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View Full Version : How would the discovery of life on Mars effect our society?



Blackhole
2011-Dec-27, 06:42 AM
If we discovered that life exists on Mars (or anywhere outside Earth - I think Mars is our best bet), even just microbiol forms life, how would this discovery effect our society? Would it have a major influence on global politics and economics? In which way?

I believe the geo-political forces that come with such a major discovery would urge governments across the world to fund more space programs and projects in order to capitalize on a race to explore, and eventually colonize, Mars. The space industry needs an exciting discovery to re-fuel the interest of the general masses on space exploration. I think it's possible that within the next 500 years, the Human Race will begin to colonize Mars and governments across the world will compete in a frenzy to claim as much Marian territory as possible.

How do you think the discovery of life on Mars would effect our society? How would it effect the space exploration industry?

WaxRubiks
2011-Dec-27, 06:58 AM
I think if there were microbial life on Mars, it could well have come from Earth, ie thrown into space by a meteor impact, so I don't think that that would have much impact.

JCoyote
2011-Dec-27, 07:25 AM
Unfortunately the growth in the industry would most likely not be in response to the discovery of life, but instead happen after something economically useful came out of it. An example would be a pharmaceutical discovery that treats or cures cancer discovered in a martian bacteria. Then you'd suddenly see money interested in it.

Otherwise money doesn't tend to just flow into scientific curiosity. Unfortunately.

Blackhole
2011-Dec-27, 07:48 AM
Unfortunately the growth in the industry would most likely not be in response to the discovery of life, but instead happen after something economically useful came out of it. An example would be a pharmaceutical discovery that treats or cures cancer discovered in a martian bacteria. Then you'd suddenly see money interested in it.

Otherwise money doesn't tend to just flow into scientific curiosity. Unfortunately.

I disagree. If you look back to 1969 when Man first stepped foot on the moon it was the geo-political influence of the Cold War that saw two nations (Russia and The United States) pump large amount of funding into space exploration in the form of a race to land on the Moon. The United States won the race to the Moon and they also won the Cold War, and both events certainly had an influence on the other. Similar to the way politics and economics are correlated. It was a flexing of two nations muscles during a time of war that helped us achieve "one giant leap for mankind", and I suspect we will see a similar race to colonize Mars between the USA, Russia and China, influenced by the political benefits that come with being the first nation to erect their flag on Mars.

WaxRubiks
2011-Dec-27, 08:22 AM
except it would be a lot more expensive to go to Mars. Politically it would be seen as a waste of money to go to Mars, just to put up a flag, I would think.

Ara Pacis
2011-Dec-27, 08:55 AM
Without evidence to the contrary, we'd assume that it was merely related to earth life.

Noclevername
2011-Dec-27, 10:22 AM
Without evidence to the contrary, we'd assume that it was merely related to earth life.

"We" who? The scientific community, trained in Occam's Razor, perhaps. The general public might not think that way.

eburacum45
2011-Dec-27, 11:43 AM
Without evidence to the contrary, we'd assume that it was merely related to earth life.
Well, we should be able to tell the difference between Earth life and life with a completely different origin. The way DNA codes for proteins is specific to our biochemistry, and on another world these codings would probably be detectably different. In other words life with no connection to life on Earth would have an entirely different genetic makeup. Molecular genetics should be capable of distinguishing between Earth-derived life and life that has emerged from a separate abiogenesis.

There is however a small chance that several abiogenesis events have happened on Earth, and we might find the relics of a previous (extinct) biosphere that has died out on Earth but survives on Mars. So even a lack of molecular relatedness might not rule out an Earthly origin for Martian microbes.

iquestor
2011-Dec-27, 02:15 PM
We would be able to tell is the martian life was in our family tree, or vice versa. Whether it has DNA, and whether it preferred a give chiralty in its noms would tell the tale. Either way, the news would be Earth Shattering -- either Life is ubiquitous, or Panspermia is possible.

MAPNUT
2011-Dec-27, 06:21 PM
I don't see why the discovery of life on Mars would be a very big impetus to travel there. It's not as if it would mean Mars is more habitable to humans, or more attractive for conquest. The new life would be an attractive research subject, but not much more so than, say, the discovery of new life forms in the Antarctic.

Socially, the discovery might cause some religious turmoil, but I think we're not supposed to discuss that here.

LoneTree1941
2011-Dec-27, 06:39 PM
I think we'd be very wary of it getting back to Earth, because of the threat it would represent. It would have to be very difficult to kill because it had been able to survive there in that extreme environment. If it was brought back to earth via a return mission we'd run big risks. Robot missions might resolve that for us, and if a discovery is made it would probably be the end of our Mars program other than planetary data collection.

