Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lee Chul-ho's remarks

In a JoongAng Ilbo editorial yesterday (December 27, 2005), "Let Experiments repeat," Lee Chul-ho made the following remarks:
"This is truth. There is life on Mars," CNN reported a statement by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on August 6, 1996. It was the biggest discovery in the history of science that resulted from analyses of meteorites from Mars. Then-President Bill Clinton pledged, "We will concentrate all our ability and technology to exploring outer space." For nine years after that, NASA continued to send probes to Mars but failed to find evidence of any life. It turned out to have been a conspiracy by NASA aiming for trillions of dollars of the government budget and Bill Clinton aiming for re-election.
Lee then commented:
Professor Hwang Woo-suk's intentional falsification of his research paper is embarrassing but less so than the actions of NASA.
Interesting. America is always worse, I suppose . . .

But . . . I don't recall events quite as Lee does. I do remember scientists analyzing the meteorite from Mars and stating that certain structures and chemicals were consistent with the presence of life on the red planet, but I certainly don't recall NASA stating anything so direct as "This is truth. There is life on Mars."

I also recall nothing about this 'discovery' being a proven (or even rumored) conspiracy by NASA and President Clinton, who were (supposedly) aiming for trillions of supporting dollars and the presidential re-election, respectively.

Admittedly, I've been out of the country for over 15 years, so I might have missed that news.

Yet . . . if this concerned "the biggest discovery in the history of science," then I should have heard something.

Maybe I did hear, but it slipped my mind. Can somebody jog my memory?

. . . so that I can feel embarassed.


At 3:40 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

I think you're right to be skeptical of how that editorial treats the reaction of the American media to the "life on Mars" story. Here are the first few paragraphs of the relevant story from the August 8, 1996, edition of The Washington Post:

NASA Releases Images Of Mars Life Evidence; Space Agency Invites Further Inquiry by Others

Kathy Sawyer, Washington Post Staff Writer

As NASA scientists released what may be the first images showing evidence of an extraterrestrial life form, President Clinton yesterday hailed the discovery as potentially "one of the most stunning insights into our universe that science has ever uncovered."

"I am determined," he said, "that the American space program will put its full intellectual power and technological prowess behind the search for further evidence of life on Mars."

Yesterday with the world still reacting to the initial headlines about possible signs of life on a bit of meteorite from Mars, the focus shifted to the portentous question that comes next: How can the science community validate one of the most extraordinary claims in human history?

NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, acknowledging that the find is controversial, told a packed news conference at agency headquarters that he welcomes independent research by all qualified comers worldwide. He said samples of the meteorite, which is stored in a sanitized sanctum at Johnson Space Center in Houston, will be made available to the science community.

"We want these results investigated, and we're prepared to make samples of the rock available to meritorious proposals that go through the scientific process. We want to take the time to do this. And if it takes a year or two years, so be it."

The comments followed revelations that a meteorite found in Antarctica in 1984 has yielded promising evidence that primitive microscopic life existed on Mars 3.6 billion years ago. The findings -- after passing through what some scientists described as an unusually rigorous peer review process -- are scheduled to be published in the Aug. 16 issue of the journal Science. The news leaked early and was widely reported Tuesday.

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jeff, for the article. I had spent a bit of time searching the internet for this sort of information but without success.

This article coheres with my memory of the news articles of the time.

I suppose that Lee could still maintain that the evidence was hyped by NASA and Clinton, but he'd need an argument with evidence, not mere claims.

At any rate, I see nothing of fraud here, unlike in Hwang's case, and certainly find nothing to feel embarrassed about.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger James Brush said...

I remember some newspapers hyped it at the time and for a few hours it did seem like the biggest news in the world, but I don't recall NASA or Clinton hyping it so if there was a plot, it was probably one to sell newspapers.

At 3:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

James, that's probably right.


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