Our discussion yesterday about bad science writing took a sharp turn, jumped the rails, and landed over at Language Log, where my brother Ben takes over. Suddenly I feel a new kinship with the Psalms Book of Proverbs….
Barry Bloom’s article “Consider the armadillo” was slightly over-optimistic in that despite use of the armadillo we do not yet have a leprosy vaccine. The armadillo-grown vaccine proved no better than BCG. But the Mycobacterium leprae genome sequencing project depended on the use of this animal to grow enough of the bacillus to make enough M. leprae DNA to get a genomic library. And curiously, as it represents a kind of cut down version of the TB genome, the M. leprae genome has probably been more useful in understanding TB than leprosy. So nothing absurd about “considering the armadillo”.
How about starting an article with something even more whacky, like “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”…
Oh bugger, someone got there first:
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Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The Loom. He is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.