John Jaksich
2011-Dec-27, 07:30 PM
When I was a youngster, we put a man on the Moon--in that same vein--it most probably would light more fires of creativity among today's children. I am sure that many adults would be thrilled to find it--but it is, as the proverbial saying goes: It is not so much was done today but what comes of it for future generations.

In short, IMHO we should always be "paying it forward."

Ara Pacis
2011-Dec-27, 08:42 PM
"We" who? The scientific community, trained in Occam's Razor, perhaps. The general public might not think that way.The majority will believe what they are told.


Well, we should be able to tell the difference between Earth life and life with a completely different origin. The way DNA codes for proteins is specific to our biochemistry, and on another world these codings would probably be detectably different. In other words life with no connection to life on Earth would have an entirely different genetic makeup. Molecular genetics should be capable of distinguishing between Earth-derived life and life that has emerged from a separate abiogenesis.

There is however a small chance that several abiogenesis events have happened on Earth, and we might find the relics of a previous (extinct) biosphere that has died out on Earth but survives on Mars. So even a lack of molecular relatedness might not rule out an Earthly origin for Martian microbes.Can we fit those tools of analysis on a probe the size and mass of the probes we've been sending?

Noclevername
2011-Dec-27, 08:49 PM
The majority will believe what they are told.

And what they'll be told will likely be blaring news headlines that say "WE ARE NOT ALONE! ALIEN LIFE DISCOVERED!!1"

MaDeR
2011-Dec-27, 09:03 PM
This kind of discovery would not directly affect our society or daily life.

Selfsim
2011-Dec-27, 10:05 PM
Hi All;

What an interesting speculative question. Thank you ‘blackhole’ for posing it !

The nature of the discovery and the way it occurs, would seem to be a critical factor in determining the sociological impacts. Personally, I am of the view that some kind of microbial exo-life discovery, made by a probe, would yield insufficient evidence in terms of gaining a critical mass of acceptance by society (take the 1976 Viking probe Labelled Release experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_program#Biological_experiments) test results as an example). In cases like these, it seems that general society demands first-hand human contact and repeatably verifiable test results in order to surmount the initial hurdle of credibility. (I pity those humans also, as their credibility would be very much under attack). Society would have to fund this expensive exercise, and I think the duration of that campaign is critical. (The Apollo missions lasted for about 11 years, the Space Shuttle lasted for about 30 years, but I’m not sure it could be said that the ‘enthusiasm’ factor was maintained over these durations).

The nature of the actual discovery would also be critical in terms of its impact. Earth based discoveries such as the example of the 1996 PAH evidence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ALH_84001#Possible_biogenic_features) in the magnetite deposits of the ALH 84001 martian meteorite ... are still debated today and will always be subject to skepticism centered on contamination suspicions.

A truly novel life-form discovery, may take years to interpret as ‘life’. How long are we prepared to wait for a definitive result ?

In summary, I get the impression that anything other than the discovery of an Intelligent exo-lifeform, is unlikely to be interpreted as dramatically by the bulk of society, as most might envisage.

Regards.

Selfsim
2011-Dec-27, 11:06 PM
Can we fit those tools of analysis on a probe the size and mass of the probes we've been sending?
Hi 'Ara Pacis' and 'eburacum45' !

Its a little out of date, (April 2009), and I apologise if everyone is already aware of this, but it seems that a team at NIST has been working on remote detection of chiral molecules by looking for polarised light .. (http://www.nist.gov/pml/div685/chiral_042109.cfm). (They also suggest its possible application to remote space probe research).


“If the surface had just a collection of random chiral molecules, half would go left, half right,” Germer says. “But life’s self-assembly means they all would go one way. It’s hard to imagine a planet’s surface exhibiting handedness without the presence of self assembly, which is an essential component of life.”

Because chiral molecules reflect light in a way that indicates their handedness, the research team built a device to shine light on plant leaves and bacteria, and then detect the polarized reflections from the organisms’ chlorophyll from a short distance away. The device detected chirality from both sources.

The interesting aspect of this approach is that this test is sensitive to a more generic organic self-assembly process by-product .. which would make this test inclusive of more than life-as-we-know it.

I guess the issue would be how to eliminate other sources of polarisation. The results would probably thus still be subject to uncertainties, and model-based inference.

Updates on this research would be much appreciated .. perhaps more appropriately on a separate thread (?)

Best Regards

eburacum45
2011-Dec-27, 11:11 PM
Can we fit those tools of analysis on a probe the size and mass of the probes we've been sending? Almost certainly not.Don't expect to get any decent microbiological results til we get a sample-return mission, and maybe not even then..

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-27, 11:37 PM
A related question is this...

