I received word of yet another NASA-funded claim of “alien lifeforms”: one more case of shadowy squiggles in a meteorite, it appeared in the Journal of Cosmology (JoC). Rosie Redfield and PZ Myers dissect this in detail, but essentially we have a recap of the “arsenic bacterium” debacle minus (thankfully) the NASA-directed media blitz. Briefly:
1. The author, Richard B. Hoover, has been presenting the same evidence without change since 1997.
2. The only CV I can find for Richard Hoover does not list a PhD in anything (it does say “he authored four species of bacteria” which gives new meaning to the term “conjuring”). [Update: NASA confirms that Hoover has a BSc, not in biology.]
3. The evidence itself is so weak, stale, shoehorned and artifact-prone as to be non-existent. The presentation is also misleading: it juxtaposes suggestive pictures at different scales. It doesn’t meet the criteria for publication in a reputable journal, let alone the justifiably high bar for such claims — which may explain why the author approached Fox News instead.
4. The editors of JoC say that the paper will be peer-reviewed post-publication (file this under “unclear on the concept”).
5. The executive editor of JoC for Astrobiology is Chandra Wickramasinghe of the Hoyle and Wickramasinghe “viruses from space” panspermia theories – enough said.
Memo to NASA: hire bona-fide biologists who can conduct solid research or shut down the Astrobiology division.
Update: NASA has stated that the Hoover paper was published without the required internal NASA critique and approval; it also failed external peer review three years ago.