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NASA’s Hyped-Up Alien Life Press Conference Actually About Arsenic Biology on Earth [Update]

You've got to hand it to NASA for their ability to routinely make a ruckus: Whereas many scientists struggle to elicit anything more than yawns from their audiences as they try to explain why their work matters (and, more pointedly, why it deserves tax or grant money), the whole "aliens" and "outer space" thing gives NASA a more receptive audience, and they know how to press that audience's buttons. In this case, though, things have gotten a little out of hand: A NASA press release on "an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life" morphed into Jason Kottke's "Has NASA discovered extraterrestrial life?", a question which he admitted was hyperbolic, which in turn mutated into progressively crazier herp-a-derp Internet speculation. Wired's Alexis Madrigal tweeted, "I'm sad to quell some of the @kottke-induced excitement about possible extraterrestrial life. I've seen the Science paper. It's not that." What is it, then? NASA's press conference isn't until 2pm EST tomorrow, so we won't know for sure, but it seems to relate to the decidedly less sexy, though still intriguing, research done on organisms that use arsenic rather than phosphorus for energy.

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