No, not a joke.
From “Exclusive: NASA Scientist Claims Evidence of Alien Life on Meteorite” by Garrett Tenney (March 05, 2011) here:
Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has traveled to remote areas in Antarctica, Siberia, and Alaska, amongst others, for over ten years now, collecting and studying meteorites. He gave FoxNews.com early access to the out-of-this-world research, published late Friday evening in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology. In it, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites — only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.
Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies — comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said.[ … ]
“Given the controversial nature of his discovery, we have invited 100 experts and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis,” Schild wrote in an editor’s note along with the article. “No other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough vetting, and never before in the history of science has the scientific community been given the opportunity to critically analyze an important research paper before it is published, he wrote.”
If true, it’s historic, and it’s all the more believable for the caution that has gone into vetting the story.
Rob Sheldon, who sometimes posts here and says the guy had hung onto this since 1997, tells me reasons to think it credible:
First, these pictures are of fossils, like petrified wood. They have virtually no nitrogen in them. Living organisms are more than 15% nitrogen.Samples of dinosaur bone and mammoth hair show that it takes more than a million years to eliminate all the nitrogen.
Second, the isotopes in these fossils don’t match earth isotopes, they are clearly meteoritic ratios.
Third, the meteorites are largely held together by hygroscopic minerals like magnesium sulfate.
The fossils are made of mostly things like magnesium sulfate, held in a keratogenic carbon sheath. If they were exposed to rain water and weathering, they would dissolve. That’s why we only have nine of them in the past 100 years, we had to grab them while they were hot and store them in a jar before they dissolved.
Fourth, many of them have fusion crusts, caused by passage through the atmosphere which would sterilize the outside of them from invasive bacteria, yet they still have these fossils.
Fifth, in large samples of the meteorite that have undergone chemical extraction, we find something like 10 or 15 amino acids. (The parts per billion sensitivity of chemical mass spectrometers is much greater than the scanning electron microscope atomic sensitivity to nitrogen at about 0.1%.) The ones that are missing are the least stable ones, with half-lives in the thousands of years. Invasive life would have all 26 amino acids present.
And there are no “bizarre” amino acids that would be produced abiotically. They all show some L-amino optical activity, which also indicates life.
Sixth, some of the fossils are of microorganisms that went extinct on earth some 400 million years ago. Seventh, some of the fossils are clearly biological, but have never been observed on earth, including one that has the atomic composition of teflon.
It looks both homey and alien at the same time. That’s why I believe there is a much larger biosphere than Earth, and it is all on comets, the mother object of these strange meteorites.