Arsenic All

Big news on the science front today! NASA has announced, here, the discovery of a bacteria that lives in Mono Lake, California, that uses arsenic in place of phosphorus in it's DNA and other chemical processes. Might not seem like a big deal, but it is! Consider, hitherto, every single life form found on earth - people, insects, trees, fishes, mold, Yankee Fans, and even bacteria - shares the common building blocks of life, in the form of DNA. Every living thing uses phosphorus as a key part of this building block.

Except for these guys!
They not only "eat" arsenic, but its used instead of phosphorus in their DNA. This is revolutionary, and suggests a couple of things:
1. Does this represent a second "creation of life" event on Earth? And if there were two, perhaps there's been many - actual moments when new life sprung into existence where it did not exist before.
2. If creatures on Earth can use Arsenic as a fundamental building block, then so too could a bacteria on Titan, or Mars, or anywhere. Up till now, we've only known of one way life could form - our way. Now we know of 2 ways. Perhaps there's many more ways as well. This greatly increases the possibility that there is independent life not only elsewhere in our galaxy/universe, but right here in the Solar System. Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and many moons of Saturn could all harbor various "unique" forms of life. I bet we find out sooner than later!
3. Take that, Bible. Though I have no doubt the crazed minds of the Fundies can spin this news to fit their mythology as well.

Again, this is big, big news, but probably will barely make a ripple in popular consciousness. I long thought the discovery of even microbial alien life would be enormously huge news, but now, I'm no longer sure.

Regardless, now you know. I know. Spread the word.

Finally, and gosh darn! Mono Lake looks like a beautiful alien lake to boot. It's rather poisonous to our form of life, of course, but it does make for some beautiful pics:

And slightly tangentially, look at this cool old photo I found - someone clearly did a photo series in 1901 of the local Indians around Mono Lake. Do a GIS search for Mono Lake if you want to see more:
 That's phosphorous based life, for the record.


l.e.s.ter said...

OMG! Those bangs! So 1897. Get with the times, lady and papoose!

Redshirt said...

It was a fashion genocide...

vera lynn said...

hey! that's my do! You mean it isn't cool anymore? damn....

Redshirt said...

Does Justin Bieber have bangs? If yes, then no, it is cool.