Feeds

NASA was WRONG on arsenic-gobbling aliens, claim boffins

Weird Earth bacteria need their six a day

Security for virtualized datacentres

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
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
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
NASA eyeballs SOLAR HEAT BOMBS, MINI-TORNADOES and NANOFLARES on Sun
Astro boffins probe fiery star's hidden depths
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.