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A Babe in the Universe


13 Jun 2011, 02:31 UTC
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

In Hawaii and Chile, we have seen two frightening examples of Earth's internal heat. The June 2 issue of NATURE reports the discovery of tiny worms or nematodes in a South African gold mine. The nematodes were found in water from depths over 3 kilometers. Previously scientists doubted that complex life forms could exist at such depths. In recent decades bacteria have been discovered living at great depths. The nematodes apparently live off the bacteria, their small size allowing them to exist in tiny cracks in the rock. Carbon-14 dating suggests that this watery habitat has not seen light for over 2900 years. Bacteria and nematodes form a subsurface ecosystem far removed from sunlight. The very existence of this liquid habitat is a byproduct of Earth's internal heat. Without this heat, water in Earth's interior would be frozen solid. Previously NASA astrobiologists, whom this scientist has had the pleasure of working with, discovered worm-like forms in a Martian meteorite. The Martian forms, resembling fossilized life, developed deep below the planet's surface billions of years ago. Discovery of nematodes deep in Earth's interior shows that even complex life forms can exist in planetary interiors. In 4 billion years, could worm-like bacteria ...

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