What’s In Here

Two news items to not unravel our understanding of things, but fit in nicely when you think about them:

1) NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical

… Mono Lake in California …. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s … “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, it’s a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells called adenosine triphosphate, and is also part of the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth because it disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. It uses Arsenic in its cells where the rest of life that we know uses Phosphorus!

2) How our bones are linked to exploding stars – 1
How our bones are linked to exploding stars – 2

Basically, in this age of rapid planet discovery, a less well published but equal phenomena is occurring: an explosion (hehe) in the number of supernovas discoverd. So many new supernovas are being found that unheard of ones have been discovered (like unheard of planet types have been discovered. Weird? Nope.) The newest one these articles talk about is one that throws out calcium, and not just a little, but about 50% of the material being given off by the explosion is calcium! The way we know of chemically creating the stuff is helium exploding in a nuclear runaway. That’s a whole lot of Helium converted to calcium.

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