A different approach to finding alien life: What if ET breathes hydrogen instead of oxygen?

alien hydrogen planet concept
Credit: Frenta/Deposit Photos

The first time we find evidence of life on a planet orbiting another star (an exoplanet), it is probably going to be by analyzing the gases in its atmosphere. With the number of known Earth-like planets growing, we could soon discover gases in an exoplanet’s atmosphere that are associated with life on Earth.

But what if alien life uses somewhat different chemistry to ours? A new study, published in Nature Astronomy, argues that our best chances of using atmospheres to find evidence of life is to broaden our search from focusing on planets like our own to include those with a hydrogen atmosphere.

The authors carried out laboratory experiments in which they demonstrated that the bacterium E. coli (billions of which live in your intestines) can survive and multiply under a hydrogen atmosphere in the total absence of any oxygen. They demonstrated the same for a variety of yeast.

Related article:  Are you 'icked out' by human-monkey chimeras? Here's why scientists have taken this controversial step

The researchers demonstrated that there is an “astonishing diversity” of dozens of gases produced by products in E. coli living under hydrogen. Many of these, such as dimethylsilfide, carbonyl sulfide, and isoprene, could be detectable “biosignatures” in a hydrogen atmosphere. This boosts our chances of recognizing life signs at an exoplanet; you have to know what to look for.

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
ft covidresponseus feature

Video: Viewpoint: The US wrote the global playbook on the coronavirus and then ignored it

A year ago, the United States was regarded as the country best prepared for a pandemic. Our government had spent ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend