All Life on Earth Could Have Come From Alien Zombies

Flu virus

Scientists have speculated that life could have come to Earth from space — a notion called panspermia — since the 1870s, when Lord Kelvin suggested microbes could have ridden here on a comet or meteor. Others have suggested tiny organisms could cross the galaxy embedded in dust grains, which could be nudged from one planetary system to another by the slight pressure of stars’ radiation.

However, most astrobiologists think that same radiation spells a death sentence for delicate microbes.

“That essentially kills panspermia in the classical sense,” said astrobiologist Rocco Mancinelli of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

But maybe not, says astronomer Paul Wesson, a visiting researcher at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada. In an upcoming paper in Space Science Reviews, Wesson argues that even if the actual microbes are dead on arrival, the information they carry could allow life to rise from the charred remains, an idea he calls necropanspermia.

Wired Science: All Life on Earth Could Have Come From Alien Zombies

What the article doesn’t mention is that a bacteria sample recently survived a year and a half in space, without oxygen.

Bacteria Survives in Space, Without Oxygen, for a Year and a Half


The bugs were put on the exterior of the space station to see how they would cope in the hostile conditions that exist above the Earth’s atmosphere.

And when scientists inspected the microbes a year and a half later, they found many were still alive.

These survivors are now thriving in a laboratory at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes.

The experiment is part of a quest to find microbes that could be useful to future astronauts who venture beyond low-Earth orbit to explore the rest of the Solar System. […]

This type of research also plays into the popular theory that micro-organisms can somehow be transported between the planets in rocks – in meteorites – to seed life where it does not yet exist.

BBC: Beer microbes live 553 days outside ISS

Interestingly, the bacteria selected weren’t known extremophiles, they were selected apparently at random.

Disrupting Bacterial Communications Could Compliment Antibiotics

Quorum sensing diagram

Chatter between bacterial cells may stall healing of skin wounds, and sabotaging that chitchat could offer another way to battle infection, new research suggests.

Making Pseudomonas aeruginosa deaf to the molecular signals that the bacteria use to talk to each other would offer a kind of antibiotic therapy that doesn’t kill bacterial cells but rather strikes at their ability to attack human cells en masse, Jasper Jacobsen of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen said May 24 at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Science News: Bacterial chitchat proves distracting for wound healing

See also:

Hacking Your Body’s Bacteria for Better Health

Bacteria vs. Humans: Score One for Us

Talking to bacteria

Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

Mycobacterium Vaccae

Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior, according to research presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

“Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature,” says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks.

Science Daily: Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

(via Dangerous Meme)

Identifying People by their Bacteria

bacteria plate

The human body hosts hundreds of bacterial species that perform various salubrious housekeeping chores, from aiding digestion to helping the immune system identify foreign invaders. Every person—even an identical twin—has a unique distribution of bacteria on various body areas. Now some researchers are suggesting that these individual differences could lead to the development of new crime-solving tools.

Science: CSI’s Latest Clue—Bacteria

(via Schneier on Security)

Computer-Controlled Swarm of Bacteria Builds Tiny Pyramid

bacteria build pyramid

Who needs nanobots when you can control a swarm of bacteria to do your bidding?

Researchers at the NanoRobotics Laboratory of the École Polytechnique de Montréal, in Canada, are putting swarms of bacteria to work, using them to perform micro-manipulations and even propel microrobots.

Led by Professor Sylvain Martel, the researchers want to use flagellated bacteria to carry drugs into tumors, act as sensing agents for detecting pathogens, and operate micro-factories that could perform pharmacological and genetic tests.

They also want to use the bacteria as micro-workers for building things. Things like a tiny step pyramid. […]

The bacteria, of a type known as magnetotactic, contain structures called magnetosomes, which function as a compass. In the presence of a magnetic field, the magnetosomes induce a torque on the bacteria, making them swim according to the direction of the field. Place a magnetic field pointing right and the bacteria will move right. Switch the field to point left and the bacteria will follow suit.

IEEE: Computer-Controlled Swarm of Bacteria Builds Tiny Pyramid

(via Popular Science via Edge of Tomorrow)

See also:

Researchers rapidly turn E. coli into biotech factories

Deep-Sea Bacteria Form Avatar-Style Electrochemical Networks


According to findings that could have been pulled from a deep-sea sequel to Avatar, bacteria appear to conduct electrical currents across the ocean floor, driving linked chemical reactions at relatively vast distances.

Noticed only when reseachers happened to test sediment leftovers from another experiment, the phenomenon may add a new mechanism to Earth’s biogeochemistry.

Wired Science: Deep-Sea Bacteria Form Avatar-Style Electrochemical Networks

(via Atom Jack)

The Red Queen Theory confirmed – evolution is driven by interaction between species:

Red Queen

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have provided the first experimental evidence that shows that evolution is driven most powerfully by interactions between species, rather than adaptation to the environment.The team observed viruses as they evolved over hundreds of generations to infect bacteria. They found that when the bacteria could evolve defenses, the viruses evolved at a quicker rate and generated greater diversity, compared to situations where the bacteria were unable to adapt to the viral infection.

Read More – The “Red Queen Theory” -Scientists Find Driving Force Behind Evolution is Fight for Survival not Environment

(Thanks Paul)

Pure Water for Haiti, Afghanistan: Just Add Bacteria

bacterial water cleaner

Pentagon-backed researchers have come up with a novel new way to purify water: Just add bacteria.

Scientists at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) have successfully designed portable, efficient, bacteria-based water treatment units. Two of the devices are on their way to Army bases in Afghanistan, and the research team is in talks with the Pentagon about sending a working prototype to help relief efforts in Haiti.

The systems, called “bio-reactors,” clean putrid water using the same bacteria you’d find in a handful of dirt. The bacteria filter the water, then eat up the sludge that’s a common byproduct of waste treatment. It’s all done in less than 24 hours, and from devices smaller than a standard shipping crate.

Danger Room: Pure Water for Haiti, Afghanistan: Just Add Bacteria

Are humans organisms or living ecosystems?

the emerging science of human-microbe symbiosis has an even greater implication. “Human beings are not really individuals; they’re communities of organisms,” says McFall-Ngai. It’s not just that our bodies serve as a habitat for other organisms; it’s also that we function with them as a collective. As the profound interrelationship between humans and microbes becomes more apparent, the distinction between host and hosted has become both less clear and less important?—?together we operate as a constantly evolving man-microbe kibbutz. Which raises a startling implication: If being Homo sapiens through and through implied a certain authority over our corporeal selves, we are now forced to relinquish some of that control to our inner-dwelling microbes. Ironically, the human ingenuity that drives us to understand more about ourselves is revealing that we’re much less “human” than we once thought.

Seed: The Body Politic

(Thanks Social Fiction)

See also:

The BacterioSphere

Networks, Bacteria, and the Illusion of Control

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