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Space Science

Life On Mars: ALH84001 198

Posted by Hemos
from the super-cool dept.
Celestius writes "This press release from NASA Ames states that 'An international team of researchers has discovered compelling evidence that the magnetite crystals in the martian meteorite ALH84001 are of biological origin,' and moreover that these crystals are not only older than any previously known form of life, but were also definitely formed before the meteor fell to Earth. Skeptics remain, of course, as quoted in this article from today's Chronicle, but suffice to say, NASA seems pretty confident." There's also a report on the BBC as well.
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Life On Mars: ALH84001

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  • Haven't you *ever* seen Star Trek? This just isn't a problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, my dog has a brain but I don't think he knows much about magnetite formations in meteorites. I don't know, I'll ask him.

    Woof, evidently.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yup. perdida, inside five minutes, outsmarts five years of scientific endeavor from some of humanity's best minds.

    potheads 1 : 0 NASA

    Let's try that again. perdida the pothead troll, with no biological knowledge other than recognising the taste of KTB's semen, has spotted something that years of scientific experience and knowledge failed to realise.

    Despite this evidence, I'm waiting for Heidi Wall's take before I form an opinion.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We need to cut the population down somehow :P

    Seriously though, the articles say that we already have similar bacteria living in lake bottoms. I doubt skinnydipping is going to kill off the human population.
  • *My* foundatation isn't shaken by this, why should it be? If God is God then why could he not create life on Mars or anywhere else? He is a creative creator. Look at all of the varity that's here on earth. He put life *everywhere* on earth. If God did it here why not anywhere else? We might be the center of creation, but that does not mean that He can't be creative anywhere else.

    If you go the evolution route then what's to stop life from evolving on Mars or anywhere else. If there's enough random chance for it to happen here then why not everywhere? I personally don't buy this because there's not enough particles in the universe to allow that much random chance, but if you belive it's possible for life to evolve here then it seems logical to assume that it could evolve anywhere.
  • I don't think man is meant to fly. If the Creator, God Almighty, wanted us to speed through the ether, the upper atmosphere would not be an oxygen-deficient death trap. Ye must remember the tale of the tower of Braniff, when Man tried to reach Heaven, only to be stacked up over LAX for three hours. Must we risk God's wrath once more in an attempt to traverse the heavens?

    ".sig, .sig a .sog, .sig out loud, .sig out .strog"
  • Ooof. That'd be more effective if I hadn't mispelled "explorations". Mea culpa.

    -
  • The point I wish to make here is buy strict odds we should not be here so the chances of there being other life in the universe is slim.

    How can you possibly estimate those "strict odds"?


    ---
  • Since the moderators are seemingly out to lunch, I will blow a bit of auto-karma to quote this guy's post.


    1) Skepticism is a healthy part of the scientific method.

    2) Shaking bar magnets can result in chains, but it's unlikely. A lower energy config is clumping. (Try the experiment in 2D. Get a bunch of little bar magnets, put 'em in a shoebox, and shake. See what you get. Clumps? :-)

    3) Experiments are also a healthy part of the scientific method.


  • Well, since we've already sent craft to Mars there is the slight chance that we've already introduced organisms. Perhaps some particularly hardy microbes could have survived the journey and are even now multiplying on Mars.

    Anyway, apart from the scientific question of whether or not life existed it might be good to introduce life on Mars. Maybe it can be terra-formed into a livable place, who knows?

  • (BTW, it was NOT Christopher Colombus that discovered America, but Leif Erikson. It was later surveyed by Amerigo Vespucci, leading to the naming of this land, "America," probably due to a clerical error.)

    BTW, it was NOT Lief Erikson that "discovered" America, but the peoples that became "Native Americans".

    Explorers need not be conquerors.

    Of course not, but in some form or another they seem to always have been. Everybody here seems to think that "it is man's natural tendency to explore". I disagree.

    It is man's natural tendency to try to take over and control everything it finds.

    --
    Give a man a match, you keep him warm for an evening.

  • LOL! Too bad this will be modded down. Mod it up please!
  • The chains of molecules spell out something...

    A L L Y O U R B A S E A R E B E L O N G T O U S
  • Actually, microscopic organisms have been found near the poles before.
  • And if God created us, where do you take the arrogance from to think he did not create other life forms? Only us?

    <sarcasm>
    I would rather think us to be a failed experiment and he learned from it and did better someplace else. This of course means we will never meet the others.
    </sarcasm>
  • a deadline for full colonization of another solar system by April 2012


    You're forgetting, of course, that in any such endeavor, a bureaucracy will be involved. If we don't use April 2012 as a deadline, that bureaucracy won't even have all of its rules figured out before detonation, never mind have us off the planet :)

  • Don't be an idiot. Are you seriously suggesting that Christopher Columbus should have "relinquished" his exploring (Bill Joy parallel)? Someone else would have gone and found the Americas at some point, so why bother?

    Your example supports the previous poster's conclusion - it's not a counterexample.

  • First of all, "Astrobiology" is a field that NASA invented

    I doubt it. I think you'll find the "alternative science" communities were there long before. Charles Fort, for example - he could be more scientific than some of the scientists in his day. (Do you know scientists once claimed that meteorities could not exist, because "There are no rocks in the sky, therefore rocks cannot fall from the sky". Can't fault their logic!)

    Today, the field may be defined as the research conducted by those scientists who have noticed the large pot of money earmarked for Astrobiology at NASA, and have tailored their grant proposals to suit the Research Opportunity Announcements.

    Nearly all scientists need research funding. You say this as if this was something unusual. In fact you could replace "Astrobiology at NASA" with almost any other kind of science and this sentence would still hold true.

    Just because a bunch of scientists have seen funding opportunities, doesn't mean they aren't interested in the subject for other reasons as well. Maybe they wanted to do it all along but they didn't want to stick their knecks out - which is actually quite rational risk-averse behaviour for beginning scientists.

    particularly given the gales of laughter that greeted the equally breathless announcement about the last Mars rock with "strong supporting evidence" for life on Mars.

    Well, arguably it was a lot stronger than any previous so-called "evidence". And it was good rhetoric, anywhere. The public are generally dumb and short-termist, so it helps occassionally to have a big front-page news story to whip up public support for increased NASA funding (assuming you're in favor of increased NASA funding). Even if the truth has to be stretched somewhat.

    Of course, there may be some truth in what you say. But don't forget that funding priorities determine research priorities almost everywhere. This is not unusual.

    Seriously guys, please remember that NASA is not a scientific agency. They don't really care about the science - they care about spaceflight, engineering, launch, astronautics. But not the science.

    I think you'll find that accidents resulting in the desctruction of expensive experimental apparatus are taken very seriously.

    Bottom line: the opinion of JSC researchers on the subject of that rock is not to be taken seriously.

    Bzztt!! Ad homenim (yes, I know, wrong spelling - I didn't do dead languages at school). Minus 150 points to you. Let's see some arguments on the scientific evidence, please, not poorly-justified character assassinations.

