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Test Equipment Finds Life In Mars-like Conditions 159

Posted by samzenpus
from the germs-are-everywhere dept.
DIY News writes "In a test of equipment that might one day be used to search for biological activity on Mars, researchers discovered life tucked deep inside a frozen Norwegian volcano, a test region said to have geology similar to that of Mars. The test instruments discovered a rare and complex microbial community living in blue ice vents inside a frozen volcano, which is the kind of evidence scientists have been searching for on the Red Planet."
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Test Equipment Finds Life In Mars-like Conditions

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  • Cool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @03:39AM (#13728021)
    Now the question is not whether Mars can support life, it is whether or not Mars could have supported its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.
    • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Boronx (228853)
      Now the question is not whether Mars can support life

      Is it even possible for water-based life to exist at such a low pressure? And I don't mean dormant spores waiting around for better conditions.
      • Re:Cool. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hostyle (773991) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @04:04AM (#13728083)
        I was thinking the same thing. Unless these life-forms evolved completely independent of other similar life-forms on earth, there is practically no corellation between life on earth (albeit at similar temperatures / conditions) and life on another planet. Earth-evolved life surviving on another planet might well be possible, but life beginning there is something else entirely.
      • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KiloByte (825081)
        I wouldn't even doubt that.

        Sure, spores which could survive for thousands of years inside pyramids or for several years in cold vacuum on the Moon didn't actually grow or thrive there, but we do have extremophiles [wikipedia.org] which feel happy in only a notch more moderate conditions.

        And if pressure is a problem, you can go under the ground -- you can get as high pressure as you want there.
    • Yeah, these lifeforms in the volcano are quite unlikely to have evolved by themselves out of the primordial soup.
    • whether or not Mars could have supported its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.

      I think the question should be whether or not Mars DID support its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution. Sure whether or not it COULD have is interesting, but whether or not it did is much more interesting.
    • by fantomas (94850) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @05:47AM (#13728306)
      You ask a very good question: but surely the findings of this research raise another question: if Mars-like conditions (therefore Mars itself) can support life, should we be importing life to Mars?

      Long term colonisation of Mars would require locally grown food, and preferably not at the expense of shipping in from Earth all the resources they need to grow. Is this a step towards finding hardy life forms that can be mutated to grow in Mars, or in a hybrid Mars-Earth condition? (ie. giving plants some support but not having to create Earth conditions). Hence making the possibility of long term missions to Mars more achievable...

      • Hey, I know you! You're the guy who planned the introduction of new species to Australia, right? Hence making the continent more easily colonized in the long term by Europeans.
      • Remind me again why people would WANT to colonize Mars? If we are hurting that bad for space, why not move to Antartica, the bottom of the ocean, of the middle of the desert? All of those would be no more harsh than Mars and they're easier to get to. Is it just the novelty of it? What is the point? Do people LIKE the idea of living completely on artificial life support 24/7? Is it about fat people wanting to be lighter?

        -matthew
        • Remind me again why people would WANT to colonize Mars? If we are hurting that bad for space, why not move to Antartica, the bottom of the ocean, of the middle of the desert?

          1. For the same reason that the Pilgrims and others colonized America: to get away from repressive governments.
            Unfortunately, there is nowhere on Earth that scum like GWB et al can't reach.
            The only solution is to get off the planet.
          2. To ensure the propogation of the human race should something bad happen to the Earth (e.g., asteroid str
          • For the same reason that the Pilgrims and others colonized America: to get away from repressive governments. Unfortunately, there is nowhere on Earth that scum like GWB et al can't reach. The only solution is to get off the planet.

            Yeah, too bad colonizing another planet is nothing like taking a ship across an ocean.

            To ensure the propogation of the human race should something bad happen to the Earth (e.g., asteroid strike, etc.). Larry Niven once wrote that the reason that the dinosaurs became extinct i

            • Orbital colonies? For the average person? Give me a break. Most people can barely afford a 3 bedroom house on Earth. Who do you think is going to pay for all the high tech hardware required to support you out there?

              A century ago, most people couldn't afford a car.
              Now, most people have at least one.
              Prices come down, "dude", and once self-replicating intelligent nanotech takes off and the Space Elevator is built, getting to Space, and around in Space once you're there, will be relatively inexpensive, compar

              • A century ago, most people couldn't afford a car. Now, most people have at least one.

