Friday, October 28, 2011

Will the oceans kill us?


The postulation comes from geobiologist Joe Kirschvink at Cal Tech who has studied mass extinctions in our world's history.  The new theory for "the end of all that is" goes like this: a mutation occurs in ocean microbes wherein they don't take water from the ocean, but salt.  These diatoms split salt molecules in half, absorbing the resultant sodium and releasing the chlorine to go free.  Problem with that being that chlorine is poisonous.  If it should be released en masse into the atmosphere, it would be curtains for the human race and most other breathing organisms.

Sound far fetched?  Consider this.  Life on Earth is here pretty much because two billion years ago, microbes started breaking apart water molecules and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that was thick with methane.  Lifeforms that lived off of that methane at the time went through a mass extinction.  As stated in the article: "Of course, there is no known evolutionary advantage to such a shift taking place. But then again, there is no known advantage to cyanobacteria developing a metabolism that farted out oxygen 2.35 billion years ago, either."

Will this happen?  Who knows.  Will Global Warming somehow kickstart this chlorine-instead-of-oxygen process?  If there is any evidence suggesting that, the io9 article does not say.  What does seem safe to assert is that if we continue to be irresponsible with our environment, you know, with things like oceans, then the chickens will come home to roost as Malcolm X said.  I don't see it being at all outside the realm of plausibility that after ocean waters have altered by human interference and the ecosystem goes berserk, microorganisms would perhaps adapt and evolve in order to survive.  Such and adaptation might be exactly the sort of transformation that Kirschvink describes.  Notice I said plausible, not necessarily probable.  If you don't know the difference, look it up.

After choking on chlorine, nuclear war might not seem so bad after all.

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