Saturday, December 4, 2010

Life as we know it....

Migrating grebes and ducks foraging in early light ..... my etched impression of Mono Lake in Autumn.

With the surreal spires of tufa, great pool of still water and encircling misty mountains, I thought that if someone were to find an alien life form on earth, a Loch New Monster or something, it would be in a place like this.

Less than 2 months later, NASA published finding a bacteria in that lake that not only utilise Arsenic for energy but use this to replace Phosphorous in their cell DNA, cell membrane etc. Now both P and As are in the same column in the periodic table which essentially means chemically they are rather similar. However, biochemically, Arsenic, as we know from our Science if not from murder books, blocks the Krebs cycle, the ubiquitous path to energy production in aerobes, which eventually leads to cell death. Even anaerobes dispel this element from the body after utilisation. So to have it as part the of cell structure is unthinkable.

Granted, an image of a bacterium does not inspire as much awe as a Nessie but the scale of the discovery is such that basic science book will be rewritten and life as we know it is no longer limited to what it used to be.

Well, I was just glad I did not heed a guide book's proposal and took a plunge in the Arsenic broth....what happened if I accidentally took in a mouthful ?

Here's the link to Nasa's Report

1 comment:

Hermes said...

Life, of whatever form is just amazing.

I read somewhere if god did create life on earth he favoured insects!

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