The Sciences


Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJun 17, 2008 6:05 PM


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Hey, it's only Tuesday and we already have what I can call as the worst headline of the week! I posted the story the other day about organic matter found on a meteorite. Some compounds necessary for life were already known to be in the rock, but it was conclusively shown that they were native to the meteorite and did not seep in after it hit the Earth. This means that perhaps the first basic building blocks of life fell from space (though I was careful to point out that they also could have been made here on Earth as well). So yesterday Popular Science posted an article on this topic. Their headline? "Genetic Material Found on Meteorite" Ouch! When I read something like that, I'm thinking DNA, not the basic molecules DNA uses. That's a poor choice of words. It doesn't get better with the subtitle, either: "A meteorite in Australia has been found to contain component molecules of DNA ". That's clearer, a bit, but still murky; the letters DNA kinda leap out, and squash the component molecules part. The article itself is fine; I'll note that usually headlines for papers and magazines are not written by the authors (though I insisted that part of my contract here at BA is that I do all my own stunts and headlines). Tip o' the Whipple Shield to BABloggee Jelle Kouwenhoven, whom I suspect sent me that article not for the headline but for the content. Bonus!

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