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Science doing what science does

Last December there was a big fuss about the arsenic bacteria reported in a NASA press conference. I followed along, read all kinds of wild speculation online, and tried to refute some of the more obvious errors people were making, as well as explain why arsenic-using bacteria could be very exciting.

After the excitement died down a bit, I and other scientists started to think more closely about the methods and results, and the claims the research team had made. I’m not a microbiology, but I read both the Science article and much of the online discussion, and came away disappointed.

Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her collaborators said they would only respond to formal critiques. Eight such, as well as a response, were published online in Science today, and will appear in print in the next issue. There are no new research findings, but further discussion and clarification of what was already reported.

I haven’t read the new papers yet, but will do so and summarize the claims and counterclaims this weekend. You can also read Dr. Rosie Redfield’s first impressions here. She is a microbiologist, one of the original and most vocal critics of the arsenic bacteria claims, and the author of one of the Science papers.

The most interesting thing I’ve noticed so far is that the authors are making their bacterial culture available to other scientists. That will go a long way to resolve the lingering questions, eventually.

One Comment

  1. Nick says:

    “I’m not a microbiology”

    Are you sure?