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Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd      Home login  
Joined: 4/17/2010
Msg: 1
Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2ndPage 1 of 1    
Did anyone just watch the conference?
The discovery isn't as big a deal to me since I'm not a biologist or hobby biologist, studied it, or the like. But it's still cool. The occasionally thrown wrench in what everyone has learned.

I was hoping they found Elvis, MJ, jfk and Capote on a distant moon outside the milky way, but not all dreams come true.
Joined: 1/16/2008
Msg: 2
Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd
Posted: 12/2/2010 11:57:31 AM
I think it's important to point out that the scientist in charge was deliberately searching for exceptions to the standard approach of life - rather than using phosphorous, it uses arsenic - which is resulting in a little bit of necessary skepticism in the scientific community. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

However, it is still amazing because it IS an exception to the rule.

It also is NOT evidence of a second's terrestrial life that extends the boundaries of the environments of what life can live in. It will be interesting to see the results of the follow-up studies.
Joined: 4/17/2010
Msg: 3
Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd
Posted: 12/2/2010 12:19:53 PM
There was a reporter who asked a question that was basically getting at that point it seemed, although discreetly hinted so as not to offend :)

edit: sorry, that first point you made I was talking about.
Joined: 4/17/2010
Msg: 4
Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd
Posted: 12/2/2010 7:14:08 PM
oh i know where they think it goes. They showed short little video pieces and pictures and things during the announcement/q&a.

I'm a visual learner, I greatly appreciate pictures :)
Joined: 2/9/2008
Msg: 5
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Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd
Posted: 12/3/2010 8:06:17 AM
While the discovery of an arsenic-based DNA lifeform was quite intriguing and does have implications for our understanding of the diversity of life, the phosphorus connection, peak phosphorus and phosphorus pollution, was broached and needs much more urgent attention . Peak Phosphorus a subject that most people don't know about, or understand the social, economic and political ramifications . While some folks know about the role of phosphorus runoff and the implications for rivers, and the dead zones/hypoxic waters offshore, 90% of the supplies are owned by 5 countries. We've already seen oil wars, and phosphorus wars will not be far off. The co-peaks of fossil fuels and phosphorus availability will lead to an extremely unstable human world, unable to feed it's numbers. To preserve life as we know it, we must get smarter immediately about phosphorus management.
Joined: 5/2/2010
Msg: 6
Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd
Posted: 12/3/2010 9:09:14 AM
The most interesting issue that they were exploring a year or so ago, when the initial results suggested a hereto unknown biomechanism in the Mono Lake bacteria (now suggested to be overt replacement of arsenic for phosphorus) was that it might suggest that heterotropic life forms emerged and then evolved on Earth in distinct evolutionary paths -- i.e., that life might have emerged on Earth more than once. The theory was that it was plausible that Arsenic-based life emerged in Arsenic-rich environments like the Mono Lake soil sediments and, once established, evolved strategies that would enable it to persist there.

I didn't see any speculation about that possibility when the results were announced yesterday, however, so I don't know if it is still one of the working hypotheses about why these "weird life" biochemical processes seem to exist. However, it was the same scientists behind yesterday's paper and the earlier ones, so I am assuming that is still a theory that is "in play."

I do know that the scientists associated with yesterday's report believe that organisms utilizing "weird life" biochemical pathways like the bacteria under study from Mono Lake may have supported a “shadow biosphere” at the time of the origin and early evolution of life on Earth. That is, primitive life using Arsenic-based compounds might have needed less molecular machinery to fulfill their biochemical roles in ancient systems, facilitating the development of a Phosphorus-like metabolism. It is perhaps no coincidence that it is relatively simple, through site-directed mutagenesis, to change an arsenate reductase to a phosphatase. In any event, it is my understanding that the speculation from these Mono Lake examples is that they likewise suggest other planets or moons may already be supporting a similar "shadow biosphere" of alien life with arsenate-like metabolisms. The example I hear most often mentioned, including in the press following NASA's announcement, is Saturn's moon Titan, which apparently already has produced some curious chemical results detected by the Cassini probe that might be signatures of extraterristrial biomechanical reactions. Time (hopefully) will tell.

As for where the authors of these papers think other examples of arsenic-based life may exist on Earth, the only one I know they have specifically identified is deep sea hydrothermal systems. Mono Lake is highly unusual in that it produces high concentrations of arsenic in restricted pockets due to seasonally relevant episodes.
Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > Nasa's announcement today, dec. 2nd