Why That 'NASA Discovers Alien Life' Story Is Bullshit

Fox News has a super-exciting article today: "Exclusive: NASA Scientist claims Evidence of Alien Life on Meteorite." OMG, aliens exist! Except this NASA scientist has been claiming to have evidence of alien life on meteorites for years.

NASA scientist Richard B. Hoover made the exciting discovery (a photo of which is reproduced above):

He gave FoxNews.com early access to the out-of-this-world research, published late Friday evening in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology. In it, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites — only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.

Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies — comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said.

The article is now the most-read on Foxnews.com.

As much as we love aliens, this is not news. Hoover has been claiming to have fossil evidence of alien bacterial life for years. Here he is in 2004, on some website called panspermia.org, with the exact same 'discovery' reported in today's Fox News article:

Richard B. Hoover of NASA/NSSTC announced today the discovery of evidence for the detection of a fossilized cyanobacterial mat in a freshly fractured, interior surface of the Orgueil carbonaceous meteorite.

And in 2007 presented a paper at a conference for the Society of Professional Instrumentation Engineers titled "Microfossils of cyanobacteria in carbonaceous meteroites"—same findings, same meteorite. Just last month in a press release by the Journal of Cosmology, Dr. Hoover crowed that "We have found fossil evidence of microbes in meteors which are older than this solar system."

What about the "Journal of Cosmology", where this supposedly groundbreaking paper is published? No matter the fancy affiliations of its editorial staff, it's a pretty janky operation. The website looks like it was designed by a New Age music retailer in 1997, and the "about us" page brags about how many hits it gets. ("The Journal of Cosmology now receives over 500,000 Hits per month, which makes the Journal of Cosmology among the top online science journals.") Why couldn't Hoover place this amazing discovery in a more prestigious journal? In 1996, when NASA scientists claimed to have found evidence of bacteria life on a meteorite from Mars, their paper appeared in the most prestigious science journal of all: Science. (The discovery was later debunked.)

So, we're calling bullshit on Richard Hoover's discovery, and Fox News' 'exclusive'. Maybe Hoover really has found life (probably not). But it's not news, and it's far, far from certain.

Update: A University of Minnesota biology professor offers his take: "Did scientists discover bacteria in meteorites? No. No, no, no. No no no no no no no no. No, no. No... this work is garbage. I'm surprised anyone is granting it any credibility at all."