#ArsenicLife Goes Longform, And History Gets Squished

By Carl Zimmer | September 30, 2011 10:00 am

If you haven’t been tracking the arsenic life saga closely over the past ten months, check out Tom Clynes’s big feature at Popular Science. It focuses on the travails of Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the lead author on the paper, who has gone from the Olympian heights of TED talks to getting “evicted” from the lab where she’s worked for the past couple years. (Her word.)

For those of us who’ve been tracking the story for a while, that last fact popped out. Wolfe-Simon had been working in the lab of her co-author Ronald Oremland, but that’s now over. Let’s recall that her senior colleagues dubbed the intriguing microbe she studied GFAJ-1, for “Get Felicia A Job.”

It’s a good article. I won’t be forgetting the opening scene anytime soon, when Wolfe-Simon is ambivalently posing for a television crew, and she sinks into the mud of Mono Lake, where she first encountered GFAJ-1.

But I do share some of the reservations that science writer David Dobbs expresses over at his blog Neuron Culture. As a genre, the profile is one of the most addictive and enjoyable of all. It doesn’t matter if the profile is of a hero or a scoundrel; the story is good as long as it’s full of human nature in all its extremes. But profiles of scientists are tricky, because science transcends any single individual scientist. To do the science justice, you may need to pull the spotlight away and get into the less human stuff, like chemical reactions and pH levels.

The story thus focuses mainly on Wolfe-Simon, with scientific critics effectively reduced to mean chair-throwers, their scientific objections dispatched in a couple lines. People and events are relevant insofar as they affect Wolfe-Simon. And in the process, Clynes writes some mystifying stuff:

What made the level of criticism so extraordinary is that the paper, in itself, is not so flawed that it should not have been published. The argument was compelling, the conclusions were measured, the data was thorough, and the paper made it through the same peer-review process as other articles in Science.

And Clynes has us believe that this barrage of extraordinary, brutal criticism (or perhaps questions from journalists) forced Wolf-Simon and her colleagues to go into witness protection:

Overwhelmed with questions from the media, Wolfe-Simon went underground. Guided by NASA’s PR team, she and Oremland and the paper’s other co-authors began citing NASA spokesperson Dwayne Brown’s position that the authors would not be responding to individual criticisms. The agency, Brown said, didn’t feel it appropriate to debate science using the media and bloggers. Discourse should occur in scientific publications.

“I wasn’t hiding, but I didn’t want to get involved in a Jerry Springer situation, with people throwing chairs,” Oremland says. “There are hundreds of blogs some viable and some off the wall, and they all want an immediate response. To try to engage in scientific commentary that way seems like a descent into madness.”

What the–?

I’ve seen this version of the arsenic life story before, and I can say (as one of the people mentioned in Clynes’s story) that it simply does not square with the facts. I really hope it doesn’t get set in people’s minds like concrete.

Let’s just run through the timeline, shall we?

Thursday, December 2: An eagerly anticipated NASA press conference, the publication of the paper in Science, front-page news in leading newspapers, with no articles I’m aware of dealing seriously with the critics.

[Update: Friday December 3: Chembark, a chemistry blogger, declares, “I am not convinced.”  Jim Hu of Texas A&M writes, “Could there be arsenic-based backbone in the DNA? Maybe. But it would be extraordinary and so I would like to see better evidence.” I for one missed these posts.]

Saturday, December 4: Rosie Redfield, a microbiologist with a blog she mainly uses for her class, expresses deep skepticism. It is the only such blog post I know of that presented a detailed criticism at this point in the timeline. [Update–I should say, the only blog post I was aware of.]

Sunday, December 5: Alex Bradley, another microbiologist, guest-blogs at We Beasties in a similar vein. The criticisms are harsh but deal in the scientific details of the paper.

The audience for both posts is small–an audience of fellow microbe junkies.

By Sunday afternoon, I think it’s time to write something. I’m wondering if Redfield and Bradley are saying what a lot of other scientists are thinking. I start getting in touch with leading experts in the areas that the paper touches on. In the next couple days they will get back to me, and just about all of them say the paper has serious problems, one simply declaring it should never have been published.

Naturally, it’s only fair to give the authors of the study a chance to respond. So on Sunday afternoon, I send links to the two blog posts above to Oremland and Wolfe-Simon. Oremland promptly writes back, “Sorry, but ‘nope.'”

