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Russians Find "New Bacteria" In Lake Vostok

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the new-germ-on-the-block dept.

Science 147

tverbeek writes "Russian scientists believe they have found a new type of bacteria in the sub-glacial Lake Vostok. From the article: 'The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics. "After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database," he said. "We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he added.'"

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SCIENCE! (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 2 years ago | (#43110873)

FUCK YES!

Re:SCIENCE! (2)

thestudio_bob (894258) | about 2 years ago | (#43110961)

HOW DOES IT WORK?!?

Re:SCIENCE! (5, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#43111015)

It's poetry in motion
She turned her tender eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony

Re:SCIENCE! (4, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#43111153)

Burma shave.

Re:SCIENCE! (5, Funny)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 2 years ago | (#43111215)

We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he added.'"

shittiest name ever!

Re:SCIENCE! (4, Funny)

Roman Coder (413112) | about 2 years ago | (#43111519)

We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he added.'"

shittiest name ever!

Could be worse. Could be 'Odo'.

Re:SCIENCE! (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#43112585)

Just dress it up in Latin -

Inexploratus incognitus

Sounds much more erudite.

Myanmar-Shave (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#43112667)

I thought it was Myanmar [zazzle.com] now.

Re:SCIENCE! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#43113277)

FUCK YES!

HOW DOES IT WORK?!?

I think he told you in his post.

uh-oh. (1, Funny)

new death barbie (240326) | about 2 years ago | (#43110877)

this is bad, I just know it.

Re:uh-oh. (4, Funny)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | about 2 years ago | (#43110969)

It's fine, they're not Norwegian [wikipedia.org]

Re:uh-oh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111769)

Eww don't like to that fucking dog shit remake they pooped out recently....

Re:uh-oh. (2)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 2 years ago | (#43112343)

not a remake, a prequel. (whose timeline ends literally 5 seconds before the start of the original).

Re:uh-oh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43113171)

One of them is already a Norwegian, they just don't know who.

Re:uh-oh. (2)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 2 years ago | (#43111417)

I didn't get nervous until I re-read the summary and noticed that the Russians seem to have categorized their genetics research program under Nuclear Physics.

Re:uh-oh. (1)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | about 2 years ago | (#43112927)

More like Nuclear Chemistry if you ask me. Where else is the Chromosomal DNA found?

Re:uh-oh. (4, Informative)

rve (4436) | about 2 years ago | (#43113303)

More like Nuclear Chemistry if you ask me. Where else is the Chromosomal DNA found?

Thank God I, Mr. Pedantic, got here just in time, to ruin your joke with unsolicited facts: bacteria do not have a cell nucleus.

Re:uh-oh. (3, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | about 2 years ago | (#43111499)

In other news, Madagascar has shut down all ports.

in soviet russia we bacteria you (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#43110885)

in soviet russia we bacteria you

Re:in soviet russia we bacteria you (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43110913)

I think you meant to say, "In Soviet Russia, bacteria finds you!"

Re:in soviet russia we bacteria you (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#43111155)

"In Soviet Russia, we infect bacteria"

Re:in soviet russia we bacteria you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43113229)

"In Soviet Russia, bacteria new's you"

"life form unclassified" (3, Interesting)

ChrisKnight (16039) | about 2 years ago | (#43110903)

I love living in a world where the regular headlines sound like the start of a decent sci fi adventure.

Now let's just hope this puppy doesn't get out of the lab and become a sci-fi/horror. Two hundred years from now it could be on the History Channel as "Zombie Plagues from the Past".

Re:"life form unclassified" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43110987)

If in two hundred years we still have the history channel then we have need for a zombie plague.

Re:"life form unclassified" (5, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43110995)

That's hyperbole, I'm afraid. It's a bacterium, just a very distant cousin. Great for studying evolution, irrelevant to Michael Chrichton. Based on the other bacteria recovered from the borehole sample, its hobbies most likely consist of "feeding on geothermal heat" and "being adapted to an extremely stable, homogeneous environment with no predators or other forms of life," which as a general rule means it's as helpless as the Kakapo [wikipedia.org] .

