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Earth Science

Earth May Harbor a Shadow Biosphere of Alien Life 267

Posted by kdawson
from the but-not-as-we-know-it dept.
An anonymous reader sends us to Cosmos Magazine for a speculative article arguing that a 'shadow biosphere' may exist on Earth, unrelated to life as we know it. If such non-carbon-based life were found here at home, it would alter the odds for how common life is elsewhere in the universe, astrobiologists say. "The tools and experiments researchers use to look for new forms of life — such as those on missions to Mars — would not detect biochemistries different from our own, making it easy for scientists to miss alien life, even if [it] was under their noses. ... Scientists are looking in places where life isn't expected — for example, in areas of extreme heat, cold, salt, radiation, dryness, or contaminated streams and rivers. [One researcher] is particularly interested in places that are heavily contaminated with arsenic, which, he suggests, might support forms of life that use arsenic the way life as we know it uses phosphorus."
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Earth May Harbor a Shadow Biosphere of Alien Life

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  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xamedes (843781) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:34AM (#26870549)
    It's life, Jim. But not as we know it.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Why is it that I always think of this [youtube.com] whenever I hear that line?

      (No, it isn't Rick Astley)

    • Not as we know it,
      Not as we know it.

    • Chief Medical Officer McCoy was on a first-name basis with Kirk, so it would be "He's dead, Jim" when one of the Red Shirts got zapped or "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" or something to that effect.

      Chief Science Officer Spock also had a close relationship with Kirk, but he would only call him "Jim" on rare occasions when he would let his Vulcan-logic show-no-emotion guard down for a a nanosecond. I am sure it would be "It's life, Captain, but not as we know it." Also, the determination of

      • by rk (6314)

        I'll bet you're a lot of fun at parties. At the risk of some redundancy, I'll post this again [youtube.com] in case you missed it when dkleinsc posted it the first time.

  • Motives (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:36AM (#26870555)

    [One researcher] is particularly interested in places that are heavily contaminated with arsenic, which, he suggests, might support forms of life that use arsenic the way life as we know it uses phosphorus."

    Or the researcher is secretly needing arsenic to do his more brilliant colleague in the old Victorian-era way, having learnt from too many Agatha Christie novels.

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      [One researcher] is particularly interested in places that are heavily contaminated with arsenic, which, he suggests, might support forms of life that use arsenic the way life as we know it uses phosphorus."

      Nah, he's just getting ready to ask for a defense research grant to look for life forms that use phosphorus the way we use arsenic ... "imagine the weaponizing possibilities."

      If that fails, he's going to ask for a bailout and a "retention bonus."

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:39AM (#26870575) Homepage Journal
    ...may exist on Earth but we won't be able to look for it until we define it.

    Sounds pretty clear to me. Maybe rocks are intelligent. How would we know? Has anybody thought to ask?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BikeHelmet (1437881)

      We can't communicate with rocks.

      This reminds me of something I read a while back. Some scientists observed various metal molecules joining together into a helix structure.

      They didn't do much beyond that, though... but it makes me wonder if carbon based life coming around on earth was just a fluke? It could've possibly gone another way, if we hadn't gotten there first?

    • by Gabrill (556503) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:16AM (#26870729)

      After a lengthy, one-sided dialogue with the nearest rock, I conclude that your theory is false.

      • by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:18AM (#26870737)

        After a lengthy, one-sided dialogue with the nearest rock, I conclude that your theory is false.

        After many zen practitioners' lengthy, two-way dialogues with rocks near and far, your test criteria seem to be flawed.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:31AM (#26870789)

          You both have a point. The question is, where do you draw the line at what is life? Rocks may not have DNA or intelligence, but they do form, change, multiply and there's a recognisable process for destroying them. In a sense, rocks are a lot like the most basic forms of life that ever formed.

          Let's be a little more serious now. Rocks around here probably won't ever advance beyond mimicking some very shaky comparisons to the most basic forms of life. But that doesn't stop us wondering if we're just seeing it on too small a scale to make that judgment. Perhaps it's safer to treat rocks as a failed attempt at life, one that happens too slowly to ever get beyond basic chemical reactions and simple molecular structures.

