Has life been found in a meteorite?

By Phil Plait | March 5, 2011 1:41 pm

[UPDATE (March 7, 2011): I've posted a followup on this news with a much more detailed analysis, and not too surprisingly the scientific consensus coming in is that the claims of alien fossils are way wrong.]

Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, thinks he may have found bacteria in a meteorite.

Yes, you read that right. The question is, is he right?

I don’t know. Dr. Hoover has published his findings in the online Journal of Cosmology (see below for more about this journal), and it was reported today by Fox News (thanks to Sheril at The Intersection for the tip).

Basically, Hoover found structures inside a rare type of meteorite — the Orgueil meteorite which fell in France in 1864 — that look very much like microbes of some sort. Here’s an example from the paper:

Those are odd and intriguing formations, to be sure. If I were scanning through a meteorite and saw those, I’d be pretty surprised too.

But appearances can be deceiving. Are these actually fossilized microscopic life forms?

Hoover makes several claims to show that a non-biotic origin for these structures is very unlikely. I am not an expert and won’t cast my vote either way here. This is not the first time Hoover has made such claims; he gave a similar presentation in 2007. There have also been many similar claims in the past. In fact, in the second episode of "Bad Universe" I interviewed NASA astrobiologist Dave McKay, who has also found very interesting features in a Mars meteorite that look a lot like bacteria. However, definitive proof is another matter. McKay’s opinion is that what he found was once alive, but he also was clear that scientifically he could not be sure (I found his skepticism to be well-grounded and at the right level, to be honest).

Probably the biggest bump in the road for showing these things are life-forms is to show they are not the result of Earthly bacteria getting inside the meteorite after it hit. This is very tough to do, though Hoover says this in his paper:

Many of the filaments shown in the figures are clearly embedded in the meteorite rock matrix. Consequently, it is concluded that the Orgueil filaments cannot logically be interpreted as representing filamentous cyanobacteria that invaded the meteorite after its arrival. They are therefore interpreted as the indigenous remains of microfossils that were present in the meteorite rock matrix when the meteorite entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

Clearly, Hoover thinks terrestrial contamination is unlikely. However, contamination, no matter how unlikely, is a more mundane explanation than extraterrestrial life, and Occam’s Razor will always shave very closely here. We have to be very, very clear that contamination was impossible before seriously entertaining the idea that these structures are space-borne life.

I’ll be honest: my own reaction is one of extreme skepticism. As it should be! All things being equal, I would take news like this with a very large grain of salt, and want a whole lot of outside expert analysis; I’d like to see other biologists examining the original meteorite, too. Interestingly, the editors for the journal in which this paper is published understand how controversial this claim is, so they have asked 100 expert scientists to review the work and critique it. Those reviews have not yet been published, so we’ll see; the editors say the reviews will go online in a few days.

Also, I feel I need to mention this as well: in my opinion, The Journal of Cosmology has published articles in the past that can charitably be called "shaky" (like this anti-Big Bang paper). One of their editors, Chandra Wickramasinghe, has made some pretty outrageous claims about NASA and life in space (links to some of his other odd claims can be found at that page as well). However, this does not necessarily mean that Hoover’s work is any more suspect than any other scientific claim! But it does mean I will cast an especially-skeptical eye on claims made in papers published by them. Others agree as well.

And I must note that in an error-laden article*, the Journal published a not-very-flattering comment about me, calling me an "astronomer-wannabe" — heh– and claims I led a "torches and pitchforks crowd" about the existence of a planet in the outer solar system. That’s completely false, and in fact I got an email from the researcher leading the search for that planet, calling my article on it "the most balanced discussion" he saw!

Hmmm.

[Updated to add: I've been informed the Journal of Cosmology is going out of business. They wrote a press release that may be of some interest.]

So, to conclude: a claim has been made about micro-fossils in a meteorite. The claims are interesting, the pictures intriguing, but we are a long, long way from knowing whether the claim is valid or not! We’ve been down this road before and been disappointed. As with any scientific claim, skepticism is needed, and in the case of extraordinary claims, well, you know the saying.


* Not once, but twice, the article states that WISE data exist which support the idea of a planet in the outer solar system ("…This model coupled with data from WISE, indicates the presence of a gas planet…" for example). That is simply wrong; the actual truth is that no WISE observations analyzed so far show any sign of such a planet.


Related posts:

- Is NASA hiding life on Mars? I seriously doubt it
- Are we aliens?
- Did life here begin out there? (2)
- Did life here begin out there? (1)

Comments (164)

Links to this Post

  1. NASA Scientist Sees Signs of Life in Meteorites - NYTimes.com | March 5, 2011
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  1. Thopter

    It doesn’t help his position any that Fox was the outlet to break the news first (so it seems). If he’s looking for credibility, that won’t help.

  2. I am looking forward to the 100 critiques. Will Dr. Filippenko be one of the critiques?

  3. For what it’s worth, Professor Hoover seems to be quite good at finding microfossils in meteorites:
    http://spie.org/x648.html?product_id=278766
    http://www.panspermia.org/hoover.htm

  4. Lance

    I am not an expert and won’t cast my vote either way here . . . [yet] the Journal published a not-very-flattering comment about me, calling me an “astronomer-wannabe”

    So it seems you DO have a dog in this race. Thanks for your non-vote vote, Phil! :)

  5. SC

    Phil, I think you may have linked to the wrong site with the Journal of Cosmology link. All I see is what is essentially a Geocities site. Surely the Journal of Cosmology is a professional journal and has a commensurate website.

  6. Cindy

    Filippenko’s area of expertise is in supernovae, not in planetary science or biology. So while he’s a smart guy, I think 100 critiques from planetary scientists and astrobiologists would carry more weight.

  7. What baffles me is the likelihood that somewhere out there, light years away, life formed on another body, died, fossilized, then got blown into space, then made it all the way to our solar system, and then hit our planet.

    Am I missing something, or are the chances of this happening as astronomically (punned with gusto!) small as I think they are? Occam’s Razor indeed!

  8. Robert

    Oh, boy. It’s 1996 all over again!

  9. James

    Thopter, I’ve read several blogs/tweets by professors linking the same article and not one has criticized fox news for being the source? It seems like you’re the one grasping at straws here.

  10. Nullius in Verba

    Here’s a comparison picked at random.

    http://www.springerimages.com/Images/Geosciences/1-10.1007_s12665-009-0069-6-2

    How many ways are there for soft fibres to form besides organically?

  11. Blizaaaarrrrrggg!!!

    At SC: No, that is all I can find too about that publication. And the author of the article about Tyche does indeed really go after Phil a bit…stating that his most important discovery was one of his socks after doing the laundry.

    The site sure as hell doesn’t lend much credence to any content it has…it’s about as amateurish a site as I think you can find. Just looking at that website seems to be all the empirical evidence one would need to realize that said “journal” is a highly suspect enterprise. Even money it’s pure BS.

  12. Cindy (#6), you are right. I must have been thinking of McKay or even James Elser. Sometimes I watch too many documentaries, and these folks start blending in my mind… Mea culpa.

  13. Thank you for drawing my attention to this; it is fascinating. I certainly agree that extraordinary evidence would be required to accept extraterrestrial life as the most likely interpretation of something like this. The Antarctic meteorite had the advantage of having been kept in cold storage since it landed on Earth. Anything could have happened to this French meteorite. I didn’t read the paper; maybe he answers some of these questions and observations. What are the structures made out of? Since they are of different sizes and somewhat different morphology, if they have an organic origin they probably come from different organisms. If they did come from organisms they should consistently have a few different sizes and morphologies. if the origin is inorganic one would expect a more or less continuous range of sizes. I think the smaller ones are too small for cyanobacteria, but they could be fungal. I am no expert, but I have studied fossils of (probable) cyanobacteria (http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/abstracts/html/1999/gcags/abstracts/1348n.htm) and a number of very tiny things that might or might not have organic origins. the diameters of microorganisms don’t usually vary very much; inorganic micro-objects do, but typically by at least a factor of 10; more than the wormlike objects in the photograph you included in your blog.

  14. Ian

    “As with any scientific claim, skepticism is needed …”

    Surely only science is needed.

  15. Thopter

    James, that’s probably because they’re being professionals. I have no need to be professional in my comments, so I’m free to make low blows as I see fit ^_^.

  16. Um Nullius, asbestos forms inorganically. Some forms of asbestos even have curly fibres, which could look especially lifelike.

  17. Dennis

    It’s all a grand conspiracy.
    I’ve already read the book and I know how it ends.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deception_Point
    : P

  18. Menyambal

    What shows in the image above looks awfully like frost flowers to me. Frost flowers are formed when plant stems crack in freezing weather and osmotic pressure forces sap out sideways, where it freezes into long ribbons. http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/frost/Rempel2.jpg is a picture.

    Some life is involved in forming frost flowers (the plant’s stem), but it is mostly physics, and I’d say that out in the vacuum of space with heating and cooling going on, something like the same process could easily happen. Or many other things.

    The picture as shown is odd, but a long way from proof of life.

    Pretty, though. Thanks, Phil.

  19. Nentuaby

    @Maki:

    I don’t think it’s proposed to be extrasolar, actually. These cases of possible meteoric bacteria have come up before, and the explanation is generally proposed to be one of two things:

    1) Mars and / or Venus and / or some of the bigger Jovian and Saturnian moons were previously much more habitable, and simple life evolved there. (Getting here is not too hard, a fair number of reliably verified chunks of our sister planets have been found on Terra.)

