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ALH84001 in popular culture October 26, 2010

Posted by Simon in Uncategorized.
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The announcement of possible signs of life on ALH84001 made news around the world, and it had an impact on popular culture as well. Here’s a sample of what it inspired:

  • The X-Files –  in a November 1996 episode titled “Tunguska”, FBI agents Mulder and Scully investigate a Martian meteorite that contains black worms that infect those who come into contact with the meteorite.
  • Deception Point – this Dan Brown novel published in 2001 (prior to his mega-success with The Da Vinci Code) features a meteorite found in the Arctic that contains insect fossils.
  • Contact – The 1997 move starring Jodie Foster was about detecting extraterrestrial life through radio signals, but it has an interesting link with ALH84001. The movie shows Bill Clinton talking about the detection of alien life, but the footage in the movie was actually taken from his real comments about ALH84001. Apparently the White House was not impressed with this sleight of hand.

How did all his influence the scientific controversy? I think it’s fair to say that most scientists were a little annoyed that a speculative hypothesis that didn’t have a lot of scientific support was adopted into the cultural mainstream, and this may have fueled some resentment and provided a bit of extra energy to those attacking the research.

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