December 2, 2010

Other Platforms of Life

Mono Lake, where the arsenic-loving GFAJ-1 was found.
Life as we know it appears to have a common base. All of us, from the smallest amoeba, to the largest whale, share the same platform of life: Carbon.

And we think that life can only occur in one way, in one place and at one time in the history of the earth.

Today, all that is about to change.

NASA scientists have found a bacteria whose biochemical make-up is quite different from the carbon-based life that we know of.

A bacteria called GFAJ-1 has been found in Mono Lake that eats arsenic, and also incorporates arsenic in its DNA as replacement for phosphorus--one of the usual set of components of "CHNOPS" (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur) that form the basis of all life on earth.

I’ve always believed that our form of life is the only possible configuration. And now there is direct scientific evidence that it is possible for life to occur in other platforms.

This finding is mindblowing. It gives a preview of a "shadow biosphere" that could exist on our planet, and may strengthen the idea that life may be rampant elsewhere in the universe. All the more that this fascinating discovery was announced a day after astronomers revealed that the number of stars is 3 times more numerous than previously known--which means that there are gazillions more of exoplanets exist!

If we just found a hint of “shadow life” on our very own planet, then one can imagine the richness of life originating on other conditions and other chemicals on other planets.

Arsenic-eating microbe may redefine chemistry of life
Arsenic-Eating Bacteria Opens New Possibilities