Tuesday Afternoon Roundup

As I finish off my day, three separate stories are rolling around in my head.

  • This year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone, that fun-loving anoxic zone of death, didn’t meet size expectations but is still the third largest. Is this good or bad? Texas not wanting to be outdone by Louisiana, now boasts its own dead zone.
  • Next is a paper published in a relatively unknown journal with a low impact factor but its findings, pending a further evaluation, are intriguing nonetheless. Researchers from Saint Louis University (SLU) and Peking University in China are revealing for the first time the findings of a discovery that could change the way we think about the development of life on Earth.

    Two years ago, Timothy Kusky, Ph.D., the Paul C. Reinert Professor of Natural Sciences at SLU, and Jianghai Li, a professor of geological science at Peking University, dug up hundreds of fossilized black smoker chimneys in northern China…The discovery is important, the researchers say, because it lends support to the theory that life on the planet developed on the sea floor.

    Why haven’t we heard more of this?

  • If we encountered alien life, would we recognize it? I don’t mean large, ambulatory, tentacle-snapping organisms with eyeballs on the ends of stalks. Those are always obvious. I’m talking about the low-key, chilled-out microscopic life-forms that might be lurking below the surface of Mars, or beneath the crust of one of Jupiter’s jumbo moons, or in some such exotic, slightly scuzzy planetary environment where you’d definitely never find a Starbucks. What are we looking for, exactly, when we search for alien life? What is life?

    writes Joel Achenbach. The answer provided by the National Research Council, “The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems.” Life may exist in forms completely unlike anything we see on Earth. We need to keep our minds open to the possible existence of Weird Life. The novel adaptations that deep-sea life exhibit and the strange forms use to jar me a bit. Now I am much more used to it. Weird life indeed, maybe astrobiologists need to hire me as a consultant.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

2 Replies to “Tuesday Afternoon Roundup”

  1. Regarding the black smokers (which I’ve posted about myself), it’s an exciting find, but it should be emphasised that whilst these things are 1.4 billion years old, there’s evidence of life going back more than twice as far in the geological record. Given that, some of the press releases are a little far-reaching in their claims…

  2. Yeah, maybe the “life” that scientists are looking for out there – isn’t even carbon based.

    maybe it’s silicate based.

    ever consider that?

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