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Mars Space Science

Biological Activity on Mars 489

Posted by Zonk
from the evil-green-things-from-outer-space dept.
visination.com writes "Recent ground based observations of Mars have confirmed the presence of water and methane. The 300 year life time of methane on Mars is short, giving scientists reason to beleive that Mars may be biologically active." From the article: "Every one of these longitudes shows a very substantial enhancement in the equatorial zone...So this is a very intense source of methane on Mars in this region. It also requires a very rapid decay of methane...more rapid than photochemistry would allow..."
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Biological Activity on Mars

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:55PM (#12286495)
    Today the Council of Elders confirmed the rumours that the sinister blue planet third from our star has managed to detect traces of life upon our world.

    K'breel, speaker for the Council, stressed that there was no cause for alarm:



    "While this is truly a troubling development, rest asured that the mighty Council has forseen this, and has taken the necessary steps to deal with the situation. The asteroid the Council has set in motion is on target to strike the invaders' planet in a few short years, and its payload of biological toxin, specially formulated to destroy their disgusting cellular structure, will insure our continued safety and serenity."


    When challenged by pro-life activists present at the conference, who asserted that the invaders were living beings just as we are, and that we did not have the right to arbitrarily exterminate an entire species, K'Breel replied tersely:


    "Wrong. Watch us."

    • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:00PM (#12286559) Journal
      Disgusting cellular structure? 3G is not that bad, honestly.
    • by notmyeye (877399) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:01PM (#12286568)
      "...will insure our continued safety and serenity."

      I hope the deductible is reasonable.
    • by Vengeance_au (318990) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:05PM (#12286618) Homepage Journal
      However what K'breel fails to understand is:

      Biological life on mars --> fossils --> oil

      therefore, I give Dubbya 5 days to declare a war on Martian WMD's, terrorism, or being anti freedom. And hey, if the above news about the asteroid comes to light, he'll have a 50% strike rate on invading for legitimate reasons!
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Not only that, but it's the RED planet. So if there are any lifeforms there, they must be commies. That's all the reason we need to invade!
      • For the sake of argument I will agree that the reasons used to persuade the world we needed to invade Iraq turned out be flawed.

        However we have already invaded Afganistan, and I belive most people would say that was justified, so our strike rate is already 50%, and would go to 66%. If you disagree, than the strike rate would be 33%. If we have invaded another country, please advise and I will stand corrected.
        • by 01000011011101000111 (868998) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:54PM (#12287088)
          I would post a list of anti-democratic and self serving actions by the US over the last 100 yrs, but it'd be trolling and would also upset me (I do actually admire the ideals America was built on); anyone who wants to can google the facts for themself... I *wish* people would start admitting the faults in their own countries :'( I'm british, and i can admit we've done some really crappy stuff in the past (appeasment, Colonizing america/australia, colonialism, various european wars, selling arms to "Bad People" - just for starters) - i think this is reason for the general low opinion of the US globally - they just won't admit they make mistakes :(
          Mod this however you want - flamebait even - I'm depressed at the death of idealism now... bloody secret polic^H^H^H^H^Hservices :(
        • by Paua Fritter (448250) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:18PM (#12287258)
          For the sake of argument I will agree that the reasons used to persuade the world we needed to invade Iraq turned out be flawed.

          Perhaps "reasons used to try to persuade the world" ... because let's face it, the world was not persuaded. Actually the reasons were really only good for domestic consumption.

          However we have already invaded Afganistan, and I belive most people would say that was justified, so our strike rate is already 50%, and would go to 66%. If you disagree, than the strike rate would be 33%. If we have invaded another country, please advise and I will stand corrected.

          LOL! How many countries has the US invaded?!!

          For over a hundred years the US has been invading countries all over the world, from Mexico, to Russia, to Nicaragua, to Vietnam... must have been literally dozens of places, even if you leave the World Wars out of it. Bogus justifications (e.g. the Gulf of Tonkin "incident") are the rule rather than the exception.

