Friday, May 17, 2013

Water trapped in Rock? Get Ready for a Stream of Discoveries!

 Water we talking about?

We're talking about water trapped within rock that was discovered by some gold miners in Canada.  Really, really old water.  Water that may have microorganisms within it that evolved separately from everything on the surface.

Geochemistry ROCKS!

Ok, enough with the puns...  you get my point.  This is so awesome!!!

Here's the thing:  

There has been water found within rocks that has been trapped for tens of millions of years.  That's nothing new.  This water, however, is really exciting.  See, it's older.  A lot older. 

A team of geochemists visited Timmins, Ontario and made some interesting findings.
 "To date the water, the team used three lines of evidence, all based on the relative abundances of various isotopes of noble gases present in the water. The authors determined that the fluid could not have contacted Earth's atmosphere — and so been at the planet's surface — for at least 1 billion years, and possibly for as long as 2.64 billion years, not long after the rocks it flows through formed." (, May 15, 2013)

Pete Burnard, one of the scientists at the site, described the isotopic compositions within the collected samples as "extremely strange."  This begs the question of, "What's so strange about it?"

Well, according to geochemist Chris Ballentine, 
"The findings are “doubly interesting”, Ballentine says, because the fluid carries the ingredients necessary to support life. The isolated water supply, he says, provides “secluded biomes, ecosystems, in which life, you can speculate, might have even originated”. His colleagues are now working to establish whether the water does harbour life."
 That's just... awesome. Imagine having the responsibility, no, the opportunity, to study something so complex and amazing.  So different.  This is truly fantastic.

Could that ancient water hold bacteria that could potentially cure a chronic disease?  Could it hold bacteria that could infect us all with an ailment that we've never before come into contact with?

Or could it hold no life at all?

This water, it seems, holds more questions than answers, right now.  I look forward to future findings.  How about you?


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