    2) Simple life may have evolved in pockets of liquid water in cometary bodies, in an earlier epoch when the proto-planets hadn’t yet swept the place so clean. The argument is that each one may have been a pretty poor environment, but there were so MANY that it forms a pretty good aggregate environment.

    I’m not advocating these hypotheses (IANAA), just in case it’s not clear. Just explaining them.

  20. Reverend J

    It’s kinda funny, just finishing up my thesis about graphene research and have SEM pictures of layered amorphous carbon that’s been scratched up a bit that looks exactly like those filaments. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if those turned out to be graphite or amorphous carbon.

  21. Has anyone ever found a meteorite that was originally from Earth? (e.g. blasted off Earth by an earlier impact, then returning later) If so, could something like that contain bacteria fossils? I’m assuming the Orgueil meteorite can’t be of Earth origin, given its composition.

  22. Christine P.

    I just read the JOC press release. Talk about a serious persecution complex! I believe they would score extremely high on the crackpot index.

  23. @Nentuaby
    Thanks for that clarification!

    Looking into it further, the meteorite has a dubious reputation of people finding stuff in it. Not the least of which was a seed somebody glued on. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes :D

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgueil_(meteorite)

  24. GT

    @Maki: You’re begging the question. If the panspermia hypothesis has any truth behind it, then no, the odds are not astronomically remote at all, they’re quite high. If the hypothesis is wrong, then the odds of what you say happening are very low, yes, but, as noted, that’s a question-begging form of argument.

    That said, I doubt very much that it’s right. But you can’t use the fact that it’s probably wrong to power a statistical argument for it being wrong…

  25. Anders

    Journal of Cosmology seems to have a rather interesting peer reviewing process: http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/2009/09/explanation-for-lifes-origins-that.html. The Rhawn Joseph in question, , a psychiatrist, was also the author of the anti-Big Bang article, Phil refers to (http://journalofcosmology.com/Cosmology4.html; do take a look; it’s shocking!). Obviously a man of many talents. Oh, and he does 2012 as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nNZOjDi_dQ. Now, if a journal publish error ridden articles on biology and cosmology written by a psychiatrist, allow me to take everything they publish with a few lorryloads of salt.

  26. Interesting that most commenters instantly assume that this could not possibly be true. I’ll wait for the peer reviews before jumping to a conclusion.

    Panspermia, the idea that life travels throughout the universe via meteorites, is very old and well established. The way I see it, if panspermia is possible, then it is very likely to have happened – given the huge age of the universe. The mechanisms of panspermia are all very plausible. It is hugely exciting to imagine that life exists outside of earth and that we may be related to aliens.

  27. Brian137

    I am looking forward to the 100 critiques, hoping to read lots of interesting comments.

  28. Chew

    From their press release about going out of business: “and kept secret, from reporters, a press conference at NASA to discuss the human mission to Mars book and JOC’s special Mars edition edited by a member of their own science directorate.”

    If the press isn’t invited then it’s not a press conference. Which means since it was a press conference the press were there. If the press were there then how do you keep a press conference a secret???

  29. Mel Holloway

    I make no claims to being an astronomer or geologist, but the formation in the photo resemble a crystal formation I’ve seen a cave somewhere albeit at a much different scale.

  30. Are you sure the Journal of Cosmology isn’t a satirical magazine? :-)

    The Big Bang article would suggest so. “The Big Bang is really a religious belief, whereas our alternative, by contrast, begins with a priori faith-based metaphysical assertions.” Lovely.

  31. kash

    Ok, fine. You didn’t lead a mob of pitchfork and torch carrying villagers. But if ya ever do, will you invite me along? I’m good even if it’s BYOPF.

  32. @GT

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of panspermia, and my initial post was not an argument for or against it.

    My question “Am I missing something, or are the chances of this happening as astronomically small as I think they are?” has been answered as “I am missing something” Thanks for pointing out the fallacy! :)

  33. Menyambal

    POTU Says: “Interesting that most commenters instantly assume that this could not possibly be true. I’ll wait for the peer reviews before jumping to a conclusion.”

    Looks like you are the assumption jumping to a conclusion. Nobody is saying that this couldn’t POSSIBLY be true. They are just saying that it doesn’t HAVE to be true because there are a lot of other possibilities, and showing them.

    You know, science works that way. Religion misunderstands, speaks out with bogus insults, then waits for authority to declare truth.

  34. puppygod

    re panspermia

    Sure, it is conceivable. But, if we are talking probabilities, then:

    a) Life doesn’t seem to be that common in solar system. Actually, we have only one planet with abundant life and, quite probably, only one with life at all, despite three planets and several moons within Goldilocks zone.

    b) All life on Earth is a result of single abiogenesis event. That occurred some 4.5 billion years ago. That seems to be pretty rare, by any account.

  35. Journal of Cosmology has gone out of business. The usual bit about the Truth being supressed/repressed by The Scientific Establishment, yadda,yadda,yadda.

  36. Boink

    The Orgueil meteorite is a CI chondrite. This is one of the most primitive meteorite types (unaltered, from an undifferentiated planetary body). This is early space dust. Sure there are probably going to be tons of organic molecules, water, and amino acids. Primitive compounds. But to develop life without having a differentiated parent body–no planetary core (implying either a very small or cold, low-energy body), and in turn no atmosphere, no fluvial activity, no magnetic field to shield life from ionizing radiation…color me VERY skeptical.

  37. amphiox

    Hmm, from what I can find, it seems the putative origin of this meteorite is not from any planet (like McKay’s Mars meteorite), but actually part of the primordial dust and gas cloud from which the solar system formed,which would make the claim of organisms within it that much more remarkable.

    A somewhat tangential question this brought up to me. Are there any known earth-origin meteorites? That is, a piece of the earth knocked into space by some large collision either into earth or earth-crossing solar orbit, only to fall back to earth much later as a meteorite? Finding evidence of fossil lifeforms on one of those wouldn’t be that surprising.

  38. Yawn…seems like yet another uneventful day at the NASA “Aliens Are Here” department. Generally speaking though, I wouldn’t be too surprised if panspermia pans out. Given the astonishing diversity of environments that bacteria can survive in, I wouldn’t be surprised if simple, unicellular life has evolved in other places in the universe. It’s complex, multicellular, intelligent life that seems to be the big barrier.

  39. réalta fuar

    Gee, no one has said it yet: “extraordinary claims demand extraoridnary evidence”? If you weighted the likelihood of this result being correct by the square of the prestige of the journal, I think you’d get a vanishingly small number. Face it, if ANYONE else would have accepted this for publication, it would have been published there, not in the Journal of Cosmology.
    @ 19 Dennis I actually held my nose and finished that book. It had the salutary effect of immunizing me of the desire to ever read anything else by its hack author.

  40. mjay

    Looks like aluminum oxide feathers that occur when aluminum comes in contact with mercury (title of video is incorrect)

    http://wn.com/mercury_oxide

  41. John

    I can say without question that the “journal” is of dubious origin. One of it’s founders works at UCSD, where I got my Ph.D. He and others started the “journal” because they could never get anything published in any peer reviewed journals (they couldn’t even get a slot during our colloquium series, as the stuff they were putting forward was such clear nonsense. If you look at the “journal” pricing scheme, it should raise all the red flags you need. For more fun, look up some of the articles which predate the “journal”.

    That the “journal” is going out of business is hardly surprising. What *is* surprising is that it has gotten any notice at all outside the circle of people who feel that they are being “silenced” by mainstream scientists who clearly have it out for them….

  42. I think Phil should change the name of his blog to The Journal of Bad Astronomy. Phil, have you ever posted from outside the U.S.? Then it could be The International Journal of Bad Astronomy.

  43. So would that still entail a localized stellar sprouting of life rather than a panspermic one as water coalesced out of the gas/particle cloud that gave rise to the solar system? The problem with panspermia is if life developed elsewhere than on Earth where did it originate before that and so on. If life did begin outside our home planet perhaps that is indicative of the general evolution of star systems in that the creation of a known life giving solvent like water is part and parcel of the processes that lead to life itself. That would mean that water and life are set stages in the temporal span of stellar systems. With the next generation of space telescopes we will be able to determine if that is the case or be able to calculate what type of star or detritus from older stars would be more conducive to the formation of water therefore life.

  44. Anders

    Heres a question, can we be sure the meteorite doesnt come from earth, say if its a piece of rock thats been thrown into space in a huge impact, taken a few thousand, or million , years of space vacation and then returned as a meteorite?

  45. ch

    I agree with everyone else that, if I just went by the journal (or even the number of typos in the published paper), I would dismiss this out of hand.

    However, in his defense, he does do a fairly careful job trying to respond to the usual counter-arguments. He goes to great lengths to suggest that he did not contaminate the material — freshly cracked samples, no solvents, flame-sterilized tools, etc — and after he has demonstrated organic compounds and presented a few suggestions for terrestrial bacteria that resemble these filaments, he then has a couple of clever tests suggesting that if the filaments are biological, they are not recent contaminants: they have low nitrogen levels (like fossils do, but not recently dead microorganisms; Fig 6a), and while he detects many amino acids, a bunch are also missing as well — in precisely the pattern shown by fossils, but not recently dead organic matter (Table IV).

    So while the context makes me skeptical, taken merely on its own terms (by someone who is not remotely trained in this field!), the arguments aren’t junk. If you believe him when he explains his precautions, believe that the SEM images are unfaked, and believe that his material has (and lacks) the organic components that he claims, then you have to work a bit to come up with a plausible abiologic mechanism for these filaments. And though one certainly can find plenty of abiologic filaments out there (as others here have linked to), those Figures 2a, 4a and 5a certainly are striking.

