Thursday, July 03, 2008

Evolution Strikes Back

A little while back, I mentioned Carl Zimmer's marvelous book, Microcosm, which uses research on the humble bacterium Escherichia coli to illuminate every aspect of the new biology. One chapter was given over to discussion of the work of the team led by Dr Richard Lenski. One of Lenski's papers, showing evolution of a new trait by E. coli (the ability to grow on citrate) in laboratory conditions, attracted the attention of Richard Schlafly, the right-wing Christian activist who runs Conservapedia. Schlafly demanded Lenski's data, resulting in the following illuminating exchange, documented on Ben Goldacre's Bad Science site, in which a closed mind meets a surgical strike.

(Link via Roz Kaveny and John Crowley.)

(By the way, it's instructive to follow the open-minded scientists link on Conservapedia's page about Lenski. Hmm. I thought those guys didn't like to be called Creationists any more, preferring the less contentious 'supporters of intelligent design'.)


Out today, issue 217 of Interzone, which includes my story 'Little Lost Robot' (aka the big space robot story) as well as stories by Karen Fishler, Paul Tremblay, MK Hobson, Suzanne Palmer and Jason Sandford.

I was going to write something about WALL-E, which I saw last Sunday, but a bit of Googling will reveal a myriad indepth reviews. So I’ll just say that the first forty minutes is one of the best bits of SF cinema I’ve ever seen. The candy-coloured satire of the second half is less successful (and contains a gaping plot hole) but the odd-couple romance between the infinitely curious and engaging WALL-E and the advanced probe EVE carries the day, with a definitive Tinkerbell moment that had the small children in the audience gripped. Increasingly, SFX-rich movies seem pointlessly noisy and frenetic*; WALL-E shows how the same tools can be used in a rich and painterly fashion.

*mind you, the first five minutes of the new Batman movie look great.

Current reading: Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves and Alex Cox’s X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker.

And Junot Diaz has an excellent take on the sandbox game where I’m spending rather too much time shooting cops, mafia hoods and flying rats.
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