The Coolest Thing I've Learned Lately.
Last night I watched the Discovery Channel, as I do most nights. I'm sure zillions of other people have seen this same show, called Miracle Planet. Possibly no one else found this particular point as amazing as I did.
There's a nuclear waste storage facility in the "American SouthWest," surrounded by salt flats. (They didn't say, but I assume it's in Nevada.) A scientist there leads a team that dug down into the ground -- way down miles into the ground -- and pulled out some salt.
They took the salt back to the lab. It had "tiny bubbles" of seawater trapped in it, apparently from a really long time ago. (It's been awhile since Nevada was under water!)
They drilled a tiny hole to drain the water onto a slide to look at it under a microscope. "Oh lookee there! Cute, little, motionless, microbe-shaped... thingies!" Microbial corpses? That salt is a darn good preservative, you know.
So these curious scientists put the ancient seawater into a little beaker with a drop of (sterile) nutrient solution.
What happened? The microbes woke up, and started doing the only thing they know how to do: microbial math! "We just divide and multiply, all day long."
Please, if that wasn't clear, just ignore the humor and think about it for a minute. The scientists say that the microbes were trapped in that salt for millions of years, in a state suspended animation (never mind the simultaneous states of utter boredom and disbelief at their very bad luck). Yet they were still fully viable, just waiting for something to eat.
Totally fascinating. [Truer Words - A Journal]
Not only is this interesting for what scientists can learn about prehistoric Earth, it also suggests that there may still be viable life on Mars--it's just a matter of drilling down deep enough and adding water.