          If it weren't for carbon-based life, who knows?

          • by dotancohen (1015143) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:00AM (#26870919) Homepage

            You both have a point. The question is, where do you draw the line at what is life? Rocks may not have DNA or intelligence, but they do form, change, multiply and there's a recognisable process for destroying them.

            Rocks do not have gaseous exchange (breathing) nor reproduce (cracking a rock to make two is _not_ reprodction). However, there is no definition of life that fire cannot meet, which the mule can. In other words, any non-contrived definition of life that includes the mule must also include fire. Here is a very basic explanation: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by doti (966971)

            we're just seeing it on too small a scale to make that judgment.

            specially time-scale.

            perhaps they are intelligent, but if you talk to it for days, it can be just a split-second for the rock; and if the rock want's to tell you something, it won't finish the first word before you die of old age (or boredom).

            tolkien's ents come to mind..

            • by doti (966971)

              err.. the <quote> didn't work there on the first sentence

            • by JamesP (688957)

              perhaps they are intelligent, but if you talk to it for days, it can be just a split-second for the rock; and if the rock want's to tell you something, it won't finish the first word before you die of old age (or boredom).

              tolkien's ents come to mind..

              This sooo reminds me of my boss...

            • by tukkayoot (528280)

              perhaps they are intelligent, but if you talk to it for days, it can be just a split-second for the rock; and if the rock want's to tell you something, it won't finish the first word before you die of old age (or boredom).

              It's called endurium.

          • by drsmithy (35869)

            Rocks may not have DNA or intelligence, but they do form, change, multiply and there's a recognisable process for destroying them.

            How many of these things happen without an outside force causing them ?

        • by Gabrill (556503) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:32AM (#26870799)

          As the Zen practicioners are indistinguishable from day-dreamers such as my 9 year old son, your refutiation is meaningless.

          • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:27AM (#26871345) Homepage Journal

            As the Zen practicioners are indistinguishable from day-dreamers such as my 9 year old son, your refutiation is meaningless.

            Not really. They've studied the brains of Zen practitioners in meditation and have determined that Zen meditation actually increases brainwave significantly -- more so than even normal daydreaming.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Mr. Slippery (47854)

            As the Zen practicioners are indistinguishable from day-dreamers such as my 9 year old son, your refutiation is meaningless.

            If your nine year old will, of his own volition, sit still for an hour at a time, you've either heavily medicated him, or have done an extraordinary job of parenting.

            Anyway, the mental state of zazen is quite distinct from daydreaming, so Zen practitioners are distinguishable from daydreamers by the descriptions they give of their experiences.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by xstonedogx (814876)

        By that criteria must we also conclude that girls are not intelligent?

      • by Exitar (809068)

        It simply fell asleep because you're sooooo boring...

      • by pato101 (851725)

        After a lengthy, one-sided dialogue with the nearest rock, I conclude that your theory is false.

        Please, try again, but now taking some LSD.

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Perhaps it was simply not interested in communicating with an ugly bag of mostly water [slashdot.org].

    • Maybe rocks are intelligent. How would we know? Has anybody thought to ask?

      The creative forces behind this video [youtube.com] have put some thought into it.

    • by tyroneking (258793) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:33AM (#26871379)

      I'm pretty sure Spock talked to rocks - and Kirk may have made love to one

    • My personal POV is that the whole universe is alive, is synonymous to God, full of love, and that all living beings share a collective super-consciousness, which is the only "place" where the "reality" actually happens. The only reason for which my theory could be any less valid than any other, could be that less people perceive the world this way.
      • My personal POV is that the whole universe is alive, is synonymous to God, full of love, and that all living beings share a collective super-consciousness, which is the only "place" where the "reality" actually happens. The only reason for which my theory could be any less valid than any other, could be that less people perceive the world this way.

