Biology

Summary

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Not long after your retirement from a long and successful career as a cell biologist, you receive an email from a government agency seeking your input in trying to understand a single-celled life-form that was discovered living in asteroids by a robotic probe. The probe had a simple microscope and was able to determine several properties of these foreign cells, named xenocytes. They include:

· Long strings of nucleic acids (interestingly, with an Arsenic backbone, rather than Phosphorus).

· Another organelle absorbs gamma radiation to convert complex molecules into a silicon-based sugar that is used by the rest of the cell.

· Left alone in space, the organism is somehow able to keep from freezing throughout dormant phases. However, during times of greater cellular activity, there is a special organelle that appears to increase the temperature of the cell even further as cell functions are carried out.

The government agent appears to be quite bewildered, as he never took his science studies seriously as a student and is now being asked to speak to the public about the discoveries. He asks you to hypothesize and describe the potential functions of each of these components to someone with no science background. You make a mental note that you (1) plan to liken the first two to plant and animal cell structures, and that (2) you will have to explain some basic thermodynamic principles in explaining the third. Finally, (3) you are able to predict a few other important cell functions that are likely to be discovered based on what you know about life on Earth. Please include your response to the agent below.

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