Deceptive science reporting by Newsweek

Look at this tweet from Newsweek:

Now read the damn article: it doesn’t say that they found ANY “signs of life” on the moon Enceladus, It is possible that life could evolve or exist there, but there’s no evidence for that. In fact, the article itself undercuts the tweet. After describing the well known plumes of water and gas that spew from that moon, the article notes that some of the gas is hydrogen. And then:

The team of researchers behind the Cassini mission examined all the possible explanations for what could be generating such large quantities of hydrogen gas. Only one withstood the calculations: hydrothermal vents. Lunine and his co-authors on the Science study reporting the analysis believe that ocean water is reacting with rocks in hydrothermal vents on the seafloor to actively produce hydrogen.

Finding newly manufactured hydrogen on Enceladus is significant because the element can support life.

. . . After months of ruling out alternatives, the researchers came to the only conclusion that made sense: The ocean is making hydrogen. Ocean water reacting with minerals in hydrothermal vents is generating the element, an ecosystem found on Earth. “It has all the requirements for life,” says McKay, who was not involved with the new study. “It’s similar to Earth in ways you might not expect from a tiny little moon in the outer solar system,” says study co-author Kelly Miller, who studies planetary formation at Southwest Research Institute.

Note that habitable is not the same as inhabited.

Pity that whoever wrote the tweet didn’t seem to grasp the last sentence. What a pile of bullpucky!



  1. Posted May 7, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Kkkkkk (laughing)!! They sure forget the most important thing in the article! 🙂

    • Bernardo
      Posted May 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Are you Brazilian? Only Brazilians laugh like that.

  2. Posted May 7, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Clickbait tweet it seems.

    • Posted May 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      A fake news clickbait tweet. How bad is that?

      • Hugo
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        bad, but as Trump would spin it: an alternative fact,…

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Pretty cold life too – -178C

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Serpentinization, which almost certainly drives the vents due to the expected chondrite core of Enceladus and the seen chemistry et cetera, can result in temperatures up to 600 K if I am not mistaken. The high end is also the more methane productive range in articles I have glanced at, perhaps explaining the methane seen in the plumes.

      Most isolated alkaline hydrothermal vents on Earth spans 420 – 350 K I think. The lower end is ideal for thermophiles and the predicted temperature range for the last universal common ancestor.

      But of course, if life has emerged it would have evolved to handle ocean and ice temperatures as well.

  4. Craw
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I will repeat the point I make often. When the press reports on something you know about you see how frequently they distort, sex-up, or mess up. Why trust them on topics you don’t know?

    • Posted May 7, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      You can’t. Same for science documentaries on television. I cringe watching most of them.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I had heard that the Jovian moon Europa was the most likely locus for extraterrestrial life in the solar system — but then I gave up watching the Science Channel a while ago.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 7, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      It is still considered top of the list. As more data has been collected there is evidence for liquid water below the surface of several ice moons of the outer system in addition to Enceladus and Europa. Those two are highest on the list because they are the ones we have the most data on.

      Titan is also on the list, thought not because it is an ice moon but because of its extensive atmosphere and extensive organic compounds.

  6. Posted May 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    If I were subscribing to Newsweek, I would cancel my subscription. In glancing through Amazon bargains last night, I was surprised at how many magazines were offering 12 magazines for $5.00 a year. They’re desperate! Going the way of the dodo like local newspapers.

    • Sixtus
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Having worked in the magazine business for 30 years, I can safely state that a newsstand magazine’s subscription cost is somewhat irrelevant to how desperate they are. ALL print magazines are desperate. $5/year won’t even cover the printing and postage expenses. They want more subscribers so they can charge their advertisers more. That’s where the real money comes in.

  7. jrhs
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    “It has all the requirements for life,”

    What are the requirements for life on other planets? Isn’t it possible that they would be different from the ones for life on Earth?

    • Posted May 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      We don’t know how [i]else[/i] life could have begun, but the leading scenario on earth was that it begun at particular kinds of hydrothermal vents called alkaline vents. These sustain conditions that are known to favor chemical reactions for building the kinds of organic molecules found in earthly cells + they provide natural cell-like spaces. It looks like life began here as quickly as it could, so that suggests, shall I say, that it was ‘easy’, given those conditions? Naturally we look to the ice moons where it appears that conditions may be similar.

      • Posted May 7, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        I keep using the dang [i]..[/i] notation for italics. That is the way its done in another site where I lurk.

        • colnago80
          Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:10 am | Permalink

          Try using angle brackets.

          • Torbjörn Larsson
            Posted May 8, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            Like catholic church?

            • Torbjörn Larsson
              Posted May 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

              … in which case WordPress ated the joke [/angel rackets].

      • David Evans
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:32 am | Permalink

        Do those hydrothermal vents emit detectable amounts of hydrogen?

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that is the news. But Cassini’s mass spectrometer cannot see it, I think, so unless I am mistaken they have used a curious side effect of a particle detector for detection of hydrogen in the plumes. (Or at least that was what they tried to do 2015, which is the origin year of the now duly vetted data.)

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          A problem can be that the plumes are emitting “too much” hydrogen. Unless the vents have a direct flow to the surface cracks – which they probably have – you would expect extant life to produce low net concentrations (as on Earth in similar conditions).

    • Posted May 7, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      I like to think, although without evidence, that the principles of abiogenesis are universal. The physical processes we observe in the universe are the same as those we find on earth. Why not life?

    • Harrison
      Posted May 7, 2017 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      It’s because carbon is so damn good at what it does and so relatively plentiful in the universe that it’s as near a certainty as you can imagine that any other life we discover in the universe will be carbon-based. And even if they’re very alien in appearance and behavior, at the chemical level we “get” how carbon works.

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to go off the rails here, but It seems to me, more and more, this illogic is the source of Trump/republican statements we hear in the news.

  9. Posted May 7, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  10. Frank Bath
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    ‘Dear reader, knowing you are pig ignorant here is something to make you buy our duplicitous newspaper.’

  11. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just the biology they got wrong. They’re seriously confused about physics and chemistry as well if they think elements can be generated by chemical reactions.

    • Posted May 7, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      I took it to mean making hydrogen gas by separating it from compound.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:01 am | Permalink

        That’s surely what’s happening, but the author doesn’t show much sign of knowing the difference.

  12. Posted May 7, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, still searching for signs of intelligent life among journalism.

  13. Filippo
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    ‘ “It’s similar to Earth in ways you might not expect from a tiny little moon in the outer solar system,” says study co-author Kelly Miller, who studies planetary formation at Southwest Research Institute.’

    How does Kelly Miller or anyone else possibly know what you or I or anyone else “might not expect” from a tiny little moon (or any other celestial body)? Is s/he channeling a NY Times reporter in her/his introductory paragraph of a news article?

  14. Posted May 8, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Pop science and the media are desperate for ET life. Hardly a day goes by when there isn’t speculation about life on Mars, Enceladus, Titan, Europa and any number of newly discovered explanets.

    It’s become the single biggest science headline in the media. Every time someone finds water somewhere, it’s touted as “conditions for life”. It’s likely that water is one of the most common molecules in the Universe. If we’re gonna cry “life!” every time we detect water, we’ll bee seeing a lot more of this type of wishful thinking.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Liquid water is much rarer though, even if water has an atypically large window for its liquid state.

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