    In any case, it’s a bit more than just saying: see, these shapes are organic looking, and have some organic-seeming compounds in them.

  46. L.Long

    With no other information, this looks like metallic whiskers that ‘grow’ out of metal grains when under high stress. aluminum and tin are the most common and I have many images that look similar to these. Need more detail information.

  47. amphiox

    Heres a question, can we be sure the meteorite doesnt come from earth

    According to wikipedia, this particular meteorite is part of a class of carbonaceous chondrites which has a heavy element composition identical to that of the sun (minus the hydrogen and helium, which, granted, is a rather significant omission!), which would make it more likely that these meteorites are primordial leftovers from the dust in the original proto-solar cloud, and not from any planet.

  48. tresmal

    POTU @28:

    Interesting that most commenters instantly assume that this could not possibly be true.

    Could you copy and paste an example, along with comment number or where in the OP, of someone here saying that this could not possibly be true?

  49. brian

    that is just some fungus that started growing when it landed on earth being red hot and then cooling off must have landed where it is very humid like texas ….

  50. ag

    Someone call Brian Dunning!

  51. Mary

    Hoover’s paper can be found at
    http://journalofcosmology.com/Life100.html
    Technically, it is above my knowledge base. However, if this is your field, you may find it of interest.
    I had been to the Journal of Cosmology site and to news article before coming to Phil’s blog today. I was explaining to someone that just because a person works at NASA does not mean they are speaking on behalf of NASA. NASA would certainly not announce a world altering view by giving “FoxNews.com early access to the out-of-this-world research’. (Fox News report)
    I, too, found the JOC page to be written in a non professional manner. A comment like the one about Phil is an example of this. The material is questionable. There is a claim that the evidence in one paper ‘overturns Darwin’s theory of evolution’. That would indeed be BIG news if there were adequate evidence.
    An editorial note regarding the Hoover articfle says that, “No other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough vetting, and never before in the history of science has the scientific community been given the opportunity to critically analyze an important research paper before it is published.” I do find that hard to accept.
    Then they say that, “Given the controversial nature of his discovery, we have invited 100 experts and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis.” Maybe I misunderstand the peer review process, but I did not think that one has to ‘invite’ other scientists to review your work. My impression was that if a paper was being considered for publication in a prominent scientific Journal, it was, by procedure, peer reviewed by others knowledgeable in the field, assessed for discrepencies or parts needing clarification, evaluated for adequate research and conclusions, etc. The writer could then be asked to change, or clarifyparts before actual acceptance.
    Although the critics by these ‘invited’ scientists are to be posted alongside the original Hoover article there are none there–nor are there any on the JOC page.

  52. Mary

    The article explaining that the JOC has been “killed by thieves and crooks’ because they daredd to challenge “the sacred cows of conventional wisdom and posed a threat to the entire scientific establishment” sounds written by conspiracy dudes. The real scientifc world has conspired against them out of fear. Whoa!
    Their final edition in May will provide evidence that life now on Earth extends back to before the Earth was formed. According to them, “Life on Earth, Came From Other Planets —and this is something the Bible-thumpers, the “leadership” at NASA, and the status quo, do not want the public to know”.

    As Phil said, none of this means that there is no validity in Hoover’s and the JOC’s claims. However, it sure makes one cautious about taking them seriously.

  53. flip

    That ‘going out of business’ press release certainly sounds as if they have/had an axe to grind.

    The article that mentions Phil as a wannabe looked and read like a Wikipedia entry minus the attempt at removing bias. It wouldn’t surprise me if the writers were all freelance/paid-by-article. (Anders at #27 further suggests this. If it were proper peer review, I doubt a shrink would be writing astronomy articles… And of course, John at #45)

  54. Grimbold

    Let’s assume for argument’s sake these things really are bacteria; and that this rock was kicked up off some planet or moon, travelled through space for some time, before landing on Earth with its fossilized bacteria preserved in it. What is the most likely place that this rock originated. The answer is obvious.

    Earth itself. We know there’s life here, and we know that any rock that escapes it is going to end up on an Earth-crossing orbit. Clearly, if any meteorite is found to contain bacteria, we must first rule out the possibility that it started off here.

  55. Matthew

    Linking to Fox “News” in a article dedicated to something scientific is absurd.

  56. Chris L.

    The paper will stand or fall on its scientific merits. Even if the publication it appears in is written in crayon and is printed on used Scientology news print, if the science in it is valid, its valid. On the other hand, if it the science in it isn’t valid, being printed on gold plates that only Joseph Smith can read, won’t help either.

  57. podrock

    # 32…Mel…good observation. Many salt and sulfate minerals can have interesting crystalline habits.

  58. Messier Tidy Upper

    Life & microfossils found in a meteorite?

    This is incredibly exciting news – if true – but I have a distinct feeling of deja vu and can’t seem to feel overly pumped about it given the history of false – or perhaps just inconclusive – alarms with this type of story before.

    Nicely & cooly done BA.

    @63. Matthew : Linking to Fox “News” in a article dedicated to something scientific is absurd.

    Any more so than linking to the HuffingtonPost or Socialist Worker would be? :roll:

    Actually, all the mainstream media – with Fox incl. in that mainstream, I gather they have a very sizeable audience – are pretty dreadful when it comes to accurately reporting science methinks. :-(

    PS. For the record, I’ve never seen Fox news and know of Fox only by reputation and blog talk – I can’t afford payTV of any variety and wouldn’t bother getting it if I could. You can buy so many good books for that money instead! ;-)

    I just find a lot of the hyper-partisan snapping and snarling annoying. Politics seems to me to be an utter cesspit and a very depressing and barren field. :-(

  59. Phil E. Drifter

    Split it in half and see what’s inside, duh.

  60. Heh. The JOC “press release” is a doughy pantload.

  61. Note that Wickramasinghe testified for the creationist side in the McLean trial. He defended panspermia and called creationism nonsense, which didn’t do much to help his side, . Worse, though, was another creationist witness’s explanation that UFOs are “satanic manifestations” representing “the Devil’s final attack on Earth.”

  62. Jeff P.

    Anyone talking to Fox News about “Science discoveries” reduces your legitimacy to that of someone talking to the National Enquirer. Fox News is full of the same people (hosts) who say the flu vaccine is so dangerous they suggest people don’t get them. The same people who can’t figure out how the tides work and revel in their level of ignorance. If this was legit, if he wanted to be taken seriosuly – he wouldn’t be doing an exclusive with Fox News and even worse, using the “Journal of Cosmology”. I have a feeling he carefully considered his sources and took on these two groups for the extra (and campy) publicity. Also, this “Journal of Cosmology” – I have never seen a legitimate publication use the kind of language used there. The background of the site looks like something my cat would barf up ala hairball. All of this together pretty much equals crap until proven real by someone else. If I were NASA I’d seriously consider revoking his research funding for this kind of non-professionalism.

    Last – as everyone should know based on human psychology – if you look for something long enough you’ll eventually find it… whether it’s real or not. That’s just how the human brain works.

    A comment on how the article was written – his insitence on sterile technique is not any kind “amazing outlier of qualification”. Sterile technique is just a baseline – not a potentiometer of proof. Any high-school idiot could perform and describe the sterile technique he explains. It’s not rocket-science. *zing!*

    What’s sad is how much I’d love for someone to discover and prove this as reality. Just not someone like Dr. Hoover who built his entire career with these kinds of antics.

  63. Joseph G

    Apologies if this is a dumb question, but is 150 years enough time to fossilize something? Even something as small as a microbe?

    For that matter, doesn’t fossilization typically require liquid water? If this is a carbonaceous chondrite (and not an ejected chunk of Martian regolith like the other microfossil candidate rock) how would any fossils form, at all? Has it in fact been confirmed exactly what these structures are made of?

  64. Joseph G

    @62 Grimbold: My understanding is that it’s a lot easier (though still not that likely) to loft a piece of Mars into space (with the possibility of any structure surviving the ride and the rock not being just plain melted) than it is to do the same for a piece of earth. Mars has about 38% of Earth’s gravity, and about 1% or less the atmospheric density, so an impact capable of getting a Mars rock into interplanetary space can be quite a bit smaller then what’d be required for a rock from Earth. Not only would you need to boost the fragment to a much higher speed, but there would be a great deal of atmospheric heating on the way OUT of the atmosphere.

    That said, in a billion-to-one case, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were possible.

    That would be funny, wouldn’t it? If they found signs of life in a meteorite… and dated it to about 65 MYA :D

  65. Joseph G

    @1 Thopter: Speaking as someone who has an unfortunate addiction to 24-hour news, I never get it when people breathlessly deride Fox as the pinnacle of all that is wrong with the media. Not that it doesn’t have some cringe-worthy screwups, but I can honestly say I haven’t seen anything on Fox I haven’t seen on one of the other cable news channels. That’s not really saying much – it’s more of an indictment of TV news in general then a defense of the FNC :) But still, I say, pot, meet kettle, and all that :P

    @MTU: Actually, all the mainstream media – with Fox incl. in that mainstream, I gather they have a very sizeable audience – are pretty dreadful when it comes to accurately reporting science methinks

    Hear, hear. And it’s not just TV news, unfortunately – we’ve all seen stuff in print (Phil is often kind enough to point them out) that are nearly as bad.
    The attitude seems to be “Not many people care about science, anyway, so lets not bother using fact-checkers or editors with any science knowledge whatsoever.”
    The sad part is, it’s the people who don’t care all that much about science, normally, that get the short end of the stick. The ones who are interested (eg us) can sift through the sloppy writing quite easily, usually.

