This should have been Felisa Wolfe-Simon's moment in the sun. But as the television crew takes positions, the 34-year-old scientist glances at the gray, churned-up lake behind her and gathers her collar around her neck. On cue, she begins her explanation of this lake's unique chemistry, her voice rising in volume and pitch above the wind.
She's halfway through the take when the gulls arrive. They swoop and swirl above the shoreline in a swarm, calling in harsh, jeering tones that drown out her carefully chosen words. As the sound technician pulls off her headphones in frustration, the director Oliver Twinch halts the taping and ventures a smile in Wolfe-Simon's direction. "How about we try that one again?" he says.
"I think we'll have to move," Wolfe-Simon says, peering down toward her boots. "I'm sinking in the mud."
It is this mud, and the peculiar microbes in it, that have stuck Wolfe-Simon in the middle of one of the most extraordinary scientific disputes in recent memory. Last December, at a highly publicized NASA press briefing, Wolfe-Simon announced that her research team had isolated bacteria from Mono Lake, on the edge of California's Eastern Sierra mountain range, that could subsist on arsenic in place of phosphorus, one of the elements considered essential for all life.
The research, financed mostly by NASA and published initially in the online edition of Science, jolted the scientific community. If confirmed, scientists said, the discovery would mean that this high mountain lake hosts a form of life distinct from all others known on Earth. It would open up the possibility of a shadow biosphere, composed of organisms that can survive using means that long-accepted rules of biochemistry cannot explain. And it would give Mono Lake, rather than Mars or one of Jupiter's moons, the distinction of being the first place in our solar system where "alien" life was discovered.
the conflict spilled into the mainstream, the scientific community witnessed something few would have predicted: meaningful public engagement over a serious scientific issue. For several days, at least, a good many watercooler conversations revolved around the metabolic capabilities of a Gammaproteobacterium.But within days, researchers began to question Wolfe-Simon's methodology and conclusions. Many of them cast aside traditions of measured commentary in peer reviewed periodicals and voiced their criticism directly on blogs and Twitter. Then, as
Among academics, the debate devolved into something more vitriolic and personal. One researcher questioned whether Wolfe-Simon and her team were "bad scientists." Another called her work "science fiction." One blog post bore the title "Is Felisa Wolfe-Simon an Alien?"
In early June, a few days before going to Mono Lake, Wolfe-Simon and I met at a café in Palo Alto. Standing just over five feet tall, she has curly brown hair and wears a tiny diamond stud in her nose. She ordered an espresso at the counter, sat down, and pulled a digital audio recorder from her bag.
"Mind if I tape this?" she asked.
Wolfe-Simon had spent much of the previous six months avoiding the media, insisting that she and her colleagues needed to focus on their formal "technical response" to the criticisms leveled against them. The months we'd spent negotiating this face-to-face interview had featured several last-minute cancellations, including one issued when I was on the plane out to meet her. She told me she had been misquoted and misunderstood by both her scientific peers and reporters who focused heavily on the doubts raised about her work, while disregarding its strengths. Hence the recorder. "Now I understand what's going on," she told me, "when you see 'So-and-so's office has been contacted, but they will have no comment.' "
Wolfe-Simon has learned to be cautious in her dealings with the media—she has learned that it can be dangerous to reveal too much of herself—but she does have comment. The daughter of trumpet players, she earned two bachelor's degrees from Oberlin College, one in oboe performance and one in biology (with a chemistry minor). 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. She talks about endless repetition. "When musicians go up there and it looks like they're having fun," she says, "what you're seeing are the long hours in the practice room." She says this in a way that suggests that to her it's the long hours that are fun, or at least deeply satisfying. "Science isn't easy," she says. "But there's a joy and synergy in coming to a deeper understanding of the nature around you."
And, that's whasup.
And, THAT'S whasup.
Don't feel bad Felissa Wolfe-Simon;
I feel the same way: www.DoubleBatteryLife.com explains my USA patent electrical/electronic circuit gleans out more than double the normal joules of energy from standard alkaline batteries (flashlight batteries). It should have been my day in the sun too, but instead I get nothing but laughs and skeptisism?
Its super simple, super cheap @ perhaps only 15 cents per circuit board once en masse production is started; can be installed in any alkaline battery operated device.
