The Point

No, There’s No Life on Venus

11/4/20

John Stonestreet

Roberto Rivera

A month ago, scientists breathlessly announced and media outlets breathlessly reported that phosphine gas had been found in Venus’ atmosphere. That’s a big deal because it’s a precondition of life.

I predicted that the theory of life on Venus would be debunked, but we wouldn’t see nearly as many headlines as those basically announcing that E.T. had been spotted. Well, it has been, and at least National Geographic reported, that “three independent studies have now failed to find evidence of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere.”

In a classic understatement, one NASA scientist called this development “really problematic.”

Proposing and challenging theories is what science is all about. But too often, the rush for funding and headlines short-circuits the process. It’s why we should always be skeptical of the oft-repeated refrain “the science is settled.”

And, in other space news this week: NASA announced it discovered pockets of water on the moon. No mention of lunar fish. Yet.

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Resources:

Promising sign of life on Venus might not exist after all

Nadia Drake | National Geographic | October 23, 2020

The Science is Settled?

Brooke McIntire | What Would You Say? | June 10, 2020

Kenneth Chang | The New York Times | October 26, 2020

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