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Author Topic: NASA Finds New Life Form  (Read 2072 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 02, 2010, 02:04:31 PM »

At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

But not this one. 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.

No details have been disclosed about the origin or nature of this new life form. We will know more today at 2pm EST but, while this life hasn’t been found in another planet, this discovery does indeed change everything we know about biology.
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2010, 02:08:31 PM »

Does that mean that it did not evolve from the same first single celled organism from which we came?
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2010, 02:10:19 PM »

Does that mean that it did not evolve from the same first single celled organism from which we came?
It means (probably) that life evolved more than once.

However, it also might mean that this new life form, and the rest of us, evolved from a still different life form. (Or maybe we evolved from this new life form, or this new life form evolved from "us". The news conference should be innerestin'.)
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2010, 02:20:41 PM »

The likelihood of this "new life" having a separate origin appears unlikely. It's more likely that the new life form can simply use arsenic, instead of phosphorus.

Meet GFAJ-1, an otherworldly microbe that can grow on a legendary poison.

U.S. scientists are reporting the microbe, plucked from a California lake, can use arsenic to make proteins and other key molecules including DNA.

They say the arsenic operates as a substitute for phosphorus, long considered one of six essential elements of life.

The finding, which may have "profound evolutionary and geochemical significance," according to a report in the journal Science on Thursday, has the astrobiology world buzzing.

Bloggers had been busy speculating, based on NASA's plan to hold a news conference Thursday at 2 p.m. ET to coincide with the publication of the study, that scientists have found extraterrestrial life.

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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2010, 02:58:56 PM »

Unlikely? Or just doesn't fit the current model and would require scrapping everything?
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2010, 03:37:06 PM »

Unlikely? Or just doesn't fit the current model and would require scrapping everything?

It's probably too early to even make an educated guess. We would need to sequence the DNA and compare its genetic structure to other forms of bacteria to see how much/little mathematical correlation there is.
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2010, 03:42:41 PM »

Unlikely? Or just doesn't fit the current model and would require scrapping everything?
Agreed.

It's probably too early to even make an educated guess. We would need to sequence the DNA and compare its genetic structure to other forms of bacteria to see how much/little mathematical correlation there is.
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2010, 05:26:37 PM »

I finally found an abstract
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2010, 07:08:29 PM »

Does that mean that it did not evolve from the same first single celled organism from which we came?

Couldn't the arsenic adaptation have occured much later after the first cell originated? I think it might be premature to read large-scale evolutionary consequences into this.
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2010, 07:19:11 PM »

The fact that NASA broke the news made me initially wonder if the source of this life form was extra-terrestrial...that would be really cool if they found that to be the case.
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2010, 07:21:00 PM »

The fact that NASA broke the news made me initially wonder if the source of this life form was extra-terrestrial...that would be really cool if they found that to be the case.

Maybe they are only claiming it came from California... to set the news in slowly... then the bigger creatures come out next...



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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2010, 07:31:50 PM »

Does that mean that it did not evolve from the same first single celled organism from which we came?

Couldn't the arsenic adaptation have occured much later after the first cell originated? I think it might be premature to read large-scale evolutionary consequences into this.
That seems like a likely scenario.

Though one might argue that the arsenic adaption evolved first.
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« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2010, 09:20:14 PM »

Unlikely? Or just doesn't fit the current model and would require scrapping everything?

It's probably too early to even make an educated guess. We would need to sequence the DNA and compare its genetic structure to other forms of bacteria to see how much/little mathematical correlation there is.

I agree, and actually my point, if you can read through the sarcasm.
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2010, 09:27:03 PM »

What NASA scientists discovered in Mono Lake is but one more example of a bacterium that can adapt to an extreme environment by subbing arsenic for phosphorus in its life-processes.  We are continually finding bacteria that have adapted to extreme environments, all the way from Kinecoccus Radiotolerans (arguably the toughest critter in the Universe), which was find in high-level nuclear waste, to microbes that breathe hydrogen sulfide and live in superhot termal vents, other microbes that live in extreme cold, etc., etc.  IOW, the discovery announced today may not be nearly as revolutionary as supposed.

Now, if that arsenic microbe could just meet up with one that subsists on old lace...
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2010, 09:38:08 PM »

At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

But not this one. 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.

