Rosie Redfield of the University of British Columbia has steadfastly raised doubts about the headline-grabbing news about arsenic-based life last November. (If neither arsenic life nor Rosie Redfield ring any bells for you, check out my two pieces for Slate, in December and June.) Redfield then did something exceptional: she set out to replicate the initial findings, getting the original bacteria and seeing whether they can build DNA from arsenic when deprived of phosphorus.
And then she did something quite unique: she started to chronicle her experiences on her blog. It’s a fascinating peek into the lab notebook of a practicing scientist. Today’s post is especially intriguing:
Among other things, Redfield reports that the bacteria seem to be able to grow at very low levels of phosphorus–levels that the original scientists claimed were too low to sustain the growth they saw.
Of course, Redfield has a lot of work left to do. She will have to run this experiment to its bitter end, write up the results, submit a paper to a journal, get it past peer review, and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal. But we can all watch her journey in real time.