                Bad analogy. A more accurate analogy would be comparing a car to a nuclear submarine. 40 years ago, people couldn't afford a nuclear submarine. And people still can't afford a nuclear submarine. Probably never will.

                Prices come down, "dude", and once self-replicating intelligent nanotech takes off and the Space Elevator is built, getting to Space, and around in Space once you're there, will be relatively inexpensive,

      • if Mars-like conditions (therefore Mars itself) can support life, should we be importing life to Mars?

        Damn you reds. If it can be done, it will be done.

    • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Decaff (42676)
      Now the question is not whether Mars can support life, it is whether or not Mars could have supported its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.

      The problem is that this is going to be very difficult to prove. There is almost certainly a considerable amount of ongoing interplanetary transfer of microbial life (at least spores). There is plenty of experimental evidence that bacteria could survive the processes involved in such transfer (asteroid/comet collisions with planets, capture of debris by other plane
      • by Pxtl (151020)
        Of course, that leads to thoughts of panspermia. What it abiogenesis never took place on Earth, but instead was colonized by extraplanetary spores?
        • Of course, that leads to thoughts of panspermia. What it abiogenesis never took place on Earth, but instead was colonized by extraplanetary spores?

          Well exactly. There is even a reasonable chance that bacterial spores could survive interstellar space.
      • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jc42 (318812)
        There is plenty of experimental evidence that bacteria could survive the processes involved in such transfer (asteroid/comet collisions with planets, capture of debris by other planets, then entry into atmosphere).

        Actually, collisions are probably a minor portion of the Earthly source of bacteria on other planets.

        Various astronomers have written about the Earth's "dust tail", similar to a comet's dust tail, but blown off from Earth's atmosphere by the solar wind. This tail is thin, and mostly molecular. B
    • Re:Cool. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @06:49AM (#13728474) Homepage
      Well, we now know that Norway can support life, so why not Mars ?
    • Well, there is also the space-seeding theory of the origin of life on this planet. Life need not necessarily have had an abiogenesis.
      • Umm, so where did the life from outer space come from? Or has it just always existed, even though the universe in which it lives has not always existed?
        • Well, you are right. Life *had* to start *somewhere*. My point was we don't necessarily need abiogenesis *on Mars*.
  • Went to the website and it froze up...slashdotted already?
  • I'm waiting until they find life in Uranus!!

    It really astounds me how life 'finds' a way to every possible surface/hole/place in this planet. As for Mars or any other planet, it's great if they find life... but I'm really only interested in 'big' animals, plants or 'sentient' beings. Bacteria/whatever is interesting, but I'm not of the camp of "life is exclusive to Earth", so I take life on other planets of the Universe "for granted".

    • I don't think, that there are any 'big' animals. Even these crappy Mars-robots would have found them long ago. :)
      Either that, or these "animals" are too big and clever to let someone see them ;)

      I guess it's just the pure curiosity that the scientists search for any bacterias - just to see under which conditions they can survive. But I too think, that there must be any other lifeforms somewhere out there. Okay, maybe we all will never see them, but that's better than building an intergalactic beltway thro
  • Other Lifeforms (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @03:47AM (#13728043) Homepage Journal
    Do these lifeforms work with oxygen and/or carbohydrates and/or water? Whenever a discussion about possible extraterrestial life pops up, I always have to ask if the researchers have considered lifeforms that don't work like the ones we're used to.
    • Well, it would be rather difficult to find lifeforms that work with an unknown chemistry, I suppose. At least if what you are looking for is microbe sized and you only have a robot probe in place.
  • "We tested equipment that we are developing to look for life on Mars and discovered a rare and complex microbial community living in blue ice vents inside a frozen volcano," Hans Amundsen of the University of Oslo said today. "The instruments detected both living and fossilized organisms, which is the kind of evidence we'd be searching for on the Red Planet."

    So we can send our microbes there and just have to wait for like a few hundred billion years till humans's can survive there. I can't wait!

  • by commodoresloat (172735) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @03:48AM (#13728045)
    The photo [space.com] shows one of these Martian-like creatures at work in their natural habitat. Apparently they look just like coke dealers here on earth filling up baggies for distribution. Except they are all red with purple hands.
    • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @03:59AM (#13728075)
      While this is amazing proof of life on Earth, unfortunately it is not proof of life on Mars.