        The Minbari happen to agree with you. It's a very interesting philosophy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by h4rm0ny (722443)

        Have you read some of the recent stuff about the Universe being a hologram? The Universe would not be God, but merely a thought of God, or the interaction of two separate beings. One becomes two. Two become many. ;) At any rate, it's a beautiful idea you have and you're not the only one that thinks about it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kulnor (856639)
      "For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks."
      Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites
    • by Legion303 (97901)

      "Has anybody thought to ask?"

      You find me a university that will give me tenure and a paid ten-year sabbatical to find out, and I'll give it a shot.

    • by Alarash (746254)
      I think they are thinking about the Old Ones. Finally somebody to believe Lovecraft.
  • I think everyone who's ever seen the original Star Trek Episode "Devil in the Dark" (the one with the Horta, the silicone-based rock creature that Spock mind melds with to share its emo about being a rock) has been waiting for some scientist to start looking for these things.

    On behalf of all trekkies from Boomer to Gen X, it's about damn time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      the silicone-based rock creature that Spock mind melds with to share its emo about being a rock

      Silicone? OMG smart breasts!

      (I think you mean silicon).

      • by yttrstein (891553)
        I do indeed. Or do I? Silicone based life forms may indeed be worth looking for.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by The_Wilschon (782534)
          Actually yes. Silicon based life forms, or so I understand (IANA biochemist), are rather unlikely because of the chemical instability of silicon based polymers, but silicone based life forms are a much better possibility.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            silicone based life forms are a much better possibility.

            They have already been shown to exist in Southern California.

    • by wisty (1335733) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:48AM (#26870629)

      Or Red Dwarf, "The End".

      Captain Hollister: Just one thing before the disco. Holly tells me that he has sensed a non-human life form aboard.

      Lister: Sir, it's Rimmer

      • by Cally (10873)
        Not only was Rimmer right ("Space aliens!"), rather more worryingly, so was David Icke. It's the LIZARD PEOPLE!!! Run for the hills!!! - NLRA Spokesperson
    • Silicon based life is pretty far fetched, the temperature requirements for chemical reactions are pretty high compared to carbon based polymers. Even the silicone we commercially are primarily carbon chains with as silane [wikipedia.org] base or two attached.

      Personally I'd look to Archea for examples of possible hidden biospheres; theose guys are turning up all over the place and not too many years ago we we thought they were just a few fringe niche creatures.

  • by Shrike82 (1471633) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:41AM (#26870585)
    Interesting theory, but I seem to remember my biology teacher discussing silicon-based life, and how it was much less likely to develop as carbon atoms produced much more stable molecules, especially on planets like Earth with water and nitrogen/oxygen atmospheres. Carbon-based life just "works" better on Earth.

    On planets with radcially different environments there's probably a lot of potential for life that's totally different from ours, but I think it's fairly unlikely for us to discover it here.
    • by yttrstein (891553)
      RTFA:

      "Davies is particularly interested in places that are heavily contaminated with arsenic, which, he suggests, might support forms of life that use arsenic the way life as we know it uses phosphorus."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ashtead (654610)

        Yes, and both phosphorus and arsenic are Group V, with 5 electrons in their outer shell so they can be expected to have chemical properties that are similar. But the main material of living things, carbon, will more than likely be the same, for reasons of carbon's unique abilities to form complex compounds.

        Silicon-based life with phosphor or arsenic? Apart from this sounding very much like the list of main ingreidents for N-type semiconductor material; silicon, while in Group IV like carbon, with 4 electr

    • by gilleain (1310105) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:16AM (#26870999)
      Exactly right. Carbon rich molecules are more diverse and larger than any other sort.

      You can form chains or rings of around 6 sulphurs (with oxygen), but carbon can be found in chains of 30+ atoms and in multiple ring systems.

      It's very difficult to grasp how large the isomer spaces are - and how quickly they grow, but a recent guestimate I made was that if a program (molgen) can enumerate all possible C10H16 molecules in 2 seconds, and all C13H22 in 2 minutes, then it would take 2 days for C18H36 and 1 billion years for C36H72...

      Also, there are 25,000 C10s and 9 million C15s. So the sheer number of possible carbon compounds argues that carbon is the only likely candidate.

