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No. 57: May-Jun 1988

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Subterranean life! (part 3)

We almost forgot this recent tidbit from Science News that mentions microscopic life forms:

"In recent years, scientists have found bacteria, as far down as 1,150 feet, in wells that penetrate deeply buried aquifers -- porous layers of rock that hold underground water. Such finds have forced hydrologists to question their traditional belief that deep aquifers were devoid of life. But it was not clear whether these bacteria were native residents of the aquifers or just contaminants from the world above, living solely within the wells. Moreover, no one had established how the bacteria were affecting the environment, if at all."

Experiments have now shown that these subterranean bacteria are indigenous and are important to groundwater chem istry. The bacteria feed on organic molecules and display a curious propensity for metabolizing the carbon-13 isotope rather than carbon-12. Thus, carbon dissolved in some deep aquifer water is enriched in carbon-13 compared to surface water. None of the bacteria found so far seems dangerous to humans. (Monastersky, R.; "Bacteria Alive and Thriving at Depth," Science News, 133: 149, 1988.)

Comment. Subterranean bacteria may be associated with the creation of oil and natural gas.

From Science Frontiers #57, MAY-JUN 1988. 1988-2000 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