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Princeton Team Casts More Doubt On Arsenic DNA Claims 57

Posted by timothy
from the and-that's-what-science-is-and-does dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team of researchers reports they can't reproduce the most important claim from 2010's controversial 'arsenic bacteria' paper — they find no arsenic in the bug's DNA. Meanwhile, other scientists are looking at different aspects of the bug and at arsenic in biology in general."
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Princeton Team Casts More Doubt On Arsenic DNA Claims

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  • Not a bug (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @11:02AM (#38806131)

    How am I supposed to take a summary seriously when it refers to bacteria as a "bug"?

  • Re:Science! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @11:08AM (#38806209)
    I don't know who are and what these "people" did. But it is your job as a scientist to scrutinize everything, specially when someone do something that has a flawed procedure. We can't just accept something said by someone, we have to reproduce it, we have to investigate it ourselves and confirm the results. Now unfortunately many times during history many results were refuted by other scientist simply because it didn't agree with the current dogma, look at Mendel it took many years before his results were accepted by the people in that field. So attacking someone's work is valid, but there is a correct way to do it and not attack it for the sake of bashing.
  • Re:Science! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @11:25AM (#38806475)

    The third problem: they refused to engage their critics. They simply stonewalled their peers. That's not how science is done. Compare it to the OPERA neutrino study, which was an equally hyped and unlikely claim, but the authors openly solicited rebuttals.

  • Re:Science! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @11:28AM (#38806513) Journal

    They were pretty mean spirited because it was clear from the outset that it was almost certainly a technical error. Scientists don't get anything out of cleaing up someone elses mistakes. These people could have spent their time doing real work if the original researcher had washed her samples properly.

  • Re:Science! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the gnat (153162) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @01:14PM (#38808235)

    If they'd done as you're supposed to and submitted a paper for peer review FIRST, it would have been quietly shredded by the reviewers

    In (partial) defense of the NASA folks, they had indeed submitted the paper for peer review, and it had been accepted to Science magazine - it appeared online the same day (or close to it) as their hand-waving press conference. That it didn't get shredded by peer reviewers is testament to either the laziness of peer reviewers, or the ease with which high-profile journals can be duped into publishing weak but exciting claims. (This happens frequently, I'm afraid.) They should have done much more thorough experiments, but the journals are supposed to filter out hypotheses that haven't been sufficiently proven.

    The problem with the press conference was that they made much more grandiose claims about the importance of their work than the evidence merited. If they'd stuck to publishing the paper and a diplomatically-worded press release, it still would have been very controversial, but it would not have elicited such a passionate response.

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