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Arsenic-Based Life! (On Earth) Feel the hype.

Arsenic-based lifeform, from XKCD webcomic. Click to go there.

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.

GFAJ-1 bacteria - from NASA (link)

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:

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.

Great Sun Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has produced some fantastic new images of activities on the Sun’s surface, which should provide researchers with more data and detail to help them explain what is going on up there!

For a gallery of images, head on over to the Guardian,or to NASA’s website.

Magnetic Movie: visualising magnetic fields

This animation, filmed in NASA’s laboratories (did you know NASA was 50 years old?) has won a couple of awards and is a really interesting visualisation of magnetic fields.

Go over to the main site and have a look:

Magnetic Movie from Semiconductor on Vimeo.

Who says art and science have nothing in common?

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