It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Dimitra Atri, from the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, just dropped a curious paper into the official Arxiv bin of open knowledge. In it, he discusses the possibility that life in subsurface environments — places where photosynthesis is a non-starter — could eke out a living by feeding upon cosmic rays. Rather than consuming them directly, as they are much too potent for that, life would extract their secondary energy via a mechanism known as radiolysis.
We need look no further than hot springs or seafloor hydrothermal vent systems to find subsurface life capable of sustaining minimal metabolisms from purely geothermal or geochemical sources. Perhaps more surprisingly, bacteria found deep in the mines of South Africa have been found to subsist via radiolysis. Specifically, they consume hydrogen formed through the emissions of radioactive U, Th, and K in the surrounding rock.
There is another source of radiation available in subsurface environments, and that’s the one Atri has zeroed in on. Galactic cosmic rays produce a small but steady stream of secondary particles known as muons. Muon-induced radiolysis can generate H2, which can be harnessed by methanogens for abiotic (inorganic) hydrocarbon synthesis. Methanogens are not bacteria per se, but are generally classified as members of kingdom ‘Archaea.’ Methanogens, which you can find more about here, produce methane as a metabolic product in anoxic conditions.
originally posted by: searcherfortruth
a reply to: Ghost147
The fact we have ever thought that only Earth like planets could sustain life is extremely arrogant and short sighted on our part. Of course other life exist elsewhere and nowhere does it say that Earth is the blueprint...
originally posted by: searcherfortruth
a reply to: Soylent Green Is People
This has only been in recent years. I would suggest what would be more important would be to concentrate our money and resources on life right here. I live on Earth and I really think we have no business concerning ourselves with what sustains life on other planets when we can not even take care of the one we have.
Recently, researchers discovered a brain area that acts as a kind of on-off switch for the brain. When they electrically stimulated this region, called the claustrum, the patient became unconscious instantly. In fact, Koch and Francis Crick, the molecular biologist who famously helped discover the double-helix structure of DNA, had previously hypothesized that this region might integrate information across different parts of the brain, like the conductor of a symphony.
This example works as a simple analogy of how the brain processes information, but doesn’t explain the heightened consciousness of a human in comparison to say a mouse. Some people believe that brain size is linked with consciousness. A human brain contains roughly 86 billion neurons whereas a mouse brain contains only 75 million (over a thousand times less). A person might then argue that it is because our brains are bigger and contain more nerve cells that we can form more complex thoughts. While this may hold to a certain extent, it still doesn’t really explain how consciousness arises.
To explain why brain size isn’t the only thing that matters, we need to consider our brain in terms of the different structures/areas it consists of and not just as a single entity. The human cerebellum at the base of the brain contains roughly 70 billion neurons, whereas the cerebral cortex at the top of the brain contains roughly 16 billion. If you cut off a bit of your cerebellum (don’t try this at home) then you may walk a bit lopsided, but you would still be able to form conscious thoughts. If however, you decided to cut off a bit of your cortex, the outer-most folds of the brain, your conscious thought would be severely diminished and your life drastically impacted.
The neural mechanisms that underlie consciousness are not fully understood. We describe a region in the human brain where electrical stimulation reproducibly disrupted consciousness. A 54-year-old woman with intractable epilepsy underwent depth electrode implantation and electrical stimulation mapping. The electrode whose stimulation disrupted consciousness was between the left claustrum and anterior-dorsal insula. Stimulation of electrodes within 5 mm did not affect consciousness. We studied the interdependencies among depth recording signals as a function of time by nonlinear regression analysis (h2 coefficient) during stimulations that altered consciousness and stimulations of the same electrode at lower current intensities that were asymptomatic. Stimulation of the claustral electrode reproducibly resulted in a complete arrest of volitional behavior, unresponsiveness, and amnesia without negative motor symptoms or mere aphasia. The disruption of consciousness did not outlast the stimulation and occurred without any epileptiform discharges. We found a significant increase in correlation for interactions affecting medial parietal and posterior frontal channels during stimulations that disrupted consciousness compared with those that did not. Our findings suggest that the left claustrum/anterior insula is an important part of a network that subserves consciousness and that disruption of consciousness is related to increased EEG signal synchrony within frontal–parietal networks.