Freeman Dyson -Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton
Cornell University Professor Emeritus Thomas Gold, who for 20 years directed the Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, proposes the striking and controversial theory that "a full functioning... , feeding on hydrocarbons, exists deep within the earth, and that a primordial source of hydrocarbons lies even deeper."
Gold, a world-renowned physicist and author of The Deep Hot : The Myth of Fossil Fuels, belives that oil and natural gas hydrocarbons are not biological in origin and are found not only in the shallow crust of the earth but also at greater depths. He maintains that hydrocarbons, especially methane, were an important constituent of the earth when it was formed and are widely distributed in depth. These deep hydrocarbon deposits continuously replenish the shallower deposits.
If Gold's controversial theory is true, then even the term "fossil fuels" would have to be dropped. Gold contends that petroleum is promordial and currently supports biological activity in the Earth and is not the converted remains of ancient life after a few million years of decomposition. In addition, these theories explain the presence of compostion of mineral enriched earth and a few other mysteries such as the presence of helium which has been so far unexplained by conventional ideas.
As Gold points out, so far no one has ever been able to come up with the chemical reactions needed to form petroleum from decaying organic matter.
Analysis of thermal vents in the deep ocean and cold petroleum
seepages on the shallower ocean floor has revealed forms of bacteria
that rely on hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane, for food. These
bacteria, of the Archaea domain, thrive at temperatures as high as
100-150 degrees C and do not depend on photosynthesis. The genomes of
Archaea suggest they developed very early in the evolution of life.
Gold concluded that Archaea probably developed deep underground, rather
than on or near the surface, reflecting his choice of the book's title.
In consuming methane, the Archaea produced carbon dioxide and water
which also migrated to the surface and were added to the atmosphere.
Water in the liquid state became more plentiful.
Most scientists think the oil we drill for comes from decomposed prehistoric plants. Gold believes it has been there since the earth's formation, that it supports its own ecosystem far underground and that life there preceded life on the earth's surface.
The "deep hot " hypothesis would explain the thermophiles, the minerals and the oil Swedish drillers found in 1990 under rock where no one expected them. The hot goo and massed gas far under our feet would also explain some mysterious historical earthquakes (notably the New Madrid, Mo., shocker of 1811), and it would tell puzzled geologists why so many oil reserves just happen to sit underneath coal fields.
If Gold is correct, the planet's oil reserves are far larger than status quo policymakers expect, and earthquake-prediction procedures require a shakeup; moreover, astronomers seraching for extraterrestrial contacts might want to shift from seeking life on other planets and inquire about life deep inside them.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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