I’ve already linked to this blog on ScienceBlogs, but I thought I might as well point to it from here. Check out The Oscillator, every entry is dense with science. The focus in synthetic biology. I wanted to see if there’d been a mention of Craig Venter’s synthetic bacteria project, but the the search box doesn’t yield anything. Perhaps that’s information in and of itself. One can’t put this in the ALH84001 category since Venter’s produced some real science out of the project already, but it has a Friedman Unit feel. Though I assume that there wouldn’t be hype around the synthesis if they didn’t perceive themselves really close, I have noted that Venter said “by the end of the year” in the summer of 2009. And to be fair, the quote is from a British periodical, and they’re not always reliable (no offense Brits).
Update: Carl Zimmer asks:
And he performed the first genome transplant and figured out how to make yeast churn out entire genomes of bacteria If this is limbo, it’s a pretty productive place to be. If Venter does manage to pull this project off in 2014, will history really care much that he was off by 5 years?
My response: No. But if he keeps saying it’ll happen “this year” until he gets it done in 2014, that should reduce our confidence that he can get it done between this date and that date. In fact, it should reduce his own confidence too I would think if he’s being sincere, since it indicates that his model at any given moment of what’s going on has serious holes which he can’t account for.
Though to make a fully informed guess on this sort of thing we should probably look at historical precedents for paradigm shifting science & engineering like this. Getting to the moon. Nuclear power. Economically viable nuclear fusion. The human genome project.