I’m a bit surprised and email back to find out why. Here’s what I get:

It is one thing for scientists to “argue” collegially in the public media about diverse details of established notions, their own opinions, policy matters related to health/environment/science.

But when the scientists involved in a research finding published in scientific journal use the media to debate the questions or comments of others, they have crossed a sacred boundary.

Monday, December 6: Wolfe-Simon emails back at 12:42 AM, a few hours after I emailed her. She cc’s all her co-authors and administrators at NASA, including the director of the astrobiology program:

Mr. Zimmer,

I am aware that Dr. Ronald Oremland has replied to your inquiry. I am in full and complete agreement with Dr. Oremland’s position (and the content of his statements) and suggest that you honor the way scientific work must be conducted.

Any discourse will have to be peer-reviewed in the same manner as our paper was, and go through a vetting process so that all discussion is properly moderated. You can see many examples in the journals Science and Nature, the former being where our paper was published. This is a common practice not new to the scientific community. The items you are presenting do not represent the proper way to engage in a scientific discourse and we will not respond in this manner.

Regards,
Felisa

In the morning I get busy on my story. That evening, the CBC comes out with a story focused on Redfield’s complaint, relaying NASA’s statement that it’s not appropriate for scientists to debate each other in the media. I scratch my head and get back to work.

Tuesday, September 7: I publish a story in Slate about arsenic life, describing the detailed criticisms of a number of scientists (which I’ve posted in full on the Loom). I quote the no-comments of Oremland and Wolfe-Simon.

—Now, we can have a fine debate about whether journalists should ask scientists to respond to criticism from other scientists about their work. Oremland and Wolfe-Simon may truly believe that this crosses a sacred boundary. I say it doesn’t. It’s standard practice. Science, where the arsenic life paper was published, lets reporters get their hands on papers early, and reporters regularly seek out other scientists for comments on those papers before publishing their articles. If two scientists post their thoughts on public blogs, there is no difference in asking authors of a paper to respond to their critiques. Trying to make such a distinction is pointless.

I’ve been doing this kind of thing for a long time, and I have never encountered a response like this one from the hundreds of scientists I’ve interviewed. And that includes scientists who work for or are sponsored by NASA, despite the claims that popped up that NASA policy forbids such open debate. In fact, the scientist who gave me the headline for my story–“This Paper Should Not Have Been Published”–is herself part of NASA’s astrobiology team. Did she say, “Mister, you’ve crossed a sacred boundary”? Nope. She wrote me a long, detailed explanation of why she thought the paper failed.

In other words, I’m pretty sure I’d win that debate.

But the story you get from Clyne and others is not that Oremland and Wolfe-Simon had some a priori policy never to deign to comment on criticism that weren’t published in a scientific journal. It’s that they were overwhelmed by Jerry Spinger-grade hordes of unseemly scientist bloggers and relentless journalists–so overwhelmed that they had to vanish. They were victims.

But for this version of events to be true, the hordes must have stormed their lab in a single day–at some point between Saturday, when Redfield posted her critique, and Sunday, when the scientists told me they wouldn’t comment for the story. As far as I can tell, there were just two blog critiques published during that time, and a CBC news article. If someone can point to any evidence of this alleged horde that I’ve somehow missed–perhaps the gnawed bones of some graduate student left in its trail–I’d love to see it.

Otherwise, this just seems like one of those stories that sounds good in hindsight. And if any good is going to come out of this strange saga, we should strive to get all its stories straight.

[Update: Clynes responds.]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Arsenic life, Link Love, Top posts

Comments (54)

  1. “sacred boundary”. Wow.

    An extremely valuable correction here, Carl.

  2. Judith in Ottawa
  3. Bravo Carl for this corrective.

  4. Superb.

    I have to admit, I was moved by the Pop Sci piece, and made a few starts on a blog post where I was going to argue that what Wolfe-Simon had gone through was no different from what most students and postdocs who publish high profile papers go through: some arrogance, some backlash, some backpedaling, and some learning. It seemed to me that she had just had the misfortune of having this play out on a much bigger stage than most.

    I’m glad I never got through it.