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

bennomatic (691188) | about 2 years ago | (#43111167)

I understand the rationale behind the general rule as stated, but is it totally impossible that a strain of this could survive even an extreme change in environment, adapt and thrive to such a degree that it would become a danger to the natives of that environment?

I mean, I know it's more extreme than, say, eucalyptus trees in California or rabbits in Australia, but to write off the possibility completely seems like an exaggerated response.

I was going to be more glib in my response, but your sig implies that you've got some experience with the biological sciences, so my question is sincere.

Re:"life form unclassified" (5, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43111425)

Based on circumstantial evidence (another species found nearby), the bacterium is a thermophile that depends on geothermal heat for warmth. Because of the way thermophiles evolve, it is pretty much certain that the proteins in this species are non-functional at colder temperatures; the samples collected were either dead or in a deep state of antifreeze-clogged hibernation.

It's also 700 million years (or more!) behind on immune defences, which means it's vulnerable to everything from the toxins that all plants constantly secret all the time to the macrophages in our blood. The immune game is a Red Queen scenario [wikipedia.org] —either a pathogen is at the forefront of innovation, or it's susceptible to the most basic form of detection.

The only environment this could possibly intrude upon is one comparable to its own—maybe a heat vent in another frozen lake. Even if it wasn't a thermophile, it would be dead meat on the surface because of bacteriophages (viruses). To add insult to injury, as far as we know this bacterium has no competitors and is not part of a community, making it highly unlikely that it has any competition or any defences.

Gene retention is like lactose tolerance—if you don't use it, you'll lose it. For animals, this typically takes a few thousand years. For bacteria it happens much more quickly. They're very simple organisms, and they're very good at adapting, but only if they've had time to adjust to their new setting. In this case, every single one of its (probably several thousand) genes has spent millions of years being fine-tuned for the most boring environment possible. It has absolutely no hope.

Re:"life form unclassified" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43112451)

"Even if it wasn't a thermophile, it would be dead meat on the surface because of bacteriophages"
I've heard that bacteriophages are very specific about their potential hosts, wouldn't you need a phage that targets other similarly structured bacteria, and this one having diverged some 700mya couldn't those prove to be tricky to come by?

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112551)

If not phages then something else. Protists. Nematodes. If it's really been isolated for this long, it probably has a really slow doubling time; that may be bad enough that predation could overwhelm it.

That being said, though, evolutionary pressure is still key. Viruses are host-specific because the hosts keep changing; an older bacterium is more likely to have exploitable sugar moieties on its surface.

Re:"life form unclassified" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43112623)

Oh, absolutely, i'm not disputing that it's extremely vulnerable out in the big bad world, but was curious about just how susceptible it would be to modern phages.
  "an older bacterium is more likely to have exploitable sugar moieties on its surface.", while not making a great deal of sense to me, is very roughly the kind of thing i was curious about, had i been able to express the question without feeling that it looked stupid, it would have been appended to my initial question as an or, thanks.
I shall now spend some time looking stuff up and remaining baffled!

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43113003)

Viruses decide what to stick to by looking for unique features on the outsides of cells. Bacteria are more or less all the same on the inside, so once it's in, it's in. Phages have their own reproductive machinery for the most part; they just need a cell to reside in. One of the unique features they can stick to are glycoproteins and glycolipids embedded in the exterior cell wall (a second phospholipid bilayer that surrounds the membrane). To be honest it's fairly likely that these evolve so quickly that no phage would be able to recognize them—i.e., the arms race has moved on—but an exceptionally nonspecific phage might still be able to exploit it, or this old species might have a stump of a more complex carbohydrate tree found on newer species (the opposite of a master key, if you will.) I'm not really a membrane buff, though, so I can't tell you much more than that.