1. It makes toy trains go twice as far first day , and more on succeeding days
2. Our flashlight searchlight version is so bright you can see the beam at night when you shine it up into the dark night sky
3. Joules tests reveal over 100% MORE joules in alkaline cells when normal users throw them away
4. We can take alkaline batteries out of the trash and run them in our flashglights.
5. Not as good for rechargeables except a niche use for emergency use such as live saving medical, win the race, where the user is not so worried about years of use.
6. I even built a micro-controller circuit that automates the whole process so that it would be transparent to the user (in other words a factory would install the circuit and the users would simply put normal alkalines in as usual but would get at least double the use (Or photos in the case of the digital cameras).
No one believes it except those perhaps 12 people who have seen it working; we use it everyday around the house and even in toy trains to demonstrate to layman that since the laps around the circular train track represent work (WORK = force x distance and F = ma of course). We used to measure amps and volts to calculate the watts output but still no one believed in it.
If anyone wants a good story please humor us and goto the website: WWW.DOUBLEBATTERYLIFE.COM Jeff Davis inventor and patent owner
The Truth Sets You Free ! www.DoubleBatteryLife.com
The science community can be a nasty bunch, it's like a soap-opera. Someone discovers something exciting and instantly becomes a target; just a theory might get jealosy, backstabing, even insult.
I think she's doing excellent work that will help in understanding the future discoveries from and in space. Particularly in meteors and Jupiter's moon, Europa.
NASA, as a science and space exploration agency, should receive more heat. Similar findings were done 2 miles under the ocean, with marine life swiming around sulfur vents...a lot of life (see Aliens Of The Deep). But they didn't seem much interested, why? Oh, maybe because they didn't discover it.
They also have a scientist of their own that, like Felisa, discovered something very interesting; the posibility of alien microbes in a metorite. But they look at him as a half-nut who dreams too big; oh, but he's still working there...hmmm.
Honestly, I don't understand why the fever with Mars and the bigger telescope. You know, Europa seems to be an almost sure bet of having somekind of life under it's ice-cap. So, DAMN! Why not send the best robotic probe that can be designed and clear that up? I don't need to see more stars and more red deserts, I need to see an ocean, and something swimming in it.
Maybe it is alien?
Logic: it we all agree that comets, asteroids, and other debris have at least at one time or the other hit the earth..are not these objects alien to earth? So its not so much of a reach to believe that at least one microbe type might actually be from another solar system or planet (making it alien to normal earth) !
But what if instead of presuming that all events are random, lets pretend for a moment that some of the things might be deliberate, yes a specific object with specific properties or even life forms aimed at (or landed) on earth by higher intelligence life form. Re: viking mars lander introduced to mars objects and perhaps microbes "alien" to mars.
CONSIDER: that if you take all the mass of all the universe ; the earth would be still smaller than the tiniest speck of dust in that whole mass; so it makes sense that there is "other life" out there somewhere (maybe closer than you think). WE MUSTN'T PRESUME THAT ALL LIFE IN ALL THE UNIVERSE REVOLVES AROUND US! (the earth is not flat , nor is the earth the center of our solar system).
Further since; we are enjoying some type of livihood and survival, it would also follow that IFF some of these things were deliberately accomplished, then that would mean that these alleged higher intelligence life forms must be beneficial (friendly) to humans; just food for thought!
The Truth Sets You Free !
We've seen before where people who are multi-talented are met with more skeptisism than those who have focused only on one area. Just because Felissa is good at music doesn't mean she isn't also a good scientist !
The Truth Sets You Free !
What about those microbes feeding on arsenic compound which have been known already to be found on earth? Why she has to think what she found is something from outside the earth?
Don't go into Marketing. That field really stinks! I've worked alongside many people with Marketing degree, and their careers aren't going anywhere.
NASA was created to be a dog-and-pony show. Science gets tacked on as a bonus, but NASA's reason to exist is to showcase the President's technological power. That's why NASA's missions change like the drapes in the White House. You don't see these kind of theatrics from the NIH or even the NSF, which have the same budget dependence as does NASA. My mom has worked in several research labs, none of which has ever called a press conference. NASA gets more limelight than any science agency I've ever seen.
NASA has staked its future on the human desire to find ET life. Maybe that's what it takes to get funding, but I want to know about Mars because I think it is an interesting place on its own, not because I expect to find life there. I like knowing things. Maybe that's why I'd be just as happy if NASA stuck with putting men on Moon? I think that sending astronauts 6 months out into deep space is far beyond our technological will and ability to fund at sufficient levels. We need more than PR stunts; we need a sustainable plan.
some people think different,and we can`t please everybody,there also so many alien in my country,immigration chasing them( illegal alien) hehehe.I am biologist too.
