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[P]
Paleozoic Era bacteria revived!

By maynard in MLP
Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:51:54 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

According to MSNBC, a bacterial strain encased in a salt crystal for 250 Million years has been revived and lives today. According to the article, the organism is related to Bacillus, a common bacteria found in soil, water and dust. Scientists believe it was probably encased as a spore and changed so slowly over time it survived for millions of years almost unchanged. Interestingly, by being encased like this it missed one of earth's worst mass extinctions; right at the end of the Paleozoic Era, or about 230 Million years ago. The germ isn't expected to pose a significant threat since it's a fairly well understood organism, with modern equivalents. The article also mentions some cheesy Jurassic Park tie in, probably to sell ads for the next television viewing. *cough*


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Paleozoic Era bacteria revived! | 36 comments (36 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Gad! That's a bit irresponsible. (3.00 / 3) (#1)
by Arkady on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 09:57:07 PM EST

"isn't expected to pose a significant threat since it's a fairly well understood organism"?

Oh, yes. I'm sure they'll say that. Monsanto still says exactly that about their mutant strains of corn & such, don't they?

This is the sort of story that usually ends with someone flipping a switch and saying "we belong dead".

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[OT] Mutant corn? (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by Denor on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:07:50 PM EST

"isn't expected to pose a significant threat since it's a fairly well understood organism"? ...
Monsanto still says exactly that about their mutant strains of corn & such, don't they?
  Erm... I've been eating (likely modified) corn for a while... is there something it's doing to me that I don't know about?
  (Not a flame, I'm actually curious...)

-Denor


[ Parent ]
a [possibly] helpful link (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by Arkady on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:33:17 PM EST

I knew I remembered a massive recall of corn products recently. Here's a link to the AP story about it.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
nope, you're perfectly safe (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by boxed on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:53:47 AM EST

This fear over genetically engineered crops is just paranoia. We've (we humans) have been doing genetic engeneering ever since we started with farming. Now we just do it much faster and more intelligent. What Monsanto is doing though is pure evil. Genetic engineering in itself is of course not bad and not good. Like a hammer it can be used to create or destroy.

[ Parent ]
ass backward approach (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by Arkady on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 12:49:42 PM EST

First, allow me to disabuse you of a fairly common misunderstanding:

   We've (we humans) have been doing genetic
   engeneering ever since we started with farming

This is extremely not true. What humans have been doing since they started controlling the reproduction of other critters is called "selective breeding". It does change a critter, of course, by controlling the genetic content of its offspring but (and this is the biggie, so don't blink) selective breeding does not (indeed, it _cannot_) involve any genetic material which is not native to the critter in question.

That's where the difference between selective breeding and genetic engineering comes in. Genetic engineers have the ability to bring in genetic material from other critters or, often, of an entirely new design of their own. It is this new material that is a risk; consider the pesticide secreting corn those loonies are playing with. Do you want to eat that?

But to the point from my subject line: to consider something safe because there isn't sufficient evidence to prove it dangerous is completely backwards. Provided that there are reasonable possibilities that it might be dangerous and there is no solid proof of its safety, a project must be considered dangerous. This is especially true in areas where the potential risk is to anyone other than the experimenters.

Consider the possibility of creating a man-made black hole. There are reasonable scientists who argue that such a thing, created within the gravity well of a planet, could _possibly_ destroy the planet and their arguments for this possibility have not been refuted. So it would be extremeley irresponsible for a physicist to make the attempt, since they would be placing at risk the lives of billions of other people, a decision which they have no right to make for the rest of the planet.

Genetic engineers and paleogeneticists are involved in exactly the same ethical issue: their work could, according to reasonable arguments, be extremely damaging to the human species or, in extreme cases, all life on this planet. This is not a risk they have any right to take.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
eh? (2.00 / 1) (#25)
by boxed on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:25:52 PM EST

their work could, according to reasonable arguments, be extremely damaging to the human species or, in extreme cases, all life on this planet
All life on this planet can only be destroyed by the total destruction of the upper crust. All the nuclear weapons in the world couldn't even come close to this and to think that a lifeform in it self could do such damage is quite frankly laughable. Oh I admit that there is a theoretical possibility of exterminating all multi-cellular life on this planet with a disease, but the chances of that are smaller than the sun exploding right now. Nature adapts and all we can possibly achive with genetic engineering is throwing evolution a bone at best.

[ Parent ]
Re: eh? (none / 0) (#26)
by Arkady on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:39:41 PM EST

I think you're probably right about "all multicellular life" being a much better phrase.

