Hither and Yon

For the past few days I’ve been rushing around, first to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to talk to some people at the Marine Biological Laboratory about the E. coli book, and then on an infinite chain of connecting flights to come out to Aspen to participate in a science-media summit. It’s a relief to be finally sitting down in one place, and the view of the mountains from here making blogging very fine. But until my blood thickens up a little, I probably won’t be writing much.

As I’ve been driving and flying and driving again, I’ve gotten some emails from readers, pointing me to new papers that have come out that they think are blog-worthy. My thanks go out to them–although it feels like cheating to have other people doing my research for me. One paper will have to wait a while, but another–Craig Venter’s “genome transplant” from one species of bacteria to another–is already old news in the blogosphere. If you are looking for a little historical context, you might want to check out my 2003 article in which I wrote about Venter’s artificial life project when it was just a twinkle in his eye. Other scientists argued that one of the biggest open questions was whether a cell could be booted up with a dramatically new genome. The new paper goes a pretty long way to delivering a verdict of yes on that question.

On the way home from Woods Hole, my wife and I listened to Craig Venter on Science Friday on NPR, and I thought it was a fairly good explanation of what his team did and why. This is definitely one of those stories that benefits from a little room to stretch–sound bites leave nothing but a chewed over corpse. You can listen to the interview here.

I’m hoping to blog a little while I’m out here about the summit itself, in which case I should have something more tomorrow. Or I may be popping aspirin for a bad altitude headache. We’ll see how it shakes out.

In the meantime–if you’re looking for a little food for thought, how about the possibility that alien life is here on Earth? My latest story in Discover.