By Derek Clark
Contributing Writer [GAS]
Imagine you’re a young go-getter scientist trying to finish your Ph.D. in geology when you find yourself alone in the lab on a Friday night. After you’ve posted all your Mohs hardness penis jokes on Twitter and checked your ‘Geologists Are Sexy’ blog for comments, you get bored and start poking around the lab.
Eventually, curiosity gets the better of you and you finally open that closet your creepy-ass advisor warned you not to. Tucked in the dark recesses of a shelf, you find a small, mysterious package. The plastic container is heavier than you expect and marked ‘Climate Research: Death Valley. 34,000-Year-Old Salt Crystals. DO NOT OPEN.’ The excitement of just holding it makes you pee your pants a little.
Just as your conscience kicks in and you reach to put the package back on the shelf, the jagged crystals beneath the clear plastic sparkle and catch your eye. You feel yourself hypnotized and being drawn in like an overweight teenage girl at a Twilight movie. Out of nowhere, ominous music starts playing. Flying in the face of all logic taught to you by every science fiction and horror movie you’ve ever seen, you open the package.
A strange greenish glow emanates from the crystalline sample. You think you see something. Yes, you definitely saw something… move. It’s alive!
This is usually the part where either your face melts off or you drop to the floor comatose while the alien organism incubates inside you. Of course, all this would soon be followed by you assuming your role as the zombie Anti-Christ of a global apocalypse.
Fortunately, the real Ph.D. student, Brian Schubert, who made the discovery of ancient bacteria living within tiny, fluid-filled chambers inside some really old salt crystals, tells a slightly different story. He assures us that the sodium-loving bacteria were shrunken, small and suspended in a kind of hibernation.
“They’re alive, but they’re not using any energy to swim around, they’re not reproducing,” Schubert said. “They’re not doing anything at all except maintaining themselves.” Hmm, sounds exactly like something an alien organism that has taken over the body of a young, handsome scientist would say to distract us from the real danger. But please, go on.
Schubert then added the ‘but’ heard round the geek world. ‘But’ apparently once the microbes came out of their hibernation, they started to reproduce. “It’s 34,000 years old and it has a kid!” he exclaimed. Cue the flashing red phone on President Morgan Freeman’s desk.
“It worked out very well,” Schubert said. Do you guys hear helicopters?
I’m sure geologist everywhere are proud of this historic moment, unaware of the Pandora’s Box they probably just opened. But not me. While Ridley Scott and John Carpenter start a bidding war on the movie rights, I’ll be cleaning out my local supermarket of toilet paper, batteries and Cocoa Puffs cereal.