Are our basins, tubs and tiles being watched with envious eyes by intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic?
NASA, which has been priming the pump all week for a big press conference that starts in about twenty minutes, seems to think so.
Early leaks indicate the government space agency will announce that it has discovered an arsenic-based bacterium in Mono Lake, California.
We'll have to wait for the official announcement, but NASA's unexplained involvement makes this is a little more I Love the Nineties than even I would like. Oldsters may remember the pomp and circumstance President Bill Clinton brought to his "life on Mars" announcement back in 1996—which turned out to be microbial fossils discovered on Earth that may or may not have originated elsewhere. (The nearly total lack of followup on this publicity stunt in the 14 years since—and the failure of repeat missions to discover any life on the Red Planet itself—creates little confidence that the 1996 discovery was truly an early ancestor of Ray Walston.)
No doubt, an arsenic-based life form is pretty exciting stuff. But there's a step missing when you presume a mystery without clear earthly explanation must have an extraterrestrial solution. Maybe the conference will explain which cryptobiological Erich von Däniken thought NASA needed to be making this announcement. Wake me up when they find outer space life in outer space.
On the plus side, at least this time the president isn't bothering with the press conference. Also, it's been a good week for bacteria: Apparently E. coli can now solve sudoku.