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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.”

Venter

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Author

Philip Ball

Philip Ball
Philip Ball is a science writer 


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