Arsenic-Based Life! (On Earth) Feel the hype.
The world has been all a-twitter with NASA’s news of a new life-form discovery. Putting ‘NASA‘ and ‘life-form‘ together in one sentence seems to have got a lot of people worked up that they have discovered life on other planets and that the invaders are coming, but really it’s all a bit closer to home and rather tamer.
Closer to home, maybe, but still really interesting. These bacteria from Mono Lake in California are able (with a lot of lab-based prodding*) to use arsenic in place of phosphates to build the backbone of their DNA molecules. An interesting link to DNA structure there, and news-worthy in that this species has been able to substitute one fundamental element of living organisms for another, usually more toxic, molecule.
As always, for the best possible write-up of this primary research in the news, head on over to NotExactlyRocketScience. You can also read the original release from NASA.
IB Biology curriculum links:
- 3.3 DNA Structure (and AHL 7.1 here)
- 3.1 Chemical Elements and Water
- 2.2 Prokaryotes
- 2.1 Cell Theory (calculate the magnification)
Helpfully, TED has put together a playlist of related talks to put the discovery, and the search for ET, in perspective. Here’s one from Penelope Boston:
“Life on Mars? Let’s look in the caves.”
Live long and prosper.
*this clause is an edit to clarify.
Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes
Essential Biology 2.2 Prokaryotes
MrT’s terrible pun:
If you get salmonella from a 3 day-old bacon sandwich, does that mean you’ve contracted a porkaryote?
Essential Biology 2.3 Eukaryotes
BioCoach Cell Structure and Function topic
The Biology Project Cell Biology page
Wiley Science tutorial (Flash)
Bacterial growth populations from umich.edu
Don’t forget the great resources at Learn.Genetics.
Review quiz on Quia: Cell Theory, Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes. (for my class only)
And here’s a nice timelapse of bacterial growth:
Here’s a story of a giant bacterium, from NotExactlyRocketScience
Pandemic II: Educational Flash Game
Thanks to the excellent NotExactlyRocketScience blog for posting the link to this game. Pandemic II is a complex flash game based on strategy, evolution (though more like design) and the spread of disease. The premise is simple – take a pathogen (bacteria, virus or parasite), and watch its spread across the globe. Along the way you can alter the pathogen to change its properties, making it more infectious, more lethal or less noticeable. The aim of the game is to wipe out the population of the world.
It is easy to save using Firefox add-ons.
Check out the game here: http://www.crazymonkeygames.com/Pandemic-2.html
And the tutorials here:
Is it better than the addictive Magic Pen Game or Foldit?
Have a go!