Friday, December 03, 2010

evolving alien life on earth

Arsenic-eating microbes–unlike any other lifeforms on earth–show that Life is even more tenacious and inventive than we thought. When scientists starved the GFAJ-1 microbe of phosphorus, introducing the chemically-similar arsenic, the microbe adapted itself, incorporating arsenate into its cellular structure–including its DNA.

Felisa Wolfe-Simon and fellow researchers began working on the GFAJ-1 microbe (of the Halomonadaceae family) because it thrived in the toxically-salty Mono Lake, in California. All life on earth uses the same six elements–including phosphorus. So this microbe is truly an alien lifeform. The experiment needs to be reproduced and verified, but if it holds, it shows that GFAJ-1 has “solved the challenge of being alive in a different way,” according to Wolfe-Simon, in this Wired article, “It isn’t about arsenic, and it isn’t about Mono Lake…There’s something fundamental about understanding the flexibility of life.”

Liberal religion has a long history of interpreting scientific breakthroughs, sometimes over-emphasizing or misunderstanding the actual implications. So I’ll join that bandwagon, in my post at So May We Be.


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