signs of life
I am going to plow right in and pretend that we’ve never paused (yes, I know I was absent for three Thursdays and I am sorry, I have great reasons which shall be explained later). I always find it so interesting when a Thursday coincides with a noteworthy event, or something happens that I HAVE to talk about. Then any planned discussion point goes out the window and I start my literary riffing. Which can be exciting or might be insanity, you just never know!
So today there was a press conference from NASA. I’ve been waiting with baited breath since I heard about it on Tuesday night. Initially there was buzz that discoveries made on Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) demonstrate signs of extraterrestrial life. But when the panel of NASA-funded astrobiological researchers started talking the real facts came out. I’m going to have to cut and paste a little here…
“Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components. “
So instead of the KNOWN and seemingly ONLY fundamental building blocks of all forms of life on Eath (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur) there is now a 7th. Arsenic.
“We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new — building parts of itself out of arsenic,” said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology research fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team’s lead scientist. “If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven’t seen yet?”
Wow. Seriously. Talk about shattering every Science textbook and literally rewriting our knowledge of all known life on Earth (and elsewhere). Now the field is blown wide open.
As I just said to a friend- It’s Science catching up to Spirit.
Something about this is so exciting to me. Because we don’t live in the time of Magellan or the realization that the world was round or when the cound barrier was broken. Things have seemed to be pretty much discovered or at least mostly figured out. But to have questions and possibilities. I imagine the times in history that were filled with more discoveries than certainty and more hope than apathy. Maybe that’s a tiny bit of why I love to be an actor. Because it’s about living in times of the unknown, it’s about opportunities. And we get that now. A whole giant universe of it. I can’t wait!
If you want to read more, NASA has a astrobiology site. It really is a wonderful world, full of so much to explore.