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Proof of life outside of Earth?

Discussion in 'Congregation of the Masses' started by King Something, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. King Something

    King Something

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    Today at 2 p.m. Eastern NASA held a special press conference where astrobiologists confirmed that they had uncovered bacteria that was comprised of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and instead of phosphorus as the sixth element it used arsenic. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but this proves that just because there may not be another planet out there like Earth where humans can survive, there may be a lifeform that is not similar to a human that can survive in different environments.
    So Smogon, what does this discovery mean to you? Do you think that there might be life out there outside of Earth?

    A link to Time's article on the press conference: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/02...utside-of-earth-is-possible-with-new-microbe/
  2. VKCA

    VKCA (Virtual Circus Kareoky Act)

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    I've always thought that the assumption that life needs some specific set of elements was really stupid, but I don't have a degree in chemistry so I don't know. Just because we and all (well not anymore I guess) other life on our planet is made up of something doesn't prove that it is necessary to life, it just proves that that is the most convenient materiel available. I would have agreed that it was essential to life on earth, but I guess that's not really the case is it?
    Completely irrelevant edit: fuck I knew there was a reason I wanted to take chemistry I wanted to know about why freezing water gets bigger right
  3. Eraddd

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    Well from my meager knowledge of Chemistry, Water is vital to life, mainly because of its unique fact that water is more dense as a liquid, than as a solid. Because of this, during winter, lifeforms can survive under the water, without being crushed or crystallized by the ice. However, the temperature of the planet also does matter. The Earth supports a temperature that, when it gets cold, the top of the water freezes only, allowing life forms to thrive underneath it.

    No clue about carbon or silicon (theoretical I believe,) based lifeforms
  4. cantab

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    It's a little more complicated. They found bacteria that were arsenic tolerant, and grew them in an increasingly arsenic-rich environment. Over generations, the bacteria evolved to make use of the arsenic in place of phosphorous. However, even the most arsenic-adapted strains still fared better when placed in a normal environment than in an arsenic-rich one.

    The work is significant, because as King Something mentioned, those six elements were assumed essential for all Earth life. Phosphorous has been removed from the list.

    However, phosphorous is about a thousand times more abundant than arsenic in the Universe as a whole. The figures are similar for the Earth's crust. So I think the specific case of alien lifeforms using arsenic is unlikely. Life will tend to evolve to use the more abundant elements in its environment.

    @ Eraddd: The ability to make long, complex chain molecules is important for life. The exact properties of the fluid medium probably less so. Ethanol might be a plausible alternative solvent for alien life. (Meaning eating alien meat would get a human drunk, now THERE'S a recipe for disaster.) But again, I think the abundances will favour water, it's a simpler molecule.
  5. Heepo

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    I was actually discussing this with my Biology teacher earlier today. I'm glad a thread was made. Also, isn't it funny how we've been searching for new forms of life on other planets when it was right under our nose all along?

    To answer the topic title, no, this isn't proof of life outside of Earth. If we had found this on Mars or something it certainly would be, but it was found in California. As Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon said, "We've cracked open the door for what's possible for life elsewhere in the universe. And that's profound to understand how life is formed and where life is going." This simply means that life may not always function as how we thought, and that something similar could happen in space.

    I read that this bacteria could be used to detoxify arsenic rich areas, but I didn't get much information on it. From what I gathered it can photosynthesize without water. It uses the electrons from arsenic instead of water during photolysis which transforms the arsenic into a non-toxic form. If this were true, I think it would be possible for this bacteria to survive without any water. Would any of you biology buffs like to clear this up for me?
  6. tape

    tape i woke up in a new bugatti
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    This is actually quite an amazing find and I'm pretty pumped by it. And the fact we actually found it IN OUR PLANET makes it even more amazing. You could think life is a lot more flexible than we would think at first.
  7. Focus

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    Well, I am very excited by the fact that science is still revising their assumptions on the ways in which "life" can be carried out. I am positive that in the future we will keep being surprised at just how flexibly organisms can adapt to their surroundings. However, despite how much we all want it to be true, there is still not any undisputable evidence that life exists anywhere in the universe except on Earth.

    We should without a question search for extraterrestrial life. Not really the infamous "little green men", but microorganisms like those that existed billions of years ago here on Earth. Also, I would be completely shocked if out of the countless solar systems that are being discovered, life does not exist anywhere else. As the saying goes, if it did happen, it can happen.
  8. Eraddd

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    My question is, microorganisms will exist in other planets. but, what are the chances that we will encounter a lifeform that has cognitive ability that rivals ours? That's the question I've been wondering up until now.
  9. Focus

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    If intelligent life exists in other solar systems, then there is always the huge obstacle of how unimaginably far away it must be. The nearest stars to us are over four light years away! Assuming there is by some miracle intelligent life around the Alpha Centauri system, that means a probe travelling at half light speed would take over eight years to get there, and the information would take an additional four years to come back to us. Then there's the issue that it would take a HUGE amout of resources needed to prepare the probe for interstellar travel!

    Then again we could in theory communicate via light signals, but that is a tricky situation, as we as well as they have to tune in the radio to the right station, and they have to be willing to actively communicate somehow.

    If intelligent life exists, then the greatest chance of encountering it would be if it came to us. Even though many people swear that this has happened, there is no concrete evidence of that as of now. Maybe ET will drop by for a visit in the near future? It is extremely unlikely, but still possible.
  10. cantab

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    Probably quite low. The key issue I think is the duration of advanced civilisations. This is something of an unknown.