    Between this and Dobbs’s (also superb) post, it really becomes clear that this was — I don’t know — misbehavior? — of a more troubling sort. It’s also not clear that any lessons were actually learned by the perpetrators. Except maybe for the wrong lesson that everybody is so mean.

  5. It seems kind of strange that the team held a press conference to trumpet these results to the world media, then gets mad when the media tries to ask questions. If they were worried about “sacred boundaries” (ones that exist only in their minds) why did they make it such a media spectacle in the first place?

  6. Thanks for leading the way on this story, Carl, and I found both of the investigators’ emails to you to be a bit condescending — as though you aren’t familiar with how science must be done.

    Of course, I think that if they wanted to follow some artificial strictly peer-reviewed scientific process, they shouldn’t have thrown a big news conference — spinning their results in a way that would be wildly misunderstood by the media. It seems they wanted to make a splash, and they did, but they weren’t ready to handle the criticism. (It’s possible that the whole thing was a NASA publicist’s idea, and they let it get away from them.) In any case, a cautionary tale.

  7. John Kwok

    Great post, as usual, Carl. Thanks for setting the record straight, unlike, for example, Tom Clyne. I find many of the comments posted after his piece to be ridiculous, especially those in support of Wolfe-Simon’s sloppy scientific research:

    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-09/scientist-strange-land

    But the fault shouldn’t rest solely on hers and Oremland’s shoulders. Science bears a lot of responsibility too. Science should have taken seriously any critical reviews during that manuscript’s peer review process and should have not rushed the paper for publication.

  8. Alexa

    I would like to see a sociological analysis of what this reveals about the mentor-mentee relationship in general and specifically between FWS and Ron Oremland (and the other senior scientists on this paper). Ron Oremland spoke in support of the work multiple times in the month following the press release, and FWS tweeted about their fantastic relationship twice in December. Now, his quote about the press conference in the PopSci article shows strong negativity, and he has kicked FWS out of his lab. So…what happened? Does he now agree with his peers (critics) and feel that the work is incomplete, its publication indefensible? If so, why is he not pushing to retract it?

  9. Jason Dick

    Let me just say that as a scientist, I consider their response to be positively asinine. It sounds like a brazen attempt to shield the indefensible from criticism. When I publish a paper, I want criticism, especially thoughtful criticism. I’m not so much a fan of unthoughtful criticism, of course. But I know I make mistakes, all the time. And I really do want to make my work better if at all possible.

    For example, I’ve been working on sort of a pet project for a number of months, and as it got close to publication, I started circulating drafts among colleagues who I thought could offer useful criticism, criticism which I have strongly encouraged and thanked them for. If, when it does get out there, it turns out to have some glaring flaws, then I will be as embarrassed as hell when they are pointed out but I most definitely won’t say that they were “out of bounds” to point out the flaws. If I get criticism which I think is incorrect, I will respond forcefully. But on no account will I tell the person to shut up on account of the medium they used.

    I just find that completely and utterly wrong.

  10. Great analysis, Carl.

    This whole kerfuffle, in my opinion, is a classic case of humans being too stubborn to admit they screwed up. This is hard. Being wrong sucks. But digging your trench deep often leads to a needless war that drags on for years.

    NASA needs to admit their publicity approach was — and still is — flawed. This gets into embargo culture, but we need to go there: NASA continues to send emails about Big Important Webcasts to their embargoed media lists about events occurring on the day the embargo lifts. These emails contain cryptic phrasings that leave many guessing and others (who probably shouldn’t be seeing them in the first place) posting crazy “NASA may have discovered aliens ZOMG!!1!” content. If journals have already embargoed the information, why be so cryptic? And why organize a public webcast when the embargo lifts? Why not do this BEFORE the lift to a select audience? Yes, public webcasts bring publicity — but all of the wrong kind. Rushed, get-stuff-wrong kind of publicity. I don’t think need to regale anyone on this blog about the purpose and value of embargoes when properly used.

    Wolfe-Simon and her collaborators need to acknowledge your criticism, i.e. they are not exceptions in the scientific community. Answering criticisms discovered by journalists has been the process for years, and furthermore criticism does good science make (whatever medium it arrives within). That and I believe it’s the duty of scientists — especially publicly funded ones — to communicate their work with abandon, including any criticisms (particularly valid ones) that pop up. Let’s not hide behind smoke and mirrors here.