    You're probably just a jealous researcher in a less-well-funded area, aren't you? If so, maybe if you wised up and learned about the logical fallacies (like ad homenim), you'd become a better scientist.

    I'm not joking, incidentally - the rate of serious errors in some scientific or part-scientific fields (e.g. medicine) is appalling. E.g. Statistically meaningless sample sizes, flawed statistic analysis, the common "correlation implies causation" fallacy (implicit or explicit), etc.

  • by Weezul (52464)
    Non-sentent life has two values to us: (1) our survival (I say kill the fuckers who are cutting down the rain forest) and (2) research/information (I say kill the fuckers who are cutting down the rain forest or killing off the hump backs).

    Clearly, only reason (2) is relevent to the studdy of life on another planet. We should be willing to take a few risks for the purpose of studing this life. Plus, we are likely to just be studing fossils since all the life there could be dead by now anyway. Regardless, I'm shure that NASA will take all reasonable efforts to limit contamination.
  • Isnt that the plot to Homeworld?
  • Didn't Mars do this to us? Here we were, Earth, just sitting there all nice and quiet, and WHAMO, a big-ass-teroid comes and causes havoc and more havoc, and again wreaking havoc, causing all these stupid creatures called humans to evolve.
  • The ignorance in this thread is amazing.

    How many of you are exobiologists? None? Thought so.

    For those of you who don't know, the field of exobiology is the study of non-terrestrial life, and was pioneered by Carl Sagan. (One of my personal heros.)

    Exobiologists, especially Carl Sagan, have long searched for EXACTLY this kind of evidence. This particular configuration chain, which is impossible (note the impossible - I didn't say nearly impossible, nor did I say almost impossible - just impossible) outside of organic or artificially constructed containment, is the first really solid evidence of life off the Earth.

    Now, for those of you saying "well don't magnets arrange themselves in chains normally?" Yes - very good, you watched Mr. Wizard as a kid too... but you are completely ignorant of exobiology and of the basic patterns involved. So why post? Why not read up on the subject and actually be informed? Most people, unfourtunatly, either don't want to know the truth or don't care.

    NASA may have been hasty in releasing this information only because the observations should be duplicated by many idependant scientists before a release of this scale happens, not because the evidence may not be what it seems.

    Unless the observations are 100% wrong, as in the magnetite crystals don't exist as they are, or rather are of a different configuration (specifically, globular), which would be akin to saying the exact opposite of what they have already said, THERE WAS LIFE ON MARS!!!

    The impacts of this discovery are incredible to say the least. For the first time we can confirm we are, or at least were (sorta), not alone in the Universe. Not sure what the Pope is gonna say... since this pretty much screws most of the Bible over (not that it's hard to do that anyway) but maybe people will decide to open their eyes and minds instead of swallowing the babble that most people beleive in today. Fat chance I guess... but I'm one of those silly people who wants to known what is really going on.

    READ THIS BOOK: "The Demon-Haunted World" by Carl Sagan. As one review on Amazon.com said, it should be required reading for the planet. Then, once you're done, read every other book by Sagan. Sure, he often presents theory as fact... but as he has proven countless times, his theories usually are fact. May he rest in peace.
  • Delien [delien.com] Industries Inc, your Industrial solutions provider has documneted well the sounds of asteroid designation ALH84001. Check their website for more information HERE [delien.com].

    Dr00lArt.
  • > Mars WAS JUST LIKE THE EARTH

    Uh, not exactly. Please dont shout either, it makes you seem juvenile. Try using facts or references instead.

    > life in this solar system originated on MARS and was carried here to this planet

    Possible, not probable.

    >my meteorites

    Not from around here, are you :)

    >In a few more years it will all be much clearer.

    Yup :)

  • > Just because one planet exhibits life in a certain way is NO indication that ALL life-bearing planets will exhibit the same features.

    Right, so for now we have to extrapolate from a sample size of one, and some logic. As for the logic, note I'm not using any features of earthly life, aside from it's ability to evolve and adapt. If something evolves and adapts, it will therefor radiates and finds new habitats. If not then well, it's not life at all.

    >If there were something recognizable as a bacteria found on Mars, and a bacteria is recognized as a living organism, then it's pretty safe to say we would have found life on Mars eh?

    Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. The new data from NASA is a step closer, but it not it yet. I'm trying to point out the claim of life on mars is a lot more extraordinary than most people seem to think.

    > Oh wait, you're a troll

    Yeah right, I research and maintain long writeups on E2 just to rile you (see the update BTW, I got some good feedback in this thread). Sheesh. Troll yerself.

  • OK, so Mars was possibly once upon a time not barren, but now Mars is definitely barren. I will modify the writeup accordingly
  • > If life was present on Mars it is not totally implausible that it remains in some areas.

    Yes it is actually. Not impossible, just implausible. Read the full text of the writeup on E2 - link form my first post.
  • > preconceived notions as to what life is,

    Um no. 'preconceived notions' would be that it has to use water as a solvent, DNA as a genetic information storage, have 2 limbs for walking and 2 for grasping. These may sound stupid, but I've seen them (especially the DNA one) here on Slashdot before. If an ET lifeform is found that uses DNA in the same way that we do, it would strongly suggets that we share a common origin.

    However if you suggest that "evolve and adapt" may not be universal features of anything even remotely worthy of the name life, I have nothing but derisive laughter for you. As I never tire of saying, go read Dawkins or Dennet. They are better thinkers than I am, and have spent a lot of time & effort on this topic. I agree with them on this.

  • Following this logic man would not be meant to fly, travel quickly, cross large bodies of water, etc.. Also following this logic but in a different way, one could say that if not for the wonders of the human mind, man would not have the cabability to reach Mars either.
  • I suggest you re-read Genesis 11:1-9, preferably using a Bible with good notes, since you seem to be having a hard time finding anything other than literal meaning there. First off, the Tower of Babel is a reference to the chief ziggurat of Babylon, the Esagila. we've already built buildings much, much taller than that, and God's not struck them down. the story of babel isn't about tall buildings, it's about building an urban culture in which God has no place. it's about pride and presumption.
    if you're looking for scriptural backing of this sort of endavor (mars exploration, and indeed exploratory science in general), i'd point you at 2nd Timothy 1:7 - "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." i'd point further to the several parables about how not using your gifts (including the intelect and reason provided us) is sinful, and displeasing to God (sorry, can't find verse numbers right now).
    i'd further point out that, in anything other than the strictest literal reading, one which ignores everything we know about astronamy, meterology, and general science, "heaven" isn't contained in the sky. in the Babel story, it's a metaphor; the same thing ticked God off there as it did in the garden of Eden, and in Sodom (no, that story isn't about homosexuality): pride and arrogance - thinking oneself equal to God. leaving the planet is no more offensive to God (from reading the Bible, anyway - i have no inside information here) than leaving your town; riding a space shuttle no worse than riding a horse.
  • I'm not surprised that magnetite is arising again as evidence for early life. I can think of lots of reasons to question any of the claims made by scientists, but still it is very intriguing. If true, it will be really neat to see what life might have been like on earth billions of years ago. But this may mean that life is more likely, or as others may argue (I personally disagree) that life originated from extraterrestrial origins. -Moondog
  • NO NO NO. :(

    I am thrice damned. I am damned once for "Vanilla Ice", twice for "Baywatch", and now a third time for Rupert Murdoch.

