Diatoms…iiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace!

You all know that the Journal of Cosmology is complete crap, right? In addition to some of the worst web design ever — it looks like a drunk clown puked up his fruit loops onto a grid of 1990s-style tables — the content is ridiculous, predictable, and credulous. Their big thing is seeing life in every space rock, or raining down from Mars, or drifting in vast clouds through the galaxy. I’ve criticized their absurd conclusions before, and jumped on the quality of their work, and in return…they photoshopped my face onto a picture of an obese woman in a negligee. Multiple times. That’s the kind of rigorous scientific thinking we’re dealing with here.

Their latest is an article claiming to have found diatoms in a meteorite (pdf). It’s the same ol’, same ol’. They have taken electron micrographs of samples from the rock, and found things that they claim look like organisms, most of which don’t at all.

But this time there’s a twist. They’ve got a picture of something that looks exactly like a diatom. A diatom that is identical to a natural, earthly species of freshwater diatom. Exactly like one. Now you or I, seeing that, would wonder why a space organism (or a Martian organism, or whatever) would evolve to look exactly like a species that evolved in a completely different environment, and how it could have converged in all its details on such remarkable similarity to a specific earthly species. Why, we might even suggest that it clearly looks like contamination. But no, not to the editors and authors at JoC (pronounced as you might expect): no, these are proof of diatoms in spaaaaaaace.

In addition, Phil Plait explains that it probably isn’t even a meteorite — it doesn’t look like a carbonaceous chondrite, and it’s of highly dubious provenance.

Are we done with anything that comes out of the word processor of Wickramasinghe yet? Or at least with anything published in that joke of a journal, the Journal of Cosmology? I am, anyway. I wouldn’t trust anything published in it.

By the way, Greg Laden found that Anthony Watts, the climate change denier, was completely taken in by this crap.

Anthony Watts, the anti-science global warming denailist, was not equipped to recognize this bogus science as bogus. We are not surprised.

Crackpots do tend to hang together.

Wickramasinghe NC, Wallis J, Wallis DH, Samaranayake A (2013) Fossil diatoms in a new carbonaceous meteorite. Journal of Cosmology 21(37).


  1. nora says

    I had to look, didn’t I? I had to see the photoshopped picture in a negligee. Actually, it wasn’t that bad.

  2. rogertheshrubber says

    Once again, lots of things can look like lots of other things in an SEM. And certainly it seems questionable that it is a meteorite. How could delicate carbonate structures survive re-entry? It’s like how can candy floss survive a flame-thrower? Either it’s contamination or simply a terrestrial sample. The paper is worth a chuckle though.

  3. frankniddy says

    I don’t know what the opinion is here of Phil Plait, but I like what he says more often than not. And he seems to be completely right when he takes this claim down a few million pegs here.

  4. intergalacticmedium says

    They arnt even original in their unprofessional mockery “most famous discovery was finding one of his old socks when it went missing after a spin in his dryer.” was included in both the attack on PZ and Phill

  5. pHred says

    Diatoms are not carbonate – they are silica. However they are also so delicate that they can be pretty much completely destroyed by overenthusiastic centrifuging. My little user icon to the left is a subsection of one of the diatoms samples that I was actually do a centrifuge test on for QA/QC. Needless to say – I am not impressed with their *um* research.

  6. Barklikeadog says

    Yeah I read that article a couple of days ago. The best part which sent me spweing water out my nose was the red rain and the read rain cells. Red rain that happened after the meteor was seen like they are from the same source and finding fossilised red rain cells on the very same meteor that has the diatoms.

    I saw that guy on a documentary about the origins of life and his insistence that panspermia is the cause. Figured he was off his rocker way back then.

  7. ChasCPeterson says

    A post and 10 comments about diatoms and nobody’s taken advantage of the opportunity to use the word ‘frustule’ yet?

  8. says

    At least they’re better than the IDiots. They actually did discover life, the IDiots don’t discover design.

    Sure, it’s just earth life (do these morons know anything about evolution, though?) in, probably, an earth rock. So, um, glad you can recognize earth life when it looks exactly like earth life, but it’s not really worthy of a paper. Well, maybe worthy of a paper in Journal of Cosmology, whose major failing is that it can’t line the bird cage like the traditional tabloids can.

    Glen Davidson

  9. shouldbeworking says

    OMFSM! I’m a mere high school physics teacher and I can poke hole in JoC’s science. And I’m better at photoshop than they are.

  10. wondering says

    I thought PZ looked lovely in the negligee. Especially the black and white one. Very artful. Not sure what point they were trying to make. Perhaps it was lost on me.


  11. Holms says

    By the way, Greg Laden found that Anthony Watts, the climate change denier, was completely taken in by this crap.

    Amusing, since Laden himself says the following in a comment under that post:

    I don’t say he was taken in.

  12. says

    Let’s see:

    1. Not a meteorite. (Phil is right – that looks nothing like any meteorite). They fail and either are fools or liars.
    2. Complete lack of supporting evidence. Sri Lanka has lots of oceanic sedimentary rocks, unsurprisingly, so where the rock was found is essential – it would be hard to find a place that didn’t have any diatoms in it if you looked carefully enough. They fail and lie by omission.
    3. Ridiculous assertion of no contamination based on a supposed 2 weeks of work. Anything like this would take months of careful work to identify and exclude all possible forms of contamination (consider the story of Allen Hills 84001). Two weeks simply isn’t enough time. Where are the isotopic ratio series? The review of the fusion crust of the stone? Oh, wait – it isn’t a meteorite. They fail again.
    4. Impossible statements about biology. PZ and Phil both noted that the diatoms they show are identical to current species. But there’s another level of absurdity here: diatoms only evolved in the last 250 Myr or so. Anything extraterrestrial life couldn’t possibly have any. They fail yet again.

    The Journal of Cosmology is indeed keeping up its usual lack of standards.

  13. madscientist says

    Dang … the BA beat me to it long ago. I was going to suggest “not even a meteorite”. After all, they’ve had many articles before showing things which are very obviously not meteorites but claiming that they are … and when a rank amateur like myself can see it’s not a meteorite, there’s something seriously wrong with the people who claim it *is* a meteorite.

  14. Lars says

    they photoshopped my face onto a picture of an obese woman in a negligee. Multiple times. That’s the kind of rigorous scientific thinking we’re dealing with here.

    They’ve shown that they’re able to create their own reality via Photoshop.

    That’s got to count for something … right?

  15. wattsupwiththat says

    Dear Dr. Myers,

    While I know it is easy to jump on the hate wagon, if you jump off it for a moment, and look at the original blog post, you’ll see that Mr. laden engaged in selective editing to make it appear that I had not event he slightest reservation, which isn’t the case at all.


    My response is here.


    It is unfortunate that you took Mr. Laden’s claim at face value without checking, but that was what he intended. I would appreciate a correction of your statement.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  16. wbenson says

    Betya the diatoms are common Sri Lankan species — Sri Lanka is where the meteor fell. The diatom frustules seem well preserved, and I can make out what seem to be Melosira, Nitzschia, Navicula and, maybe, Synedra. They are the kinds of things found growing in pools and small streams. Diatoms are used to assess water quality, and there are lots of specialists around who can identify them. Space is not their normal habitat.