      These Earth-borne creatures are red because of the propensity of life on Earth to use iron as a key component in blood. I would expect that Martian creatures would have copper coursing through their veins.
      • The point of TFA is the detection capabilities of the hardware not inferring that life in a volcano on earth increases the probability of life on another planet.
      • These Earth-borne creatures are red because of the propensity of life on Earth to use iron as a key component in blood. I would expect that Martian creatures would have copper coursing through their veins.

        Um ... you know why Mars is the "Red Planet," right? All that red stuff lying around everywhere?

        It's rust. AKA "iron oxide."
      • It's not even proof of life in a Mars-like environment, unless Mars has winds from the Gulf Coast blowing over it somehow.
  • Mistake? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SolitaryMan (538416) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @03:49AM (#13728052) Homepage Journal
    I wonder, is there a possibility of not identifying Mars' living things as form of life, just because it is very different from ours? How do one check, whether the thing is alive or not?
    • Re:Mistake? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by commodoresloat (172735) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @04:12AM (#13728100)
      I've always thought that it was the height of human arrogance to presume that life on other worlds would be recognizable to us as "life" at all. There may be life on the moon for all we know. We assume certain organic forms, but why? Our experience with the world beyond earth is infinitesimal; how can we assume anything? what if there is life that doesn't exist as bacteria, as flora and fauna, as little green men, etc. Life elsewhere might be made of substances and energies that we don't even know exist. Evolution here took place in a particular context and environment -- who's to say what could happen in other environments? When it comes down to it, there is a whole lot we don't even know about life here on earth -- how can we assume that our assumptions about life here will have any relevance on other worlds?
      • We assume certain organic forms, but why?

        Because carbon forms a wide variety of stable compounds. It is by far the most likely basis for life. The alternatives are not so good [wikipedia.org].

        Our experience with the world beyond earth is infinitesimal; how can we assume anything?

        We can assume the laws of physics will hold constant (a safe assumption, based on our observations), so chemical properties will be the same.

        Life elsewhere might be made of substances and energies that we don't even know exist.

        Huh?

      • Re:Mistake? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aussie_a (778472) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @04:55AM (#13728211) Journal
        I've always thought that it was the height of human arrogance to presume that life on other worlds would be recognizable to us as "life" at all.

        No, I'd say it's optimism, not arrogance, that lets us hope that we will be able to recognize life on other worlds. Because if we can't recognize it, well for us, it might as well not exist. It would be great if there was life completely unlike we know it on another body (whether it be moon, jupiter or mars) and we did recognize it. That would be earth-shattering. But if we didn't recognize it, that isn't something I'm as interested in. Simply because even if I am interested in it, I'll never be able to know if it exists or not.
      • I've always thought that it was the height of human arrogance to presume that life on other worlds would be recognizable to us as "life" at all. There may be life on the moon for all we know

        Rubbish, unless you consider rocks and dust to be alive. There may be grey areas (viruses) and contingencies (robotic factory cannot replicate without electricty and a supply or microchips, plants can't replicate without light and air) in the defintion of what is living and what is not, but you need something with at lea
      • if it doesn't move, if it doesn't have any reactions going on .. then it isn't alive by any definition of the word. do you consider rocks, with no reactions at all going on, to be alive?

        now, you could consider a flame to be alive by this definition but simple life is just chemical reactions, complex enough to be considered alive(and continuing).
      • Re:Mistake? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by drdewm (894886)
        People either are open minded to except amd understand this or they don't and nothing can be said to change that. As you can see by the responses to your position that we may not recognize life but that doesn't mean it's there is greeted by statements that rocks aren't alive. Most people see the world through very clouded human experience filters that they just can't be shaken from where everything is good vs bad, pretty vs ugly, us vs them etc. Some people just are not capable of grey area and uncertainty.
        • People make the assumption we will recognize life because we have at least a basic (actually; a pretty damn good) understanding of physics at the above-nuclear, or chemical, level. There is this thing called the periodic table that not only categorizes known elements, but makes pretty good estimates about unknown things as well. These reactions are what makes UP the ENTIRE OBSERBABLE UNIVERSE!

