Tag: Roger Penrose

Arsenic and old Universe

By Phil Plait | December 7, 2010 1:58 pm

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…
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