Monday, December 06, 2010

Arsenic containing DNA

NASA Discovers New Life: Arsenic-based DNA

Chrispy has held off a few days to see if anything new would occur on this issue. Lovecraft speculated in his fantasy that advanced life forms frequently visited the past Earth, and even the current Earth. These entities were mysterious, and encounters with them often caused the ill-prepared to go mad, or die.

Late in life, HPL believed that men were mere vermin on a dust speck. Insignificant. His religious beliefs were essentially atheistic, and that upon death, the life energy disspated into nothingness. If pushed, he might have believed that atoms merely recycled themselves into other organisms.

A century has passed, and we are on the threshhold of discovering that there are millions (or more) worlds with the potential for various forms of life. The anthropological dilemna is about to be solved - are we alone, and if not, are they us?

Extremophiles have been popping up from undersea volcanic vents to hidden Antarctic lakes. Now, DNA is shown to have arsenic substituted for phosphorus. It would not be a hard stretch to see flourine substituted for oxygen. (Sulfur is the next element below oxygen, but Fluorine is a more mobile electronegative ion than a sulfate ion).

In some cases maybe silicon will be found to be substituted for carbon - if not in DNA, then in other molecular structures. Diatoms have a silicate exoskeleton, for instance.

One day we may meet one of "them", and the Lovecraftian nightmare may happen.

1 comment:

Ken said...

"Now, DNA is shown to have arsenic substituted for phosphorus."

This seems not to be the case, as such DNA would rapidly fall apart under the conditions used to isolate it, yet the DNA was still in very long strands. See for example . Other objections to the experiment, both methodology and conclusions, have also been presented, such as Rosie Redfield's. So it still looks like all terrestrial life uses the same basic biochemistry, as inherited from our shoggoth ancestors.


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