Monday, June 22, 2009
I have always found the existence of extremophiles immensely consoling. These are creatures that live in environments previously thought incapable of sustaining life. Their discovery, among other things, reignited speculation about the existence of extraterrestrial life because they broadened the range of conditions in which we could expect life to exist. Deinoccocus radiodurans, a bacterium able to survive radiation levels once thought to be destructive of all life, is the extremophile star. But now, Wired tells me, it radiation-resistance has been surpassed by Halobacterium NRC-1. Then there's desulforudis audaxviator which, basically, eats rocks and if, therefore, entirely independent of other organisms. It is the only known single species eco-system. What is consoling is, I suppose, the tenacity and creativity of life. But I also like the way they refute our anthropocentric conceptions. Living things don't have to be anything like us and staring hopelessly at the stars looking for 'earth-like' planets may be a nasty case of missing the point. If there is intelligent life out there it may be a rock-eater dwelling in a nuclear explosion and he might not even want to say hello.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:22 am