Living virus?

Trond Erik teva at online.no
Sun Sep 6 15:46:32 EST 1998



Stefanie Greve wrote:

> Hello, TRond ERik!
>
> In fact, until now I have never come across any biologist calling a
> virus living or alive. There are only a few students I have heard do so,
> only to be rigorously corrected by senior scientists. So I would not
> regard it customary calling a virus living. The common term in
> Brauschweig - I don`t know what you call it elsewhere - isactive/inactive. You
> are not a biologist, are you?

Hi ;)

I'm in fact a student in biology. This is my third year, my major interest is
biotechnology.

The story goes like this: Here in Norway we have a site on the net devoted to
reporting scientific errors appearing in different sorts of media like newspapers,
television and radio. The errors are commented on, and the source are given. The
person behind the internet-site, professor Martin Ystenes in inorganic chemistry
at NTNU (the Norwegian University of Science and Technology), is dependent on help
from contributors that can report such errors. Well, after reading about this case
where some researchers are digging up old graves on Svalbard in the hope of
finding DNA from the virus who caused the spanish flu, I decided to report it
since it contained lots of occurences where scientists had been quoted as calling
virus "living". I knew very well this wasn't the case. But Ystenes wouldn't put
this on his site, since it wasn't a very grave error and since he suspected that
microbiologists were not agree with the definition of life. I disagreed with him,
and posted what turned out to be the start of a rather long thread. I wanted to
find out whether some scientists really wasn't aware the fact that virus are by
definition not living entities. Looking at the response I got, I have to admit
that the result was disappointing. One could hardly call this a very big mistake
by the media since life is still debated, and since lots of scientists seem to be
rather sloppy with the terminolgy....

The adress to the site is :
http://www.chembio.ntnu.no/users/ystenes/sproyt/index.html
It's called Sprøytvarsleren and is in Norwegian.

Trond Erik




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