Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Smashing

In a post relevant to last semesters discussion of the origin of life and the survival of life during severe asteroid impacts I am happy to report that a group of German scientists have been placing bacteria between slabs of rock and then whacking this bacteria-rock sandwich with iron cylinders fired by explosives. This creates pressures up to 500,000 atmospheres and temperatures as high as 1000C simulating the forces during asteroid impacts. Even at the most extreme conditions they found a few individuals survived in two out of three species tested.

The paper, Microbial Rock Inhabitants Survive Hypervelocity Impacts on Mars-Like Host Planets: First Phase of Lithopanspermia Experimentally Tested, is in Astrobiology which you can read as an online journal. This is an interesting journal if you like, well, astrobiology.

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