5 Intriguing Things: Submergence Special Edition

An homage to the novel Submergence in five links.

Last week, I read a stunning novel called Submergence by J.M. LedgardIt is so good that I'm devoting today's 5 Intriguing Things to links about the themes of the book. It's an experiment.

But first, a passage from the book:

"You will be in Hades, the staying place of the spirits of the dead. You will be drowned in oblivion, the River Lethe, swallowing water to erase all memory. It will not be the nourishing womb you began your life in. It will be a submergence. You will take your place in the boiling-hot fissures, among the teeming hordes of nameless microorganisms that mimic no forms, because they are the foundation of all forms. In your reanimation you will be aware only that you are a fragment of what once was, and are no longer dead. Sometimes this will be an electric feeling, sometimes a sensation of the acid you eat, or the furnace under you. You will burgle and rape other cells in the dark for a seeming eternity, but nothing will come of it. Hades is evolved to the highest state of simplicity. It is stable. Whereas you are a tottering tower, so young in evolutionary terms, and addicted to consciousness."

Found 9316 meters down (HADES Project)

1. The hadal zone is what scientists call the region 6,000 to 11,000 meters down, which is the deepest 45 percent of the ocean

"Much of our knowledge of hadal biology is derived from two sampling campaigns in the 1950s (the Danish Galathea and the Soviet Vitjaz expeditions). These exploratory campaigns culminated in an initial catalogue of hadal species but they did not strategically sample at comparable depths or with sufficient replication to permit intra- or inter-trench comparisons upon which to draw ecological conclusions regarding demography or spatial population dynamics. Far from being devoid of life as originally perceived (Forbes & Austen 1859), additional opportunistic observations have since stimulated the hypotheses that the hadal zone hosts a substantial diversity and abundance of fauna with a high degree of endemism (Wolff 1960; 1970). However, as a result of historical factors and severe technical challenges associated with the extremes of hydrostatic pressure and distance from the sea surface, hadal systems remain among the most poorly investigated habitats on Earth."


2. A spy was held by Somalian jihadists for three years.

"A French hostage and two French soldiers have been killed during a failed secret service rescue mission in Somalia.

The failure of the overnight helicopter raid in the southern town of Bulo Marer, about 70 miles south of Mogadishu, came as the French military continued a separate African operation in Mali.

The French defence ministry said the hostage was a member of the secret service, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), which directed the operation.

The ministry said the agent, known by his pseudonym Denis Allex, was killed by his captors, members of the Islamist group al-Shabaab, who mounted stiff resistance to the French forces' operation. Seventeen fighters from the group, which had held Allex hostage for three years, were also killed."


3. An outlier scientist named Thomas Gold believed that deep in the Earth, there are lifeforms feeding on what we (in his estimation) incorrectly call fossil fuels. This is a wild theory.

"In the depths of the Earth's crust, he believes, is a second realm, a bacterial 'deep hot biosphere' that is greater in mass than all the creatures living on land and swimming in the seas. Most biologists will tell you that life is something that happens on the Earth's surface, powered by sunlight. Gold counters that most living beings reside deep in the Earth's crust at temperatures well above 100 degrees Celsius, living off methane and other hydrocarbons.

Presented in full in his 1999 book, The Deep Hot Biosphere, Gold's theory of life below the Earth's surface is an outgrowth of his heretical theories about the origins of oil, coal, and natural gas."

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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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