Science Frontiers
The Unusual & Unexplained

Strange Science * Bizarre Biophysics * Anomalous astronomy
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About Science Frontiers

Science Frontiers is the bimonthly newsletter providing digests of reports that describe scientific anomalies; that is, those observations and facts that challenge prevailing scientific paradigms. Over 2000 Science Frontiers digests have been published since 1976.

These 2,000+ digests represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Sourcebook Project, which publishes Science Frontiers, also publishes the Catalog of Anomalies, which delves far more deeply into anomalistics and now extends to sixteen volumes, and covers dozens of disciplines.

Over 14,000 volumes of science journals, including all issues of Nature and Science have been examined for reports on anomalies. In this context, the newsletter Science Frontiers is the appetizer and the Catalog of Anomalies is the main course.


Subscriptions to the Science Frontiers newsletter are no longer available.

Compilations of back issues can be found in Science Frontiers: The Book, and original and more detailed reports in the The Sourcebook Project series of books.

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Search results for: microbes

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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 100: Jul-Aug 1995 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Microbes Threaten Radiocarbon Dating In the 1980s, skeptics had a lot of fun debunking the Shroud of Turin, the supposed burial cloth wrapped around Christ. Their glee was unbounded when radiocarbon dating "proved" that the shroud could not be older than 700 years. The skeptics may have been too quick to celebrate, because the samples that were sent to the radiocarbon lab may not have been wholly cloth. The reality of our biosphere is that virtually everything is permeated with microbes and their products. S.J . Mattingly and L.A . Garza-Valdes, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, have been studying "biogenic varnishes" for years. These plastic-like coatings are produced by bacteria and fungi. Sure enough, microscopic examination of a few linen fibers from the Shroud of Turin show that they, too, are coated with such varnishes. These biogenic varnishes may introduce carbon that has been recently fixed from the atmosphere and thus make the sample's age appear younger than it really is. (Travis, John; "Microbes Muddle Shroud of Turin's Age," Science News, 147:346, 1995.) Comment. More than the Shroud is at stake here. Bacteria contaminate just about everything, including wood and bone from archeological sites. Bacteria may, therefore, "rejuvenate" samples sent in for radiocarbon dating. The importance of this phenomenon is still unclear. Cross reference ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 18: Nov-Dec 1981 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Or did it drift in from without?Hoyle and Wickramasinghe conceive the cosmos as a seething retort of energy, gases, dust, and, most significantly, organic molecules and microbes. The space between the stars is more important than the stars themselves, for this thin soup is, in their view, the real "swamp" where life originated! The main evidence supporting their radical hypothesis consists of spectrograms, particularly in the infrared, which are difficult to account for on an inorganic basis, but which are fitted nicely by some organic materials, especially microbes. Hole and Wickramasinghe devote most of the present article to making a spectroscopic case for their theory, but near the end they shake the Temple of Science a bit: "Precious little in the way of biochemical evolution could have happened on the earth. It is easy to show that the two thousand or so enzymes that span the whole of life could not have evolved on the Earth. If one counts the number of trial assemblies of amino acids that are needed to give rise to the enzymes, the probability of their discovery by random shufflings turns out to be less than 1 in 1040000." They conclude that the genes that control the development of terrestrial life must have evolved on a cosmic scale, where there has been more time and much more room for shufflings. (Hoyle, Fred, and Wickramasinghe, Chandra; "Where Microbes Boldly Went," New ...
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... down to the sea and examine its microstructure. The ocean is not what it seems. When you snorkel in crystal-clear Caribbean waters, you do not sense that you are swimming in a very thin jelly. In reality, ocean water is filled with a complex tangle of microscopic strands and particles of gel. According to F. A zam , an oceanographer at Scripps: It's not in the textbooks or in the classical explanations. The gel's existence fundamentally changes our ideas of the microcosmos in which sea organisms live. It has added another layer of complexity that people are only now starting to consider in the context of whole ocean systems . . Gel is like the dark matter of the sea. While sea gel does not impede the snorkeler, . it does herd microbes into clumps or microniches . which we cannot see either. These microbes. in effect, exist in a tangled. 3-D mesh that affects not only their movements but also those of their prey and predators. A few statistics confirm the amazing complexity of the seawater microcosm and its incredibly high microbe population density. The long strands in the oceanic gel are mostly crosslinked polysaccharides. If the polysaccharides in 1 milliliter of seawater could be placed end-to-end, they would stretch out to 5,600 kilometers! Coexisting proteins would span 310 kilometers ; DNA, 2 kilometers. This same milliliter may also contain up to a million bacteria and ten times as many virus particles. Also in this brew are, on the average, 1.000 protozoans and 100 phytoplankton. It ...