      • by Nazlfrag (1035012)

        No, it just means it's a likely candidate, but it's not the only candidate by a long shot.

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:35AM (#26871067) Journal
      "nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere"

      Without carbon-based life, such an atmosphere would not exist on Earth.

      Of course the whole problem with all this is we do not have a good definition for "life" or "intelligence". For example an ants nest can be considered as a single intelligent organisim or a swarm of mindless individuals. The same concept applied on a global scale is what Lovelock's [wikipedia.org] much maligned Gaia hypothesis [wikipedia.org] was all about.
    • by Richard Kirk (535523) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:02AM (#26871219)

      You can't swap silicon for carbon in DNA. Silicon doesn't have the same talent for directionally bonding to itself. You can get get multiple bonds if you stick an oxygen in between, but the oxygen always has electron pairs that make it open to attack. There is no equivalent of the stable and inert paraffin chain.

      If you were to have silicon-based life, then it would probably not use chain molecules. Suppose you had a planar silicate structure that catalysed the formation of a similar layer on top of it. The layers might then separate or exfoliate and then catalyse other copies of themselves. Some formations would be more stable, or would come out of solution at lower concentrations, and thereby 'predating' on less successful conformations by lowering the conentration of valuable components, and causing the other to go back into solution.

      This is pretty dull sort of life - it isn't really much more than crystallization. No antennae, no ray-guns, no 'greetings earthlings, we come in peace'. However, carbon-based life was probably a pretty dull affair before the cell wall. It would have relied on random variations in ambient chemistry and temperature to do anything, and a lot of time must have been spent waiting for the right conditions for the next move. The simpler viruses are more like big chemicals than small creatures.

      I remember a Scientific American article from about 1983 where it was argued that some of the lamellar structures that you can get in pre-cambrian clays may have been just such a system. No easy way of telling now, of course, because carbon based life would probably have killed it off. If it could be said to have been alive in the first place.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gilleain (1310105)

        There is an excellent book by Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith called "Seven Clues to the Origin of Life" that talks about such self-replicating clay

        The main feature of his argument is that the clay surfaces could serve as templates for catalysis of polynucleotides (RNA, probably). These, then would form the first RNA world.

        He uses the metaphor of a rope, where no strand goes from one end to the other - the rope is time, and strands within it are clayworld, rna world, dna world...

      • by mangu (126918) on Monday February 16, 2009 @01:09PM (#26874741)

        I think you are absolutely right. It seems that many people cannot understand how special the carbon atom is. They assume that our life being based on carbon wouldn't exclude life based on other atoms somewhere else.

        Not true. There's a special, unique property in the carbon atom orbital structure that allows very complex structures. No other atom has that quality, unless some basic constants of the universe were changed. It's like comparing a set of Lego blocks with a box of marbles.

        The same goes for temperature, to get life one needs a liquid solution that lets molecules interact. With a solid there's no interaction, with a gas the molecules don't stick together, so one needs a liquid for transporting the elements of life. If a planet is too cold or too hot life will not appear. These are some basic limits on the physics and chemistry that will allow for complex chemistry to gradually evolve.

        And the funny thing is that we have both theory and experiment telling us that life isn't very common in the universe. We haven't found any sign of life in either Mars or Venus, which a hundred years ago many people thought would certainly have life. If planets like Venus and Mars, that are very close to the Earth in their characteristics, didn't create life, then one should assume that our position is very special.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jmbjr (1279360)

        You can't swap silicon for carbon in DNA. Silicon doesn't have the same talent for directionally bonding to itself.

        I'm not a chemist and I'm not really sure where to look, but does carbon only have this unique talent for directionally bonding to itself at ANY temperature and pressure? Is it conceivable for another element to develop this property at radically different environments?

  • You can pry my bottle of Head & Shoulders from my cold, dead, carbon-based hands! Now get those freakozoids out of my beloved state!
  • by tucuxi (1146347) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:48AM (#26870623)

    Not an expert in biology, but unless these contaminated areas have been contaminated for a very long time (read tens of thousands of years), and are quite large, the chances for life to have sprung up seem very, very slim. Current life needed millions of years to gain a firm foothold and start building up complexity. Lucky meteorites aside, starting from zero is bound to be hard.

