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Oh, great. I get to be the wet blanket.

There's a lot of news going around right now about this NASA press release and paper in Science — before anyone had read the paper, there was some real crazy-eyed speculation out there. I was even sent some rather loony odds from a bookmaker that looked like this:

WHAT WILL NASA ANNOUNCE?

NASA HAS DISCOVERED A LIFE FORM ON MARS +200 33%
DISCOVERED EVIDENCE OF LIFE ON ONE OF SATURNS MOON +110 47%
ANNOUNCES A NEW MODEL FOR THE EXISTENCE OF LIFE -5000 98%
UNVEILS IMAGES OF A RECOVERED ALIEN SPACECRAFT +300 25%
CONFESSES THAT AREA 51 WAS USED FOR THE ALIEN STUDIES +500 16%

[The +/- Indicates the Return on the Wager. The percentage is the likelihood that response will occur. For Example: Betting on the candidate least likely to win would earn the most amount of money, should that happen.]

I think the bookie cleaned up on anyone goofy enough to make a bet on that.

Then the stories calmed down, and instead it was that they had discovered an earthly life form that used a radically different chemistry. I was dubious, even at that. And then I finally got the paper from Science, and I'm sorry to let you all down, but it's none of the above. It's an extremophile bacterium that can be coaxed into substiting arsenic for phosphorus in some of its basic biochemistry. It's perfectly reasonable and interesting work in its own right, but it's not radical, it's not particularly surprising, and it's especially not extraterrestrial. It's the kind of thing that will get a sentence or three in biochemistry textbooks in the future.

If NASA's astrobiologists were really serious about finding extraterrestrial life, they would look in front of their noses at the astonishing unknown aerial technology flying around in Earth's skies. To read the rest of the article, click here.
Category: Science