In another study, Varnum’s team asked about 500 U.S.-based volunteers to read one of two newspaper articles. One from 1996 reported the discovery of evidence for fossilized Martian microbes in a meteorite (SN: 8/10/96, p. 84). In the second, researchers announced in 2010 that they had created a synthetic bacterial cell in the lab (SN: 6/19/10, p. 5).
Both groups responded favorably to the articles, but the people who read about Martian microbes had a more positive reaction. This suggests that while people feel good about discoveries of any previously unknown life-forms, they are particularly keen on finding aliens, Varnum says.