Here I am at the the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting which is being held in Toronto. As Larry Moran has already pointed out, there are a few of us bloggers that are getting together with him while we are here. This should be great.
My first day (actually, part day) was capped off with a really fun, but in many ways maddening, lecture from Norman Pace. Norm was on my PhD committee, and it was the first time I had seen him for 12 years. The talk was wonderfully vintage Norm—even some of the phrases were the same as I remembered. That's not to say that the talk was at all tired. Norm is so fun to see in the spotlight; in this case, he had a big and well-deserved stage on which to perform! As an historical aside, Norm's class on the biochemistry of nucleic acids at Indiana University was the only biochemistry course that I ever took that started by reference to a rRNA tree of life. Norm has been ahead of the curve for a long time...
A major—and provocative—theme of Norm's talk is that we microbiologists should strike the word "procaryote" (or prokaryote, as I prefer to spell it) from our vocabulary. This is not a trivial matter for the microbiologists in attendance, both from practical and intellectual points of view. This part of his talk followed directly from his recently published piece in Nature entitled "Time for a change." (2006) 441:289. I happen to strongly disagree with Norm on this point and am much more aligned with the views subsequently published by Martin & Koonin entitled "A positive definition of prokaryotes" in Nature (2006) 442: 868. Although I'm too short on energy to do so now, I'll try to decipher my notes and give a more clear account of what Norm said (and my reactions to it) in the coming days.
How dumb is too dumb? We still don't know!
7 hours ago in The Phytophactor