Archive for July 1st, 2012

The Deep Hot Biosphere

July 1, 2012

The conventional wisdom concerning oil, gas and coal, or fossil fuels as they are called is that they originated many eons ago as plants and animals that died and were buried. Deep under the surface, their remains were slowly transformed into the carbon compounds that make up coal and petroleum. The evidence for this view is that fossilized remains of life are generally associated with fossil fuels. The conventional wisdom is also that the surface of the Earth is the place where life originated and flourishes while conditions deep under the surface are too hot to support any life.


What if the conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the petroleum and coal that we depend on did not come from ancient life but instead came from carbon that has been present since the beginning of the Earth? What if under the surface of the Earth there was a whole biosphere of microorganisms? Surface life makes use of the energy of the Sun though photosynthesis. What if the microorganisms under the earth make use of chemosynthesis using the carbon as it is transported toward the surface, and oxygen? In other words, what if fossil fuels are not fossils at all, but a part of the Earth that has been transformed by sub surface life?

This is Thomas Gold’s hypothesis that he presents in his book, The Deep, Hot Biosphere. He makes a very convincing case and his hypothesis, if true, can explain a great many geological phenomena not well understood at present, such as the formation of metal ores in veins, some questions about earthquakes, and others. Gold points out that conditions under the Earth would be far more favorable for the origin of life that the surface. In the final chapter, Gold examines the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life. So far, we have not found life on any other planet of the Solar System, but perhaps we are not looking in the right place. The surface of Mars, the Moon and the satellites of the gas giants are all hostile to life, but maybe we should look under the surface. Perhaps deep within Mars there lies the life we have been searching for.

Is the deep, hot biosphere hypothesis true? I couldn’t say not being an expert in this field. However, I will say that Thomas Gold shows himself to be a first class scientist by asking the questions. There has been a tendency in recent years to view science as some sort of final authority with all of the answers. How many times have you heard the latest study viewed as some sort of message from on high, or heard the phrase settled science? This is a misuse of science. Science is not an authority, but a method for asking the questions. Sometimes the most important work a scientist can do is to ask questions that everyone thinks they know the answer to. In this regard, The Deep, Hot Biosphere is an interesting book that is sure to make you think.

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Algerian Writer Denied Prize Money

July 1, 2012
Boualem Sansal im Gespräch mit Barbara Wahlster

Boualem Sansal im Gespräch mit Barbara Wahlster (Photo credit: Das blaue Sofa)

I saw this article from the Times of Israel on The Drudge Report. There is an Algerian writer named Boualem Sansal who won a literary prize but will not be receiving the prize of 15,000 euros. He has committed a crime serious enough that the Arab sponsors could not, in good conscience, give him the money. He visited Israel.

Well-known Algerian writer Boualem Sansal received a prestigious French literary award Thursday. However, he did not get the prize of 15,000 euros he had been slated to receive, as the fact that he had visited Israel prompted the Arab sponsors of the prize to withdraw their support, according to a report by French24.

The Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize has been granted by the Arab Ambassadors Council, which is based in Paris, since 2008. In the past, the prize was comprised of both an award and a cash prize.

Sansal was nominated for the prize for his book “Rue Darwin” (Darwin Street). However, after being named the winner, he attended the Jerusalem Writers Festival, which took place in May. He was invited to the festival as the guest of honor. Palestinian groups slammed his decision to attend, with Hamas reportedly calling his participation “an act of treason against the Palestinian people.”

After a protracted argument, Sansal was given his award on Thursday, but without the prize money, France24 reported.

At least he got the award. Sansal was not really happy with the compromise.

Commenting on the decision to withdraw the prize money, laureate Sansal said it was “completely unacceptable,” adding that Arab countries – and his home country, Algeria, in particular – had “shut themselves in a prison of intolerance.”

I wonder if he had just figured that out. Arab countries have been in a prison of intolerance for centuries and the “Arab Spring” is likely to make things worse.

Sansal added that in order to truly help the Palestinians, individuals like himself should be able to visit Israel freely. “Yes, there are complicated relations with Israel, but we are not at war with them,” he said.

He doesn’t seem to have gotten the message that the Arab countries are indeed at war with Israel, and have been since 1948. The spokeswoman for the Arab Ambassadors Council sees things somewhat more clearly.

A spokeswoman for the Arab Ambassadors Council claimed the council’s decision had not been influenced by the Hamas statement on the matter.

However, she said, “The Ambassadors are subject to the official position of the Arab League which considers itself effectively in a state of war with Israel. The council is obliged to follow directives from the Arab League. Every ambassador regrets that this has happened. They would never want to interfere with literature.”

I like that last sentence. It is not like the founder of their religion would order the death of poets he didn’t like. Well, actually he did.

I think that Boualem Sansal, and perhaps many other Arabic literary figures, would be well advised to move out of Algeria. Since he visited Israel and is considered a traitor, it is only a matter of time before they start saying he is a Zionist agent.

 

 


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