Friday, December 03, 2010

Organisms' other options...

Scientists have been torturing and force-feeding bugs! OK, they've 'trained' a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic instead of one of six elements considered essential for life - phosphorus in this case - "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." Chemist and molecular biologist Dr. Gerald Joyce said,
"It's a really nice story about adaptability of our life form... ...It gives food for thought about what might be possible in another world."
This successful substitution of phosphorus of course is sure to stimulate a "rush" to replace one of the five other chemical elements (C, O, N, H, S) "essential" for the substitution of silicon for carbon...In Space nobody can hear you scream! I'm joking of course: there are reasons why this particular one probably wouldn't work (strength of molecular structures etc) but chemical swaps are not that uncommon, in fact I have dealt with a particular one (sulphur for selenium in yeasts) for years.

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Paul said...

This stuff always fascinates me because it's based on the old concept (or conceit) that things only exist because you know they exist. I know that sounds bollocks but why shouldn't life exist elsewhere under completely different circumstances.

I was talking to somebody on Thursday who is about to be part of a recycling scheme that sounds like something from science fiction and has taken 23 years to develop and it goes against almost everything we have been told before about what can and cannot be done.

Don't you just love those guys in the white coats?

Span Ows said...

Yes I do, my dad was one so I'm biased.

As you say it is really a gross conceit but I suppose it is/was based on what we knew/know and bit by bit the boundaries keep getting shifted back.