How was our society affected when the Viking landers, with their tests for organics and for biological response to nutrients, did not discover life on Mars?

(I know the results were and are debated, but the apparent negative for organic compounds did lead to a lot of pessimism in the scientific community.)

The mission was followed by a decline in support for interplanetary probes, especially to Mars. I think there was a gap of 10 years or so before NASA sent another probe to that planet. Perhaps there were more subtle, cultural effects -- an increased sense of Earth's uniqueness, as the "lonely planet". A sense that any life beyond Earth might be so far away that we would never know about it.

If microbial life is found beyond Earth, the effects will again be fairly subtle. I wouldn't predict the immediate collapse of all forms of religion, for instance. But I think it will affect the way we earthlings see the universe and our relation to it.

In a way it will be like when the first exoplanet was identified -- it was a long way away, and it went round a neutron star, and it didn't in itself establish how common planets are in the universe. Still it not only told us something about the universe (exoplanets exist), but also something about ourselves as humans (that we have science cabable of finding an exoplanet).

Van Rijn
2011-Dec-28, 12:17 AM
A related question is this...

How was our society affected when the Viking landers, with their tests for organics and for biological response to nutrients, did not discover life on Mars?

(I know the results were and are debated, but the apparent negative for organic compounds did lead to a lot of pessimism in the scientific community.)

The mission was followed by a decline in support for interplanetary probes, especially to Mars. I think there was a gap of 10 years or so before NASA sent another probe to that planet.


I think Mariner 4 had a much bigger effect. A lot of hopes were broken with that. A lot of science fiction was made obsolete. Mars was shown to be much more bleak and with a thinner atmophere than had been hoped. If anything, Viking redeemed Mars a little. It didn't look quite so bleak then.

I also think the gap had more to do with the wind-down of the space race.

tnjrp
2011-Dec-28, 04:57 AM
"We" who? The scientific community, trained in Occam's Razor, perhaps. The general public might not think that way.Being largely a member of a general public in matters biological, I'm uncertain as to why the null hypothesis would be panspermia.

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-28, 06:47 AM
Being largely a member of a general public in matters biological, I'm uncertain as to why the null hypothesis would be panspermia.

I'm not sure I would use the term "null hypothesis" here.

As I understand it, though, the point is that biologists have a range of views about how life got started -- abiogenesis -- the emergence of life out of non-living chemistry.

It evidently happened, at least once, because living things are here.

(A theoretical alternative is the radical panspermia view that life has always existed in the universe, migrating from place to place so readily that there was no need for a transition... which runs into problems with getting from star to star, galaxy to galaxy, what about the Big Bang etc...)

But the process by which abiogenesis happened is not very well understood -- there are different theories and models -- and the probability of it happening on any given world is therefore hard to estimate. There is a view that life will come into being inevitably on a planet or moon with suitable conditions, and another view that it is like winning a lottery against very long odds -- that there could be billions of Earth-like worlds, with life appearing spontaneously on only one.

I was listening fairly recently to a recorded talk by NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay, and he mentioned that he and colleagues use the word "alien" to mean an organism that is not related to the known forms of life, that is part of a different tree of life. Conceivably, an "alien" organism might be found right here on Earth (though that hasn't happened yet), conversely, an organism found on Mars might not be "alien" in that sense. If an organism is found on Mars (or Enceladus, Europa, or Titan) I think people like Chris will be very keen to know whether it is "alien" or not.

Because if it can be shown that life has emerged twice, independently, in this one solar system, it would end the discussion as to whether its emergence is a ultra low probability event, or a fairly high probability one. It would mean the total amount of life in the universe must be, literally, astronomical...

tnjrp
2011-Dec-28, 06:52 AM
That is all fine and dandy but it doesn't immediately seem to address my dilemma in regards to why "abiogensis + migration" (or A+M, which is what I mean with panspermia here, albeit in a nonrigorous fashion) would be a more basic/obivous assumption (which is what I mean by null hypothesis, again in a nonrigorous fashion) than "abiogeneisis twice" (2A). It seems to depend entirely on the odds you want to place on (1) abiogenesis happening and (2) after-the-previous-fact migration to other planet happening, neither of which is AFAIK at all easy to estimate. Why should we, as per Occam's Razor and whatnot, assume A+M instead of 2A?

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-28, 10:37 AM
That is all fine and dandy but it doesn't immediately seem to address my dilemma in regards to why "abiogensis + migration" (or A+M, which is what I mean with panspermia here, albeit in a nonrigorous fashion) would be a more basic/obivous assumption (which is what I mean by null hypothesis, again in a nonrigorous fashion) than "abiogeneisis twice" (2A). It seems to depend entirely on the odds you want to place on (1) abiogenesis happening and (2) after-the-previous-fact migration to other planet happening, neither of which is AFAIK at all easy to estimate. Why should we, as per Occam's Razor and whatnot, assume A+M instead of 2A?

