The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration is notoriously good at finding means for justifying its science budget, sometimes deploying what amounts to science fiction (see vintage hype image gallery in a separate post). Mostly, though, it’s simple hype.
NASA will hold a news conference at 11 a. m. PST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.
ET landed right? We were to be in class during the exciting announcement, and none of us are yet able to access embargoed papers for Science (which the press conference was about), so it remained a mystery.
I was pleased to see some debunking ahead of the press conference from one of our guest lecturers, Alexis Madrigal.
And it wasn’t that. Instead it was “A bacterium that can grow off of arsenic instead of phosphorous.” Not nearly as sexy as first contact, but the hype, and the hype-induced flap, make understanding the significance of the report really difficult. Is this a breakthrough deserving front page coverage? Or do media outlets who bit at the bait and assigned a lot of space and resources to the story need to justify their own investments and pad their own budgets, a la NASA?
Hard to say when a good media circus has gotten going. I’m not saying anything new beyond the excellent coverage by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker (ONE TWO THREE), but I can at least provide a laugh and the promised image gallery of vintage NASA hype. Enjoy.