Re:"life form unclassified" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43113221)

That'll do nicely, thanks.

Re:"life form unclassified" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111299)

Those hobbies are more exciting than mine. :-/

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43111453)

What? You mean you're not basking in the glow of a monitor in your mother's basement?

Re:"life form unclassified" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43112859)

"with no predators"
Jimmy savile inhabited his mother's basement for a time, you insensitive clod

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#43113307)

Those hobbies are more exciting than mine. :-/

I grow my life forms, unclassifed, in my toilet bowl.

I have to kill them off and start over every time I have company.

Re:"life form unclassified" (2)

0111 1110 (518466) | about 2 years ago | (#43111467)

At least admit that it is a good setup for a scifi novel.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

krotkruton (967718) | about 2 years ago | (#43111797)

The Thing

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

meglon (1001833) | about 2 years ago | (#43111995)

Yes, it was.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112395)

Once upon a time, being attacked by Martians was a good setup for a science fiction novel. Times change, I'm afraid.

Re:"life form unclassified" (3, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#43111985)

other hobbies include: taking over a host organisms brain stem and seeking out anything that moves and doesn't smell dead. Ability to sustain motor control after death of cells.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112589)

It's fairly probable that the last time this species was circulating in the general biosphere, animals hadn't been invented yet. It may be older than multicellular life altogether.

Re:"life form unclassified" (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#43113187)

You mean 1,000,000,000 years ago? That's when multicellular life was prolific, after a couple of billion years being much simpler.
You do know Antarctica was part of the super-continent the dinosaurs inhabited eh? Its also only been frozen for around 25 million years too.

Re:"life form unclassified" (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43113245)

Yyyyeah, well... if it was only isolated from the rest of the biological tree for 25 million years, we'd only see about 0.5-1% difference in the 16S rRNA. TFA reported (what I think) is at least 14% difference, which is at least 700 million years. Either all of its relatives died off, or it's been down there at that thermal vent this whole time, only vaguely aware (in an "evolutionary pressures" kinda sense) of the ice around it.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#43112015)

As far as I can tell, pretty much everything is irrelevant to Michael Chrichton.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112611)

Finally, someone else noticed!

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 years ago | (#43112995)

That's a bit rough, homocidal albino gorillas with stone ping pong paddles and medical doctors with nuclear weapons are not irrelevant to Michael Chrichton :)

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43113031)

That sounds like it's straight out of his autobiography.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

dotar (1400363) | about 2 years ago | (#43112847)

It will be better adapted than the kakapo, since, being a flightless bird, it likes to jump off cliffs at night.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43113009)

Not if it disintegrates at atmospheric pressure!

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#43113297)

Great for studying evolution, irrelevant to Michael Chrichton

Wow, it *is* exotic if Chrichton can't phobiize it.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111107)

I love living in a world where the regular headlines sound like the start of a decent sci fi adventure.

Now let's just hope this puppy doesn't get out of the lab and become a sci-fi/horror. Two hundred years from now it could be on the History Channel as "Zombie Plagues from the Past".

The paranoid sci-fi freak in me likes the idea. But the logical, rational part of me understands that the environment it evolved to live in is a good bit colder than the human body.
Also, if it was really that nasty, it probably would have "got out" long ago instead of only surviving in the depths of a nearly frozen lake.

Re:"life form unclassified" (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#43113325)

I love living in a world where the regular headlines sound like the start of a decent sci fi adventure.

Now let's just hope this puppy doesn't get out of the lab and become a sci-fi/horror. Two hundred years from now it could be on the History Channel as "Zombie Plagues from the Past".

The paranoid sci-fi freak in me likes the idea. But the logical, rational part of me understands that the environment it evolved to live in is a good bit colder than the human body.

Maybe it chills the human body down, and dissipates the resulting negentropy by animating it.

It might actually be really old! (4, Funny)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about 2 years ago | (#43110909)

Anyways, let us see what happens to the crew before allow them to go home

I Am Legend! (1)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about 2 years ago | (#43110915)

Russian style!!!

this is unimpressive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43110939)

I discovered SEVERAL new species of bacteria living on the surface of Uranus!

Re:this is unimpressive (4, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43111111)

I'm not exactly sure if this invalidates your comment, but Uranus is not believed to have a distinct surface underneath its atmosphere. The most popular model suggests that it just gets denser and denser, culminating in a rapidly-spinning mantle-ocean of water, ammonia, and other gasses long before the actual rocky core.

Re:this is unimpressive (1)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#43112033)

One of the best deliberate "woosh"-es I've seen.

Re:this is unimpressive (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112595)

The worst (?) part is that I didn't get any funny moderations.

Call Mulder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43110945)

This was an X-Files wasn't it??

Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#43110955)

They better have had a dozen outside peer reviewers staring at this, too.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (4, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43111029)

I don't think it's published yet. TFA mentions "less than" 86% DNA "similarity", which I think was supposed to be 86% 16S RNA homology, in which case, the bacterium has been separated from the nearest known species for at least 700 million years.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about 2 years ago | (#43111551)

I don't know how this stuff works so can only stupidly speculate that it will be interesting to try to follow the mutations this wee beastie underwent to let it survive in its current home, and that it somehow could be interesting if not useful when comparing that to some of its closer cousins on our side of the lake.

Might there be clues that let us make more robust some of our helpful bacteria? Or even clues to help combat some of the 'super-bugs' that are really scary in their resistance to anti-biotics, given the extent of nosocomial infection?

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112561)

There's a good chance it has some neat antifreeze proteins. It's most likely very vulnerable to antibiotics, though; biological war far is an arms race. We can only learn from analysing the enemy and things similar to it.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112579)

...warfare. Ouch. The typos. They burns us, Bagginses.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

jelizondo (183861) | about 2 years ago | (#43112873)

SAMANTHA!

IT'S PAST YOUR BEDTIME..

GET OFF THE COMPUTER NOW!

Filler to get past the stupid lameness filter, of course I'm yelling; it's a joke, for Christ's sake

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43113025)

I tried that last night. My homework didn't go away. This time I'm hoping it magically disappears while I'm posting on Slashdot.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

jelizondo (183861) | about 2 years ago | (#43113291)

I truly appreciate the posts you made on this thread, I do.

But your homework is not going to dissappear, it will just become URGENT.

Take a break and get cracking!

I'm over 50, but still trying to complete a degree on telematics in the next year, so I know; homework sucks but if you don't get your nose in the grinder, it doesn't get done. Even if you know more about the subject that your professors, you still need to turn in good homework or they'll fail you.

Keep posting to enlighten us, poor ignorant souls, but don't give up on your homework, it will pay better!

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111827)

Maybe with this we can finally resolve if there's true LBA between Bacteria and Eukarya and the 3 domains system is valid or that Eukarya are just one type of Archaea (Eocyte hypothesis). Personally, I think it's the latter..

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112573)

I don't think it's old enough for that. Eukarya appears 2 gya.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43112117)

Homology is binary: either homologous or not. Percent similarity is the correct terminology.

Re:Hope this doesn't go the way of arsenic life (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43112605)

...Good call, although I still stand by the 16S rRNA inference. 86% whole-genome homology would place it well within known territory; there's more variety in Escherichia coli than that.

Welp, game over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43110963)

I've seen this movie. We can just give up now, we're all dead.

Re:Welp, game over (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#43111061)

Whatever creature arises from this bacteria will either die off in a few days after exposure to modern germs, or we will just freeze it to death with the nearest fire extinguisher.

This find keeps hope alive for finding life in lakes on the outer planets. Very cool! This is why I like Slashdot, news like this.

Re:Welp, game over (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43111149)

Actually, there's a pretty good chance it'll die off before then. It's been isolated for at least half a million years (possibly a lot longer), and their drill bit was contaminated with at least sixteen species of other bacteria. You get the picture—entropy, genies, bottles, et cetera.

