A lot of people were very disappointed on Thursday. NASA had a big announcement, and rumor had it they’d discovered life on Titan. Well, they hadn’t. They’d found a new microbe here on Earth (in California… not even someplace remote and exotic) that uses arsenic as a nutrient.
If not for the hype, this microbe would be big news. I’m excited about it even if it’s not an alien. Once again, we’ve found life is more flexible than we’d thought. Arsenic, a deadly poison for most of us, is food for at least one critter!
A while back, I wrote that life will evolve anywhere it can using whatever resources nature gives it. I can picture it now: a family of creatures with a biochemistry similar to these microbes. They gather for dinner, and the mom yells at her kids, “Eat your arsenic! It’s good for you!”
So even though I’d rather be writing about aliens on Titan today, I think we should celebrate the arsenic eaters. Maybe we should designate December 2 International Arsenic Day. What do you think?
P.S.: The webcomic xkcd did a great post about this announcement. Click here.