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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2008 > Oct > Oct 3

Book Expands 'Alien' Life Biological

From: Steve Bass <steven.s.bass.nul>
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2008 12:11:31 -0400
Archived: Fri, 03 Oct 2008 08:19:54 -0400
Subject: Book Expands 'Alien' Life Biological

To All:

I found this on a site named Bio-Medicine, ChongQingShi, China:



New Book Expands Biological Classifications To Account For
'Alien' Life

What would you call an alien if you encountered it on the street
tomorrow? What if that alien didn't come from another world but
rather was created in a laboratory right here on Earth and
functioned differently from other Earth life?

Either way, Peter Ward has the beginnings of an answer. In a new
book, the University of Washington paleontologist puts forth an
expanded "tree of life," or biological classification system, to
account for a variety of life forms that would not fit in the
current system.

Among them are viruses, long considered to be non-living bits of
protein and nucleic acid but which Ward argues are as alive as
the many parasites that infect humans and other organisms. The
revamped classification system also would include life based on
RNA instead of DNA, and life found away from Earth that likely
would be based on silicon or elements other than the carbon-
hydrogen-oxygen-nitrogen mixture that is the backbone of life on

"To get to DNA life you had to go through non-DNA life, which we
no longer have," Ward said. "But just because a type of life goes
extinct doesn't mean you don't classify it. Otherwise you
wouldn't have dinosaurs on the tree of life. And until now there
hasn't been any place to put RNA life."

In the current popular classification system the highest levels
are three domains ?bacteria, archaea and eukarya, the last of
which includes all animals. Ward's plan places those three
domains within a larger dominion, which he calls "terroan" to
signify Earth origins. Another dominion he calls "ribosa" because
it is based on ribonucleic acid, or RNA. Other dominions could be
formed to cover life discovered to have a different base than DNA
or RNA.

The dominions would be placed within broader classifications
called "arborea," which contain life that does not mix with that
of other arborea. The Earth arborea would contain all life forms
found on this planet and other arborea would contain life found
away from Earth.

Ward presents his new model in a book called "Life As We Do Not
Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) alien Life,"
published by Viking and being released Thursday. The new system
is already necessary, he said, because "alien" life has been
created in laboratories on Earth. That includes microbes with at
least one amino acid beyond the 20 in the DNA of native Earth
life, or organisms that have been genetically modified, Ward
said. It also includes some life forms that have been modified to
be much simpler than what is normally found on Earth.

"We may never find other life away from Earth, but we have
already made aliens on this planet and we will continue to do so
at an increasing pace," he said. "In the last five years we've
come to realize that we can make microbial life in a lot more
ways than Mother Earth did."

Ward believes that if life is found away from Earth, at least
some could be based on elements such as silicon, perhaps in
combination with carbon. Because environments are far colder on
moons and planets farther from the sun, he said, it is less
likely that life on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, for
instance, will use water as Earth life does. Instead, those
organisms are more likely to use compounds such as ammonia that
remain liquid at very low temperatures.

Ward is one of several faculty members in the UW's groundbreaking
graduate program in astrobiology. The program, the first of its
kind, started in 1998 with a grant from the National Science
Foundation and has since been bolstered by funding from the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Students work in a
variety of areas, such as astronomy, microbiology and
oceanography, to prepare themselves for the search for life away
from Earth.

Ward also was a co-author, with UW astronomer Donald Brownlee, of
a popular book called "Rare Earth," published in 2000. The book
advanced the idea that simple microbial life might be very
common'"/> in the universe but complex life is probably so rare
and dispersed that Earth inhabitants might never encounter
another intelligence. Ward said his beliefs haven't changed from
the basic "Rare Earth" premise, but it is becoming clearer that
simple life found away from Earth could take forms not previously
expected. That's already happening in Earthbound laboratories.

"I hope people will wake up and realize this is a whole new
biology," Ward said. "There's going to be a zoo of aliens on
Earth in the next two decades just from what we make."

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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