FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Chillin' for 30,000 Years

Life is at once a delicate and a remarkably resilient thing. Take, for instance, Carnobacterium pleistocenium, a bacterium from the age of wooly mammoths. Recently, US scientists published a paper describing how they thawed out a sample of this organism that had been frozen for 30,000 years in Alaska permafrost -- and how it began swimming around as if it had been born yesterday!

Such tolerance to deep freezing raises the possibility that life could be preserved in extremely harsh climates -- most notably, Mars, where frozen oceans were recently discovered. Could primitive life forms lie frozen just under the Martian surface, waiting for an eventual thaw? Could the same be said of other worlds, such as Jupiter's moon Europa? If nothing else, this chilled-out bacterium may be able to teach us something about how life could be preserved at very low temperatures over long periods.

Source: CNN.com