Lab report

Prospect Magazine

Lab report

/ / Leave a comment

Venting about Venter

172_science_elephantImage of the month: the elephant in the womb

The media responded to Craig Venter’s unveiling of an “artificial cell” in late May with the hyperbole you’d expect. Other scientists grumbled at the hype—their general message (accurate, if a little churlish) was “not bad, but no big deal.” Like extra-syllabus questions at school, headline-grabbing developments like this are very effective at revealing what we don’t understand. Charlie Brooker in the Guardian was as funny as ever, but inadvertently revealed that geneticists have failed to communicate that there are no simple genetic instructions for “add two extra legs” or “omit appendix.” Alasdair Palmer in the Telegraph found himself forced to enter the 20th (some might say the 17th) century, crying: “What has happened to the mystery of life, the intangible, miraculous glory that we think is somehow its essence? It has disappeared. There are only molecules and the void.”


You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please either subscribe or Login to access.

Leave a comment


Philip Ball

Philip Ball
Philip Ball is a science writer 

Share this

Most Read

Prospect Buzz

  • Prospect's masterful crossword setter Didymus gets a shout-out in the Guardian
  • The Telegraph reports on Nigel Farage's article on Lords reform
  • Prospect writer Mark Kitto is profiled in the New York Times

Prospect Reads

  • Do China’s youth care about politics? asks Alec Ash
  • Joanna Biggs on Facebook and feminism
  • Boris Berezosky was a brilliant man, says Keith Gessen—but he nearly destroyed Russia