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  #11  
Old 12-03-2010, 12:01 PM
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Well said, Akula and Tom. Seeking for alien life doesn't happen in a scientific void, knowing that there are strange forms of life on Earth, be it creatures that don't use photosynthesis or substitute phosphorus with arsenic, expands the parameters.
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Old 12-03-2010, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Akula2ssn View Post
It's pretty much what I expected. Despite it's name, much of the science done in astrobiology is here on earth. In fact you see a lot of people from my own field of oceanography in astrobiology and like oceanography, astobiology is a highly interdisciplinary field.

The field is still in it's infancy and it's nowhere near the stage that many of us who grew up with Star Trek would like. In its entirety, astrobiology or exobiology as it's sometimes called, is really a study about the origins of like in the universe and as such it hypothesizes about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe based on existing science. From a life science perspective the find is huge, but from a publicity standpoint it's not all that remarkable and not nearly as explosive as say finding silicone base life here on earth but it is what it is.

The major contribution that this find does for astrobiology is that it allows scientists who work in that field to consider a wider range of places in the universe to look for life as well as perhaps open the door for more hypotheses on the origins of life. So yeah...if you're not into the academic side of science, it's pretty dry stuff. Or more specifically if you aren't into the life science side of academic science then who cares. Me? I appreciate the importance of the find but you're not going to find me throwing cocktail parties over it. I was already excited when they discovered that life could exist and evolve without sunlight and that you could have photosynthetic organisms evolve without sunlight. What they've got here is pretty much more of the same.
Thank you for that post.
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  #13  
Old 12-03-2010, 12:10 PM
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It's actually pretty significant. Every life form on Earth has the same chemical makeup to their DNA. You, me, an ear of corn, an earthworm. Everything. Except for these little guys, who have used the arsenic in their environment and actually incorporated it into their DNA. That is a truly ground breaking discovery.
Life is adaptive.
There is nothing new about that. We've only explored a minimal surface level of life. There is much much more than this to discover in the oceans themselves. These kind of discoveries will continue.

I don't appreciate the spin doctoring and the hype that was given to this.
I'm glad I didn't buy into it. NASA needs to get off their collective butts and start working on things matter...like a rocket that doesn't shake it'self appart or Solar cells that don't cost a million dollars because to frank...understanding life on Earth isn't going save it from us.
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Old 12-03-2010, 12:23 PM
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Life is adaptive.
There is nothing new about that. We've only explored a minimal surface level of life. There is much much more than this to discover in the oceans themselves. These kind of discoveries will continue.

I don't appreciate the spin doctoring and the hype that was given to this.
I'm glad I didn't buy into it. NASA needs to get off their collective butts and start working on things matter...like a rocket that doesn't shake it'self appart or Solar cells that don't cost a million dollars because to frank...understanding life on Earth isn't going save it from us.
It's a totally new form of DNA. This has never been seen. It's a little more than life being adaptive. It's a big deal.
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Old 12-03-2010, 02:54 PM
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It's a totally new form of DNA. This has never been seen. It's a little more than life being adaptive. It's a big deal.
It's interesting if you believe in abio-genesis and macro evolution. I don't.
I think the discovery is nice as all discoveries of life are but this isn't ground braking to me. It's not effective to anything we do it just proves that are understanding of life's capabilities has been extremely limited.

To me this is about as interesting as hemocyanin as opposed to what is typical hemoglobin. In other words it's another variety.

If this had been..."we now understand the human genome and can effect changes at will" or, "We've cured cancer." or "we can repair spinal paralysis" yes...that would have been worth this big to do....but another type of DNA is no surprise to me...a Trek Sci Fi dude that thinks there is an Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.
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Old 12-03-2010, 03:17 PM
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The potential effect of what this find has with anything we do is something that will come with time if it ever does. It's way too early to tell. Not having read any of the paper myself yet, I can only speculate. But I can just imagine the potential of an organism that can thrive off metabolizing arsenic in terms of environmental cleanups and other forms of decontamination.
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Old 12-03-2010, 03:23 PM
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I'll never understand why applied research should be more important than basic research.
Too bad they won't have use for a neuroscientist in the next decades (expecting prokaryotes only)...
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Old 12-03-2010, 03:33 PM
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I'll never understand why applied research should be more important than basic research.
Too bad they won't have use for a neuroscientist in the next decades (expecting prokaryotes only)...
What are you talking about? Neuroscience is going to be huge once the zombie apocalypse begins. Ready to eat brains grown in a test tube...Biggest thing since sliced bread.

Anyway, applied research might have more immediate gains or at least it's easier to sell it as such. Basic research is harder to do so. Especially with something like this. Also in tight economic times, research in general is kind of hard to make a case for because it's still a "what if" scenario.

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Originally Posted by horatio View Post
Well said, Akula and Tom. Seeking for alien life doesn't happen in a scientific void, knowing that there are strange forms of life on Earth, be it creatures that don't use photosynthesis or substitute phosphorus with arsenic, expands the parameters.
Especially if you want to propose more off world missions to find life out in space. I don't think anyone is going to be keen on opening up their pocket books to do so unless there was a decent chance of success. The more possible environments you can show where life can exist increases those odds. And that still doesn't even address the issue of what is gained by doing so. The same goes for propositions for colonization. These are foundation steps. Not glamorous ones but important ones.
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  #19  
Old 12-03-2010, 04:47 PM
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Anyway, applied research might have more immediate gains or at least it's easier to sell it as such. Basic research is harder to do so. Especially with something like this. Also in tight economic times, research in general is kind of hard to make a case for because it's still a "what if" scenario.
One's about human benefit the other is about human curiousiity.
I would say saving lives would mean more than satisfiying my need for knowledge in general.
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Old 12-03-2010, 05:28 PM
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One's about human benefit the other is about human curiousiity.
I would say saving lives would mean more than satisfiying my need for knowledge in general.
I agree with the ends, but even that which saves lives stems from that which was once mere curiosity. There's a reason why a basic knowledge of the core sciences is still greatly re-enforced before going on to studying things like medicine. As Sherlock Holmes said in the case of the Copper Beeches, "Data data data! I can't make bricks without clay."

A find like this opens up an entirely different area in biochemistry, something which is increasingly important in fields like medicine among others. You don't have to dump a whole lot into it. At this early stage, such research could probably benefit from a fraction of what goes into things like cancer research and what not.

Both can benefit us and save lives. The difference is that in an applied science I can say right off the bat that if the research is successful then it can be of practical benefit. In the more theoretical all you can say is we may or may not find something that will be of benefit. Both can benefit people it's just one is more clear cut in its potential. Both, however, will not benefit people at all if not pursued.

Now to be honest, I would be much much less impressed if they had found a new bug that had nothing more remarkable than being hot pink. But this, being an entirely new biochemistry carries greater potential weight with it.
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