                One is a boy.

                What is the probability the other is a boy?

                You, as an observer, are NOT guessing about the outcome of events. BB BG GB GG does not apply.

                BB(1), BB(2), BG(1), GB(2) applies.
                BB(1) = There are 2 boys and he revealed the first one.

                You MUST consider the possible premutations of children AND the various options of revealing information.

                The above 4 cases are the only cases which could be true in the given situation. BG(2), GB(1), GG(1), and G

                • by Smauler ( 915644 )

                  This case is NOT equivalent to "Given 2 children, given at least one is a boy, what are the odds both are boys?"

                  I said "I have 2 children, and one of them is a boy. What is the chance I have 2 boys?". The question I asked _is_ equivalent to that one of yours. My question did _not_ ask the gender of the second child, it asked the gender of both children.

                  Of course it is directly implied by my question that I meant at least one is a boy... had I meant only one is a boy, the answer would have been obvious

                  • It is not equivalent.
                    I, as the person being told, am being revealed information about a set that may or may not already be determined.

                    I am not predicting the odds of future events with given restrictions.

                    See the Monty Hall problem.

                    You are completely fucking wrong.

              • by Twanfox ( 185252 )

                It would only be a 50/50 chance if the forces affecting boy/girl selection were balanced. They aren't specifically. Many factors contribute to the process and, last I read, the probability was closer to 51-52% boy/48-49% girl based on those factors. Of course, this tends to balance out naturally later on as boys suffer higher mortality rates (both pre and post birth) due to the lack of redundancy of key genes.

              • Yes but you can say that BG = GB.
            • Well, the probability of a family having two boys given you know that they have at least one is different than the probability of a families next child being a boy. It depends on how you formulate the problem. The former question uses conditional probability, the latter is just the probability the family has of having a boy vs. a girl. This is not necessarily 51% but I don't know how you would find the true number unless they had 1000 kids or you could compare them genetically to other population groups.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I simulated 100 coin flips 1,000,000 times and plotted the percent occurrence for every # of heads:


            It looks like about 8% chance to get 50/50 and better than 2% chance of getting either 40/60 or 60/40.
            • by Smauler ( 915644 )

              That is interesting - I was way out in my estimate. I actually originally put 20% and revised it down too.

              Maybe it's my strange mind, but this could easily be made into a profitable street game. You get the punter to pick heads or tails, and say that for his 10 pound/dollar/euro bet you'll pay back 50 if he hits over 60 of his choice.

              I was thinking that this could be dropped to lower amounts of coin flips, ie. 10, or even 4, but I'm not sure if this would work. Actually, thinking about the 4 flip scenari

        • by osu-neko ( 2604 )
          True, but your analogy is deeply flawed. The question is not whether genomes would contain the same number of particular molecules, the question is whether they would contain the same arrangement. In your biology class, did any two produce the exact same *sequence* of heads & tails, e.g. group 1: HHTHTHHTHTTHTT group 2: THTHHTTHHHTHTT -- both of these groups produced the same number of heads and tails, but very different sequences. The odds that they would get at least close to the same totals is ver
        • I remember in my BioII class we were given an 'experiment' to flip a penny one hundred times and record the results. We were the only group that did not record 50% heads and 50% tails. Our professor insisted that we had made a mistake, and that with this 'large' number of flips we would have absolutely reached 50%.

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          Evolutionary selections could push for something similar, yes - but don't forget the evolution doesn't care that much about low level mechanisms.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        cross contamination between planets happens a lot more than every few billion years. The rock they found in the arctic has only been on earth for a few thousand years.

        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          It still seems unlikely such new arrivals would rapidly displace local characteristics, homogenizing the life in a system. Probably add slighty to them; probably typically at relatively early stages of local life.

    • we may be "Martians" (Score:3, Interesting)

      by peter303 ( 12292 )
      Mars probably stablized geologically several hundred million years before earth and may have been the earliest source of life in the solar system. Then glancing meteorites infected the rest of the solar system with Martian life before it died out there.
      • by MRe_nl ( 306212 )

        We may be descended from bacteria that were used in alien life-support systems to recycle everything.

        • That is life originated elsewhere in the universe and spread through it over the eons. To some scientists the machinery of life appears so complicated that it could rarely arise despite quadrillions of earth-like planets. Spreading between the stars after one likely instance would be more likely.

          Limited panspermia states life arose once in the solar system and infected every other suitable place: Earth, Mars, Io, Titan, etc., through rare meteor collisions.
          • The evolution of life on earth is fairly well documented.

            I could believe that life could spread amongst planets within our solar system, however unless the bacteria have evolved warp drive there really is no realistic way it could spread to other star systems.
            • olsmeitser writes
              "The evolution of life on earth is fairly well documented."

