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WAAAAYYY OT: Extra Terrestrial Life?

Could this be the last night we go to sleep not knowing whether there’s life outside of earth in the universe?

NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2

Can’t be that big a deal or Wikileaks would have had it

Hahahaha!

More seriously, Jason Kottke of kottke.org fame took a look at the published research from the scientists at the press conference and came up with this:

So, if I had to guess at what NASA is going to reveal on Thursday, I'd say that they've discovered arsenic on Titan and maybe even detected chemical evidence of bacteria utilizing it for photosynthesis (by following the elements). Or something like that.

No, no, no…what NASA discovered on a far away planet in a far away universe is simply Rokk. No water, no life, just Rokk. :slight_smile:

[quote=“bstanf, post:1, topic:1572”]Could this be the last night we go to sleep not knowing whether there’s life outside of earth in the universe?

NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2[/quote]

So the anxious anticipation of the press conference will keep you up both Tuesday and Wednesday nights? Or maybe you just don’t expect to be able to sleep in anticipation of the PSU/Md game on Tuesday night and the celebration of the PSU victory on Wednesday night. ;D

Maybe it’s related to this?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/nov/18/wandering-star-planet-galaxy

[quote=“NGameday, post:6, topic:1572”]Maybe it’s related to this?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/nov/18/wandering-star-planet-galaxy[/quote]

so is this planet classified as an illegal alien?

I thought Earth was the planet with the illegal aliens! ;D

Geneis live Illegal Alien

[quote=“bstanf, post:1, topic:1572”]Could this be the last night we go to sleep not knowing whether there’s life outside of earth in the universe?

NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2[/quote]

A new life form = yes.

Extraterrestrial = no.

NASA found a life form, i.e. bacteria, in a California lake that has different DNA than all others. It uses arsenic rather than potassium.

EDIT. While I did read one report that said it has a different DNA, that may not be true. Other reports that I have read suggest that it uses arsenic to replace phosphorus as it replicates its DNA but that may not mean that its original DNA was also arsenic based.

As the resident biologist, I’ll chime in. It’s pretty interesting, but not as radical as it’s being hyped. First off, in normal conditions, the cells don’t use arsenic. They live in a very high arsenic environment, and arsenic isn’t as toxic to them as it is to pretty much every other living organism. What was interesting was when the researchers to the organisms into the lab. In the lab under artificial conditions, they replaced all of the phosphorus in the petri dish with arsenic. When forced to live without phosphorus, the microorganisms still survived, but not as well. Phosphorus is necessary for many processes in all living organisms, including making DNA. What the researchers claim, and what will need to be verified with time, is that in the absence of phosphorus, the cells were able to use arsenic to build DNA.

This is not as extreme as it sounds. Arsenic and phosphorus are chemically similar. That’s actually why arsenic is so poisonous to us. For most organisms, arsenic acts enough like phosphorus that it substitutes for phosphorus in a lot of chemical reactions. But it is different enough that it doesn’t work quite right. And that causes the chemistry of the cell to fall apart. So, what these microorganisms have done is come up with a way to survive even when arsenic normally gets into places that gum up the works. How they do that will remain to be seen.

Still, it’s pretty monumental if what the researchers say is true. Genetic material (DNA) may be assembled using different chemistry than anything previously found. While not normal (or natural), it expands our understanding of what chemistry can underlie life. But it’s a logical extension of what we already know based on the chemistry.

I thought it appropriate to follow up on this story since it’s catching significant heat from the rest of the scientific community.

Many scientists have faulted NASA for bad science, some going so far as to suggest that the paper “never should have been published”.

Read more at Slate.