Some bacteria learned to survive and thrive in an environment rich in Arsenic, a normally poisonous element to life. It’s poisonous because chemically it’s almost interchangeable with Phosphorus (note their same column position in the Periodic Table). It’s usually not interchangeable enough and ends up causing problems and interrupting all sorts of necessary biochemical reactions in your body, but these new forms of bacteria were able to work out the kinks and make Arsenic work.
Very interesting, but profoundly disappointing from speculation earlier in the week. Even more disappointing is that the researchers didn’t even discover this bacteria using Arsenic in the wild. They “removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells. ” (NASA)
At minimum I thought they had discovered life provably independent in origin from other life forms on Earth. This bacteria descended from the same path we did.
One of life’s great questions is, were we a fluke?
It’s likely that there is life out there in the Universe, but it’s unclear how rare it is. If we ever find bacterial life elsewhere in the solar system or discover that life “sparked” more than once on Earth we can assume the universe is full of aliens. That’s a discovery that would have “changed everything.”