Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

New Building Block For Alien Life Discovered

Update Mar-02-2015: It turns out that the paper on which this article was based has been disproved.

"Contrary to an original report, the new research clearly shows that the bacterium, GFAJ-1, cannot substitute arsenic for phosphorus to survive," said a statement by the US journal Science, a prestigious, peer-reviewed magazine. Science published Sunday the much-hyped initial study in December 2010, with lead researcher Felisa Wolfe-Simon, then a fellow in NASA's astrobiology program, announcing that a new form of life had been scooped from a California lake.
(Via PhysOrg)

Thanks to @RocketAcademy for pointing this out and supplying references. End update.

The essential building blocks of life are well known; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. The absence of any one of these elements would preclude the existence of life as we know it occurring elsewhere in the universe.

Until now.

Research conducted by Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Gwyneth Gordon, Ariel Anbar and Paul Davies appears to demonstrate that an earthly bacterium can take arsenic and substitute it for phosphorus in its DNA and other biomolecules when forced to do so.


(Arsenic-based bacteria)

The research centers around a bacterium; strain GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae family of Gammaproteobacteria, which was taken from the sediments of Mono Lake, which has naturally high levels of arsenic. By culturing the bacterium in the lab without phosphorus, and a suitable concentration of arsenic, the bacterium was observed to grow in spite of the lack of one of the "necessary" building blocks - phosphorus. Subsequent analysis proved that the organism substituted arsenic both in DNA and other needed biomolecules.

I recall speculation about life-forms based on something other than the usual elements from my childhood. In the 1967 Star Trek episode The Devil in the Dark, something is wreaking havoc at a mining facility, but the Enterprise's life sensors cannot detect any life forms.


(Mr. Spock: 'What if life exists based on another element?')

Spock: "Life as we know it is universally based on some combination of carbon compounds... But what if life exists based on another element? For instance - silicon."

McCoy: "You're creating fantasies, Mr. Spock.

Kirk: "Not necessarily, Bones. I've heard the theoretical possibility of life based on silicon. But silicon-based life would be of an entirely different order.

It turns out that the problem is an animal - the Horta is a creature whose metabolism is based on silicon - living rock.


(Silicon-based lifeform - the Horta)

This discovery can only increase the chances that life can be found elsewhere in the universe. Read about how red dwarf star systems may harbor life, which also expands the places we can look for life.

Via Physorg.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/3/2010)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Baubotanik - Construction Botany - Builds Bridges
'A dwelling must be all of a unit—the walls, the drainage, the decor grown in!' - Jack Vance, 1954.

Mice Gestate In Mechanical Womb
'... in the Decanting Room, the newly-unbottled babes uttered their first yell of horror and amazement.' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.

Worlds With Underground Oceans More Conducive To Life
'There is life on Europa.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

Monkey Gets A Bigger Brain, Thanks To Human Gene
'It's a madhouse! a madhouse!' - Planet of the Apes, 1968.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

CyberOne Robot By Xiaomi vs. Optimus Robot By Tesla
'I shall introduce myself... I am a robot.'

Giving Snakes Their Legs Back
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to 'help them out.'

'Ring Nation' Show Predicted By William Gibson In 1999
'... you had your trademark Lucky Dragon Global Interactive Video Column outside.'

SolarXOne Solar-Powered Drone Flies (almost) Forever
'It's an Indian Air Force drone; its solar cells could power an entire farm.'

Video! Chess Robot Breaks Opponent's Finger In Match
'A robot may not injure a human being.'

Virtual Co-Embodyment - Two People Control One Virtual Body
'... we were supposed to be forming five unit composites first."

The Wanderer: Eyebot From Fallout, Eye From Zelazny
'We send our eyes on their appointed rounds, and they can hover or soar or back up...'

Experts Decry Planet-Scale Schemes To Limit Global Heating
'Light from the sun hit those little spheres and bounced.'

OrganEx Revives The Organs In Dead Pig
'Wakened into half-life activity one hour a month...'

NAVER Labs Haptic Device 2.0 Robot vs. IKEA
'... the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.'

Spaceships Should Last So Long
'THE SPACE VESSEL was traveling swiftly… For over five thousand years they had Voyaged on and on.’

Shine On, Portable Wind Turbine
'Sometimes a man has a windmill on his roof...'

Amazing Indoor Robotic Drones Mimic Dolphins and Whales
'They circled the vast audiences, dancing, twittering, chirping...'

Space Station Shutters
'The sun-quilt was a patchwork of colors and materials on the inward side, but silvered on the outward side...'

Tiny Mining - Extract Precious Industrial Minerals From Your Own Body
'Jim, I saw them reduce four of my doctors and nurses into those little cubes!'

MIT Proposes Space Bubbles To Combat Climate Change, Misses The Point Of Space Bubbles
'Fats Jordan was hanging in the center of the Big Glass Balloon, hugging his guitar to his massive black belly above his purple shorts..'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.