Feeds

NASA was WRONG on arsenic-gobbling aliens, claim boffins

Weird Earth bacteria need their six a day

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Scientists in Switzerland have blown apart the theory that some bacteria can live off arsenic, disproving a controversial 2010 study by NASA.

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, one of the space agency's astrobiologists, faced scepticism when she declared two years ago that she had discovered the snappily named GFAJ-1* microbe thriving in the arsenic-rich, phosphorus-depleted Mono Lake in eastern California.

It was a surprise find because phosphorus is one of the six essential ingredients for life as we know it, yet NASA's bug was apparently able to metabolise poisonous arsenic to grow.

Rather than back notions of unearthly lifeforms living off a toxic chemical element, two separate studies published in the past week have skewered the arsenic-loving bacteria conclusions. Findings from the University of Zurich suggest that GFAJ-1 is dependent on phosphorus and rather resistant to arsenic.

A second study from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, also reached the same conclusion. Its team leader, Dr Rosemary Redfield, said the original results may have been affected by phosphate contaminant in the arsenic.

Dr Wolfe-Simon of NASA's Astrobiology Institute said the latest findings do not nix her work.

"There is nothing in the data of these new papers that contradicts our published data," she said in an email to the Associated Press. Her team "continues to build upon its finding of the extreme resistance to arsenic poisoning".

GFAJ-1 Is an Arsenate-Resistant, Phosphate-Dependent Organism was published in Science on 8 July. ®

Bootnote

* GFAJ apparently stands for Give Felisa a Job, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.