          The reason life is almost assuredly carbon based has to deal with ways you can get energy - life requires an energy
    • Responding to stimuli is the biggie, though there are other criteria like reproduction normally used as well. Don't you remember your high school biology?
      • Re:Mistake? (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        IIRC: Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Energy, Nutrition
      • not that easy ! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by alarch (830794) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @04:43AM (#13728176) Homepage
        high school buiology is oversimplified and to large extent obsolete. imagine a simple electronic thingie which can respond to stimuli (my computer can do that), but is it alive? imagine a robotic factory programmed to replicate itself - is it alive just because it replicates itself and not cars or whatever? i think not. defining life is not that easy consciousness may be? but i am one of those that are sure that animals have "souls" and are consciouss as well as plants and may be even bacteria... but... we cannot mesure level of consciousness
        • Re:not that easy ! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bheer (633842)
          High School Biology is simplified but that's because it's aimed at high-schoolers. But it's not as off as you imagine. response to stimuli AND reproduction are key traits: can your computer respond to a temperature or salinity change in a meaningful way? i.e., would it be able to sense danger to itself and move away? would it seek out nutrients, such as electricity? Further, can it reproduce sexually or asexually?

          Programming in the response to stimuli is easy. Creating hardware which can do all of that AND
          • Re:not that easy ! (Score:2, Interesting)

            by alarch (830794)
            can your computer respond to a temperature or salinity change in a meaningful way? i.e., would it be able to sense danger to itself and move away? would it seek out nutrients, such as electricity? If it is programmed an equipped with appropriate sensors.. then yes. And it doesn't make it alive. Beside, many living things cannot do such things (eg. sense danger and move away). There are organisms that cannot reproduce (not species, but individuals) - and they are living too... I would say my fried she is no
            • > If it is programmed an equipped with appropriate sensors.. then yes.

              Yes, sensors, especially basic ones, are easy. Now that you have sensors, can you imbue your toy with enough programming for it to have a survival instinct so that it can avoid certain things and seek out others, the goal being to build up enough of something that'd enable it to reproduce?

              > I would say my fried she is not alive because she cannot have children

              False Dichotomy. Your friend has all the apparatus to enable her to have c
        • but i am one of those that are sure that animals have "souls" and are consciouss as well as plants....

          Sssshhhhhh..... don't tell the vegans...
        • Re:not that easy ! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @07:22AM (#13728599)
          imagine a robotic factory programmed to replicate itself - is it alive just because it replicates itself and not cars or whatever?

          Erm... yes. Yes, it definitely is.

          'A robotic factory programmed to replicate itself' is a really good definition of what a living thing actually is. It's something every living thing has in common. It takes in materials and energy from its environment, and uses them to maintain itself and to manufacture more like itself. Bacteria do it. Plants do it. Animals do it. And your robotic factory does it. That's life.

          • >It takes in materials and energy from its environment, and uses them to maintain itself and to manufacture more like itself. If you use that simplistic definition of Life, then fire is alive. So are stars. (If you look in the long term they can be considered to reproduce) And that definition, if applied strictly, does not apply to either Viruses, or any sterile creature such as mules. Most people require a better definition of life than that. To negate these problems, people usually throw in a stat
    • The presence of complex molecules that don't form naturally is usually a good clue.
    • In New Zealand, the Maori traditionally attributed life to fire. I'm sure they were not the only ones. It consumes, reproduces, moves and behaves chaotically.
      • Cellular life we know of on Earth is based on complex molecules. Basically carbon is the only atom that can form these complex molecules (with an outside chance that silicon could do similar).

        Studying the radiation from other parts of the universe, it seems that stars out there are made of the same basic elements as the ones we are familiar with here. So it follows that if there is complex life out there, it is probably carbon based. So we have a fairly clear idea of what carbon-based cellular living o
  • by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever@nerdsha c k .com> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @03:52AM (#13728059)
    There is life. Anywhere there is no water (Atacama Desert, Chile - no measurable rain in 100 years) there is no life. That's been borne out by every observation of Earth. Although increasingly hostile conditions make for less and simplier life (ie extremophiles), there is still life. Now the question is, 'Does that apply to other planets too?' I imagine that at some point, a planet or moon would need to have a large body of liquid water to facilitate the initial creation of life.
  • Psychological? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    At least some aspect of the human race is earnestly exploring the possibility of living in other planets/moons/galaxies in whatever timeframe. If such an endeavour is taken up, almost certainly, we are going to build a habitat thats suitable for us...warm, abundance of water, sunlight, etc.

    Search for/Finding out that indigenous life exists is merely a psychological boost to set that up than to find little green (wo)men.