          But if you're talking about invasions in the last few years then you'll have to include Haiti, supposedly invaded to bring peace and respect for human rights to that troubled country ... starting by kidnapping the democratically elected president and sending him to Africa. I don't think that one does the US "strike rate" any good either.

      • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:45PM (#12286987)
        . . .he'll have a 50% strike rate on invading for legitimate reasons!

        Nah! After Mars is reduced to a giant, radioactive Christmas tree ornament it will turn out that the above letter was a "misinterpretation" by the "intelligence" community.

        It will come to light that the actual letter said:

        "A disease has wiped out most of our male population. Mars needs geeks to insure the survival of our species, and our women are HOT! Them pulp novel covers? Phhhhhhhhbt! You ain't seen nothin' yet, Earth nerd. Because our need is so pressing and so great we have converted an asteroid into a transport ship and will be sending it right over. Fill it up with everyone who knows how to root, if you know what I mean."

        Oops.

        KFG
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I for one welcome our new Methane producing Martian Overlords
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Quoting the author of "Creater and the Cosmos" (book). Sorry I don't have the name, I memorized this but forgot the guy's name. The book is not in front of me.

      I predict that someday life will be found on Mars. This has nothing to do with the origins of life. It has everything to do with Mars' proximity to Earth.

      He went on to describe how bacteria are routinely found in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and how meteorite impacts are almost certain to propel them into space. Furthermore, he described

    • by identity0 (77976) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:53PM (#12287078) Journal
      I bet when the Martian invasion comes and Slashdot reports it, instead of panicking like the people after the Orson Welles broadcast, Slashdotters will be like:

      "Someone tell the editors it's not April fools anymore" (+3, Funny)
      "It's a dupe! Doesn't Taco read his own site?" (+2 Insightful)
      "I paid subscription rates for *this*?!" (+1 Insightful)
      "DUPE!!!" (-1, redundant)
      "I, for one, welcome our new Martian overlords" (+3, Funny)
      "Slashdot has gone really downhill lately, don't they check their sources?!" (+1 insightful)

      and while they chatter away, the Martians will take over the world and kill everyone.

      Or something.
  • by qw(name) (718245) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:56PM (#12286516) Journal

    Why does it feel like our scientists are just chasing after the wind when it comes to the search for life on Mars?

  • Methane (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:56PM (#12286517) Journal
    Great, we discover extraterrestrial life and it smells like farts.
    • Re:Methane (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheAwfulTruth (325623) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:13PM (#12286695) Homepage
      Of course everyone knows that Methane has no smell and the Methane in farts has nothing to do with the odor...

      Right?
    • Re:Methane (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rei (128717)
      I hate to ruin everyone here's potty humor, but methane is odorless. The only reason that you smell natural gas is because they add mercaptan to it (specifically, T-butyl mercaptan). Methyl mercaptan, by the way, is formed in the decay process, while allyl mercaptan is released when onions are cut, and butyl mercaptan is found in skunk spray. Mercaptan compounds have a -SH attached to them.

  • not gonna say it... too easy.... not gonna say it
  • Or... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SecState (667211) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:59PM (#12286539)
    From the article: "The methane could be the result of biological processes. It could also be an "abiotic" geochemical process, however, or the result of volcanic or hydrothermal activity on the red planet." Not to burst your methane bubble or anything.
    • Re:Or... (Score:3, Insightful)

      wouldn't geothermal activity by a good sign for life also? (at the bottom of our ocean, specialised creatures live off geothermal vents)
  • Indeed (Score:5, Funny)

    by screwballicus (313964) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:01PM (#12286563)
    Given recent Photographic Evidence [nasa.gov], the presence of chocolate compounds would seem to necessitate biological activity.
  • Terraforming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:01PM (#12286565)
    You know this eliminates the possibility of terraforming Mars, don't you. We'll have "Save the microbe" campaigns every time a mission is sent there.

    • by 0racle (667029)
      Maybe its something we can transplant.
    • Re:Terraforming (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nizo (81281) *
      Unless this life can kill us first, guess who will be living on mars after we arrive, and who will go extinct first? Read "Red Mars" if you aren't sure what the answer is, or ask the dodo bird.

