Sunday, December 12, 2010

surely NASA has a few grand lying around...

The whole arsenic bacteria discussion is still going strong.  There's a million different angles on it, which I won't go into detail because I don't consider myself at the level of expertise to explain it all eloquently.  I'm sure a simple google search will yield better reviews of the whole matter.  Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science has reviewed quite a lot of the public criticism, and Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has a few discussions concerning the chemistry side of things.

All that said....
I had a thought today:  why didn't NASA pony up the money for the experiments that could have* aided the whole paper? 

I don't entirely understand the benefit of NASA's actions.  First they taunt people with a press conference concerning "an announcement" two days prior....obviously they were setting things up for a big event.  Why did they do that if what they were announcing wasn't ironclad?  It doesn't make sense.
So NASA riles up the media for a big announcement....then lets down the general media by "only having Earth based bacteria" in their announcement....and then they further get egg on their face by the weak science holding the "big announcement." 

Now stay with me here...

From Ed Yong's review of the drama:

Nonetheless, later in the day, NASA arranged for a quirky lecture about the findings. After some bizarre goofing-off, [Ron] Oremland addressed a few of the criticisms. He said that lack of money prevented them from doing mass spectrometry experiments. 

Surely NASA could have ponied up the money for these experiments?  They went to all the trouble of announcing their pending announcement....which ultimately disappointed the general media because it wasn't about E.T. or something.  But....the announcement had extraordinary claims to it.  Why raise the awareness if they couldn't shell out a few grand for the experiments to properly back this up?

If this paper had hit Science without all the media being goaded along by NASA, the backlash would have been far less.  It doesn't make sense that NASA would do this....or am I wrong?  I'm not saying that there aren't some interesting findings here, but the whole bent NASA went with just seems
I don't understand why NASA would choose the higher platform for their wondrous belly flop. 

*by could have, I leave the possibility that the experiments could have also proven them wrong as well.  Who knows.

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