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The meteorites are following me… 7 March, 2011

Posted by Simon Nickerson in Uncategorized.
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After having spent an entire semester blogging about Martian meteorite ALH84001, and whether or not it showed evidence of Martian micro-organisms, it seems like I have to talk about meteorites again.

Richard Hoover from NASA claims that three meteorites he has studied show signs of fossilised bacteria, and his paper has set off a firestorm of criticism. Actually I’m not even sure if this counts as a controversy, because there seems to be almost universal condemnation of his research – some responses here, here and here.

The Journal of Cosmology, which published the paper, has been attracting as much attention as the research. JoC is an free online journal (but still peer-reviewed) that has a decidedly alternative view of space science (and, I feel obliged to warn you, a hideous website). In addition, it has announced that it is ceasing publication in May of this year – that link takes you to a bizarre, bitter, conspiracy-filled press release.

If we’re going to judge the research by where it gets published, it’s not looking good for Dr Hoover. It goes to show that peer-review on its own is not enough to make research credible.

My favourite angle on this story, though, is that one of the meteorites Dr Hoover studied is the Orgueil meteorite, which landed in France in 1864. This is not the first time that Orgueil has been involved in controversial claims of alien life….

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