I think the odds of meteor transfer of microbes may be easier to estimate than the odds of abiogenesis. In the case of meteor transfer, you know what sort of mechanism you are considering -- you can model the way ejecta form immediately after an impact, work out the odds that microbes might survive in the ejecta, look at possible trajectories, and the probability that any microbes will survive re-entry... And then you multiple by the number of impacts you think have occurred.

As I understand it, calculations like this have done, and concluded that meteor transfer within the solar system has a high enough probability to be taken seriously. Even if abiogenesis, in any given solar system is ultra-improbable, that improbability does not in itself does not reduce the probability of A+M having happened in this solar system, because (exclude interstellar transfer of life) we already know A has happened here.

In the case of abiogenesis, several different processes have been suggested -- e.g. lipid world, PAH world, or an RNA world as conceivable precursors to DNA-based life. How do you model the probability of the process when you don't know which process to model?

So perhaps the argument for considering meteor transfer as the null hypothesis, would be that the probability of meteor transfer can be demonstrated as a serious one, whereas the probability of abiogenesis on any given world is unknown, and may be astronomically low.

On the other hand...

An argument in favour of multiple abiogenesis is the assumption of mediocrity -- the principle that we assume our neck of the woods is not exceptional until data forces us to conclude it is exceptional -- and even then, we don't assume our neck of the wood is any more exceptional than the data requires. Given that abiogenesis seems to have happened here on Earth, and given that we don't fully understand the mechanism, is it more reasonable to assume it was a exceptional event (in cosmic terms) or a normal one?

tnjrp
2011-Dec-28, 11:21 AM
On the other hand A+M remains - while theoretically possible and according to some (not all) somewhat probable - undemonstrated but we have pretty good evidence for 1A. For A+M you need to assume that the transplanted organisms will be able to survive and propagate in their new enviroment as well as well as being able to survive the transit.

Clive Tester
2011-Dec-28, 01:35 PM
Interesting quote, from Robert Calvert in this link.
Scroll to the bottom of the web page:-
http://aural-innovations.com/robertcalvert/quotes/calvertto.htm#moon

Paul Beardsley
2011-Dec-28, 04:47 PM
It should be kept in mind that the Viking experiments were initially taken to be positive, and were announced as such by the media. For about a day in 1976, ordinary British people who had seen The Nine O'Clock News believed that life had been found on another planet. (I don't know how it played out elsewhere.)

I am glad I was one of those people. I was 13, and for a short time I shared in the experience of knowing we were not alone in the universe. Okay, so when it turned out that the results were premature and in fact negative after all, I admit I cried because the thing I wanted (and still want) most in the world had been taken away from me.

I was a little less accepting when ALH84001 was announced!

It should be noted that nothing really dramatic followed the 1976 announcement. As I recall, the news was greeted as interesting and pleasing.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Dec-28, 04:48 PM
Interesting quote, from Robert Calvert in this link.
Scroll to the bottom of the web page:-
http://aural-innovations.com/robertcalvert/quotes/calvertto.htm#moon

His records are worth listening to. His opinions not so much.

eburacum45
2011-Dec-28, 08:32 PM
On the other hand A+M remains - while theoretically possible and according to some (not all) somewhat probable - undemonstrated but we have pretty good evidence for 1A. For A+M you need to assume that the transplanted organisms will be able to survive and propagate in their new enviroment as well as well as being able to survive the transit.Abiogenesis + migration would only be a reasonable hypothesis if Martian microbes (or any microbes found anywhere in the Solar System) were discovered to be related in a genetic or molecular way to Earth Life. There is only a tiny chance that abiogenesis occured twice in our system and produced exactly the same result in each case.

If the microbes found on Mars or elsewhere were found to be radically different from Earth examples then two separate abiogenesis events would be the obvious interpretation.

Whether these two events occurred on different planets or the same planet is much less relevant than the fact that two abiogenesis events had occurred, so would be reasonably commonplace.

Selfsim
2011-Dec-28, 08:50 PM
An argument in favour of multiple abiogenesis is the assumption of mediocrity -- the principle that we assume our neck of the woods is not exceptional until data forces us to conclude it is exceptional -- and even then, we don't assume our neck of the wood is any more exceptional than the data requires.

Hi Colin;
Taken to the extreme, other than intelligent contact with ETs, is the notion that "life exists elsewhere" falsifiable ?

