Much of the speculation has centered on this hidden meaning in this cryptic news release from NASA.
“NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”
As you might imagine, this has brought everyone out of the woodwork, from the sobersided astrophysicist types I tend to hang with all the way to the tinfoil-hat crazies.
Blogger Jason Kottke has channeled many of the crazies with a blog post entitled “Has NASA Discovered Extraterrestrial Life?” Way to drive traffic to your blog, Jason.
The answer appears to be “no”. Based on what I’m reading, the best guess seems to be that scientists will announce a new breakthrough in arsenic exobiology. Nitrogen, phosphorus and arsenic all share the same ability to trade electrons. (Pokemon-style electron trading is rampant amongst atoms and is the basis for chemical bonding.)
Nitrogen and carbon are the basis for proteins; phosphorus and carbon are the basis for nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) plus the “energy currency” of the cell, adenosine triphosphate or ATP. When the cell wants to store energy, it stores it in the bond between phosphate #2 and phosphate #3 of ATP (phosphate = phosphorus + four oxygens). When it needs energy, it breaks that bond and releases energy for use by other things. This works exactly like a currency in economics, smoothing the commerce within the cell by providing a common medium of exchange.
It’s possible they’ve discovered that arsenic can be used in the same way, and that there is even an example at hand (like Saturn’s moon Titan). Or, it could be they’re just discussing arsenic chemistry in an existing lifeform here on Earth.
Or, maybe Michael Stipe is right, and it’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.
Six o’clock – TV hour. Don’t get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear – cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.