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Microbiologist Carl Woese changed the way we think about evolution (nytimes.com)
81 points by yaseen-rob 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

This makes me happy. Carl Woese has been one of my scientific heroes for decades. The magnitude of his contributions have been very much under appreciated. On top of that, David Quammen is one of my favorite science/nature writers. I am eager to read the book.

Yes, as somebody who worked with Carl in my grad school days I appreciated that article. However, I think the book mostly focuses on the next generation of molecular evolutionists (Ford Doolittle, Bill Martin, etc.). I remember reading Nick Lane's "The Vital Question" a couple of years ago and I was annoyed that Woese got like one sentence and Lane made it seem like Martin had come up with his ideas in a vacuum. I'm glad that it looks like Quammen is at least going to put their ideas in the context of what Woese did.

I was told by an unreliable source that it was W E Balch who pushed Woese to think about them being their own domain - although certainly aprochyphal, that doesn't surprise me given Bill's personality.

Bill himself rather flatly told me something along those lines, though I’ve heard various other accounts / opinions. I don’t doubt anyone. Blurred contributions seem inherent to “a-ha” data interpretation moments on science—(as much as “a-ha moment” is how it really happens)

that may have been my unreliable source.

An entire book the vital question is basically just a pitch for that guy's personal research beliefs. He trashed a lot of good science making variance on claims with your more or less just considered part of the system today

HGT is consistent with a dependency graph of life: http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/viewArt...

Don't all time-dependent processes result in dependency graphs? The only way you could have a circular dependency is if one organism was a parent of one of their ancestors, which is obviously impossible*

*actually, it's not impossible, since you could have a child transmit DNA horizontally to its parent, but this would in reality happen over a sufficiently short timescale that you wouldn't see it on a phylogenetic tree.

No clue what you are talking about, but, technically, human women become chimeras when they reproduce because the baby leaves behind some of its genetic material. Human children transmit their DNA to their mothers in utero to some degree.

Couldn't lifecycles of some parasites be considered circular dependencies?

one of my graduate advisors, William E Balch, was around in the Woese lab at the time. He was doing much of the methanogen 16S RNA work at the time, the data that spurred the idea to break from prokarya (till RNA analysis all they had was phenotypic observation). The methanogens need to be cultured in a reductive environment, and you do that by maintaining a 1% hydrogen in nitrogen atmosphere; and there was, apparently, once a grad student who accidentally lit the whole thing on fire and somehow survived the explosion.

His theory with Goldenfeld about horizontal evolution enrages me but Goldenfeld has so many interesting and good ideas a few of them are bound to be right by chance anyway at this rate.

The writing really made this sound like an adventure! But why was Mitchell Sogin not part of the 1977 paper?

Some damn fine science-writing, this.

Do they know the mechanism of HGT?

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