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  Fungi that eat ionizing radiation?
From: Steve Marak <samarak at gizmoworks.com> on 2007.05.23 at 21:03:08(15699)
A bit off topic, but I know others on the list like these things too ...

A post today on one of the bulb lists I follow gave a link to a
"fascinating-if-true" paper on the possibility that some fungi can use ionizing
radiation as a direct energy source in a way similar to plant's use of visible
light.

An abstract is at:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-05/aeco-erd051607.php

and the full paper seems to be available online at PLoS ONE at:

http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0000457

Ok, it's not exactly "The Blob", but the part about melanized fungi colonizing
the walls of the damaged Chernobyl reactor has at least a bit of those old
1960's science fiction "B" movies about it. If it were April 1, I'd assume it
was a joke ... but I admit I hope it's true.

Steve

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From: ted.held at us.henkel.com on 2007.05.24 at 07:37:39(15700)
I looked a little at this reference
and I am putting myself down as a skeptic. This paper looks to have been
published without peer review through funding from George Soros. Neither
of those is proof by itself, of course, but it makes the scientifically
minded put on the brakes a little bit. I was interested in the claim that
living fungi were found growing inside Chernobyl and I clicked on the reference
indicated in the paper, at the NIH, and no article was listed there. The
site was, in fact, the NIH site, but there was no article. This blunder
would never happen in a peer-reviewed paper.

Then there's the whole idea that some
living thing (defined according to how that is understood by those of us
who live on Earth) can not only survive ionizing radiation but utilize
it to perform life functions. I have watched certain effects of ionizing
radiation (x-rays) on formerly living materials and would be surprised
if melanin could even withstand ionizing radiation without charring all
the way to carbon, much less "eat" it. Then, of course, the life
form would have to have some cell structure to support the melanin and
make use of the energy products therefrom. Big doubts.

Ionizing radiation is severe stuff.
And my understanding of the Chernobyl reactor is that it is now encased
in concrete and nobody with any sense goes anywhere near it. But they have
robots in there that are able to retrieve samples? And some researchers
at Albert Einstein have these samples and are conducting research, also
using ionizing radiation? And word of such a discovery did not make it
onto the evening news?

I don't have time to pursue this further,
but it smells like "fringe" science. That is to say, a hoax.
There is a lot of this kind of stuff on the internet. You have to be careful.

Ted.

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From: "ExoticRainforest" <Steve at ExoticRainforest.com> on 2007.05.24 at 12:06:10(15701)
Ted,

Far be it for me to discredit or vouch for any of this!
But I did find it interesting due to another interest dear to my heart.
I'm one of less than a thousand people in the world who can document
having logged over 5000 scuba dives. My time in the water as a
professional underwater photographer included time in a deep
submersible. Never got to go down to the deep water in the mid-Atlantic
rift or the really deep water off Galapagos but I recently saw a National
Geographic special which featured deep ocean dives to both areas of the ocean
where live volcanoes are constantly spewing on the ocean floor. The
National Geographic team found large incredible marine life actually using the
noxious gasses produced by these volcanoes as a food source. And to top
that, many were living in water with a temp approaching 800 degrees! Some
were photographed crawling into vents so hot it was actually burning them alive
and they were happily gathering and eating the stuff!

Nothing ought to be able to live in complete darkness, with
extremely high temperatures while using "poisons" as food, but they
do! So I don't have any idea if anything in this article is factual, but
apparently life can and does exist in places we would not have previously
expected it to survive. Perhaps the "Blob" exists as well!

Steve Lucas

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From: <garbird at bellsouth.net> on 2007.05.24 at 12:31:42(15702)
I beleive they are discussing this right now on NPR.If you hurry you may be able to here the rest of the broadcast.
Garland
>
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From: Hermine <hermine at endangeredspecies.com> on 2007.05.24 at 12:49:06(15703)
At 12:06 PM 5/24/2007, ExoticRainforest wrote:
Ted,

Far be it for me to discredit or vouch for any of
this! But I did find it interesting due to another interest dear to
my heart. I'm one of less than a thousand people in the world who
can document having logged over 5000 scuba dives. My time in the
water as a professional underwater photographer included time in a deep
submersible. Never got to go down to the deep water in the
mid-Atlantic rift or the really deep water off Galapagos but I recently
saw a National Geographic special which featured deep ocean dives to both
areas of the ocean where live volcanoes are constantly spewing on the
ocean floor. The National Geographic team found large incredible
marine life actually using the noxious gasses produced by these volcanoes
as a food source. And to top that, many were living in water with a
temp approaching 800 degrees! Some were photographed crawling into
vents so hot it was actually burning them alive and they were happily
gathering and eating the stuff!
I 'member that! i was blown away! and the SIZE of those critters!
it reminded me of Robert Heinlein stories of life on planets with frozen
methane-ammonia atmospheres! Or maybe they were Isaac Asimov
stories. ("Fantasy and Science Fiction" magazine, circa the mid
fifties)
I just saw an advertisement on telly (or perhaps was hallucinating) about
underwear with silver wires in it to keep my head from exploding due to
radiation from my cel phone. and I wondered, do I really need this stuff,
if I wear silver bracelets? has anyone else heard of silver in the undies
to ward off a radioactive head?
I believe virtually NOTHING, by the way.