The discovery of an unknown microbe is great. I think that in other stars other microbes exist and they live on differenet materials like sulfur for example.
It is evident that intellectual (and by derivation, institutional) snobbery are alive and well in the PopSci comment community. What amazes me is how many of those who choose to comment, based on their statements, seem unable to read and comprehend the article. They are nearly as bad as the perpetrators of the extremely uncivil discourse this whole issue has spawned, and for which these intellectually bankrupt individuals deserve shunning by their fellows.
Typically the most profound new truths are eventually proven to be simple old truths that were initially met with skepticism. Alien intelligence discovered on earth? (Phoenix1012?) Since the research papers from CERN, I must conclude that this perceived version of a dimensional reality is inconsistent with the mathematical models of actual quantitative time space, proportional to the square of the mass of widely distributed y-chromosonic bovine excrement previously identified in the Universe as "Dark Matter". Presuming of course the validity of the relevant postulate that we are, A )Because we think we are. or B) Because someone else thinks we are. C) Because we can't prove with Math that we are not. or D) All of the above. :)
Somewhere out in space MAY be a group of Aliens or extraterrestrials whom are astounded at our violence, our ability to starve and kill each other by the millions, yet have the ability to think logically and understand consequence. That in it self " Oh look they've discovered us again! giggle,laugh, snort!',, and most of them are still living in mud huts!." this may represent cosmic irony, or perhaps they are thinking we are a totally new and unbelievable race of creatures. In an infinite Universe "why not?' Ideas like water in space, men flying in or out of space, bio-engineering, atomic bombs etc were all scoffed at as implausible or impossible by reputable experts of their day. It is the human media circus and the posturing of scientific superiority of one fields greater proof over another that acts as a barrier to finding the truth(s). Matter? Anti-Matter? Doesn't-Matter? Your careers are not over folks because of the Media's hoopla. Who really cares if Aliens have extra-testicles or not! (With or without the Arsenic). Just keep them off my Periodic table!
Popular Science is supposed to be about the science of the paper- this article would be more appropriate in People mag. The question is-was the science any good, and evidently it was not. Now, most published science papers are not very good. But this 'junior researcher' published a paper that made a historical claim- if she did not expect to start a storm, she was naive as well as inexperienced. Science has always been a field for the thick-skinned and researchers who make huge claims need very thick skin.
Whether the paper was so flawed it should not have been published is not a matter of opinion. The bacteria are obviously growing on the phosphate contaminating the 40mM (!) arsenate being used in the media. I do allege misconduct by the authors. They grossly misrepresent the data in the Supplementary Table 1 in the initial article and the Technical Comments and perform another unacceptable distortion of the statistics (standard deviations) in the Technical Comments.
Who is Rosie Redfield and why does she look so much like a man? I pose a hypothesis, that all women possessing the name "Rosie" are overbearing lesbians, with low self esteem that makes them lash out at anyone of their gender that appears to be happy and successful, they possess a bad case of penis envy that they transpose onto anyone or anything that makes them feel insignificant, overlooked and unfufilled, fueling the urge to interject themselves in the limelight by way of creating controversy. Maybe someone can spend some time researching my hypothesis.
The recent awarding of the Chemistry Nobel to Dan Schectman for a discovery he made almost 30 years ago, and for which he was initially laughed at by prominent scientists, including fellow Nobel-er Linus Pauling, should give all scientists pause when commenting on any new discoveries. A paradigm shift is always hard for the establishment. See Thomas Kuhn on "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". (or check out the Wikipedia article on the topic for a quick and dirty version.)
There's weird stuff out there that isn't yet explainable, folks. Dark matter, dark energy, faster than light neutrinos. Some speculations are wrong, though eventually, the truth will out, as scientists work through the problems. i.e. cold fusion? -- almost certainly wrong, though there are still believers. Lamarck vs. Darwin vs. "Creationism"?; Darwin hands down. Pesky neutrinos, Arsenic in bacterial DNA --- still up for grabs.
Let's not get our undies in a bunch. Einstein once said, in effect, either everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle. Let's hang onto the possibility that we don't know everything yet, and probably never will!
There is an eerie similarity as to what has happened to Elaine DeFreitas, PhD, Judy Mikovitz, PhD, and now Felisa Wolfe-Simon,PhD.
The parallels are intriguing. All 3 are highly accomplished women scientists. All 3 were inadvertently thrust into premature media exposure.
