The Twitter Virus: A Grotesque Artificial Life FormS

Yesterday's Twitter worm is a disturbingly fascinating life form, writes the Guardian's Martin Robbins, one that spread far more quickly than human viruses, or even other computer worms, possibly could. Think of it as a sort of super herpes.

"A new artificial life form of tenuous sorts was born," Robbins writes. But it was one of the nastiest living beings yet seen, spreading across the world in what he describes as a horizontal transmission pattern, "moving from peer-to-peer as opposed to parent-to-child or 'vertical' transmission." Robbins also dings Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, as a hypermodern "Typhoid Mary" for retweeting the bug to her 1.1 million followers, helping and possibly catalyzing its growth peak.

The science columnist is now asking Twitter if it will share what he considers invaluable data about the virus. We doubt that will happen; it may turn out that the microblogging service's biggest contribution to hard science was spawning an unprecedented robotic hyperpandemic, and that's not a fact the company is eager to get into history texts.