It seems to me that the existence of exo-life in the universe, can never be falsified (or disproven) with multiple negative discoveries, no matter how vast in number these are.
Yet, it can be immediately proven with the first instance discovered.
For the same reason, I also have difficulty seeing how 'the principle that our neck of the woods is exceptional' could likewise ever be accepted .. regardless of the number of negative instances returned (?)

Also, purely mathematically speaking, I cannot see how the numbers of habitable environments throughout the universe, tells us anything about the uniqueness or otherwise, of exo-life in the universe, until a single instance of exo-life is discovered in an exo-habitable zone (?)

I'm not sure that the notion that: 'life exists elsewhere in the universe', is based on scientific reasoning or principles .. (??) … very interesting.

Regards

Selfsim
2011-Dec-28, 10:46 PM
Just clarifying the opening statement in my last post #30 … it might be less confusing if it were modified to read:

"Taken to the extreme, is the notion that 'life exists elsewhere' (ie: exo-life), falsifiable ?"

I was thinking of the specific case of the search for non-communicative exo-life .. like microbial exo-life, but I don't think this particular case differentiates itself in any special way.

I really don't know the answer to this one .. advice is very much welcome.

Regards

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-28, 11:05 PM
It should be kept in mind that the Viking experiments were initially taken to be positive, and were announced as such by the media. For about a day in 1976, ordinary British people who had seen The Nine O'Clock News believed that life had been found on another planet. (I don't know how it played out elsewhere.)

I am glad I was one of those people. I was 13, and for a short time I shared in the experience of knowing we were not alone in the universe. Okay, so when it turned out that the results were premature and in fact negative after all, I admit I cried because the thing I wanted (and still want) most in the world had been taken away from me.

I was a little less accepting when ALH84001 was announced!

It should be noted that nothing really dramatic followed the 1976 announcement. As I recall, the news was greeted as interesting and pleasing.

I'm of your generation, Paul -- I remember Viking too. Yes, the initial media reports here in Australia were that the tests were positive for life.

Of course it didn't cause drama in the sense of panic in the streets -- why should it? The reported Martian life forms were not like those in Orson Welles' radio version of War of the Worlds. They weren't the sort of critters that could attack Earth with heat rays etc.

Like you, I felt pleased about the apparently positive news, and sad when it later turned into a negative.

After more data came in, the conclusion seemed to be that the universe (as far as we could examine it), was lifeless beyond Earth -- that our own planet was a sort of anomaly.


I was a little less accepting when ALH84001 was announced!

Yes, there was a heard-it-before factor, wasn't there?

Personally, I'm more excited about the reports about Titan, beginning with the discovery of surface lakes there five years back... Life or no life, it's a fascinating world.

JCoyote
2011-Dec-29, 04:43 AM
The Viking thing just backs up my earlier position, that the discovery of microbial extraterrestrial life just won't be that big a deal to 95% of the population, getting at best a response of "That's nice". Usually something is only culturally transformative after that point if it provides some sort of advantage, ie new chemical discoveries that change everyday human existence. If tinkering with alien microbes we stumble into a way to prevent the common cold, then everyone gets excited.

Discovery of multicellular life is likely to be transformative in a small way. If immobile like plants or coral, it will still be similar to microbes, it won't capture most people's imagination.

So I hate to say the threshold is one of two possibilities; animate lifeforms or human benefit. Anything short of that won't change human civilization outside the realm of the enthusiast.

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-29, 05:28 AM
The Viking thing just backs up my earlier position, that the discovery of microbial extraterrestrial life just won't be that big a deal to 95% of the population, getting at best a response of "That's nice". Usually something is only culturally transformative after that point if it provides some sort of advantage

A counter instance that comes to mind is the voyage of HMS Beagle to the Pacific in the 19th century, which led to Darwin writing his book The Origin of Species.

Was it a big deal for 95 percent of the public when the ship came back with specimens of newly discovered varieties of island finch?

Probably not...

But was it, in the long run, culturally transformative?

Of course it was.

tnjrp
2011-Dec-29, 07:24 AM
Abiogenesis + migration would only be a reasonable hypothesis if Martian microbes (or any microbes found anywhere in the Solar System) were discovered to be related in a genetic or molecular way to Earth LifeWell, obviously this would need to be determined before a firm, scientifically tenable answer to the question can be given. However I'm thinking of a hypothetical situation where life has been discovered on Mars (or any other planet for that matter) and the intial possibility of trivial sample contamination from the detecting equipment has been rules out but no extensive genetic testing has been done yet. Only in that case, I'd think, we are faced with the dilemma of A+M or 2A in the 1st place.

tnjrp
2011-Dec-29, 07:25 AM
Just clarifying the opening statement in my last post #30 … it might be less confusing if it were modified to read:

"Taken to the extreme, is the notion that 'life exists elsewhere' (ie: exo-life), falsifiable ?"Generic claim "life exists in the universe that is not of Earth origin" is unfalsifiable in practice. It is (almost) unfalsiable in theory as well if the universe is found to be spatially infinite.