    Also, with regards to communications, there's the issue that as civilisations become more advanced, they'll tend to use less radio power. I've a feeling Earth has passed its peak radio brightness. An interplanetary civilization might use laser beams to communicate between planets, not "leaking" much into deep space. Also, there's a good chance alien civilizations would routinely encrypt their transmissions (we encrypt a lot - mobile phones, wifi, pay TV), meaning even if we detected them we'd never be able to understand them and might not even realise they weren't just random noise.
  11. Chubbs

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    I can remeber reading something about SETI and why it will never work. The author argued that there will not be another civilisation that is within a few million years of our level of advancement, either higher or lower. It was because of this that they they recon SETI will fail, as life form a hundred, let alone a million years behind us wouldn't be able to recieve the signal or reply to it, and the ones who are far more advanced would have already made contact if they had so wished.

    As for the bacteria that we have got that use arsenic instead of phosphorus, I have always belived that when scientist talk about how you need "Earth-like Planets" for life they are wrong. I belive this because we, and all other life on earth evolved under a set of planetary conditions, which in turn meant that we need water to live. However, this does not mean that ANY other life-forms at all will require water to live, and instead may live in a enviroment where there insn't water and instead the live off of some completely different chemical. For example, staying close to home with this one, plants live off of carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, meaning that they are using the carbon in their vital life processes, but not the oxygen, and therefore could live on any planet with a temperature that, depending on the plant ranged between ~30 to -~20 degrees centigrade and a good source of light, therefore proving that life does not need earth-like conditions to live and meaning that the scientist anre, in some repsects, wrong. Due to this we need to expand our search of life to pretty much any planet with a stable atmosphere.
  12. Zacchaeus

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    It was found on Earth. I don't see how that makes it from another planet. I mean, some plants produce their food substance from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and some use hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. Different elements don't seem to mean different planets to me
  13. Darkamber8828

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    The url is http.://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/02/life-redefined-nasa-proves-life-outside-of-earth-is-possible-with-new-microbe/

    Also,

    I don't see how that makes it from another planet.
  14. gvmgvm40

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    Let me explain: ALL creatures on Earth were known to use only 6 elements (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulphur, Phosphorus) for organic molecules.

    This bacteria, unlike all other animals, not only can feed on Arsenic but can use Arsenic atoms in lieu of Phosphorus in vital structures (ATP, DNA).

    ^^ This is really important because it shows that these 6 previously-thought-to-be-necessary-to-life elements aren't actually "necessary" for life and shows that if a bacteria can use As over P, the long-theorized Silicon-, Boron- and Sulphur-based lifeforms can be actually possible.
  15. Euphoria

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    There is a High probability life does exist in other planets and I am willing to take that chance But the article Darkamber brought up is a decent read the link don't work here is a better one bellow.

    http://bit.ly/dVqbO0
  16. Dr.Fleischmann

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    The best proof is the probability. You can say that life will develope everywhere it is possible during billions of years. It is almost sure in this long range of time that one of the millions of casually occuring molecules will be able to reproduce itself.
    The universe on the other hand is that big, that it is almost sure to contain more than one planet with potential living conditions.
    You see my conclusion?
  17. assassinfred

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    This is a great find. This not only brings in a new organism into the list of known organisms, which in itself is helpful in understanding life as a whole and evolution, but also PROVES that life as we know it can be based on more than the 6 elements (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulfur, and Phosphorus), and that organic molecules can be formed from other elements. This is a very important find for biology.
  18. Arcticblast

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    This is a bacteria that already lived in a high-arsenic environment beaning weaned off of phosphorus until it used arsenic instead. Not a completely new organism.
  19. SMZ

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    I read about the arsenic-tolerant bacteria the other day. I was quite amazed at this.

    This probably means there are other microbes/life forms who have adopted/will adopt to feed/grow on materials not confined entirely to the 'organic' molecules we are currently studying.

    If that case is true, our understanding of life forms, and studying of biochemistry, biology and other related sciences will radically change.
  20. Alan

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    I question this actually. Not whether it was real or not, but how long they have actually known about this? As most or at least some of you are aware Obama has commisioned to do away with NASA in the coming years to cut spending. (link) I wonder if this is more of a publicity stunt by NASA to get more funding from Congress? Either way its still a pretty cool find.
  21. petrie911

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    Except we don't actually know how improbable life arising is. It very well could be so unbelievably rare that it's only happened once. The only thing we can say with certainty is that the probability is greater than zero.

    This obviously doesn't prove that there is life outside Earth. That would require actually finding life outside Earth. But even then, it doesn't seem to make it hugely more probable. Phosphorus and Arsenic aren't quite as different as, say, Carbon and Silicon. Not to mention that the 6 vital elements for life have a tendency to be a lot more common than their prospective replacements.
  22. Phizzlax

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    I was incredibly disappointed with this article when I initially read it. The title and setup were very misleading. I did not expect the article to boil down to "Humans engineer impractical organism!"
  23. assassinfred

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    Humans didn't engineer it, we found it in an Arsenic-rich lake in California, and the fact that it has Arsenic instead of Phosphorus in it's chemical make up proves to us that life doesn't have to be comprised of those six elements.
  24. Arcticblast

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    Read my earlier post.

    This weaning was done in a lab, not in nature.

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