If you've been scanning the internet this weekend, chances are you've seen that particular Fox News story about alien bacterial fossils being discovered on meteorites. The findings in the Fox story were published in the Journal of Cosmology, which is less of an academic website and more like watching laser Jethro Tull at your local planetarium.
Anyway, we were dubious of this story from the get-go (read the Journal of Cosmology's unintentionally comic tour de force on sex in space), but we've received enough inquiries about the JoC article that we feel compelled to address it. We'll let PZ Myers of the University of Minnesota take it away...
[The Journal of Cosmology] isn't a real science journal at all, but is the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth. It doesn't exist in print, consists entirely of a crude and ugly website that looks like it was sucked through a wormhole from the 1990s, and publishes lots of empty noise with no substantial editorial restraint.
And the paper itself?
It's a dump of miscellaneous facts about carbonaceous chondrites, not well-honed arguments edited to promote concision or cogency. The figures are annoying; when you skim through them, several will jump out at you as very provocative and looking an awful lot like real bacteria, but then without exception they all turn out to be photos of terrestrial organisms thrown in for reference. The extraterrestrial 'bacteria' all look like random mineral squiggles and bumps on a field full of random squiggles and bumps, and apparently, the authors thought some particular squiggle looked sort of like some photo of a bug. This isn't science, it's pareidolia. They might as well be analyzing Martian satellite photos for pictures that sorta kinda look like artifacts.
You can read Myers' full vivisection over at Pharyngula.