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Four times people cried ‘aliens’ — and four times they were wrong

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Discovered in Chile’s Atacama Desert in 2003, this tiny, 6-inch-long mummy, with its pointed head and atypical number of ribs, stoked theories that aliens have visited Earth. Scientists have had genetic proof that the remains are human since 2013, and a new genetic analysis reveals that mutations in genes related to growth might explain the mummy’s atypical bones.

The results, which have been making headlines, are a reminder that the truth may well be out there — but it isn’t aliens. A series of discoveries this past year make it clear that, sadly, it never is.

Sad but true

Scientists have struggled to explain why this mummy, known as Ata, is the size of a fetus and yet has bones as developed as those of a six- to eight-year-old child,…

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