Seeps are microbial hotspots, homes to cosmopolitan microorganisms

A new study, "Global Dispersion and Local Diversification of the Methane Seep Microbiome," provides evidence methane seeps are habitats that harbor distinct microbial communities unique from other seafloor ecosystems. The article appeared in the March 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Methane seeps are natural gas leaks in the sea floor that emit methane into the water. Microorganisms that live on or near these seeps can use the methane as a food source, preventing the gas from collecting in the surrounding hydrosphere or migrating into the atmosphere.

"Marine environments are a potentially huge source for methane outputs to the atmosphere, but the surrounding microbes keep things in check by eating 75 percent of the methane before it gets to the atmosphere. These organisms are an important part of the underwater ecosystem, particularly as it relates to global gas cycles that are climate important in terms of greenhouse gas emissions," said article co-author Jennifer Biddle, an assistant professor of marine biosciences in the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Acquiring deep sea samples is difficult. As a result, the deep sea is often poorly understood and scientifically under sampled.

"Scientists know that certain areas of the deep sea experience bursts of energy and that microbes can grow there, but they aren't sure what these microbes do or what environment they prefer," Biddle said.

As governments and industry contemplate mining the deep ocean as a potential industrial reserve for minerals and other important deposits, scientists like Biddle are considering climate change and how the warming of the ocean potentially could affect the deep water and the marine organisms that live there.

Biddle believes the data set created with her colleagues may offer an important window into understanding the current state of diversity and dispersal in the deep sea. This is particularly important, she said, because consumption of methane by microbes is an important control for methane concentrations from the seafloor.

"This collection of data is rare and valuable," Biddle said. "As the climate warms, changes are bound to occur. Without an initial data set there is no way to measure changes over time."

In the study, Biddle and her colleagues analyzed microbial samples from 23 methane seeps across the globe, and compared them to the microbial communities of 54 other seafloor ecosystems.

The collaborating scientists used what Biddle called "samples of opportunity" -- valuable samples on-hand in laboratory freezers from their previous research trips and those contributed from other colleagues they enlisted to help. The samples came from as close as the White Oak River Basin estuary in North Carolina and as far away as offshore Antarctica.

While the researchers theorized that bacteria and archaea would vary by the amount of methane emitted by a given seep, what they found was that methane secretion wasn't a determining factor; rather other energy sources from the surrounding environment were determined to have a greater role in determining what types of bacteria and microorganisms were present.

The scientists' findings indicate that, globally, methane seeps share a core community of bacteria and archaea, but that they are locally specific.

Biddle likened it to Darwin's expedition through the Galapagos Islands in the early 1800s, explaining that while Darwin noted that finches were present on every island he visited in the Galapagos Islands, he reported that the finches were individually different based on the island they were on.

"We found similar groups, but we did not find any one species that was distributed throughout the entire deep sea in all of these environments. This is significant because it tells us that our job is even more difficult than we thought," she said. Recent local sea floor mapping efforts by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have led to discovery of new seeps up and down the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast.

"It's an environment where there is a lot of discovery, new seeps are constantly found. It's intriguing to think we've now got reason to keep studying new seeps, determine how they are different and begin asking new questions" Biddle said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Delaware . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Crime Has Gone High-Tech, and the Law Can’t Keep Up

Goodman Marc Goodman. CG Photography

When most people hear the word “criminal,” they probably picture some dim-witted thug. But security expert Marc Goodman has been fighting crime for more than 20 years, and he’s learned the hard way that crime is increasingly going high-tech, leaving law enforcement struggling to keep up. He outlines the challenges in his new book Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It .

“The fact that narcos in Mexico are going to colleges of aeronautical engineering to hire drone engineers would be a surprise to people,” Goodman says in Episode 142 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Everything from AI to synthetic biology to robotics to big data to the Internet of Things, crooks and terrorists, rogue governments and corporations are all over it.”

But perhaps the most striking fact about crime today is who—or rather what—is committing it.

“It’s not people that are committing the crime anymore,” says Goodman. “Crime has become software. It’s crimeware.”

Examples include ransomware (viruses that encrypt your data and make you pay to get it back) and botnets (zombie networks of thousands of infected machines that can be turned against banks, tech companies, and governments). The days when only master hackers were committing computer crimes are long gone. These days every creepy stalker, disgruntled employee, or aspiring terrorist can purchase pre-programmed crimeware to help them hack your phone, your bank account, or even your car.

The exponentially expanding threat means locking up individual criminals is no longer a realistic solution.

