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NASA Finds New Life (This Afternoon)

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the truth-is-inside-that dept.

NASA 405

While the official 2pm conference should have more answers, most of the internet has decided that NASA has discovered a completely new life form based on arsenic instead of the more traditional organic materials. We'll know more in a few hours.

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It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417696)

Mono Lake was mentioned back in 2009 [slashdot.org] and in March [slashdot.org] as potentially harboring this 'shadow biosphere.' Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the geobiologist credited with this [ironlisa.com] (Iron Lisa = Felisa, get it?) led me to an interesting PDF [ironlisa.com] that begins:

If you were asked to speculate about the form extra-terrestrial life on Mars might take, which geomicrobial phenomenon might you select as a model system, assuming that life on Mars would be 'primitive'? Give your reasons.

At the end of my senior year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1968, I took Professor Ehrlich’s final for his Geomicrobiology course. The above question beckoned to me like the Sirens to Odysseus, for if I answered, it would take so much time and thought that I would never get around to the exam’s other essay questions and consequently, would be "shipwrecked" by flunking the course. So, I passed it up.With this 41-year perspective in mind, this manuscript is now submitted to Professor Ehrlich for (belated) "extra-credit." R.S. Oremland

This has been an interesting topic in sci-fi [wikipedia.org] , I recall an X-Files that revolved around silicon based life.

I certainly hope that we get more details than this teaser (all other news articles seem to point back to Gizmodo). From the sound of this leak I can't tell if the DNA itself is foreign or if it's made of the same Adenine, Thymine, Guanine and Cytosine with similar hydrogen bonds or if the DNA is similar but different in functionality or if it doesn't create proteins and RNA the same way or if phosphorus component is just switched with arsenic (two very similar elements prebiotic chemically) or if the whole bacteria is made of arsenic. At what point in the chain of DNA to organism does this thing seriously differ? The Gizmodo article is painfully weak on detail.

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (1)

boog3r (62427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417766)

for an announcement this big they would have to have found adenosine triadenide.

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418088)

that's a kind of alien, i presume?

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418386)

for an announcement this big they would have to have found adenosine triadenide.

Adenosine Triarsenate? (ATA)

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (4, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417882)

According to an article by the official Flemish news service [deredactie.be] , the beans were already spilled this afternoon in a documentary shown by a Dutch broadcast service (VPRO) on this topic. It's indeed about Mono lake and Felisa Wolfe-Simon. The article also contains a small film fragment in which they confirms that it's indeed about a life form that uses arsenic instead of phosphor (it also contains some sound bytes from the researcher, in English).

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417954)

Its first communication: "Ugly bags of mostly water!"

"To reach out to new life and new civilizations. To baldly go where no one has ever gone before."

I don't understand this; the announcement that there was going to be a press conference today was posted a few days ago. Why not wait until NASA announces it to post today's story?

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418060)

Because then 1,459 other people would have posted the pre-pre-pre-preview version and your carefully-researched, well-though-out, and more accurate followup with actual useful links and information would be immediately rejected as a "duplicate" and you wouldn't get posting credit.

It's not about who is BEST, it's about who is FIRST. That's been true of all media outlets for over a century now, it's just that the Internet lets us all be cub reporters and the pace is a tad more frenetic.

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (4, Funny)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418296)

To baldly go where no one has ever gone before.

That explains Picard, but what about curly Kirk?

Re:It's the Shadow Biosphere Lake (1)

milkmage (795746) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418184)

"I recall an X-Files that revolved around silicon based life"

No kill I.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_in_the_Dark [wikipedia.org]

Soon, another guard is killed and a circulation pump, vital to the colony's main reactor, is stolen. Unfortunately, the entire unit is obsolete, and no replacement is available. The original component must be found within 48 hours or the reactor will fail, rendering the mine uninhabitable. Scotty improvises a temporary replacement pump. Spock suggests that the creature might be a silicon-based lifeform and would thus be resistant to the "Type I" phasers carried by the colony guards; however, the landing party's "Type II" phasers should be able to stop it.

I think that's a stretch. (1)

Lat3 Bl00m3r (1951008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417726)

This still doesn't explain the information embargo, so I'd say this is hooey. That is unless, it's just a poorly constructed disclosure script, and next up they're going to "find" the same thing on Titan or something...

Re:I think that's a stretch. (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417774)

No... Don't you understand?

This is bigger than NASA's ammouncement...

THE INTERNET AGREED ON SOMETHING!

Re:I think that's a stretch. (0)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417872)

Wow. How did that happen?

