NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

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NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Stalker on 29th November 2010, 6:32 pm

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=32155

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 29th November 2010, 6:54 pm

ORLY??
Let the wild specuation begin! Laughing

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 29th November 2010, 7:07 pm

My prediction is there will be lots of frustrated people on the internet venting their fury at NASA for hyping a discovery which is not the discovery of actual alien life.


Last edited by Lazarus on 29th November 2010, 7:14 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 29th November 2010, 7:12 pm

Agreed. Sensationalist pre-reporting "NASA to announce contact with ET"-type stories isn't going to help.

I'm guessing something like some amino acids were found, perhaps in a nebula somewhere.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 29th November 2010, 7:15 pm

IIRC amino acids have already been found in space, so I'm guessing that isn't it...

Does seem to be a lot of molecular biology people on the list of participants though.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Stalker on 30th November 2010, 3:08 am

I'm looking at the illustration and i think it is about the condition of the birthing of life or panspermia.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 30th November 2010, 5:39 pm

Phil Plait's take on the press conference announcement is on the Bad Astronomy blog. Already the angry people are venting their fury in the comments and the news release hasn't even happened yet, so I guess my predictive powers are in pretty good shape Smile

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 30th November 2010, 7:18 pm

From Spaceref
Reliable sources within the Astrobiology community tell me that the announcement does indeed concern Arsenic-based biochemistry and the implications for the origin of life on Earth, how it may have happened more than once on our planet, and the implications for life arising elsewhere in the universe.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 30th November 2010, 7:51 pm

I wonder if it has anything to do with this?

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 30th November 2010, 8:34 pm

Great find!

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 1st December 2010, 7:03 pm

So yeah, I reckon it is probably going to be a bunch of archaea (which are the usual suspects in this kind of thing) which have stumbled on a neat chemical trick. More interesting would be incontrovertible indications of a truly separate "shadow biosphere" which would indicate multiple origin of life events on Earth.

We shall see...

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 2nd December 2010, 3:28 pm

NASA news release

Bacteria in Mono Lake which appear to be able to incorporate lots of arsenic into their biochemistry, perhaps including their DNA.

Also worth taking a read of this blog post at Not Exactly Rocket Science

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 3rd December 2010, 3:42 pm

A more light-hearted look at the story.
http://xkcd.com/829/
(be sure to read the mouseover text)

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 3rd December 2010, 4:59 pm

Well for once I agree with the "NASA was misleading about the press release" people. This is certainly an interesting discovery, but its relevance to astrobiology isn't so clear. Certainly it is interesting to know that life can adapt to highly arsenic-rich niches but this doesn't provide much of a clue towards the abiogenesis process.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 3rd December 2010, 5:39 pm

I agree that it doesn't shed mugh light on the abiogenesis process, though I think the impied notion was more a matter of adaptability. Sort of a "If life can do this to survive, it widens the range of enviornments where it might be found."

Though of course whether or not this is a strong argument depends on whether life can arise in that kind environment in the first place, or if this microbe just got lucky.

Are extremophiles the product of adapting to extreme conditions through adaptation? (began in a gooey pool, for example)
Or did they start as extremophiles and adapt to what we consider normal? (began near hydrothermal events, for example)

Edit: (Apr 3, 2011), updated the thread title.


Last edited by Sirius_Alpha on 3rd April 2011, 7:55 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 8th December 2010, 8:08 pm

The more this drags out, the more clear it seems that this result has been overstated. It is not even clear that the arsenic is participating in biochemistry. Going by the various responses from the science blogosphere, it seems debatable whether this even has much relevance to astrobiology. A good example of a sceptical response to this is at Rosie Redfield's blog RRResearch.

One amusing thing is the response from the primary author: the quote from this article from Felisa Wolfe-Simon is as follows:
"Any discourse will have to be peer-reviewed in the same manner as our paper was, and go through a vetting process so that all discussion is properly moderated," wrote Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. "The items you are presenting do not represent the proper way to engage in a scientific discourse and we will not respond in this manner."
Which is incredibly amusing as this has now been released to the world via the method of press release, which is surely not the peer-reviewed process! Sorry, you do not get to restrict discussion to the scientific media if you go down the press release route...

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 8th December 2010, 9:13 pm

While I'm not as familiar with the subject as I'd like to be, it's becomming apparent that a lot more work should have been done in this research before making the press release.

What a mess...

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 23rd January 2012, 6:55 pm

Study Fails to Confirm Existence of Arsenic-Based Life

Rosie Redfield has taken an interesting "open research" approach, posted on the RRResearch blog... we shall see whether this open-access model is a direction that is going to take hold.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by ciceron on 9th July 2012, 3:02 pm

Evidence fails to support the arsenic-based life.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2012/07/06/science.1219861

A strain of Halomonas bacteria, GFAJ-1, has been claimed to be able to use arsenate as a nutrient when phosphate is limiting, and to specifically incorporate arsenic into its DNA in place of phosphorus. However, we have found that arsenate does not contribute to growth of GFAJ-1 when phosphate is limiting and that DNA purified from cells grown with limiting phosphate and abundant arsenate does not exhibit the spontaneous hydrolysis expected of arsenate ester bonds. Furthermore, mass spectrometry showed that this DNA contains only trace amounts of free arsenate and no detectable covalently bound arsenate.

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Lazarus on 9th July 2012, 3:37 pm

Continuing on the theme of Dr Redfield's open research:

RRResearch: Consider the publication embargo...
Embargo Watch: Another chink in the Ingelfinger armor? Arsenic life talk forces Science to release paper early, without embargo

"Interesting times" for science publishers these days!

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 4th October 2012, 11:06 am

GFAJ-1 appears to be able to filter out arsenic from getting inside it.
http://news.discovery.com/earth/bacteria-filters-arsenic-121004.html

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

Post by ciceron on 11th October 2012, 7:12 am

For those of you fluent in spanish , here comes another alien-like lifeform on Earth , Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes , they breath cianure and excretes biodegradable polymers , on ph> 9.5 enviroment. A very thougth customer.
Wonder what kind of planet is paradise to this bugs.

Edit : here comes a link to an english pdf : Biodegradation of cyanide-containing wastes by Pseudomonas


Last edited by ciceron on 11th October 2012, 7:18 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : english version of the paper.)

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Re: NASA News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery: Arsenic biochemistry?

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