    Wolfe-Simon’s superiors need to acknowledge, to borrow David Dobbs’ phrasing, that they in part pulled up the publicity bus for her, fueled it, ushered her on, watched her drive away and then later threw her under it. Don’t roll the mess downhill if you helped make it. Accept it, then move on.

    And, perhaps hopelessly, writers (whatever their station) and editors need to ask themselves if they really understand the science or nature of the scientific culture they’ve written about before clicking “publish.” Otherwise, the risk for making an ass out of themselves — and their colleagues — is high.

    Ok, that will conclude ranting for today.

  11. Sacred boundary in discussing your work? Unless you’re working on something classified in the interest of national security or due to the legal restrictions of a criminal case in which you are an expert researcher/witness, you should be able to comment on what you want to publish. It sounds like they were in a siege mindset as soon as their paper was out. Why?

  12. Daniel J. Andrews

    Agree with Jason’s comments. I have to put out a paper soon that I’m rather anxious* about. I don’t know if I’ve made glaring mistakes, and the paper has some potentially big ramifications and a rather strong industrial group stands to lose quite a lot of money if my paper holds up to scrutiny. So I want criticisms, comments, even unfriendly ones, before I submit because even the unfriendly ones will be a whole lot tamer than what I’ll get from the industry if my paper is flawed.

    *”Anxious” isn’t really the word…tried “Scared S…errr….Sleepless”. My next post may be coming to you from a cardboard box on the streets of a major city in the back alley behind a Starbucks where I can pick up free wifi while I can contemplate my homeless condition and fall from grace and the job market.

  13. Science, and particularly biological science (although particle physics is beginning to approach it! ;-) is VERY messy, even if scientists rarely acknowledge it. This whole case has atypically put that messiness on public display for all to see, which is a good thing — the blogosphere, as the new burgeoning form of ‘peer-review’ can not only expose such messiness, but can evolve to be the best, most incisive and efficient (and yes, possibly harsh) means of cleaning it up.

  14. Good luck Daniel. Are there people outside your immediate group that you can have read your paper?

  15. Anchor

    Sympathy for prospective science superstar Wolfe-Simon because the criticism still isn’t about her?

    Declined.

  16. One thing that stuck out was that FWS ducked simple scientific questions but had no problem with friendlier audiences like TED or Glamour. I read the story and feel sorry for Wolfe-Simon, it sounds like her advisor abandoned her after things got bad. A curious response – was FWS leading the blockade of science questions and then felt burned later when those questions happened to be good ones? I think we’ll need to watch to see if there is any kind of retraction by Oremland.

  17. Jim Hu

    I actually blogged it on Friday Dec 3,

    http://dimer.tamu.edu/simplog/archive.php?blogid=3&pid=6940

    but my blog is even less read and more obscure than Rosie’s used to be, and I don’t think of myself as a Springer-like horde. My favorite line from the PopSci piece:

    “When she talks about the process of science, she talks about rigor, the need to build in yourself the tools necessary to answer the questions you ask.”

    if only…

    [CZ: Thanks, Jim. I’ve updated the post.]

  18. Damn, I would have loved to have been a part of your timeline of arsenic life history. I know no one reads chemistry blogs, but I posted a critique of the science in FWS’s paper on the morning of December 3rd, then followed up with a post on the 8th about my personal interaction with FWS. Link:

    http://blog.chembark.com/2010/12/03/preliminary-thoughts-on-the-arsenic-based-life-paper/

    [CZ: I’ve updated the post.]

  19. MadScientist

    Aaaahahahahahahaha! A “sacred boundary” in science? Hooooo-ey! I haven’t laughed so hard in ages … Now I can’t ditch this image of John Goodman in “The Big Lebowski”: “******* amateurs.”

    I haven’t seen the article at Pop Sci but from your description I can’t help but wonder if Wolfe-Simon hired a PR agency to snowjob the public. Is there a Twitter frenzy about it as well? People like me don’t care to know!

  20. Chris

    It’s been nearly a year. Hasn’t anyone tried to grow these little buggers and settle the debate once and for all?

  21. flip

    One thing that occurs to me is that quite often people are more willing to talk to (or accept criticism from) ‘well-known journalists/papers’. That is, they look down on bloggers or people from lesser-known websites/newspapers/etc. And in that way, they tend to approach the person making the enquiry as if they have no right to be asking. At least, that’s been my experience in trying to interview people. Why have a conversation with someone you’re not sure is even qualified to write, let alone understand the science; when you can chat with a well-known journalist and assume you’ll be given a good profile piece in a well-known place?

