NASA Discovers Life

Public domain NASA Landsat image of Mono Lake.

Cool your jets, Sparky Spaceman. NASA did not discover life in outer space, though for about a half-hour, that looked like a possibility to those of us mopes on the outside. In fact, at 8:07 Pacific Time this morning (December 2), Gizmodo reported on Jason Kottke’s speculation that NASA’s big press conference scheduled for today meant that they’d discovered life on one of Saturn’s moons.

Sadly, NASA did not discover extraterrestrial life. However, what they did discover, according to a Gizmodo post 10 minutes ago, at 8:40, is still pretty cool. You can watch the press conference live at NASA TV, but in the meantime, feast your wow on what Gizmodo says:

At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don’t have to be like planet Earth.

I have a few pieces of incisive scientific commentary to issue on this finding:

First: Go California!!

Second: Mono County FTW!!!

Third: We’re #1!!!

Fourth: Mono Lake, on the Eastern side of the Sierra Mountains tucked in that little elbow of California where Nevada gives us our daily infusion of intravenous saline, is an unusually productive ecosystem, so it’s not entirely surprising that a vastly different form of life showed up there. That’s where the “not entirely surprising” part ends.

I mean, like…did they say arsenic?


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