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No. 84: Nov-Dec 1992

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It Came From Within

Life did, that is! Forget that warm little pond where life incubated according to all the textbooks. Instead, says T. Gold, an iconoclastic Cornell physicist, life began in rocky fissures deep down in the earth's crust. The idea is not as unlikely as it sounds. Look at the most primitive life forms we know, the archaebacteria. They like heat, need neither air nor sunlight, and prosper on sulfur compounds for sustenance. Such bacteria are today found in boreholes as deep as 500 meters, in thermal springs, and around deepsea vents. Gold surmises that these archaebacteria migrated to the surface long ago, where they evolved into higher forms of life.

"Gold argues, moreover, that the earth's interior would have provided a much more hospitable environment for proto-life four billion years ago than the surface would have, ravaged as it was by asteroids and cosmic radiation. And if life emerged within the earth, then why not within other planets? 'Deep, chemically supplied life,' Gold says, 'may be very common in the universe.'"

(Horgan, John; "It Came from Within," Scientific American, 267:20, September 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #84, NOV-DEC 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss