by Chet Hardin
Remember yesterday? When we were worried that we were gonna have to somehow fend off an alien invasion with just our mad Wii Play Station skills?
Turns out that we were misled by a very misleading press release:
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.
Of course, any serious thinking type reader immediately assumed that NASA had made First Contact, but no, not the case. According to the New York Times, the NASA researchers have found something much less Hollywood—a new form of life in a toxic California lake.
Scientists said Thursday that they had trained a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic, in place of phosphorus — one of six elements considered essential for life — opening up the possibility that organisms could exist elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth using biochemical powers we have not yet dared to dream about.
The bacterium, scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and grown for months in a lab mixture containing arsenic, gradually swapped out atoms of phosphorus in its little body for atoms of arsenic.
Caleb Scharf, an astrobiologist at Columbia University who was not part of the research, said he was amazed. “It’s like if you or I morphed into fully functioning cyborgs after being thrown into a room of electronic scrap with nothing to eat,” he said.
Gerald Joyce, a chemist and molecular biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said the work “shows in principle that you could have a different form of life,” but noted that even these bacteria are affixed to the same tree of life as the rest of us, like the extremophiles that exist in ocean vents.
“It’s a really nice story about adaptability of our life form,” he said.
There you have it, folks. The next primordial soup! Once we humans finally contaminate our environment to the point where we can no longer survive, a whole new ecosystem will crawl out of our poisoned lakes and oceans and grow and evolve and take over. And there won't be any fighting that.