She Said, He Said
Do women talk more than men?
Researchers took a big step toward creating synthetic life. They transplanted one microorganism's genome into another, completely changing its identity and behavior. The goal down the road is to create a genome and then do the transplant, so the new organism will be man-made. Scientists' spins: 1) We can make bacteria that produce fuel and fight global warming! 2) Don't worry, the bacteria we're using don't cause disease, and we can engineer them to self-destruct if they escape the lab. Rebuttal: Somebody else could use the same techniques to engineer bacteria that do cause disease or wreak some other kind of havoc. (To debate the wisdom of making synthetic life, click here.)
Latest Human Nature columns: 1) The reunion of man and beast. 2) The spread of virgin births. 3) The abolition of menstruation. 4) The chess match of man and machine. 5) Ultrasound and the future of abortion. 6) The global market in human organs. 7) The evolution of brains and morals. 8) Machines that read your mind. 9) Invasion of the naked body scanners. 10) The future of pain-beaming weapons.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of nun on Slate's home page by Digital Vision.