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Space Science

Might Mars Contain Life? 368

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the at-least-as-much-as-that-tupperware-in-my-fridge dept.
stagmeister writes "According to the BBC, the Viking probes to Mars in the 1970s "detected strange signs of activity in the Martian soil - akin to microbes giving off gas," and that while those findings were not acknowledged as proof of life then, "in 1997, reached the conclusion ... that the so-called LR (labelled release) work had detected life." At the same time, the British are launching a probe to try to find life on Mars."
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Might Mars Contain Life?

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  • by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:21PM (#6070404) Journal
    Why not search for intelligent life inside of Congress/the RIAA/The Supreme Court/The Republican Party?

    Oh, wait...they're hoping to Succeed...silly me.

  • by KoopaTroopa (549540) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:22PM (#6070419) Homepage
    Folks sitting around giving off gas tend to give me less hope of finding intelligent life.

    Then again, I hail from Tennessee, so I see a lot of this sort of thing. Bring on the Martian trailerparks!
  • Comfort (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:22PM (#6070421) Homepage Journal
    Well, I suppose if there is life on Mars, the likelyhood of more advanced life elsewhere in the universe is greater. That would certainly make me feel more comfortable as this universe is an awfully big place and to think we were all alone would be......scary.

    • Re:Comfort (Score:5, Insightful)

      by f97tosc (578893) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:37PM (#6070575)
      That would certainly make me feel more comfortable as this universe is an awfully big place and to think we were all alone would be......scary.

      I don't know what is scarier: that we are alone in the universe - or that we are not alone in the universe.

      /Tor (somebody famous said something similar once)
      • Re:Comfort (Score:3, Funny)

        by L. VeGas (580015)
        I don't know what is scarier: that we are alone in the universe - or that we are not alone in the universe.

        I think it was Sagan that said it depends on whether their old ladies wear stretch pants.
    • Re:Comfort (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The_K4 (627653) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:37PM (#6070583)
      I hate to point this out, but even if there is life on mars it doesn't in any way change the statistical probablity of finding life on other planets else where. The problem would be not only do you have to prove there IS life on mars, but that it didn't come from earth, earth's didn't come from mars and they taht didn't come from the same (non earth/mars)source. If you can prove all that then you increase the liklyhood of life elsewhere, however even they you don't increase the odds greatly. Also, just because you increase the odds doesn't make it any more or less true. If questions of ETs is already solved, 100% we just don't know the answer. :)
    • All alone when you have something like 6 billion "humans" around you?

      But from a bigger view, I see your point :-)
    • Re:Comfort (Score:4, Funny)

      by uncoveror (570620) <webmasterNO@SPAMuncoveror.com> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:43PM (#6070633) Homepage
      The BBC now reports that life on Mars was discovered by the Viking probe in the '70s. The Uncoveror has been reporting this for years! It is about time this got more press coverage. Here are some links.

      Mars Climate Orbiter. [uncoveror.com]
      Mars Polar Lander [uncoveror.com]
      Colonization [uncoveror.com]

    • Re:Comfort (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wiggys (621350) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:45PM (#6070647)
      It's quite humbling when a telescope, probing the deepest regions of space, produces an image [hubblesite.org] showing hundreds of thousands of stars, each of which could have solar systems with the right parameters to harbour life.

      Not only that but in the background through the stars are glimpses of thousands of galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions more stars.

      Everywhere we look in the universe the picture is the same. Billions of galaxies, countless trillions of stars. Was the universe "created" so only one planet orbiting just one of these stars would produce life? I don't think so.

      • Everywhere we look in the universe the picture is the same. Billions of galaxies, countless trillions of stars. Was the universe "created" so only one planet orbiting just one of these stars would produce life? I don't think so.

        Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
        and revolving at 900 miles an hour,
        It's orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it's reckoned,
        the sun that is the source of all our power.
        The Sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
        are moving at a million miles
        • Re:Comfort (Score:3, Funny)

          by meethookz (579104)
          Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
          and revolving at 900 miles an hour,
          It's orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it's reckoned,
          the sun that is the source of all our power.
          The Sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
          are moving at a million miles a day,
          In the outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,
          of the Galaxy we call the Milky Way

          I wonder if I could get frequent flyer miles for that
    • You won't feel so comfortable when the Martians attack and enslave planet earth!!!
    • Re:Comfort (Score:5, Insightful)

      by johnstein (602156) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:01PM (#6070808) Journal
      Well, I suppose if there is life on Mars, the likelyhood of more advanced life elsewhere in the universe is greater. That would certainly make me feel more comfortable as this universe is an awfully big place and to think we were all alone would be......scary.

      This is one of the key issues here. If we find life on Mars or Europa or Titan or elsewhere inside our own universe, then the should bolster the theory that "since we find life here, it has to be the same in the rest of the universe.

      While I agree with the above statement, there will ALWAYS be those who will refuse to believe or even claim that the discoveries were false. "Oh, some scientist must have forged the data" or "They just want to destroy religion" or "There was contamination".

      What I am trying to say is this. It will take more than finding microbes on a foreign planet or moon to convince the stubborn, and even then, the most stubborn will still refuse to believe, no matter what.

      And to be fair, it's the same on the other side. The last line in the article in question shows this.

      "If we find no evidence of life on Mars it may just mean we have looked in the wrong place."

      Paraphrased: "Life DOES exist elsewhere in the universe! We just haven't found it yet!" That is, there is no way you could convince these people that there is a possibility that they might be chasing something that isn't there. The absence of proof doesn't faze them at all.

      I guess we just have to wait and see what happens.

      -John
      • I seem to recall from somewhere that you can't do it. You can prove life exists elsewhere in the universe, if you can find and verify it.

        However, you cannot prove that life does not exist elsewhere, since to do so would mean a very thorough examination of every planet, asteroid, and other assorted bits scattered throughout the cosmos.

        I can imagine trying to get the grant money for that.

        Remember the time before planets around other suns was merely a theoretical possibility? Now we take this for granted.

        • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:54PM (#6073340) Homepage
          Quite frankly, religion (at least, religions based on the Hebrew scriptures) will not crumble even if life is discovered on other planets. Read Genesis 1:1-2 - "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void." There's a brief mention of the universe, and the focus immediately shifts to the earth. The universe at large is never mentioned again except to point out that God created it and that it will come to an end. Everything else that is mentioned is focused on the earth, the people on it, and the relationship of God to them. Is there life on other planets? Who knows? It doesn't say either way.

          Let me propose the analogy of the elementary arithmetic textbook. It describes some properties of the real number system and describes how to calculate with it. Does it describe all the properties of the real number system? Does it detail other mathematical structures that have the same properties? Does it detail how to derive those properties from Peano's postulates, or how to use those properties to prove the consistency of all higher mathematics? No. There mathematical truth outside the elementary arithmetic text, but that does not invalidate the truth in the textbook. The focus for the elementary student is learning arithmetic; the other stuff makes a lot more sense when arithmetic is mastered.

          Science is not antithetical to religion; it is merely irrelevant to it. Science is the study of the world you can see, touch, hear, and otherwise measure. It will be gone (from your perspective) when you die. God and the essence of you, on the other hand, are presumed by religion to last forever. So, what is the point in studying a system that will be obsolete in 100 years when you could be studying one that will be useful for eons?
      • Re:Comfort (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cpeterso (19082)

        Religion is a memetic virus. It mutates, adapts, and evolves for the sole purpose for propagating itself.

