NASA’s has announced the existence of an entirely ‘alien’, arsenic-based bacterium (or more accurately ‘an extremophile bacterium that can be coaxed into substiting arsenic for phosphorus in some of its basic biochemistry‘ – thanks Scienceblogs) found living within the strange confines of Mono Lake (above) in California, USA. Until now all known life was thought to be made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.
This new discovery provides a dramatic, if tiny, illustration of Christian De Duve‘s belief that ‘life is a cosmic imperative’ – it will find a way – and considerably broadens the net for finding non-human life out there in the universe. There’s more news to follow, though the findings were also discussed earlier this year by astrobiologist Paul Davies at the Royal Society meeting on extraterrestrial life.
It’s fascinating news in itself of course, but ties in neatly with Mirage Men: the ‘silver sphere’ sightings that open the book took place only a few miles away from Mono Lake in Yosemite National Park. I welcome our new, arsenic-based neighbours and now have to wonder whether the silver spheres were the arsenicophiles’ airships…
PS. Apologies for the reduced posting rate at the moment, I’m extremely busy preparing a new raft of books from Strange Attractor Press. There’s plenty more news to come from the Mirage Men.