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... Floor Silica-Iron Oxide Deposits," Geology , 20:511, 1992.) Deeper implications. The formation of placer gold and ironstone are only part of the repertoire of deep-living microorganisms. A five-year survey of microbial life conducted by the U.S . Department of Energy (DOE) found that bacteria were everywhere -- even 3 kilo meters deep in a Virginia borehole. F. Wobber, the DOE manager of the project underscored the mystery and probable importance of "biogeology": "Besides asking how subsurface bacteria affect geology, he wonders how geologic processes could have carried living things so deep into the planet. 'When you find these organisms at great depths,' he says, 'you have to ask: Where did they come from?' Microbes from the soil could easily infiltrate shallow aquifers...but in very deep sediments, like those in the Texaco well, the microbes may have been entombed when the rock was first deposited, tens or hundreds of millions of years ago. If so, the deep Earth might be a den of survivors, toughened by millenia of evolution in their harsh environment. Attacking rock might be just one of their feats. (Appenzeller, Tim; "Deep-Living Microbes Mount a Relentless Attack on Rock," Science, 258:222. 1992.) Comment. Is Wobber suggesting that these super-tough, deep-living bacteria might be dangerous to humans, like the microorganism from outer space in the movie The Andromeda Strain ? From Science Frontiers #85, JAN-FEB ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 123: May-Jun 1999 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Nanobes Get used to this term! Of course you know about microbes. Well, nanobes are also life forms but so much smaller than microbes that they deserve the prefix "nano" (for 10-9 ) rather than "micro" (for 10-6 ). The smallest recognized bacteria, Myco plasma , lack cell walls and fall in the size range 150-200 nanometers. Nanobes are much smaller: 20-150 nanometers. But are nanobes really alive? A drill core recently extracted from a stratum of sandstone 3 kilometers deep off the coast of Western Australia was found to be infected with miniscule filamentous structures. P. Uwins and her colleagues at the University of Queensland believe these structures (" nanobes") are alive. They appear to grow and have cell walls. But skeptics assert that some lifeless chemical structures also grow. Others suspect contamination of the sample as it was raised to the surface and handled. Published photos of the nanobes look very much like the structures in the Martian meteorite ALH84001, which are claimed to be fossilized extraterrestrial bacteria. (SF#116) (Dayton, Leigh; "Tiny Wonders," New Scientist, p. 13, March 27, 1999.) Comment. R.L . Folk claims that so-called "nannobacteria" (100-400 nanometers) are ubiquitous on the earth. Few biologists believe that life forms can be this small, and ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 112: Jul-Aug 1997 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Archea: Tough And Different Today's textbooks recognize only two main divisions of life: the prokaryotes (cells without nuclei) and eukaryotes (cells with nuclei). Humans and most of the life forms we are familiar with belong to the latter group. (Curiously, human red blood cells lack nuclei!) However, a third basic type of life has been found prospering in some extreme environments. These are the Archea, typified by the methane-producing microbes discovered clustered around hot deepsea vents, where temperatures may exceed 400 C. It is not their rugged constitutions that place these miniscule forms of life in a new category; it is their genomes. They are radically different from those found in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The genome of one species of Archea collected from a hot vent 3 kilometers deep in the Pacific has been sequenced. Biologists were taken aback. Methanococcus jannaschii , as it has been dubbed, possesses 1738 genes, of which 56% are entirely new to science. Many of these genes do not look anything like those found in the prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In a word, they seem "alien." (Morell, Virginia; "Life's Last Domain," Science, 273:1043, 1996.) How alien? Well, they are so tough that they could have arrived from Mars on a meteorite. Millions of years of residence in a meteorite edging its way toward a rendezvous ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 100: Jul-Aug 1995 Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues Last Issue Next Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Contents Archaeology Microbes threaten radiocarbon dating Astronomy Has jupiter flashed before? A POT POURRI OF MARTIAN CUSIOSITIES (AND WE DON'T MEAN "FACES" AND "PYRAMIDS") Biology Anomalous larvae and the burning of heretics When humans were an endangered species Straight from the horse's ear The watchmaker is not blind after all! Geology Weird icicles Giant sea-bed pockmarks Geophysics Anomalous phenomena associated with the 1908 tunguska event How can the moon affect the earth's temperature? Kobe quake jostles the geo- magnetic field Superhail Physics When different universes rub together Another starchy anomaly Unclassified Unidentified object ...
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... supposedly deposited by the asteroid impact that helped finish off the dinosaurs. For many scientists, the asteroid-impact scenario has become a "non-negotiable" brick in the Temple of Science. The problem they have faced is that the iridium layer is variable in thickness and concentration from site to site. Sometimes iridium can be detected well above and below the K-T boundary. This variability has tended to undermine the asteroid-impact theory. Recent experiments at Wheaton College by B.D . Dyer et al have demonstrated that bacteria in ground water can both concentrate and disperse iridium deposits. In other words, bacteria could smear out an iridium spike, perhaps partially erase it, or even move it to a deeper or shallower layer of sediment. (Monastersky, R.; "Microbes Complicate the K-T Mystery," Science News, 136: 341, 1989.) Comment. An obvious question now is how bacteria might have affected other chemicals, such as oxygen and carbon isotopes, widely used in stratigraphy. From Science Frontiers #67, JAN-FEB 1990 . 