Selfsim
2011-Dec-29, 08:17 AM
Generic claim "life exists in the universe that is not of Earth origin" is unfalsifiable in practice. It is (almost) unfalsiable in theory as well if the universe is found to be spatially infinite.
Hi tnjrp;
Many thanks for the feedback .. never seen it stated quite so succinctly .. :)
Much appreciated.
Regards

Clive Tester
2011-Dec-29, 12:32 PM
It should be kept in mind that the Viking experiments were initially taken to be positive, and were announced as such by the media. For about a day in 1976, ordinary British people who had seen The Nine O'Clock News believed that life had been found on another planet. (I don't know how it played out elsewhere.)

I am glad I was one of those people. I was 13, and for a short time I shared in the experience of knowing we were not alone in the universe. Okay, so when it turned out that the results were premature and in fact negative after all, I admit I cried because the thing I wanted (and still want) most in the world had been taken away from me.

I was a little less accepting when ALH84001 was announced!

It should be noted that nothing really dramatic followed the 1976 announcement. As I recall, the news was greeted as interesting and pleasing.

I remember that short period of hope too in 1976, here in the UK.

A few days after the landing, my dad and I managed convinced my older brother that the Viking camera had captured an image of a “mars crab” crawling on the surface. For a little while, my bro was also glad that life had been found on another world:lol:.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Dec-29, 02:02 PM
Thanks for your reminiscences, Clive and Colin. Nice to know we had similar experiences, although my older brother was more likely to have tried to convince me that there was a crab! (I wouldn't have believed him because I knew how the cameras worked on the Viking lander.)

It's true that the discovery of moss under a stone on Mars is not going to cause a Welles-style panic. This reminds me of occasions when I have challenged CTs on the claim that NASA/the Government/Whoever have to keep the existence of aliens secret because people would panic if the news leaked out. Quite simply, I don't think people would panic unless the aliens were obviously hostile and had powerful weapons. Conversely, if a small American town in 1938 were to be invaded by a hostile earthly force with powerful weapons, there would be a panic.

I made this point twice, once here on BAUT and once on a BBC site. On both occasions, the CT I was dealing with snipped everything I'd said apart from "granted, that Orson Welles broadcast caused a panic" and put something to the effect of, "I rest my case." This is why sensible people are right to dismiss CTs.

I agree with Colin's point that the discovery of any form of alien life in space would have a long-term cultural effect, like Darwin's voyage. Discussions of alien life would occupy a small part of most biology text books, but they would be the most-read part, and a lot of people would grow up wanting to know more about it, so there would be a gradual increase in the urge to explore Mars further.

Of course, what would really provide a boost would be the discovery of an ancient Martian city (not very likely) or, better still, an ancient crashed spaceship. Imagine the drive to see that closer up - even if there was no prospect of reverse-engineering it. Hmm, maybe I'll write a story about it...

JCoyote
2011-Dec-29, 02:41 PM
Of course, what would really provide a boost would be the discovery of an ancient Martian city (not very likely) or, better still, an ancient crashed spaceship. Imagine the drive to see that closer up - even if there was no prospect of reverse-engineering it. Hmm, maybe I'll write a story about it...

Unfortunately, parties in that case would be motivated to cover it up... at least until they could explore it FIRST. No reason to get yourself into a race if no else knows they should race you. ;)

I could even easily justify it as a leader to protect the safety of the investigators, because a panicky race could lead to safety compromises for the sake of arriving first. If the USA, China, and Russia all knew... I have a feeling competitive urgency could get people killed.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Dec-29, 02:55 PM
Unfortunately, parties in that case would be motivated to cover it up... at least until they could explore it FIRST. No reason to get yourself into a race if no else knows they should race you. ;)

They might be motivated to cover it up, but I don't think they could succeed.


I could even easily justify it as a leader to protect the safety of the investigators, because a panicky race could lead to safety compromises for the sake of arriving first. If the USA, China, and Russia all knew... I have a feeling competitive urgency could get people killed.

Probably true. Getting to the moon and back was the previous race; this time, we'd just want a closer look, and a part of me would be okay with the idea of an expendable crew...

JCoyote
2011-Dec-29, 03:26 PM
Well first off, any remains of a city or ship that are identifiable as such... would mean that you would be unable to tell if you could reverse engineer anything or not until you got up close to it.