    If the experiment succeeds (here or elsewhere), and something "life-ish" is found, the results will still be tricky to classify. Can a given chemistry lead to increasing complexity, or is it just a dead end? Without hindsight, this seems like a very difficult question.

    • by N1AK (864906)

      Not an expert in biology, but unless these contaminated areas have been contaminated for a very long time (read tens of thousands of years), and are quite large, the chances for life to have sprung up seem very, very slim.

      Actually area available for life to live in is not really what we should be comparing. Most scientific theories regarding the creation of a life are based upon a very particular requirements, life will not for example simply spring up in the middle of your back yard. If these 'contaminated

    • I think the idea is that if you kill off all the carbon life in some river, the (preexisting but uncommon) other life is much more likely to flourish and be plentiful there. Same way that we get antibiotic resistant bacteria.
    • Can a given chemistry lead to increasing complexity, or is it just a dead end?

      Why is "increasing complexity" a requirement for life? It's clearly a requirement for evolution, but I don't see any reason why something "lifelike" but alien might not have a very simple "maximum complexity" compared to standard carbon-based earthly life forms.

    • by Teun (17872)
      You seem to imply this contamination needs be man made.
      In the sense of the article volcanic areas on our planet can typically be classed as contaminated and have been so for millions of years.

      Especially sub sea volcanic vents are known to harbour life forms that are really special and studies have only just started.

  • not buying it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:59AM (#26870681)
    some of these arguments often sound plausible until you examine the mechanics for life. water for instance, has unique properties not shared by any other compound - the ability to be neutral, liquid at reasonable temps and be able to transport other elements. the same goes for carbon. nothing else is going to be able to put together a tangible life form.
    • Re:not buying it. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by deimtee (762122) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:00AM (#26871579) Journal
      Neutral is what doesn't dissolve you.:) It is not neccessarily aqueous pH7 for everything.
      The most likely alternate chemistry for life though, is carbon based, but using ammonia instead of water. At above about 70 psi, and somewhere below zero celsius it has a liquid range and chemistry similar to water. Given a larger, colder planet than earth with a thick atmosphere, life in liquid ammonia is the most probable option.
  • I can easily believe that much of the fundamental chemistry of this "alien" life could be different. I'm sure there are plenty of ways to chemically move energy around that don't require phosphorous. One thing I think we will find is a constant though is that life will be carbon based*. It's just not possible to make a wide enough range of complex molecules with any element other than carbon. Even if we look at the next best atom for making complex molecules, silicon, and the simplest lifeforms we know abou

  • by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:38AM (#26870831)
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826533.600-early-life-could-have-relied-on-arsenic-dna.html [newscientist.com] tried looking up some examples of non carbon based life on earth that I'd heard of but couldn't find any however the ecology of undersea volcanic vents pretty much threw most ideas about heat tolerance and toxins being a problem out of the window.
    • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:58AM (#26871563)

      Just look up Extremophiles....

      They live practically everywhere including in boiling acid, semi liquid rocks, extreme cold, and on black smokers as above ... it seems that everytime discounts an environment for carbon/DNA based life someone else finds life there ...

      I doubt there are many niches for non-carbon based life around for them to exploit on Earth.... other planets may have different forms of life ...

  • by moshez (67187) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:03AM (#26871227) Homepage

    "They're made of meat."

    "Meat?"

    http://home.earthlink.net/~paulrack/id82.html [earthlink.net]

    • by pavon (30274) on Monday February 16, 2009 @01:20PM (#26874889)

      My favorite thing about that story is thinking about what sort of world these creatures came from. The fact that they know what meat is means that they have seen it (or something close to what we call meat), and obviously anything that is similar enough to be recognizable as meat, would be living tissue of sort. But the fact that they are repulsed by the fact that a sentient life form is made of this stuff, would make me think that they have never seen it in any sort of animate life whatsoever

      So on their world muscle tissue must be some sort of inanimate life form like plants, or coral. This is somewhat weird as the whole purpose of muscle tissue is to move. Most of the inanimate life forms that we know on earth are designed to (more or less) passively absorb what they need to survive from the environment through photosynthesis and mineral absorption, whereas meat-based animals can rarely passively absorb what they need and rely on hunting to survive. Furthermore, meat required more nutrients and energy to support than the tissues needed for passive energy collection. But apparently the meat they have seen in the past has been "dumb" or passive enough that they were surprised when they saw it in something that they recognized as life.