“If somebody has Ebola or measles, public health officials don’t go out there and arrest them,” says Goodman. “My goal should not be to arrest every hacker in the world. My goal should be to create a self-healing immune system for the Internet, so that even if a disease or a virus gets created, it won’t be passed to me.”

Another approach is to crowdsource law enforcement. Organized crime is already adept at crowdsourcing, using criminal networks to rob thousands of ATMs at once. Law-abiding citizens need to respond in kind, forming civil response squads modeled on the National Guard or Army Reserve.

“I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to take people of technological skill, whether it be a 10-year-old kid in India or an 80-year-old woman in Seattle, and get these people involved,” says Goodman. “I think it’s the only way that we’re going to move forward and win this battle.”

Listen to our complete interview with Marc Goodman in Episode 142 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), and check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Marc Goodman on hacking cameras:

“We saw this happen with Miss Teen America, a young woman—16 years old—by the name of Cassidy Wolf. She was sitting in her bedroom looking at her laptop, and one day she got an email that contained pictures of her, naked, in her own bedroom. … Of course she was horrified. She slammed closed her laptop, and fortunately she told her parents, who called in the FBI. They did an investigation into it, and found that the hack was carried out by one of her classmates. And this kid was not a master hacker. He just bought some cheap software online, sent her an email, she clicked on the wrong thing, and now he had installed keystroke loggers to her computer and took over her camera.”

Marc Goodman on hacking cars:

“Most folks don’t realize the extent to which the whole world is becoming a computer. All physical objects in our space are de-materializing and are being transformed into information technology. … If you look at a 1965 Chevy, or a Mustang, those were mechanical cars, but the cars today—any car that’s rolled off the assembly line in the past few years—has well over 200 microchips in it. They control the radio, the GPS, the airbags, the cruise control, the speedometer, it’s all controlled by computer. Recently on 60 MinutesLeslie Stahl‘s car was hacked. Somebody was able to slam on the acceleration, slam on the brakes. … A [modern car] is a computer that we ride in, an elevator is a computer that we ride in, an airplane is a Solaris box that we fly in. All of these devices are hackable.”

Marc Goodman on security through non-digital technology:

“I think it’s worth asking the question: What should and should not be online? There is a movement among some companies to take certain things out of the electronic realm. So companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s, they have secret recipes for both Coke and their fried chicken. Those are not stored in any electronic systems. Those are written down on a piece of paper and kept in a safe. And after the Snowden revelations, the Kremlin, for their secret communications in Moscow, went back to typewriters—manual typewriters, not even electronic typewriters, but manual typewriters—to type things. So I think you will see some stepping back away from this digital stuff.”

Marc Goodman on hacking biometrics:

“A few years ago the German Minister of Justice—kind of like the Attorney General here in the United States—he was pushing very hard for Germans to have biometric data on their national ID cards, and he wanted all Germans to be fingerprinted. And the Germans pushed back, particularly privacy advocates and those in the Chaos Computer Club. And so what they did is when the German Minister of Justice was out at a restaurant, they went ahead and after he left they got the glass that he had left behind, and they were able to lift his fingerprint off of the glass. They then took a photograph, brought it into Photoshop, cleaned it up, and then were able to replicate it on 3D printers, in latex. … [They] included it as a handout in their Chaos Computer Club magazine that went out to 5,000 people, and they encouraged their readers to leave the Justice Minister’s fingerprints at crime scenes all over Germany, which they did.”

While You Were Offline: Was There a World Before Twitter?

For once, you have a great reason to be distracted from the goings-on on the Internet this week: You’ve been listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album, thinking about race, and finding out those all-important nine things about him you needed to know in order to go on. That’s entirely understandable, but as you’d expect, there’s been a lot happening on the web that might have went under your radar as a result. As ever, we’re here to help, with this round-up of the strangest, stupidest, and Mr. T-iest things online. You’re welcome.

Big Barbie Is Listening

What Happened: Mattel revealed the next generation of Barbie dolls: a Barbie that can listen to what you’re saying. And then send recordings elsewhere via WiFi. No, really.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Finally, someone has thought to use modern technology the way it was always intended—to create the next generation Teddy Ruxpin. Meet Hello Barbie, a doll that can “learn” about her owner by eavesdropping on conversations and storing that information in the cloud, thanks to an internal Wi-Fi connection. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is excited about this idea, with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood launching a letter-writing campaign this week to have production halted before the product launches later this year. Plenty of reports explaining why this doll is problematic surfaced as news of Hello Barbie spread with everyone across the political spectrum admitting that “surveillance Barbie,” as she’s now being described, sounded more than a little creepy. To date, Mattel hasn’t commented on the uproar, but don’t worry; pretty soon, they’ll have enough Hello Barbies out there that they’ll know exactly what we’re all saying about their toys.

