December 2, 2010

NASA changes the rules of life

Finding life outside of our planet just got a new playbook. NASA has discovered arsenic-based life in California (not Al Davis, trust me), which throws everything out the window in terms of finding life on other worlds. Before we've looked for specific conditions for life that didn't include this possibility. Now? Heck there could be life on Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto for all we know, depending of chemical composition.

Looks like we need a bigger telescope.

NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."

This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.

No word yet on whether this means that Ozzy Osbourne can now be classified as living.

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