Alien Life? NASA-Funded Study Questioned

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Redfield, for one, conceded that Wolfe-Simon is in a difficult position. Among other things, she is a young woman researcher in a field dominated by older men.

"As a woman in science, it is harder -- it is definitely harder," said Redfield. (Note added later: Dr. Redfield later posted an e-mail she said she sent to Dr. Wolfe-Simon: "...what matters in science isn't whether we make mistakes (we all do) but how we deal with them, and that I think you're handling the situation well.")

Does this mean the research team was wrong? Not necessarily, at all. There have been other papers in recent years reporting the possibility of life that uses arsenic, and scientists, debating what life on other worlds might be like, long have argued that it need not resemble life on earth.

Meanwhile, a spirited debate has broken out over the paper in Science, and even its detractors say that's healthy.

"This is great," said Redfield. "It is really fun to go through data and say, 'Where does this take us?'"

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