Quick Edit | A silver lining

Quick Edit | A silver lining

It’s the greatest marine oil spill in history. It’s perhaps the worst environmental disaster of the decade. But what if it unexpectedly leads to a worthy scientific discovery?

The law of unintended consequences may currently be on display in the Gulf of Mexico, where a BP oil well started poisoning the waters in April. Researchers studying the spill have now found a new microbe species capable of breaking down oil twice as fast as expected. Reported in Science journal this week, the discovery has apparently altered the “microbial community".

Human cognition may find it hard to fathom, but bad things can lead to good outcomes: A bad war one day can be good the next (Iraq seems to have ended well). As important, apparently good things can lead to some bad—always a lesson for governments trying to do good.

For all the shouting and finger-pointing the oil spill generated this year, who knows, history may not remember it as badly.