Poor Experimental Technique

From Drudge.

The soil on Mars may contain microbial life!

Joop Houtkooper of the University of Giessen, Germany, will declare on Friday the Viking spacecraft may have found signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing, arid Martian surface.

But these poor creatures just got fried by Viking’s thrusters, so presumably their “signs” were black and crispy.

We’ve been here before. Soon after Audubon traveled through the US in the 1820s, many of the birds he drew and painted became extinct. That was probably because:

To draw or paint the birds, he shot them first, using fine shot to prevent them from being torn to pieces. He then used fixed wires to prop them up, restoring a natural position…

Audubon once wrote: “I call birds few when I shoot less than one hundred per day.”

One of his biographers, Duff Hart-Davis, reveals, “The rarer the bird, the more eagerly he pursued it, never apparently worrying that by killing it he might hasten the extinction of its kind.”

And of course if he was a bit slow as a painter, and drew lots of bird poses, he’d have to shoot a boatload of birds.

This is all made plausible by Audubon’s typical French person’s upbringing (my ellipsis):

Audubon was born in Haiti (then called Saint-Domingue), the illegitimate son of Jean Audubon, a French sea captain and slavemaster, and Jeanne Rabin.

Rabin’s identity is unknown; she has been described as a Creole slave, a black woman from the Congo, and Jean Audubon’s chambermaid and mistress (presumably these are not exclusive categories)…

His father took him to Nantes, France (home of the carrot) to be raised by his wife, Anne Moynet. He was formally adopted in March 1789 and named Jean-Jacques Fougere Audubon, which he later Americanized.

Now you know.


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