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No. 18: Nov-Dec 1981

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Life's origin within the earth?

Biologists usually hark back to warm, sunlit swamps and tidal pools when contemplating the origin of life. Lately, Hoyle has proposed a cosmochemical origin (see OR DID IT DRIFT IN FROM WITHOUT?). Few look within the earth. Yet, when Mt. St. Helens erupt-ed it essentially sterilized all lakes and ponds in the immediate area as far as known life forms were concerned, and then introduced previously unknown chemosynthetic bacteria. At least, this is one interpretation. Scientists at Oregon State University found the waters around the volcano to be teeming with these bacteria, up to a billion per drop. The bacteria resemble nothing in the local soil but do seem related to bacteria existing around Precambrian volcanos.

(Anonymous; "Secrets of Life in a Volcano?" Boston Globe, July 14, 1981.)

Comment. Were the new bacteria in the volcanic ejecta or had they just gone unnoticed in the soil? Could the hot rocks, geothermal brines, and restless magmas beneath our feet be the real cradle of terrestrial life, with photosynthesis-dependent surface species being relatively unimportant to the big picture?

From Science Frontiers #18, NOV-DEC 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987