  22. If the public sphere wasn’t the place to discuss the science, then perhaps they shouldn’t have gone to such lengths to attract the public sphere to their science. I remember the build-up to this one quite clearly. That wasn’t non-scientists boosting this work through social media and other online venues. They are the ones who “crossed the sacred boundary” (that they appear to be alone in having discovered), and once they’d done that, they should have scienced up and simply dealt with valid criticisms from reasonable sources as they arose. There is no Emily Post-like set of rules governing scientific discourse. I am astonished at the condescension and evasion of that letter. What sort of public-awareness-blocking blinders or armor of hubris must one wear to respond in that way?

  23. As an atheist I am blind to sacred boundaries, I go where reason takes me — so I won’t apologize for retweeting and reposting links to Redfield’s interesting post on that Sunday.

  24. zmil

    I am confused. This story *was* the internet for several days. I have a hard time believing there was not a horde -of phone calls and emails, not blog posts. Blog posts are much easier to ignore than an overflowing inbox. I don’t dispute that their response was messy and poorly thought out, but, when I try to put myself in their shoes, I can see myself making similar mistakes in the heat of the moment- the thought of being thrust into the spotlight from anonymity is both titillating and terrifying. I would not trust my judgment in that sort of stressful situation.

    I suspect that they were, in fact, overwhelmed by the response. Perhaps they should have planned for this. Clearly they did not. Given that they did not have a plan, what should they have done differently afterwards? What better courses of action (Not words. Their words were poorly chosen, but foot-in-mouth disease affects us all.) were available to them? Should they have kept doing news conferences? Heck no. Should they have started a blog to respond to all the blogs? I don’t think so. A timewaster, and liable to flame wars. Should they have put out a brief initial response to the main points of criticism? Maybe. But there were a lot of main points, and a lot of subtle science. A brief response might have been worse than no response.

    Judging from some of the silliness in their initial responses, I suspect they might have been better off saying less than they did. Better to take your time. Say little. Think through the science. Run the controls. And write a response. Or another paper. Or a retraction.

    Anyway, as a fellow mad scientist, I sympathize. And I kinda wish people would cut ‘em a little slack. Science should be fun. Why so serious?

    [CZ: Zmil: When they declined to talk to me, they did not claim to be too busy. I’ve gotten plenty of responses like that in the past, so that would not have surprised me. Instead, they declared on principle that they would not respond to criticism. Only later did they give the impression they were overwhelmed.]

  25. John Kwok

    Carl –

    Please note that “Jerry Spinger” is “Jerry Springer”. Don’t know how I had missed that a few days back, but thought you should get the head’s up.

    I think what NASA, Oremland and Wofe-Simon did in publicizing this is so reminiscient of the Darwinius primate fossil discovery that was announced at a press conference held at the American Museum of Natural History a few years ago. However, those vertebrate paleontologists who described Darwinius were merely guilty of the relatively small sin of hype. What Ormeland, Wolfe-Simon and NASA did was substantially far worse.

  26. zmil

    Dayyum that was fast. Thanks for the response. A good point, and certainly that was an eyebrow raising response. I guess I just sort of saw that as just another weird thing they said in the heat of the moment, rather than a carefully thought out philosophy of science communication. It is odd that they would say that, rather than the obvious excuse, but…I don’t know. I can imagine saying weirder things if I was overwhelmed. And given that their current narrative seems to be that they were overwhelmed, I can at least see their story as plausible.

    As long as there is a plausible explanation that invokes stupidity rather than…not malice, but…greater stupidity, I guess- I tend to choose that explanation. Perhaps this is too charitable of me.

    Thanks again for the quick response.

  27. DK

    Clynes article attempts a whitewash of an extremely sordid story. I particularly did not like this: “As Oremland correctly notes, the paper was actually quite understated and conservatively written.” Bullshit. Oremland is shamelessly trying to save his face. There is nothing understated and conservative about claiming that As substitutes for P in DNA without ever doing direct experiment to prove it. A chemical analogy would be claims of discovering proteins in which Si takes place of C – without ever trying to see of Si-containing amino acids exist.