  66. andyo

    Screw hidden planets! I wanna know what science you applied to find that old sock that went missing in the dryer!

  67. Joseph G

    Good Spaghetti Lord, that JoC site is ugly. It looks like it was designed in 1994. By me. In 1994, when I was 13, and thought that plastering colorful tiled pictures on every surface looked cool.

  68. Nullius in Verba

    #18,

    Yes, that was my point. Didn’t you notice what my link was a picture of?

    It occurred to me that cutting a meteorite in half could create dust…

  69. XPT

    I always wonder about panspermia. Even if we find a meteorite with fossilized bacteria in it, isn’t it more likely that it came from Earth itself, as a piece of rock launched into space by another impact, which then orbited across the solar system for millions of years, and then reentered?

  70. Joseph G

    Anyway, devil’s advocate here – I hear a lot about Martian meteorites, but what is the thinking as far as life originating in space? I’m wondering if this scenario is at all plausible:
    A largish comet, water-rich, has its orbit circularized by a chance interaction with the gas giants, early in the history of the solar system. It winds up orbiting the sun at a distance sufficient to liquify the water under its crust. Meanwhile, smallish asteroids impact the comet, providing it with a nicely stocked elemental spice cabinet, so to speak. Cosmic rays provide the catalytic energy to “roll the dice” with various chemical configurations. Whatever processes that are believed to have taken place on earth are free to take place, with solar radiation converting simple hydrocarbons to tholins that can be metabolized by these critters (some scientists believe that the first heterotrophs metabolized tholin-like compounds).
    Regarding radiation hazards, I’d point out that some single-celled life is quite a bit hardier then we once predicted. An obvious example would be D. radiodurans (not going to link it because I’m impatient/lazy), capable of withstanding doses of radiation that (I believe – correct me if I’m wrong) are far higher then even the biggest solar flares. And organisms buried as little as half a meter down would be protected from the majority of solar radiation. Then there’s the relatively recent discovery of radiotrophic fungi that derive chemical energy from gamma rays and melanin in a process (sorta) like photosynthesis. Maybe something with characteristics of both kinds of organisms could arise?
    The only problem with this example is that D. radiodurans needs oxygen to do its thing – does anyone know if comets have the right stuff to feed sulfate-reducing bacteria? Anyway, it seems that radiodurans’ DNA repair mechanism isn’t specific to an oxidizing metabolism.
    Anyway, after untold eons, the critters are fossilized and the comet vents all its volatiles and fragments into bits that are very similar to carbonaceous chondrites. Said meteor lands in France :P

    I know I’m pulling an absolutely enormous array of things out of my bum here, but thoughts? :)

  71. That’s a nicely judicious first take, Phil,. Beyond doubt, a highly skeptical “Interesting if true” is the appropriate first response.

    Science aside, however, I argue at Neuron Culture (http://bitl.ly/ddAliens) that the presentation of this paper appears to be taking a much different and (despite all of J Cosmology’s eccentricities) healthier course than we saw with the arsenic paper. The key — event still to come, but it appears to make this much different — is the announcement that the journal will be publishing 100 reviewer commenters, so we’ll get the sort of post-publication peer review that did not immediately accompany the arsenic paper.

    Could get interesting.

  72. Dan Kennan

    Nothing to do with FOX, but everything to do with the fact that NASA has zero credibility with me on the subject of ET life. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if NASA says something is alive, that’s evidence to me that it’s not. NASA consistently comes just a hair short of actually lying about it. In every single case, it has proven to be exceedingly weak evidence easily debunked by dozens of bloggers within hours.

    It’s a play for publicity and funding, no more. As is always the case with NASA.

  73. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I haven’t yet read the paper, but it comes over as of “the filament & kerogen” type.

    This is an ongoing debate on Earth fossil record between Schopf and Brasier, where the former promotes microfilaments all the way back to the 3.5 Ga Apex chert as evidence for life and the later demands falsifiability. At the round 2002, you can find references claiming that Brasier won. At the current round published in Science in february, the Apex chert finds were quite conclusively demonstrated to be inorganic.

    To add to the line of questioning of JOC one can add that Schopf has been a consultant to NASA during the time Hoover published his Schopf method papers, and perhaps going back to the days of McKay and ALH84001. (Though as noted, McKay is balanced on this.)

    If you believe him when he explains his precautions, believe that the SEM images are unfaked, and believe that his material has (and lacks) the organic components that he claims, then you have to work a bit to come up with a plausible abiologic mechanism for these filaments.

    Not if you go for falsification as Brasier. Then you can’t fail either of the various life-no life hypotheses on the material.

    - Biological and abiological processes both produce filaments. (With the caveat on size distribution that David Kopaska-Merkel notes in #15; however I doubt that was observed.)

    - Biological and abiological processes both produce kerogens (carbonecous material).

    - Biological and abiological processes both produce minerals with low nitrogen levels, that is after all what the mineralization process of the fossils do.

    - The amino acid patterns in the comets are indicative of non-biological processes (fossilization respectively non-biological synthesis).

    My own conclusion is that the paper has no flaw. But it doesn’t provide the needed extra-ordinary evidence for an ad hoc observation nor the falsification needed to distinguish life. And if 3.5 Ga microfossils aren’t accepted by biologists when they are from Earth, it is hard to see that 4.5 Ga ones will be and especially when they are from comets.

    [Note: I do believe we have have passed falsification of life ~ 3.5 Ga though, aside from the Apex chert there are macrofossils (with more convincing microscopic features too!), stromatolites that old from just beside the chert as well as in South Africa.]

  74. Procyan

    What, no magnetite? No Arsenic? No scriptures? Whats the angle? I can’t publish this tripe in the DP! Olsen, get me some pictures of Superman!

  75. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #23:

    I’m assuming the Orgueil meteorite can’t be of Earth origin, given its composition.

    #49:

    can we be sure the meteorite doesnt come from earth,

    The material are from 3 different meteorites, AFAIU assumed to be from the same parent body.

    Their D/H ratios are indicative of comets and decidedly not Earth, as well as their delta13C ratio (heavy to light carbon fractionation) is indicative of non-Earth material. Btw, it is referenced in the abstract but I haven’t yet found in the paper (still reading).

    The heavy to light carbon fractionation, if it also pertains to the found filament related kerogens, may be failing the “biological product” hypothesis btw. It is negative relative to the norm on Earth in biologically processed carbons. I can’t remember what it is in meteorites.

    #76:

    The only problem with this example is that D. radiodurans needs oxygen to do its thing – does anyone know if comets have the right stuff to feed sulfate-reducing bacteria? Anyway, it seems that radiodurans’ DNA repair mechanism isn’t specific to an oxidizing metabolism.

    Radiation breakdown during transpermia transport is iffy. Too small a body, and cosmic radiation breaks down hereditary material. (At least if it is preserved in friezed cells.) Too large a body, and mineral radioactivity will do the same.

    As for radiodurans it is a product of long time evolution. It is fairly soundly known that its durability against say radiation is a secondary product of it developing a function to survive dry periods on Earth. (Today there is too much references to mention to find them all; I’m sure you can find this by google, otherwise tell me and I will try to provide it.)

    Extended dry states destroy DNA, end eventually radiodurans found out a unique mechanism to patch it together when it needs to. This function is probably as unlikely to evolve again as our own ability to produce language (say).

    The problem isn’t to find hardy life like archaea once you have cells and eons of time, the problem is to have chemical to biological evolution under harsh conditions.

  76. Mister Sitta

    At the moment the universe appears to contain more Loch Ness monsters than aliens.

  77. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I would like to discuss abiogenesis and transpermia:

    #28:

    if panspermia is possible, then it is very likely to have happened – given the huge age of the universe.

    #38:

    All life on Earth is a result of single abiogenesis event. That occurred some 4.5 billion years ago. That seems to be pretty rare, by any account.

    First, there is misunderstanding of mechanisms and likelihoods here.

    #28: That Earth is habitable makes it the likeliest local place for abiogenesis everything else equal, transpermia multiplies likelihood-lowering factors. This is akin to the difficulties to establish likelihoods for multiverses in an infinite probability space (“age of universe”), while it is easy to pick a local probability measure.

    #38: Already Darwin recognized why we would likely only see one (or a few) abiogenesis event, first because evolution is “descent with modification” so started with one or a few populations, but most importantly here because earlier life eats (the raw material for) younger abiogenesis attempts.

    Second, with todays observations we can see that abiogenesis is easy.

    If you read biologists, you will be thoroughly confused. I haven’t read him myself, but often referenced philosopher Monod says something to the effect that abiogenesis was a lot of unique factors but there was many planets and plenty of time.

    That is not a probabilistic description that I can recognize. It is more like a dynamical systems description of a large phase space that was massively revisited and with a small volume of it harboring abiogenesis states.

    Instead, take the simplest possible stochastic process and falsification test if it is a) applicable b) informative. Recurring abiogenesis attempts will translate to a Poisson process.

    [Technical note: Actually a similarly behaving Lévy process, because several successes could happen simultaneously over a large planet. But Darwin tells us why it will be approximated by a Poisson first success process anyway.]

    With ~ 5 Gy Earth history, and life within ~ 1 Gy (3.5 Ga out of 4.5 Ga), the normalized process have a 0.2 average delay.

    Since Poisson processes stack their probability mass early (exponential pdf), it turns out that with the numbers at hand we can falsify it at 3 sigma confidence. In other words, a) happens to be a fact by lucky parameter conditions.

    Also, a small delay translates to either high rate of attempts and/or high success rate. Which in turn translates to little deterministic difficulty, if we leave the probabilistic model. In other words, b) is also a fact.

