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No. 116: Mar-Apr 1998

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Microscopic Life On Mars?

The worm-like structures present in that (supposed) Martian meteorite ALH 84001 superficially resemble miniature bacteria. On this basis NASA loudly proclaimed that they might be the fossils of primitive Martian life forms. (SF#108, #110)

Some scientists were suspicious of this claim. J.P. Bradley et al, in a recent letter to Nature, declared the putative fossils to be only the fractured surfaces of lifeless crystals. Responding, K. Thomas-Keprta insisted that her group was not so stupid that it would mistake crystals for fossils! Her group, too, had noticed the crystals. The claimed fossils are much larger and more numerous than the crystals. To settle the matter, Thomas-Keprta and associates plan to dissect the suspect structures.

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(Bradley, J.P., et al; "No Nanofossils in Martian Meteorite," Nature, 390:454, 1997. Also: Kerr, Richard A.; "Putative Martian Microbes Called Microscopy Artifacts," Science, 278:1706, 1997.)

From Science Frontiers #116, MAR-APR 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss