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From the Atlantic: Montana Trailer Park guy upends biology


Ed Yong tells us at the Atlantic:

In the 150 years since Schwendener, biologists have tried in vain to grow lichens in laboratories. Whenever they artificially united the fungus and the alga, the two partners would never fully recreate their natural structures. It was as if something was missing—and Spribille might have discovered it.

He has shown that largest and most species-rich group of lichens are not alliances between two organisms, as every scientist since Schwendener has claimed. Instead, they’re alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view.

“There’s been over 140 years of microscopy,” says Spribille. “The idea that there’s something so fundamental that people have been missing is stunning.” More.

People missing the obvious is not stunning. Not if we have been following the story. Consensus breeds a sort of comfortable but sometimes baseless certainty.

Where were the enforcers of consensus when this was even allowed to happen?

See also: He said it: Michael Crichton on consensus science “I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet because you’re being had.”


Physicist defends consensus science

A fascinating TRI symbiosis. "“It makes lichens all the more remarkable,” adds Nick Talbot from the University of Exeter. “We now see that they require two different kinds of fungi and an algal species. If the right combination meet together on a rock or twig, then a lichen will form, and this will result in the large and complex plant-like organisms that we see on trees and rocks very commonly. The mechanism by which this symbiotic association occurs is completely unknown and remains a real mystery.” DLH

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