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Joyce: Take it Down a Notch

Writing in PLoS Biology this week, Gerald Joyce at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., says that because "all known examples of life belong to the same biology," the increasing enthusiasm among researchers regarding alternative life forms ought to be kept in check. In a podcast accompanying the paper, Joyce tells PLoS Biology's Megan Hall:

If you look to those bits that reside within the molecular memory of that other system [of proposed 'alternative life'], where did those bits come from? Did they come from a branch of our life form, or did they come from somewhere else? So truly new — what we would call alternative life — would be life of a different biology. It would not have the same information in it that is part of the heritage of our life form. It would be off the grid, so to speak, of the big tree of life that we're all a part of.

Speaking about recent claims of alternative life — from groups led by Craig Venter, NASA's Felisa Wolfe-Simon, and others — Joyce tells Live Science he is concerned "that we cry wolf too many times, and people are going to start tuning it out." As such, he added, scientists should "cool it on these false alarms."

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