On Saturday, aliens invaded.

On Monday, NASA denied their existence.

This might sound like the perfect X-Files storyline for conspiracy theorists to chew over (and they probably will, for months), but as you may have already guessed, something wasn’t quite “right” about Richard Hoover’s announcement of an extraterrestrial discovery inside samples of meteorites.

Here’s NASA’s take on said piece of research, via SpaceRef.com:

“NASA is a scientific and technical agency committed to a culture of openness with the media and public. While we value the free exchange of ideas, data, and information as part of scientific and technical inquiry, NASA cannot stand behind or support a scientific claim unless it has been peer-reviewed or thoroughly examined by other qualified experts. This paper was submitted in 2007 to the International Journal of Astrobiology. However, the peer review process was not completed for that submission. NASA also was unaware of the recent submission of the paper to the Journal of Cosmology or of the paper’s subsequent publication. Additional questions should be directed to the author of the paper.”


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So what can we learn from this statement? Well, it looks as if Hoover’s paper didn’t make it through the peer-review process when it was first submitted to a reputable science journal in 2007.

Peer review basically means that other experts in the astrobiology field needed to review Hoover’s analysis and agree that he had followed the correct scientific procedures and reached conclusions fitting with the results he gathered from his analysis of meteorite samples. Only then can the paper be published. Somewhere along the line, Hoover’s paper failed this procedure.

Phil Plait has put together a very nice post mortem of reactions from scientists pertaining to Hoover’s claims, definitely worth a read if you want to see how knee-jerk announcements of aliens inside meteorites buckle under scientific scrutiny.

The Journal of Cosmology is known to have less than stringent submission guidelines (even though the website claims that articles are peer reviewed by “at least two recognized experts”).

Unfortunately, we are no closer to finding evidence for alien life inside meteorites today as we were on Friday.

Special thanks to Keith Cowing for pointing me in the direction of today’s NASA statement.