I would like to see where your data comes from on the chances of the sun exploding and the chances of a disease wiping out milticellular life. I hadn't been aware that any reliable data existed for evaluating those possibilities. ;-)

And that was, basically, my point: there is not enough information on the effects of this sort of fiddling around to make a reasonable prediction. It seems only rational, in such cases, to act as though the most dangerous reasonable possibility were true; this limits the risk involved.

In situations where a reasonable possibility exists of risk to others, much less to the entire population, it also seems reasonable that any moderately ethical person would have to choose the path of least risk, realizing that they do not have any right to choose a higher degree of risk for others.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
the basis of my claims (none / 0) (#30)
by boxed on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:16:30 PM EST

My basis for claiming diseases are not very dangerous are these: the more efficient a disease is at killing the faster it will die out (ebola), the slower it is the more time the species will have to adapt so it (aids). This the crucial thing with diseases. They depend on the life form they attack and their host adapts. This is why the perfect destroyer virus cannot exist.

[ Parent ]
Re: the basis of my claims (none / 0) (#31)
by Arkady on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:46:58 PM EST

That's not a proof that a "perfect destroyer virus" (I love that phrase_ can't exist. What you've done is definied a window in the time frame from infection to death during which the host would have to reliably die for the virus to be a "perfect destroyer". Without reliable data on the exact parameters, though, you cannot reasonably say that it's impossible for a viral (or bacterial) disease to fit this profile.

Consider the Bubonic Plague. The host takes enough time to die that transmission from any given host to at least one new one is quite likely and I've never heard of anyone developing a defensive adaptation useful against Bubonic Plague, have you?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
yes I have (none / 0) (#32)
by boxed on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 04:58:43 PM EST

...I've never heard of anyone developing a defensive adaptation useful against Bubonic Plague, have you?
We're alive. This is proof enough.

[ Parent ]
No, no, no. (none / 0) (#33)
by Arkady on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 05:27:58 PM EST

Come on, now. You have to realize that the fact that our species survived the Bubonic Plague, while it obviously does mean _something_, does not mean that we've developed an adaptation defending against it. The simple fact that Plague still infects any human with which it comes in direct contact (according to the doctor who treated on of our neighbors who was infected with it by a flea bite from a prairie dog flea) should make that obvious.

It certainly means that Plague is not the super disease we're talking about here, but that's about it. There were lots of factors involved in ending the Plague outbreak, none of which (to the best of the information I've seen) had anything to do with humans evolving a defense. It had more to do with the thin dispersal of the extant population (making wide-area disease transfers less frequent than they could be today) and the fire that wiped London largely off the map (destroying a large center of the carrier population) than it could have had to do with adaptation. Human evolutionary speed just isn't fast enough, even if you adjust the expectation on the recent reports of salmon showing differentiation in bahavior and habitat in 9 generations.

Adaptation is a matter of generations, which for disease organisms take much less time than they do for humans.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
so? (none / 0) (#34)
by boxed on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 05:36:47 PM EST

You're still talking about a single species. Geographic isolation is enough to protect against practically any disease that could attack humans. And the thing with killing all multicellular life is that in that category there are millions if not trillions of species that have a very fast evolutionary speed, a big population with big genetic differences and geographic isolation. No disease in the world can even come close to killing all plankton in the world for example, or all fungi etc etc etc.

[ Parent ]
Re: so? (none / 0) (#35)
by Arkady on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 06:38:35 PM EST

Actually, the human population is much less isolated now than at any time in the past. Modern global transport has decreased the transit times to the point that it is far easier to reach (say) Hong Kong from London now than it was to reach Edinburgh from London in the 1600s. So though the species is more gorgraphically dispersed now than then, this isn't relevant, since we are able to travel the greater distances much more quickly. Any disease spread from human to human can now infect dozens of cities in 24 hours. Didn't you ever see "12 Monkeys"? ;-)

If we were to posit a disease which could infect any multi-cellular organism, which I agree is farfetched, it could travel with the humans and infect any region of the planet through them. I, personally, am not particularly that concerned about a prehistoric disease killing off all multi-cellular life. One that could wipe out, or even dramatically reduce, the human poulation would be sufficiently drastic to merit ethical consideration by the scientists who are risking the possibility for the rest of us.

And plankton, by the by, are single-celled organisms, right? ;-)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
well.. (none / 0) (#36)
by boxed on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 07:58:27 PM EST

Actually, the human population is much less isolated now than at any time in the past
True, but there are still humans that live in near total isolation.
One that could wipe out, or even dramatically reduce, the human poulation would be sufficiently drastic to merit ethical consideration by the scientists who are risking the possibility for the rest of us
Yea, but I kinda doubt that a bacteria that has missed the development of antibiotics can be resistant to it, and if it isn't it's chanceless. Modern bacteria are much much scarier since they've used those millenia to get scarier.
And plankton, by the by, are single-celled organisms, right?
Some yes, but far from all. It's a very large group since it includes both animals and plants, single-celled and multi-celled organisms.

[ Parent ]
Already seeping? (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by Vetinari8 on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:36:17 PM EST

The linked article says that perhaps other similar pockets of bacteria spores are possibly already seeping into a body of water. In which case I'd think further study might be advisable, if only to confirm that nothing evil is going to happen.

This kind of stuff with spore cases seems to happen quite a lot, and has probably already occurred with similarly aged spores, and we're not dead yet.

--
I can relate to that.

[ Parent ]

And speaking of mutants ... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Arkady on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:52:43 PM EST

You didn't mention that (quote from The Times:

The bacterium, which is known only as 2-9-3, was found sealed in a salt crystal almost 2,000ft below ground at a radioactive waste dump in the New Mexico desert.

This is definitely going off into areas well familiar to fans of bad science fiction movies.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
I didn't say it's true, just what's in the article (2.33 / 3) (#9)
by maynard on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:55:13 PM EST

I'm not claiming that this organism is in fact safe, only that the article states that scientists don't think it's a threat. Some scientists at Monsanto don't think Monarch Butterfly's are under much threat by genetically modified corn pollen either. Go figure. Here's a link to their detractors who seem to have less at stake in the issue. Heh.

Cheers,
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Sorry 'bout that (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Arkady on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:27:17 PM EST

I was actually intending that as being snide at the scientists in question, not yourself. I could probably have made that intention a bit clearer; sorry about the misunderstanding.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
No apology necessary. :-) [nt] (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by maynard on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:45:13 PM EST

. ..

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Paleozoic Era? (2.33 / 6) (#3)
by Fred Nerk on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:32:57 PM EST

I voted Dump This simply for the fact that I believe the Paleozoic Era didn't exist, because the Earth isn't that old.

Huh? (1.00 / 1) (#7)
by freebird on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:54:10 PM EST

Besides the fact that I'm curious why you'd vote to dump a story simply because you disagree (which I'd think is a reason to vote for it's posting, and explain *why* you disagree), I'm very curious why you think the Earth isn't that old. Again, mod the post up and explain your unusual position...

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Bishop wossname (1.00 / 1) (#17)
by Dop on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 04:53:44 AM EST

So are you one of those strange people who believe Bishop wossname (can't remember - can't be arsed to look it up) who said God created the earth in 4004 BC?
You might as well believe that absolutely everything and everybody including all history, relics, and memories, was created wholesale 30 seconds ago.

Do not burn the candle at both ends as this leads to the life of a hairdresser!
[ Parent ]
The Bishop in question ... (none / 0) (#21)
by Arkady on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 12:33:10 PM EST

... would be Bishop Usher. I can't remember of what he was the Bishop, but that's what his name was. If I remember correctly, he decided the year, but it was his assistant who refined it to October 21st at 9am.

What a bunch o' Loons.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Historical interlude:) (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by Merekat on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 07:50:25 AM EST

Bishop James Ussher 1581 - 1656.

He was Archbishop of Armagh and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin. There's a lecture theatre named after him there. There were others, such as the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, John Lightfoot (1602-1675) who were doing similar calculations, but Ussher's got included in later editions of the bible and became more popular.

This was considered important academic work at that time, just as investigations into evolution are now<g>.
---
I've always had the greatest respect for other peoples crack-pot beliefs.
- Sam the Eagle, The Muppet Show
[ Parent ]

Implicit J. Park tie in (2.25 / 4) (#8)
by the coose on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 10:54:31 PM EST

From the article:

In 1995, researchers at California Polytechnic State University reported reviving Bacillus bacteria spores from the gut of a bee stuck in amber. The bee was estimated to be 25 million to 30 million years old.

If this bee had been about 60 million years older, give or take a few million years, then we'd really have some Jurassic Park reality going on - or at least the possiblity. Not as good as the mosquito scenario of the movie, though. Is there anybody else who wouldn't mind seeing a living dinosaur? (Ok, I started out in college as a Geology major because I'm fascinated with these creatures.)

Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution (2.66 / 3) (#10)
by end0parasite on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:16:29 PM EST

Apparently you believe in evolution. Please research all you can on intelligent design and the arguements for it before you establish your full belief. There are many good arguements for intelligent design, but you have to open your mind. Because of these arguments I have given up all hope of ever finding out how the world really got here and how old it is, etc. I think I'll just write an article. :)

Not really useful site. (1.00 / 1) (#11)
by Arkady on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:23:16 PM EST

All I got at that link was:

This site uses Flash extensively. For optimal viewing, please download Flash from Macromedia if you haven't already done so.

Not very useful, there. ;-)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Without a doubt (2.33 / 3) (#13)
by maynard on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:30:24 PM EST

I think the factual basis for evolutionary theory is so strong arguing this issue is like debating the wheel. I'll take Richard Dawkins, and Stephen J. Gould anyday. Here's a nice FAQ on the evolution vs. creationism debate from a scientist's perspective. Frankly, I can't imagine why you would think the wheel doesn't spin when you drive your car every day of the week...

Cheers,
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Um? (2.50 / 4) (#14)
by djkimmel on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:34:39 PM EST

What do the beliefs of the poster matter? As far as I read, he was merely posting a brief description of the story that lies beyond the link.

Overall, this seems like a unrelated gripe about an interesting post.

-- Dave
-- Dave
[ Parent ]
propaganda != facts (1.50 / 2) (#16)
by boxed on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 11:47:01 PM EST

Your link is obviously broken. It leads to a site that hosts only propaganda.

[ Parent ]
No, no (2.33 / 3) (#18)
by end0parasite on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 09:11:31 AM EST

Read the damn articles. Or do your own research. Just don't accept everything you hear in school.

[ Parent ]
Yes, yes (2.50 / 2) (#19)
by boxed on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:49:05 AM EST

I've heard all the arguments a thousand times. I've been involved in flamewars about this many many times. I don't believe what I hear in school about evolution, because it's wrong! They teach a version of evolutional theory that is so old it's laughable. I believe evolution because I looked at what I was given in school and thought "this is bullshit" and then researched it myself. There is no valid argument for creationist ideas whatsoever. To oppose science with religion is just stupid, the only thing you'll do it prove some of your faith wrong. Choose your battles!

Why not just claim that God started off Big Bang and in that action he defined the world as he saw fit by defining the laws of nature? Science can't disprove this and for all we know it might be true. As christians are so fond of saying: "God moves in mysterious ways". Well it's proven that he moves through evolution, so give it a rest.

[ Parent ]

Reply (2.50 / 2) (#23)
by end0parasite on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 04:37:41 PM EST

That would work only if it the god was not the Christian God. Many people say, "Why? How do you know the Genisis creation wasn't symbolic?" Because Adam was created on the 6th day and lived through the 7th. Just wanted to clear that up. If each day was a billion years, Adam would have to have lived a billion years.

[ Parent ]
*sigh* (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by boxed on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:19:06 PM EST

As I said again, choose your battles. If you continue to claim that the genesis is the actual truth and not a symbol story you will be disproven. In fact you have already been disproven and you've lost the fight before you even started it.

And your argument about Adam is even more flawed. That Adam would have lived but one day is as absurd as 1 billion years. The genesis was written as a fairytale to tell your kids at bedtime, like Santa Claus or the Tooth Feary. God however is a different matter.

Obviously you don't understand what the consequences of your actions are so let me point them out: you make war with science when science never asked for it. This is a war where one side is the embodiment of what can be proven and the other is the embodiment of a book. The only thing this war can lead to is the ridicule of your faith, and I for one don't want that to happen. I have the utmost respect for christianity, but I have little respect for people like you that aim to belittle and destroy it.

[ Parent ]

Don't waste your time. (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by maynard on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 09:00:47 PM EST

The guy wants to believe in a fairy tail, let him. It's not worth your trouble, and our bandwidth, to waste on this crap. The Bible has many interesting and insightful stories on human psychology and society; I recommend everyone read it for it's cultural and historical significance. But word of God it ain't. (JMNSHO).

Cheers
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Goddammit (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by end0parasite on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 09:00:05 AM EST

I am not a friggin' Christian! As I stated earlier, I have come to the conclusion that there is no one on the face of this earth who could ever actually know. You do not know, they do not know. I have accepted the imaginary ideal world philosophy.

[ Parent ]
Paleozoic Era bacteria revived! | 36 comments (36 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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