Trying To Head Off The Next Antiscience Freakout

The rotifer world has exciting news!

A rotifer that was frozen in the permafrost for 24,000 years has been thawed out, and it has reproduced asexually. It is of the commonest kind, a bdelloid rotifer. We have bdelloid rotifers around us everywhere, even in desert dust. They are hardy little guys and form spores, much as the cuddlier tardigrades do, but not quite as durable.

I “discovered” rotifers with my first microscope, when I put a handful of leaves in water and let the jar sit in a warm place for a few days. The little “mixmasters” on their heads intrigued me.

I didn’t know what they were and couldn’t find them in a book. My biology teacher was unhelpful. I’m not sure when I learned their name. Later, I met Professor Robert Lee Wallace, who is one of the world’s experts on rotifers. He told me this morning that the rotifer world is very excited. They knew the little beasts were durable, but this is more than they expected. They will compare the old ones’ genome with the genome of bdelloid rotifers found in the same area today.

Here’s the Reuters article. The embedded video is too sensationalistic for my taste.

In related freakouts, Margaret Sullivan looks at the attacks on Anthony Fauci.

In a right-wing culture so often opposed to verifiable reality, who better to target than a person who stands for science and facts?

Lindsay Beyerstein and Jeffrey Lewis simultaneously ask who uses the term “lab leak.” Turns out it’s not the scientists who are driving that freakout.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

Links – January 5, 2018

Happy New Year! Twenty years ago today, I came back to work after the holiday to find a faxed invitation that began my Estonian adventure. Top photo: The marker for the Sillamäe tailings pond cleanup, 2011.

Demonstrations continue in Iran. Donald Trump is determined to tweet about them. As usual, his tweets are not helpful but rather inciting. Here’s an article by two people on opposite sides with respect to the nuclear agreement. Here are some good suggestions from (gasp!) a Republican. How to ensure that Iran never starts reprocessing. Read More