    So contrary to the claim in #38, it turns out that given the (admittedly abysmal statistics of) observations, we know that abiogenesis is easy and likely frequent. I would put it at p ~ 1 on 5 Gy old habitable planets. (Since a similar Poisson process over 1 Gy would have p ~ 0.35 at worst, so after 5 Gy it will be almost a given.)

    *******

    Oh my Gnu, all this and I haven’t really touched the newest research and the way it ups abiogenesis on planets and lowers it on comets. So shortly:

    There is this interesting result that implodes the mechanistic difficulties of chemical to biological evolution, a paper where they note contrary to conventional chemical wisdom it turns out from observations that at elevated temperatures (think boiling water), the slowest reactions are accelerated the most and to high rates. Reactions that takes longer time than the current age of Earth almost, will take on the order of years. (Again, too many refs, google or ask.)

    When temperatures are lowered, this translates to the curious fact that enthalpic enzymes (which is how todays proteins work) will naturally be selected out as metabolic cofactors. So we arrive immediately at a protobiotic metabolic network as a planet cools down after formation. Add a hereditary parasite as RNA within spontaneously forming lipid vacuoles (because now both can be considered common byproducts) and you get fully functional protocells for free.

    This global hot-to-cool period will not happen in comets, I believe.

  78. Messier Tidy Upper

    Yeah, I’m not too excited by this unless it turns out the crust of the metorite turns out to be a burnt piece of wreckage bearing the name Nostromo* – then I’ll be sacred -very scared! ;-)

    @ 71. Joseph G : Hear, hear. And it’s not just TV news, unfortunately – we’ve all seen stuff in print (Phil is often kind enough to point them out) that are nearly as bad

    Indeed that’s right. Sadly.

    @77. Dan Kennan : I think you’re being a little unfair to NASA there. Only a little, mind you, but still a little unfair to them.

    @38. puppygod :

    re panspermia – Sure, it is conceivable. But, if we are talking probabilities, then:
    a) Life doesn’t seem to be that common in solar system. Actually, we have only one planet with abundant life and, quite probably, only one with life at all, despite three planets and several moons within Goldilocks zone.

    Several moons!?

    Far as I’m aware there’s only Earth’s Moon technically inside the Goldilocks or habitable zone. Are you counting Phobos and Deimos there because they’re a mite on the small side -as is our moon too for that matter.

    FWIW, I think there’s as yet insufficent evidence to make any firm conclusion on how prevalent or otherwise life is in our solar system. There are still many possible -but unconfirmed sites where life *might* exist – Europa, Enceladus, Mars, Venus, the gas giants atmosphere’s, etc ..

    ———–

    * Saw the movie that’s referring to earlier tonight – & realised it’s over thirty years old having been made in 1979! Now *that* is scary! :-o ;-)

  79. Sawdust Sam

    @Anders#27
    Rhawn Joseph (PhD) is an interesting man and he will tell you so at great length. For a slightly different view, you could try googling his name with “Diane” and “Levinson” (plus possibly “California” and “Court”).
    You could also try googling his name with “Susan” and “Blackmore”.

  80. Messier Tidy Upper

    For those too old (or whatever) to get the reference :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_(film)

    which I suspect may be a frighteningly large number..

    There are still many possible -but unconfirmed sites where life *might* exist – Europa, Enceladus, Mars, Venus, the gas giant’s atmosphere’s etc ..

    *Might* being the operative word there – I’m not saying there is or isn’t, just that it’s possible and we don’t really know.

    As I said before, insufficent evidence – which means we should go there – preferably in person rather than via robot surrogates – and find out!

    @70. Joseph G : That would be funny, wouldn’t it? If they found signs of life in a meteorite… and dated it to about 65 MYA

    Funny yes .. and also really creepy too! Especially if it seems like a fragment of Adric’s badge. ;-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthshock

    ***

    PS. Minor correction note – the 2 sentences after @71. Joseph G was meant to be in italics, quoting him, ran out of editing time, alas, as ever.

  81. Georg

    Like
    51. L.Long
    for me these are whiskers. When aluminium oxidizes under circumstances
    which exclude formation of passivation, the aluminum oxid whiskers look
    pretty much this way.
    How old is Dr. Hoover?
    What is the relation to the arsen-bakteria hype recently?
    That was from NASA too, wasn’t it?

  82. Aaron

    @Dan Kennan, et al.:

    This has nothing to do with NASA. The author may have been a NASA employee, but that by no means implies that he preformed this research on behalf of the agency. Had this been the case, then it is likely that his results would have been published in a slightly more reputable journal, and we would have seen a bit more PR than just a segment on Fox News . . .

  83. disgusted

    If anybody at NASA apart from the author were convinced by this,

    (i) the article would appear in a reputable journal, most certainly GlamourMag,
    (ii) there would be a NASA press release, from which the exlcusive’ FOX News report would have been derived.

    As the comments #82 and #93 show, however, the fact that this person can say he’s a NASA scientist (which he is) tarnishes the credibility of the entire institution. Crackpots abound. But why do the taxpayers have to continue to fund them?

  84. Joseph G

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM Extended dry states destroy DNA, end eventually radiodurans found out a unique mechanism to patch it together when it needs to. This function is probably as unlikely to evolve again as our own ability to produce language (say).
    The problem isn’t to find hardy life like archaea once you have cells and eons of time, the problem is to have chemical to biological evolution under harsh conditions.

    So it’s unlikely then that any early life would be extremophilic from the start – those abilities would evolve later, well after the organisms had bootstrapped themselves to a certain level of complexity?
    Anyway, thanks! That’s the sort of answer I was hoping for.
    (Not that I don’t want life to evolve in space, I meant someone taking my goofy idea seriously for a moment to humor me) :)

  85. @Dan Kennan

    And your qualifications to make these blanket accusations and suppositions are what?

  86. Joseph G

    By the way, did anyone check the wiki article on that rock? It’s almost as interesting as today’s subject matter. Somehow I’d never heard of “presolar grains.” Amazing to consider how old they are. They were ancient when the sun was still a protostar. The condensed ashes of the supernova that seeded our neighborhood with the metals needed for the solar system to form the way it did.
    It’s almost dizzying!

  87. Joanne

    So it was picked up by Fox News…
    Stephen James O’Meara’s pre-Voyager discovery of spokes in Saturn’s rings was printed in the National Enquirer. It does not change the fact that O’Meara saw the spokes before they were photographed by Voyager!

    While I would be thrilled to learn we are not alone, I must wait until peer review and additional evidence comes to light. The more we learn about our universe, the more likely it seems we have company somewhere else. Organic chemicals abound in space, and conditions for life must be relatively common– so many stars, so many planets. We are just beginning to figure out the actual values for Drake’s equation, and I am sure we will find something tangible. When? I don’t know.

  88. Bob

    My God, why the need to show some microbes as “proof?” It’s a given, by all but the Luddites, that life exists throughout the universe. Stop playing into their hands with this silly debate.

  89. Richard Ely

    I’m a geologist, so I come at this from that perspective. If there ever is a meteorite type likely to preserve extra-terrestrial life, it is the CI1 carbonaceous chondrites described in the article. They are micro-breccias thought to be regolith (in this case, material weathered by water) from the surface of the parent body – probably an asteroid or comet judging by the D/H ratios. These extremely rare meteorites crumble to dust when they get wet because their microscopic particles are held together with clay and water-soluble minerals. You need to collect them right after they fall or they disaggregate. Only 5 falls have been directly observed, Orgueil in 1864 being the biggest (4 others were found in Antarctica by the Japanese). Hoover looked at 4 samples, 3 from Orgueil, one from Ivuna, the namesake for the type.

    The CI1s are soft enough to be cut with a knife, and early observers described them as humus- or bitumen-like. They are highly carbonaceous and contain complex organic compounds such as kerogen, long-chain fatty acids, protein amino acids, and the breakdown products of chlorophyll. The microscopic filaments exposed on fresh surfaces look very much like bacteria and certainly are not biological contaminants because they lack nitrogen, as do multi-million year old fossils from Earth.

  90. Read the paper. It is crackpottery at its finest. The number of ‘tells’ are off the chart.

    1. Pariedolia. The ‘evidence’ seems to consist mostly of a form-resemblance in SEM features to those of known Earth bacteria. At the imaging and feature scale (1 micron), there are all manners and types of mineralogical growths which could coincidentally resemble the form of various known bacteria. The elemental content of the selected features does not appear to rule out a wholly abiogenic origin of the forms, since after all, fossil are the mineralogical replacement of organic material with non-organic. So the only ‘real’ evidence you could derive here is that the observed forms and shapes could not have been formed by totally abiogenic mineralogical processes, and could only have been formed by replacement of a previously living organism body with abiogenic mineralization. At the SEM level, mineral forms are kaleidoscopic, especially in the type of clayey, porous amalgam that characterizes carbonaceous chondrites.

    2. The paper implies these bacteria are indigenous to comets, ie. they naturally live in them and (I guess) evolved from non-life within them at a time contemporaneous with the formation of the planets themselves (or even predating planet formation !!!). It’s one thing to say that certain very primitive bacteria could live in a comet (by going into total dormancy except when the orbit is near the sun), but to have evolved from non-life in them? That’s quite a stretch, especially because most of the comets we know of spend only a tiny fraction of their ‘lives’ anywhere near the sun and most of it at near-absolute zero well beyond the planets’ orbits. At least the Allen Hills Mars meteorite posited a terrestrial, planetary origin for the inferred microbial fossils (Mars).

