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Alien Microbes Attack! Dangers Of Science News That Isn't Science Or News

It could have been the science story of a lifetime.

A NASA researcher publishes an article claiming to discover fossilized bacteria in a chunk of comet found on Earth. The implications are stunning ā€” life exists not only on planets but even on ancient building blocks of solar systems. Yup, story of a lifetime.

If only it were true.

But it's most likely not true and now the research isn't even the real story any more. Instead the story has become how a marginal scientific journal managed to hook multiple news outlets into jumping feet first into a discovery that wasn't.

We astronomers gained wind that something was brewing on Friday morning. On Saturday, big outlets like CBS and Reuters published breathless articles on the story. By Monday, it was recognized that there was really nothing substantial going on. During those three days it was possible to see what is wrong and right about science in the popular press these days.

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