Friday, December 03, 2010

Arsenic-based Life.

Ah, so this was what all the fuss was about:

NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical12.02.10 Image of Mono Lake Research area

NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."


Jebel Krong said...

like this wasn't already heavily theorized, if not explicitly known already. must be a funding thing, as i said before.

Duracell said...

While still a very significant discovery, I do feel a bit disappointed.

I was hoping that they had found evidence of a separate tree of life emerging on this planet. i.e. that they had found evidence of naturally occuring (or not-grown-in-a-lab) bugs that actually incorporated arsenic into any of their key biomolecules as a substitute for phosphorus (in, for example, DNA or ATP), as opposed to an extremophile microbe evolved from our own tree of life that survives despite the presence of arsenic.

"The researchers began to grow the bacteria in a laboratory on a diet of increasing levels of arsenic, finding to their surprise that the microbes eventually fully took up the element, even incorporating it into the phosphate groups that cling to the bacteria's DNA.

Notably, the research found that the bacteria thrived best in a phosphorus environment.

That probably means that the bacteria, while a striking first for science, are not a sign of a "second genesis" of life on Earth, adapted specifically to work best with arsenic in place of phosphorus."

Still though, it is very interesting!


vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

i know a few human turds that i'm sure were parallel with this building block life-matrix. every bone a bitter one.

the guys way out here have a policy to kill us all:

from planet rage
with hate

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

just tried to post, something happened, again arsenic anti-life out to get me.

all of space is out to destroy us.
from planet rage.
with hate:

Spencer said...

The quote says the definition of life just got bigger.. But how can they define it anyway? Im not trying to make an issue, but surely these people can think outside the box a little bit more? Who knows what sort of life there is out there, let alone what shape it can take or even if we as humans could perceive it in the first place! I would have thought that seeing as we are still advancing in our technology, our scientists and astronomers should be quiet and take notes!! :)

p.s granted, i dont have all the information and have probably revealed my own ignorance, but so be it ha

Neal Asher said...

Unsurprising with NASA, Jebel.

Isn't it a bit more than just in the presence of arsenic, Duracell. They use it in their cell metabolism? But I have to say that when I read 'of Lake Mono California' I started to lose interest.

Vaude, I had to stick comment moderation on to keep an arsehole away.

All that's happened is the definition of Terran like got bigger. But maybe scientists foregoing flights of imagination might be a good idea.

alibaba said...

I was hoping that the royal family would finally be confirmed as being lizard creatures from Zog.

Jan Harald said...

Talk about hyping us up, making us imagine all sorts of cool stuff. And NASA presents, as you say Neal, some new Earthlings when we're expecting the real ET... A bit disappointed, yes... :-/

Neal Asher said...

alibaba, they're nothing so interesting, just interbred morons.

Jan, it's a sign of the times: scientists want to be noticed so they have to give their 'science' the appropriate spin.

Paul said...

The bugs can use arsenic in times of stress as an alternative to phosphorous. Normally they'll operate as per normal earth bugs.

Yes it's significant but NASA ought to know how to manage expectations by now. Anything short of little green men was going to be an anticlimax after the initial announcement.

Neal Asher said...

Paul, I see the future when NASA is preparing to announce the discovery of a crashed alien spaceship on Mars. Everyone will be going, 'Oh yeah, what have you found now, a car hubcap in Lake Windermere.' A familiar phrase used nowadays is 'lessons have been learned'. Seems to me many could learn from some very old fables like, for example, Peter and the Wolf.

Neal Asher said...

This about covers the furore:

And there're more links here: