Scientists Blast NASA's Arsenic-Based Life Paper

Researchers refuse to respond directly to criticism
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2010 11:41 AM CST
An image of GFAJ-1 grown in arsenic.   (NASA)

(Newser) – Scientists are coming out of the woodwork to deride NASA’s finding of arsenic-based life as flim-flam. “I was outraged at how bad the science was,” one microbiology professor tells Slate, and she wasn’t alone; Slate tracked down dozens of experts to ask their opinion of the paper, and though all agreed that such a life form might exist, they universally panned NASA’s methods. “This paper should not have been published,” one opined.

Critics say that the “arsenic DNA” NASA found could easily have been regular DNA with arsenic stuck to it. NASA also allowed small amounts of phosphates into the experiment—enough for many microbes to subsist on. NASA’s researchers have broadly stood by their work, but refused to respond to specific criticisms, saying critics should prove them wrong in peer-reviewed work. “That is absurd,” says one scientist. “They carried out science by press release and press conference,” so it’s hypocritical to avoid media questions now.

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