    To atone I shall learn to play "Waltzing Mathilda" on an accordion, eat nothing but veg sandwiches for a month, and construct an altar to Dame Edna on my front lawn.

  • Are you SURE this was the BBC's foul up? Sounds more like Rupert Murdoch's style.

    BLOODY AUSTRALIANS! :)

    I could understand the magnetic Martian lifeforms affecting cassingle sales, I mean ... Hello, magnets?! But CD's? Everyone knows CD sales are expect to rise due to global warming.

  • but hey you can never disprove a good conspiracy.

    How comically arrogant can people get? You can never prove the existence of god either.
  • Seriously, these bacteria had their chance and they obviously screwed it up. Time to let the away team play..
  • I wonder how many people really understand the significance of this event, assuming the evidence holds up. The first verifiable evidence of life beyond Earth - most everything else kind of pales in comparison. If nothing else, hopefully this news will renew people's interest in the Mars missions, and particularly (!) the sample return mission scheduled for later this decade.

    For those interested in getting more involved, by the way, the National Space Society [nss.org] lobbies Congress for more political and financial backing for NASA. They're always holding letter writing drives and needing new participants.

  • To see what the Church says about this. If life didn't start on earth, then suddenly we're no longer the center of the universe again (ala' copernicus). Should be interesting...
  • >>First of all there is the galaxy; it needs to be very very specific in both size, age, and type.

    >Bullshit. Just because our galaxy has a certain configuration doesn't mean that's the only configuration that can support life. Do you honestly think that life can only occur in the uncharted backwaters of the unfasionable end of the western spiral arm of a particular type of galaxy?

    Well, it certainly aint going to form in the middle of 47 Tucanane - you need time for life to form between stellar collisions - something you get plenty of in the unfasionable end of the western spiral arm of a particular type of galaxy.

    >>The star has to be exacly the right size nad exactly the right point in its life

    >Bullshit. Our sun is about 4.5 billion years old. Life has existed on Earth for better than 3 billion years of that. So the sun has been at "exactly the right point in its life" for 2/3 of its life. Uhmm, right. As for size, the only thing that matters is the luminous intensity at the planet's surface. A larger or brighter star simply requires a larger orbit, thicker atmosphere, or more temperature-tolerant life.

    Well, actually, the sun will be too hot in 1 billion years for anything to survive, and I dont really know how hot it was 1 billion years ago, but I hazard a guess that something as complex as humans could not have existed 1 billion years ago.

    >>The planet has to be composed of exactly the right material...

    >Bullshit. Earth is mostly iron and nickel. The crust is mostly silicon, aluminum, and oxygen. Only one of these elements is important for the basics of life. To produce Earth-like life, the planet needs certain amounts of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, etc. at the surface. These do not have to be the primary constituents of the planet.

    Those compound you mentioned are pretty restrictive enough - it seems Earth is the only planet in our solar system that has the correct ratios for these, anyway - suggesting their possible rarity.

    >>...be the right size...

    >Bullshit. Earth-like life requires a certain minumum size, to hold an atmosphere. There is really no definite upper limit on size, though. Life, especially simple life like bacteria, would have absolutely no trouble evolving on a planet 10 times as massive as Earth.

    I find climbing up stairs hard enough these days - I sure wouldn't want to be 10 times heavier! A factor of two is not much of a range in astronomy - Mars would have a bit of trouble keeping an atmosphere for any length of time.

    >>and be at exactly the right distance from the sun

    >Bullshit. Again, Earth-like life requires the surface temperature to be within a certain range, but it's hardly exact. The primary requirements are that water be a liquid and proteins hold together against thermal disruption. Known life on Earth exists in temperatures over a range of better than 350 Kelvins. Even if you needed a

    They do? I thought it was about -60 to +100 C - then again, I've been wrong before. You're not confusing farenheit with Kelvin, are you?

    >smaller temperature range, you have 3 variables to adjust. Sun brightness, orbit distance, and atmosphereic reflectiveness. It's not too hard to find a combination of those that will produce the right temperature.

    And greenhouse gasses - but this is dynamical - a kind of positive feedback. The earth's surface would be on average -15 C if it was not for greenhouse gasses - and you know how fragile that it.

    >>There has to be a moon at exactly the right distance and exactly the right size

    >Bullshit. Whose ass did you pull this statement out of? Do you honestly expect me to believe that chemical reactions on Earth's surface are dependant on the luminosity and gravitational pull of the Moon?! At least the other arguments sounded credible before you thought about them. This one's just ridiculous.

    Cant comment on this one - not a marine biologist - but surely, the tides form some useful purpose, right?

  • The NASA guys have been studying the artifacts since 1996, and they are now convinced enough to put their reputation on the line. These aren't people to do that lightly.

    Guys, please keep your salt handy.

    First of all, "Astrobiology" is a field that NASA invented in order to have nice stories to tell the public about life on other planets. Prior to Dan Goldin's mandating it into existence, there was no Astrobiology community - no meetings, no journal, nothing. It never made the critical mass criteria that occasionally come together to create a new field of science. Then, overnight, it became one of the biggest-ticket items in the Office of Space Science budget.

    Today, the field may be defined as the research conducted by those scientists who have noticed the large pot of money earmarked for Astrobiology at NASA, and have tailored their grant proposals to suit the Research Opportunity Announcements.

    "Scientists" at JSC and at other NASA centers are under a great deal of institutional pressure to dignify this otherwise farcical field, particularly given the gales of laughter that greeted the equally breathless announcement about the last Mars rock with "strong supporting evidence" for life on Mars.

    Seriously guys, please remember that NASA is not a scientific agency. They don't really care about the science - they care about spaceflight, engineering, launch, astronautics. But not the science. It's a cultural thing at Headquarters. Science is a bauble they often festoon themselves with in order to justify budgets for the programs they want. But they are completely prepared to corrupt the normal processes of science for their own purposes.

    Bottom line: the opinion of JSC researchers on the subject of that rock is not to be taken seriously. Wait until a recognizable consensus forms elsewhere, if that ever happpens. Personally I doubt it ever will.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If many magnetite crystals were found in addition to the 'biological' ones, then why (humor me for a moment) couldn't the 'biological' magnetite crystals also have a non-biological origin?

    But, your honor, if so many people die every day from natural causes, why couldn't the guy I'm charged with murdering also have died from natural causes?

    When I go in to see a doctor and complain about stomach aches, the doctor begins down a list of common explanations -- flu virus, food poisoning, etc. He _doesn't_ simply leap to the conclusion that I have a demon in my belly which must be exorcized.

    And, of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the simple explanations, but the NASA scientists who spent four years studying the meteorite rejected them anyway.

    If you're going to complain about somebody's conclusions, actually make sure you're well-informed about what the conclusions are and how they were reached. (Hint: the Slashdot summary doesn't count.)
  • I assume you're talking about Carbon-14 dating. Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5700 years, which is too short to use on 4 billion year old objects (moreover, 4 billion year old objects that had not very much carbon to begin with). You can, however, use other methods like Potassium-Argon (isotope mass of 40) dating, Uranium and Thorium, etc. Potassium-40 has a half-life of over a billion years, so it would be good for this time-scale.

    However, I have no idea what this group used to date the rock.

  • Rational discussion on this topic is nearly impossible to achieve. It always turns into an axe-grinding party with ends in either anger or exhaustion. Unless, of course, everyone involved has basically the same belief, in which case it is a warm, fuzzy discussion where details can be hashed out, and everyone leaves feeling enlightened.

    And you sure aren't going to find a rational discussion on any remotely controversial topic here.

    (Yeah, I know that's cynical view.)

  • NASA paid the researchers that came up with the new findings and NASA has strong interest in hyping the whole issue of space exploration.

    I am really curious how they can be so sure that the rock is from Mars. Simply because it has the same chemical composition as Mars stones?

  • Maybe he meant the guy who created Babylon 5. Isn't he J. Michael?
  • Does it have DNA made up of 3 strands of RNA? :-)
  • First let me tell you one thing. NOTHING still fully proves that this and other similar rocks did come from Mars. As far as i know, this is some silly telltale that started somewhere in the 80's to shortly explain their origin. However i have noted that some serious meteorite researchers still pointed facts that put doubt to these ideas in a more fundamental manner. They point some physico-chemical characteristics and isotope differences that point an origin to another planet which probably was even smaller than Mars.

    Second - Lovelock, Horowitz & Co. made a lot to prove that "We are alone". Even in the middle of the 60's this group actively opposed the sterilisation of Mars probes and made a whole fuss how Mars was death, barren and dry. Even before we had clear pictures or data about Mars, I know that these people were actively bombing every reasonable search for life in this planet. i should specially note the fight Dr. Horowitz had with Dr. Vishniac. Horowitz, Cameron and some other investigators claimed that Antarctida Dry Valleys were abiotic in most of their extention. Dr. Vishniac nearly proved the opposite. The only thing that stopped him from doing this, was his strange death in one of these valleys. And this allowed Dr. Horowitz to continue his theory of Dry Death Mars for quite a long...

    On what concerns particularly Dr. Lovelock, I would cite him:

    "There was much argument about the need to sterilize the spacecraft before sending them to Mars. I could never understand why it should be thought so bad to run the small risk of accidentally seeding Mars with life; it might even be the only chance we had of passing life on to another planet. Sometimes the argument was fierce and macho; full of adolescent masculinity. In any event, feeling as I did -- that Mars was dead -- the image of rape, sometimes used, could not be sustained; at worst the act would be only the dismal lonely aberration of necrophilia. More seriously, as an instrument designer I knew that the act of sterilization made all but impossible the already superhuman task of building the Vikings and threatened the integrity of their exquisitely engineered internal homeostasis. To this day I appreciate the toleration and generosity of my colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and in NASA, especially the personal kindness of Norman Horowitz, who was then head of the team of space biologists. In spite of the "bad news" I had brought, they continued to support my researches until the Viking missions to Mars were ready to go. The soft landing on Mars in 1975 of these two intricate and almost humanly intelligent robots was successful. Their mission was to find life on Mars, but the messages they returned as radio signals to the Earth returned only the chill news of its absence. Mars, except during day in the summer, was a place of pitiless frigidity, and implacably hostile to the warm wet life of Earth. The two Vikings now sit there brooding silently, no longer allowed to report the news from Mars, hunched against their final destruction by the wind with its burden of abrasive dust and corrosive acid. We have accepted the barrenness of the Solar System. The quest for life elsewhere is no longer an urgent scientific goal, but the confirmation by the Vikings of the utter sterility of Mars has hung as a dark contrasting backcloth for new models and images of the Earth. We now understand that our planet differs greatly from her two dead siblings, Mars and Venus.

    The only reaction to this text: No comments, or else I would heart child ears...
  • Yeah, wait until the last minute. THAT'S a survival strategy.

    You meek folks go right ahead and inherit the Earth; we'll be out among the starts. Maybe we'll preserve a few of you in zoos or something later.

    -
  • Pardon me for channelling Joe Straczynski while he's still alive, but if we don't start exploring other worlds with an eye toward eventual colonization, we're doomed. The sun will explode, and all of this, from Plato to Moses to Slashdot to ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US was a waste of time.

    Allowing the GUARANTEED destruction of our species (the sun won't last forever) because we might hurt another would be immoral.

    Yes, I realize we have hurt people and critters in our explanations. My wife and son are part American Indian. But they're also 100% alive.

    -
  • Bunch of rocket scientists can't correctly spell a URL. Let's try that again.

    Images of the magnetite chains inside the ALH84001 meteorite and, for comparison, inside a modern magnetotactic bacterium are at:
    http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/releases/2001/01image s/magneticbacteria/bacteria.html [nasa.gov]

  • The Viking landers found excess oxygen in the
    martian soils, indicating there might be life.
    Then scientists discovered inorganic chemical
    reactions in martian-like environment that could
    cause this.

    We'll need stronger evidence.

  • You are in DIRE need of a statistics class.

    The odds that there is NO life on this planet is zero.

    The odds that there IS life on this planet is 1.

    If there are N planets in this universe, and a percentage of them have life on them, the odds that you exist on one of the planets with life is 1.

    This is a statistical FACT regardless of what the percentage is. It doesn't matter how many planets there are. There may ONLY be one planet with life. Even if that were true, the odds are exactly 1 that you are living on it.

    Your (sad) statistical analysis is analogous to rolling a 100 sided die, then claiming that because you rolled, say, a 43, that ONLY a miracle could have caused it. After all, the odds of you rolling a 43 are 1/100 right?

    Dig?
  • As somebody already pointed out in a different thread, mixing a box of magnets will form clumps, not chains.

    Try it.

    Then post your results ;)
  • As usual, religion is very resistant to any criticsm. I doubt very much anybody's faith is going to be terribly shaken.

    Start with the concept of an omnescient, omnipotent being, and anything that follows is pretty much impervious to logic.

    The faithful, of course, see this as a feature, not a bug, however.

    You may as well try to explain nuclear physics to a tree sloth.
  • If you go the evolution route then what's to stop life from evolving on Mars or anywhere else. If there's enough random chance for it to happen here then why not everywhere? I personally don't buy this because there's not enough particles in the universe to allow that much random chance, but if you belive it's possible for life to evolve here then it seems logical to assume that it could evolve anywhere.

