Don’t get me wrong, carbon, phosphorous and the rest are okay. I mean, they’ll do, but how badass would it be to have arsenic as one of the major building blocks of your existence? And I mean in your genetics, not just in your drinking water like it is now.
Scientists this past week discovered a second form of life. New life! It’s not just like they found yet another species of hornet in the rainforest, we’re talking about something no one ever knew or thought existed… they think.
The truth is, while science does some totally awesome and righteous stuff—like mapping the human genome and, uh, making penicillin—it’s hard to tell at this point if the bacteria in super-salty Lake Mono (as opposed to Lake Stereo; had to be said) in California is actually a “second genesis” or if it has just evolved and adapted to its environment, which is full of arsenic, taking it on as one of its essential genetic components.
So yeah, it’s not as exciting as finding aliens or sasquatches or the legendary sharktopus, but it is some wicked sci-fi type stuff. If there isn’t a Sci-Fi Channel (I refuse to call it “Syfy”) original movie called Second Genesis in the next three weeks chock full of craptacular CGI and bad softcore pornographic actresses, I might have to write it myself.
Just imagine: We open on a sunny Californian beach; unrealistic girls in equally unrealistic bikinis, people having fun, maybe some skateboarding. All of a sudden a guy eating a hotdog drops dead. We get someone vaguely referential to play the governor; Carl Weathers, par example, or anyone who was in Predator. They call in top scientists to stop the lethal spread of the arsenic bacteria—living poison that wants to take over the world and kill off humanity—and just before the bacteria hits the jetstream and does us all in, the president makes the difficult call of nuking California! Throw a treacherous government employee secretly working for the bacteria somewhere in there and you’re good to go. We end on a heartfelt speech about the honor of rebuilding and remembering the fallen, then fade to credits.
Remember, when this is on TV in three weeks, you read it in The Aquarian first.
What this really means is there’s more to life than carbon, phosphorous, hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur and nitrogen. If there can be bacteria sitting around in a California lake for who knows how long that’s made partly of arsenic, then really, we know dick-all about what else is around in the universe. It’s a cool sign, in a way, because it means the search for extra-terrestrial life doesn’t have to be relegated to just the Earth-like planets out there, or at least not the as-Earth-like planets.
Maybe it’s not the biggest scientific discovery of our lifetimes, fine, but if it turns out to be that this bacteria was just formed arsenic-friendly—rather than having adapted to it over time—it could change the way people think about life. What if there’s bacteria out there made of iodine, or some other common household non-potable? Who the hell knows? No one yet, but you can bet they’re looking.
It’s a humbling experience, to be reminded of how little we actually know about the world around us. We discover new things all the time—planets, stars, dimensions; fancier, faster cellphones—but in the end, we’re still so limited when it comes to our understanding of the way things work. All I know is that arsenic-based lifeforms are a pretty cool thing to happen upon, and that like the best of science’s great works, this is probably just the beginning of a boatload of new discoveries. For now, we remain more astonished by which porn star Charlie Sheen is nailing this week, and I’ve got a screenplay to start writing.