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'Worms From Hell' Unearth Possibilities For Extraterrestrial Life

Roblimo posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-life-Jim-but-not-as-we-know-it dept.

Worms 145

An anonymously submitted article says, "For the first time, scientists have found complex, multi-celled creatures living a mile and more below the planet’s surface, raising new possibilities about the spread of life on Earth and potential subsurface life on other planets and moons (abstract). ... The research is likely to trigger scientific challenges and cause some controversy because it places far more complex life in an environment where researchers have generally held it should not, or even cannot, exist."

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is it just me? (3, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319788)

the link doesn't work

Re:is it just me? (2, Informative)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319808)

Tried it on both Windows and Linux. Link isn't functional.

Linky! (3, Informative)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320024)

Try this [washingtonpost.com] .

Re:Linky! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320122)

yup, it works. why dont we make you an editor instead of the random guy that approved the article?

Re:is it just me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320072)

If link availability would change from one OS to the other, we would soon all be doomed, for sure. It would be like a revival from IE6 times, but worse.

Re:is it just me? (1)

junglee_iitk (651040) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320200)

Hehehe... you could have just viewed the source:

<a>multi-celled creatures living a mile and more below the planetâ(TM)s surface</a>

That thing won't open even in lynx.

Karma whoring for jesus (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320466)

Actually it worked in the submission (I saw it after I'd submitted an unintentional dupe.) From memory it was Cosmos [cosmosmagazine.com] .

My own links were via NewScientist: This story [newscientist.com] .
A story about the discovery of radiation eating bacteria [newscientist.com] by the same team.
And a long article from '96 about what this all means for the search for life on (or in) Mars [newscientist.com] .

Re:is it just me? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320572)

What has the OS to do with it? Ah ... you thought a reboot would fix the link? *facepalm*

Re:is it just me? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321356)

So much for the theory that Linux users are always more sophisticated! - a Debian user

Re:is it just me? (4, Funny)

fractalspace (1241106) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321112)

Tried on LCD monitor, then on CRT. Still doesn't work.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321418)

Tried on LCD monitor, then on CRT. Still doesn't work.

It works on my phone, maybe your resolution is too high!

Re:is it just me? (1)

cculianu (183926) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319812)

Yeah, same here.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319830)

Anchor with no href. Clicking the feed link will direct you towards more links.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319832)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/discovery-of-worms-from-hell-deep-beneath-earths-surface-raises-new-questions/2011/05/31/AGnzJTGH_story.html

Re:is it just me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319868)

Isn't there supposed to be a href inside an anchor tag? I think I read that somewhere...

Here it is: (3, Informative)

rizole (666389) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319870)

Here it is [washingtonpost.com]
Multicellular life deep in the earth is interesting but I'd like to find sentient slashdot editors.

Re:Here it is: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320314)

How would being self-aware help an editor? Wouldn't it help more if they were aware of other things besides themselves?

Re:Here it is: (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320502)

It would at least be a step in the right direction...

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319888)

Here you go : functionnal link [washingtonpost.com]

Re:is it just me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319894)

Slashdot is just screwed up.

* The link doesn't work at all
* I come read the comments and see others are having the same problem, so I go to log-in and comment
* If I try to log in, my username password appears behing a banner ad.
* When I do succeed in logging in, I can no longer see any comments.
* So, here I am posting as AC.

Re:is it just me? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320724)

IE6 is no longer supported

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319912)

the a tag is empty, the link doesn't work for anyone.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319942)

Until it's fixed... [washingtonpost.com]

Re:is it just me? (2)

dredwolff (978347) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319974)

awesome, the anchor tag is empty, just "a", not "a href=..."

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320470)

Damn Canadians, eh?

Re:is it just me? (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319992)

It appears to be an "A" tag without the "HREF" portion...

Re:is it just me? (3, Funny)

theonesandtwos (1349467) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320048)

I thought it was a feature. I mean no one RTFA's anyway right?

