Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bacteria use radiated water as food

Geology news:
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and eight collaborating institutions report in this week's Science a self-sustaining community of bacteria that live in rocks 2.8 kilometers below Earth's surface. Think that's weird? The bacteria rely on radioactive uranium to convert water molecules to useable energy.

The discovery is a confirmed expansion of Earth's biosphere, the three-dimensional shell that encompasses all planetary life.

The research has less Earthly implications, however. It will likely fuel optimism that life exists in other deep subsurface environments, such as in groundwater beneath the permafrost on Mars. ...

"What really gets my juices flowing is the possibility of life below the surface of Mars," said Tullis Onstott, a Princeton University geoscientist and leader of the research team.
Weird. I vaguely remember a science fiction story about discovering beings living off radioactivity below deep mines. I'll wait for this to be confirmed and explained.