The search for xenon biology just got a huge lift (or will, if the rumors are true, we'll know later today). A bacterium has been discovered (reportedly) that substitutes arsenic for the phosphorous the rest of life on this planet (that we know about) uses. It'll be interesting to see if this is just a chemical swap, or if this means the DNA is a completely different lineage (and strengthens the hypothesis that life on this planet wasn't a single event) or if they mean that the cell uses arsenic the way our cells use phosphorous. Phosphorous, if you don't know, is the main energy carrier in your body's cells. It helps form a molecule called ATP, which had three phosphorous atoms hanging off the end. Snap one off (phosphorylise) and you've got your energy. Your main cellular energy production (Glycolosis, Krebs Cycle, Electron Transport Chain and ATP Synthase Gated Channel) is all about making ATP from ADP and Pi. That we now have a bacteria that uses a form of arsenic to store and use energy is big. Huge. Will it mean faster microwaves (1 minute for a hot dog is too damn long now)? No. But it means the "special Earth ark" theorists just got dumped on and the possibility for extra-terrestrial life grew by a magnitude. Sarah Goslee has a better breakdown of what news we have so far, which is to be expected as she's a pretty damn good biologist.
Okay, I've joked on other blogs about the new TSA procedures and that the new machines and pat-downs won't detect explosives hidden in body cavities, and it's just a matter of time until we have to submit to a full body cavity search. Seems I'm not the only one who has thought of that (ACLU blog article on how the ACLU will oppose those, too, once they get here, which uses the same logic I did). The money shot, as usual, is at the end, "… but when Americans make that decision, they should do so with their eyes wide open, without any illusions that this will prevent all attacks on airliners, much less attacks on shopping malls or all the infinite number of other plots and targets that terrorists could come up with if they are not stopped by competent law enforcement and intelligence agencies." Yeah, that. Remember the conservative mantra of "fighting terrorism isn't a law enforcement issue"? So how come all the latest terrorist attack attempts in the US have been foiled by law enforcement?