1990-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... publications. We can now offer a good cross section of the lake, plus some thoughts about potential ecosystems existing deep under the lake's ice. Although Lake Vostok lies under some 4 kilometers of ice, it remains liquid as geothermal heat seeps up through its floor. Surprisingly, the thick ice cover does not preclude all contact with the surface above. The covering ice sheet moves slowly across the lake and, as it does so, its bottom melts a bit, releasing frozen-in oxygen as well as life forms -- still-living microorganisms and dead creatures that fell onto the Antarctic ice thousands of years ago. Thus, there is a perpetual source of food and new life. Cores drilled from the ice sheet capping Lake Vostok have brought up a great diversity of live microbes that have survived despite the low temperatures and passage of time. A living unicellular alga was found 2,375 meters down in ice about 110,000 years old. Spore-forming bacteria brought up from 2,395 meters are about 200,000 years old and still alive! Although science has proclaimed that Lake Vostok biology must consist entirely of microorganisms, no one really knows what is down there. Another fascinating fact is that some 70 other subglacial bodies of fresh water have been found under the central Antarctic ice sheet. Lake Vostok is only part of a "vast hydrological system." (Kapitsa, A.P .; "A Large Deep Freshwater Lake beneath the Ice of Central East Antarctica," Nature, 381:684, 1996. Monastersky, R.; ...
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... , and on the surface from the great temperature differential between the hot sun and the cold of space. Perhaps biology is just a branch of thermodynamics, and there is no sudden beginning of life, but a gradual systematic development toward more efficient ways of degrading energy. .. .The chemical energy available inside a planetary body is then more likely to have been the first energy source and surface creatures -- like elephants and tigers and people -- which feed indirectly upon solar energy are just a specific adaptation of that life to the strangely favorable circumstances on the surface of our planet." (Gold, Thomas; "An Unexplored Habitat for Life in the Universe," American Scientist, 85:408, 1997.) Undiscovered microbial life may exist kilometers beneath the surfce. These microbes may be the source of the biological molecules found in the oil shown seeping upwards. Gold believes this oil was originally abiotic. From Science Frontiers #114, NOV-DEC 1997 . 1997-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... #108, #110) Some scientists were suspicious of this claim. J.P . Bradley et al, in a recent letter to Nature, declared the putative fossils to be only the fractured surfaces of lifeless crystals. Responding, K. Thomas-Keprta insisted that her group was not so stupid that it would mistake crystals for fossils! Her group, too, had noticed the crystals. The claimed fossils are much larger and more numerous than the crystals. To settle the matter, Thomas-Keprta and associates plan to dissect the suspect structures. Stay tuned to this newsletter! (Bradley, J.P ., et al; "No Nanofossils in Martian Meteorite," Nature, 390:454, 1997. Also: Kerr, Richard A.; "Putative Martian Microbes Called Microscopy Artifacts," Science, 278:1706, 1997.) From Science Frontiers #116, MAR-APR 1998 . 1998-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... this holy river, called the Ganga by the Indians. Despite this heavy burden of pollutants, the Ganges has for millennia been regarded as incorruptible. How can this be? Several foreigners have recorded the effects of this river's "magical" cleansing properties: Ganges water does not putrefy, even after long periods of storage. River water begins to putrefy when lack of oxygen promotes the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which produce the tell-tale smell of stale water. British physician, C.E . Nelson, observed that Ganga water taken from the Hooghly -- one of its dirtiest mouths -- by ships returning to England remained fresh throughout the voyage. In 1896, the British physician E. Hanbury Hankin reported in the French journal Annales de l'Institut Pasteur that cholera microbes died within three hours in Ganga water, but continued to thrive in distilled water even after 48 hours. A French scientist, Monsieur Herelle, was amazed to find "that only a few feet below the bodies of persons floating in the Ganga who had died of dysentery and cholera, where one would expect millions of germs, there were no germs at all. More recently, D.S . Bhargava, an Indian environmental engineer measured the Ganges' remarkable self-cleansing properties: "Bhargava's calculations, taken from an exhaustive three-year study of the Ganga, show that it is able to reduce BOD [biochemical oxygen demand] levels much faster than in other rivers." Quantitatively, the Ganges seems to clean up suspended wastes 15 to 20 times faster than other ...
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... run by the Delaware researchers, but their second series in particular seems worth reporting. "A second series of experiments used the sacrifice of clones as a distant stimulus. The data appear to show that the marine alga Tetraselmis suecica reacts dramatically to the sacrifice of cells in a physically isolated aliquot of the same culture if the experimenters are aware of the moment of sacrifice, and excited by the novelty of the experiment. In sharp contrast, only marginally significant results were obtained when the same experiment was run entirely automatically, with the time of the sacrifice defined by random number selection, and the experiment activated by computer command in an empty laboratory." (Pleass, C.M ., and Dey, N. Dean; "Conditions That Appear to Favor Extrasensory Interactions between Homo Sapiens and Microbes," Journal of Scientific Exploration, 4:213, 1990.) From Science Frontiers #76, JUL-AUG 1991 . 1991-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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