This is the sort of thing that makes me really optimistic that there is life not only on other planets, in other solar systems, in this or other galaxies, but perhaps even in our own solar system.
To summarize, they found some bacteria that obtains energy in a completely different way than most of the life on the planet. They have known about these sorts of bacteria for over a decade, but we didn't know they were so widespread. This is apparently a type of photosynthesis (in that it actually converts the suns energy, but not in the same way most other plants do) that relies on arsenic (a strong poison to most life on the planet), and does this in oxygen starved environments.
It just adds to the list of amazing forms of life. Some examples of other truly amazing forms of life are:
Deinococcus radiodurans The most radiation resistant life on this planet, that we know of (also acid, vaccuum, and other truly amazing parameters).
Thermus aquaticus which survives and even thrives at very high temperatures (above 70C!)
Sulfolobus acidocaldarius Survive and thrives not only at high temperature but also at high acidity levels (low Ph).
Polaromonas vacuolata and even multicellular organisms such as Ice Worms can live at very low temperatures and high pressures.
There are many many of these living extremophiles, organisms single or multicellular that live in these extreme environments. There are an infinite set of combinations of atoms that can be put together in however long chain length and evolution is the most amazing process by which these combinations can come together to produce ever more complex systems. We will never know or even imagine what the limitations of the evolutionary processes are (remember, evolution is not one process, its a synthesis of a number of mechanisms by which molecules and molecular systems are made).
Who is to say other life forms cant be silicon based in ways he have not thought of (yeah that concept was in an old Star Trek episode), who is to say there are not processes by which methane can be 'breathed' (Babylon 5, yeah way more creative people than i have alreayd thought of some possibilities). Why not ammonia breathers? The possibilities are truly endless and unimaginable. That is the wonder of science, there are no limitations that must be accepted, just evidence and observations to understand.
Recently scientists have pondered the possibilities of Life on Saturns moon Enceladus, because there is thought to be liquid water and organics (molecules with carbon and hydrogen in them). And while this is exciting, its only exciting because there is the possibility of life as we know it on the moon.
Anyway, evolution and cosmology continue to be such amazing fields. Isn't this cooler than reading fairy tales out of a 2000 year old book?
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