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NASA Science

NASA Finds New Life (This Afternoon) 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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NASA Finds New Life (This Afternoon)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:46AM (#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:Why not wait ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:47AM (#34417792)

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

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

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:52AM (#34417886) Homepage


    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.


  • by ChromaticDragon ( 1034458 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:06PM (#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.

  • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:08PM (#34418144) Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:18PM (#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.

  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:20PM (#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.

  • by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) <> on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:25PM (#34418402) Homepage Journal

    Taking the speculation in the article at face value, and thus assuming that NASA has found an arsenic-based lifeform in a shadow biosphere on Earth, here's why it's important:

    All life on Earth that we know of is related. It all uses the same basic DNA/RNA mechanisms (including the same four base pairs), uses the same specific molecules that prominently feature carbon as the basic assembly blocks of the cell, etc. To use the ever-popular car analogy, cars can look quite different from each other, but they're all still essentially made out of the same things: bolts, gears, copper wiring, etc.

    Well this other kind of life is completely different. It's so different that we know it cannot possibly be related to all of the other Earth life that we've known about thus far, as there is nothing in common. That means abiogenesis (the spontaneous generation of life from precursor non-living materials) happened at least TWICE on just this one planet.

    So while this isn't extra-terrestrial life, it does have all sorts of potential ramifications on the potential existence of extra-terrestrial life. Before today, it was possible to speculate that one solution to Drake's Equation was simply that spontaneous generation of life was so rare that it only happened once, ever. But if we now found that it's happened multiple times just on this one planet ... then hell, it could be happening everywhere, all the time.

  • by Digital Vomit ( 891734 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:49PM (#34418804) Homepage Journal

    And more importantly, it would mean end of religions

    No, it would not. What an incredibly stupid comment to make.

  • by pesho ( 843750 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:02PM (#34419056)
    If Arsenic replaces phosphorus and the rest is carbon based it is still very likely for it to be related to the rest of the life forms on Earth. In my view the most significant implication of this is that it can be the base of huge branch of the biotech industry - genetically enginieered bugs that make nasty stuff like biofuels or are used to detoxify industrial waste. The advantage is that it will not grow outside the very limited environment that provides the necessary arsenic. So if you accidentally spill the toxic tank the bug is not going to propagate and contaminate the rest of the world.
  • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:07PM (#34419136)

    Thats one possibility, but there is a second possibility which is what I think NASA would be so excited about if true. What if it's not a mutation in Bacteria which used Phosphorus, but a completely seperate lineage of life, with no common ancestor.

    If that were true, it doesn't mean it has to be Extraterrestial, it could be direct evidence that life on Earth started at least twice, under different conditions in different places and times. It would have huge implications in terms of how likely life is to start else where in the Solar System/Galaxy/Universe if the environmental conditions are right.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:21PM (#34419424)

    So why don't you find the idea of a god popping into existence utterly absurd?

There's no future in time travel.