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Archive for January, 2011

Aliens in Sleman?


On the 23th of January, 2011, a farmer arrived at a paddy field in Sleman, Yogyakarta shocked to see a pattern ‘drawn’ onto the field. Hundreds of visitors flocked the little field to see the first crop circle ever documented in Indonesia. People from all over the world argued on the origins of the crop circle on the internet.

What may have caused this crop circle? (AP photo)

A crop circle is a large geometrical pattern ‘carved’ onto the field (usually by flattening crops) which most people believed to be caused by extraterrestrial beings. Some believed that the patterns were signs ‘written’ by aliens who are either trying to communicate with us or among them while others believed that the crop circles were caused by their spaceships (often called as UFOs) when they land on the crops thus pressing them down. Another smaller group believed that it was a result of some paranormal activity as what they had portrayed in the movie ‘Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull’. Others think that the whole thing was man-made and tried to prove themselves by uploading videos on Youtube on how to make one.

How about you? What do you think might have caused the crop circle in Indonesia?

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I found this very interesting post from Yahoo! News. Read the original story here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20110113/sc_livescience/34000yearoldorganismsfoundburiedalive

Andrea Mustain
OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
LiveScience.com andrea Mustain
ouramazingplanet Staff Writer
livescience.com
Thu Jan 13, 11:21 am ET

It’s a tale that has all the trappings of a cult 1960s sci-fi movie: Scientists bring back ancient salt crystals, dug up from deep below Death Valley for climate research. The sparkling crystals are carefully packed away until, years later, a young, unknown researcher takes a second look at the 34,000-year-old crystals and discovers, trapped inside, something strange. Something … alive.

Thankfully this story doesn’t end with the destruction of the human race, but with a satisfied scientist finishing his Ph.D.

“It was actually a very big surprise to me,” said Brian Schubert, who discovered ancient bacteria living within tiny, fluid-filled chambers inside the salt crystals.

Salt crystals grow very quickly, imprisoning whatever happens to be floating – or living – nearby inside tiny bubbles just a few microns across, akin to naturally made, miniature snow-globes.

“It’s permanently sealed inside the salt, like little time capsules,” said Tim Lowenstein, a professor in the geology department at Binghamton University and Schubert’s advisor at the time.

Lowenstein said new research indicates this process occurs in modern saline lakes, further backing up Schubert’s astounding discovery, which was first revealed about a year ago. The new findings, along with details of Schubert’s work, are published in the January 2011 edition of GSA Today, the publication of the Geological Society of America.

 


Michael Timofeeff

Schubert, now an assistant researcher at the University of Hawaii, said the bacteria – a salt-loving sort still found on Earth today – were shrunken and small, and suspended in a kind of hibernation state.

“They’re alive, but they’re not using any energy to swim around, they’re not reproducing,” Schubert told OurAmazingPlanet. “They’re not doing anything at all except maintaining themselves.”

The key to the microbes’ millennia-long survival may be their fellow captives – algae, of a group called Dunaliella.

“The most exciting part to me was when we were able to identify the Dunaliella cells in there,” Schubert said, “because there were hints that could be a food source.”

With the discovery of a potential energy source trapped alongside the bacteria, it has begun to emerge that, like an outlandish Dr. Seuss invention (hello, Who-ville), these tiny chambers could house entire, microscopic ecosystems.

Other elderly bacteria?

[Related: Mysterious green blob found in outer space]

Schubert and Lowenstein are not the first to uncover organisms that are astonishingly long-lived. About a decade ago, there were claims of discoveries of 250-million-year-old bacteria. The results weren’t reproduced, and remain controversial.

Schubert, however, was able to reproduce his results. Not only did he grow the same organisms again in his own lab, he sent crystals to another lab, which then got the same results.

“So this wasn’t something that was just a contaminant from our lab,” Schubert said.

Survival strategy

The next step for researchers is to figure out how the microbes, suspended in a starvation-survival mode for so many thousands of years, managed to stay viable.

“We’re not sure what’s going on,” Lowenstein said. “They need to be able to repair DNA, because DNA degrades with time.”

Schubert said the microbes took about two-and-a-half months to “wake up” out of their survival state before they started to reproduce, behavior that has been previously documented in bacteria, and a strategy that certainly makes sense.

“It’s 34,000 years old and it has a kid,” Schubert said. And ironically, once that happens, the new bacteria are, of course, entirely modern.

[Photos: Explorers discover spectacular caves in Vietnam]

Of the 900 crystal samples Schubert tested, only five produced living bacteria. However, Schubert said, microbes are picky. Most organisms can’t be cultured in the lab, so there could be many living microbes that just didn’t like their new home enough to reproduce.

Still, wasn’t it exciting to discover what could be one of the oldest living organisms on the planet?

“It worked out very well,” Schubert said.

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We took a trip to Kuala Terengganu on 24th of December, 2010 together with Uncle Nisar. That was his first trip to the east coast of West Malaysia and we were very excited to take him around our hometown.

On the evening of the 26th of December, we went to Pantai Rhu Sepuloh (Rhu Sepuloh Beach – near Bari). According to Uncle Fauzan who is my father’s good friend, there is a special place at the beach where we can buy fresh fishes and other seafood along the beach.

Walking along the sandy beach

After buying some fresh fishes and some tasty big prawns, dad drove us to a stall selling delicious ‘ikang celuk ttepung’ served with ‘air lada’ for tea. Of course they do have other food in their menu but the ‘ikang celuk ttepung’ is probably their most popular dish since their fishes were freshly caught. We also had some prawns, squids and fried noodle. The seafood were so fresh and tasty and not like the ones that we usually buy from the markets. After that we each had a refreshing glass of coconut drink.

Enjoying our ikang celuk ttepung

After tea, we took a walk along the beautiful sandy beach. We found a shipwreck and mum suggested that it may be Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship, ‘The Black Pearl’. Uncle Nisar told us that Captain Jack Sparrow was so popular in the USA that people would dress up as the captain to the cinema to watch the movie!

Is this all that is left of The Black Pearl?

Then we came to an area where the fishermen dock their boats. We met a fisherman who showed us some fish traps. I still could not figure out how the trap works; I really hope that Uncle Azahar can help me 😉

We went to see the fishing boats

Examining a fish trap

Finally we walked back to the car and started our journey back home.

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