No details have been disclosed about the origin or nature of this new life form. We will know more today at 2pm EST but, while this life hasn’t been found in another planet, this discovery does indeed change everything we know about biology.

Did they find this bacteria or did they make this bacteria do something that it doesn't normally do? Like eat Arsenic instead of phosphorus.

I read the same story on Yahoo, and it was a controlled lab experiment. They didn't find the thing in the wild, they made the thing mutate so that it could survive on arsenic.

I could be wrong, but I thought that some bacteria in the experiment died because it couldn't survive on arsenic while the rest survived because it was able to make the change.

They didn't find a new life form. They were just messing with an already existing life form.
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« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2010, 09:53:14 PM »

What NASA scientists discovered in Mono Lake is but one more example of a bacterium that can adapt to an extreme environment by subbing arsenic for phosphorus in its life-processes.  We are continually finding bacteria that have adapted to extreme environments, all the way from Kinecoccus Radiotolerans (arguably the toughest critter in the Universe), which was find in high-level nuclear waste, to microbes that breathe hydrogen sulfide and live in superhot termal vents, other microbes that live in extreme cold, etc., etc.  IOW, the discovery announced today may not be nearly as revolutionary as supposed.

Now, if that arsenic microbe could just meet up with one that subsists on old lace...

I had Mono a couple of times.. Nasty biz.. This explains a lot.
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« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2010, 10:01:15 PM »

What NASA scientists discovered in Mono Lake is but one more example of a bacterium that can adapt to an extreme environment by subbing arsenic for phosphorus in its life-processes.  We are continually finding bacteria that have adapted to extreme environments, all the way from Kinecoccus Radiotolerans (arguably the toughest critter in the Universe), which was find in high-level nuclear waste, to microbes that breathe hydrogen sulfide and live in superhot termal vents, other microbes that live in extreme cold, etc., etc.  IOW, the discovery announced today may not be nearly as revolutionary as supposed.

Now, if that arsenic microbe could just meet up with one that subsists on old lace...

This is more than substituting one element for another for use in its life processes (metabolism, etc). This appears to be a fundamental change at the DNA level, in the elements which constitute the basic building blocks of life. No other organism has been found or created like this one.
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« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2010, 10:13:12 PM »

What NASA scientists discovered in Mono Lake is but one more example of a bacterium that can adapt to an extreme environment by subbing arsenic for phosphorus in its life-processes.  We are continually finding bacteria that have adapted to extreme environments, all the way from Kinecoccus Radiotolerans (arguably the toughest critter in the Universe), which was find in high-level nuclear waste, to microbes that breathe hydrogen sulfide and live in superhot termal vents, other microbes that live in extreme cold, etc., etc.  IOW, the discovery announced today may not be nearly as revolutionary as supposed.

Now, if that arsenic microbe could just meet up with one that subsists on old lace...

Substitution of arsenic for phosphorus in the backbone of DNA is "adaptation"? Heh, no.
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« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2010, 10:33:29 PM »

What NASA scientists discovered in Mono Lake is but one more example of a bacterium that can adapt to an extreme environment by subbing arsenic for phosphorus in its life-processes.  We are continually finding bacteria that have adapted to extreme environments, all the way from Kinecoccus Radiotolerans (arguably the toughest critter in the Universe), which was find in high-level nuclear waste, to microbes that breathe hydrogen sulfide and live in superhot termal vents, other microbes that live in extreme cold, etc., etc.  IOW, the discovery announced today may not be nearly as revolutionary as supposed.

Now, if that arsenic microbe could just meet up with one that subsists on old lace...

Substitution of arsenic for phosphorus in the backbone of DNA is "adaptation"? Heh, no.

If not adaptation, then what?
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« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2010, 10:41:48 PM »

What NASA scientists discovered in Mono Lake is but one more example of a bacterium that can adapt to an extreme environment by subbing arsenic for phosphorus in its life-processes.  We are continually finding bacteria that have adapted to extreme environments, all the way from Kinecoccus Radiotolerans (arguably the toughest critter in the Universe), which was find in high-level nuclear waste, to microbes that breathe hydrogen sulfide and live in superhot termal vents, other microbes that live in extreme cold, etc., etc.  IOW, the discovery announced today may not be nearly as revolutionary as supposed.

