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No. 91: Jan-Feb 1994

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Pizzaspermia!

We got a good laugh from that report of a fall of frozen pizza in SF#90, but now the phenomenon has suddenly become more serious! At about the same time Sky and Telescope printed the frozen pizza item, Time had a cover story on the origin of life. It was in response to this story that M.D. Greene wrote the following letter to Time :

"Forget bubbles, comets or ocean vents. Scientists should be looking at pizza for the answer. I can remember when my college roommates and I routinely created life every week in our refrigerator. My theory is that around 4.5 billion years ago, the earth was bombarded by intergalactic pizzas. These then provided the ideal breeding ground in which early organisms could thrive and later evolve."

(Greene, Mark D.; "How Life Began," Time, 142:8, November 1, 1993.)

Comment. Charles Fort would certainly have chuckled over the near-simultaneous mentions of intergalactic pizzas in two diverse publications.

A second report underscores the mystery presented by the unexpected diversity of life in the deep-sea ooze. J.D. Gage and R.M. May ponder in Nature :

"Why there should be such exuberant biological diversity in an environment apparently lacking in the habitat complexity of, say, tropical rain forest -- whose species richness it might rival -- remains an enigma."

In fact, the enigma becomes more profound when one finds there exists a "depth effect" paralleling the terrestrial "altitude effect."

"This phenomenon is associated with an increase in species richness with depth, and is essentially like the pattern of increasing numbers of plant and animal species as one moves down from mountain tops to sea level."

This "depth effect" is just the opposite of what one would expect as one descends into the ever blacker, ever colder, higher-ambient-pressure environment. The cause(s) of this increasing biological diversity eludes us.

(Gage, John D., and May, Robert M.; "A Dip into the Deep Seas," Nature, 365:609, 1993.)

From Science Frontiers #91, JAN-FEB 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss