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Posts tagged with "Life As We (Don’t) Know It"

  • Biological News

    A First Step Toward A New Form of Life

    There’s been a real advance in the field of engineered “unnatural life”, but it hasn’t produced one-hundredth the headlines that the arsenic bacteria story did. This work is a lot more solid, although it’s hard to summarize in a snappy way. Everyone knows about the four bases of DNA (A, T, C, G). What this… Read More
  • Life As We (Don't) Know It

    Arsenic in DNA: The Kinetic Argument.

    Here’s the first response in the chemical literature to the arsenic-in-DNA controversy, from three authors in ACS Chemical Biology. They detail the argument, familiar to readers of the comment section here, that arsenate esters just would not be expected to have the hydrolytic stability needed for arseno-DNA to function usefully. How far off… Read More
  • Life As We (Don't) Know It

    Life With Arsenic: Who’d Have Thought?

    Update: a further look at the details of this paper is in a later post. So: arsenic for phosphorus? That’s the big news from NASA today. I listened to much of the press conference, and I’ve read the paper in Science. Is this real – and if it is, what does it tell us? Let’s… Read More
  • Analytical Chemistry

    Chemical Biology – The Future?

    I agree with many of the commenters around here that one of the most interesting and productive research frontiers in organic chemistry is where it runs into molecular biology. There are so many extraordinary tools that have been left lying around for us by billions of years of evolution; not picking them up and using… Read More
  • Biological News

    Let’s Sequence These Guys

    A very weird news item: multicellular organisms that appear to be able to live without oxygen. They’re part of the little-known (and only recently codified) phylum Loricifera, and these particular organisms were collected at the bottom of the Mediterranean, in a cold, anoxic, hypersaline environment. They have no mitochondria – after al… Read More
  • Book Recommendations

    Friday Book Recommendation

    Here’s another outside the field – in fact, it’s outside of a lot of people’s fields. Where Is Everybody? presents fifty possible solutions to the Fermi Paradox: if there are a lot of planets in the galaxy, and if life is pretty easy to get going, and if it’s possible to travel or just communicate… Read More
  • Biological News

    What’s So Special About Ribose?

    While we’re on the topic of hydrogen bonds and computations, there’s a paper coming out in JACS that attempts to answer an old question. Why, exactly, does every living thing on earth use so much ribose? It’s the absolute, unchanging carbohydrate backbone to all the RNA on Earth, and like the other things in this… Read More
  • Analytical Chemistry

    Mass Spec on Mars

    There’s an interesting analytical chemistry paper in the preprint section of PNAS (open access if you want to read it) that may reopen an old controversy. It’s from a large multinational team (Mexico, Spain, France, NASA-Ames) investigating the GC-mass spec instrumentation that was flown to Mars on the Viking landers in 1976. That’… Read More
  • Intelligent Design

    Intelligent Chemical Design

    I haven’t commented on the controversy about including “Intelligent Design” in school curricula, but I don’t want that to be interpreted as any kind of approval. On the contrary – until it offers some testable predictions, which would seem an unlikely thing to hope for, I don’t see how ID even rises to the level… Read More
  • General Scientific News


    Back in the early days of my pre-Corante blog, I wrote a piece about some other kinds of chemistry that might be used in living systems. There’s now a wonderful one-stop review for all sorts of speculations on this topic, which incorporates everything I’ve ever thought of and plenty more. Steven Benner at the University… Read More