Now, if that arsenic microbe could just meet up with one that subsists on old lace...

Substitution of arsenic for phosphorus in the backbone of DNA is "adaptation"? Heh, no.

If not adaptation, then what?
I think what he means is that it's not the result of a mutation or two in an otherwise normal bacterium.
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« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2010, 02:33:57 AM »

Perhaps learning about this new life form will help us figure out what politicians are made of. Tongue
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« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2010, 04:56:06 AM »

I'm an undergraduate student of Molecular Biology and Genetics and I'll tell you my opinion, based on my current knowledge of how life works.

First of all, I might be wrong but I don't believe that our evolutionary ancestor and the ancestor of that bacterium had anything in common. Phosphorus is essential for life as we knew it and without Phosphorus you don't have DNA, no mRNA, nothing. You won't live for long if you don't have abundant Phosphorus in your system. Now, if that bacterium had traces of Phosphorus and a far greater amount of Arsenic, I'd be inclined to believe that it adapted, but something like that was not mentioned though. A radical change of Phosphorus to Arsenic though would be non-viable, in my opinion, because the bacterium would be unable to perform any essential life activity, even for a couple of minutes, which would lead it to death.


EDIT: I apologize. I just now found and read the scientific paper and it mentions that there are traces of Phosphorus, minimally low as they are, but existent. At that level of Phosphorus, Phosphorus-dependent life would be unsustainable for the bacteria, but that might mean that it could be some sort of -radical whatsoever but perhaps valid- adaptation.


Now, alien or whatever? In my mind, I have two scenarios. First is that the first Arsenic-friendly cell appeared along with the first cell who used Phosphorus, but was surpassed by the Phosphorus ones, just because the latter were able to adapt much better to a wider range of environments. So, today we only see remnants of life with Arsenic, since this planet was hostile to it, for lack of Arsenic.
Another -perhaps less possible- scenario would be that these bacteria were transmitted to Earth on a meteorite or something. You know, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there was an era when Earth received hundreds and hundreds of meteorite hits from outer space. Perhaps, some meteorites with bacteria on them hit the earth at various sites. Those who landed on an Arsenic rich environment managed to live, while the others perished.

Just some of my thoughts and please do not take any of them as scientific truth. I'm only an undergraduate student of Molecular Biology and Genetics, who aspires to be an Evolutionary Geneticist one day. Tongue
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« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2010, 08:06:16 AM »

I'm an undergraduate student of Molecular Biology and Genetics and I'll tell you my opinion, based on my current knowledge of how life works.

First of all, I might be wrong but I don't believe that our evolutionary ancestor and the ancestor of that bacterium had anything in common. Phosphorus is essential for life as we knew it and without Phosphorus you don't have DNA, no mRNA, nothing. You won't live for long if you don't have abundant Phosphorus in your system. Now, if that bacterium had traces of Phosphorus and a far greater amount of Arsenic, I'd be inclined to believe that it adapted, but something like that was not mentioned though. A radical change of Phosphorus to Arsenic though would be non-viable, in my opinion, because the bacterium would be unable to perform any essential life activity, even for a couple of minutes, which would lead it to death.


EDIT: I apologize. I just now found and read the scientific paper and it mentions that there are traces of Phosphorus, minimally low as they are, but existent. At that level of Phosphorus, Phosphorus-dependent life would be unsustainable for the bacteria, but that might mean that it could be some sort of -radical whatsoever but perhaps valid- adaptation.


Now, alien or whatever? In my mind, I have two scenarios. First is that the first Arsenic-friendly cell appeared along with the first cell who used Phosphorus, but was surpassed by the Phosphorus ones, just because the latter were able to adapt much better to a wider range of environments. So, today we only see remnants of life with Arsenic, since this planet was hostile to it, for lack of Arsenic.
Another -perhaps less possible- scenario would be that these bacteria were transmitted to Earth on a meteorite or something. You know, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there was an era when Earth received hundreds and hundreds of meteorite hits from outer space. Perhaps, some meteorites with bacteria on them hit the earth at various sites. Those who landed on an Arsenic rich environment managed to live, while the others perished.