    3. It is a testament to the stupidity of FOX that they conflated NASA scientist with NASA itself, as if these findings are those of the agency, rather than an individual employee working and publishing independently. Richard C. Hoagland, after all, was once a NASA “staff” member. If a NASA scientist believes in Jehovah, does that mean NASA does?

    4. Look at the place of publication and the mode of announcement. If the discovery were real, it would be the most important scientific discovery in human history. It’s in a fringe ‘on-line’ journal that is going out of business.

    5. Look at the list of co-authors and collaborators. There are none. Proper publishing protocol of a claim of this magnitude would have compelled Hoover to circulate his work and imaging as a rough draft to other, qualified folks in the field well prior to publishing. To publish this as a solo one-off and only then “invite” critique is to turn the review process on its head.

    So, for me, all of the smell test buttons are at DEFCON 5 level.

  91. Mike C.

    The Second I read this I thought to myself “oh no this again” but of course I hope it is eventually proven true. The problem here is the journal he posted in has a really bad reputation in general. Why just invite 100 scientists? why not just say anyone who wants to look go for it? this whole thing sounds fishy to me and kind of like a ploy to save their journal at the last minute.

  92. DigitalAxis

    @97. Joseph G: Well, any life that evolved in that cometary pool would HAVE to be able to survive what WE would call harsh conditions, but those would probably be the only conditions in which it COULD survive (initially), and it would have to do so with simple chemical mechanisms rather than the highly advanced DNA-repair techniques [i]Radiodurans[/i] is known to employ. Something like THAT does not spring into being, fully formed.

    @101. Bob: Well, seeing as it’s a given, we’d now like to FIND some.

  93. Phil is correct in that Hoover has not convincingly ruled out the ‘bacteria-like’ observed forms arising from Earth-origin microbes which colonized the chondrites after they landed and were collected. Several of the samples are from well-known observed meteorite falls in France in the 1800s. The studied fragments of the chondrites have been constantly exposed to the air and Earth microbes for over a century, offering an enormous amount of time for Earth bacteria colonization from the perspective of a microbe. The clayey nature of this chondrite group offers plenty of microfissures for Earth microbes to probe and inhabit and then die. Clayey amalgams are by nature subject to an enormous range of mineralization reactions that are dependent on heat, humidity etc. It is well known among professional potters since the early Chinese that pottery clay can be improved by “aging” it for years or decades, which means keeping it moist enough to encourage microbial growth throughout the clay mass. So, to the extent that this group of chondrites has a physical affinity to a clayey amalgam, there are an enormous number of Earth microbes which consider these substances to be ideal habitat. And it is certainly possible that these microbes, upon dying, could undergo mineralogical replacement, ie. creating what we commonly call a fossil.

    The paper does not seem to control for any of this.

  94. Mr Martin

    We are not talking about a virus or a primitive archaebacteria. Dr. Hoover claims that these structures are fossilized remains of cyanobacterias, which are well evolved and certainly very complex organism. So I join to the sceptic group, and, although I am far to be an expert, I more plausible explanation is some sort of non-organic mineral crystallization.

    However I consider the possibility of panspermia very interesting. Knowing that there are aminoacids in the core of the comets and nebulae is also astonishing. Maybe life is not a double-zero roulette wheel, but the universe is dimming with life. But how much of that life has the opportunity to develop on the surface of the planet, with clear skies, and have eyes to see the stars, and an is intelligent enough to ask one primordial question Are we alone in the universe?

  95. I agree with Mr. Martin. It is intriguing and not impossible that comets could harbor and even have evolved a form of life. But just saying it does not make it so. Also, one would presume these life forms would be extremely divergent from known life forms on Earth today since they are posited to be 10 billion years older and are adapted to an environment (a comet) which is completely different than the comparatively much forgiving climes of Earth. So using extant Earth bacteria as a shape proxy for such inferred extremely primitive life seems kind of a stretch. At the SEM level of resolution, mineral shapes and forms are kaleidoscopic and can often look like tubes, tendrils, worms or filaments when there are pore spaces (‘vugs’) which allow a mineral to grow or precipitate in unconfined space. Even macroscopic sized crystals can exhibit these odd, seemingly organic-like shapes. Any good petrology textbook shows this. Stibnite is a good example, as are the zeolite group.

  96. tommy jonq

    1. if these are earthly bacteria, they are species of bacteria that are not found growing anywhere except meteorites. only one of the proposed fossils looks anything like a known terrestrial species of cyanobacterium. IF these are fossil microorganisms, they are at the very least newly-discovered species.

    2. the only known terrestrial bacteria that could possibly live inside these meteorites don’t grow near the surface of the earth, and don’t grow in the conditions where these meteorites have been found and stored. so contamination in the wild is, in itself, an extraordinary claim that no one has actually reproduced in a lab.

    3. if these are terrestrial organisms which have contaminated these meteorites, why haven’t any living cultures been observed? it should be within the skills of any high school biology class to culture these organisms, if that’s what they are. in fact, no known species of terrestrial bacteria have ever been found, alive or dead, in any of these meteorites.

    4. so—IF these are fossils of microorganisms, claims of terrestrial origin are just as extraordinary as claims of extraterrestrial origin.

    5. WTF are they? if they only appeared in one meteorite, or if they appeared in earth rocks, or moon rocks, or some zero-chance meteorites that couldn’t ever have supported anything like life, or if they appeared in every flippin meteorite regardless, then they wouldn’t be such a big deal. so—WTF are they?

  97. Andy Wakefield

    It would seem that Hoover is also engaging in resume enhancement. Does he or does he not have a Ph.D. i.e. is he really “Dr.” Hoover? http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/03/nasa-msfc-astro.html

  98. amphiox

    It is a testament to the stupidity of FOX that they conflated NASA scientist with NASA itself, as if these findings are those of the agency, rather than an individual employee working and publishing independently.

    Do not rule out the possibility that FOX News is doing this deliberately, knowing full well how shaky this paper is, for political motivations. So that at some later point they will be able to report on the debunking and play it up to discredit NASA and science in general.

  99. Matt L

    Wow…if there’s one thing a lot of the commentary on here suggests, it’s that for some people it’s more interesting to talk about anything BUT the science. Let’s talk about FOX news, NASA, or the journal or anything else.

    I also love those responding who obviously haven’t read the study or even a summary of the study.

    I’m not saying I believe this by the way. There have been some good points raised by those who have read the study and there are a LOT of questions that need to be answered. This work needs to be gone over with a fine tooth comb and probably when scientists get done will prove to be false.

    But that doesn’t mean that we need to resort to petty name calling, I love the people calling him a “crackpot”. Come on people, that’s not science. Science, at least ideally, should not involve calling people names. It should be about the evidence, the process, the questions, the methodology. Not anything else.

    And we shouldn’t start with assumptions. We shouldn’t be skeptics or believers. We should simply be scientists. This isn’t possible of course, but we should strive for it. Both a skeptic and a believer start with an assumption of what is true and work backwards from there. A scientist should start with the evidence and work forwards from that point.

    By the way, I’m not saying there’s something wrong with starting with a hypothesis. Obviously these are key to the scientific method. What I am saying is that we should not be trying to prove the hypothesis true or untrue. Rather we should be testing the hypothesis from a neutral point of view.

    Modern science in particular is plagued with the problem that scientists want to prove themselves right to improve their career. This has led to all manner of poorly done studies in the past (one of which may very well be the study in question here). And I find that skeptics and believers both tend to have an even greater vested emotional interest in it. As has been said many times, people see what they want to see.

    I’m reminded of this great Carl Sagan clip from Cosmos, where he talks about Kepler and how devastated the man was to have to abandon his idea of circular orbits. But when the evidence showed this to be the case HE DID. I think we should all strive to be capable of this, no matter how difficult it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPt_ADAx7IA (This isn’t quite the clip I’m thinking of, but is worth watching anyway)

    Again, just to reiterate, I am NOT saying this study is true. I suspect it will turn out to not be, but I just get tired of people who obviously care more about discrediting it out of hand than finding out through science.

  100. This is an important finding, whether or not it is confirmed.

    I congratulate the author and the editor for open reviews that the Journal of Cosmology employs.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  101. Jess Tauber

    I for one welcome our rock-sucking nanobe fossil overlords!

  102. tommy jonq

    “contamination” redux: the whole point of hoover’s latests announcement is that he claims to have developed a reliable way to tell the difference between recent invasion of any rocks, including meteorites, by known terrestrial microbes vs ancient fossils, whether of terrestrial or nonterrestrial microbes. he’s not a crackpot; he’s the world’s leading researcher and experimenter on this topic. and his method is pretty darned convincing. and he’s tested it on things besides meteorites.

    so, the POINT is:

    1. yes, the orgueil meteorite has, over the last 150 years, been invaded by fungi, and possibly other microbes. hoover has, apparently, figured out a way to tell the difference, and his new methods reveal: a. the structures that look exactly like known terrestrial species are, in fact, chemically identical to recently deceased and dessicated cultures; b. the structures that do not look exactly like known terrestrial species are chemically similar to ancient (millions of years) fossils, not recent organic remains; c. none of the confirmed contaminants are inconsistent with having grown in these meteorites under known conditions (that is, they are organisms which can grow in dry, dark conditions, and do not need liquid water AND sunlight;) and d. these chondrites all show chemical evidence of having once contained, or come from an environment immersed in, liquid water, but not since they hit the earth.
    2. So, IF some of these structures that are similar, but not identical, to known terrestrial species, are in fact millions of years old, and therefore cannot be recent contaminations, but are roughtly similar, yet not identical, in structure to ancient terrestrial microbes, and they occur in more than one carbonaceous chondrite, then WTF are they? fossils of ancient, extraterrestrial microbes?
    3. for example: these structures are not IDENTICAL to known terrestrial species like cyanobacteria, which require, as we know, both liquid water AND sunlight to grow. so, if they ARE terrestrial infestations, then they represent MORE THAN ONE previously unknown species which resemble, among other things, cyanobacteria, but don’t require liquid water or sunlight, and are ONLY found in meteorites—hmm. WTF would that be?
    point number 4 on my list of 3: BTW, research over the past couple of years has finally proven, to the satisfaction of every reasonable expert on the subject, that the interior of the murchison meteorite in question has not been contaminated by terrestrial organics.

