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December 10, 2010

NASA Full Of Shit On Arsenic-Based Microbe?

I didn't see this when Allah posted on it, but it seems the majority of scientists not actually part of this alleged discovery think it's awful science, thin in its evidence and obese in its conclusions.

As soon as Redfield started to read the paper, she was shocked. "I was outraged at how bad the science was," she told me.

Redfield blogged a scathing attack on Saturday. Over the weekend, a few other scientists took to the Internet as well. Was this merely a case of a few isolated cranks? To find out, I reached out to a dozen experts on Monday. Almost unanimously, they think the NASA scientists have failed to make their case. "It would be really cool if such a bug existed," said San Diego State University's Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist who looks for new species of bacteria and viruses in coral reefs. But, he added, "none of the arguments are very convincing on their own." That was about as positive as the critics could get. "This paper should not have been published," said Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado.

None of the scientists I spoke to ruled out the possibility that such weird bacteria might exist. Indeed, some of them were co-authors of a 2007 report for the National Academies of Sciences on alien life that called for research into, among other things, arsenic-based biology. But almost to a person, they felt that the NASA team had failed to take some basic precautions to avoid misleading results.

Allah wonders if NASA didn't have some kind of subconscious financial motive to rush something grabby out the door, stat, given cuts likely to be coming. That's certainly possible; scientists are not secular saints.


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posted by Ace at 12:59 PM

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