Just some of my thoughts and please do not take any of them as scientific truth. I'm only an undergraduate student of Molecular Biology and Genetics, who aspires to be an Evolutionary Geneticist one day. Tongue

Interesting. Thanks.
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« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2010, 08:46:30 AM »

I remember coming across this study a while back, which seems to make the multiple origin hypothesis very unlikely.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512131513.htm

This would seem to lend credance to the 'adaptation' or extra-terrestrial scenario.
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« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2010, 01:38:55 PM »

I remember coming across this study a while back, which seems to make the multiple origin hypothesis very unlikely.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512131513.htm

This would seem to lend credance to the 'adaptation' or extra-terrestrial scenario.

If an independently evolved life form were to exist, it would make sense that it would evolve in an environment like this that is extremely hostile to life as we know it, thus allowing this other life form to exist without substantial competition. However, with that said, I think it is far more probable that the species simply adapted to allow it to use phosphorus and arsenic interchangeably, giving it an advantage in this environment...those bacteria that couldn't adopt died out since they did not consistently have enough phosphorus to reproduce.
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« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2010, 02:14:12 PM »

What a fascinating discovery. Really, really interesting.

I don't think it contradicts the modern theory of biological evolution. After all, the TBE does not address origins of life (it's a "vulgarization" of the TBE, of sorts, that tries to do that.) The TBE explains how life is being diversified, no matter what origins of it are.

I am also fascinated by the idea that this bacterium is an extraterrestrial. And there might be other forms of life that, possibly, are from other planet(s) - for example, hyperthermophilic Archaea like T. aquaticus, a microorganism that is capable of surviving and even replicating literally in boiling water (while "normal" proteins, including DNA polymerases necessary for DNA replication, are denatured at ~88-93 degrees Celsius); or bacteria like P. aeruginosa that produce pyruvic acid by running the so-called Entner-Doudoroff pathway of chemical reactions, rather than the conventional reactions of glycolysis.

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« Reply #26 on: December 03, 2010, 02:44:52 PM »

What a fascinating discovery. Really, really interesting.

I don't think it contradicts the modern theory of biological evolution. After all, the TBE does not address origins of life (it's a "vulgarization" of the TBE, of sorts, that tries to do that.) The TBE explains how life is being diversified, no matter what origins of it are.

I am also fascinated by the idea that this bacterium is an extraterrestrial. And there might be other forms of life that, possibly, are from other planet(s) - for example, hyperthermophilic Archaea like T. aquaticus, a microorganism that is capable of surviving and even replicating literally in boiling water (while "normal" proteins, including DNA polymerases necessary for DNA replication, are denatured at ~88-93 degrees Celsius); or bacteria like P. aeruginosa that produce pyruvic acid by running the so-called Entner-Doudoroff pathway of chemical reactions, rather than the conventional reactions of glycolysis.

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I don't think anyone's saying anything contradicts TBE, but IF it were to have evolved independently of other life on earth (again, probably not the case), it would be an incredible discovery for the theory of abiogenesis, which would make it an even more impressive discovery since all current life we've observed at least seems likely to have come from one source (with a few possible exceptions like the ones you've listed), we have relatively few independent models to compare; more models in that regard would be profound for the study of that field as well as giving us a better idea of other potential models for life.
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« Reply #27 on: December 03, 2010, 08:49:58 PM »

What a fascinating discovery. Really, really interesting.

I don't think it contradicts the modern theory of biological evolution. After all, the TBE does not address origins of life (it's a "vulgarization" of the TBE, of sorts, that tries to do that.) The TBE explains how life is being diversified, no matter what origins of it are.

I am also fascinated by the idea that this bacterium is an extraterrestrial. And there might be other forms of life that, possibly, are from other planet(s) - for example, hyperthermophilic Archaea like T. aquaticus, a microorganism that is capable of surviving and even replicating literally in boiling water (while "normal" proteins, including DNA polymerases necessary for DNA replication, are denatured at ~88-93 degrees Celsius); or bacteria like P. aeruginosa that produce pyruvic acid by running the so-called Entner-Doudoroff pathway of chemical reactions, rather than the conventional reactions of glycolysis.

