Beneath the

by Paul Preuss

Charles Darwin never publicly speculated on the origin of life; it was in a letter to his friend Joseph Hooker that he remarked upon "some warm little pond" supplied with nutrients-a cozy environment where nothing waited to pounce, where life might get a foothold.

Could even Charles Darwin have imagined life's diverse tenacity, its survival in boiling springs, inside rocks in the frozen dry valleys of Antarctica, in saturated brines and acid ponds and toxic dumps? Life doesn't need air or light, much less a warm little pond. Much of it hides beneath the surface-at the bottom of the sea, or hundreds or even thousands of meters deep in the Earth's crust.