      But don't worry, we are probably just picking up methane from frozen deposits that are slowly melting or something like that.

    • Re:Terraforming (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zoloto (586738)
      screw it. I say we terraform it anyways. Micro sized colonies of amoeba like creatures are great, but if we "stopped" at every pool of living cells we'd walk on eggshells our whole lives! Mars get's special treatment since it's another planet?

      Sorry, nothing will form there. Nothing IS there. It's just like the search for the missing link from ape to man. It simply won't be found out.

      And one of these days' I'll look forward to presenting the evidence to you directly and without a doubt people will know.
      • Re:Terraforming (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:37PM (#12286905) Journal
        Before we destroy them, ought we not study them. Important questions beckon if this does pan out. Off the top of my head:

        1. Does this life chemically resemble life on Earth?

        2. If it does, does it use RNA/DNA or something very close to these molecules?

        3. If it does, then is Mars or Earth or possibly some other place in the solar system the point where the initial abiogenesis occured?

        4. If Martian life does not appear to be closely related or at all related, then what possible abiogenesis pathways occured to produce Martian organisms?

        There's a lot to be learned about both worlds from this, so I hope before someone decides to terraform they learn a considerable amount about any potential biotic activity on Mars.

    • Soy-forming (Score:2, Funny)

      by PromANJ (852419)
      We also have "Save the rainforest" campaigns. The rainforest is full off unknown species but that doesn't stop the vegetarians from turning it into a giant soy plantage (It's Troll Tuesday right?).
    • Wrong, (Score:4, Funny)

      by isotope23 (210590) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:42PM (#12286963) Homepage Journal
      Martians will have to get used to saying:

      "I for one welcome our new Terra-ist overlords!"

      1. Build Mars colonial Mission
      2. Begin Terra-izing Mars.
      3. ????? (Encase resident Martian lifeforms in epoxy souvenir blocks)
      4. PROFIT!

      Woo hoo I found step three!
    • Re:Terraforming (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slittle (4150)
      AIUI, terraforming would take centuries (alien pyramids notwithstanding), so there's no huge rush, and we're going to have to build airtight structures to start with anyway.
    • Re:Terraforming (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SubtleNuance (184325) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:27PM (#12287803) Journal
      yes, because debating the intrinsic value of nature -- and life itself -- is something to be offhandedly dismissed.

      right?
  • Just Curious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BigDogCH (760290) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:04PM (#12286602) Journal
    Okay, firstly, I am not a follower of any major religion, and I have not read the bible, so that is the purpose of this question...

    After reading that article, and then reading another article advertised on the same page here [livescience.com] I was starting to feel as if i would be surprised if we DIDN'T find evidence of life on mars. Anyway, I was just wondering what remifications such a finding would have on the bible followers. Is there any reference in the bible as to whether life on other planets exists. Almost every scientific discovery is met with religous opposition, so I was wondering if anyone had any opinions from the religous area. Does the bible say anything about life on other planets?
    • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:09PM (#12286652)
      The Bible pertains to humans only...God neglected to mention his other projects to us.
    • Re:Just Curious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:11PM (#12286672)
      Why would it. Depending on what you believe, it was either written by some primitive people or given to people on this planet relating to things on this planet.

      That said, no, finding life on other planets would also not mean there is no God or that the bible is false. The ramifications for reasonable people would be very little, but there are plenty of nutcases, religious people and athiests, that will tell you otherwise.
      • [T]here are plenty of nutcases, religious people and [atheists], that [sic] will tell you otherwise.
        Don't worry. They'll all join their own custom-tailored cults and kill themselves off, leaving those of us non-radicals (religious or atheist) to live in peace for a while longer.
      • Re:Just Curious (Score:3, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617)
        It's true.... religion gave up the face that the earth is not the center of the universe... that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth... that the moon doesn't... oh yeah it does... anyway you know what I'm saying.

        religion, if it hopes to survive will adapt or die of denial... a kind of natural selection for religion.
    • Re:Just Curious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:14PM (#12286700)
      Actually, in all seriousness, here's a quote from the Bible:


      "Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel upon the earth beside the living creatures one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction, their appearance was like the gleaming of a chrysolite, and the four had the same likeness being as it were a wheel within a wheel. The four wheels had rims and they had spokes, and their rims were full of eyes round about. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them and when the living creatures went, the wheels went with them, for the living creature was in the wheel".
      - Ezekiel, chapter 1, Versus 15 thru 21.