Hermine Stover

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From: Ron Kaufmann <kaufmann at sandiego.edu> on 2007.05.24 at 13:34:32(15705)
Hi Steve,

The melanin story is very interesting, and if it's true that
melanin changes in response to ionizing radiation exposure and may
facilitate survival of organisms under conditions that otherwise might
be lethal, the repercussions could be many and far-reaching. Cool
stuff!

As for the National Geographic special, I'd like to address a few
factual issues in what you wrote. First, there are *many* areas of the
ocean where hydrothermal vents are spewing hot, mineral-rich water into
the deep sea. The existence of biological communities around many of
those vent sites has been known for 30 years, and many vent communities
and organisms have been studied extensively. The word "noxious" to
describe some of the chemicals that are released by vents is somewhat
human-centered. For example, many organisms that live in anoxic
conditions might describe oxygen as "noxious". :-) Second, the
communities around deep-sea hydrothermal vents are indeed supported by
primary producers (mostly bacteria) that use "noxious" hydrogen sulfide
or methane as energy sources. It's a fascinating system that prior to
30 years ago would have been considered science fiction!

Finally, the issue of organisms living in nearly 800 degree
Fahrenheit water was a subject of controversy among the biologists who
first studied the vent systems. The deep sea is, for the most part,
very cold (1-2 deg C = 34-36 deg F), and it turns out that temperature
gradients near hot vents are *extremely* steep. The water coming out
of a vent may approach 800 deg F (over 400 deg C) at the hottest sites,
but a few inches away the temperature may be a relatively mild 125-160
deg F (50-70 deg C). Most hydrothermal vent organisms seem to live on
the fringes of the hot water plume, not within the hottest water.

Ron Kaufmann

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From: Steve Marak <samarak at gizmoworks.com> on 2007.05.24 at 14:17:11(15707)
It sounded odd enough to me that I spent about 2 hours I didn't really have
digging around on the net to see what I could see. A quick Google search showed
the story turning up on news sites (MSNBC, National Geographic, Scientific
American, etc.), with different quotes from the researchers. The AECOM site
showed most of the authors listed as on faculty, several of them doing research
into melanin-containing fungi, there seemed to be no commonality between the
PLoS ONE web presence and that of AECOM, and I found references to other papers
(not on PLoS ONE) discussing fungi found in or around Chernobyl ...

My conclusion was that if it was a hoax, it was so elaborate and well thought
out that I was not going to uncover it. Not that that proves anything one way
or the other.

The paper did note that most fungi, whether they contain melanin or not, can
tolerate doses of 1.7x10**4 Grays, which if I remember my old engineering
courses correctly is thousands of times the median lethal dose for humans. I
have no idea what the flux around or in Chernobyl is.

Steve

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From: "ExoticRainforest" <Steve at ExoticRainforest.com> on 2007.05.24 at 14:20:19(15708)
Thanks for the clarification Ron. By the way, for those
of you who do not know, Ron is a PhD who studies marine organisms, my kind of
guy!

Steve Lucaswww.ExoticRainforest.com

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From: Susan B <honeybunny442 at yahoo.com> on 2007.05.24 at 15:32:13(15709)
Now I'm WAY off topic...It was Arthur C. Clark who wrote a short story that included "animals" on Jupiter- described as looking like sheep feeding on the methane clouds.I thought it was a great story. Clark must have liked it too, because he used the entire section in one of his 200x A space oddessy novels. I thought he had plagarized it until I found it was his own work...And while I'm on cool book topics, somewhere I read a story of nuclear war aftermath, it too was really good, the wealthiest family in town had food stores hidden in the basement. Unfortunately they all died because the metal in the cans (and in the jewelry the daughter sold food for) absorbed radiation... this may or may not be true, it was a good book all the same. Wish I could remember the author or the name of it.Just so I mention
Aroids, I still have some bulbs in boxes in the basement since moving last Nov. Poor things seem perfectly happy to be blooming away down there, though!Susan it reminded me of Robert Heinlein stories of life on planets with frozen methane-ammonia atmospheres! Or maybe they were Isaac Asimov stories. ("Fantasy and Science Fiction" magazine, circa the mid fifties) I just saw an advertisement on telly (or perhaps was hallucinating) about underwear with silver wires in it to keep my head from exploding due to radiation from my cel phone. and I wondered, do I really need this stuff, if I wear silver bracelets? has anyone else heard of silver in the undies to ward off a radioactive head? I believe virtually NOTHING, by the way. Hermine Stover Secretary Responsible Dog Owners Of The Western States 23280 Stephanie Perris

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From: "Lynn Butler" <lynn at plantdelights.com> on 2007.05.25 at 10:54:51(15716)
Hi, Hermine. Lynn Butler here,
professional lurker. I do recall aluminum headwear used in the 1970's to protect
the less-than-stable from "extraterrestrial broadcast" interference, but hey,
waves are waves, yes?
:)

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