Thursday, December 02, 2010

Bacteria With Arsenic-Based DNA Discovered

Holy crap.

I heard NASA was having a big new conference today with some relevance to xenobiology...but I didn't realize it'd be this big.

The universe is a strange and fascinating place.


Anonymous Spencer said...

Something I'm unclear about in the several articles I've read about this - did they find this bacteria on Earth or, like, a asteroid or something?

4:01 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Found it in a lake in California.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Lewis Carroll said...

Time to start looking for the Horta.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Multiple points for sweet ST:ToS reference...

12:38 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Gizmodo is badly wrong about this. This is a standard - although arsenic-tolerant - terrestrial bacterium with standard DNA that, in an experimental environment, has shown novel chemistry, to wit, substituting arsenic for phosphorus. This itself is not too weird, since arsenic is in the same group as phosphorus and thus would be expected to have similar chemical reactions.

The xenobiological wonder the scientists express is completely speculative. Here's a scientist with his feet a little more firmly on the ground than the Gizmodo writer:

“It’s a really nice story about adaptability of our life form,” [Gerald Joyce, a chemist and molecular biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.,] said. “It gives food for thought about what might be possible in another world.”

12:11 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

... but cool just the same.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Damn, I actually wondered about this when I read the first snippets about this story...wondered, that is, whether the arsenic basically leached in or what... But subsequent, longer summaries made it sound as if these bacteria represented a radically different evolutionary line.

7:14 AM  

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