Life is a fundamental component of the Universe.
Allow me, please, to explain. That statement, sounding mystical as it does, arises in a certain context.
Whether we find ourselves arguing with Creationists or discussing the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, a question arises concerning the odds of life developing in the Universe. There is even the Drake Equation, intended to predict the probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos.
And for some, the numbers prescribe a low possibility. For the Creationists, life is nothing short of miraculous, requiring God’s hand to come about.
But the Universe is vast, perhaps even infinite in its potential. Which suggests that however we calculate the odds, life becomes nearly an inevitability.
And in recent years, people have started to recognize this. Some look hopefully to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, wondering what surprises might await in or beneath the ice of, for instance, Europa.
Here at home, on Earth, our outlook on life is rapidly changing, and the latest announcement from the Mediterranean will only fuel that transformation. Patrick Jackson explains, for the BBC:
Scientists have found the first animals that can survive and reproduce entirely without oxygen, deep on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea.
The team, led by Roberto Danovaro from Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy, found three new species from the Loricifera group.
He told BBC World Service they were about a millimetre in size and looked like jellyfish in a protective shell ….
…. One of the three new Loriciferans (so-called because of their protective layer, or lorica) has already been officially named Spinoloricus Cinzia, after the professor’s wife.
The other two, currently designated Rugiloricus and Pliciloricus, have still to be formally described.
They were discovered in the course of three oceanographic expeditions conducted over a decade in order to search for living fauna in the sediment of the Mediterranean’s L’Atalante basin.
The basin, 200km (124m) off the western coast of Crete, is about 3.5km (2.2m) deep and is almost entirely depleted of oxygen, or anoxic.