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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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  • 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: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?
  • Not when you know the sensitivity of your measuring instruments. Plus a half life assumes a particular slope which why it generally refers to radioactive decay of unstable isotopes.

    --
    Evan "This is a simple explaination - no need to pick nits"

  • 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.
  • Re:Just Curious (Score:2, Informative)

    by PopNCrunch (868880) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:00PM (#12287122)
    What's significant about this is not that it might signify life - but that it is a clock that tells us how old Mars is. The scientists are suprised to find methane here because it leaches off so quickly, so if Mars is ~4 billion years old like earth supposedly is, all the methane should be long gone. Either Mars has a source to replenish methane, biological or geochemical, or Mars has had methane added to it recently (meteors or such), or Mars is much younger than folks think, and what we are seeing is the remnants of a rapidly diminishin original quantity of methane.
  • Re:Just Curious (Score:2, Informative)

    by Nopal (219112) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:17PM (#12287245)
    Well, AFAIK the Bible is silent on the matter of extraterrestial life, but some people believe that the words uttered by Jesus in John 10:16 referred to other civilizations:

    John 10:16(NIV) :

    "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

    Of course, the more traditional (and likely) interpretation is that Jesus was referring to different peoples within the ancient world.

  • Re:Methane (Score:2, Informative)

    by proteonic (688830) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:23PM (#12287284)
    Indeed the parent is correct. Methane doesn't contain any sulfur, and it's the sulfur containing compounds that are responsible for the smell.
  • by rk (6314) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:24PM (#12287297) Journal

    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".

  • by filmnorthflorida (445748) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:23PM (#12287778) Homepage
    Are you that stupid? We invaded Haiti and kidnapped Aristide just over a year ago (Feb 2004).
  • by rk (6314) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @09:19PM (#12288237) Journal

    Okay, first recognize that I'm not an expert at interpreting these images. Like most folks on /., I'm just a regular bit-basher who happens to be lucky enough to bash bits for people who study Mars. Doing that for three and a half years one can't help but learn a few things, but I am far from an authority. So, there's my caveat.

    First, here's the main page [msss.com] for this image. The picture was taken mid-spring. Solar Longitude, or Ls tells us this. 0 degrees corresponds with vernal equinox (spring) in the northen hemisphere, and then each season is 90 degrees in length. This image is from the southern hemisphere (82 degrees south). It's also not terrbly well lit, as the incidence angle is 79 degrees. My semi-educated guess is we're looking at years of CO2 deposits trapping dust, sublimating, and then releasing dust in layers. In the north, dust has been blown across exposed rock to the north as the CO2 turns to gas and pushes north.

    The Martian polar regions behave very differently than do the polar regions of Earth, since much of the polar caps are CO2. It goes right from solid to gas, so there is no flow, and impurities drop right where they were trapped, and don't move except for aeolian processes. We continue to study these polar processes in-depth as we have targetting campaigns to image the entire polar region during the spring and summer to observe these phenomena. The amount of change the poles go through every year is nothing short of amazing.

    Also, do yourself a favor and always look at lossless images. JPEGs are really only useful for gross classification or mnemonics to find what you're looking for. Especially if you zoom in, the artifacting process in JPEG compression makes things appear that aren't there.

    And yes, I do agree that the whole planet needs further exploration. Mars is an amazing place, and even if there is no biological life on it, it's still a living planet that is so amazingly similar to the Earth, and yet so alien, we will learn much about the universe and ourselves with continued study.

  • Re:Just Curious (Score:3, Informative)

    by gnuman99 (746007) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @10:31PM (#12288775)
    Eratosthenes determined circuference of Earth within 2% of true value in ~200BC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes [wikipedia.org]

    And then over millenium and a half later, Columbus underestimated it by 25% and thought he was in India. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus [wikipedia.org]

    For flat earth, see wikipedia! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth [wikipedia.org].

  • Re:Just Curious (Score:2, Informative)

    by obender (546976) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @03:28AM (#12290305)
    Galileo learned what he did through study and could prove it.

    Actually Galileo did base some of his argumentation on some episode in the Bible which he claimed fully demonstrated that the earth was round. The church asked him to stop using this as a scientific argument and to base his demonstration on real astronomical observations. Galileo refused and the trial ensued.

    While truth cannot contradict truth the message of the Bible is one of a spiritual nature. The descriptions of the physical world simply reflect the common scientific knowledge of the time when the text was written. On the other hand while our technological knowledge has progressed a lot our human nature is still the same and the spiritual message is still actual.

  • Re:Just Curious (Score:2, Informative)

    by gg3po (724025) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @01:03PM (#12293664)
    A document which asserts the earth is flat, at the centre of the universe,

    Catholic dogma. Not biblical.

    and rests on pillars,

    Ever heard of poetry? I guess I'm asking too much of a Slashdotter.

    that the mustard seed is the smallest seed,

    Teachers tend to gear their lessons to the understanding of the pupils. If Jesus were to have named some, as of then, undiscovered seed that were smaller, would this have helped in any way the point he was trying to make about faith, or would his botany lesson just get in the way?

    that hares and coneys chew the cud,

    Haven't seen that one. I do recognize that the Bible contains errors, though. I just think we should focus on the real ones, and not try to pretend the author is an idiot for using accepted poetic techniques.

    that giants

    I've got to admit, you've got me on this one. Giants [wikipedia.org] could never really exist [wikipedia.org].

    and unicorns are real,

    "Unicorn" was used by the King James and other translators for the original Hebrew word "reh-ame", which means a wild bull [keyway.ca].

    that bats are birds,

    Our modern concept of families, classes, orders, species, etc. Are lines that we have drawn that are most convenient for a scientifically dominated culture. Besides, there are many translation errors in all versions of the Bible. I don't have a greek interlinear (or Hebrew if this is from the OT) on me, but maybe the original word just meant "flying thing", which would be correct -- bats do fly. I would suspect this argument falls apart for the non-anglo readers that use other translations.

    that stars are small objects which can fall fromt the sky and be stamped upon,

    Again, this is obvious poetry. According to your logic, a poet that says something like "Love is a rose" is a complete moron, but you are the smart one, because you know that love really isn't a rose.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

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