Friday, December 10, 2010

Science: Science as it Happens

On December 2nd NASA announced research that may change our view of life. The announcement was about how a bacteria originally found in a toxic lake in California had, in the lab, started to use arsenic in its biologic processes instead of phosphorous.

On December 4th Rosie Redfield blogged about issues she had with the scientific paper that was announced to the public on the 2nd. Writing on her blog that covers research and research papers she expected only a few researchers to read about the issues she found with the original paper.

By December 7th Carl Zimmer, writing in Slate, started to cover the controversy over the original paper.

By December 8th Carl followed up his Slate article with a blog entry on Discover where he published replies from experts that he solicited for his Slate article. It's interesting to be able to read the replies of some of the critics of the original paper.

Normally all of this takes place behind the scenes. Papers go through peer review. Papers get challenged. Ideas flow back and forth. Ideas get 'corrected' or 'replaced' or get firmly set in place when they survive challenges. The ongoing consensus moves forward and the scientific view of the world may be slightly different than it was before.

Here in front of us is much of that discussion. Happening in public after a very public introduction of a research paper. (After all you can't get more public than a press conference). This type of dialog is not unexpected or unusual. What's unusual is that the discussion is so public and the pace of the dialog so fast.

Science as it happens right in front of our eyes. It will be fun to see what happens next.

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