Microbes Have Been Discovered 1.5 Miles Beneath The Seabed Off Japan

Illustration for article titled Microbes Have Been Discovered 1.5 Miles Beneath The Seabed Off Japan

The floor itself is more than 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) beneath the waves. The extremophiles, the deepest ever discovered by a drilling expedition, likely subsist on a low-calorie diet of hydrocarbons and have a low metabolism. The discovery has implications in the search for alien life.

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Image: The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) via BBC News.

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DISCUSSION

I'm not surprised. Life is a foregone conclusion. It is only the desire that our existence in someway be special that is cause for argument on the subject. This is, in essence, very similar to every man over <insert threat> story line we've ever created. The need to be unique, to feel special and entitled, has driven so much of who we are and how we see ourselves.

In reality, we're not special. We are no more unique than any other life. And we should give thanks and joy and revel in this - that we are one of many, and that so much diversity exists on our world to help make us what we are right now. It is true that this world is all we know. But it is life's desire to survive that will eventually push us out into the cosmos, if we survive long enough to achieve it.

I have the feeling we'll cling to that feeling of specialness... that it will color our first contacts with other worlds and other species until one day we're forced to see how normal we really are. I'm sure we'll steam and stew about it, for a very long time, as we try to figure out how to re-inflate our flattened egos and construct a new social and moral paradigm around our lack of uniqueness... then we'll realize that while we may not be "special" by being the only species out there to have achieved sentience and sapience enough to travel the stars - we did make it that far. And that is accomplishment in and of itself. And each achievement we made along the way, as otherworldly beings paid no particular attention to our struggles was our achievement and our success. And that while our state of being sentient, sapient life may not be unique - our path to achieving it was and always will be ours.

That's, of course, if we choose to go that way. We might not. We could sit back and let it all fall apart. We could willingly allow ourselves to be destroyed, smashed, or otherwise eradicated. That's a choice that can be made as well. To step aside. And perhaps life will crawl its way back up the chain again, and someone else will have the great adventures that we could have had but chose not to pursue. It's as equally likely as us choosing to go out there and embrace a future where we might be a part of a galactic civilization. And while I'm sure there will always be the minorities and the majorities that feel we are either superior or inferior enough to deserve special treatment, if the universe's citizens are wise, they'll simply let us figure it out on our own.

As for dooming our species with contact - or even the creation of sentient sapient life... We're already experiencing a shattering of culture and ideologies. Its already happening, our culture is already beginning a change. That gnawing itch you feel, every time you read something a bit uncomfortable and those questions that arise unbidden - questions about the world, the universe, your place in it, and what to believe... that's the change people like Hawking and others are terrified of. Because it means our society will change into something unrecognizable and unpredictable. The human being of today will die, in a figurative way, as we evolve emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. All change is born in pain. But without that change, there could be no hope for a better tomorrow.

Part of that change, is embracing that life is not going to be unique... and neither are we going to be the most advanced intelligences in the universe. In fact, we're probably going to be average, perhaps eventually even common. That would fill me with a lot of hope - because it would mean that we weren't lesser than most, nor were we in a position to lord over others as you know we would. We'll be everyday people slowly learning our way in a universe comprised of people who choose to be equals, even if they aren't really equal. The cost of admission? Just making it past the point where we're tied to just a single world in a lonely solar system.

Of course, to the microbes, they won't care. They'll still be there, until the sun consumes the Earth in fire, and all that remains is the free floating ash and molecular plasma soup drifting slowly away from a cold, dead star.