  103. Dan Kennan

    There seems to be a history of NASA-related …”puffery” about ET life…sometimes directly from NASA, sometimes its affiliated researchers. And in every single case, when third parties who are qualified take a closer look, it turns out to be sloppy research or just far far far less definitive than claimed.

    So I reserve the right to wait for judgments from other experts before giving it any credibility. I do not assume it’s not life…time and further investigation will tell. But these researchers never seem to wait before making their big press releases.

    I do not need to be a qualified scientist to be doubtful. My qualifications are that I’ve fallen for it before. If it shown to be life I won’t have to rely on some shady journal to find out.

    And I really hope it IS!

  104. Anchor

    Oh come on, gimme a break.

    With the ‘evidence’ he presents in that ‘paper’ that was submitted for ‘publication’ in that ‘scientific journal’, Dr. Hoover might as well claim asbestos fibers to be fossilized micro-organisms. Amino acids are claimed to be present, yet no nitrogen was detected? This is a hilarious JOKE.

    Sheesh, Phil, how can you give this stuff any wiggle-room of credibility at all? If this was such a stupendous finding, why wasn’t it published in Science or Nature?

  105. Anon

    Anchor:
    “Amino acids are claimed to be present, yet no nitrogen was detected? This is a hilarious JOKE.”

    where is the joke? no nitrogen was detected above detection level.. exactly like known acient bacteria fossil found on earth (ancient here mean at least older than 32000 years according to the paper ) Are you saying this known behavior happening on earth is a joke?

  106. flip

    Sadly, I have spent a lot of time in the Twitterverse today; and so many people are talking about this news as if it had been confirmed, slam dunk, no more questions please. Wish people would actually read the item before retweeting it.

    … Funnily enough, the people who have been retweeting are mostly ‘new agers’ and the people who I didn’t see mentioning it at all were mostly skeptics and pro-science.

    #105 Mike C

    this whole thing sounds fishy to me and kind of like a ploy to save their journal at the last minute.

    Good point. Wouldn’t surprise me; how many clicks to their site would they now be getting because of this publicity? Heaps I bet.

  107. ben

    I see this a lot, but if the same paper was published in Nature it would be more credible? Scientists should be very aware of bias and this one is way too ironic. The big journals, and especially Nature, tend to exist out of logistical and historical reasons. And for a breed of people so concerned about blind controls, etc, it comes across as hypocrisy to continuously point out the Journal. Cosmology obviously has a suspect history, but using it as the major proof of sham science wouldn’t hold up in court.

  108. There are chances that bacteria found in Antarctica, Siberia or Alasks.. might have resulted their presense there due to Volcanic eruptions occurred elsewhere on earth, which throws up tons of rocks laced with bacteria miles high into the sky and in all directions. Those rocks has to come back to Earth in similar condition as meteorite showers..

  109. Anthony McCarthy

    “As with any scientific claim, skepticism is needed …”

    Surely only science is needed

    I’d feel more secure about these things if they came from biologists. Biologists who don’t take an overly reductionist view of their subject matter and who don’t automatically see what they expect to and to fill in the rest with wishful thinking. Though if it turned out to be remnants of life it would be fun.

  110. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Joseph #97:

    So it’s unlikely then that any early life would be extremophilic from the start – those abilities would evolve later, well after the organisms had bootstrapped themselves to a certain level of complexity?

    Depends on when life kicked in. You can define life most widely as the process of “descent with variation”, and then the metabolic network of my comment #88 constitutes life. (It is participating in biological evolution due to local variations and selection over its global scale and it is hereditary by its dynamic memory of self-sustaining metabolism.) It started out extremophilic.

    What happened on Earth is at some point there was an RNA takeover, the RNA world, and that can only happen at low temp. This has now been independently verified several times over in recent phylogenetic studies, the oldest proteins ie oldest protein controlled metabolism were mesophilic. (Again, google or ask for refs.)*

    Since this was the pathway to cellular life here, it is likely that all life even if started out as extremophilic need to pass through a mesophilic bottleneck, to regain extremophilic properties as cellular life.

    I believe we have to distinguish between “harsh” environments, which may be extremophilic as regards, say, acidity and/or too much variation, and abiogenesis benign environments. The later may include hot water, possibly higher pressures, and be good environments for life. (Say, hot hydrothermal vents in Europa seas.)

    But that life, or “life”, may be less adapted to other or varying environments, less hardy. If non-cellular, life it will also be much less adaptable, say if its hereditary memory isn’t genetic and local but dynamic and distributed as in chemical metabolic networks.

    So yes, it is unlikely that life was both robust and extremophilic from the start. When it gets to mature, decently robust DNA cells that have some variation in what environments they prefer, life is a plague: you simply can’t get rid of it! :-D

    * Incidentally this may explain the RNA to DNA transition. Later genes shows a thermal bottleneck. The simplest hypothesis is that RNA life was extinguished not simply by competition but by having both less thermophilic and adaptable hereditary system. (RNA genes could not become as long as the more stable DNA.)

  111. Nigel Depledge

    POTU (28) said:

    Panspermia, the idea that life travels throughout the universe via meteorites, is very old and well established. The way I see it, if panspermia is possible, then it is very likely to have happened – given the huge age of the universe. The mechanisms of panspermia are all very plausible. It is hugely exciting to imagine that life exists outside of earth and that we may be related to aliens.

    The biggest problem with panspermia is that, if it is true, it shuts down a lot of work on abiogenesis. We have a pretty reasonable idea of the kinds of conditions that pertained on the early Earth, but if terrestrial life started elsewhere, then all bets are off.

    Also, if panspermia is true, then it would make it doubly difficult to prove something to be of extraterrestrial origin, because panspermia predicts that life here is related to life out there.

    So, while I grant that several of the mechanisms of panspermia are plausible, I really, really hope it is not true.

  112. Nigel Depledge

    Puppygod (38) said:

    b) All life on Earth is a result of single abiogenesis event. That occurred some 4.5 billion years ago. That seems to be pretty rare, by any account.

    Not necessarily.

    There is much evidence that early life was promiscuous in horizontal gene transfer between species. It could be that there was more than one abiogenesis event, giving rise to sufficiently similar forms that they could engage in this kind of genetic exchange. Once genetic exchange had started, then there would be a certain amount of “standardisation” that would make those early forms more similar.

    Also, once life was established on Earth, new abiogenesis events are pretty much excluded by the fact that extant life will always out-compete newly-formed life.

    So, there may have been a million abiogenesis events on Earth, but only one of them actually formed the ancestors of all modern life, because it ate all the latecomers.

  113. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ #112:

    contain complex organic compounds such as kerogen, long-chain fatty acids, protein amino acids, and the breakdown products of chlorophyll.

    Of those organics those of kerogen, long-chain acids and amino acids (not only those associated with our proteins!) all have non-biological synthesis pathways and are found in all sorts of meteorites, some are even found on dust.

    As for breakdown products of chlorophyll, I’ve never heard of it. What are those compounds and what references do you have?

    @ # 114:

    Read the paper. It is crackpottery at its finest.

    Sadly, not all of it. The paper itself is bad science, long since promoted by such luminaries like Schopf. It has been criticized amply and with good effect.

    [If you like the context, biology has a long tradition of "confirmation" science AFAIK.

    Actual testing has a cadre of recent proponents, such as Wächtershäuser, Brasier, Mulkidjanian and Theobald. (And of course phylogeny can be interpreted as testing, to good effect.) The later is the one who recently tested the fact of a LUCA on genetic code and metabolism to ~ 1:10^2000 "uncertainty"!]

    The rest of your comment is simply stating facts, no one should be able to disagree with your description there.

  114. Again, I congratulate the author and the editor for by-passing NASA’s tyrannical, lock-step control of space sciences!

    As the Climategate scandal unfolds and bureaucrats in federal research agencies realize that they may be under public scrutiny, I fully expect that a backlog of scientific findings over the past four decades will become available for evaluation.

    E.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXNyLYSiPO0
    and arxiv.org/pdf/1102.1499v1

    Again, I congratulate the author and the editor for their courage to their present findings directly to the public that supported the research.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  115. Dan

    Ben,

    I think the prestige of a journal that a paper shows up in should play SOME role in the degree of our initial skepticism of an extraordinary claim. Obviuously if the science is good it doesn’t matter, but if there is no peer-review (or peer-review by cranks) or if the journal seems to exist to just sell books (as seems to be largely the case with the Journal of Cosmology) it is statistically more likely to be erroneous. If you click on titles of their papers it links to books on Amazon on different subject by peopel affiliated with the site; I’ve read articles from dozens of different biology journals and have never seen that before. It’s really shady.

    The thing is that news of this magnitude, if it was somewhat certain, should appear in a major journal, not a fringe pseudo-journal. It would be like if a real cure for all cancer was found, yet the author decided to skip the New England Journal of Medicine or JAMA and publish in Medical Hypothesis (a non-peer reviewed “journal” for which the editors say they do not require any evidence for a claim, and in fact prefer little evidence). I think just that alone would make us more skeptical of the claim.

