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(Discover)   Yes, the NASA news is about bacteria that live off arsenic. But for once, here's the actual science and why this is so cool   (blogs.discovermagazine.com ) divider line
    More: Followup, RNA, Thank You So Much, human hair, Jeff Goldblum, NASA, science education, ocean waters, Mono Lake  
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16985 clicks; posted to Main » on 02 Dec 2010 at 4:30 PM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2010-12-02 05:22:30 PM  

blubberknife: Cool! This is where they filmed High Plains Drifter.


www.most-wanted-western-movies.com

'What do we do, you know, after it's done?'

'After? You live with it.'


Hot, like a Lago barbque.
 
2010-12-02 05:22:30 PM  

gunner1000: It's life Jim, but not as we know it....


Not as we know it?
 
2010-12-02 05:23:12 PM  

hitlersbrain: It seems like life needs a cozy place to get started.


The early Earth was hardly cozy by today's standards.
 
2010-12-02 05:25:54 PM  
Look I like Phil's posts as much as anyone, but can we get a popsci writer for Discovery who is a biologist and not an astronomer? I don't know if Phil would be super duper happy with a biologist writing astronomy blog posts.

/Biologist
/(I think it was decently written Phil and not bashing you, just a point I'd like to make).
 
2010-12-02 05:32:07 PM  

Arkalai: dumb question
what's the reason for some of it being struck out ?


Because he was originally mistaken and said that the lake contained high levels of arsenic, when it doesn't. The arsenic was only involved in laboratory tests performed on a microbe from the lake.
 
2010-12-02 05:32:17 PM  
Meant to say in addition to having an astronomer, not replacing one...
 
2010-12-02 05:32:22 PM  

amazing_live_seamonkeys: That 'article' actually made it harder to understand.


Try this summarized version:

"Their DNA is made out of poison."
 
2010-12-02 05:34:28 PM  

raygundan: amazing_live_seamonkeys: That 'article' actually made it harder to understand.

Try this summarized version:

"Their DNA is made out of poison."


What about their ATP? Isn't this going to be published in a real journal or must we rely on Discover Magazine?
 
2010-12-02 05:34:48 PM  
ultraholland [TotalFark]
Life is a peculiar and resilient thing. Throughout the universe exist conditions which we consider extreme and inhospitable, whereas other lifeforms consider them quite comfy. The conditions which harbor extremophiles on earth may be analogs for life-friendly conditions across the cosmos. My money is on "life" being just another component of the physical universe. Suck it, religions.


How is this anti-religion? Would not the creator have fashioned life forms to fit whatever the local environmental conditions are. Just because some people are small mined doesn't mean the Creator is.
 
2010-12-02 05:42:06 PM  

bonefish: Check out the comments at Fox News... Speaks volumes about their base. These people have to be trolling, right?


Hah, I can read the article but the comments are blocked for me at work. I think that tells you all you need to know about the Fox News comments section.

/And yet I can still post to the Fark Politics tab.
 
2010-12-02 05:43:11 PM  

amazing_live_seamonkeys: raygundan: amazing_live_seamonkeys: That 'article' actually made it harder to understand.

Try this summarized version:

"Their DNA is made out of poison."

What about their ATP? Isn't this going to be published in a real journal or must we rely on Discover Magazine?


here you are:
Link (new window)

AFAIK Adenosine Tri-Arsenate wasn't observed but arsenate was presumed to be incorporated into other biomolecules as well as DNA.
 
2010-12-02 05:44:09 PM  

Pseudacris: Back in my undergrad days I did some work with a fern that hyperaccumulates arsenic (i.e. collects the stuff actively from contaminated soil). If I remember right some work had shown that the fern actually grew better with some arsenic in the soil than without it. So yeah, I'm not surprised a bacteria has managed to more completely switch out phosphorus for arsenic, but this is still freakin' cool and I can see why NASA is excited.


Being able to fix it is no big deal. Plants fix toxic elements all the time: all that means is, given a bunch of it in their environment, they'll suck it up and store it in their leaves. These bacteria don't "fix" it. They use it as part of their biochemistry. They incorporate it into their farking DNA. Even more crazy, they don't give a damn whether they get phosphorous or arsenic...It's all the same to them, as long as they have one or the other.

That is what makes it huge. It's like an oxygen dependent creature saying, "Meh, I like the O2, but if there isn't any, I'll just breathe sulfur (or chlorine) instead."
 
2010-12-02 05:45:50 PM  

Whiskey Priest:
Yeah, I'm pretty sure the folks at NASA were the only ones still under the impression that all life had to be constructed the same way as it always traditionally is on Earth.


When have they said that it had to be constructed the same way? I think they were understandably conservative until now, trying to avoid wild conjecture and speculation.

Did you read the part about how this was a NASA funded study? They funded it precisely because the project was specifically designed to look for life that used Arsenic (PDF). This isn't something you do if you're under the impression that you won't find anything.
 
2010-12-02 05:46:25 PM  

amazing_live_seamonkeys: What about their ATP? Isn't this going to be published in a real journal or must we rely on Discover Magazine?


I have no idea. I just dropped in to make unhelpfully brief summarizations.
 
2010-12-02 05:47:44 PM  
Azbjorn: How is this anti-religion?

It isn't. It has nothing to do with religion; I just took the opportunity to shiat on religions cuz it's Thursday.
 
2010-12-02 05:47:50 PM  

Rent is too damn high: here you are:
Link (new window)

AFAIK Adenosine Tri-Arsenate wasn't observed but arsenate was presumed to be incorporated into other biomolecules as well as DNA.


sleeps in trees: I think this is it.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6009/1302.full

/don't know how to link stuff


Much obliged
 
2010-12-02 05:50:17 PM  

ultraholland: Suck it, religions.


archive.easymodo.net
 
2010-12-02 05:50:39 PM  

StrikitRich: Seems pretty obvious the California desert would be the first place to look for aliens, after Arizona of course.



www.ripten.com

WHAR are Aliens, WHAR, WHAR?
 
2010-12-02 05:51:17 PM  

Satanicpuppy: It's like an oxygen dependent creature saying, "Meh, I like the O2, but if there isn't any, I'll just breathe sulfur (or chlorine) instead."


I say shiat like that all the time, but I never really mean it. These bacteria are apparently not the sort to welch on a bar bet, and good on 'em for it.
 
2010-12-02 05:51:41 PM  
Xenomech, now you're speaking my language!
 
2010-12-02 05:57:12 PM  

raygundan: amazing_live_seamonkeys: What about their ATP? Isn't this going to be published in a real journal or must we rely on Discover Magazine?

I have no idea. I just dropped in to make unhelpfully brief summarizations.


i believe it's being published in Science tomorrow.
 
2010-12-02 06:00:56 PM  
Can't we get Brevets in here to tell us how since the flood killed all life on earth, Noah must have loaded two of these bacteria on the Ark? Only two though, because that's what the Bible says. Not that you need two for bacterial reproduction though. At least these could have fit.
 
2010-12-02 06:02:20 PM  
Alternative Medicine proponents start selling arsenic pills in 3...2...1..
 
2010-12-02 06:03:29 PM  

ultraholland: Azbjorn: How is this anti-religion?

It isn't. It has nothing to do with religion; I just took the opportunity to shiat on religions cuz it's Thursday.


well, it does sort of make arguing against evolution a little more difficult. though pretty much everyone with a functioning brain already accepts evolution.

/also you can claim the scientists were playing god...which is awesome
 
2010-12-02 06:04:17 PM  

Hebalo: Alternative Medicine proponents start selling arsenic pills in 3...2...1..


I am OK with this.
 
2010-12-02 06:04:34 PM  

ultraholland: hitlersbrain: I think there is a big difference between life on a very hospitable planet like earth evolving to fit into lots of niches and life being possible on a very inhospitable planet.

It seems like life needs a cozy place to get started.

What's cozy to some is hell for others. Life is not Goldilocks and it's home is not a lukewarm bowl of porridge.


A place not too hot so complex chemicals can form, not too cold so chemicals can move around, not too much pressure so chemicals can move around, not too little pressure so liquids don't boil off into space. You know, just right.

Just because extremophiles can evolve on earth after billions of years in a very forgiving environment does not mean they are gonna get started in extreme environments.
 
2010-12-02 06:09:11 PM  
Mono Lake is where Cinderella recorded the music video for the song "Don't Know What You Got Until Its Gone".
 
2010-12-02 06:10:46 PM  

hawcian: Grobbley: greentea1985: It is quite cool. The scientists have managed to replace one of the elements considered essential for life with another closely related element.

Uh, scientists didn't do this, nature did.

Scientists sort of coaxed nature into it.


No, no they didn't. We discovered it, we didn't invent it.
 
2010-12-02 06:10:47 PM  

hitlersbrain:
Just because extremophiles can evolve on earth after billions of years in a very forgiving environment does not mean they are gonna get started in extreme environments.

(hot, like the common ancestor)

Thermophiles seem to be very basal on the tree of life.
www.learner.org
This implies that either all life originated in a very hot environment, or the Earth was at some point wiped clean of everything that couldn't handle high heat. Either way, we're all descended from an extremophile. Oceanic hydrothermal vents seem like a very good place for life to start.

Not disagreeing with you saying life probably needs particular conditions to start, but I don't think those conditions are likely to be similar to the modern earth.
 
2010-12-02 06:10:55 PM  

KarmicDisaster: Can't we get Brevets in here to tell us how since the flood killed all life on earth, Noah must have loaded two of these bacteria on the Ark? Only two though, because that's what the Bible says. Not that you need two for bacterial reproduction though. At least these could have fit.


Obviously, these creatures are the result of dissolving a bunch of unicorns in saltwater, which later pooled and became more concentrated in this California lake as the flood dried up. This is why they seem to have magical powers-- they do. If only Noah hadn't been so lazy loading his boat, we might still have whole unicorns instead of these tiny, poisonous fragments.
 
2010-12-02 06:17:41 PM  

rockradio1: Wow...and THIS explains why "Grays" beam peaple and animals up into their spacecraft and play "What's Up Your Ass" and then screw with their ability to remember?

Science.....is amazing.


Right, you get drugged and raped, blame the alien.
If you hear thundering hooves, it's probably Zebras.
 
2010-12-02 06:17:50 PM  
But can they survive in Paris Hilton's underwear?
 
2010-12-02 06:19:07 PM  

Whiskey Priest: Bonkthat_Again: As Whiskey Priest already alluded to....Didn't Ira Kane already point this out?

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the folks at NASA were the only ones still under the impression that all life had to be constructed the same way as it always traditionally is on Earth.


But now we have actual proof that life can use a different set of Lego blocks. Until this discovery, all we had was the idea.
 
2010-12-02 06:21:28 PM  

Grobbley: hawcian: Grobbley: greentea1985: It is quite cool. The scientists have managed to replace one of the elements considered essential for life with another closely related element.

Uh, scientists didn't do this, nature did.

Scientists sort of coaxed nature into it.

No, no they didn't. We discovered it, we didn't invent it.


What he was referring to was that the bacteria DO have phosphorous in their native environment. It wasn't until scientists got these bugs into the lab and tried to grow them in an arsenic-only medium that it became clear that they are capable of a complete substitution of arsenic for phosphorous, not merely arsenic tolerance.
 
2010-12-02 06:30:10 PM  
Yeah, but...

F*cking magnets! How do they work!?.
 
2010-12-02 06:34:45 PM  

give me doughnuts: Whiskey Priest: Bonkthat_Again: As Whiskey Priest already alluded to....Didn't Ira Kane already point this out?

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the folks at NASA were the only ones still under the impression that all life had to be constructed the same way as it always traditionally is on Earth.

But now we have actual proof that life can use a different set of Lego blocks. Until this discovery, all we had was the idea.


To many non-scientists--including many in Congress--there is no difference between "I thought that things might work a certain way" and "I PROVED that things worked a certain way", and there is no reason to provide the funding necessary to achieve the second claim.

See: Any Fark science article with an 0.tqn.com tag.
 
2010-12-02 06:42:27 PM  

Erix: hitlersbrain:
Just because extremophiles can evolve on earth after billions of years in a very forgiving environment does not mean they are gonna get started in extreme environments. (hot, like the common ancestor)

Thermophiles seem to be very basal on the tree of life.

This implies that either all life originated in a very hot environment, or the Earth was at some point wiped clean of everything that couldn't handle high heat. Either way, we're all descended from an extremophile. Oceanic hydrothermal vents seem like a very good place for life to start.

Not disagreeing with you saying life probably needs particular conditions to start, but I don't think those conditions are likely to be similar to the modern earth.


Interesting. I did not mean to imply it would be like 'modern' earth since modern earth is largely a result of life (oxygen and soil), but I think we will find that life needs a pretty standard environment to get started or we would have seen evidence of extraterrestrial life by now. I don't think it's just gonna pop up in hostile environments (like those on the planets and moons of our solar system).
 
2010-12-02 06:43:46 PM  
Contact had been made.


/obscure
 
2010-12-02 06:46:49 PM  

Erix: Whiskey Priest:
Yeah, I'm pretty sure the folks at NASA were the only ones still under the impression that all life had to be constructed the same way as it always traditionally is on Earth.

When have they said that it had to be constructed the same way? I think they were understandably conservative until now, trying to avoid wild conjecture and speculation.

Did you read the part about how this was a NASA funded study? They funded it precisely because the project was specifically designed to look for life that used Arsenic (PDF). This isn't something you do if you're under the impression that you won't find anything.


You're right. They were correct to be conservative in their hypothesis. My statement about NASA being ignorant to other possibilities was hyperbole. I only meant to say that when there's news about "Earth-like" planets being discovered, it's made to sound like these are the only ones we can look at to find extraterrestrial life. As in we only get to speculate about the possibility if we find water and oxygen.

I know this was a NASA funded study. And I'm sure the endgame is to prove that you DON'T need precisely the traditional building blocks for life to occur. Now they can show cause for looking at non-Earthlike planets.
 
