Imagine you went to sleep with a strap around your head. The strap contained sensors that read your brain patterns/visual memory, and was connected to an iPad/android-like device on your nightstand. When you wake up in the morning, there’s a video of your dreams, recorded for you viewing pleasure. Sound like complete and utter fantasy? From the breakthroughs made by these scientists, this sounds like it could become a reality in our lifetime…Click to read the full article
“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”
Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.
Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.
“We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new — building parts of itself out of arsenic,” said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team’s lead scientist. “If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven’t seen yet?”
Wolfe-Simon and her colleagues collected mud from the lake and added the samples to an artificial salt medium lacking phosphate but high in arsenate. They then performed a series of dilutions intended to wash out any phosphate remaining in the solution and replace it with arsenate. They found that one type of microbe in the mix seemed to grow faster than others.
The researchers isolated the organism and found that when cultured in arsenate solution it grew 60% as fast as it did in phosphate solution — not as well, but still robustly. The culture did not grow at all when deprived of both arsenate and phosphate.
When the researchers added radio-labelled arsenate to the solution to track its distribution, they found that arsenic was present in the bacterium’s proteins, lipids and metabolites such as ATP and glucose, as well as in the nucleic acids that made up its DNA and RNA. The amounts of arsenate detected were similar to those expected of phosphate in normal cell biochemistry, suggesting that the compound was being used in the same way by the cell.
The team used two different mass-spectrometry techniques to confirm that the bacterium’s DNA contained arsenic, implying — although not directly proving –that the element had taken on phosphate’s role in holding together the DNA backbone. Analysis with laser-like X-rays from a synchrotron particle accelerator indicated that this arsenic took the form of arsenate, and made bonds with carbon and oxygen in much the same way as phosphate.
We’re not sure that this bacteria replaces phosphorous with arsenic in the wild or only under experimental conditions. One way or another it does show that the process is possible and that our conditions for seeking life in the universe has expanded.
There has been a lot of hype about this NASA announcement and, as usual, the disclosure of sentient, non-terrestrial life forms has been delayed.
As a consolation, here’s an intruiging episode of ‘Ancient Aliens’ where Nazi’s recover a downed UFO and go on to build the Soviet and American space programs. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
It is the vast possibility of life that is composed of elements that are so far unknown to conventional biochemistry. This includes organisms that may be based only on RNA and use alternate amino acids, organisms composed of dark energy/matter, organisms that inhabit unviewable regions of the electro-magnetic spectrum and potentially organisms that are too small or too large to observe (sub-nanobacteria, mineral intelligence, or extra-planetary consciousness).
As far as oversimplified-combined-fringe-theory goes, I’d say the shadow-biosphere delightfully brings together extraterrestrial life, panspermia, ghosts, mineral and planetary intelligence, and space traveling mushroom consciousness transferal all into one neat little package.
“The Dalai Lama often describes Buddhism as being, above all, a science of the mind. That is not surprising, because the Buddhist texts put particular emphasis on the fact that all spiritual practices – whether mental, physical or oral – are directly or indirectly intended to transform the mind…
Experiments have indicated that the region of the brain associated with emotions such as compassion shows considerably higher activity in those with long-term meditative experience. These discoveries suggest that basic human qualities can be deliberately cultivated through mental training. The study of the influence of mental states on health, which was once considered fanciful, is now an increasing part of the scientific research agenda.”
TIME created an excellent interactive map of the brain detailing what happens to each part of your noggin when you meditate. They also include graphs of their meditation training data and findings on wave changes in the brain. Meditation, it seems, provides positive stimulation while giving hard-working parts of the brain a much needed rest.
IONS published a broad review of the changes meditation makes with the body in their study called “The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation“. In this study they go beyond the mind’s reactions to include studies of changes in heart rate, blood flow, blood pressure, and more.