Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If Bacteria is Immortal, Could Life Have Come from Comets?

Researchers studying the “oldest know ice on Earth” (found in Antarctica) managed to resuscitate bacteria that was dormant for eight million years, reports New Scientist. “This means ancient bacteria and viruses will come back to life as ice melts due to global warming.”

Does this mean some prehistoric super-bug could emerge from a frozen crypt and ravage human populations with a hideous plague? Of course. But it’s “unlikely.” This process of bacteria and viruses thawing after eons of dormancy “has been going on for billions of years,” according to the New Scientist report, “and the bugs are unlikely to cause human disease.”

Eight million years is a long time for bacteria to be asleep, or dead, or whatever. But it’s not a record. So far, the record is held by a little time traveler called “bacillus permians,” which was brought back to life after a 250 million year sleep. The bacteria was scraped from crystals near Carlsbad, New Mexico in 2000. (
Check out the complete article at Space.com.)

The 250-million-year-older raised questions as to whether or not bacteria “could live indefinitely.” If so, or even if it can last 250 to 500 million years, it lends support to astronomer Fred Hoyle’s controversial theory of life on Earth originating from space. According to the
Wikipedia entry on Holye, the astronomer suggested “life evolved in space, spreading through the universe via panspermia, and that evolution on earth is driven by a steady influx of viruses arriving via comets.”

Panspermia,
also according to Wikipedia, “is the hypothesis that ‘seeds’ of life exist already in the Universe, [and] that life on Earth may have originated through these ‘seeds.’”

And you know what, it’s not a new idea. One might think creation tales, where a god (or pack of gods) start life on Earth, answered questions about the origin of life before Charles Darwin came along. But the idea of panspermia goes back to the fifth century BC when Greek philosopher Anaxagoras toyed with the idea.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.