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Mars Rover Finds Complex Chemicals But No Organic Compounds 137

techtech writes in with the results from the first soil samples tested by the Curiosity rover. "Although NASA's Curiosity rover hasn't yet confirmed the detection of organic compounds on Mars, it's already seeing that the Red Planet's soil contains complex chemicals — including signs of an intriguing compound called perchlorate. The first soil sample analysis from Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars lab, or SAM, was the leadoff topic today at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. The findings were eagerly awaited because of rumors that the Curiosity team was on the verge of announcing major findings — and although NASA tamped down expectations, the scientists said they were overjoyed with the first round of analysis."
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Mars Rover Finds Complex Chemicals But No Organic Compounds

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  • Can't keep this up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mws1066 ( 1057218 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:51PM (#42171597)
    NASA can't keep up being the "boy who cried wolf." People will just stop listening if every little thing is "breakthrough" and something "earth-shattering!" My goodness.
  • by GodInHell ( 258915 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:56PM (#42171661) Homepage
    My assumption: It's one of those "if you know what you're talking about this is BIG new" stories I think. Means a lot to people who are deeply invested in the material, everyone else just stands around and says "so what does that mean?" Of course, a presentation aimed at an audience that is supposed to /know/ what they're talking about already assumes you know what it means.
  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:58PM (#42171695) Homepage

    Did NASA refer to this as "earth-shattering" or a "breakthrough"? Since you use quote marks, I assume you can point to the quote where they said that, and aren't just using exaggerated paraphrasing so you can then criticize your straw man.

  • by codewarren ( 927270 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:58PM (#42171701)

    Is it NASA that is crying wolf? TFS suggests only "rumors" of "major findings" and that NASA was downplaying those expectations.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:05PM (#42171821) Homepage Journal

    Please point out in that story where anyone who actually works for NASA used the phrases "earth-shattering," "earth-shaking," or even "breakthrough."

  • by Digicaf ( 48857 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:15PM (#42171935)

    The point the GP is making is that reporters outside of NASA blew this up, not NASA themselves. That's not semantics, that's just really bad reporting.

    As far as I've seen, NASA didn't make this out to be more than it was. In fact, I saw a couple of NASA releases stating that people shouldn't get too excited about it.

  • by drerwk ( 695572 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:31PM (#42172103) Homepage
    Facts mostly straight:

    NASA can't keep up being the "boy who cried wolf." People will just stop listening if every little thing is "breakthrough" and something "earth-shattering!" My goodness.

    You know that Grotzinger probably does not even work for NASA right? He is a Caltech professor, likely that Caltech pays his salary. He is not a NASA employee or spokesman.
    You really have not gotten your facts straight, but do not fret you might have an excellent career as a science reporter :-).

  • by Squidlips ( 1206004 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:36PM (#42172131)
    No, the press looks bad, not NASA. When Grotz said it was gonna be one for the history books, he meant the mission as a whole not the latest SAM findings. Unfortunately, this means that Grotz or any other MSL project scientists will be very very disinclined to talk to the press, alas.
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:48PM (#42172243)

    Yeah, but the act of saying you have some results, but you're not telling anyone yet... eh... just release the results when you have them. And NASA guy *did* say it was going to be the one for the history books. People hear than and don't assume he means "History Of Martian Soil Chemistry, Volume 3".

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:19PM (#42172519)
    Yes, there is.

    This is a historic finding, which could very well repaint the landscape of Mars as we know it. That is a big deal. The problem is, we have a bunch of barely educated morons in this country who jump to the conclusion of little green men in flying saucers whenever someone looks up and sees a bird fly overhead, or who think there's ghosts everywhere because some dipshit on Ghost Hunters says "what was that!!?" every fucking episode.

    Real science suffers in the US because our citizens are being bred to be stupider than shit. NASA hasn't one anything wrong, it's just there's too few people with actually brains in this country to understand basic language, much less basic science.
  • by ChronoFish ( 948067 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:36PM (#42172671) Journal
    From the MarsCuriosity Twitter account - which I assume to be targeting a more "social" audience to include scientist, space-fans, back-yard astronomers, and people who may or may not know or get "soil science".

    Oct. 9: Shiny Object Update: My team continues to assess a small object on ground, likely a shred of benign plastic
    Oct 12: All Shook Up: Dusted off my sampling system this week & investigated a mysterious "FOD"
    Oct 15: Time for a third scoop... and a second look. Investigating newfound bright material on Mars
    Oct 18: Distinctly Martian: Just had my 1st taste of Red Planet regolith. Mineral analysis underway
    Nov 2: I found clues to changes in Mars' atmosphere, but no methane... yet. More observations planned
    Nov 21: What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission "one for the history books" .
    Nov 29: Everybody, chill. After careful analysis, there are no Martian organics in recent samples. Update Dec 3

    The whole twitter account is there to make mundane rock observation sound interesting to someone (anyone) who is not a (astro-) geologist. If "Curiosity" is excited, so should be everyone who follows. 128 characters is barely enough to convey a message, much less "tone" - but readers will inject their own tone - which is dangerous for an agency that wishes not to release any data with less than 5 9s of precession.


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