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Earth Science

Life Found In Deepest Layer of Earth's Crust 335

michaelmarshall writes "For the first time, life has been found in the gabbroic layer of the crust. The new biosphere is all bacteria, as you might expect, but they are different from the bacteria in the layers above; they mostly feed on hydrocarbons that are produced by abiotic reactions deep in the crust. It could mean that similar microbes are living even deeper, perhaps even in the mantle."
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Life Found In Deepest Layer of Earth's Crust

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  • Living under surface (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:02PM (#34283444)

    This got me thinking an interesting idea.

    Why don't humans populate more of the inner earth? Sure, most people don't like the environment just like that, but you can build it. Make fake environments. In the end, they will look and feel natural too. You can also easily get rid of gasses and other pollution problem by dumping them upwards.

    And if you go deep enough, who owns the land? Can you start a new country like lets say, 50 kilometers below surface?

    • by Philomage ( 1851668 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:05PM (#34283472)
      Gentlemen, we cannot afford to allow a mineshaft gap!
      • by PatPending ( 953482 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:55PM (#34284114)
        [Strangelove's plan for post-nuclear war survival involves living underground with a 10:1 female-to-male ratio]

        General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

        Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

        Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.

    • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:09PM (#34283514)
      You feel like financing this project? And setting up contingincies for things like "there is a leak and the pacific is starting to seep in"? And dealing with the phenomenal pressures that will be exerted?
    • I don't know how to describe it - I can give you a list of problems, like Ventillation, Heating, Vitamin D - which all have obvious solutions available,

      but they just aren't as efficient as living on the surface.

    • by Defenestrar ( 1773808 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:15PM (#34283584)
      It's fastest with a diamond pick.
    • by SteeldrivingJon ( 842919 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:20PM (#34283660) Homepage Journal

      Central Greenland or the depths of the Gobi desert would be even easier, and there's plenty of room.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by pk001i ( 649678 )
        Those are both continental crust, which a different animal. You would never actually hit either basalt or gabbro in continental crust, because continental crust is chemically different than oceanic crust. Also one of the goals of IODP expedition 304* and 305 was to drill through the oceanic Moho, the seismic reflection that defines where crust stops and where mantle begins. At the Atlantic Massif, this is pretty close to the surface due to its location adjacent to the Mid-Atlantic spreading center, and w
        • by raodin ( 708903 )

          He was not suggesting subterranean dwellings in those locations. He was pointing out that there is still a lot of sparsely populated surface to live on before resorting to subterranean colonization.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )

      The ownership of the subsurface would belong to the surface owners all the way to the core.

      Now some rights - water and mineral rights - don't always belong to the surface holder, an example in the US is on Indian Reservations, mineral rights remain under the control of the US Department of Interior.

      50 km under Kansas would still be Kansas.

      We don't populate the subsurface because it's a nasty place, hot and wet.

      • ...in the US is on Indian Reservations, mineral rights remain under the control of the US Department of Interior.

        They are managed by the government but they definitely belong to the tribes. Indian tribes own 3% of petroleum and gas reserves in the USA and 15% of coal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

        50 km under Kansas would still be Kansas.

        Ah, such charming naiveté, such amusing nonsense.

        50 km under Kansas would be Kansas, were it not actually Khan'saxz, empire of The Dusty Ancient One, who thankfully is content to rule the followers he crafted from nightmares given substance. Were you to dig down to those depths your life would surely be forfeit, if you were truly fortunate and did not instead lose your sanity and your soul.

        Just sayin'. Don't dig under Kansas. Bad idea.

    • Radiation could be an issue, depending on what's in the local rock.

    • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:44PM (#34283968)

      But if you dig too deep, you will release the clowns. Nothing says oops like busting through an adamantine cavern and finding yourself facing a spirit of fire.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by spun ( 1352 )

        Just set up a cave-in atop your adamantine mines. A long row of doors should slow the clowns down enough to let your miner escape. When the fun starts, pull the lever and seal them back in.

    • You could call the continent Zion and make crazy ships that can fly up to the surface. You have to be careful though, since once the robots take over, they will have good defenses to protect themselves. It is cool though since we have Keanu Reeves
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Why don't humans populate more of the inner earth?

      I can think of several reasons.