I mean, someone was talking to me, so I wasn't looking at the keyboard or screen when I did all of that post - but thats not really any kind of excuse.

I'm just surprised how I got ammouncement - its actually harder to get a finger over the m key than the n key, and I only did it for those two letters, I didn't mix it up anywhere else.

Baffling.

Re:I think that's a stretch. (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418112)

+1 "completely pointless question that destroys the basis for solipsism by just being".
but seriously, your bafflement is annusing.

Re:I think that's a stretch. (3, Interesting)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418330)

This still doesn't explain the information embargo...

It does if this is being published in a respectable, peer-reviewed, scientific journal concurrent with the announcement. Scientific journals will generally provide advance copies of 'interesting' upcoming publications to members of the media, on condition that the news be embargoed until a particular time -- generally around the time that the full publication becomes accessible to the journal's readers. Journalists get advance copies so that they can start writing their articles early, so they can get quotes from relevant experts, and so that there is at least a faint hope that their coverage will be well-researched, thorough, and accurate, and bear at least a passing resemblance to the actual science being presented.

That's the right way to do a scientific announcement, by the way. (The wrong way is exemplified the Pons and Fleischmann's 'science by press conference' cold-fusion debacle, where you make the public announcement before your scientific peers have a chance to review your work.

Why not wait ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417732)

Why not wait until 2pm before posting the article then ?

Re:Why not wait ? (5, Insightful)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417792)

Why not wait until 2pm before posting the article then ?

Anyone can comment on facts, but conjecture is more fun.

Re:Why not wait ? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417982)

Facts can be so misleading

But rumours, true or false, are often revealing!

That's a Bingo!

Re:Why not wait ? (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418232)

In other news, Sarah Palin suggests that GizModo should be 'targeted like the Taliban!'

Re:Why not wait ? (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418358)

Anyone can comment on facts, but conjecture is more fun.

I'll give it a shot. "NASA announces the discovery of alien life, passably human, currently tweeting from Alaska. You betcha."

Re:Why not wait ? (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417812)

That's not as fun as random uninformed speculation.

Re:Why not wait ? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418084)

But random misinformed speculation is more fun yet.

Re:Why not wait ? (1, Funny)

gsslay (807818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417974)

It is passed 2pm. At least where I am. And no-one else reads slashdot anywhere else but where I am, otherwise the headline would give a time zone, wouldn't it?

Re:Why not wait ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418222)

Either that or there's an assumption that slashdot readers are not fucking retarded (a bad assumption, I know) and will realize that the timezone for a NASA press conference is probably the timezone that NASA is in.

Re:Why not wait ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418364)

We all know that Eastern (US) is the right timezone. Just set you clocks to that. If were talking about a different zone, then we'll mention it.

Great (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417752)

I can't wait for the public to give a collective yawn over this exciting news. I've been trying to educate people at work today about why this is such a big deal, but their responses have generally been "oh, more bacteria...yay."

-_-;;

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417814)

your mom

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417908)

your grandma

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417930)

What about educating us too ? Why is it that important ?

Re:Great (5, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418020)

Combined from two other posts I made:

If what's being reported is accurate, they've discovered a life form whose DNA was previously thought to be completely, unequivocally, no-exceptions impossible. Not just "we haven't found it", but impossible.

The point is that it means that life could exist in ways we haven't even conceived of yet. It's not the finding itself that's important, but rather the implications of having hard confirmed evidence that what we have long thought was wrong.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418156)

oh, more bacteria...yay.

**YAWN**

Wake me up when you find copper based life forms, with green blood.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418248)

The problem is, they described it as an "astrobiology" finding. Which implies something a bit more.... astronomical for most people. I mean, it's cool, sure, but there was no way to beat the hype after that pre-announcement.

Just wondering.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417760)

Is carbon a deadly posion for an arsenic-based life form?

Re:Just wondering.... (5, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417968)

Is carbon a deadly posion for an arsenic-based life form?

Such an arsenic-"based" life form would still be made up mostly of carbon, the arsenic would replace phosphor instead. So, carbon would be most likely harmless to them while phosphor might indeed be toxic, in a reversal of the toxicity mechanism of arsenic, which works, among other mechanisms, by replacing the phosphate groups in adenosine triphosphate.

The really interesting question is how an arsenic-based bacterium would avoid the effect of arsenic binding to sulfhydryl groups in proteins.

Re:Just wondering.... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418128)

Would that happen though? Presumably the reason arsenic is poisonous is because it's more reactive than the phosphorous.

