Thursday, December 02, 2010

"It's life, Jim---but not as we know it."

There's some very exciting news from NASA today about research they funded: one form of bacteria can apparently thrive on arsenic, so the chemicals that can be used for life are broader than previously thought. One question to ask, of course, is just how broad might it be?

(I didn't check in any detail, but the following seems to be the case: The news release comes from NASA, but it appears to be the equivalent of the NSF having the news release. The article quotes a research-group member from Arizona State, and the research happens to be funded by NASA. I find the differing dynamics of mentioning "NASA-funded researcher" as opposed to "NSF-funded researchers"---a phrase that I don't remember ever seeing in such an article---to be interesting. OK, back to our main program: life with arsenic!)

(Tip of the cap to Julius Su, Meredith Alden, and Siamak Daneshvar. However, I have elected to link to the CNN article rather than the apparently very hyperbolic Gizmodo article that came out earlier.)


Anonymous said...

Link to the research article-

Mason said...

Much appreciated!

(And, in fact, one can see by looking at the affiliations that stressing the NASA connection is indeed appropriate in a strong sense of the word. It is still strange, however, to use the term "NASA-funded".)

Anonymous said...

Ah but not when considered with things like -

NASA-funded all over a big news/science story is great ammo for defending that funding.

Anonymous said... - a fairly brutal dismemberment of the original paper.

Mason said...

Thanks for passing that along!

My own field is so far off in this case that my role could only be that of scientifically-interested reader.

I am a big fan of the self-corrective nature of science. Let's see where this one leads...