The Takeaway: No one had this much of a problem with Toy Story, and those toys didn’t just listen in to everything we said, they could do things when we were asleep. It’s the Wi-Fi thing, isn’t it? This is the week where nobody liked Wi-Fi.

Is Wearable Tech the New Cigarette? Of Course Not

What Happened: The New York Times reported on possible problems with wearable tech. Except that, well, the problem it reported was more than a little over-the-top.

Where It Blew Up: Blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: On Wednesday, the Times published a story called “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?”—a question so ridiculous that it quickly changed that headline to “The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech.” The damage was done, however, because although the headline was altered, the story, which suggested that wearable tech “could be as harmful as certain dry-cleaning chemicals and pesticides” and that cellphones were “possibly carcinogenic,” wasn’t.

Problem is, the available science doesn’t really back up the NYT report, as a number of later reports pointed out. (Including one on this very website.) The response got so loud that the Times returned to the topic days later, with public editor Margaret Sullivan noting that “the column clearly needed much more vetting, at least some of which could have been done internally at the Times,” and admitting that “the original web headline felt like click bait.”

The Takeaway: One of the pluses of the democratic nature of the web is the way in which irresponsible pieces from respected, establishment sources can be immediately fact-checked. Seeing the NYT‘s public editor respond to such an event in the way she did suggested that this might be one of those times in which the system worked the way it should.

So Help Me, Glastobury

What Happened: Kanye West was announced as a headliner at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Not everyone liked that.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: The Glastonbury Festival is a mainstay of the British music scene, and particularly the British rock establishment (also, increasingly, the British dance establishment). So Monday’s announcement that Kanye West would headline the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night at this year’s festival didn’t really go down too well. In fact, it went down so poorly that someone started a petition to cancel his appearance, calling it “an insult to music fans all over the world.” The man responsible for that petition is Neil Lonsdale, a man who has never been to the festival before, but nonetheless feels that it deserves “the biggest performers [and] Kanye does not represent that,” which begs the question, who is bigger than Kanye right now? (Well, BeyoncĂ©, but besides her.)

As of this writing, more than 90,000 people have signed the petition, leading to a raft of coverage, as well as a backlash on social media:

The Takeaway: Look, some people are just racists. Or maybe idiots? Hell, it’s not like they’re mutually exclusive. It’s also not as if this petition is going to change the Glastonbury organizers’ minds about West, thankfully. Maybe they will even be convinced to dump Friday’s headliners Foo Fighters for Kendrick Lamar. That’d be good.

The Note No Artist Should Have to Receive

What Happened: A comic book artist reflected on a Marvel Comics editor asking him to lighten the skin color of a character.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Ron Wimberly is a comic book creator whose work includes The Prince of Cats and Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm. He’s also illustrating Marvel’s She-Hulk and, for the purposes of this story, Wolverine and the X-Men. He posted a wonderful comic strip essay about his experience on that latter title this week, noting that he was asked to lighten the skin tone of one of the characters and examining both the request and his response to it, and it immediately went viral.

Deservedly so, as it addresses an important, but often invisible, point—and one that was also brought up on Thursday’s Nightly Show with Larry Willmore , surprisingly enough.

The Takeaway: Diversity in comics is a hot topic right now, with publishers trying to improve. It’d be nice to think that Wimberly has managed to highlight a way in which racism was seeping into stories that can be avoided with some effort in future.

Was There Really a World Before Twitter?

What Happened: Twitter imagined a world without Twitter.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter

What Really Happened: Like many Americans—hell, many of everyone on the planet—I’m addicted to Twitter-dot-com, which means I was at once amused and confused by the emergence this week of the #BeforeTwitterI hashtag, which asked users to describe their lives before Twitter existed.

The Takeaway: Before Twitter, I was waiting for someone to invent a 140-character way for me to be told what’s happening in the world, because looking elsewhere or talking to people was just too much effort.

Give That DIY Network Executive a Raise

What Happened: Mr. T has his own home improvement show. It’s going to be called I Pity the Tool. Despite what that sounds like, it’s really not a joke.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Whoever came up with the idea for I Pity the Tool is a genius, because how could the Internet not love that?

The Takeaway: It almost doesn’t matter whether or not this show is actually good, this level of free publicity means that it’s going to stick around for a while no matter what. Someone give that DIY Network executive a raise.