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Microbes That Cheat Death

Bacteria has proven itself to be near indestructible much like cockroaches. But how indestructible are they? Well, Charles Lipman conducted experiments to see if bacteria could survive long periods of time so he looked for them in coal and began reanimating them.

Lipman did not believe that the bacteria he coaxed from coal were alive in the sense that the bacteria in your gut are alive. Rather, he believed that during the process of forming coal, the bacteria had dried up and entered suspended animation.
The year was 1931. His colleagues probably thought he was nuts. But from where we sit in 2019, it’s looking increasingly likely that Lipman was not nuts. The world’s oldest living individuals may not be gnarled bristlecone pines or shimmering aspen clones, but tiny microbes locked in rock miles beneath the surface whose goal is to not to grow or reproduce, but simply to cheat death.

(Image credit: Charles Lipman)


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