  116. I suspect, Ben, that there is good reason to skip mainstream journals with their devotion to consensus “science.”

    That is not to say that I endorse this paper. But I no longer endorse the mainstream science journals that promoted AGW propaganda.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  117. disgusted

    Reviewing papers is a valuable and time-consuming part of being a scientist.

    The idea of peer review taking place in an open forum is in principle delightful and should result in the best ideas with the most thorough experimental and statistical techniques surviving, and the others being thoughtfully, methodically, and politely refuted.

    Would this really happen? Let’s use, as an example, this thread and the others that have proliferated since the article we are discussing here first appeared. My guess is a big ‘No’.

    A review is more than a cursory read-through and reaction. It is also rarely a Yay or Nay decision. There is an initial report, a dialogue with the author, the editors. A revision. More reviewing. More dialogue. Even in the 2-3 reviewers per article that is customary in the mainstream scientific literature, there is a load of about 10-20 papers per year that a scientist is asked to referee in this multi-stage process.

    The referees are chosen carefully by the journal editors according to the expertise and publication record of people in the relevant sub-field. There is no money or glory associated with being a referee. To get these referees to accept and complete the review in a thorough and timely fashion, the editors rely on the goodwill of the scientists and on their buy-in to the peer-review process.

    I’m trying to imagine a process where I would be invited to post my review on a web page where numerous others would engage in a discussion resulting from my and other reviews, and I’m not seeing myself continuing this conversation (if I accepted in the first place) beyond the point where it becomes (a) too much of a time sink (b) tedious (c) like flogging a dead horse (d) a renewed conversation with a new reviewer who had thus far not weighed in.

    I don’t think ‘consensus’ is a dirty word when it comes to science, and in this proposed process I don’t see ‘consensus’ being reached unless the same norms were applied that are currently in place with the 2-3 reviews per paper. On the way there, I see noise, exhaustion, the end of civility, and a very difficult decision for an editor who has to wade through all the arguments. Or is the decision even left to the editor? In the end, we have to decide whether we agree that this work is worthy, so in the end it is still ‘consensus’ science in that the decisions should be based on whether experts agree that correct methods have been applied to data that are suitable to probe the question under investigation, and whether the significance of the result is correctly assessed and stands up to scrutiny.

    To sum up, I think the idea of openness in reviewing is admirable, but I don’t think professional scientists would have or make time for this.

  118. Constantine S

    You know what this looks like to me? I saw a very similar picture once on more of a macro scale. I was hiking in upstate NY during a cold spell after rain in the fall. The water entered cracks in the rocks the previous day and when it started freezing, it expanded and slowly started ejecting from the cracks and looked like little white frost worms.

    I don’t think it’s too far fetched to imagine a set of temperature changes in asteroids where the different constituents of its structure interact due to variety of melting points to form these patterns.

    Certainly not anything close to extraordinary evidence.

    Oh, just realized Menyambal had the exact same idea :-) Took me a while to search through the thread.

  119. flip

    A quick google discovers that Oliver K. Manuel is a global warming denier who’s even mentioned on Natural News.

    PS. Oliver, you may want to comment on a different blog post, as this one has nothing to do with climate change.

  120. Anders

    Is this the same Oliver K. Manuel (#119, #138, #140) who claims the Sun is made mostly of iron? http://www.thesunisiron.com/

  121. anb

    #20, #143, I think you´re on the right track. More likely than not, the structures are evaporitic minerals formed when the samples lost their water, i. e. after the fall of the meteorites. See
    Gounelle and Zolensky: A terrestrial origin for sulfate veins in CIl chondrites, Meteoritics & Planetary Science 36, 1321-1329 (2001)
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1945-5100.2001.tb01827.x/pdf

    The morphology and elemental composition (basically magnesium sulphate) are a good match to the structures described in this paper. Why Hoover fails to mention that is beyond my understanding. He even marked some cleavage planes in his Fig. 2a – another indicator that the filaments are single crystals instead of permineralized biogene material.

    For some macroscopic examples see http://www.mineralienatlas.de/lexikon/index.php/Locken (scroll down a bit).

    Lastly, his EDS elemental analysis appears to be ehm… questionable. In Fig. 1c a Boron content of 3.38 weight-% in the matrix is indicated. However, a quick glance at a standard reference work (Treatise on Geochemistry Vol.1) shows that typical Boron contents of CI1 chondrites are less than 1 ppm. Unfortunately, the discrepancy is not discussed. Maybe five orders of magnitude are irrelevant when one has a sufficently extraordinary hypothesis?

  122. John

    Side note: I was curious about the grade-school insult from Gabriel Beck. Beck or JOC very recently deleted the insult from Beck’s response but Google’s cache of the article caught him red-handed calling Plait an “astronomer-wannabe”. Burrrrrnnnn.

  123. I have always believed that we weren’t the only beings on the Universe. In fact, if you ask me, I think I have a very valid proof for this.

    Look at the human body. It is made up of cells, tissues, organs, systems that make up the organism (in this case, MAN). Everything has its function in its world (or its planet) inside of the human body (universe); the liver, kidneys, brain, lungs, bones, etc. They work together, but also independently for the proper functioning of our bodies. Cells interact just like we do, send messages, procreate, protect and respond to threats and dangers, just like we do. To the cell, the tissue becomes its universe for which it might not comprehend its entire functionality because it functions within itself to effectively work. Same applies to the tissue with respect to the organs, and the organs with respect to the entire body. Each of these organs might know of each other because messages are constantly being transmitted across the entire body, but there is no proof (at least I do not know of any), which says that the eyes understand the work-abilities of the ureters and vice versa. So to the eye, there might not even be a ureter as far as it is concerned. Does that mean that the ureter does not exist? NO!

    In perspective, it is assumed that there are between 50 to 100 trillion (50 – 100,000,000,000,000) cells in the body. There might be more, or less. In like manner, it is speculated that there are about 200 billion galaxies in the universe, averaging about 150 billion stars each.

    Lets assume that there are about 3 planets orbiting each star, if my math is still correct, (and I hope it is) that would roughly amount to 3 x 150 billion x 200 billion = 90,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (90 sextillion) planets. We’d only just be 1 in all that.

    That is equivalent to 1.1 x 10–²³. This is about 1/10 the diameter of an electron, which is smaller than the proton, way smaller than the nucleus, and definitely nothing close to the size of a cell. Go figure!

    So according to my math, if there are actually between 50 and 100 trillion cells in the body, which is the basic unit of life, and there really are 90 sextillion planets; that’s between 900 million to 1.8 billion times more planets on the universe than there are cells in the human body.

    And people doubt that there is the presence of ‘Other Life’ on the Universe?

    I don’t think God stopped creating after He created MAN. The Bible just said HE rested on the 7th day. What did HE do after the 7th day, 8th day, 9th day, etc? Also didn’t HE also create the angels anyway? So if Christians believe in angels, and principalities and powers, why not ‘Other Life’? They in themselves are Aliens, don’t you think? #justsaying

    more on chikeukaegbu.wordpress.com

  124. flip

    #150 chike ukaegbu

    Your discussion of the cells of the body has nothing to do with the validity of the paper in question, nor does it ‘prove’ that extraterristrial life exists. It only proves that we exist. Your math is nonsense.

    Also didn’t HE also create the angels anyway?

    So basically you’re saying you believe in angels, therefore aliens must exist. Yeah, first you have to prove that angels exist. Then you would have to prove that alien life forms exist, separate to proving angels.

  125. Jeff P.

    I need to re-state a primary fact. NASA needs to cut the funding and all resource availability from Mr. Hoover as he’s not performing his research in good faith.

    Mr. Oliver Manuel – maybe your lack of support for mainstream science & journals has more to do with the fact you abused your children and are on the Missouri sex offender registry for that crime. Being rebuked by your peers is a painful ordeal, but the reality of why you post, and what your motives are… are in conflict with signature tags you keep using as you troll the Internet supporting bad science.

  126. David G.

    In 1966, as a freshman in college , I wrote a required paper for English 101 titled “Evidence of Extra Terrestrial Life as Found on Carbonaceous Chondrites”. The prof commented that although he didn’t understand it he thought it well written(hence an A-) My what comes around! ( and the above comment is ad hominem)

  127. Messier Tidy Upper

    @150. chike ukaegbu :

    So if Christians believe in angels, and principalities and powers, why not ‘Other Life’? They in themselves are Aliens, don’t you think?

    Hey, was that inspired by *this* :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJbgBPkQq78&feature=related

    by any chance? ;-)

    I really don’t think we’re alone. I agree that the odds are that Humanity is not entirely alone in the cosmos although we don’t have any conclusive evidence for that idea – or even for simple life outside our home planet – yet.

    However, as has been pointed out already, your “very valid proof”, I’m afraid to say, isn’t actually that – although it is a nice idea / observation. :-)

    *****

    “Cosmology also tells us that there are perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the universe and that each contains roughly 100 billion stars. By a curious co-incidence, 100 billion is also the approximate number of cells in a human brain.”

    - Page 237, ‘StarGazer’, Dr Fred Watson, Allen & Unwin, 2004.

  128. Roger S

    The part of the publication that was really a big red flag to me is where he’s making inferences about life on Europa and Enceladus based on the colors of terrestrial microbes and the colors of those moons shown in Galileo and Cassini images… and the images he’s referring to are enhanced, FALSE COLOR images of those moons. And how could the articles reviewers failed to have spotted that error?

    Is that great science or what?

  129. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Roger S : What! definitely “what” or even ‘Not.” ;-)

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