    A.
  • What is life? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @04:26AM (#13728132) Homepage Journal
    We are looking for a precise thing we call life [wikipedia.org]. This quest is very specific and could lead to wrong considerations.
    The point is that we know too little about life, Universe and everything to do something resembling a real search for life.
    I recall Cristoforo Colombo that knew too little about India to understand that it was not India at all!
    • Actually, he was totally aware of his non-Indian landing. A conjunction of stupid educators and bad author's unresearched publications has created a massive myth surrounding his landing. First, he didn't have to convince anyone that the world was round. Sure the stupid peasants thought it was flat, but anyone educated knew that it was round. In fact, the Greeks even measured the diameter to within a few percent (as I recall, a little less than one percent). This was the real issue. All the educated cl
  • I gotta ask.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xx01dk (191137) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @04:39AM (#13728156)
    What would it mean if we discovered microbial life on another planet? Honestly. What would it mean. One, it would mean that the posibilty of life is not that uncommon. Life prevails under the harshest of circumstances here on Earth. Why not elsewhere?

    Two, if it does exist elsewhere, then what's so special about our planet?

    Three, what's stopping it from evolving beyond the microbial stage? It opens the floodgates on "what is possible" in this universe.

    I for one, welcome.... nm. I'm interested to know if mankind as a whole is ready to comprehend the fact that life is not indigenous to Earth...

    • There is a high probablility that Mars has blowback from meteorites from Earth. So life on Mars may have very well been there, but from Earth.
    • Actually, xx01dk, it seems that very few are ready to accept the opposite; the idea that we might indeed be alone in this universe.

      That would make us a bit too special, I guess.
    • Re:I gotta ask.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mab_Mass (903149)
      Three, what's stopping it from evolving beyond the microbial stage? It opens the floodgates on "what is possible" in this universe.

      Well, this is tough to answer, largely because we don't really have an understanding of how life here on earth went from single-cellular to multi-cellular. In fact, the only thing that we can say for sure about this is that it took a really long time (read: 100's of millions of years).

      Now, although this is pure speculation on my part, I would suspect that in the universe

    • Life is indigenous to Earth. Life can be indigenous to many places all at once. Perhaps you were looking for "isolated?"
    • Is (hu)mankind as a whole ready to comprehend that life is not unique to Earth? People often assume formal religions would be more or less screwed, but I'm not so sure. After being around for oh, 2,000 or so years, The Roman Catholic Church for one example is likely to take it all in stride. More than one billion Earthlings look to The Church for guidance, so if the Vatican can apologize for the existence of extraterrestrial life it would have a significant calming effect on humankind's reaction.

      So can th

  • I'm honestly not surprised; life is the most adaptable thing in the entire universe.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't that an oxymoron, like 'jumbo shrimp' or 'Microsoft innovation'?
  • by arun_s (877518) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @05:41AM (#13728295) Homepage Journal
    'Test Equipment Finds Life in Mars-like Conditions '
    Yes, but its life that has evolved over millions of years on the Earth. Living creatures are extremely adaptable. Given time, you could expect some life form or the other to make it thru' in the worst of climates.
    So it does not follow that you can extrapolate this to a conclusion that life of a similar sort could have existed in Mars. The toughie is finding out if life can start anywhere, and in what initial conditions. Natural selection will take care of the surviving.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is a river in Spain (Tinto River) in which life is supposed to be impossible and still, some kind of bacteria has been found in it.

    Now, we know life rises in unthinkable places, but it is the final time now to go to Mars and stop doing experiments about where life would grow in Earth even if we think it is not possible.

    We could be wondering and experimenting thounsands or maybe millions of possibilities, that wont bring the fact that there is life in Mars. Going there and check, that will.
    • "[...] go to Mars and stop doing experiments about where life would grow in Earth even if we think it is not possible."

      Unfortunately, first you actually have to develop the technology to find the little buggers. That's probably more easily done on Earth than it is on Mars. Thus, we build the "life detector" here on Earth, test it out to make sure it will work in an environment where we expect that life might form, and "qualify" the device. Then we'll ship it to Mars.