        Language is a virus, too.
      • Re:Comfort (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ian Bicking (980) <ianb AT colorstudy DOT com> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:47PM (#6073301) Homepage
        While I agree with the above statement, there will ALWAYS be those who will refuse to believe or even claim that the discoveries were false. "Oh, some scientist must have forged the data" or "They just want to destroy religion" or "There was contamination".
        To be fair, not all religions feel threatened by extraterrestial life. After all, the Catholic church is funding a (telescope?) project in conjunction with SETI -- so they can find aliens and then try to convert them to Catholocism. Terribly optimistic of those Catholics... a bizarre thought to think about them succeding.

        Anyway, science and religion don't have to be at odds. In fact, they shouldn't be at odds -- religion and technology may often have a beef with each other, but science should just be seen as exploring God's creation.

  • That's nice (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:23PM (#6070427)
    We send multi-billion dollar probes to Mars to discover microbes farting.
  • by Cujo (19106) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:23PM (#6070428) Homepage Journal

    This has been batted around for several years now. It's an interesting controversy, since the scientific community studying Mars life has seen a lot of turnover since then. We're going to have to wait for the new data.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:24PM (#6070438)
    after lying around in the sun too long..

    oh you mean the planet.. never mind
  • Where's the Proof? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rwiedower (572254) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:26PM (#6070454) Homepage

    So let me read this again:

    Dr Levin, one of three scientists on the life detection experiments, has never given up on the idea that Viking did find living micro-organisms in the surface soil of Mars.

    Beagle is looking for life He continued to experiment and study all new evidence from Mars and Earth, and, in 1997, reached the conclusion and published that the so-called LR (labelled release) work had detected life.

    He says new evidence is emerging that could settle the debate, once and for all.

    A crazy guy has been ranting for almost 30 years about his own personal theories and only now, shortly before we go back to mars, does the "new evidence" emerge? Please. Maybe the beeb should wait until they get hard evidence before printing paranoiac fantasies like this one.

    • by eclectic4 (665330)
      A "crazy guy"? "Paranoic fantasies"?

      "Dr. Levin was the second scientist funded by NASA to build a life detection instrument for planetary missions to Mars. Dr. Levin has been a co-investigator for NASA's Mariner 9 misson to Mars in 1971; a Principal Investigator for the Viking Biology Team in 1976; a JPL Mox Team co-experimenter on the Russian Mars 96 mission to Mars."

      Now, I'm not sure if your own credentials surpass DR. Levins, but seems only a "crazy, paranoid" person would label this man as such.

      N
  • Hum (Score:2, Redundant)

    "detected strange signs of activity in the Martian soil - akin to microbes giving off gas,"

    New standard for life, microbial farting! Bonus points if it reeks like hell, extra bonus points if the gas is combustible! Cookie for CBN if the microbial farts smell worse then his!

  • Carl Sagan said no (Score:5, Informative)

    by mao che minh (611166) * on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:27PM (#6070483) Journal
    In one of Carl Sagan's books (I forget which one) he talks about these findings - he helped design the test. Although seemingly compelling, even he himself concluded that the results were incorrect (I just can't recall why). I wish I was at home so I could check Cosmos and Billions and Billions, I know that it is one of those books. Anyone have these books handy?
    • by MacEnvy (549188)
      It's in Cosmos, but it's about early life on earth. He forced a reaction between several gases and water with lightning, and it produced organic molecules. Interesting read.
      • by Yunzil (181064) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:40PM (#6071178) Homepage
        No, that's not what the parent was talking about. Mars is a dry planet now, but there is evidence of liquid water in the past. So the idea was that the recipe to find dormant organisms would be "add water". The Viking landers did an experiment where they took a scoop of Martian dirt, put it in a container, and added a nutrient broth. The goal was to look for gases coming from the dirt which typically are produced by living things.

        So, the landers landed, did the experiment, and immediately detected a whole bunch of the gases. Woohoo, life! Well, not really. They examined the data and decided the results were due to some unusual chemistry, not living organisms.

        The experiment you're talking about produced amino acids and was done here on earth by Miller and Urey, not Sagan. :)
    • I could've sworn that I've read the same thing and since I never got around to reading Cosmos, I'm leaning towards "Billions and Billions". the only other Sagan book I read was "Demon Haunted World", but I don't think it was in that...
    • by tmortn (630092) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:10PM (#6070902) Homepage
      Havn't read those ( read Pale Blue Dot ) but if I recall the nay sayers to the results claimed preasure/temperature change or some such in test chamber caused a change in state from the matian soil. IE say you have alkaseltser sitting on top of a cube of ice... no gas change. You scoop up the ice and alkazeltzer into a chamber with a different temperature.. one which melts the water, the liquid water then begins to react with the alkaseltzer causing a gaseus change ( what the experiment was looking for ).

      Can't recall off the top of my head if it was the preasure/temp or both that changed.. but the environment in the experiment was not that of mars surface which caused the problem.
  • by curtisk (191737) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:28PM (#6070484) Homepage Journal
    .......and its been known that they don't like us poking around their planet, damn, last time that Marvin guy was trying to get us with "an earth shattering KABOOM!"
  • Someone had to carve that giant face [msss.com] !

    Seriously, though... no, I got nothing. I'm a hack.
  • by SmoothTom (455688) <Tomas@TiJiL.org> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:30PM (#6070510) Homepage
    Until we have enough solid data to say positively "Yes, there is a form of life on Mars, and here it is," *points* we won't really know.

    As it stands right now, both sides can use the very same data and say either "There is!" or "There isn't!"

    That's how firm and solid the information is so far.

    I'll wait until we have something reliable and reproducible to go on, OK?

    (Personally I think there IS and hope there is.)

    --
    Tomas
  • Sagan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Waab (620192) *

    Nice to see the BBC article invoking Carl Sagan by repeating his famed aphorism that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    No disrespect to Sagan, but does nobody see the glaring error in that statement?

    Extraordinary claims require the same amount of proof that absolutely mundane claims require! If some claims required more proof, science wouldn't be very scientific, would it? Who knows how much truth has been cast aside because the evidence just wasn't extraordinary enough?

    • Re:Sagan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WallyHartshorn (64268) <wally.hartshorn@NosPAm.pobox.com> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:38PM (#6070589) Homepage
      If I claim that I saw a mouse in your bedroom, you wouldn't require much evidence to believe me.

      If I claim that I saw a fully-grown African elephant in your bedroom, you would require significantly more evidence before you would believe me.

      If both claims would require the same amount of proof before they would be accepted, we would either be accepting virtually nothing or virtually everything.

      The reason science works is that the proof is never 100% final.
      • Re:Sagan (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Waab (620192) * on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:54PM (#6070733) Homepage

        If I claim that I saw a mouse in your bedroom, you wouldn't require much evidence to believe me.

        I would simply want to see the mouse, or some physical evidence like mouse tracks or mouse droppings.

        If I claim that I saw a fully-grown African elephant in your bedroom, you would require significantly more evidence before you would believe me.

        Once again, I'd want to see the elephant, or some physical evidence like elephant tracks or elephant droppings. This seems like the same amount of proof to me.

        Saying that some claims require an extraordinary amount of proof is just a convenient way for "skeptics" to avoid dealing with things they'd rather not believe.

      • If I claim that I saw a mouse in your bedroom, you wouldn't require much evidence to believe me.

        If I claim that I saw a fully-grown African elephant in your bedroom, you would require significantly more evidence before you would believe me.

        If both claims would require the same amount of proof before they would be accepted, we would either be accepting virtually nothing or virtually everything.

        The reason science works is that the proof is never 100% final.


        Not really, technically they should both re
      • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. - Carl Sagan

    • Re:Sagan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PD (9577) * <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:56PM (#6070759) Homepage Journal
      OK, this is the challenge. You're a police officer, verifying the identities of people you pull over.

