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Remember NASA’s arsenic origin of life study?

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/Julius Schorzman

This one?

Well, this Canadian scientist has tried grow cells with arsenate:

The complete lack of growth of the arsenate cultures in the screw-capped glass tubes contradicts my previous results. Might growth in arsenate depend on gentle mixing as well as on mysterious unidentified factors? (This shouldn’t matter since the cells are motile…)

– Rosie Redfield, “No growth in 40 mM arsenate in ANY container!”, ( RRResearch, October 18, 2011)

This is ridiculous. I don’t think I’ve ever had such blatantly non-reproducible results before. All I can think of to do next is to once again test growing cultures in glass screw-capped tubes, in medium with and without arsenate. But even if the cells grow with arsenate in this next test, I won’t have any idea why, or why they didn’t in this experiment. And anyway this experiment clearly says the problem isn’t the containers.

No. Probably the old lace is to blame.

See also: This guy knows exactly what happened in the history of life on Earth”

Rosie Redfield was the microbiologist curmudgeon who said that the Nature paper on arsenic loving bacteria should never have been published. After getting a lot of pushback herself, she decided to prove her points by growing the stuff in her own lab. Only she isn't able to get it to grow at all. Why? Because microbiology is as much an art as a science, and to be honest, many of us doubt Rosie's credentials as a competent experimentalist, since she doesn't seem to be that familiar with a microscope. It's one thing to get a degree reading books, its quite another thing to be able to grow bacteria in a culture. We all hope that she will succeed, if only to learn whether her experimental technique is better than the woman she criticized, but don't hold your breath. Robert Sheldon

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