Someone found a weird, shriveled animal corpse near a Russian nuclear power plant, so now it’s an alien. Seriously, Internet?
Adding fuel to the fire, unfortunately, is a Russian biologist. Yegor Zadereev has announced — quite reasonably — that he isn’t sure what kind of animal the decrepit little creature is. That’s really not surprising, because:
1. Not every biologist has encyclopedic knowledge of every organism that might conceivably show up in their town.
2. This little critter has clearly gone through quite a bit of decay, further confusing its physiology.
3. It’s even possible, given its proximity to a nuclear power plant, that the organism has radiation-related mutations — though we’d obviously hope this wouldn’t be the case, given the implications that would have for the safety of the plant.
4. Even to a barely-trained eye (read: my eye) it looks fairly embryonic. In other words, it’s quite possibly a shriveled up chicken embryo, or something of that nature, and shriveled up embryos are as weird looking as you’d expect.
5. Who knows — maybe it’s a new species! A whopping average of 15,000 new species are discovered each year. Granted, most of these are insects and bacteria and other things more likely to escape notice than a weird winged thing in Russia, but it could happen. And it’s a lot more likely than aliens.
So yes, Zadereev has been quoted as saying that extensive testing will be needed to identify the species. But that does not mean he thinks it’s an alien.
And even if he does think it’s an alien, he’s wrong. If this is our first contact with an extraterrestrial species, I’ll eat my hat.
This happens periodically: Something a little weird is found, scientists are “puzzled” over it, and the conspiracy theorists go nuts. Let me tell you a little secret, friends — scientists are puzzled by a lot of things. Solving puzzles is basically a scientist’s entire job. When a scientist isn’t willing to come straight out and say “aha, that thing is definitely a chicken fetus that’s been rotting in the water for six weeks” it’s just because they’re more careful about jumping to assumptions than, say, the people who blog about aliens are.