      Offender #1 gives you an ID that says "John Smith". You believe him and give him his ticket.

      Offender #2 gives you an ID that says "Yahweh, creater of the universe". You don't believe that could be correct.

      Other than that, the ID's look the same. The difference there is that when you make a claim of a larger magnitude, you need more evidence to back it up.

      Who knows how much truth has been cast aside because the evidence just wasn't extraordinary enough?

      And who knows how much crap has been swallowed whole by people who don't have open minds? Remember, the definition of an open mind is a skeptic that can be persuaded by sufficient evidence. See also, burden of proof.
    • extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...If some claims required more proof, science wouldn't be very scientific...

      Think of proof or evidence as "effort expended to present sufficient evidence." It makes sense. Like the mouse/elephant guy said, I could very easily make you believe that the woman who raised you is your biological mother, but if I presented you with a random woman whom you'd never met, it might be harder. On the other hand, my mother is adopted, so if I went and got grandma

    • really, folks, isn't /. supposed to give bonuspoints to people who post thing that make you think a bit more critically? I've seen this guy going from interesting to flamebait!!! why for Csake? I, for one, admit havin read sagans statement several times, thinking 'whoa, cool one,' but the parent is right. its just that extraordinary claims provoke a natural reaction: disbelief, and for the NON scientific crowd, it requires extr. proof. Real scientist are supposed to be objective (i know, they too, are only
      • I'd do it myself now that I have mod points, but something tells me it wouldn't quite be kosher. ;)



        And, yes, I do know that I can't mod myself up...it's a joke people, just like Michael Moore.

  • what to look for? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pleclair (608155) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:33PM (#6070536) Homepage
    from the bbc article: "Mark Adler, deputy mission manager, said the main science objective was to understand the water environment of Mars not to search for life. He told BBC News Online: 'What we learnt from Viking is that it is very difficult to come up with specific experiments to look for something you don't really know what to look for.'"

    I would have to agree, this is the tough part. The evidence is 20 years old from Viking, and its still being debated. Remember the martian rocks that "contained signs of life"? Me either.

    . We're not even sure what to look for ... at least we're pretty damn sure what water looks like at this point ... these missions are expensive, I wouldn't waste a mission on something unlikely to succeed anyway.

    • I bet the Native Americans wished Europeans dawdled this much when exploring the New World. The first thing they did when they sighted land was to set foot.

      We've seen this new world so many damn times! At what point do we send a ship full of people to just circle the place once and come back? I'd be happy to see a NASA mission go out from the Earth and back for just six months to get beyond the moon.

      Signs of life are not going to change what we are going to do to that planet. The real interest is a) w
  • by wiggys (621350) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:34PM (#6070540)
    If we can find life somewhere else out there it's going to be fascinating.

    For example, is the life DNA based? All life on earth is DNA based, and if the life elsewhere isn't then we are going to learn a lot by studying it - it will be an using an entirely different mechanism to do essentially the same thing as DNA. How does it work? How did it evolve?

    And if it *IS* DNA based then we need to find out if DNA is the logical conclusion of evolutionary biology... ie, I can imagine that intelligent life elsewhere have designed the same things we have (think "the wheel") because there are only so many ways you can do something. Therefore, is DNA (or something very similar) the only mechanism life can use to sustain itself? Or did the DNA originate from the same place as DNA on the earth? And if so, how?
    • Didn't Von Neumann prove that the double helix structure was the optimal way to store information of this sort (it's been a while, but if memory serves then this proof came out just _before_ Watson and Crick published their graduate student's data). So logically then, wouldn't all life be based on _some_ sort of double helix configuration?
    • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:09PM (#6070900)
      If we can find life somewhere else out there it's going to be fascinating.

      For example, is the life DNA based? All life on earth is DNA based, and if the life elsewhere isn't then we are going to learn a lot by studying it - it will be an using an entirely different mechanism to do essentially the same thing as DNA. How does it work? How did it evolve?


