British boffins aboard the Royal Research Ship James Cook in the Caribbean say they have discovered the world's deepest known "black smoker" - a hot spring deep in the sunless oceanic abyss, home to bizarre organisms which may be brother to alien lifeforms on other worlds. "Seeing the world's deepest black-smoker vents looming …
Exploring hot clefts...
...I wonder how many crabs they found?
Yes, yes, I'm going.
that the eco nuts don't see that video clip of all the black gunk being dumped into the oceans.
There'll be protest marches all over the place.
Imagine the Earth despoiling the er... Earth.
Ah yes but...
Don't you realise that's "natural" black gunk, and probably organic? Nothing like that nasty oil stuff.
Also superheated water at immense pressure would be a wonderful source of clean ... er ... free ... er ... renewable energy. You could pressure cook a whole whale in minutes with just one of those vents.
It's the brown corduroy jacket with the "Acquaintances of the Earth" badge pinned to it.
Oil is as oil does
According to Thomas Gold the whole core of the planet is carbon rich. This stuff is all produced by the subteranean creatures.
Actually according to the Russians the world's igneous rock might be the produce of these creatures. They certainly seem to have the market cornered in sub igneous rock research.
Western mores tend toward the mental agility of East Anglian Climatologists.
So no sunlight.
and seing as they've just discovered life that exists and reproduces without oxygen would it be too much of a leap to think that there's life that exists in the absence of water too?
Silicon based lifeform anybody.
All right yes it probably is too much of a leap, but it is fascinating how just damned persistent life is once it gets going.
Thumbs up for the genome!
Rather than being a completely different form of life, these organisms have evolved from those that lived in much less extreme conditions. They show how powerful evolution is, but they don't make it any more or less likely that radically different chemistries can be involved in life.
What they do make more likely is that carbon-based life can exist in places we never thought of previously. When black smoke colonies were first discovered it was only a small leap to imagine similar ecosystems appearing in the internal oceans of moons like Europa and Enceladus.
You may be interested to know that one of theories of pre-monocellular life on Earth is that the patterns of silicates found on certain rocks acted as catalytic templates to encourage copies of certain proteins. On earth it's theorised this evolved into the RNA/DNA/Ribosome process of cellular reproduction.
It *might* be possible to construct an ecosystem where that step did not happen and the ingredients went down a path based on silicates and silcones.
Note that oxygen is present in this environment but IIRC the key ingredient is Sulphur. The whole environment is at roughly 480 atmospheres, with a *big* temperature gradient once you leave a close area around the smoker.
BTW I dimly recall some species of bacteria that live in metal mines (Welsh Iron mines?) which secrete sulphuric acid to leach out the metal for use in various chemical cycles.
While these environments demonstrate life can evolve in some *very* hostile environments most test for life will remain geared to environments we believe it can evolve in. The moons of Jupiter and Saturn are plausible candidate, while Mercury and Venus are (currently) viewed as not feasible.
Mine will be the one with "Vitals" in the pocket.
Or maybe the reverse is true?
The earth hasn't always been this hospitable. Perhaps these extremophiles are the last remnants of the earliest life on earth that sat around their sulpher vents denying Bacteria-Made Climate Change, while the rest of us evolved to cope with a cooler planet?
Maybe they're rubbing their whatever they rub together at the prospect of a return to those warmer days. Maybe they're the ones doing the warming!
The problem with silicon-based life
is that it can't exist. Carbon is unique on the periodic table for its ability to form millions of stable compounds and highly complex molecules, such as carbohyrate and protein chains, a property essential for the formation of life. Silicon simply cannot form these complex molecules. Consider the alkane series: CH4 (methane), C2H6 (ethane), C3H8 (propane), C4H10 (butane) and so on. The silicon equivalents are SiH4 (silane) and Si2H6 (di-silane). There is no silicon equivalent of propane and butane because any chains more complex than di-silane immediately break down into silane and di-silane. If silicon can't even form stable molecules in the alkane series, how much less so can it form the equivalents of carbohydrate and protein chains? Therefore, because of this unique property of carbon, all life must by definition be carbon-based, since no other element can form molecule chains complex enough to support the process.
The Earth still smokes?
How old fashioned.
You'd think it would know better..
Strip mining ahoy!
It's worth pointing out that the black smoke itself is rich in metallic sulfides leached out of the molten rock below the surface. Many of our existing copper/lead/zinc/silver 'massive sulfide deposits' (geologists never use a complex term if a good old-fashioned bit of plain speaking will do) are the fossilised remnants of these smokers and there could be money in them thar rifts for anyone with a bucket and a really long length of rope.
Exploring hot clefts 2
And it's wet!
Ironic ship name
Considering James Cook himself ended up in the stew pot...
(The flame icon - gas mark 2 for the good captain, and bake him slowly.)