      Sound like a close encounter to you?
      • Re:Just Curious (Score:4, Insightful)

        by toygeek (473120) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:21PM (#12286766) Homepage Journal
        Actually that was a vision by the prophet Ezekiel, it was not a literal physical interaction.
        • Suuuuuuuuuure it was...
          • Re:Just Curious (Score:5, Informative)

            by toygeek (473120) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:29PM (#12286829) Homepage Journal
            Look in the context.

            Ezekiel 1:1

            1 Now it came about in the thirtieth year, in the fourth [month], on the fifth [day] of the month, while I was in the midst of the exiled people by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I began to see visions of God.

            Then it proceeds to describe the vision.
            • Um...has it occurred to you that Ezikiel, seeing such a fantastic sight, might have assumed it was a vision from God? For that matter, are you absolutely certain your translation is accurate, that he meant 'vision' as 'hallucination', rather than 'something seen'?
              • Re:Just Curious (Score:5, Insightful)

                by RichardX (457979) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:58PM (#12287111) Homepage
                You're asking questions about accuracy of details in the Bible. A document which asserts the earth is flat, at the centre of the universe, and rests on pillars, that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, that hares and coneys chew the cud, that giants and unicorns are real, that bats are birds, that stars are small objects which can fall fromt the sky and be stamped upon, that.. well.. you get the idea. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
        • Vision of God (Score:3, Insightful)

          Ezekiel 1:1

          1 Now it came about in the thirtieth year, in the fourth [month], on the fifth [day] of the month, while I was in the midst of the exiled people by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I began to see visions of God.

          "Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel upon the earth beside the living creatures one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction, their appearance was like the gleaming of a chrysolite, and the four

      • In context, it sounds like one pretty fucked up drug trip:

        4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north-an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, 5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under
      • by Frostalicious (657235) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:09PM (#12287181) Journal
        The four wheels had rims and they had spokes, and their rims were full of eyes round about....

        Sound like a close encounter to you?


        Sounds like Pimp My Chariot, Ezekiel style...
    • Re:Just Curious (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Pillowthink (823672)
      Funny story. The bible doesn't mention other planets. Unless by 'firmament' [genesis], every planet in existence was meant. The bible takes a very local approach to geography [not mentioning far away civilizations, like norway].
    • Re:Just Curious (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toygeek (473120)
      The Bible makes no mention of life on other planets. Instead it is focused on life here on earth and what Gods will is, and what his Kindom is, and who his Seed is.

      As for Religion being opposed to science in many ways, that has been very true. Even Gallileo was imprisoned by the catholic church because he believed that the Earth was not the center of the universe.

      You must realize though that these conflicts were between *religion* and science, not the *Bible* and science.

      The Bible, while not a scientific
      • Re:Just Curious (Score:5, Insightful)

        by UnrefinedLayman (185512) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:43PM (#12286969)
        The Bible, while not a scientific document (and it does not intend to be one) does hold some VERY accurate, simple scientific truths. While his contemporaries believed the world to be flat (along with science at the time), the prophet Isaiah spoke of "the circle of the earth". Another scripture speaks of the Earth hanging by nothing, which is accurate.
        Don't confuse one correct statement out of thousands of proclamations with the scientific process.

        Galileo learned what he did through study and could prove it. Isaiah speaking of the "circle of the earth" and scripture saying the earth hangs by nothing hold no more "simple scientific truth" than a missive from Nostradamus.

        The ideas presented are not science. No matter how you look at it, we cannot assume that scientific process was used to come to those conclusions--they're statements without the all important thing called proof. Faith is not proof.