      There is evidence for at least _some_ cross-contamination between Earth and Mars occurring. If we find DNA or RNA based organisms there it may just be that they were seeded from here (or vice versa, back when Mars had water and a thicker atmosphere).

      The place to look for *really* interesting things is environments that are isolated from ours, or that have conditions different enough that a different basic chemistry would be required.

      Thermal vents on Io would be one option - there's lots of interesting sulphur-based chemistry upon which complex organisms could be based.

      The oceans of Europa would also be an interesting spot - it's far from earth, and the potentially (earth-like-) life-bearing areas are beneath a thick crust of ice, so cross-contamination is less likely.

      Cold worlds like tidally-heated moons of the outer gas giants would also be an interesting place to look. At those temperatures, life would a) run much more slowly and b) have to be based on lower-energy processes and substances with weaker binding forces for the available energy to be used to break down and rebuild biochemicals.

      When we finally have probes capable of doing really detailed chemical and biological surveys of the outer solar system, we're going to find some very interesting things. Our own world shows us that microbes, at least, will show up wherever there's the energy and chemistry to support them.
  • contamination (Score:5, Interesting)

    by u01000101 (574295) <u01000101@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:36PM (#6070558) Homepage
    Only three have succeeded so far: the two Viking probes in the 1970s and Mars Pathfinder in 1997.

    What are the chances those probes contaminated Mars with terrestrian microorganisms? Since the 1970's it was discovered life is more resilient than it was thought, with bacteria not only surviving, but thiriving, in mediums considered to be sterile - like in thermal water springs or nuclear reactor cores.

    The meaning of "sterile" has changed a lot - see what measures NASA is preparing to take now for a (still theoretical) mission to Europa (Jupiter's satellite, for the challenged).
  • Also (Score:5, Informative)

    by GreenJeepMan (398443) * <.moc.oibyt. .ta. .ikswosoj.> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:38PM (#6070588) Homepage Journal
    Also launching this month is the "2003 Mars Exploration Rover Mission" It includes two rovers that can treck signigantly further then the previous rover sent. Check it on their web site: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/

    Both of these missions land later this year / January. They'll be providing more information about Mars over the following year then have gathered in total over the past 50. That is assuming they work. :-)

  • [...] signs of activity in the Martian soil - akin to microbes giving off gas

    Let the Taco Bell jokes begin!

  • Any word yet on whether or not they'll have representatives aboard the probe to setup an appropriate IP embargo and become the sole distribution channel of Earth's music and movies to a whole new captive audience?

    Hint: I know it's an unmanned probe - it's a joke...
  • by mindpixel (154865) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:46PM (#6070663) Homepage Journal
    My article A Closer Look at the Summer of '76 [mindjack.com] written in July of 2001 Begins:

    I remember the summer of 1976 well.

    Not because our big cartoon-broadcasting neighbor to the south had just turned 200 years old. Not because the Olympics were in Canada, nor because Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic history - causing one of the most famous computer crashes in history. Not even because Disco Duck was Top 40.

    I remember the summer of 1976 vividly because Viking 1 touched down on the flat plains of Chryse Planitia on Mars, and shortly thereafter discovered the first scientific evidence of extraterrestrial life - a very big event for a nine year old spacegeek like me. Curiously though, not long after NASA announced discovering life on Mars, they retracted their statement and said what they detected was not life, but rather an unusual chemical reaction.
    • Curiously though, not long after NASA announced discovering life on Mars, they retracted their statement and said what they detected was not life, but rather an unusual chemical reaction.

