Long-time reader BG let us know via Twitter that HuffPo is reporting “Scientists Create Zombies in Lab,” and adds that this should be like shooting fish in a barrel for us.
This story is not at all limited to HuffPo, of course, which is why BG wants us to do a takedown on this bad science reporting.
Okay, but this gets interesting only in that the Czar might indeed take an unexpected position.
Scientists have experimented with organic cells by coating them with silicic acid, which basically turns them into a silicate fossil. Interestingly, the cells can continue to perform some basic functions—just like capillary action happens even with dead capillaries.
For example, capillary action allows you to use a paper towel to pull water up out of a glass, even though you aren’t using any real capillaries. A silica-based cell fossil can do some limited functions even though it is not, technically, a cell.
So what? So the purpose was to create nanomachines: synthetic cells that can be used inside larger machines to recreate the function of valves, flow meters, and other useful devices on a usefully microscopic scale.
Yes, the stories typically follow the usual template of bad science reporting: an eye-grabbing headline, a reference to Hollywood, a promise that this could become reality, a too-short summary of the actual test that creates confusion and doubt as to what was being tested, a comment from someone not affiliated with the test about how important this could be, and an over-eager promise of miracle inventions that will surely follow from this.
But to be perfectly fair, it’s the scientists who started calling these fossilized cells “zombie cells.” And they consistently referred to them as such, even though the term is woefully incorrect in its application. So as far as the word zombie goes, the MSM gets a pass on that one.