Re:Just wondering.... (3, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418312)

The really interesting question is how an arsenic-based bacterium would avoid the effect of arsenic binding to sulfhydryl groups in proteins.

Which brings up the question of just how different this life is. Did evolution just find a neat little way to avoid the problems with Arsenic or is the biochemistry substantially different at every level? Basically, is this just a new branch off the tree of life, or is it a completely new sapling the next field over?

Re:Just wondering.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417978)

At first it will shock the gargon's system, but then, as it adapts, it will thrive on it. Ask another stupid question and you may well be subjected to torture.

Re:Just wondering.... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418030)

Only if you reverse the shields polarity.

Re:Just wondering.... (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418152)

But you'll never be able to alternate the frequencies fast enough to compensate.

Re:Just wondering.... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418388)

And if you don't reroute the encryption, you will be destined to fail.

Can we finally, finally, finally (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417762)

Stop arguing that life on earth is a special, special snowflake, created by a God who looks just like us? If a deity exists, clearly they are just as likely to be made of arsenic.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417816)

In theory, life on this planet is an absurd idea. Think about it: we're on the fringes of the galaxy, out in the boondocks...one of the emptiest, coldest, and darkest part. If anything, life would be most likely to exist closer to the core.

We're not special...we're the exception.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1, Funny)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417936)

were you trying to answer his question or just talking?

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418240)

disregard my comment, i'm pretty sure this isn't where it origionally was

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (2)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418022)

I'd argue that life is more likely where we are for the simple reason that this is where we exist. I would have thought there's a lot more potential for encountering harmful radiation, among other things, closer to the core.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418050)

That's also assuming that certain lifeforms wouldn't be resistant (or possibly even immune) to such radiation.

Exactly the kind of thing this discovery means...we now have hard evidence in front of us that what we thought were the rules were completely wrong.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (3, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418144)

That's also assuming that certain lifeforms wouldn't be resistant (or possibly even immune) to such radiation.

Keep going with that line of reasoning - the next step would be lifeforms that are dependent on it.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (2)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418096)

Except that may be this saves us from deadly gamma rays from the core

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418352)

Deadly to us, sure. Maybe there's some life-form that feeds on them, the way plants feed on other wavelengths.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (5, Insightful)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418104)

Now, now...

Galactic suburbia isn't quite so bad. Nice and stable. Helps to keep those planetary orbits from changing too much or too quickly. I mean a good wallop a long time ago to create the moon is all well and good. But after a while you just want to settle down. We really don't to get pelted with comets and planetoids all that often.

Things are a lot tougher closer to the core. It's simply much to busy. Nearby stars bustling together. Everybody taking these whiplash commutes around the central black hole. Pesky neighboring stars who keep perturbing your Oort cloud sending debris down on you regularly. Many young stars just cannot handle it. Oh they seem successful; the get nice and big. But they just explode. And let me tell you, you just don't want to live where you could get shot up every few million years or so.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418140)

> If anything, life would be most likely to exist closer to the core.

Things are a little too exciting close to the core. It's better out here where we can get a few billion years of peace and quiet.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417866)

Just wait until NASA announces their discovery of Old Lace-based lifeforms. Then we can really get this party started.

Re:Can we finally, finally, finally (1)

lexidation (1825996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418374)

Why would anyone mod the parent 'troll'? Are your religious beliefs that easily offended?

Is it on another planet? (0)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417846)

If not, kind of boring. I mean, still interesting, and stuff, but if it's on another planet it'd be a lot of times more interesting!

Re:Is it on another planet? (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417886)

::facepalm::

If what's being reported is accurate, they've discovered a life form whose DNA was previously thought to be completely, unequivocally, no-exceptions impossible. Not just "we haven't found it", but impossible.

HOW IS THAT NOT AWESOME???

Re:Is it on another planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418026)

who said it was impossible..?

Re:Is it on another planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418196)

I said it was impossible, but then again it was 2-for-$2.25 Tuesday at Bar Lurcat and I was pretty well sloshed.

So technically he's right, but only if your primary source of scientific news and insight is a drunkard.

Re:Is it on another planet? (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418038)

As far as I could tell nobody thought it was impossible, perhaps unlikely, but not impossible. There are other organisms that already use arsenic in their system, although not to this extent. Scientists have even speculated on boron and silicon as alternatives to carbon.

Re:Is it on another planet? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418202)

I see. I'm not a biologist, but I'd never have said a life form using a different kind of chemistry for its DNA, or even a life form using something completely different than DNA would be impossible. I don't even exclude things such as life forms based on totally different physics, scales of time, scales of size, and so on. We currently don't even 100% know how our own DNA fully works and how it came into existence. So who are we to say that something else is impossible! :)

Actually it's very interesting then, interesting because it'll cause people to think about new possibilities, nice!

Re:Is it on another planet? (0, Troll)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418272)

And more importantly, it would mean end of religions, unless we want to fool ourselves now on new, grandiose scale.

Re:Is it on another planet? (1)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417956)

This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don't have to be like planet Earth. !

I found this information on another planet (a whole 1 click away!!!)

and? (0)

societyofrobots (1396043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417880)

I think you guys are hyping this up too much. NASA finds water and 'biological markers' all the time. My bet is it's in that same category.

Re:and? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418058)

Do they have pre-announced (days in advance) press conferences "all the time" about their other findings?

Contradictory statements (2)

flogger (524072) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417916)

NASA has discovered a completely new life form that doesn't share the biological building blocks of anything currently living in planet Earth.

This makes it seem as if extraterrestrial life was found. But this was found in Mono Lake, California? So is it Life, as in living? ore life as in "was" living? I'll be tuning in at the conference.

Re:Contradictory statements (2)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417952)

The point was that it means that life could exist in ways we haven't even conceived of yet. It's not the finding itself that's important, but rather confirmation that we don't know dick. The confirmation of such a thing widely expands the possibility of finding life elsewhere, because it is a direct example of how much we could potentially have wrong.

Again, it's not the finding itself that's important, but rather the implications of this type of discovery.

Re:Contradictory statements (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418398)

I could have told you before this discovery that we don't know dick.

We pat ourselves on the back, thinking we are so advanced, and yet we have entire classes of people stealing money from those who work to give to those who don't want to, while the genuinely needy and helpless often go without any kind of aid and have to eat garbage and live in cardboard shacks. We engage in wars over really trivial shit, because a few tyrants at the top in each respective country don't like each other very much.

We certainly are primitive and clueless. But, we have our digital watches, and those are a pretty neat idea!

Re:Contradictory statements (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418028)

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

Re:Contradictory statements (2)

farble1670 (803356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418134)

the environment is mono lake is so different (and hostile to life as we know it) that it might as well be ET.

They did not find new life (1)

iron-kurton (891451) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417938)

According to Alexis Madrigal, the answer is no. http://twitter.com/alexismadrigal [twitter.com]

Re:They did not find new life (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418322)

She also couldn't find her glasses after taking out her contacts. Gotta love the banality of Twitter.

Slow news day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34417942)

Couldn't this have waited untill after the news release?

2 fundamental question (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34417994)

1, Do they believe in God?
2, Can we have sex with them?

(Yeah, I know, it's a bacteria.)

Re:2 fundamental question (2)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418062)

Don't worry, I'm sure you'll still fit. ;-)

Re:2 fundamental question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418154)

2, Can we have sex with them?

Your mom did and now we have you.

Re:2 fundamental question (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418246)

1: Who cares?
2: Rule 34.

NASA? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418010)

I'm curious as to what NASA has to do with this, Mono Lake being in California and all.

Re:NASA? (1)

atrain728 (1835698) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418244)

NASA does a lot of terrestrial research in the Earth's most exotic environments (in order to gather information on possible extra-terrestrial environments).

Still, it would seem that perhaps the name "National Air and Space Administration" should be updated with the times.

Composition or respiration? (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418014)

This smells of an article that got a little over-excited on speculation. If its just using arsonic as part of its respiration, that's not earth-shaking news - it's already known some bacteria do this.

Evolution (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418018)

From TFA it looks like there is just 1 molecule different. Could it be possible that a Phosphate got replaced by Arsenic by some environmental condition and the fact that they were poisonous to most other life it allowed them to evolve further. A bacteria got lucky it didn't die after a mutation.

Is it still carbon-based? (1)

Pulzar (81031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418034)

For those of us who don't know biology well, what does this really mean? What is phosphorous used for in our cells, and how does arsenic change things? Searching for "phosphorous-based life" comes up with discussiong on phosphorous, silicon, and other elements instead of *carbon*, but these new bacteria are still made of the same carbon building blocks as us, no?

Re:Is it still carbon-based? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418278)

Phosphorus is used for a lot of things, but the impression I'm getting is that the bacteria are still carbon based. The article says that the bacteria have new DNA and then says there is the phosphorus-arsenic swap. You know the classic example that DNA is a ladder and the rungs are made of the ATCG bases? The two rails that the rungs are perpendicular to are made of a sugar-phosphate backbone, so the article sounds like it's saying these bacteria have a sugar-arsenate backbone instead. This is interesting because the phosphates are important in how DNA interacts with the world around it (e.g. shape and coiling, which can control the access of other molecules to it) so if you change that to arsenate the behaviour might be different.

