Tag Archives: life

NASA’s discovery of life as we don’t know it

Remember the hype before December when NASA released a press conference regarding “astrobiological findings”? Everyone thought it was related to extraterrestial life. It was not. Maybe because of that, it din’t get the press it deserved.

Image of GFAJ-1 grown on arsenic. Image Credit: Jodi Switzer Blum
GFAJ-1 grown on arsenic. Photo: Jodi Switzer Blum

However the results they presented were nonetheless very interesting and indeed mind-blowing: Life has been discovered – here on Earth – with arsenic in its genome.

The discovery of an organism that thrives on otherwise poisonous arsenic broadens our thinking about the possibility of life on other planets, and begs a rewrite of biology textbooks by changing our understanding of how life is formed from its most basic elemental building blocks. Astrobiology Magazine has the story.

Image of GFAJ-1 grown on phosphorus. Image Credit: Jodi Switzer Blum
GFAJ-1 grown on phosphorus. Photo: Jodi Switzer Blum

Previously it was thought (except in theory) that all life had DNA and DNA used phosphor. This organism apparently can use/uses arsenic instead of phosphor in its genome structure. Probably as a result from living in California in the “Mono Lake because of its unusual chemistry, especially its high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic”. A result from being isolated from fresh water in 50 years.

On the tree of life, according to the results of 16S rRNA sequencing, the rod-shaped GFAJ-1 nestles in among other salt-loving bacteria in the genus Halomonas. Many of these bacteria are known to be able to tolerate high levels of arsenic.

I can’t help to say that I’m very amazed by this finding. Unfortunately I haven’t really seen it picked up anywhere in the general press, outside of science magazines. But please, people, discuss it. It rocks the foundation, and possibilities, of life and our understanding of it.

Update: It seems these reports are “under fire” however, for flaws in the scientific research/report. Interesting to follow. As of yet I haven’t had time reading through any of the skeptic material. Many microbiologists seem to oppose the findings for some reason at least.

First thoughts on “subcultural innovation”

After the weekend’s free culture festival, which me and my friends threw together, I’ve pondered the ideas and concepts behind “amateur” creativity. Not necessarily lower quality compared to “professional” creations. It’s rather that the creativity stems from something else than aiming for economical profit.

Please note that I do not necessarily mean the socialist let’s-be-hippies kind of “value beyond profit”. However, I often argue that creativity spawns a higher quality of life. It may also act as some sort of cognitive therapy – or just simply mean that one is interested in something. Having an enjoyable experience besides work to spend time on increases happiness – which is a rather accepted theory.

In either case, one of the happenings during this event was Simon Lindgren, professor in sociology at the University of Umeå, who talked about internet and participatory culture. Apparently something good came out for him too, as he writes in a blog post about his talk at CCOU:

I have been toying for some time with the idea of writing something about what I would call “subcultural innovation”, and this experience fuelled these ideas even more.

When I read this I was very excited. Just the phrase “subcultural innovation” got me really inspired and I repeated it for myself a couple of times. It meant so much at the same time! The post I’m writing now is generally just to make my mind settle and perhaps inspire someone else to ponder the subject as well.

What is subcultural innovation, and what does it encompass? Several questions flew through my mind which I’m still digesting:

  • Is a subculture merely the derivative (or “extreme”) culture of something more ordinary (“mainstream”)? Given time, will they converge?
  • Could a subculture perhaps also be the combination (“crossover”?) of several mainstream themes, to create a combined derivative? Or will this merely be a culture ex “sub”?
  • Are countercultures actually subcultures, despite their oppository devotion? More specifically, is the antithesis actually a part of the thesis?
  • Most importantly: Can subcultures be stand-alone?

I believe these are important questions, added some further odd thoughts, which I need answers for in order to have a chance to deduce anything given the fascinating term subcultural innovation. I can definitely say I’m very excited about this.