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How You Can Manipulate Life

A short summary of Popular Science article Have We Found Alien Life? in the February 2015 issue.

How does life actually work? Does a living thing need to breath oxygen?

According to research by Kenneth Nealson of the University of Southern California, there is life all around us which is fundamentally different from what we understood as life to date. Nealson found bacteria which obtains its food in a fundamentally different fashion. They don't breathe in the sense that you and I do. In the most extreme cases, they don't consume and conventional food either. Instead, they power themselves in the most elemental way: by eating and breathing electricity.

What makes this so surprising? From a biolgist's point of view, life that doesn't need a molecular energy source like carbohydrates to live is about as unlikely as a human flying in the air without an airplane. It's science fiction. But honestly, wasn't the computer science fiction once too?

So how does knowing this help us to manipulate life?

As discovered by Hans Berger in 1924, our brains also emit subtle electric waves. Electrical waves can be measured and can be controlled. In fact, other parts of our bodies, use electricity too. For instance the nervous system uses electrical impulses to collect, process and respond to information about the environment. So electricity is not that foreign to us.

If our minds also produce electricity, then couldn't we have the ability to manipulate something which uses electricity?

And this is so.

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