              The origin of life is different from its subsequent evolution. Far less is known about it. Paleo-biochemists have focused on creating the fundamental six-chemical citric-cycle from raw chemicals and have lots of difficulties. Robert Hazen has wonder Teaching Course volume on the Origin of Life which spends a couple hours on this topic, which I strongly recommend listening to.
              Craig Venter's synthetic biology experiments hin
      • That all assumes the 'life is rare' dogma... Why would life be rare, rather than abundant of conditions are right?

        • by peter303 ( 12292 )
          "That all assumes the 'life is rare' dogma... Why would life be rare, rather than abundant of conditions are right?"

          Five decades of laboratory experiments havent come close yet. Yet I believe they'll eventually succeed. Its just the minimal chemical complexity of life is still immensely complex. Nature may take a long time.
    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Some crucial "low level" differences, variants of biomachinery not seen on Earth (quite possible - there are few variants even on Earth after all), would be still a good hint.

      Also, the summary goes too far - yeah, it would be good to depend, for life support of terraforming, on bacteria which can easily survive exposure...but typically they do that as spores, in a non-active state. So not exactly very active about what they usually do; "just" surviving.

      • by Edge00 ( 880722 )
        These bacteria were cyanobacteria from the genus Gloeocapsa, which to my knowledge are non-spore forming.
        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          Still, they certainly weren't very active / wouldn't be very useful in whatever mode of operation allowed them to just survive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What is the probability that all of their amino acids will be the same and have the same chirality? Probably not very high.

      • You're missing the point-- what's the probability that they use amino acids at all? Even if Martian life is an offshoot of proto-Earth life, there's a widely accepted chemical evolution theory called the RNA world hypothesis [], which suggests that early terrestrial life was based entirely on RNA, and that proteins and DNA evolved later as more effective machinery (proteins) and more stable information storage (DNA). Even if life from both planets had the same origins, it's incredibly unlikely that they both
    • And on Earth? Was the life here to begin with or was it introduced accidentally?
    • Well, then we should simply change our definition for life into something like:
      "Plants or animals", "Something that displays emotions"
      or even, given humanity's current values:
      "Believes in God"

      This would be very useful, even for solving problems regarding AI.

      (I foresee /.ers being used for cosmetics experiments in the future..)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This Beer only smells like piss.

    • Actually, interesting story. A-B's beer is specially formulated to ferment inside the bodies of those damn Clydesdales they used to have on the commercials. After it's run it's course through the digestive system of the horse, it's then pissed out into the storage vats that they use pre-bottling it. That's how you get Budweiser. True story.

      Of course, you'll always hear myths about it. For example, one of my friends is adamant it was actually a failed recipe for a douching fluid.
    • No, actually it smells like Pis [].
  • The trick... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:21PM (#33343886) Journal
    The survival capabilities of various earthly extremophiles are, indeed, extremely impressive. Particularly the ones resistant to extreme dessication, the evolutionary changes for which often happen to confer substantial radiation resistance.

    The trouble, though, is that for this to be useful to us, they need to do more than survive(if survival were an issue, we could just put them inside the spaceship, not outside), we need them to be capable of metabolism and reproduction in extreme environments. You can transport in a climate controlled spaceship, and grow in a biodome; but if your tardigrades or bacteria just shrivel up and go into stasis when you put them outside they aren't going to get much done.

    There are a fair number of organisms that basically shrivel up into an invincible spore, resistant to just about everything, when life starts to suck. If you put them outside on mars, they'd probably be just fine a century later if taken in and re-hydrated. It's just that they would have done basically nothing during that time...
    • Re:The trick... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jwinster ( 1620555 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:28PM (#33343990)
      TFA mentions that these were not spores, spores have been known to live for years in space, but rather that these were cyanobacteria (photosynthesizing bacteria) that survived, and this is the longest that bacteria of this type have been known to survive.
      • He wasn't saying that they formed spores, RTFC. He was saying, rightfully so, that this microbe might not be useful if it, LIKE spore forming bacteria, 'shrivel[s] up and go[es] into stasis'.

        The article mentions that the formation between cells might be what allows survival. This survival method, much like the hibernation-like spore stage, probably means that the organism can't do much of anything. This is an important limitation that fuzzy was talking about.

  • by nebaz ( 453974 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:22PM (#33343892)

    Cue references to the Andromeda strain and all, but this is too much in line with the story from a typical Doctor Who episode.

    Bacteria from a small English fishing village have returned from a space trip to be examined on Earth. Next thing you know, someone will be alone in a room with these samples, it will get dark, ominous music will play, and you will hear a single scream. Next the researcher will appear, appropriately tentacled, infecting everyone else on the base. UNIT will come in to help solve the problem. Everyone in the town will die, and life will continue.

  • by masmullin ( 1479239 ) <> on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:27PM (#33343986)

    ... Beer is a dish best served cold. And it is very cold in space.

    • by grcumb ( 781340 )

      ... Beer is a dish best served cold. And it is very cold in space.

      Plus it gives a whole new meaning to the name Buzz Lightyear.

  • Now you know why woman with yeast infection are to be avoided at all costs.
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:32PM (#33344044) Homepage Journal

    i begin to think less about the idea that we can seed the universe with hardy bacteria

    and i begin to think less about the idea that life on earth was seeded exobiologically

    i begin to think less about sending life out there, or about how life got here, and i instead think more about the idea that it simply doesn't matter, that it's been a wide four lane two way street forever, and everywhere, that life is boringly common

    i begin to entertain the notion that the reality that is most likely, as we explore more and more outside our planet (and eventually, our solar system), that we're just going to find that the basic chemical machinery of life everywhere, dormant or vaguely active, is on the surface of everything, waiting to seed and grow on anything it touches

    that life is simply mundane and ubiquitous (although mostly hibernating and waiting and unable to realize its full potential)

    and then the REAL story will be looking for and finding what i'll call "complexity magnifiers": special intersections of energy source and hospitality (like liquid water and a sun) where the machinery of life is allowed to turn into amazing agglomerations of increasing complexity... until things like us humans can become reality

    and then the real search, the ultimate game of discovery, will be to classify, find, and otherwise make contact with other "complexity magnifiers," wherever they may be or whatever they are, across the universe. and that this will be our ultimate promise in existence, what you could call our purpose (self-discovered)

    whether we choose to exploit and destroy those "complexity magnifiers" and whatever or whomever we find there, and grow like a virus, or whether we choose to communicate with whatever is there already, as take care to hold our darker nature in sober check: that will be the ultimate commentary on the entire existence of homo sapiens: tragic mistake or wise benevolence?

  • Pff, bacteria... (Score:4, Informative)

    by wienerschnizzel ( 1409447 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:55PM (#33344448)
    Pff, bacteria... A couple years ago we had animals survive the outer space - [] . It was just for 10 days but nobody is sure how long they really can survive - they can enter some kind of stasis state where they don't need water for decades.
  • by Evil Shabazz ( 937088 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:58PM (#33344490)
    This is obviously part of why Ford had Arthur consume 3 pints of beer that fateful morning...
  • Proofreading? (Score:4, Informative)

    by VirginMary ( 123020 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:57PM (#33345412)

    Since I am not a native speaker of English, I can only speculate but "Bacteria From Beer Lasts 553 Days in Space" sounds very strange to me, shouldn't it be "Bacteria From Beer Last 553 Days in Space"? I mean "bacteria" is the plural of "bacterium" after all!

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      Ah, the magic of collective nouns.

    • In essence, you are technically correct in assuming that the plural form of the verb should be used. However in cases where the plural form of a word is more often used than the singular, it can usually be paired with the singular form of the verb without being incorrect more colloquially. "Media" referring to news is often used as a singular ("media welcomes new corporate overlords") as well.
    • But no-one outside of a science lecture uses the word "bacterium" in the singular. Most people would use "bacteria" to refer to a single bacterium.

      In the same way, most people would never use the singular "datum" for a single piece of data.
  • I imagine it wouldn't be THAT hard to design little capsules with bacteria aboard to colonize other worlds.

    Sure a little drop of bacteria will take billions of years or longer to create an earth-like atmosphere. However the benefits of knowing that we're trying to expand will have vast benefits for certain mindsets here today.

    Religious fundamentalists will dream of isolated colonies, as will white supremacists and a host of other conformists.
  • If Slashdot had used sentence case [] in headlines, we could have distinguished Beer from beer, just like that.
  • last that long in my fridge!

  • No way beer would last that long If I were on that mission!
  • People tend to view the internet as this vast bazaar of millions of sites and voices. But images like this show just how homogeneous and centralised the majority of the net really is. Over a third of this images is taken up by perhaps 50 sites/conglomerates. That's less than the amount of channels you get on subscription television.

    Faced with this image, the net neutrality debate is brought into focus. This is the image Telcos see when they think of the internet. All they care about is what happens with the

    • by grcumb ( 781340 )

      People tend to view the internet as this vast bazaar of millions of sites and voices. But images like this show just how homogeneous and centralised the majority of the net really is.

      And yet it's still big enough for you to post to the wrong thread... and get modded insightful.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde