Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 31: Jan-Feb 1984

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Early Life And Magnetism

The tiny granules of magnetite found in magnetized sediments come in various crystalline forms. Inorganic magnetite precipitated from molten rock is octahedral, while the particles manufactured by bacteria are cubes, hexagonal prisms, or noncrystalline teardrops. The magnetite found in marine sediments appears to be organically formed -- at least the shapes of the particles are characteristic of bacterial manufacture. Apparently these industrious bacteria have been busy producing magnetite ever since "lowly" life forms appeared in the Precambrian.

These facts pose at least four questions:

  1. How much of the earth's iron ore has been concentrated biologically and is there a connection with the Gaia Hypothesis?
  2. Is it possible that magnetic field reversals, now believed to be of purely geophysical origin, might be biological artifacts (that is, due to population and/ or species changes of magnetic bacteria)?
  3. If magnetic field reversals are of geophysical origin, how do the magnetic bacteria find their food sources during the long periods of near-zero field?
  4. Lab experiments prove that magnetic bacteria require free oxygen to secrete magnetite, but the Precambrian atmosphere and oceans were supposedly devoid of oxygen until 2.3 billion years ago. How did the magnetic bacteria prosper before then?

(Simon, C.; "Tiniest Fossils May Record Magnetic Field," Science News, 124:308, 1983.)

From Science Frontiers #31, JAN-FEB 1984. 1984-2000 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