        Besides, we all know it's turtles all the way down.
    • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:17PM (#12286733) Homepage Journal
      Does the bible say anything about life on other planets?

      Not yet, but it might after the next major revision. From here [bible.org]:


      The King James Bible has undergone three revisions since its inception in 1611, incorporating more than 100,000 changes.

      I bet they could slip in something about life on Mars during the next revision.

      • I found that funny. Too bad I lack mod points at the moment...
      • Bible XP (Score:5, Funny)

        by payndz (589033) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:17PM (#12287241)
        Can't wait for the next update! Hope it fixes all those contradictio... er, bugs.
      • Re:Just Curious (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        As to my own upbringing, I was raised as a Christian, and in catechism class we were taught the question and answer:

        Q. What is the chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ?

        A. The chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ is that He is God made man. (A Catechism of Christian Doctrine: Revised Edition of the Baltimore Catechism, No. 2. Paterson, New Jersey: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1941, 15)

        But when I later went to a Catholic university, I could not help reflecting
    • I cant say that I am an expert on the matter, but as a Christian who has read the bible, I thought I would make a stab at answering your question.

      I have not yet read anything that out and out talks about other planets. I have not yet read anything that leads me to think that there is something at a different or difficult level that talks about life on other planets.

      I would think it would be a bit arrogant for us, believers or not, to assume that the universe was created ( whoever, whatever ) just for us.
    • Dr. Hugh Ross, who does not believe in evolution, has been theorizing for years that with meteors and billions of years of life on Earth, blowback would have inevitably brought life from Earth to Mars.
    • It doesn't specify life on other planets but it makes mention of a UFO as the very bright star that was seen around the birth of Jesus.

      The infinite possible interpretations of the bible mixed with proof of live on other planets could generate many new Christian religions.
  • by The_Rippa (181699) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:04PM (#12286603)
    Scientists recently found large amounts of methane gas around Uranus.
  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:06PM (#12286628) Journal
    There are some rather strange images [msss.com] from the Mars Orbiter Camera [msss.com] that don't appear to show geologic activity at first glance and do resemble bacteria beds or something organic. We need to go investigate!
    • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:20PM (#12286760) Journal
      Even more such pictures are at this site [curiousnotions.com] dedicated to pointing them out. Wow. Just wow.
      • The first image on this site is actually a dune field just starting to emerge from sublimating carbon dioxide as the southern Mars hemisphere emerges from winter (Ls ~= 187 degrees). No way is there liquid water on Mars at 60 south latitude in the early spring, especially at pressures of .01 atmosphere.

        I didn't look at everything he had, but after a couple samples, it was hard to take very seriously. Yeah, it's "wow" but not "it's alive wow".

  • Activity (Score:3, Funny)

    by baadger (764884) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:07PM (#12286634)
    And after further investigation several single celled life forms were recovered from the martian surface. Initial test results suggest the average martian microbe is TEN TIMES more biologically active than their earthling slashdotting counter parts.
  • Fossils? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JTWYO (583112) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:08PM (#12286644)
    One thing I haven't seen discussed but would like to, is to what stage could life have evolved in the period that it was particularly ripe for life? In that time frame, could there have been significant multicellular life? Significant enough to leave interesting fossils? It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go fossil hunting in an old river or lakebed on Mars. I'm young, so I might still realize it (even though highly, highly unlikely), unless the period of wetness on mars didn't last long enough to have any hope for such things. I'd settle for piloting a probe equipped with a little pick and brush. Fingers crossed.
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:10PM (#12286661) Journal
    I understand the one-step-at-time approach NASA is pursuing with regard to the search for life on Mars, but it strikes me a little odd that the methane concentrations on Mars are being measured by telescopes based here on Earth. Why haven't current orbiters been equipped to sense this in a more direct fashion. I would think exact precise chemical composition of the air would be a high priority. In fact, how sensitive would the Viking data have been on showing possible methane concentrations in the atmosphere? My recommendation to NASA: more emphasis on chemical analysis in future missions. Yeah, I know the Rocket Scientists are probably already thinking this. Hopefully this new data will get the proper equipment funded for the next Mars shots. And yes I know everything is a trade off and we do chemical analysis as part of every mission to some degree. But damn, we have to use scopes here on Earth to get this data?!?
  • Dang... (Score:3, Funny)

