Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oops! No New Life Form On Saturn's Moon

Two days ago I mentioned here a Gizmodo article concerning a NASA press conference scheduled for later this afternoon. At the time, the educated guess was that arsenic had been discovered on one of Saturn's moons, Titan. Further speculation generated the possibility that there may have also been evidence found of an arsenic-based bacterium living on Titan.

Well, looks like everyone was WRONG! The announcement, in fact, was about an experiment conducted on bacteria dredged up from a a poisonous, arsenic-filled lake in California, which had the phosphorous element of its DNA removed and replaced with arsenic. Bacteria have been known to process arsenic before, but never to actually be made from it. The fact that this bacteria was able to propagate after the replacement has broad implications for the possibility of life existing on other planets where Earth conditions are not the norm.

So, sorry. No alien life forms discovered. But, for biologists, this is actually a very cool moment. It was previously thought unlikely that anything could live based on arsenic. Now we know better, and thus we learn that life doesn't have to be unique to Earth.

That's pretty awesome in my book!

For more info, check out this article in today's Popular Science update.

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