Monday, March 7, 2011

Alien Life Discovered in Meteorite! Or Maybe Not

It's no surprise that a paper just published in the online Journal of Cosmology has suddenly grabbed the world's attention. Titled "Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites" and authored by NASA scientist Richard Hoover of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, it makes the audacious claim that a meteorite that slammed into France in the 1800s has clear evidence pointing to space-dwelling microbes.

But many experts in the field of astrobiology — a perfectly legitimate area of science — paid little mind when an e-mail circulated a few days ago trumpeting the latest life-in-a-meteorite paper. "I get e-mails from them regularly, maybe once every month or two," says a senior astrophysicist at a major university. "They always sound extremely nutty ... so much so that I have never been tempted to investigate more closely."

Blogger and biologist P.Z. Myers puts it a little more pithily: the Journal of Cosmology is, he writes, "the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics." Some of the articles that have appeared do nothing to dispel this idea include "The Origin of Eternal Life in the Multiverse" and "Sex on Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Sex in Outer Space." And according to blogger David Dobbs, a press release has gone out announcing that the Journal of Cosmology is soon to be no more.

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