Saturday, December 25, 2010

NASA's Arsenic Life Forms Looking Pale

I'm still hoping that NASA's latest wild claim, about finding a new form of life totally separate from the rest of earth's lifeforms, which incorporates arsenic in its DNA will prove to be true.

But in an earlier blog (on, I pointed out that this line of research sounds kind of flakey. There don't seem to be control experiments, and the whole thing hangs on some supposedly infallible experimental measurements.  This leads NASA, and some imaginative science writiters, to conclude that this unique organism can incorporate arsenic its DNA, making it the equivalent of an alien life form, but occuring here on earth. 

But by now other skeptics are weighing in, and they suggest that the claimed arsenic-DNA molecules could not be stable in water.  Moreover, there is another test which could be done to prove that DNA molecules have arsenic in them, but which the NASA scientists didn't bother to do:

Oh yech.  Well, there is still an opportunity for advocates to prove themselves, but the more I find out about this business the more depressing it seems. .  I would/ have thought that NASA would be more careful, especially after their fiasco a few years ago in which they claimed to have found fossilized bacteria from Mars in a meteorite fragment.  The US needs NASA to be a careful advocate for space exploration, rather than being an incubator for weird science. 

The scientific community is still interested in the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, but it is in spite of research like this, not because of it.

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