Scientific curiosity in action

Space scientists have been preoccupied for a while with the tantalising prospect of life in the ultra-cold oceans and ice-sheets and deserts of the solar system’s rockier lumps. Their readiness to believe that organic life might thrive even in these nasty, inhospitable places has got earth’s biologists thinking about life here. If there could be life on Titan or Mars what about the sub-zero environments here on Earth?

Well, it turns out that at least one organism, bacterium Colwellia 34H, metabolises quite happily inside solid ice at -20°C and keeps on working all the way down to the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196°C), at which scientists had long assumed life was impossible. You’ll need a New Scientist subscription for this quite mind-blowing story.

The curiosity and readiness to challenge received wisdom shown by scientists never ceases to amaze me.