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In Serious Need… December 2, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, space, weird news.

…of perspective.  NASA has been extolling the news conference coming up in a while as earthshaking, immense, change everything as we know it.  Well, the leak is that they have found a bacterium in California’s Mono Lake that uses arsenic rather than phosphorus in its DNA.  Are you excited, too?  Didn’t think so.  This is really uber geek stuff, almost as startling as if someone solved Fermat’s Last Theorem.  Or any of these things, which are mostly tongue-in-cheek but not really.

Can finding a new terrestrial lifeform affect our daily lives?  Don’t see it.  Does it improve my life or destroy it?  This discovery, if this is what NASA is going to trot out, is important but only to an astrobiologist.  Now if they interview Glorp from Zeta Reticulae and he/she/it tells us we have had our parking permit cancelled, that might be more important.  Start learning Vogon poetry?

NASA is obviously struggling for relevance now that they no longer have a manned space program worth mentioning.  But it would be news if they told us rather than paying the Russians $60m/astronaut to get to orbit that Glorp was willing to start a taxi service for us.

All this overshadows what might give us a hint off real life on other worlds in the solar system.  Did you see that Rhea has an oxygen atmosphere? This might be more interesting than a new bacterium.  Where did the oxygen come from?  Wasn’t that one of Sagan’s markers for life on a world?  It is, after all, a noxious and corrosive byproduct of vegetable life.

Rhea seems to get its oxygen from a Saturnia magnetic field decomposing water ice, but there is also carbon dioxide.  Oops, another of those nasty lifeform byproducts.  Who knows where that comes from, eh?

But I am going to bite.  I’ll find a channel covering the NASA press conference.  After all, I can tune in to 40,000 radio stations on my iPad.  One of them must have the announcement that is so awesome it has to be hyped so heavily.  Hope I’m wrong and this isn’t some geekgasm but is significant.  But I’m not holding my breath.




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