Scientists Claim Meteorite Fragments Contain Alien Biological Fossils (They Don't)

A paper came out of Cardiff University today claiming to have found algae fossils in samples of a meteorite that landed in Sri Lanka this past December. At first glance, the claims are stunning: proof that life exists throughout the universe. But sadly, also deeply flawed.

The analysis was carried out in part by Chandra Wickramasinghe, who along with the Journal of Cosmology has a questionable reputation around the science community. He is a proponent of panspermia—the idea that life originated in space—and has a history of claiming that, well, everything comes from space. Phil Plait, formerly of the Bad Astronomy blog, does an excellent job debunking Wickramasinghe's earlier claims here.

So why is this latest discovery too good to be true? Some of the debunking goes as follows: Some of the "fossils" do not appear to actually be fossilized, and are all known freshwater species found on earth; the sample may have been contaminated by fresh water; the rock itself could be of Earth, simply struck by lightning; no one's actually sure the rock is from that meteorite; and the fossils would have had to go through an evolutionary history remarkably similar to Earth's.

So, no. No alien life this time around. Of course, that's exactly what they'd want us to think. [Technology Review via Hacker News, Slate, Free Thought Blogs]