      Remember the "life detectors" on the V
  • "Our instrument, designed by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), detected minute quantities of aromatic hydrocarbons from microorganisms and lichens present in the rocks and ice," said JPL researcher Arthur Lonne Lane."
    Mmmmmmmmm...aromatic hydrocarbons......
    In case you were wondering....
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatic_hydrocarbon [wikipedia.org]

    WIKIPEDIA----
    An aromatic hydrocarbon (abbreviated as AH), or arene is a hydrocarbon, the molecular structure of which incorporates one or more planar sets o
  • I think it's false to imply that if we find life in a Mars like place on Earth, then there must be life on Mars. After all, on Earth, life may have developed somewhere/sometime friendlier and adapted to these harsh conditions. Mars may not have a friendly place or had a friendly time.

    Mars ain't the same as Earth and life ain't simple. For that matter, science ain't simple. But we're learning and that's cool.

  • I predict life will probably be found in all hospitable sites in the solar system, and it will all be more or less similar to Earth biochemistry. That is because meteorites bounce back and forth between the planets and moons all the time. About 30 Mars meteorites have been identified on earth so far. Considering how many get lost in the ocean and jungles, its likely that thousands have hit earth. And earth has probably, sent out many itself, though its larger gravitation means not as many as Mars.
    Life
  • Anthropocentricity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by panurge (573432) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:31AM (#13729794)
    • The Earth is flat and the sun goes under the earth at night
    • The Earth is a sphere. OK, Eratosthenes, why don't we fall off?
    • The sun,moon and stars are perfect bodies made of a substance that does not occur on Earth. That's why they don't fall down. Mind you, the moon is a bit of a problem. Anyway, the Earth is the centre of the universe.
    • Actually the Earth might go round the Sun rather than vice versa. Watch it, Kupfernigk. The church won't like that. Call it a hypothesis and publish when you're dead.
    • The Earth moves, and Jupiter has moons, and there are spots on the sun. Put him under house arrest, we don't want lunatics like Galileo spreading nonsense.
    • The Earth is more than 6000 years old.Blasphemy!
    • The Earth is millions of years old(Actually, at this point in the 19th century the clergy at Cambridge were not only alongside the idea, they were doing the research. Religious people are not always backward.)
    • Man and apes share a common ancestor.Rubbish him! Misrepresent his ideas! After all, black people aren't really human, so how can monkeys be?
    • Anyway, even if the Earth is just another planet going round a so-so star in an enormous universe, and the human race is more than 98% the same genetically as chimpanzees, we are unique because there isn't life anywhere else in the universe! Yes, in all that huge old universe with trillions of stars WE ARE UNIQUE!

      The simple fact is that to any reasonably educated scientist who understands roughly how the Earth fits into the universe, there is nothing unique or special about our position. As such, if life has evolved on Earth, it would be expected a priori to evolve anywhere else where suitable conditions existed. It will be very difficult to prove the falsifying hypothesis - that there is no life on Mars - but, given the existence of life on Earth, that is the hypothesis that needs to be proved. Anybody who lets their religion get in the way of their understanding of the universe deserves to be tied to a chair and lectured by Richard Dawkins for a few hours (now, sadly, Jay Gould is dead.) Unfortunately, like the animals in Animal Farm, I increasingly find myself looking from fundamentalist Muslim to fundamentalist Christian and being less and less sure of the difference.

  • by centauri (217890) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:50AM (#13730904) Homepage
    Earth's atmosphere is in disequilibrium, because lifeforms constantly replenish certain chemicals - methane, for instance.

    The atmosphere of Mars, what there is of it, is in equilibrium. So, if there ever was life on Mars, it's dead now.
    • Yeah; that's one of the reasons that scientists are so interested in Titan. Its atmosphere isn't anywhere near chemical equilibrium. It's about 6% methane, with traces of many small hydrocarbons.

      Of course, there are geological processes that produce such compounds, and Titan is almost certainly geologically active. But this atmosphere has a lot of the properties that we'd expect if there were a biosphere, however primitive and sketchy.

      So the nature of Titan's atmosphere, with all the organic compounds fl
  • If martian soil and conditions provided a perfect environment for some species of bacterium, how long would it take to cover the planet in such bacteria? (bet those dust devils would whip them about too)
  • "Good God, some Earth microbes were found in a frozen volcano in Norway -- and everyone throws a fit? Let me guess -- that ice is water right? And oxygen all over the place, plus that huge air pressure ..."

    "Back when we were evolving ... uphill, both ways ..."

    "Trust me, those microbes are living in a God**** utopia over there on Earth, those punks wouldn't last five minutes -- back on Meridiani Planum."

    [Thanks, everyone -- I'll be here all week -- please try the veal]

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