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No. 29: Sep-Oct 1993

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Life beyond 100c

Bacteria can survive and multiply in hot springs near and slightly above 100C -- the boiling point of water at atmospheric pressure. Few scientists have contemplated the possibility of life forms prospering at temperatures well beyond 100. Recently, however, the discovery of many new and frequently bizarre organisms clustered around deep-sea vents has forced a reexamination of high-temperature life. It seems that bacteria actually flourish in the 350C water streams from the deep-sea vents. In the lab, these same bacteria multiply rapidly in water at 250C kept liquid by pressures of 265 atmospheres of pressure. What a surprise! Quoting a concluding sentence from this article:

"This greatly increases the number of environments and conditions both on Earth and elsewhere in the Universe where life can exist."

(Baross, John A., and Deming, Jody W.; "Growth of 'Black Smoker' Bacteria at Temperatures of at Least 250C," Nature, 303:423, 1983.)

Comment. Ignoring for the moment the extraterrestrial possibilities, the earth is riddled like a Swiss cheese with hot, fluid environments, which we may now consider potential abodes of life. Subterranean life represents a new biological frontier. Who knows what kinds of organisms have developed to feed upon the planet's heat? Could they have con-tributed to our supplies of petroleum and natural gas?

From Science Frontiers #29, SEP-OCT 1983. 1983-2000 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