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Old 2nd June 2007, 09:50 AM   #1
FireGarden
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Life at Chernobyl 'eats' radiation

http://unitedcats.wordpress.com/2007...nobyl-reactor/

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There has been an exciting new biological discovery inside the tomb of the Chernobyl reactor. Like out of some B-grade sci fi movie, a robot sent into the reactor discovered a thick coat of black slime growing on the walls.

[...] The fungi appear to use melanin, a chemical found in human skin as well, in the same fashion as plants use chlorophyll. That is to say, the melanin molecule gets struck by a gamma ray and its chemistry is altered. This is an amazing discovery, no one had even suspected that something like this was possible.
The story is also found at Fox News, under the title "Black Fungus Found in Chernobyl Eats Harmful Radiation"

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,...naturalscience

Quote:
"Just as the pigment chlorophyll converts sunlight into chemical energy that allows green plants to live and grow," so might melanin help fungi make use of ionizing radiation, said nuclear medicine specialist Ekaterina Dadachova at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The scientists experimented on three species of fungi. They consistently found that ionizing radiation significantly boosted the growth of fungi that contained melanin.

"In general we think of radiation as something bad or harmful. Here we have a situation where these fungi appear to benefit, which is unexpected," Casadevall told LiveScience.
Was it the Silver Surfer who was powered by radiation?
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Old 2nd June 2007, 11:35 AM   #2
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Sounds evil. Let's kill it.
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Old 2nd June 2007, 12:54 PM   #3
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So black skins of Africans might actually turn radiation directly into energy for their bodies? If so, is my pastey white skin the cause of my laziness? Is equatorial gamma radiation the evolutionary cause for dark skin? I thought it was supposed to be UV. Perhaps it's time for another post for the thread about lies we were taught?
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Old 2nd June 2007, 08:10 PM   #4
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This seems odd.

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Samples of these bacteria grew significantly faster when exposed to gamma radiation at 500 times the normal background radiation level.
For one thing, just how often does a gamma ray at 500x background (which isn't really that high) interact with any one cell? Just what is the probability of rate of distribution of energy deposited in a typical bacteria cell?
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Old 3rd June 2007, 09:23 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by marting View Post
For one thing, just how often does a gamma ray at 500x background (which isn't really that high) interact with any one cell? Just what is the probability of rate of distribution of energy deposited in a typical bacteria cell?
I'm wondering the same thing. Did they maybe just warm up the sample environment a bit in the process of radiating it, and we're just seeing a typical temperature dependence to biological activity rates?
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Old 3rd June 2007, 02:33 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by marting View Post
This seems odd.



For one thing, just how often does a gamma ray at 500x background (which isn't really that high) interact with any one cell? Just what is the probability of rate of distribution of energy deposited in a typical bacteria cell?
500x average background, while not something that will kill you quickly, is within the range that is clearly harmful to most organisms. If this mold has special defences, it's likely that it would outcompete any other molds at this radiation level. Another interesting question is if it actually needs the stimulation from high radiation levels to thrive.

Ziggurat, it's not the temperature increase, as ionizing radiation delivers very little energy compared to the damage done. A lethal dose to humans is about 20 Gray (absorbed joules/kg). So a dose that will increase the temperature by the fraction of a degree will be fatal.

// CyCrow
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Old 3rd June 2007, 02:51 PM   #7
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I hadn't heard about this before, but on looking into it a little, it appears to be rather old news, at least in certain circles.

Here's a related journal article

This property of melanin may actually have potential as an energy source. (And it looks like they controlled for temperature).

Oh, and speaking of energy sources: while a number of comic book heroes had powers which derived from radiation in some way, the Silver Surfer got his from the "Power Cosmic", which is a little like radiation in some ways, but ever so much more -- really more akin to "The Force".
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Old 3rd June 2007, 04:09 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
This property of melanin may actually have potential as an energy source.
I recall reading this years ago. It makes intuitive sense. Melanin presumably functions by taking the sting out of high-frequency radiation and dissipating the energy. It's just a bit of engineering from there to exploiting the energy.
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Old 3rd June 2007, 06:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by CyCrow View Post
500x average background, while not something that will kill you quickly, is within the range that is clearly harmful to most organisms. If this mold has special defences, it's likely that it would outcompete any other molds at this radiation level. Another interesting question is if it actually needs the stimulation from high radiation levels to thrive.

Ziggurat, it's not the temperature increase, as ionizing radiation delivers very little energy compared to the damage done. A lethal dose to humans is about 20 Gray (absorbed joules/kg). So a dose that will increase the temperature by the fraction of a degree will be fatal.

// CyCrow
500x background would be a little over 1 Gy/yr. It would increase the chances of cancer significantly, but, spread out over time as it is would likely not cause much else. Something to avoid though.

For cells that are not part of a complex organism, it should make almost no difference at all. It takes about 1K gy or more to kill individual cells, orders of magnitude more than what would kill a person.

So what could be causing this remarkable effect? Obviously melanin doesn't have any unique ability to absorb gamma rays but perhaps the air is more ionized and this affects mold surfaces, or maybe the melanin provides more ability to utilize proteins/nutrients that are mangled.
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Old 3rd June 2007, 07:36 PM   #10
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The first thing that came to mind was H. P. Lovecraft's The Fungus From Yuggoth.
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Old 4th June 2007, 03:26 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
Here's a related journal article

This property of melanin may actually have potential as an energy source. (And it looks like they controlled for temperature).
Thanks for that!

Quote:
Oh, and speaking of energy sources: while a number of comic book heroes had powers which derived from radiation in some way, the Silver Surfer got his from the "Power Cosmic", which is a little like radiation in some ways, but ever so much more -- really more akin to "The Force".
I stand corrected.
It never occured to me to look in PubMedCentral for the Silver Surfer.

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