What's more interesting is that phosphorus is critically important in a whole range of systems in a cell: the "energy currency" of the cell is adenosine triphosphate, phosphorylation is critical in signalling and protein function, lipids in the membrane have phosphate residues, bacteria often synthesis massive chains of polyphosphate as phosphorus stores and as regulatory features controlling growth phases.... if the DNA of these cells has arsenate instead I wonder if there has been a P>As swap anywhere else.

Re:Is it still carbon-based? (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418382)

ATP (cellular energy) is adenosine triphosphate. Arsenic generally works by reacting with this and, essentially, unplugging the fuel tank for cells.

Obligatory Kent Brockman (2, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418066)

I, for one, welcome are new arsenic-based overlords.

Obligatory (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418070)

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

I welcome our new arsenic based overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418122)

:-D

Super Bug! (1)

Gravitron 5000 (1621683) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418126)

A bacteria that contains arsenic in its DNA. It's some kind of super bug that poisons you while infecting you! Does anyone know of a good supplier of hermetically sealed human sized bubbles?

Re:Super Bug! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418348)

Does anyone know of a good supplier of hermetically sealed human sized bubbles?

Inquire at your local mortuary. They'll fix you up with a hermetically-sealed stainless-steel coffin.

Still carbon-based (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418130)

This is about a bacterium which replaced its phosphorus (not its carbon) with arsenic. Nothing to see here, move along!

Re:Still carbon-based (5, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418326)

There's nothing to see here if it can be shown that there is a sequence of changes that can go directly from point A to point B (A being "life" -- without a firm definition, but "life" using phosphorus, and B being identical "life" using arsenic instead) where every step of the path between forms a viable chemistry that continues to be "life".

If you can't do that, then there's pretty significant reason to think that along with the handful of times life likely arose on Earth with a chemistry that *can* be linked that way to now, it arose a time using a completely different chemistry.

That latter would mean two VERY important things -- the conditions that life could arise in is a lot broader than we believe AND, if its got similar genetics and use of amino acids, that the opportunistic use of amino acids (which are known to be extremely common in space) isn't a rare thing.

This are staggering, dicipline-changing insights unless someone can show a path from A-B.

Mission to Titan (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418132)

Now, we need to send a robot to Saturn's moon Titan and see if life exists there. [solarviews.com]
Titan's surface temperature appears to be about -178C (-289F). Methane appears to be below its saturation pressure near Titan's surface; rivers and lakes of methane probably don't exist, in spite of the tantalizing analogy to water on Earth. On the other hand, scientists believe lakes of ethane exist that contain dissolved methane. Titan's methane, through continuing photochemistry, is converted to ethane, acetylene, ethylene, and (when combined with nitrogen) hydrogen cyanide. The last is an especially important molecule; it is a building block of amino acids.

Bah... (1)

andi75 (84413) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418146)

If it's based on Arsenic, it's probably not edible...

I remember a short SF story... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418200)

...about a lifeform based on silicon, not carbon. Instead of exhaling carbon dioxide, they shit sand (or something like that). Anyone remember the name/author?

For reactions, see the SyFy channel (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418208)

I 100% guarantee you that they'll be poised to make last minute dialogue chances to whatever Parking-Lot Epic is just about to start filming. Run, Kristy Swanson, the arsenic based blob is after you!

Why NASA? (0)

mkoenecke (249261) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418242)

Is it only me who is wondering just what this has to do with Aeronautics and/or Space?

Re:Why NASA? (2)

leptechie (1937384) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418380)

One of the core goals of NASA is to discover more about the universe [nasa.gov] in which we live and how it impacts us. Obviously the search for extraterrestrial life is part of that mission, but if we assume all life (and the planets harbouring them) are identical to our systems [wikipedia.org] then we're going to ignore avenues that might be evident or even more prevalent.
What was a patent clerk [wikipedia.org] doing contemplating the nature of space/time?

Obvious follow up question (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418280)

Are there any more arsenic lakes around the world ?

most important is whether this new life (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418294)

has a common ancestor with us, or if it emerged entirely separately. If it did emerge separately from the 'spark' which started our family off, then it makes it incredibly more likely that the universe is absolutely teeming with life.

If we find any signs of common ancestory, however far back they are, it would suggest that life only 'began' on this life once, and leaves open the possibility that we are on our own.

The most important question for these life forms: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418318)

vi or emacs?

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