    Care to back this unfortunate bit of psuedo-science with some actual numbers? Do you have any REAL grasp as to how easy it its to get a bunch of complex proteins to form in a nice warm bath of hydrocarbons and water and a bit of electricity? Do you have any real grasp of exactly HOW large the universe is? Do you have any real grasp of exactly how OLD the universe is? How about the Earth.

    Oh wait, I forgot. Earth is only 6000 years old. Gosh, you're right! There is NO way life could develop in the span of 6000 years!

    chortle
  • The authors of the study claim that the magnetite samples found could _only_ have a 'biological' origin. Yet the Chronicle article points out that there were many magnetite crystals found in the rock sample, and only the ones with a presumed 'biological' origin were studied in detail.

    This appears contradictory. If many magnetite crystals were found in addition to the 'biological' ones, then why (humor me for a moment) couldn't the 'biological' magnetite crystals also have a non-biological origin? A non-biological origin would seem to be a much simpler hypothesis.

    When I go in to see a doctor and complain about stomach aches, the doctor begins down a list of common explanations -- flu virus, food poisoning, etc. He _doesn't_ simply leap to the conclusion that I have a demon in my belly which must be exorcized. This basic principle of simplicity of hypotheses is well-known, and is sometimes referred to as Occam's razor, or the 'Keep-it-Simple-Stupid' (KISS) principle. This paper, along with much of the recent work on water/life on Mars completely neglects this principle, which to me appears to be a very dangerous position to take.
  • First of all, the life on Mars is probably extinct, except perhaps for isolated pockets that wouldn't be likely to be contaminated by a few manned probes.

    Second, who the fuck cares about primitive bacteria? It's scientifically interesting, so we probably want to study it, but there's absolutely no good reason just to leave it alone. It's not sentient, it doesn't look cute, and it doesn't play an important role in our ecosystem.

    Also, it's unlikely Earth bacteria would be able to out-compete Mars bacteria in their native environment. Our bacteria--particularly the ones that would be carried by humans--are not well-suited to surviving in the Mars environment, whereas Mars bacteria are presumably well-adapted.

    Finally, if you haven't noticed, the Martian environment isn't exactly friendly right now. It's hard to imagine how we could make it worse (from a human habitation point of view).
  • The link on the NASA page [nasa.gov] to the full article is incorrect. It should point to here. [nasa.gov]

    Even more humorous than the bad link n the page, is that the page was generated by:
    <META NAME="Generator" CONTENT="Microsoft Word 73.1">
  • The finding of biological magnetite on Mars highlights the profoundly frustrating goings on with Mars science to date, starting with the cessation of all Mars probes for over 15 years that began in the 1970s followed by the failures of Phobos I [erau.edu], Phobos II [erau.edu], the Mars observer [msss.com] and Mars 96 [newscientist.com]. Then there is the ridiculous way NASA handled the Cydonia face business [geocities.com] and the fact that NASA has now reimaged only the portion of the face already, repeatedly, imaged [geocities.com].

    Over a decade ago I proposed the National Science Trust [geocities.com] that would be a trust fund that paid out only for information delivered, from whatever source and by whatever lawful means. In other words, new information flowing in causes new cash to flow out.

    I'm no longer one to advocate political action about anything, but The National Science Trust idea can easily be adapted to private philanthropy as well.

  • Just compare Mars with Antartica. There is life on the most inhospitable places of Antartica but it is difficult to see it. It evolves very slowly and is often dormant and frozen. Why wouldn't it be the same on Mars?
  • Seriously, humans can't even share diseases with most other mammals.

    Yeah - except for a few exceptions. Example:

    Creutzfeld-Jakob variants [cdc.gov]
    AIDS [thebody.com]

    Get it ?

    Thomas Miconi
  • when you replace the big slimy-looking mosters with strings of bacteria filled with magnets...

    Well, yes and no. There is quite some debate going on about our origin, and there's a theory floating around that situates the origins of life (I mean, earth life) on Mars. The main point is that Earth cooled down much later than Mars did, and that the timespan between the cooling down of Earth and the appearance of life on our planet is somewhat short. No proof, of course, but it's sufficient to make scientists wonder. "We don't know" has become the standard answer.

    If we find proof that some kind of life emerged on Mars, and that it can travel between Mars and the Earth (asteroid piggybacking involves quite severe conditions), then we have one thing to do: go to Mars, find life (or remains of it) and determine wether it has the same structure as ours - read: DNA.

    This is why it is very important to preserve the natural lifeforms of Mars, or what remains of them: If we ever find evidence of native DNA-based life on Mars, it will mean that life on Mars and the Earth have almost certainly the same (presumably martian) origin.

    In other words: it would be proof that the "big alien monsters" do exist. It's you and me. :o)

    Thomas Miconi
  • The rock in question was supposedly ejected into space 3.9 billion years ago. All the mars missions that haven't crashed and analysed rock samples have found no evidence of continuing life.

    I think the knowledge we could gain from studying alien bacteria cultures would contribute enormously to our understanding of genesis here and elsewhere in the universe. You can bet researchers would take every imaginable precaution to ensure their beloved data are not contaminated, and they're probably capable of pulling it off.

    And calling bacteria cultures an 'ecosphere' is a bit much. I can't speak for everyone else, but my conservationist leanings on this planet derive from a weird sense of kinship with other creatures on this planet, and awareness of their symbiotic relationships. I couldn't care less about bacteria on mars.
  • So, I am wondering as I search, does anyone know a resource that would show if it is common to have magnetite that looks like this in other meteorites? Has anyone looked at a bunch to see if it might be more common?

    Just a thought.

    This link [calacademy.org] presents the theory they announced today a couple years ago, search it for magnetite.

  • >>...who or what formed that face on the Martian surface?

    *I* formed that face on Mars. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids.

  • Here is space.com's coverage. [space.com]
  • To say that the sole reason that we should look to colonizing other planets is the eventual exploding of our sun is ridiculous. It is theorized that our earth will become uninhabitable for human as the sun expands to the width of Venus's orbit in approximately 5,000,000,000 years, when in about 50 years our space program has completely developed the technology to land probes on mars and even asteroids and send a man to the moon. Certainly there are many important reasons that we need to look to colonizing other planets and solar systems, such as the exhaustions of out resources here or a catastrophic life ending event, but to single out the end of our sun as a reason is irresponsible. Even if it took us until the year 7000 AD to leave our solar system, one could slow our rate of technological progress by a factor of 1 million and we would still leave before the sun exploded. In short, future space exploration and colonization is necessary and inevitable, but to cite the explosion of our sun as grounds for future research in space is ridiculous.
  • *SIGH* - I know the rules, don't feed the trolls... but... I gotta respond to this one.

    yeah and in a clump of shit there are carbon chains but guess what it is still a clump of shit

    Yep. And you know what's interesting about that statement? A "clump of shit" would indicate the presence of life - ya can't have a clump of shit without someone to take a dump. Think about it...

  • LOL, This is funny and actually quite correct. Perdida get's a gold star for seeing what most would miss.
  • Terra-formed? Are you insane? WTF have you been soking. Here the post is speaking to not fucking up the environment and you're speaking of terra-forming it>? Now that's the way to leave it un blemished. Screw it up like we are own planet. LOL Dude, you need to turn off the TV, go outside and see real life for a little while.
  • Earthly microrganisms could leak into the Martian environment and cause havoc.

    Puhleeze.

    The ecosphere on Mars will be completely unchanged by mans presence. Look at antarctica, save for a few hundred oil drums and some old buldozers it's just like we found it.

  • "Occam's Razor" is not a law which is fundamentally obeyed my nature. In fact, nature could end up showing itself to follow the complete opposite, having horribly complex causes for the most basic phenomenon.

    "Occam's Razor" is nothing more than a rule of thumb used by some scientists. Adhere to closely to it, and you will only limit your enlightenment.
  • 1) Skepticism is a healthy part of the scientific method.

    2) Shaking bar magnets can result in chains, but it's unlikely. A lower energy config is clumping.
    (Try the experiment in 2D. Get a bunch of little bar magnets, put 'em in a shoebox, and shake. See what you get. Clumps? :-)

    3) Experiments are also a healthy part of the scientific method.
  • Dr. Ross presents a lot of nubmers without much support. In addition, I expect a very high degree of bias in information on a site entitled "Reasons to Believe." For example, the chart at the bottom quotes the probability of a star being solitary, as opposed to part of a binary or other multi-star system, as being 20%. Estimates of this probabiltiy range from the quoted 20% to a much more frequently cited 50%. Funny that the person trying to scientifically disprove evolution chooses the most extreme value considered credible, without any note that there are many other estimates. I would also like to know how white dwarf binary systems relate to fluorine formation. Fluorine is also not required in any great concentration, and is produced in Sun-like stars as part of the NOF cycle.

    Of the 66 values quoted on the website, only the first 15 or 20 pertain to the formation of life in general. All others are only required for the formation of humans. I'm sure I could find more holes, but I don't feel like doing more research into Dr. Ross' numbers as I could use some sleep.

    In addition, 20 of the 89 citations are to Dr. Ross' own publications, every single one of which is in Facts & Faith. If Dr. Ross ever gets his work sufficiently well accepted by the scientific community to be published in a non-religious journal, let me know.

    I don't think you made all this up, not anymore anyway. I do, however, strongly suspect that your single source is less than credible. He seems best known for his work in trying to scientifically disprove evolution, and also seems to recieve very little recognition from his colleagues. I have yet to find any reference to Dr. Ross which is not in a religious context.

  • I know, the headline is a little inflammatory, it's designed that way... :-)

    although the chances are so very small, we would be risking a lot - an entire ecosphere.

    What we call ecological "destruction" is not usually "destruction" in the common sense. Usually, an ecosystem just changes, it doesn't get destroyed. I suspect that true ecological destruction can only occur due to massive changes... and I don't even mean on the scale of the atmospheric pollution we humans are pumping into the air. I firmly believe that the terran ecosystem will adapt to accommodate it. (Which is NOT to say that we shouldn't reduce emissions!)

    True ecological destruction will occur when the sun burns out, or say, a passing nebula renders the entire solar system poisonous, or a black hole knocks the Earth out of orbit. Think of it: there was once a collision with a massive meteorite, and there were huge changes in the ecosystem (enough that I grant you could call it "destruction") but it eventually recovered from the catastrophe, and we are its result.

    The only way of not "destroying" an ecosystem is not to go there at all. In fact, our spacecraft may have already carried terran microbes to Mars. Come to think of it, dust and other flotsam that drifts away from Earth could "contaminate" Mars, without any action on our part at all! Should we wrap our planet with a giant sheet of plastic, to hold in our terrestrial germs?

    Ecological preservation makes a lot of sense, but only to a point. Beyond a certain point, it just becomes an unreasoning attachment to a status quo... Remember, an ecosystem is supposed to change; that's what makes it alive.

    Disclaimer: IA-in-No-way-whatsoever-ABiologist. If I said something idiotic, feel free to set me straight.

    --

  • (BTW, it was NOT Christopher Colombus that discovered America, but Leif Erikson. It was later surveyed by Amerigo Vespucci, leading to the naming of this land, "America," probably due to a clerical error.)

    Just for the record, I'm well aware of this. The NASA scientists didn't "discover" Mars, either, so the point is moot.

    If you're implying something about the destruction of the Native Americans and their way of life, all I can say is it was not exploration into America that killed the Indians, but ignorant, racist conquerors.

    Explorers need not be conquerors.

    No, but ignorance can do just as much damage. Just look at the dolphins and whales.

    Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't go; as you said initially, someone eventually will, and I'd rather the people who go be the least ignorant people possible, which probably means scientists rather than "explorers". What concerns me is the attitude you voiced in your comment; if I misinterpreted it, feel free to correct me, but it sounds too much like "as long as we benefit side effects don't matter," or "screw the natives, give us our gold." I don't want to see that attitude become common, or even the scientists may become affected by it, or pressured by government/business into obeying it.

    --
    BACKNEXTFINISHCANCEL

  • Imagine those (or similar) words coming out of Christopher Columbus's mouth, and then think back to your 16th-19th century American history...

    Believe me, I thought about the exploration that eventually led to the discovery of America.

    (BTW, it was NOT Christopher Colombus that discovered America, but Leif Erikson. It was later surveyed by Amerigo Vespucci, leading to the naming of this land, "America," probably due to a clerical error.)

    If you're implying something about the destruction of the Native Americans and their way of life, all I can say is it was not exploration into America that killed the Indians, but ignorant, racist conquerors.

    Explorers need not be conquerors.
  • What concerns me is the attitude you voiced in your comment; if I misinterpreted it, feel free to correct me, but it sounds too much like "as long as we benefit side effects don't matter," or "screw the natives, give us our gold."

    I thought I was pretty clear in my original post, when I said both, "I think the discoveries and new possibilities that arise from exploration vastly outweigh any fear of destroying an ecosphere," and "there are always good and bad side effects from exploration."

    I think far more good has come from exploration than bad.
  • Pat Buchanan and other "America first" conservatives have already called for the meteor's immediate expulsion from the country- since it is clear that the space rock was simply a Marriel-style vessel for microbes to illegally emmigrate to the United States.

    But not to worry. It seems the extra-terrestrial life forms, in spite of being millions of years dead, got married in Los Vegas over the weekend to a colony of algae. This means that their green cards will remain in tact and they may all one day become citizens.

    If you want to get the new couples a wedding present, they are registered at Nordstroms- for sun lamps and stagnant water.

    Elian as fossilized microbe... [ridiculopathy.com]


  • What about the converse? Consider this passage:
    The fact that a small (about 4-pound) meteorite from a planet contains large numbers of bacteria suggests that such bacteria were widespread on the surface of Mars, the researchers say. A stone of similar size from Earth would contain many bacteria.
    What happens when the astronaut returns to Earth?? Our immune systems have evolved defenses to bacteria in OUR environment. What are the chances that an extraterrestrial bacteria could wipe out our civilization?

