Archive for December 2nd, 2010

Arsenic and Old Lakes, or, NASA Announces a New Life Form

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Mono Lake

At a conference today, NASA announced that the first known life form to use arsenic to make its DNA and proteins: the bacteria GFAJ-1.

This new life form is a surprise. Out of all the elements on Earth (watch Daniel Radcliffe if you need to remember what they all are), life is mainly composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus. Other elements just don’t go and insert themselves into that group. Or, at least, they didn’t. GFAJ-1 is able to substitute arsenic for phosphorus, the only known living organism to be able to do this.

Many people are also talking about possible implications from the discovery for astrobiology. If life can grow on Earth outside of the parameters we expect, what extraterrestrial environments could be home to life?

For a summary and analysis of the discovery, read on here.

On the Discovery Docket: A Short History of Nearly Everything

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

You’re all a bunch of lovely smarty pants, so I assume most of you have already read Bill Bryson’s fantastic book A Short History of Nearly Everything. But have you read the Special Illustrated Edition?

Just when you thought that a book about naming Pluto, the Akesian laughing gas society, political cartoons, dinosaur bones and everything else you could possibly imagine couldn’t get any better, they added pictures!

And if you need a version of this book for a younger audience, try Bryson’s A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.

December 2010

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