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 – March 16, 2016

Russia is partially withdrawing its troops from Syria. It will maintain its naval and air bases there but will remove some unspecified amount of troops and equipment. Every reason you can think of has been offered in the speculation as to why and why now. Here’s a reasonable interpretation from Randa Slim, who has been involved in Track II discussions with Russia. Also from Mark Galeotti. How much will Russia continue to support Assad? Will Assad support the peace process with his protector partially gone? And how will other parties to the conflict respond? Nobody really knows. Here’s an article about strained relations between Russia and Iran. Read More