There are days when I feel so good about being a natural scientist!  angel

I don't think anyone's saying anything contradicts TBE, but IF it were to have evolved independently of other life on earth (again, probably not the case), it would be an incredible discovery for the theory of abiogenesis, which would make it an even more impressive discovery since all current life we've observed at least seems likely to have come from one source (with a few possible exceptions like the ones you've listed), we have relatively few independent models to compare; more models in that regard would be profound for the study of that field as well as giving us a better idea of other potential models for life.

If it were to be confirmed that this was another seperate occurrence of abiogenesis, this would give even more plausability to the existence of alien life forms. Perhaps the process is not as exclusive or rare as we previously thought?
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« Reply #28 on: December 04, 2010, 10:35:11 AM »

What a fascinating discovery. Really, really interesting.

I don't think it contradicts the modern theory of biological evolution. After all, the TBE does not address origins of life (it's a "vulgarization" of the TBE, of sorts, that tries to do that.) The TBE explains how life is being diversified, no matter what origins of it are.

I am also fascinated by the idea that this bacterium is an extraterrestrial. And there might be other forms of life that, possibly, are from other planet(s) - for example, hyperthermophilic Archaea like T. aquaticus, a microorganism that is capable of surviving and even replicating literally in boiling water (while "normal" proteins, including DNA polymerases necessary for DNA replication, are denatured at ~88-93 degrees Celsius); or bacteria like P. aeruginosa that produce pyruvic acid by running the so-called Entner-Doudoroff pathway of chemical reactions, rather than the conventional reactions of glycolysis.

There are days when I feel so good about being a natural scientist!  angel

I don't think anyone's saying anything contradicts TBE, but IF it were to have evolved independently of other life on earth (again, probably not the case), it would be an incredible discovery for the theory of abiogenesis, which would make it an even more impressive discovery since all current life we've observed at least seems likely to have come from one source (with a few possible exceptions like the ones you've listed), we have relatively few independent models to compare; more models in that regard would be profound for the study of that field as well as giving us a better idea of other potential models for life.

If it were to be confirmed that this was another seperate occurrence of abiogenesis, this would give even more plausability to the existence of alien life forms.
When I first heard the rumors about a "new life form", I was thinking just that: an example of a life form that did not evolve from a shared common ancestor with eukaryotes/bacteria/archaea-bacteria. But the new life form is actually a bacterium. Plus, it's not even an archaea-bacterium (which includes bacteria that can live in salt lakes and hot springs), but a pretty regular bacterium (insofar as a bacterium that apparently can incorporate arsenic instead of phosphorus in its DNA may be called "regular"), in the same phylum as E. coli and Salmonella.
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« Reply #29 on: December 04, 2010, 02:31:37 PM »

Ah, then that makes arsenic the BCS-buster for the group of elements (CHONPS) considered essential for life-forms.  Now, all we need is a bacterium that can subsist on old lace!
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« Reply #30 on: December 04, 2010, 09:37:25 PM »

Old lace?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Lace_(comics)


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« Reply #31 on: December 04, 2010, 10:03:48 PM »

Reference to a B&W comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace.
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« Reply #32 on: December 04, 2010, 10:08:34 PM »

Reference to a B&W comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace.

Ya, I know, I think the comic name was actually based on that comedy as well... Kiss
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« Reply #33 on: December 05, 2010, 08:01:37 PM »

Couple of papers written on the subject.


Microbial Arsenic Metabolism: New Twists on an Old Poison

A Microbial Arsenic Cycle in a Salt-Saturated, Extreme Environment

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« Reply #34 on: December 08, 2010, 11:23:58 AM »

"This Paper Should Not Have Been Published"
Scientists see fatal flaws in the NASA study of arsenic-based life.
http://www.slate.com/id/2276919/

...Redfield, a microbiology professor at the University of British Columbia, blogged a scathing attack on Saturday. Over the weekend, a few other scientists took to the Internet as well. Was this merely a case of a few isolated cranks? To find out, I reached out to a dozen experts on Monday. Almost unanimously, they think the NASA scientists have failed to make their case. "It would be really cool if such a bug existed," said San Diego State University's Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist who looks for new species of bacteria and viruses in coral reefs. But, he added, "none of the arguments are very convincing on their own." That was about as positive as the critics could get. "This paper should not have been published," said Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado...
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« Reply #35 on: December 08, 2010, 12:36:22 PM »

Peer review FTW... Roll Eyes
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