[Fellow survivalists. I don't know if this is true or not but it sure is interesting. And knowing the reliability of our government and our media, I would not be surprised if it were true. Michael]
Gold finds our deep hot biosphere teeming with life -- and controversy
By David Brand
The ideas come crowding in: Deep within the Earth's crust is a vast
ecosystem of primitive bacteria nurtured by a reservoir of
hydrocarbons of unimaginable size, much of it untapped. Even more: The
microbes predate all of the planet's other life forms, existing even
before photosynthesis became the preferred life-giving form.
The messages seem to be:
·Subterranean bugs are us -- or at least they started the whole
·There's no looming energy shortage because oil reserves are far
greater than predicted.
In the hands of anyone other than Thomas Gold, the reaction to all
this might be a skeptical raised eyebrow. But Gold, as ever the
Cornellian gadfly, makes his argument with erudition and conviction in
his new book, The Deep Hot Biosphere (Copernicus/Springer-Verlag).
Professor emeritus of astronomy at Cornell and the founder and
director of Cornell's Center for Radiophysics and Space Research for
two decades, Gold is hardly a stranger to sticking his neck out. He
has been proven right in such diverse realms as a theory of hearing,
the interpretation of pulsars and a theory of the Earth's axis of
But Gold's most controversial idea, as physicist Freeman Dyson notes
in the book's forward, is that of the nonbiological origin of natural
gas and oil, which he first proposed more than 20 years ago. These
hydrocarbons, Gold postulated, come from deep reservoirs and are
composed of the material from which the Earth condensed. The idea that
hydrocarbons coalesced from organic material is, he says, quite wrong.
The biological molecules found in oil, he avers, show only that the
oil is contaminated by microbes, not that it was produced by them.
Some researchers, and in particular petroleum geologists, have taken
issue with Gold's proposal. They are likely to be even more put out by
his new book, which says that these microbes populate the Earth's
interior down to a depth of several miles and that everything we see
living on the planet's surface is only a small part of the biosphere.
The greater part, and the ancient part, is very deep and very hot.
Indeed, Gold shows irritation at a scientific community that "has
typically sought only surface life in the heavens." Scientists, he
writes, "have been hindered by a sort of 'surface chauvinism.'"
The heavens? Absolutely, says Gold. "Spectroscopic evidence is very
strong for many planetary bodies. The prime example is Titan [a moon
of Saturn], which has clouds of ethane and methane. They interchange
with the surface, so there must be lakes or oceans of liquid ethane or
methane. Once you know that, it's clear they came outside from the
Thus, he writes, life on many other planetary bodies seems probable,
even though their surfaces are either too hot or too cold to support
life. "Subsurface life, however, is another matter. Mars, the
satellites of the major planets, many asteroids and even our own moon
should be regarded as real prospects for harboring extraterrestrial
life of this kind," he writes.
On Earth, says Gold, there is clear evidence that subsurface microbial
life still exists; for example, in the discovery of primitive microbes
in hot ocean vents. "We pulled up bugs from five kilometers down in
the granite in Sweden. They were perfectly alive and probably the
earliest life form on the planet," he says.
Photosynthesis, his book argues, "developed in offshoots of
subterranean life that had progressed toward the surface and then
evolved a way to use photons to supply even more chemical energy."
When surface conditions became favorable to life, surface life was
able to blossom.
In the eons since, the deep world of microbes has had to rely on
chemical energy, the oxidation of hydrocarbons, ranging from methane
to petroleum, as the organisms emerge upwards from deep reservoirs
below. "Every oil-bearing region in the world must have large amounts
of microbiology," he says.
Writes Gold: "In my view, hydrocarbons are not biology reworked by
geology (as the traditional view would hold) but rather geology
reworked by biology. In other words, hydrocarbons are primordial, but
as they upwell into Earth's outer crust microbial life invades."
Reviewing the book, Publishers Weekly noted that "if Gold is right,
the planet's oil reserves are far larger than policy-makers expect...
moreover, astronomers hoping for extraterrestrial contacts might want
to stop seeking life on other planets and inquire about life in them."
January 28, 1999