This week is Right to Know Week in Canada, intended to acknowledge and celebrate our freedom-of-information laws. Some 40 other countries have a Right to Know Day, but we Canadians get a whole week. And you know what? We need it.
Ironically, this celebration of open information comes on the back of new evidence of unacceptable political interference in the public statements of federal government researchers. In short, the information policies of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper are muzzling scientists in their dealings with the media.
"Deep Spill 2" sounds like a sequel to a Hollywood thriller.
Unfortunately, it is more of a reality show. "Deep Spill 2" is the name of an ambitious series of proposed scientific experiments that should be happening right now. Scientists from around the globe are ready, literally, to dive in to understand what is happening with the oil and gas that are spewing into the Gulf of Mexico with the force of a volcano.
There is one problem, though: BP won't let them.
The Belfast Telegraph in Northern Ireland has leaked news of monumental importance to humanity:
"An American biologist has stepped into the shoes of Baron Frankenstein by breathing life into a bacterium using genes assembled in the laboratory.
The creation of the 'synthetic cell', described as a 'landmark' by one British expert, is a 15-year dream come true for maverick genetics entrepreneur Dr. Craig Venter."
There's this cartoon you probably know. It features a big-headed, bald kid named Charlie and a girl named Lucy. Again and again in this amusing comic, Lucy promises not to move the football she's holding while the Charlie kid runs to kick it. And, again and again, to great bittersweet hilarity, she does and little Charlie goes flying landing on his back, chagrined but, we understand, still trusting in Lucy's innate goodness. We love that adorable sap, Charlie Brown.
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Hardly a week goes by without an article in a major scientific journal about the diversity of microorganisms living in and on our bodies. Few microbial species can be grown in pure culture, but modern DNA sequencing techniques have unleashed a flood of information about microbes associated with humans. Google Scholar analysis of the term "human microbiome" shows fewer than 1,000 articles between 1970 and 1999, 3,000 articles between 2000 and 2009, and over 17,000 articles since 2010.