    If we ever become capable of really exploring the galaxy, and the universe really is as diverse as this article suggests, then i'd say our chances wouldn't be that good. Of course, there might not be any bacteria alive on Mars today. But that still doesn't exclude further extraplanetary explorations.

    -- juju
  • Poster A: I do not support a manned mission to Mars in the light of this discovery - this is rational because although the chances are so very small, we would be risking a lot - an entire ecosphere.

    Poster B: And calling bacteria cultures an 'ecosphere' is a bit much. I can't speak for everyone else, but my conservationist leanings on this planet derive from a weird sense of kinship with other creatures on this planet, and awareness of their symbiotic relationships. I couldn't care less about bacteria on mars.

    Wow, I'm flashing back on Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.

    I'm somewhere in between the two posters with my opinion, though. Life on Mars does make it sort of sad that we'll be bringing all our microbes over there soon, but not sad enough (IMNSHO) that we ought not to do it. Not only is moving some people over to Mars a really good Get Some Eggs Out of This Basket(tm) policy for humans as a species, but dammit, isn't it just about time that we stopped talking about it and just did it?

    Besides, maybe the microbes over there are lonely! ;)

    Cyclopatra


    "We can't all, and some of us don't." -- Eeyore


  • Just because one planet exhibits life in a certain way is NO indication that ALL life-bearing planets will exhibit the same features. "Expect..." my ass. And of course we look at Mars for signs of past or present life. It IS right next door to the only planet on which we have found life to date.

    It is likely that the concept of a planet having traces of life is not a valid one: there will be diversity and many filled niches, or nothing. Even if there are or were a few bacteria on mars, then it's not what we think of as life: there is no ecology, no biosphere, no diversity.

    Hello, McFly? If there were something recognizable as a bacteria found on Mars, and a bacteria is recognized as a living organism, then it's pretty safe to say we would have found life on Mars eh? Ecospheres be damned.

    Oh wait, you're a troll. Never mind...

    LEXX

    My cornflakes tasted funny this morning...
  • I mean, didn't they try this a couple years ago to suck some more money out of the US government?
    ...
    hell, its 2001, they ought to have found something by now...
  • i bet you're a lota fun at parties.
  • I just don't know if I can buy this meteorite as absolute proof. It certainly suggests there's a high probability that life on Mars created the formations, but it doesn't guarantee it. Too many others things could be the cause and too many variable affected the meteorite....who's to say it didn't happen on earth? But now that we have this -good idea-, we should send a probe (or manned mission - pick me! pick me!) up to Mars to look for more rocks that exhibit this same formation and search for more conclusive proof.
  • Despite the general lackadaisical attitude of your average Joe on the street, the discovery of extra-terrestrial life - if proven - will be the most significant scientific discovery ever.

    Mankind has speculated for centuries that earth could not be the sole cradle of life, and proof of this intuition will result in a massive shift in how mankind relates to the cosmos. Instead of regarding ourselves as its sole intelligent organisms, we will be forced to reevaluate our role in the universe.

    However, it will be a grave and perilous time for our species, and one made graver still by philosophies that now or subscribed to by our technological elite. Surely we must display unity and purpose as we go to meet or destiny, yet so many among us cling to a model that encourages - nay, demands - fractured individuality.

    Yes, I'm talking about open source software. Software represents the pinnacle of man's achievement up to this point. In terms of sheer complexity and operability, it is unparalleled in our history. Yet, we are expected to trust its development to the whims of individuals.

    This is not right. May this monumentous discovery of alien life drive us closer together, and force us to reevaluate the destructive and futile practices that open source demands.

    - qpt
  • ...they're special magnetic particles.
  • by nyet (19118) on Monday February 26, 2001 @06:54PM (#399904) Homepage
    Unless we invent a time machine this won't be a problem.

    Where in the article were you led to believe that there is CURRENTLY life on Mars?

    Or perhaps it was a different article than I read.

    The one I read indicated the rock was 3.9 billion years old.
  • What are the chances that an extraterrestrial bacteria could wipe out our civilization?

    About as close to zero as anything can get. Seriously, humans can't even share diseases with most other mammals. You think we'll make good hosts for something that hasn't even evolved on the same planet? I doubt these things would even survive in our hot, wet, dense atmosphere. Chances are that these things never adapted to infect any host of any kind, since they were probably the most complex life on Mars. And as if that wasn't enough to protect us, life on Mars is almost certainly very long dead.

    --
  • by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:37PM (#399906) Homepage Journal
    I've said it before, and I'll say it again. MARS IS BARREN

    The full text is Here on everything2 [everything2.com], but for those you who don't like to click, I will exerpt the most important part:

    Dr James Lovelock was first to articulate the reasons why Mars is barren. Put simply, let us look at the only example that we have of a world where life exists: Earth. How could we devise a subtle test to determine the existence of life on earth's surface? We don't need to; it sticks out a million miles away. Green continents. Atmospheric composition.

    Life radiates to all available niches, it diversifies, it takes over, it envelops and transforms. Life doesn't just keep a foothold on a planet. If it is present at all, expect it to be almost everywhere on or near the surface. Expect entire geological phenomena such as coal and chalk to be caused by living things. Expect the planetary atmosphere to have puzzling components, like 21% highly reactive oxygen and traces of methane.

    Sure, earthly life would have a tough time just keeping a foothold on Mars. But with Martian life, we would even expect like to not arise at all unless it did so in a form suitable to the prevalent conditions, and be further honed by hundreds of millions of years of adaptation.

    It is likely that the concept of a planet having traces of life is not a valid one: there will be diversity and many filled niches, or nothing. Even if there are or were a few bacteria on mars, then it's not what we think of as life: there is no ecology, no biosphere, no diversity.

    Looking for life on Mars is like the old story of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost because there's more light there. We look for life on Mars because it's nearby, not because it is a good place to look.

  • by Arker (91948) on Monday February 26, 2001 @05:29PM (#399907) Homepage

    For those that can't be bothered to read the articles, at least check out the pics [nasa.gov]. This could be really huge. The arguments will surely go on until more blatant evidence comes out, but this looks pretty solid - magnetotactic bacteria leave pretty distinctive, if small and fragile, artifacts, and the stuff buried in these rocks sure look like it.

    The NASA guys have been studying the artifacts since 1996, and they are now convinced enough to put their reputation on the line. These aren't people to do that lightly.


    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • by YIAAL (129110) on Monday February 26, 2001 @06:09PM (#399908) Homepage
    Earth and Mars have been transferring tons of bacteria-laden rocks to one another for millions of years. This means that each planet has already been exposed to the other's bacterial life. At any rate, Mars's soil is full of peroxides. Between that and the high UV flux, there's not much likelihood of Earth bacteria surviving.
  • by startled (144833) on Monday February 26, 2001 @07:01PM (#399909)
    I just can't believe what passes for journalism these days:
    "Scientists have published what they claim is conclusive evidence that bacteria once lived on Mars.... But some British experts are sceptical, saying the study falls short of absolute proof.... One thing is for certain, though. The crystals, regardless of origin, are agreed to have been a major factor in plummeting CD sales over the past year, and may have single handedly caused the recording industry wordwide losses of over a billion dollars."

