Damn Interesting Fun With Microbes

August 31st, 2008at 08:12pm Posted by Eli

Not sure how many of you read Damn Interesting (currently in reruns due to some book-writing-related program activities), but it is, well, exactly what it says: A compendium of obscure and fascinating information.

F’rinstance, did you know that 2.5 billion years ago, the Earth was almost fatally poisoned and frozen by an “oxygen catastrophe,” when cyanobacteria flooded the oceans and atmosphere with oxygen, which was poisonous to almost every lifeform on the planet, and which broke down the methane that was keeping temperatures above freezing?

The planet only pulled out of its deadly stall when the surviving bacteria started metabolizing oxygen into carbon dioxide, which replaced methane as the atmosphere’s greenhouse insulation.

(Which begs the question: What if there had been no cyanobacteria?  How would life have evolved in iron-rich seas and methane air?)

Or that there’s a sub-freezing (but still liquid) lake two miles underneath the Antarctic ice, which may or may not contain micro-organisms that have never been seen before?  Drilling was halted to prevent contamination from the surface world, as well as a possible deadly geyser of pressurized water.  The Russians are currently contemplating the use of a phallic drillbot to check it out.

Bizarre, fascinating stuff.

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Coolness,Environment,Science,Weirdness


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