Worms and methane hydrate and rocket fuel and food
I've had one of those months where a phrase kept popping up in different contexts long enough for me to pay attention. "Methane Hydrate"
has been the phrase. It started when I looked to the gulf of mexico at the current series of hurricanes, and ended up, as always, distracted by the crater that signaled the KT extinctions.
I discovered that since I'd last paid attention a decade ago a lot of evidence had been piled up in favor of the KT event - including the discovery of four other craters that appear to have nearly the same impact time and composition of the KT event.
At the same time I was listening to Vernor Vinge talk about the singularity
that Kurzweil is also talking about
...while remembering that in Vinge's last book, he had used exotherms - heat loving bacteria - as a means to get around a planet with frozen air.
...while thinking about the problems of transporting cryogenic propellants. Compression isn't the problem (we have plenty of materials that can contain pressurized gas), it's cooling the gases involved down to a liquid state - and keeping them cool - that's the problem... and about how the ISS wasn't even close to being a closed ecosystem - and Biosphere 1 and 2 weren't either.
I also ran across an interesting alternate theory about the KT extinction and others, one that involved methane hydrate release
The next day I ran across methane in another context - as a proposed simpler fuel for the last parts of the upcoming moon shot....
Something was nagging me though, about this substance... I kept thinking of spiders
, until finally the word I'd seen related to methane hydrate popped into google - archaea
. Then I saw pictures of mussels and shrimp
feeding off halo bacteria...
(Halo bacteria live in a unique niche: the hypersaline environments of the world. Halobacteria are able to resist high levels of radiation, and thrive on both chemical and light energy)
From the NASA article:
Without light for photosynthesis, bacteria and archaea engage in "chemosynthesis" near the Gulf of Mexico methane seeps and brine pools, converting methane and hydrogen sulfide into food that supports larger organisms. Around the seeps, those include mussels, clams, shrimp and tubeworms, as well as ice worms that burrow into the gas hydrates. Only microbes can survive within the brine pools, but mussels flourish on the edges.
And I asked myself - hmm... transporting huge amounts of liquids in space, in a very cold environment that needs the liquids for fuel, life support... and food supply... perhaps somewhere in the briney deep of our food chain are some germs of some good ideas.