For example, let's say a current airliner flies through a time/space warp and crashes onto the moon in the 1950's. Even if it broke up pretty thoroughly and little data on the plane itself was available... it is likely that when astronauts arrived in the 60's even the pieces of smartphones, laptops, fragments of modern polymers, etc, would have offered vast opportunities for study and strategic advantage.

Now because you can never be too certain when you are keeping a secret like that, I'm sure you would move forward quickly. I would see the wisest course of action as getting a minimum of 3 people there, upwards of 5, as fast as possible, to be followed by a "heavy lift" mission for returning items as soon as can be put in behind them. If getting them there fast means they have to wait and ride back on the heavy lift (orbital mechanics and timetables permitting) then so be it...

astromark
2011-Dec-29, 07:58 PM
You can see by this thread... What we imagine can quickly lead to all sorts of 'What if's...'

Good healthy speculation is a good thing.. As it prepares us for the probable... or unlikely..

For that seems to be a truth that we may not like, but could be true...

We may not find life outside of Earth in this Solar system.. and if thats true..

It will or could be a long time coming or never...

How would we react if we were to find.. microbial or what..?

Not so much hysteria I suspect.. I sort of expect it.

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-29, 10:22 PM
Of course, what would really provide a boost would be the discovery of an ancient Martian city (not very likely) or, better still, an ancient crashed spaceship. Imagine the drive to see that closer up - even if there was no prospect of reverse-engineering it. Hmm, maybe I'll write a story about it...

In the last couple of chapters of The War of the Worlds -- I mean the original novel by H.G.Wells -- there are passages about Earthlings looking at abandoned Martian devices after the invaders themselves have died.

"... already in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article assured me what I did not believe at the time: that the 'Secret of Flying' was discovered." (chapter 9)

"... the generator of the Heat-Ray remains a puzzle.The terrible disasters at the Ealing and South Kensington laboratories have disinclined analysts for further investigations upon the latter." (chapter 10)

Paul Beardsley
2011-Dec-29, 10:32 PM
In the last couple of chapters of The War of the Worlds -- I mean the original novel by H.G.Wells -- there are passages about Earthlings looking at abandoned Martian devices after the invaders themselves have died.

"... already in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article assured me what I did not believe at the time: that the 'Secret of Flying' was discovered." (chapter 9)

"... the generator of the Heat-Ray remains a puzzle.The terrible disasters at the Ealing and South Kensington laboratories have disinclined analysts for further investigations upon the latter." (chapter 10)

Indeed. It doesn't give the impetus to travel to Mars, though.

Incidentally Clare and I have just finished watching the first part of the Pathfinders to Space series, which was first broadcast in 1960, three years before Doctor Who and I were born.

Githyanki
2011-Dec-30, 02:35 AM
In other news, life as been discovered on Mars; scientists believe it's alien-life and not from contamination(ratings drop). Now, TIME FOR JUSTIN BIEBER!!!(ratings-spike!).

Ara Pacis
2011-Dec-30, 08:07 AM
Generic claim "life exists in the universe that is not of Earth origin" is unfalsifiable in practice. It is (almost) unfalsiable in theory as well if the universe is found to be spatially infinite.True, even if we meet ETIs 20 lightyears away in a few centuries, we won't be sure that they didn't evolve at and leave Earth...

tnjrp
2011-Dec-30, 08:41 AM
What on Earth are you talking about :confused:

Meeting ETs is verification, not falsification.

Selfsim
2011-Dec-30, 09:14 AM
Actually, tnjrp;

I appreciated the way you qualified what you said with the use of the word 'almost' in the phrase:
... '(almost) unfalsiable in theory as well if the universe is found to be spatially infinite'.

It has me very intrigued .. there are soo many 'theories' (??) frequently called upon in support of the assertion .. I don't quite know which one to choose from. :) ... But this diverges from the OP topic somewhat .. perhaps best left for another time/thread ...

Cheers & Rgds

tnjrp
2011-Dec-30, 09:38 AM
It's a reference to a rather philosophical possibility of supertasks which would, if physically possible, allow an infinite number of actions performed in a finite amount of time.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-supertasks/

Selfsim
2011-Dec-30, 10:27 AM
It's a reference to a rather philosophical possibility of supertasks which would, if physically possible, allow an infinite number of actions performed in a finite amount of time.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-supertasks/
Hmm .. interesting .. thanks for that ... I was unaware of this.
Learn something new everyday ! :)

The mind boggles at the magnitude of the task at hand.
I can see this perspective's applicability, so I'll happily go with the 'almost', as well .. only from a theoretical perspective, though.
Mind you, I'm also of the view that the Science Process' greatest strength lies in empirical, verifiable testing, (ie: the practical part).
Which equally applies to falsification testing.
Until the results can be laid on the table, (or at least a method of achieving them), I might still have some problems, in principle.