Re:is it just me? (1)

underqualified (1318035) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320996)

Probably more like a test.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320056)

link 1 [sciencenews.org]

link 2 [physorg.com]

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320092)

They put in 'a HTML' tags but failed to include the 'href' attribute, so it looks like a link but it isn't one.

Re:is it just me? (4, Informative)

Roblimo (357) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320290)

There's a bug of some sort. I'm putting the link in right, but something is wrong. The link is to this WaPo story [washingtonpost.com] .

Re:is it just me? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320366)

the link doesn't work

Now that the worms have been outed, they're trying to suppress it before everyone finds out.

Re:is it just me? (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320720)

the link doesn't work

The worms have cut the cable.

Re:is it just me? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321002)

the link doesn't work

The worms have cut the cable.

What do you mean, "*The worms* cut the cable"? How could they cut the cable, man? They're animals! Oh dear Lord Jesus, this ain't happening, man... This can't be happening, man! This isn't happening! Aw, man. And I was getting short. Four more weeks and out. Now I'm going to buy it on this rock! It ain't half-fair, man! Four more weeks! Aw, man!

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321290)

ha ha ;)

Challenge Accepted. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319838)

As a Wikipedia frequenter, I take the broken link as proof that there is no evidence.

Re:Challenge Accepted. (1)

Flyerman (1728812) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320640)

As a slashdot frequenter, I can't believe this many people even click on TFA.

Re:Challenge Accepted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320810)

People frequently click the link, how do you think slash dotting works?

They just don't READ it

Re:Challenge Accepted. (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321122)

You mean it isn't enough to just shade the link in blue [xkcd.com] ?

It's not that inconceivable. (3, Funny)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319844)

It's not such a big deal. It's only a mile's commute to the nearest Starbucks.

Re:It's not that inconceivable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320934)

It's not such a big deal. It's only a mile's commute to the nearest Starbucks.

A whole mile? That in itself is pretty inconceivable. I have 1 within 100m of my house, and another at about 500m.

Re:It's not that inconceivable. (2)

Trails (629752) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320958)

And yet there's no complex life there, either...

Working link for now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319900)

Actual link that works... http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/discovery-of-worms-from-hell-deep-beneath-earths-surface-raises-new-questions/2011/05/31/AGnzJTGH_story.html

Borked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36319906)

Well when an anchor "a" tag has no href, links generally don't work...

Re:Borked (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320396)

Computers are stupid that way, only working with what you give them....

For those who want to RTFA (4, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36319968)

Here [nature.com] is at least some information for it at Nature. Wherever there is some usable energy, some kind of life seems to attach to it. Fascinating.

Re:For those who want to RTFA (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320798)

I wonder if life could actually start in an environment like that, as opposed to starting in the oceans like it did on earth and then migrating downwards over millions of years. If life needs relatively hospitable conditions to start then we should not expect to find life on planets with only harsh environments.

Re:For those who want to RTFA (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321218)

Now i am thinking about mind worms, for Alpha Centauri...

Re:For those who want to RTFA (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321322)

Now I am digging through my age-old backups to find the Alpha Centauri install disc...

Re:For those who want to RTFA (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321240)

I wonder if life could actually start in an environment like that, as opposed to starting in the oceans like it did on earth and then migrating downwards over millions of years. If life needs relatively hospitable conditions to start then we should not expect to find life on planets with only harsh environments.

This answers a different question - essentially "what are the (current) parameters for environmental conditions that allow life (as we know it)". We just kicked that can down the road a bit. Obviously, if lifeforms cannot survive in a particular environment it makes it unlikely that the started out in that environment but the converse isn't necessarily true. The planetary environment was markedly different when life started - warmer temperatures, little oxygen and just the fact that there weren't any other critters to eat made things very, very different.

So, this just expands the biosphere a bit and suggests that life doesn't necessarily need air conditioning. They just don't make primordial ooze like they used to.

