Two news updates, both of which are pretty interesting.
1) The arsenic-utilizing bacterium is still in the news… because a lot of scientists are casting serious doubt on the results. Carl Zimmer, biology journalist (and Discover blogger) wrote a very interesting article about it for Slate (and has followups on his Discover blog). The criticism is not mild, either, with words like "flim-flam" being used. Carl approached the investigators who wrote the paper for Science, and they declined to comment — that’s usually an excuse, but in this case I think they’re right; they don’t want to engage in a scientific debate through the media. But I certainly hope the investigations continue.
I’ll note I reported the press conference results straight — at some level, I have to trust the scientists know what they’re doing, that the peer-review process is working, and the results reliable. In this case, with a result depending on some relatively complex biological and chemical arguments, I was acting out of trust. This trust may yet be proven to be borne out, or it may not. It’s possible the original researchers are correct, and it’s possible their critics are. The best way to find out is more science.
But when it comes to astronomy news…
Two of my
Hive Overmind Discover Magazine co-bloggers took home the top two awards from Three Quark Daily’s science blogging contest: Carl Zimmer of The Loom, and our new blogger Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science. They both wrote about interbreeding of sorts, clearly pandering to the judge, squishy science advocate Richard Dawkins.
OK, seriously, this is very cool. It’s nice to see science blogging get recognized (some major web awards still don’t have a science category), very nice to see good science blogging get recognized, and very very nice that two of the three awards went to folks here at Discover.
When I first moved my blog to Discover a couple of years ago now, I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I trusted the brand and the people at the magazine. This was clearly a good decision — I’m happy here, and I’m really proud of Carl and Ed. They deserved those awards… and I bet we’ll be seeing a few more coming this way over time. We have an excellent group of writers here, and I suspect Discover Magazine will be a force among online science journalism and opinion writing for a long, long time to come.
My fellow Hive Overmind blogger Carl Zimmer just won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Kavli Science Journalism Award for writing in large newspaper, specifically the New York Times.
Carl Zimmer won in the large newspaper category for a trio of articles he wrote for The New York Times on aspects of genetics and evolution. "I sometimes feel a little embarrassed that I like to write articles about the kinds of basic questions my kids ask me," Zimmer said. “For the three stories I submitted, the questions were, "What’s a virus?" "What’s a gene?" and "Why do fireflies flash?" I had a marvelous time talking with scientists about the complex answers to those simple questions, and now, thanks to this award, I don’t have to feel at all embarrassed.” Zimmer previously won in the online category in 2004.
And he shouldn’t be embarrassed, because it’s exactly those kinds of questions that should be written about! Engaging the public is what more scientists should do, and if they did it as well as Carl the world would be a better place.