NASA Finds New Bacteria That Lives Entirely on Exaggeration

by on December 7, 2010

Although I was very disappointed that the NASA announcement wasn’t about the discovery of a race of super-intelligent aliens who would lead us into an age of peace, environmental sustainability, and safe cyborg sex, the idea of a previously unknown arsenic-based bacteria was a decent substitute. Any new life form is worthy of a super-hyped press release and an embargo, right? And then we found out that, no, they’re not exactly arsenic-based.

And now:

You know that arsenic-loving bacteria briefly mistaken for an alien? The bug, which roiled the science press earlier this week when it rode an unusually high and steep hype parabola, endured a firey re-entry today when University of British Columbia bacteriologist Rosie Redfield ripped into both the research and the paper — and was quickly backed quickly by several scientists, including heavyweight extremophile-bacteria researcher Jonathan Eisen.

I can’t claim to follow the technicalities of this argument, so can’t pass judgment on the research itself. Fortunately for clarity’s sake, Redfield’s critique, though it gets quite technical, does not leave you wondering what the author really thinks of the paper under the microscope. On Twitter she calls it “shamefully bad science.”

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Full story at Neuron Culture.

UPDATE: NASA dismisses the criticism, because it was published on a (heavens forfend) blog.