Watercooler – And Now For Something Different
And now for something very, very different from our usual political wonkery — like the possibility that “alien” life forms have been found. NASA has embargoed materials related to a scheduled press conference tomorrow, to be held at 2:00 p.m. EST in Washington, DC. Here’s the available details from NASA’s press release:
WASHINGTON — 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. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.
The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at http://www.nasa.gov.
– Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
– Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
– Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
– Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
– James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe
There’s been a lot of speculation about the nature of the announcement so far; at least one site has speculated that scientists have found life-supporting conditions in the neighborhood of Saturn, perhaps on its moon Titan. But Alex Madrigal of The Atlantic has apparently read the embargoed material from NASA and squelched the speculation.
Putting all the pieces together — from the spread of scientific experts participating in the press conference, to the rebuttal of speculation — chances are very good we’ll hear scientists have found a different chemistry than what we are most familiar with might support life. Arsenic in particular has been mentioned by a number of outlets as a possible alternative to the phosphorus most Earth life uses.
Perhaps NASA’s Astrobiology Program will announce Thursday that it’s found alien life, arsenic-based — and they’ve found it right here on Earth?
What’s your guess? And what else is on your mind tonight?