DailyDirt: Somewhat Alien Life And Outer Space

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The rumors had it all wrong. Nobody discovered a new lifeform on a different planet or moon — but a new bacterium was found in California. (Why are all the alternative lifestyles living in California?) Just when everyone thinks we know how nature works, nature throws us a few curve balls. Keeps things interesting. UPDATE: Arsenic-based life has been debunked by the scientific process.

  • NASA-funded research discovers that arsenic can replace phosphorous in important biological molecules within living bacteria. Nobel prize worthy stuff, folks. update: well, not after this work has been debunked…. [url]
  • New, improved universe. Now with THREE TIMES the number of stars. [url]
  • Dead astronomers sometimes make for good drama. Tycho Brahe is dug up, and he might get a made-for-TV movie based on his life (and suspicious death). [url]
  • Via “anonymous” — mercury can turn birds gay or something. Apparently, toxic elements can make life more interesting for all kinds of animals. [url]
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    Comments on “DailyDirt: Somewhat Alien Life And Outer Space”

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    25 Comments
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Yeah, so I am a Biochemist (no really), and while I have not yet read the entire paper, if what they are speculating is true, this is HUGE. One thing that was a bit of a letdown, is it looks like these bugs evolved after the fact to utilize Arsenic (As) instead of phosphorous (P) (it would have been pretty cool if it was a completely different stump on the tree of life). But what makes this finding so immense, is not just the incorporation of As in the DNA backbone, but the possibility that As also repleases P in normal cellular activities (like protein phosphorylation (turn on and off), ATP (remember the TCA cycle?), DNA binding and supercoiling?). This paper will probably be ?OK?, but in the next year, there will be some huge new advances in biochemistry; I guess it?s just the nerd in me that felt the need to make a post.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    Re: Re:

    errr… that should have read

    “NASA-funded research discovers that ” NASA needs more money because the government has been cutting back their funding.

    Anyways, this is hardly surprising. Both Phosphorus and Arsenic are group five elements and so what they will bind to and how they react with other things will be similar (being that they both have five valence electrons).

    Anonymous Coward says:

    What kinda makes me scratch my head and think that this whole thing is a ploy to get money is the fact that NASA really should have little to do with the finding of some ?new? bacteria on Earth. This should be some bio agency or maybe the bio department of some university or maybe the NSF. NASA should be focused on space related discoveries, not bio related ones.

    timmmmm says:

    Re: Re:

    This “new” bacteria *is* a space-related discovery — in that it helps NASA determine where extraterrestrial life may be found. Previously, everyone would think that life isn’t possible where there is too much arsenic… Now we know that if we find a moon with a lot of arsenic, that we can’t eliminate the possibility of life existing there (if all the other conditions are right).

    Anonymous Coward says:

    Re: Re: Re:

    “This “new” bacteria *is* a space-related discovery — in that it helps NASA determine where extraterrestrial life may be found.”

    This is the biggest load of nonsense I’ve ever saw. A moon made of arsenic? Really?

    The discovery was made on Earth, not in space. The fact that it could be found in space in the future doesn’t make it a space discovery yet. Space related? That’s too ambiguous and can cover way too much.

    Under your argument, almost every new biological discovery can somehow be twisted to be a space relate one. Not too long ago we didn’t know DNA coded for proteins and we didn’t even know what proteins are. Hence DNA and proteins are space related discoveries because now we can look for a moon made of DNA and proteins (or the elements that make them up). Every element discovered to be used in cells now becomes a space related discovery. So then why did biologists, and not astronomers, make these discoveries?

    Heck, the discovery of the first tree can be said to be a space related discovery, because now we might find a tree in space too since there is a possibility for trees to exist. The discovery of any animal or cell or new bacteria or even the discovery of humans is a space related one, it’s possible for them to exist in space too.

    Even if arsenic cells can potentially be found in space, that’s hardly NASA’s domain right now. NASA should stick with space discoveries, what’s in space, not making discoveries that could be in space. Let the biologists discover that arsenic can be used for life and then NASA can read that literature and start looking, but for NASA to start taking the role of biologists at this stage seems suspicious.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    (and I’m not necessarily saying that there is anything wrong with NASA making these discoveries, it just seems like they are mostly doing it because they want money at this stage. Maybe it’s a good thing because the need for money can encourage agencies to make more discoveries, but the point is that the motive seems perverse).

    Anonymous Coward says:

    “NASA-funded research discovers that arsenic can replace phosphorous in important biological molecules within living bacteria. Nobel prize worthy stuff, folks. [url] “

    This is hardly noble prize worthy. Something noble prize worthy would be like a cure to AIDS (though Aids has long been mostly curable thanks to the possibility of genetic engineering. One can genetically engineer bone marrow to produce aids resistant antibodies, but pharmaceutical corporations will not allow it). The noble prize these days has turned into more of a joke than anything. Where are the cures to things? It’s not that things aren’t curable, it’s that there is more incentive to indefinitely treat a disease than to cure anything.

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