Yes yes that's all very interesting ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43110977)

But when will Putin hunt, kill and eat said bacteria?

Re:Yes yes that's all very interesting ... (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#43111059)

He was given a sample of water from the lake before they had punched through [guardian.co.uk] —so... ten years ago, I'd guess? At the latest?

Life form unclassified? For pete's sake... (3, Funny)

RandomUsername99 (574692) | about 2 years ago | (#43110989)

Make sure that nobody on the team that goes down there to further investigate is wearing a red shirt!

Re:Life form unclassified? For pete's sake... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#43111223)

Make sure that nobody on the team that goes down there to further investigate is wearing a red shirt!

Ensign: "That's strange, my shirt wasn't red until after I dived in."

Nuke it from orbit. (2)

Philosa (1644339) | about 2 years ago | (#43111025)

It's the only way to be sure.

Re:Nuke it from orbit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111081)

Or, you know, expose it to tempratures and conditions that are really atypical for underground, freezing lakes...

$10 says it won't go airborne... this week.

Re:Nuke it from orbit. (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 2 years ago | (#43111905)

I think that's what all those meteors have been trying to do. That is, unless they are bringing in the bacteria.

Re:Nuke it from orbit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43113225)

The only way to be sure we dont contaminate the universe is to nuke earth from orbit. OR, we accept kurt vonneguts observation: "life goes on". at least they didnt discover Ice-9 inside of a rock.

The last radio report from the camp...... (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about 2 years ago | (#43111039)

"Brainz, brainz, brainz! Send more geologists!"

It's believed the new bacteria could have unknown affects on the human body.

RUT ROH (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 2 years ago | (#43111041)

Cue the "disaster movie-of-the-week" music.

Russian Science (2)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#43111177)

Did Big Foot find it by using magic crystals to communicate with aliens who have the technology to find bacteria?

Oh, what the trek! (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#43111187)

"It's life, Jim, but not as we know it."

Veet for Men Vs Unclassified Life Form (1)

Mageaere (726231) | about 2 years ago | (#43111253)

Go on, you know you were all thinking it.

UNCLASSIFIED (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111373)

Thank God it's already UNCLASSIFIED. Could you imagine how long it would take to declassify?

Take care (1)

jimbirch (2621059) | about 2 years ago | (#43111411)

Don't accept a salad sandwich from anyone connected with the Russian government until this is settled.

So vague (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43111569)

The linked article is very vague. Hopefully the team will release sequence data in the near future. Broader sampling should finally resolve the question whether there are three or two domains of life (Eocyte hypothesis).

Things are really rockin' in Russia these days (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 2 years ago | (#43111643)

Meteors, Lakes, Bacteria.
Now all we need is the Intelligent Designer of it all.
Yebatsya!

I'm Not Saying It is Aliens (1)

TuxWithoutPants (2719479) | about 2 years ago | (#43111787)

But it's Aliens

I for one ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 2 years ago | (#43111917)

... welcome our new overlords!

Wouldn't it be awesome if.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43112103)

we found extraterrestrial life on Earth. Like say we were digging in the ocean, or some sheet of ice somewhere and found extraterrestrial(not necessarily intelligent life but microbial).

Re:Wouldn't it be awesome if.... (2)

BluPhenix316 (2656403) | about 2 years ago | (#43112141)

I think there was a debate about this already, a meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica that had fossilized microbial bacteria

So is this a 4th domain of life? (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 2 years ago | (#43112531)

Since the 3 current ones are Eukaryotes, Bacteria, and Archea.

"Unclassified"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43112575)

Not for long...

Better there... (0)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#43112727)

Russian scientists believe they have found a new type of bacteria in the sub-glacial Lake Vostok.

Better there than in a pap smear, I always say.

copper wire (1)

crakbone (860662) | about 2 years ago | (#43113001)

I wonder if it runs away from heated copper wire?
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