2010-12-02 06:47:20 PM  
Fark needs a PHIL PLAIT tag.

(I maded you one, but tinypic eated it)

(And I have to go in 26 seconds, and such)
 
2010-12-02 06:53:20 PM  

hitlersbrain:
Interesting. I did not mean to imply it would be like 'modern' earth since modern earth is largely a result of life (oxygen and soil), but I think we will find that life needs a pretty standard environment to get started or we would have seen evidence of extraterrestrial life by now. I don't think it's just gonna pop up in hostile environments (like those on the planets and moons of our solar system).


Starting life could require some pretty specific conditions, but once it gets going, it looks like it does extremely well at quickly adapting to a whole range of conditions. It's really only complex life, like Eukaryotes, that seem to only be able to handle a very narrow range.

The first (probable) signs of life on earth are chemical traces found in rocks that are only slightly younger than the oldest rocks (around 3.8 Ga), suggesting that life started very quickly. Bacteria quickly completely dominated the planet (and still do) but it took around 3 billion years for the conditions to get to the point where complex stuff like animals could cope.

Life is probably very common, but intelligent life is probably way rarer.
 
2010-12-02 06:54:14 PM  

jagec: Grobbley: hawcian: Grobbley: greentea1985: It is quite cool. The scientists have managed to replace one of the elements considered essential for life with another closely related element.

Uh, scientists didn't do this, nature did.

Scientists sort of coaxed nature into it.

No, no they didn't. We discovered it, we didn't invent it.

What he was referring to was that the bacteria DO have phosphorous in their native environment. It wasn't until scientists got these bugs into the lab and tried to grow them in an arsenic-only medium that it became clear that they are capable of a complete substitution of arsenic for phosphorous, not merely arsenic tolerance.


That doesn't change the fact that we didn't give these organisms the ability to do so. All we did was prove that they could do so. From my understanding, the organisms were already doing it. The whole reason they were looking in Mono Lake was because of its high levels of arsenic.

It isn't as if we stole their phosphorous and gave them arsenic and they miraculously evolved in the lab to use the arsenic instead.
 
2010-12-02 06:56:28 PM  

Whiskey Priest:
You're right. They were correct to be conservative in their hypothesis. My statement about NASA being ignorant to other possibilities was hyperbole. I only meant to say that when there's news about "Earth-like" planets being discovered, it's made to sound like these are the only ones we can look at to find extraterrestrial life. As in we only get to speculate about the possibility if we find water and oxygen.

I know this was a NASA funded study. And I'm sure the endgame is to prove that you DON'T need precisely the traditional building blocks for life to occur. Now they can show cause for looking at non-Earthlike planets.


Gotcha. Sorry to jump on that. Hyperbolize away.
 
2010-12-02 06:56:50 PM  
Check out the comments at Fox News... Speaks volumes about their base. These people have to be trolling, right?
-------

Have you ever read some of the comments at Fark.com?

I read an old article on EMP technology once, and of the 115+ comments, only 2 were technically correct. Also, Fark.com commenters could use a good history lesson.


Amazing how stupid the people here are...
 
2010-12-02 07:04:54 PM  

interstitialofficial: Contact had been made.


/obscure


Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy?
 
2010-12-02 07:11:03 PM  

Tommathy: What I'm curious about is just how much phosphate can these organisms replace with phosphate. They've confirmed the replacement of phosphate for arsenic in the nucleotides, but how about the energy transport molecules?

adenosine triarsenate anyone?


From the article:
To determine this, Dr. Wolfe-Simon took samples of the microbes, adding more and more arsenic while decreasing the amount of phosphorus in their environment to essentially zero. This would kill almost everything known to man, yet these little critters thrived.

If this is accurate, they can reproduce freely in a phosphorus-free environment, and that would require life with every phosphorus molecule in the cells replaced. If this is accurate.
 
2010-12-02 07:15:57 PM  
Do these bacteria wish to communicate with us? Share their infinite knowledge of the secrets of the Universe?

Awww, the bacteria probably have some sort of Prime Directive preventing them from interfering with our development thusly.

So Long, And Thanks For All The Arsenic.
 
2010-12-02 07:18:46 PM  
Great. Let's send some to Mars and see what happens.
 
2010-12-02 07:23:04 PM  

mark12A: What threat does this present to my Old Lace Dress collection?


Came here for this reference.

/leaving, if not satisfied, at least tided over
 
2010-12-02 07:26:33 PM  

hitlersbrain: I think we will find that life needs a pretty standard environment to get started or we would have seen evidence of extraterrestrial life by now.


cdn-www.dailypuppy.com

How many extraterrestrial planets have we checked for non-"standard" life again?
 
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