News of the week: new life forms and Noah’s Ark in Kentucky 8

JISHOU, HUNAN — You win some, you lose some. In the nifty cool corner, we have NASA scientists discovering a strain of bacteria that actually likes arsenic so much to incorporate it in their DNA. No word yet on their reactions to old lace. Or elderberry wine. In the dunce-cap corner, we have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear crowing that the Commonwealth is giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to a Noah’s Ark-themed (as in religious) amusement part. The first bit of news is exciting, because until this week biologists believed all life on Earth is based only on CHONPS (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur). Now we know some bacteria can live on CHONAsS. (I can just hear the jokes in high school biology classes now …) Phosphorous and arsenic are neighbors in the periodic table, with similar chemical properties. It’s what makes arsenic (As) poisonous. Our cells grab hold of the arsenic, thinking it’s phosphorus, but, alas, it’s just different enough that it kills us. These bacteria, found in an arsenic-laden lake in California could care less. Arsenic, shmarsenic. Chances are, they were not aboard the Ark with Noah’s kin and all those animals. Genesis says nothing ...
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