Re:For those who want to RTFA (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321264)

Don't see anything fundamentally against it. However, as the emergence of life seems to be a rather rare event, I still favor the oceans - more chemicals there, more energy. Everything going on in the deep biosphere is damn slow due to resource constraints. In my opinion, the chance for life emerging is still higher in the oceans.

Please.... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321452)

Allow me to be the first to say it...

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

Not surprising (2)

memojuez (910304) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320064)

More from the article: "The research is likely to trigger scientific challenges and cause some controversy because it places far more complex life in an environment where researchers have generally held it should not, or even cannot, exist."

I thought they stopped saying that after finding life in the Challenger Deep [nationalgeographic.com] section of The Mariana Trench.

Re:Not surprising (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320104)

It's somewhat different, though - the deep sea regions still get a constant supply of nutrients that basically rain down from the more productive ocean layers. In the deep geosphere, all the worms can live off are lithotrophic bacteria that live from certain anorganic chemicals found down there. But yeah, in the end, not surprising - life seems always to find a way.

And in winter all the Gorillas die from the cold.. (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320546)

lithotrophic bacteria that live from certain anorganic chemicals found down there

According to the team that found these nematodes (and the bacteria five years earlier), the bacteria lives off of radiation in the rocks, not chemistry. (Come back in a few years to see what eats the worms?)

Re:And in winter all the Gorillas die from the col (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320752)

lithotrophic bacteria that live from certain anorganic chemicals found down there

According to the team that found these nematodes (and the bacteria five years earlier), the bacteria lives off of radiation in the rocks, not chemistry. (Come back in a few years to see what eats the worms?)

Trapped miners?

Worms deep down, hunh? (2)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320070)

Bless the maker and his water, bless the coming and going of him, may his passing cleanse the world.

Re:Worms deep down, hunh? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320214)

Bless the maker and his water, bless the coming and going of him, may his passing cleanse the world.

Not that kind of worm. This kind [imdb.com] . We have to wait a couple of million years until the planet dries up for the big ones. Oh, a FTL travel. And Spice.

How big are these hell-worms? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320090)

The spice must flow...

Re:How big are these hell-worms? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320616)

Half a millimetre long. (The spice must trickle.)

(About 1/50th of an inch, for the uneducated.)

Re:How big are these hell-worms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321162)

The National Geographic article [nationalgeographic.com] says half a millimeter, but the Washington Post article [washingtonpost.com] says they're up to 1/3 of an inch (8.5 mm, for the uneducated). I wonder which one is correct...

Re:How big are these hell-worms? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321448)

Sandtrout fry.

If the scientists had been looking for it, they'd have seen a pre-spice mass among the rock strata there. Lucky they didn't use water in their drilling system.

I was expecting bazookas :( (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320126)

or at least a concrete donkey.

Rules for life (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320234)

How many times now have we found life in extreme conditions where we were convinced life couldn't exist?

And given that we believe life adapted to the environment on Earth (early organisms didn't even breathe oxygen) then why we are so convinced that theoretical life in the universe must conform to the rules on Earth?

Re:Rules for life (4, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320412)

I wouldn't say that we generally assume conditions to be necessarily earth-like for life to arise. However, there are hard constraints on conditions that allow complex chemistry to happen - and those limit the habitable range. Basically, the only reasonably complex chemistry happens with carbon - so you are automatically limited to conditions where carbon compounds are stable. That sets an upper bound for temperatures, for example. On the other hand, you want some reactivity - life has to be dynamic, after all. That gives you a lower bound for temperatures. Earth happens to be in the middle there, but there are quite some deviations from earth-like conditions where life would be possible, biochemically.

Re:Rules for life (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320506)

We're now seeing examples where DNA can be built using arsenic. The principle still applies that life on Earth is believed to be a response to the environment on Earth. Why wouldn't that be true elsewhere?

Our entire precept of what is required for life to exist could be flawed based upon our limited perspective.

