High Strangeness: Alien Life Forms

Friday, February 17, 2012

Alien Life Forms

The good news is that the alien-hunting Russian scientists at Vostok Station in Antarctica have not been lost ("Aliens Among Us" 2/3/2012). The other good news is that, after 20 years of drilling, they have succeeded in penetrating the primeval waters of Lake Vostok, 2.3 miles beneath the icecap.

The bad news is that they did it using kerosene to keep the drill mechanism from freezing, and we may never know if they have contaminated the lake because of it. The other bad news is that even the "clean" type of drilling being used by the American and British researchers might not be any safer. This method uses water kept just above freezing temperature to keep the drill humming, but the Russians say that warm water could be just as harmful to a sub-glacial lake than kerosene.

Why does it matter? As I explained in the above-referenced post, Lake Vostok has been trapped under the Antarctic icecap and isolated from the earth's environment for as much as 15 million years. Who knows what kind of little beasties may be living in its chilly waters? Now that the Russians have made it through the ice to Lake Vostok, the American and British researchers are "suggesting" that the Russians' accomplishment may be tainted by the possibility of kerosene poisoning. Meanwhile, the Russians are poo-pooing those concerns and accusing the Americans' and Brits' warm water technique of being even worse than kerosene. Hey, Ivan: would you rather take a bath in tepid water or kerosene? I thought so.

It's a regular scientist cage match! Awesome! And the best part is that the fighting will go on for at least another year, because the Russians won't be able to retrieve any water samples from the lake until the next Antarctic summer, which, if you've been paying attention, you know doesn't happen until next winter. Who spends twenty years drilling through two miles of ice, finally gets through, and then immediately packs up and goes home? They miss Russia that badly??

Anyway, because the Russian scientists all had to get home to Moscow, a few things could happen over the next few months. Every interesting little fishy living in Lake Vostok could croak from kerosene poisoning, or they could be resistant to the kerosene and could come flooding out of the hole the Russians made in the ice and take over the earth.

The whole time, the alien fishies on Europa will be laughing their fins off at us. Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, is covered with a hard shell of ice, and underneath the ice, a whole lot of space water, and in that space water, who knows?

Europa, the fourth moon of Jupiter, and a very chilly place.
Our probes have gotten pretty close to Europa, as you can tell by this candid close-up image of Europa just getting up in the morning, but we haven't landed on the moon as of yet and won't until sometime after 2020. That is, assuming any of us survive the war against the Lake Vostok ice worms (hey, thanks, Russia!).

If and when we ever do land on Europa, will we drill through with kerosene? I don't know, sending a can of kerosene halfway across the solar system seems a little reckless to me. That stuff is flammable!

Anyway, the point is, is there life on Europa, and if so, will we be able to make contact without killing it, and if so, is it anything like the life we think we may have just exterminated in Lake Vostok?

Damn, discovering alien life is tricky.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

very good article

btw, do you know this link ?