  28. Eeyore3061

    “…Guided by NASA’s PR team…”

    *THERE’S* the problem. Or at least the first one.

    It’s all effluent impacting the rotary air impeller from there.

    ;)

  29. ST

    I agree with DK (#32). The paper, or any paper in Science for that matter, is anything but understated. But what I really don’t understand is CZ’s very egocentric response to all of this. As Zmil (#27) points out, how do you know how many emails and phone calls they got? Yeah, they did make some stupid comments, but if you look at the letters later on published in Science their certainly was an onslaught of criticism.
    Lastly, people keep bringing up Rosie Redfield’s criticisms. Yes, the paper is flawed, but so are her criticisms. The open-scientific exchange is a beautiful thing, but then it should point out that Rosie apparently does not understand some of the techniques, such as gel-based DNA purification, used in the paper and that her critiques published in Science completely miss the point.

  30. John Kwok

    @ ST –

    I think DK (@ 32) has summed up exactly what Clynes tried to do in his article on Wolfe-Simon and her “discovery” of “arsenic life”. It is more reprehensible especially when NASA thought that she, Oremland and the rest of their team had made a very important scientific discovery and its PR machine went into full warp speed mode. Regardless of whether or not Redfield understood some of the experimental techniques, it seems as though her criticisms were quite sound.

  31. Q

    It seems to me, Carl, you were expecting them to respond like journalists — where responding immediately on a Sunday afternoon is expected (and any response, even a slightly incorrect one, is better than missing the deadline) — rather than like scientists, where accuracy is way more important than quick response. [I’ve spent some time translating between these groups, so I do know the difference firsthand]

    Sure, they didn’t pick their words very well. And, had NASA’s PR group been better, the scientists would have been prepared for these kinds of questions and able to respond quickly.
    But can you see that to a scientist, getting a question on Sunday afternoon and expecting a detailed response in a couple hours (one that needs to be more scientifically defensible than the paper they just spent months preparing) might be seen as a bit overwhelming?

    IMHO, rather than casting aspersions on the character of the scientists involved here, it might be more worthwhile to compare this episode with the recent neutrino report; in both cases its a finding that if true would be revolutionary, but with enough complications in the experiment that it’s probably more likely to be an error. Why are the arsenic scientists villified while the neutrino ones not?

    [CZ: The scientists DID respond to me immediately: to say that they refused to address any criticisms from other scientists.]

  32. Question: “Why are the arsenic scientists vilified while the neutrino ones not?”

    Answer: Because the latter, unlike the former, did not trumpet they had set a new paradigm, nor demand that lesser mortals should accept conclusions unsupported by results without questioning. Instead, they said “We have an anomalous result that flies in the face of countless counterproofs. We want the community to pick it apart and see where we might have made an error.” 180 degrees opposite from “How dare you criticize our results — the paper is in Science, end of story.”

  33. John Kwok

    @ Athena –

    Poor scientific papers can and do get past peer reviews in notable journals like Science and Nature. Unfortunately the “arsenic life” one is a notorious example. Merely having a paper published in these journals does not determine whether the paper does report truly noteworthy research.

    What you’ve said (@41) may be blunt, but it needed to be said.

  34. Jonny

    I’m not really interested in having “mob rule” dictate peer-review by relying on the Blogosphere. The Internet is an incubator for misinformation due to the innate lack of accountability. At least in a lab you have a pretty good idea that John Doe really is John Doe.

    That said I think scientific research should be expressed through video games as a way to involve the brains of the public. Remember what happened with AIDS recently? Make us try to grow arsenic-lifeforms, see if we can do it. I’m getting tired of playing Spore, all my aliens have become more efficient than fun, I need something new.

    Not to mention this would put more money in my pocket because, well, I make video games too. Besides such an endeavor being a hugely fun challenge, I’d also like to go to Cocktail parties without being looked-down upon as the electronic equivalent of a crack-dealer. That will change though, the news about AIDS research was a huge confirmation for me, big huge.

  35. Anon

    It seems to me that their position here basically works out to, “Scientists should never talk to each other about science except through peer-reviewed publications.” Which then makes me wonder how the peer-review process is supposed to work, since that will of course involve scientists talking to each other about science. Should the reviews also be peer-reviewed?

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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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