    by JasonMaggini (190142) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:13PM (#12286696)
    I knew I should have kept those Slim Whitman CDs my grandmother left me.
  • by avandesande (143899) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:15PM (#12286709) Journal
    What is that 300 year figure from? Wouldn't the use of 'half-life' be more appropriate?
  • by Anonymous Custard (587661) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:16PM (#12286728) Homepage Journal
    Every one of these longitudes shows a very substantial enhancement in the equatorial zone...So this is a very intense source of methane on Mars in this region.

    I believe I may have the solution! If you'll kindly lower your nose to my personal equatorial zone, and pull my finger gently, I'll show you what I mean...
  • An tha beasties live in active volcanoes!

    Tis like I were tellin ya, bout them strange underwater dragons wot lived beneath the waves in Davy Jones locker, feastin on the heat of the volcanoes that go down straight ta Hades ...

    .

    .

    Seriously, just because life exists in biological and temperature extremes, as was recently discovered by researchers here at the University of Washington - Huskies represent! - doesn't necessarily mean that there has yet been proven to be life on Mars. That requires something t
  • I for one welcome our biologically active martian overlords.
  • by timothy (36799) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:36PM (#12287416) Homepage Journal
    SCENE: Rooftop. Lightning flashes occasionally. Thunder rumbles.

    DR. FRANKENSTEIN stands over the lifeless form of THE MONSTER. THE MONSTER is strapped to a gurney, with electrical apparatus attached to various points on his body.

    [Lightning Crashes]

    Medium shot: DR. FRANKENSTEIN looks skyward, raises hands, imploring.

    DR. FRANKENSTEIN: "Give ... my creature ... *biological activity!*"

    timothy
  • by iowa119900089 (854612) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:45PM (#12287490)
    http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/377/12257_M artian.html According to this highly respectable news page, a Russian boy is a martian and he can tell you all about life there. Case closed. No need to spend more money going there.
  • by iamghetto (450099) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @10:03PM (#12288580) Homepage
    Dr. Vittorio Formisano is/was the principle investigator of the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer used by European Space Agencies Mars Express probe.

    From reading the spectrometer, he believed it was evident that methane, ammonia, and formaldehyde can all be found in the martain atmosphere. Where as methane will last a few hundred years in the atmosphere, formaldehyde will only -eight- hours.

    I'm not a scientist, but from what I've read, all 3 gases are strong indicators of life. While I know that the methane could be produced by volcanic activity on Mars (as mentioned elsewhere in the thread), Mars is a geologically dead planet. There is no sign of any such activity.

    The presence of all 3 gases on a geologically dead planet would seem to be consistent with planet having some microbial life. As Mars entered its Spring, the levels of all 3 gases were found to rise as well. Of course, more life, more gas in the atmosphere.

    It was also noted that the gas levels rose sharply over Mars' frozen oceans as spring approached. Perhaps some simples forms of life were frozen in the oceans? It could also be that the frozen oceans sit over some geological vents, trapping some methane.

    But again, as far as anyone knows Mars is still a geologically dead planet.

    Sorry if this doesn't make much sense... but gas indicating life in the martian atmosphere is OLD news, and there are far more compelling gases (like formaldehyde) that exist in the atmosphere. If it only lasts for 8 hours, something there is reproducing it.

    Apparently, the only way to know definitively what is producing it, is to go dig up the soil. So... good luck on that ever happening. Apparently we have to build a base on the moon first. :)
  • Cows (Score:5, Interesting)

    by luna69 (529007) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @10:32PM (#12288789)
    A Mars researcher currently working with data from the Opportunity rover told me a couple weeks ago that he and some colleagues calculated what it would take to produce the levels of methane observed on Mars.

    Their results? Three cows. Seriously.

    I have no idea how accurate those calculations were, but he's a smart guy with more degrees than I have.

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