causality writes: "Craig Venter and his team have built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell to make what they call the world's first synthetic life form. Scientists have created the world's first synthetic life form in a landmark experiment that paves the way for designer organisms that are built rather than evolved. The controversial feat, which has occupied 20 scientists for more than 10 years at an estimated cost of $40m, was described by one researcher as "a defining moment in biology". Craig Venter, the pioneering US geneticist behind the experiment, said the achievement heralds the dawn of a new era in which new life is made to benefit humanity, starting with bacteria that churn out biofuels, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and even manufacture vaccines. However critics, including some religious groups, condemned the work, with one organisation warning that artificial organisms could escape into the wild and cause environmental havoc or be turned into biological weapons. Others said Venter was playing God." A video is also available here and an alternate news source here. What could possibly go wrong?
causality writes: "According to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, "nearly two-thirds of Americans think the news stories they read, hear and watch are frequently inaccurate". The survey found "that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research's previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy." The article notes that "the highest level of skepticism recorded since 1985, when this study of public perceptions of the media was first done. " The explanation given for this is mostly financial in nature: "Newspaper ad sales plunged by 29 percent, or nearly $5.5 billion, during the first half of this year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. TV ad revenue on broadcast stations dropped by 12 percent, or nearly $3 billion, during the same period, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. Radio advertising fell by 23 percent, or $2.3 billion, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau." According to Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, the budget crunch "means facts don't get checked as carefully as they should." Not surprisingly, "internet bloggers" are also blamed. Personally, I believe the recent financial difficulties only explain why this phenomenon is getting worse; it does not explain why the news media in general is not a more trustworthy institution."