So, of course, the big news splashing around everywhere today is the announcement by NASA scientists that they’ve discovered a new life form — a bacterium that can replace arsenic for phosphorus, one of life’s building blocks.
It’s pretty cool, and makes you realize that life really IS stranger than fiction (even science fiction!). In the New York Times article on the topic, the lead researcher, Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon is quoted as saying: “This story is not about Mono Lake or arsenic, but about “cracking open the door and finding that what we think are fixed constants of life are not.”
I love that. The idea that what we “know” is open to debate, change, and even radical revision by new discovery is the essence of science – of what a thinking, curious mammal should embrace. It is also, of course, an attitude at the heart of the creative impulse in speculative fiction.
So, when we get home tonight, let’s all sit down for a moment, open our computers, or notebooks, or whatever, throw out what we think are the fixed constants of life, and dream up something fantastic. Who knows? One day it might just turn out to be true.