      And the difference would be...what, exactly?
  • by mtrupe (156137) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:48PM (#6070680) Homepage Journal
    Boy, the way it happened in close encounters was so much more exciting: bright lights, music, Richard Dreyfus making mashed potato sculptures. Instead, we detect farts. Nice.
  • i believe in strong antropological principle: the universe is such that intelligent life must exist over a cosimic time scale.

    how does nature guarantees it? few mad men can easily destroy intelligent life on earth. theoretically, even nearby stellar systems are not safe, since we can always send virii there. the only way for nature to ensure that intelligent life can exist over cosmic time, is to distribute life over cosmic distances. these means that intelligent life exists throughout the universe. furthe
  • by zapod4 (592860) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:52PM (#6070722)
    If one of these martians comes to earth, would he start a religion and make love to everybody? I am begining to grok the situation.
  • Life elsewhere (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tripster (23407) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @04:54PM (#6070732) Homepage
    Why do some humans find it so hard to grasp that life more than likely exists elsewhere and likely close than we think?

    My mother-in-law is that kind of person, she said one night that we are the only living planet in the universe, I had to point out how would she explain the sheer diversity of life on this planet alone? Whereever life can survive it seems to do so.

    The more we look, the more we find, we've looked deep underground and found life, we've looked at cold arctic areas and found life, we have found life floating high in the atmosphere.

    So, life on Mars? You bet some microbes are doing just fine there, and who knows what else.

    Let's also not forget that life existed LONG before humanity ever came into being, of course some people refuse to accept that fact too.
  • Isn't this the scientist that claimed the results showed a kind of errrr... internal clock behaviour? 's been too long since i read about it, but it went something like this: the outcome of the experiments showing fluctuations, possibly pointing to organisms that exhibit some signs of a diurnal rhythm, even sealed off from the exterior conditions. It looked promising, but i never heard about it since. So, is this the same guy, and if not, what happened with that avenue of thinking?
  • I hope Lucas isn't building the electronics.

    <joke explanation>
    Fans of British sports cars like to joke about the maker of their cars' electrical systems:

    "Why do the British drink warm beer? Because their refrigerators are made by Lucas."
    </joke explanation>
  • Peroxides != life (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:00PM (#6070802) Journal
    From my understanding of the "signs of life" found by the Viking probes, they didn't find anything even remotely alive.

    They found nothing more than solid peroxides (which tend to evolve oxygen when exposed to water), along with some unusual (but entirely explicable) iron-catalyzed reactions (remember why we call it the "red" planet).

    Now, that doesn't disprove the presence of life, particularly a few meters below the surface. It does, however, present a VERY hostile surface environment (even ignoring the temperature and lack of an active planetary magnetic field) to life as we know it on Earth.


    Hey, I'd like to find life there as much as the next guy... But it takes quite a leap of faith to interpret the Vikings' readings as "life". And science does not (or at least, should not) include any aspect of "faith".
    • science does not (or at least, should not) include any aspect of "faith".

      Have you tested EVERY theory that your hypothesis relies on in preparation of your current experiment?

      No?

      Are you *SURE* gravity on earth is 9.8m/s^2? When was the last time you tested it? And are you sure of that meter?


      Science is just chock full of "faith"... read any experiment which begins "Given X..." You have to trust that you know what X is and that it is true.

      • by pla (258480)
        Science is just chock full of "faith"... read any experiment which begins "Given X..." You have to trust that you know what X is and that it is true.

        First, let me just say that, to a point, I agree with you (thus my original qualifier of "should" <G>).

        That said, however, as long as a given proposition takes a phrasing similar to the one you mentioned ("Given X..."), that does not invalidate it... In fact, it makes it more valid, in that it doesn't just say "Y holds true", it makes Y conditional
  • but something tells me that Martian microbes just may be a higher form of intelligent life than the earthbound microbes we commonly refer to as homo sapiens....

    at least i can dream, anyway ....
  • by FosterKanig (645454) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:03PM (#6070823)
    maybe not, but I know there is life on Myanus. Oh wait... Shoot, I can never tell a joke right.
  • Giving out gas? Does that happen if you eat red dust?

