Did Rosie Redfield just refute #arseniclife on her blog?

By Carl Zimmer | August 2, 2011 9:24 pm

Rosie Redfield of the University of British Columbia has steadfastly raised doubts about the headline-grabbing news about arsenic-based life last November. (If neither arsenic life nor Rosie Redfield ring any bells for you, check out my two pieces for Slate, in December and June.) Redfield then did something exceptional: she set out to replicate the initial findings, getting the original bacteria and seeing whether they can build DNA from arsenic when deprived of phosphorus.

And then she did something quite unique: she started to chronicle her experiences on her blog. It’s a fascinating peek into the lab notebook of a practicing scientist. Today’s post is especially intriguing:

“First evidence refuting Wolfe-Simon et al.’s results”

Among other things, Redfield reports that the bacteria seem to be able to grow at very low levels of phosphorus–levels that the original scientists claimed were too low to sustain the growth they saw.

Of course, Redfield has a lot of work left to do. She will have to run this experiment to its bitter end, write up the results, submit a paper to a journal, get it past peer review, and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal. But we can all watch her journey in real time.

[Update: Over on Google+, Richard van Noorden pointed me to a similar (if less headline-grabbing) live-blogged refutation in 2009.]


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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