Feeds

NASA was WRONG on arsenic-gobbling aliens, claim boffins

Weird Earth bacteria need their six a day

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.