    Pretty nasty if you ask me ...
  • "Life was created in the initial Big Bang, when crunchy particles of wheat collided with creamy milk to form the foundation for all else to come. It wasn't until man developed the technology to build spoons and bowls could we harness the true power of Life. "
  • by Embedded Geek (532893) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:09PM (#6070893) Homepage
    Let's see, one of the characteristics of life is the capablity for self-replication. Also note that the U.S. Patent Office has granted protection for DNA sequences for bioengineered organisms as intellectual property.

    Hmmm. Replication... intellectual property... replication... intellectual property...

    Juristictional issues notwithstanding, how long do you think it'd be before the RIAA puts a stop to this?

  • Why not seed life? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:13PM (#6070941)
    Wouldn't it be more scientifically interesting to establish bacteria colonies on a space-borne time capsule of sorts, with just enough resources to enable them to mutate over a set number of generations and adapt to an increasingly harsh environment?
  • Space popularists have been harping about life on Mars way way too much. It has reached a sort of cult-like status as the primary reason to go into space. While it might be interesting to know, the answer is really quite irrelevant.

    Exploration is not about finding answers to pre-formulated questions. It is much more open ended than than, its about expanding horizons and finding new unexpected opportunities.

    Another problem with the life-as-a-reason to explore mentality is that at some point the jig is g
  • Start transferring those Country Music 8-tracks to MP3s.

    Got to be ready when the Martians land.
  • by tacokill (531275) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @05:40PM (#6071175)
    What will the religous establishments say IF they do find undeniable evidence of life (past or present) on Mars?

    I can not wait to hear the spin put on that one.

    Note: I am serious when I say it is the most interesting question. I really do want to hear how the world's religons grapple with this issue if/when it does arise.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445)
    I've heard that SARS is suspected to have come from a meteor that originated from Mars, or have passed through Mars's atmosphere.

    "War of the Worlds" now has new meaning. Martians might very well kill off humanity - except the only martians are microbes.

    I kinda suspect that there are a lot of people that don't believe in God will use this, and similarly related items, as "direct evidence" for evolution (to the degree of saying that there was no creation). (The simple principle of cause and effect kind of n
  • by Unregistered (584479) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @07:21PM (#6072023)
    We are deducing the possivbility of life from the farts of martians, right? Whatever works, i guess.
  • WMD (Score:4, Funny)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @07:57PM (#6072283) Journal
    We should be looking for weapons of mass destruction. If there's any chance there are any on Mars we should invade it and liberate the Martians.
  • by catsidhe (454589) <catsidhe@gmai3.1415926l.com minus pi> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @08:41PM (#6072567) Homepage
    The original experiments were designed to test for life under a few likely scenarios. Remember that they were not sure if the life processes they found there would be based on the same chemistry as on Earth, so they came up with some good guesses, and sent them up.

    (For those who remember the Cosmos series by Carl Sagan, there is a section on this where he mentions the experiment designed by his friend Wolf Vishniac, which IIRC was not one that was included on the Mars jaunts, but did discover life in Antarctic valleys previously thought sterile.)

    There were three experiments. It was agreed that the likelyhood of life was so low that a positive in any one would be treated as evidence of living processes. Two were positive, the other was negative. Despite the undertakings before the mission, the single negative was treated as the official and definitive answer to the question "is there life on Mars". The other two were explained away as 'merely chemical processes'. (Of course, so are things like respiration and digestion.)

    Given the current state of evidence, the best we can say as to life on Mars is 'maybe', and we need more experiments -- experiments where the rules aren't changed halfway through because the data is unexpected would be nice!
  • Well (Score:3, Funny)

    by EpsCylonB (307640) <[eps] [at] [epscylonb.com]> on Friday May 30, 2003 @06:56AM (#6075048) Homepage
    Might Mars Contain Life?

    And it might contain lots of red sterile rocks. Either way the excitement will be just too much for many.

Wherever you go...There you are. - Buckaroo Banzai

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