      1. There's no need to. There is plenty of land aboveground.
      2. Most toxic gasses (esp corbon monoxide) are heavier than air and hard to pump out
      3. It gets hotter the further down you go
      4. Do YOU want to live in a windowless space?
      5. travel to and from the surface would take a LOT more time than an equal distance travelled on the surface
      6. The whole idea is energy-intensive at a time when we need to conserve energy

      That's just a few reasons from t

      • by Graff ( 532189 )

        travel to and from the surface would take a LOT more time than an equal distance travelled on the surface

        This one is actually less likely to be true. Remember that travel on the surface involves the curvature of the Earth. Travel through the Earth can be done in relatively straight lines!

        Yes, in both types of travel you still need to avoid obstacles such as mountains above ground or aquifers underground so your path of travel might not be as direct as the optimum path.

    • by durrr ( 1316311 )
      Sure it's easy, no problems. Tell that to Durin, we all know what problems he found.
    • Setting up underground cities a la Asimov is a little pricey. These things would effectively be buried space stations whose only advantages are built-in gravity and no worries about radiation or meteor strikes. You'd have to provide air conditioning, fresh air, food, clean water, not to mention the cost of just getting the things built.

  • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:05PM (#34283474) Journal
    yet again, life is ubiquitous.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I for one welcome our ubiquitous underlords
  • if not, it should be Bacillus Balrogus

    "The humans dug too greedily and deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of the Chilean copper mine... shadow and flame... and Bacillus Balrogus!"

    • Quick - someone leave out an Eldar sandwich so we can discover penicillum istari
      • Won't work. You wouldn't believe the preservatives lembas is laced with. It actually makes Twinkies look organic.
    • If it's really deep, they could name it after the nameless things: "Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things". Except they're nameless.

  • Life elsewhere... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:16PM (#34283596)
    It amazes me that people don't believe there's no life elsewhere in the universe when we're still discovering it in new forms here at home, with new ways of doing things, in new seemingly impossible places. I for one welcome our new microbial hydrocarbon munching leaders.
    • Yeah, amazing ; ).
      But, perhaps more importantly, is there life elsewhere NOW?
      Space is but one dimension in the space-time continuum.

    • The fact of the matter is that -ANY- part of Earth, even one we don't usually imagine having life - like the core of the Earth, is still actually more habitable than half the celestial bodies in our solar system.

      We have had our suspicions about life on Mars though!

      • By our known examples of life though! What makes me wonder is our definition of what living things are, and where they can possibly live, keeps changing. So how can we say what is and is not habitable if that line has to keep getting redrawn?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tylersoze ( 789256 )

      Yeah but a subtle point is the bacteria probably didn't *originate* under those conditions. The bacteria more than likely evolved from bacteria living in more life friendly conditions.

    • It amazes me that people don't believe there's no life elsewhere in the universe when we're still discovering it in new forms here at home...

      In fairness to the people you're criticizing: The life that has evolved into these extreme locations had a nice comfortable eco system to support it on the way there. There's a big difference between life moving into that environment and life originating from it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That's funny, because I was thinking about the opposite conclusion. The fact that life is astoundingly ubiquitous on Earth makes a stark contrast with its complete absence from any other other worlds we've studied. It says something about the profound uniqueness of Earth that we haven't found any traces of life elsewhere.
  • How is it these guys can be drilling again?

    "...Tom Wilson and the entire Shell organization bent over backward to release seismic, well, drilling, and geotechnical data. Shell employees generously shared their time to help design a safe and effective drilling program. The scientists, engineers, and lawyers of Shell, Amerada Hess, and British Petroleum worked together to achieve scientific drilling within industry lease blocks."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Muros ( 1167213 )
      If by "these guys" you mean BP, I wouldn't really be any more worried by that than any other drilling company, in fact I might actually feel a bit better about it. One thing that became clear during the whole recent fuckup in the gulf, was that despite the involvement of numerous companies in the monumental screw up, many of them equally culpable, the only ones with the balls to stand up and say "we could have done better" was vilified as an evil foreign company, while government officials were quite happy
  • ...can we grill it?
  • Did it have horns and a tail?

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:51PM (#34285458)
    Bacteria have been found in the deepest holes drilled fro petroleum prospecting. The temperature has to be below 120C however. This is sedimentary rock where the bacteria was probably buried at the same time the sediments were deposited.
    The rock in this article was igneous rock. Its more difficult to figure out how bacteria got so deep in that kind of rock.

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