7 Things About ‘Water Bears’ That Explain How Life Can Spread To Other Planets

If life is indeed a virus, then tardigrades are very likely the vector.

Tardigrades: Freeze ‘em, nuke ‘em, spend ‘em into space, and they come back alive.

They are sometimes known as water bears, which is a bit questionable because their appearance isn’t all that cute, but OK, I'll accept that.

The fact is, they’re almost indestructible – at 0.1 to 1.5mm long.

What makes them so freaking amazing?

1. They can survive in near-absolute zero temperatures. Like, where molecules and everything else come to a stop. Down to -459° F, which is -273° C.

2. They can also survive at the opposite end of the scale at 300° F, which is 150° C. Like, pizza-cooking hot.

3. Most of them basically live on moss, algae, and water — some of the most common things that exist on a planet sustaining life. Some species are also carnivores, however. 

4. Surviving in space? Piece of cake. Or moss, as the case may be.

5. Scientists recently proved that they can be be brought back to life after 30 or more years encased in ice. And even lay eggs pretty much right away.


6. They can withstand up to 1000X the radiation that humans can survive. 

7. What if you dehydrated them? Hey, that's cool. When rehydrated, even after over 100 years, they can come back to life when conditions improve.  

And have I mentioned they can live in space?! All of the qualities listed are necessary to do so.

So ... what does that have to do with life on other planets?

The video below digs in a little more about that, but imagine: An asteroid hits a planet, pieces of that planet are injected into orbit and beyond the orbit of that planet ... and there are water bears on board. 

There's a theory called "the panspermia hypothesis" which suggests exactly that as a possible method for life spreading to other planets.

But also, maybe studying them can give us some clues as to how to survive as temperatures and conditions on the Earth become more extreme.

If you'd like to find books, stuffed animals (!) and more about these little water bears, here's a place to start

There are a ton of videos about them online, too. 

(Fair warning: Your productive work day might have just been derailed, because it's hard to stop finding out more about them!)

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

What if all humanity had to do to save itself was listen?

By working together, and learning from one another, we can build better systems.

  • Many of the things that we experience, are our imagination manifesting into this physical realm, avers artist Dustin Yellin.
  • People need to completely rethink the way they work together, and learn from one another, that they they can build better systems. If not, things may get "really dark" soon.
  • The first step to enabling cooperation is figuring out where the common ground is. Through this method, despite contrary beliefs, we may be able to find some degree of peace.

10 excerpts from Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations' to unlock your inner Stoic

Great ideas in philosophy often come in dense packages. Then there is where the work of Marcus Aurelius.

(Getty Images)
Personal Growth
  • Meditations is a collection of the philosophical ideas of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
  • Written as a series of notes to himself, the book is much more readable than the dry philosophy most people are used to.
  • The advice he gave to himself 2,000 years ago is increasingly applicable in our hectic, stressed-out lives.
Keep reading Show less

Where do atoms come from? Billions of years of cosmic fireworks.

The periodic table was a lot simpler at the beginning of the universe.

  • Michelle Thaller's "absolute favorite fact in the universe" is that we are made of dead stars.
  • The Big Bang, when it went off, produced basically three elements: hydrogen, helium, and lithium. Every atom more complex had to be formed inside a star. Over time, stars such as the sun produce things like carbon and oxygen.
  • They don't really get much more far off the periodic table than that. If you want to go any farther than the element iron, then you actually need a very violent explosion, a supernova explosion.