Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Skeptical Meteorite Alien Life

Skeptical Meteorite Alien Life - The gaps and stringy fibers in these space rocks sure look like bacteria, and a NASA researcher has caused a stir with claims that they're fossils of alien life. But as NASA found 15 years ago, looks can be deceiving.

Top scientists in different disciplines immediately found pitfalls in a newly published examination of three meteorites that went viral on the Internet over the weekend. NASA and its top scientists disavowed the work by noon Monday.

Biologists said just because it looks as though the holes were made by bacteria doesn't make them fossils of extraterrestrial microbes. The meteorites could be riddled with Earthly contamination. And both astronomers and biologists complained that the study was not truly reviewed by peers.

There are questions about the credentials of the study's author, Richard Hoover. And the work appeared in an online journal that raises eyebrows because even its editor acknowledges it may have to shut down in June and that one reason for publishing the controversial claim was to help find a buyer.

"There's a lot of stuff there, but not a lot of science," said Rosie Redfield, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia, who publicly dissected the paper over the weekend. "I looked at it and shuddered."

The Associated Press talked to a dozen scientists, and none of them agreed with the findings. There was none of the excitement that surrounded a similar claim that NASA announced with fanfare in 1996 — but was forced to back away from later — that a meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica showed evidence of alien life.

"There has been no one in the scientific community, certainly no one in the meteorite analysis community, that has supported these conclusions," NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher said Monday of the latest work.

Skeptical Meteorite Alien Life

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