Re:Rules for life (1)

Trailer Park Boy (825146) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320646)

We're now seeing examples where DNA can be built using arsenic.

We're now seeing examples where DNA can be contaminated with arsenic. Fixed that for ya,

Re:Rules for life (5, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320736)

The potentially arsenic-"based" bacteria are still carbon based. Only the phosphate links in the sugar-phosphate backbone of their DNA are possible replaced by arsenate links, possible the phosphates in their ATP or GTP, too. This is interesting, but not too surprising, as arsenic is chemically quite close to phosphorus.

I am not arguing that earth-like conditions are a necessity, but that there are hard limits on conditions. If you want to have life you need a chemistry that is sufficiently complex to store information and to build structures. With that, you are down to carbon. Nothing else (with the very, very low possibility of silicon being an exception) makes a sufficiently complex chemistry. You need metabolism, so you need some kind of energy gradient and therefor chemical dynamics on a timescale that makes exploiting that gradient possible. Another hard limit. Those limits are not given by taking earth as a standard, this is basic thermodynamics, in the end.

Re:Rules for life (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321130)

"How many times now have we found life in extreme conditions where we were convinced life couldn't exist?"

Approximately once per research facility on the cusp of closure.

live there, or just displaced to there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320244)

Really that exciting?

"H. mephisto was found in water flowing from a borehole about one mile below the surface in the Beatrix gold mine."

So, how sure are we the buggers weren't just swept down there by an underground stream or tracked in by the gold miners?

Finding them down there doesn't mean they actually 'live' there.

Re:live there, or just displaced to there? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320538)

Read the rest of the article.

"The nematodes he ultimately discovered live in extremely hot water coming from boreholes fed by rock fissures and pools."

Re:live there, or just displaced to there? (3, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320708)

They were found at depths ranging from 900m down to 3.6km (3000ft-2mi). Carbon dating their environment showed they'd been there for at least 3000 years. (The team that found this also found radiation eating bacteria at similar depths five years ago, they been through the standard objections before.)

SEM (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320312)

Pity that the only picture available is some unclear SEM picture of the worm's head. Why not a picture of the whole animal? Now we still don't know what it looks like and how long it is.

Re:SEM (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320886)

The worm is now claiming that its twitter account was hacked and somebody else sent that picture. But it does admit that it really is that long.

Re:SEM (2)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321372)

Wired's article [wired.com] said 0.05cm. So half a millimeter. Can't really get a picture of that too easily. I mean, it's just a roundworm... it's not like it's that amazing unless you get up close.

I hope these are not Graboids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320362)

I hope these are not Graboids?

oblig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36320380)

I for one, welcome our new hell-worm overlord.

I'm wary of this theory. (5, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320876)

My question is this: just because you find life in extreme conditions, does not mean it can develop in those conditions. It seems more likely to me that life develops in more ideal conditions, then migrates to areas where conditions are more harsh. Am I being too skeptical or pessimistic?

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (1)

greymond (539980) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320962)

I tend to agree with that thought. Looking at human history as an example, we have adapted to live in some very extreme conditions, albeit we often create artificial devices to do so, however, it still stands that we have found a way to live in both arctic climates as well as deserts and tropical forests for centuries. While animals don't have the mechanical capacity we do, life still adapts to new challenges and environmental changes.

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321068)

But (unless I missed a memo) we actually don't know what conditions the first life formed in. Although we tend to focus on the ocean environment, it's entirely possible that the first cells formed in some more exotic deep crevise and only later migrated to the surface. In many ways, walking around in the open air makes *us* one of the most exotic extremophiles of the world.

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321342)

But (unless I missed a memo) we actually don't know what conditions the first life formed in. Although we tend to focus on the ocean environment, it's entirely possible that the first cells formed in some more exotic deep crevise and only later migrated to the surface. In many ways, walking around in the open air makes *us* one of the most exotic extremophiles of the world.