    Just uncalled for. Truly sloppy journalism. Fact checkers?
  • by 10.0.0.1 (153985) on Monday February 26, 2001 @06:02PM (#399910) Homepage
    Perhaps NASA should try crashing some more shit into Mars. We sure could use some more meteors to look at. This time, though, they could just leave out all of the expensive electronics and save some money! :o}
  • by achurch (201270) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:00PM (#399911) Homepage

    I think the discoveries and new possibilities that arise from exploration vastly outweigh any fear of destroying an ecosphere.

    Imagine those (or similar) words coming out of Christopher Columbus's mouth, and then think back to your 16th-19th century American history...

    --
    BACKNEXTFINISHCANCEL

  • by tswinzig (210999) on Monday February 26, 2001 @09:02PM (#399912) Journal
    The great irony of the War of the Worlds is that the precise opposite of the conclusion to that great tale could occur if we visit Mars - Earthly microrganisms could leak into the Martian environment and cause havoc.

    I think the discoveries and new possibilities that arise from exploration vastly outweigh any fear of destroying an ecosphere.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't be extremely careful, but what exactly would we gain by not visiting Mars? The preservation of micro-organisms that we will never meet, which may after trillions of years form a civilization that we will never know?

    There are always good and bad side effects from exploration... but it is man's natural tendency to explore.

    So you must ask yourself this one question... do you want NASA and related scientists to be the first to explore Mars, or some unregulated (perhaps largely unscientific) group of people?

    One or the other of those two groups will get to Mars first.

    -thomas


  • by amirboy2 (264999) on Monday February 26, 2001 @06:54PM (#399913)
    Didn't they find a couple bacteria on the one of the first satellites (i think it was the eagle something) and they though it was alien?
    then they checked it out and found out one of the engineers had sneezed on the glass before getting it ready. The interesting part however is that the bacteria started reproducing as soon as it was back. it actually survived.
  • This discovery of life on Mars could be very bad news for manned space travel. Many think that it could be good news, because there will be pressure as never before to visit Mars and investigate the life that may be there and was once there.

    However, is this the responsible thing to do? Wherever man travels he brings with him a shower of varied microrganisms, which adapt to local conditions. It would be extremely difficult to rid any travelling ship or astronaut of the organisms. If they got free in the Martian environment, they could wreak havoc.

    The great irony of the War of the Worlds is that the precise opposite of the conclusion to that great tale could occur if we visit Mars - Earthly microrganisms could leak into the Martian environment and cause havoc.

    Although this is unlikely, extremely unlikely in fact, even assuming that life exists on Mars now, the chance is not one we should take. I do not support a manned mission to Mars in the light of this discovery - this is rational because although the chances are so very small, we would be risking a lot - an entire ecosphere.

    You know exactly what to do-
    Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh-

  • by caffeinated_bunsen (179721) on Monday February 26, 2001 @07:46PM (#399915)
    >First of all there is the galaxy; it needs to be very very specific in both size, age, and type.

    Bullshit. Just because our galaxy has a certain configuration doesn't mean that's the only configuration that can support life. Do you honestly think that life can only occur in the uncharted backwaters of the unfasionable end of the western spiral arm of a particular type of galaxy?

    >The star has to be exacly the right size nad exactly the right point in its life

    Bullshit. Our sun is about 4.5 billion years old. Life has existed on Earth for better than 3 billion years of that. So the sun has been at "exactly the right point in its life" for 2/3 of its life. Uhmm, right. As for size, the only thing that matters is the luminous intensity at the planet's surface. A larger or brighter star simply requires a larger orbit, thicker atmosphere, or more temperature-tolerant life.

    >The planet has to be composed of exactly the right material...

    Bullshit. Earth is mostly iron and nickel. The crust is mostly silicon, aluminum, and oxygen. Only one of these elements is important for the basics of life. To produce Earth-like life, the planet needs certain amounts of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, etc. at the surface. These do not have to be the primary constituents of the planet.

    >...be the right size...

    Bullshit. Earth-like life requires a certain minumum size, to hold an atmosphere. There is really no definite upper limit on size, though. Life, especially simple life like bacteria, would have absolutely no trouble evolving on a planet 10 times as massive as Earth.

    >and be at exactly the right distance from the sun

    Bullshit. Again, Earth-like life requires the surface temperature to be within a certain range, but it's hardly exact. The primary requirements are that water be a liquid and proteins hold together against thermal disruption. Known life on Earth exists in temperatures over a range of better than 350 Kelvins. Even if you needed a smaller temperature range, you have 3 variables to adjust. Sun brightness, orbit distance, and atmosphereic reflectiveness. It's not too hard to find a combination of those that will produce the right temperature.

    >There has to be a moon at exactly the right distance and exactly the right size

    Bullshit. Whose ass did you pull this statement out of? Do you honestly expect me to believe that chemical reactions on Earth's surface are dependant on the luminosity and gravitational pull of the Moon?! At least the other arguments sounded credible before you thought about them. This one's just ridiculous.

    >...this is not a troll...

    Sure had me fooled.

  • by coughlin (244007) on Monday February 26, 2001 @06:30PM (#399916)
    Some of the magnetite and pyrrhotite in the Allen Hills meteorite was found in or very close to calcium carbonate globules with surface textures consistent with partial dissolution. While magnetite (Fe3O4) and pyrrhotite (FeS) can be inorganically precipitated under reducing conditions (high pH), these conditions stabilize carbonate.

    It is possible that the iron sulfides were created at high pH and then the pH was lowered and the carbonates were partially dissolved; however, under such conditions the pyrrhotite and magnetite would also exhibit some kind of weathering, which is not evident in the samples.

    Bacteria, however, are known to exhibit intracellular coprecipitation of iron sulfides and magnetite and extracellular coprecipitation of the same in anaerobic conditions.

    See J.L. Kirschvink, A.T. Maine, H. Vali, Science 275, 1629 (1997) for more information.

    I don't know if the crystal chains reported today were found in close proximity to carbonate globules, but they came from the same meteorite.

    All of the various findings that indicate possible life in ALH84001, from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, to magnetite crystals to the so-called microfossils have possible non-biogenic origins.

    The real question is what is more likely -- that a bunch of (generally) incompatible inorganic processes all occurred at approximately the same time and place, or that ancient martian life [of which we have no hard evidence at all] is responsible.

    At some point Occam's Razor points to life; I am not sure we are there yet, but every new study of ALH80041 seems to push the balance a little bit further in favor of ancient life on Mars.
  • by bedel231 (266732) on Monday February 26, 2001 @06:10PM (#399917)
    That means that the chances of wierd sex with some alien chick with 3 breasts just got so much better.

    :)

    http://cgs.wox.org

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