Thursday, March 10, 2011

A New Kind of Life

When scientists are looking for new life they know what to look for, because every living thing is made of the same elements, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur, with just small traces of everything else. 

So, when we look for life, in remote parts of the earth like thermal vents in the ocean, or in our dogged search for life outside earth, we look for all those elements, because we know they're necessary for life.  Or are they?

Maybe not, says Felisa Wolfe-Simon.  She and her team have discovered a microbe in Mono Lake in california, which can substitute arsenic where phosphorus sits in the biological framework of all other species.

This is pretty stunning information.  Maybe we've been looking for the wrong thing when we look for remote life.

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