Has alien life been found in a meteorite? Or the sky? Or [Insert Location Here]?


There are going to be lots of articles in the next few days like this one: Alien life found living in Earth’s atmosphere, claims scientist.

The first thing you should do when you see such an article is search for “Journal of Cosmology” in the article text. If you find a match, take the article with a gigantic pinch of salt.

The Journal of Cosmology has form. They seem to discover alien life frequently. I wrote about one such announcement a couple of years ago: Meteorites, the Phobos-Grunt LIFE project and the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

Some things to note and remember about the Journal of Cosmology

Their website hurts your eyes (I’m not going to link to it). This may seem like an odd thing to note, but there does seem to be a correlation between pseudoscientific websites and poor website design. Someone should do a study.

The superb RationalWiki website has a page about them. I don’t think journals normally end up with dedicated pages on anti-pseudoscience websites. One of the quotes from the website:

The Journal of Cosmology is a supposedly-scientific journal

The journal does not appear to have an impact factor. I asked a friend and he responded with (thanks Dave!):

I couldn’t find a reference to an impact factor on the web anywhere. Normally journals tend to big up their IF somewhere. The ultimate repository of impact factors is the Thompson web of science. A search for “journal of cosmology” on web of science yields zero hits.

The journal has a very quick peer review process: “Scientists: how long does it typically take between data collection and paper acceptance?”. Does 10 days sound reasonable for such an amazing discovery?

One of the main people behind the Journal of Cosmology is Chandra Wickramasinghe. From Wikipedia:

During the 1981 scientific creationist trial in Arkansas, Wickramasinghe was the only scientist testifying for the defense, which in turn was supporting creationism. In addition, he wrote that the Archaeopteryx fossil finding is a forgery, a charge that the expert scientific community considers an ‘absurd’ and ignorant’ statement.

PZ Myers was subtle as ever when discussing the journal:

The ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth. Unsurprisingly, it is not in fact peer reviewed, despite claiming to be.

The respected Bad Astronomy blogger, Phil Plait, keeps on having to debunk stories coming from the journal again, and again and again. From one of Phil’s posts:

The Journal of Cosmology is an online site that claims to be peer reviewed. However, the papers it publishes are not always of the highest quality. One paper they published a few years back claimed to have found fossils in meteorites, and it was roundly ridiculed by biologists familiar with the field—one even used the word “pathetic.” Ouch.

The journal has been awarded the Pigasus Award – an annual tongue-in-cheek award presented by skeptic James Randi. Past winners include Uri Geller. JREF refered to the journal as “crackpot”.

In summary

I just wanted to use this meme as a summary.

Journal of Cosmology summed up in one image

Related articles – new

Related articles – previous Journal of Cosmology ‘discoveries’

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