Surprise! Surprise! Further research and review of the recent results that said phosphine existed in Venus’s atmosphere — which for some immediately suggested the presence of life — has found that the phosphine probably doesn’t exist.
[A]lmost immediately, other astronomers began to criticize the results, with four independent studies pointing out questionable methods or failing to reproduce the results.
Now, after reanalyzing their data, the original proponents are downgrading their claims. Even the most favorable interpretation of their data now suggests phosphine levels are at least seven times lower than first reported, making it a much more tentative finding, the authors reported in a preprint posted on 17 November to arXiv.
Also, observations in other wavelengths detected no phosphine, even though it should have been there if the first study was correct. Furthermore, other scientists have noted that the spectrum features detected might not be caused by phosphine. The sulphur dioxide in Venus’s atmosphere could instead be their source.
Even if phosphine is eventually confirmed, that is not the discovery of life on Venus, as so many in the mainstream press claimed. As I noted when this result was first announced, phosphine isn’t life, it is merely a specific inanimate molecule. That on Earth it only exists in connection with life-processes means nothing. Venus is a very alien place, and there could be any number of inanimate chemical processes that we have no experience with or knowledge of that could produce it there. To claim its discovery suggests the existence of life, or even the possibility of life, is simply junk science.
Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over
I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.
Thank you again!
Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652