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The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels

The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels

by Thomas Gold

This book sets forth a set of truly controversial and astonishing theories: First, it proposes that below the surface of the earth is a biosphere of greater mass and volume than the biosphere the total sum of living things on our planet's continents and in its oceans. Second, it proposes that the inhabitants of this subterranean biosphere are not plants or


This book sets forth a set of truly controversial and astonishing theories: First, it proposes that below the surface of the earth is a biosphere of greater mass and volume than the biosphere the total sum of living things on our planet's continents and in its oceans. Second, it proposes that the inhabitants of this subterranean biosphere are not plants or animals as we know them, but heat-loving bacteria that survive on a diet consisting solely of hydrocarbons that is, natural gas and petroleum. And third and perhaps most heretically, the book advances the stunning idea that most hydrocarbons on Earth are not the byproduct of biological debris ("fossil fuels"), but were a common constituent of the materials from which the earth itself was formed some 4.5 billion years ago.
The implications are astounding. The theory proposes answers to often-asked questions: Is the deep hot biosphere where life originated, and do Mars and other seemingly barren planets contain deep biospheres? Even more provocatively, is it possible that there is an enormous store of hydrocarbons upwelling from deep within the earth that can provide us with abundant supplies of gas and petroleum?
However far-fetched these ideas seem, they are supported by a growing body of evidence, and by the indisputable stature and seriousness Gold brings to any scientific debate. In this book we see a brilliant and boldly original thinker, increasingly a rarity in modern science, as he develops potentially revolutionary ideas about how our world works.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From the reviews:

"always original, always important, usually controversial, and usually right"

"an extraordinary theory from one of the world's most original minds."

"The leading supporter of the abiotic theory in the U.S. is Prof. Thomas Gold of Cornell. His 1999 book, The Deep Hot Biosphere (Springer-Verlag) is a thorough discussion of the issues. It is based in part on research financed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Among prominent scientists whose work supports the abiotic theory are Jean Whelan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Mahlon Kennicutt of Texas A&M University, and J.F Kenny of the Gas Resources Corporation."
- http://www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=4092

"There is much to be said about this important book … . Gold exhibits the irreversible and universal genius that we recognize in Aristotle and Leonardo da Vinci. … The versatility and range of knowledge exhibited is remarkable. … The Deep Hot Biosphere is a highly interesting and important book; it should be required reading for every geology student." (David Deming, Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 17 (2), 2003)

"Thomas Gold is a physicist who is not afraid of controversy. … His big new theory … is that oil and natural gas are produced by geology and chemistry of the hot deep layers below the Earth’s surface … . The book is the best kind of science writing: contentious and passionate, with all the evidence there for you to weigh up." (New Scientist, August, 2001)

Wall Street Journal
...Thomas Gold, a respected astronomer and professor emeritus at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has held for years that oil is actually a renewable, primordial syrup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and pressures.
USA Today
Gold might have grown tired of tilting at windmills long ago had he not destroyed so many.
...you have to appreciate his fresh and comprehensive approach.... This book demonstrates that scientific debate is alive and well.
Physics World
Whatever the status of the upwelling gas theory, many of Gold's ideas deserve to be taken seriously.... the existence of The Deep Hot Biosphere could prove to be one of the monumental discoveries of our age. This book serves to set the record straight.
Current Science
Thomas Gold has questioned the very foundations of the entrenched conventional models.... The Deep Hot Biosphere is evidently one of the most controversial of all books published in recent history. It is bound to cause much debate, and, if found correct, is likely to revolutionize the face of science.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When scientists discovered thermophiles--primitive microorganisms that live in deep seafloor vents and eat hydrocarbons (chemicals like gasoline)--experts assumed the mysterious bugs had little to tell us about ourselves or about the earth's core. Cornell University Professor Emeritus Gold, however, who for 20 years directed the Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, here proposes the striking theory that "a full functioning... biosphere, feeding on hydrocarbons, exists deep within the earth, and that a primordial source of hydrocarbons lies even deeper." Most scientists think the oil we drill for comes from decomposed prehistoric plants. Gold believes it has been there since the earth's formation, that it supports its own ecosystem far underground and that life there preceded life on the earth's surface. The "deep hot biosphere" hypothesis would explain the thermophiles, the minerals and the oil Swedish drillers found in 1990 under rock where no one expected them. The hot goo and massed gas far under our feet would also explain some mysterious historical earthquakes (notably the New Madrid, Mo., shocker of 1811), and it would tell puzzled geologists why so many oil reserves just happen to sit underneath coal fields. As later chapters explain, if Gold is right, the planet's oil reserves are far larger than policymakers expect, and earthquake-prediction procedures require a shakeup; moreover, astronomers hoping for extraterrestrial contacts might want to stop seeking life on other planets and inquire about life in them. (Nov.)

Product Details

Springer New York
Publication date:
Edition description:
Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 1999
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.02(d)

What People are Saying About This

John P. Miller
John P. Miller, Director, Center of Computational Biology, Montana State University
The Deep Hot Biosphere is a real eye-opener. Actually my fundamental reaction is that none of this should seem controversial: it makes such good sense that I feel embarrassed for the biology community for not having established this as a fundamental alternate hypothesis 20 years ago. I have a sickening sensation that, in a decade or so, scientists will be looking back on the state of the field at the turn of the century as if we were intellectual barbarians, much the way we look back on those who questioned Darwin's work when it was first presented.
Robert A. Hefner III
Robert A. Hefner III, The GHK Companies, Oklahoma City
My knowledge and experience of natural gas, gained from drilling and operating many of the world's deepest and highest pressure natural gas wells, lends more credence to your ideas than the conventional theories of the biological/thermogenic origin of natural gas. Your theory explains best what we actually encountered in deep drilling operations.
Freeman Dyson
Gold's theories are always original, always important, and usually right. It is my belief, based on fifty years of observation of Gold as a friend and colleague, that The Deep Hot Biosphere is all of the above: original, important, controversial, and right.

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