The media and the halo of personalities surrounding each hyped the science resulting in undeserved condemnation from their peers.
The term “Borked” has come into common parlance, but lacks something. To Use “DeFreitas-ed”, as a similar verb is awkward.
You professional word-smiths should create some pithy term for this phenomenon.
Some things are unavoidable. That science has now not only displaced religion, but actually replaced it, there is also a mimicry in behavior; the inquisition.
When one challenges either God or the structure of life, there will always be hell to pay.
I find that, to reject something as "unscientific" or claiming that it must be biased or incorrect because it is different - no matter how many boundaries it pushes - is more or less the same thing as all the racial discrimination we have had in America not one hundred years ago. GFAJ-1 ("Scientist In A Strange Land") is different and pushes the boundaries of life as we know it, yes, but that does not automatically mean that it cannot exist or the research is incorrect. It does mean that we should look into the matter further and then make a virdict. It saddens me that after all these centuries, we have not yet learned to ignore the fact that something is different from the "norm" and move on as a whole.
My theory as to why GFAJ-1 ("Scientist In A Strange Land") can use arsenic rather than phosphorus is that, via evolution and natural selection, GFAJ-1 used what was available - in this case, arsenic. One cell may have mistook arsenic for phosphorus, a common occurence, and managed to use it in the place of phosphorus. Then, this cell may have multiplied, creating a new species than can survive with either aresnic or phosphorus. This is just another example of an organism adapting to its environment, using whatever it can to survive and potentially thrive.
First Let’s Learn What Life And Genes Are:
The DNA and RNA genomes are ORGANISMS evolved by life’s primal ORGANISMS, the RNAs, and so are all cells…
(Extend evolution way down to genes, life’s base ORGANISMS. Culture modifies genetics, not vice versa...)
Pavlov’s Smile: RNAs Are Earth’s Primal Organisms
Culture>genes>addiction (2 July 2009)
Why Pavlov smiled in 2008?
Pavlov demonstrated effecting placebo phenomena in multi celled organisms by manipulation of their drives-reactions. Now placebo and imagination phenomena are demonstrated also in Earth’s smallest, base organisms, in the genes and genomes of multi-celled organisms, in our primal 1st stratum and 2nd stratum base organisms.
A very good reason to smile.
Now an interesting chain is exposed to our view, the Genes-Virtual Reality Chain, a most intriguing cultural evolution chain extending from the genesis of our genes to nowadays, throughout life, a virtual reality existence, and by virtual reality phenomena, exploitations and manipulations.
Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
From “Life Genesis From Aromaticity/H-Bonding”
Natural selection is E (energy) temporarily constrained in an m (mass) format.
Natural selection is a universal ubiquitous trait of ALL mass spin formats, inanimate and animate.
Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection, self-replication.
Stupid idea, poor data, abuse of the data--why can't the media get this story right? Why do they continue to propagate the disinformation campaign of Paul Davies and FWS? The Science article never should have been published, because it contains nothing worthwhile. It is not "controversial;" it is simply fraudulent.
Like Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann did with Cold Fusion, Wolfe-Simon simply showed too much confidence. To hold a press conference to announce results that could have be announced via a peer-reviewed journal paper and to *not* have had any verification of her results was hard to forgive, but that is, perhaps, Science. But to have played to the audience and...what...try to sound like Carl Sagan during the process is significantly worse. She simply showed too much confidence. What she should have shown was some boring old humility and the common sense that scientists usually must have.
She is a qualified researcher but she her mistakes was to show too much confidence. That may sound petty, but *it matters* when you have already removed all of the the other safety-stops that are supposed to protect your reputation. It is like Chernobyl: you eliminate the protective safety stops and then you get a little careless and you get highly-amplified damage to your reputation back.
Think about the damage to Astrobiology this case has done. And perhaps to women in Astrobology. Think abou it: when a decision-maker has two proposal and only one can get funding and they are both very credible-looking but one looks, sounds or smells even a little like Iron Lisa. Which one is gonna get funding? Huh? She should have thought ahead. A little modesty at that press conference might have suited her better, but now, what is done is done. And she did it.
All she has to do now it get over it and get back to work. Humble, patience scientific work with mute, heartless Nature. After she does a decade or two of lab work, then she can generalize to the "public understanding of science" or whatever else she had in mind. The idea that she would throw away her career because she cannot now be the center of attention is not a message that any young person should hear. And she should refrain from disparaging speculative films from astronomy or whatnot, just to avoid burning her bridges in the area of space research.