      So what would this alien meat be moving? Maybe it is more like heart or lung muscle than limb muscle and was pumping surrounding liquid into itself so it could absorb all the nutrients and then spit it back out - might be more efficient than passively collecting whatever liquid happened to flow near it. What would be controlling the meat - most of the muscle-bound creatures I can think of have a central nervous system to control them, but these must be more like a simple pacemaker or very simple chemical sensor/response mechanism.

      And more importantly where can I get this amorphous meat to put into my garden/aquarium/floating gas clouds :)

  • by wisdom_brewing (557753) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:55AM (#26871539) Homepage
    dark basements below older human habitation? im sure theyll find a new asexual species resembling man...
  • by bcwright (871193) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:09AM (#26871655)

    I don't know what the original article said (the site is thoroughly slashdotted), but finding life based on alternative chemistry won't "alter the odds" - it will just alter our computation of the odds. That immediately raises my suspicions since it suggests that the article was written by a journalist rather than a scientist, and consequently that it might be severely distorted.

    Having said that, there are a lot of possible alternative chemistries that don't involve non-carbon-based life: substituting arsenic for phosphorus as mentioned here need not also substitute something else for carbon, so the most likely possibility is that such life would be carbon based but still "alien." As far as we know now, at Earthly temperatures and pressures carbon is a far more plausible basis for life than anything else, and so far we haven't even found much that's very promising at other temperatures and pressures. But I'm not at all sure that we have sufficiently explored alternative temperatures and pressures to rule them out as possible habitats.

  • Deep Ocean (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CustomDesigned (250089) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:22AM (#26871791) Homepage Journal

    I didn't find it on Google, but about 30 years ago I read an account of a creature like a giant sand dollar that was dislodged from the deep ocean by an undersea earthquake. I can't verify it until I find a reference, but I recall that the scientist examining it found that it was largely silicon, hydrogen, and sulphur (and decayed rapidly giving off H2S). His theory was that it was silicon based life - and that its chemistry required deep ocean temperature and pressure to remain stable. (Note that there are carbon based ocean creatures able to process silicon to create SiO2 structures.)

    • Unfortunately this isn't really evidence of anything, as grasses contain large amounts of silica, presumably for strength and protection. Whether an organism goes down the calcium carbonate or the silica route depends on its habitat. Oysters are "largely calcium carbonate", but they are definitely not a calcium-based life form.
  • "Alien"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PriceIke (751512) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:44AM (#26872021)
    "Alien" means "not from here." If our planet harbors a resident life form which we're not aware of, that doesn't make them alien. It just makes us ignorant.
  • How do we kill that which has no life?
  • by pmanx (1478953) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:00AM (#26872201)
    Note that Carl Zimmer wrote about this exact research in greater detail about a year and a half ago in Discover magazine. Take a look: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/aliens-among-us/ [discovermagazine.com] The story even includes the line about "life as we don't know it"!
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:08AM (#26872319)
    Now where have I heard this before? Oh yeah! http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=are-aliens-among-us [sciam.com]
  • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Monday February 16, 2009 @02:29PM (#26875821)
    You can find a brief description here [nasa.gov].

    The article suggests that the hydrogen was produced only when rocks crack, meaning that the microbes' food supply was meager and sporadic. Now Freund has discovered a chemical process in Earth's crust that may produce enough hydrogen to feed a mass of underground life larger than the mass of all living things at the surface. "[T]he rocks around them will replenish the hydrogen supplyÃÂ--indefinitely, over eons of time," said Freund.

    Talk about a shadow life form.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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