Interesting biology news, Off Topic

Joe Shaw
Wed, 23 May 2007 18:05:50 PDT
Hi Gang,

A report today claims that some fungi can use ionizing radiation to fuel 
their metabolism; i.e. gamma rays.  The claim is that they actually use 
radiation, and not radioactive compounds.  The process, if verified, is not 
at all like photosynthesis in the details.

But, like photosynthesis, the process is thought to take advantage of the 
ability of electromagnetic radiation to bump electrons around.  The idea is 
that, ionizing radiation knocks the electrons into higher energy states 
(just as light can) and as they fall to lower energy states the electrons 
release energy that the fungi can capture as chemical energy to drive the 
processes of life.

Electromagnetic radiation comes in increasing energies, generally arranged 
(from lowest to highest) as: radio waves, microwaves, terahertz radiation, 
infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, and gamma 
rays.  Today's report, by Ekaterina Dadachova and her colleagues at the 
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, claims that some fungi utilize gamma 
radiation to help them grow.  (LINK 1, LINK 2).

This is a very weird, but not totally unanticipated, announcement. 
Scientists have long speculated that life might exist (somewhere) that is 
able to take advantage of thermal energy, or gravitational energy, etc., as 
primary energy sources (LINK 3).  I will be curious to see if this report is 
verified.  Such ability would greatly enlarge the scenario for life, what it 
is and where it might be found.

You could imagine life evolving in many unusual places including deep space. 
You could suppose the universe is full of life, just as it is full of energy 
and matter.

The question then arises, how come we have not observed this type of life 
before?  Either we're looking at the universe with blinders, or some 
principle is keeping such life from happening very often or spreading to 
within our view.

I can't wait to grow bigger and better Crinum.  I'll genetically engineer 
them to utilize microwave radiation and then give them 5 minutes a day in 
the microwave oven.



Conroe TX

LINK 1:  Press Release, Einstein Researchers Discover Radiation-eating Fungi…

LINK 2:  Original Research Paper by Dadachova et al., Fungi utilizing 
radiation (PLOS, open source)…

LINK 3:  Alternative Energy Sources for Life on Europa (speculation)… 

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