In “Critics take aim at NASA ‘arsenic life’ study” (May 27, 2011), CBC News tells us
Eight articles questioning a controversial study claiming that some bacteria can use the normally toxic substance arsenic to build DNA have been published in the journal Science.The study, published last December in Science, was led by NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and claimed that bacteria from a lake in California were able to substitute arsenic for phosphorus, normally an essential ingredient in DNA, fats and proteins.
At issue was a new strain of a new strain of Halomonadaceae bacteria from Mono Lake, Calif., that seemed to use arsenic instead of phosphorus, which is essential for DNA, fats, and proteins. This fact, if it is a fact, was immediately drafted as an origin of life theory. Then, in an unusual move, scientists began to ask questions as if an OOL theory deserved to be taken seriously. At which point …
Real possible significance of story: Is this the first time one of NASA’s flight-by-seat-of-pants origin of life theories took a big hit from within the establishment, and not just from incredulous peasants? Perhaps so, to judge from NASA’s reaction:
At that time, NASA said Wolfe-Simon would not be responding to those criticisms, as the U.S. space agency did not feel it was appropriate to debate the science using media and blogs. Instead, it said, the debate should occur in scientific publications.
Well, they got their wish. But would that have happened if it were not for the “media and blogs”?
File under: NASA discovers the Internet.