Here is one of the later memos [nih.gov] . Yes, the conditions on earth at the beginning of biogenesis (as opposed to the other Genesis) were very, very different that the current environment. We wouldn't like it at all. Many theories of biogenesis use solid phase chemicals (like various clays) as early catalysts and / or structural parts of the earliest life forms.

life probably orginated in extreme conditions (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321140)

Many biological reactions at surface pressures and temperatures require catalysts called enzymes to proceed. Protein synthesis and the citric cycle are two basic examples. These do not require catalysts at high temperature and pressures according to work Robert Hazen of Carnegie Institute.

After life began it evolved enzymes to expand into other ecological niches. For example, the ocean surface is an energy rich area with solar radiation.

Re:life probably orginated in extreme conditions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321550)

Not to mention that life on Earth was theorized to have begun in the primordial sea which would be entirely uninhabitable by most (if not all) life forms on Earth these days.

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (3, Interesting)

danlip (737336) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321298)

I agree with you, but this still has implications for the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Mars used to be much warmer and wetter, so it is possible that life developed under more ideal conditions and continued to survive under harsh conditions.

But my doubts come because TFA says the worms were "found in water flowing from a borehole about one mile below the surface". That seems like plenty of opportunity for contamination. I'd be very skeptical that there are worms one mile below the surface of the earth in locations not touched by human activity. If you found them in a freshly drilled borehole with no water flowing that would be much more interesting.

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (3, Informative)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321408)

Neither. You've just proposed a hypothesis. That's what all of science is about.

Really, it's ok to say "we don't know". We can't say for sure if it developed down there or migrated. I doubt the scientists said anything to that effect, either. Or even if they did, most of them wouldn't. Science articles are typically rife with horribly inaccurate "paraphrasing" because the journalist doesn't know what they're talking about and try to translate scientific jargon to "layman" speak.

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321424)

Early earth atmosphere was not this kind of garden atmosphere we enjoy today. Life forms existed in that era (such as cyanobacteria).

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321552)

Develop? Life was created as is, it didn't develop or "evolve"

Only FSM can create life, it doesn't just suddenly appear.

Re:I'm wary of this theory. (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321556)

In principle, that seems plausible. Life could have migrated there, not evolved. That may be the case for the worms, but the bacteria they feed on seem different. Feeding off radiation in a high-pressure, anaerobic environment? That seems too big a difference to easily explain via evolution from aboveground organisms. I wouldn't rule that out as a possibility, but it still seems dubious.

Why controversy? (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 2 years ago | (#36320920)

The research is likely to trigger scientific challenges and cause some controversy because it places far more complex life in an environment where researchers have generally held it should not, or even cannot, exist.

If the critters have conclusively been found to live there, then people will just have to accept it, recalibrate their views on what's possible, and continue from there. Why the controversy?

Archaia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321020)

Very interesting. So far, I was only aware of the archaia that seem to be responsible for oil production and other mineral deposits.

Re:Archaia (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321388)

Very interesting. So far, I was only aware of the archaia that seem to be responsible for oil production and other mineral deposits.

Nice troll. Abiogenic production of oil has been completed refuted [wikipedia.org] as a valid hypothesis.

Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by many geologists in the former Soviet Union, it allegedly fell out of favor because it never made any useful prediction for the discovery of oil deposits.

just because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321108)

you call yourself an "expert" and thus come to a "logical conclusion" doesn't mean your statement is the end-all, be-all of human ingenuity and knowledge.

It actually makes you look like a damn idiot, to be truthful.

Extraterrestrial Underground Worms, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321168)

When is the Spice gonna flow?

Beware! (1)

munozdj (1787326) | more than 2 years ago | (#36321222)

Anything about locusts?

Do the worms get their 15 minutes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36321306)

Great it's going to be the Chilean miners all over again. Anderson Cooper will interview them about being trapped a mile underground and Oprah will give them a trip to Australia.

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