Many thanks for the reference, tnjrp, ... and for your carefully considered words.
:)
(Apologies to all for the slight diversion).

Cheers & Rgds

Ara Pacis
2011-Dec-31, 12:45 AM
What on Earth are you talking about :confused:

Meeting ETs is verification, not falsification.Yeah, somehow got that mixed up. I blame late nights. :)

Colin Robinson
2011-Dec-31, 07:10 AM
Indeed. It doesn't give the impetus to travel to Mars, though.

Well... If we knew Mars to be inhabited right now, by intelligent beings with super-advanced weaponry, who regarded bipeds like us as a food source... would the planet be top of our list of must-visit places?


Incidentally Clare and I have just finished watching the first part of the Pathfinders to Space series, which was first broadcast in 1960, three years before Doctor Who and I were born.

I don't know much about Pathfinders in Space. Does it have intelligent aliens on Mars, Venus or both?

Paul Beardsley
2011-Dec-31, 09:33 AM
I don't know much about Pathfinders in Space. Does it have intelligent aliens on Mars, Venus or both?

I knew very little about it too until we got the DVDs.

The trilogy is a sequel to Target Luna, BTW, which is unavailable - I think it was broadcast live, but I'll check.

The first serial involved a landing on the Moon, and the discovery that they were not the first. It's a weird mix of good science in the teaching, bad science in the storytelling, and very unconvincing behaviour. For instance, Moon Rocket 2 - the supply rocket for MR1 - has a fault in its autopilot so they send it up piloted by a science journalist, who decides the best crew would be the hero's three children.

The second serial takes them to Mars, and the third to Venus. We haven't seen them yet, but I gather there are prehistoric monsters on Venus - so unconvincingly portrayed that even a 10 year old boy in 1960 dismissed them with, "Oh, they're just models."

Barabino
2011-Dec-31, 12:16 PM
There is however a small chance that several abiogenesis events have happened on Earth, and we might find the relics of a previous (extinct) biosphere that has died out on Earth but survives on Mars. So even a lack of molecular relatedness might not rule out an Earthly origin for Martian microbes.

but... did anybody claim that for ediacaran fauna?

do you know any other examples of possible unrelated abiogenesis on earth?

eburacum45
2011-Dec-31, 05:51 PM
No-one has claimed that the Ediacaran fauna had a separate abiogenesis. However it can't be completely ruled out. There may have been several abiogenesis events before the one that produced our own biota; they all died out, unless cross-breeding of some kind were possible (which seems unlikely).
See this wiki page about the concept of a Shadow Biosphere
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_biosphere

note that there is no evidence for any of this yet; I suspect we will need to travel to several life-bearing worlds and compare them before we can fully understand the phenomenon of abiogenesis. Up there, somewhere, are probably worlds in every stage of the process, and we could conceivably develop a whole new science just studying the various forms it may take.

Clive Tester
2012-Jan-01, 01:18 AM
Thanks for your reminiscences, Clive and Colin. Nice to know we had similar experiences,

The late 60s to mid 70s was a unique slot in history: I always feel very fortunate to be of an age to have witnessed the first moon landings and the first pictures from mars.

We anticipated the Viking data all through the summer of 76. I remember that summer well, as I spent the school holidays swimming in the lakes and the creeks of the Thames Estuary during that eternally hot summer.

Colin Robinson
2012-Jan-02, 01:29 AM
Not everyone will be happy if life is found...

A Oxford-based futurologist, Nick Bostrom, says he would consider the news very bad indeed. In his opinion, the great news is when a mission to look for life on another planet reports back that no, there is none.

He's not necessarily scared of alien life-forms themselves. Nor is he worried about public panic -- he doesn't expect the general public to feel as he does. Nor about traditional belief systems being undermined.

It's just that... Well, best let him explain for himself...

http://www.nickbostrom.com/extraterrestrial.pdf

Noclevername
2012-Jan-02, 04:24 AM
Well, best let him explain for himself...

http://www.nickbostrom.com/extraterrestrial.pdf

Can't connect to the link. Can you summarize?

ETA: Also, how big is the .pdf file?

Selfsim
2012-Jan-02, 05:19 AM
Can't connect to the link. Can you summarize?

ETA: Also, how big is the .pdf file?
Hi Noclevername

209 KB.

This guy seems to be presenting his estimations of likely outcomes, associated with the Fermi paradox:

i) the non-observation of exo-life means that the truly improbable, major obstacles we’re already aware of from biological evolution, (such as abiogenesis, self replicating molecules, DNA structure, cell machinery etc), are all behind us .. so the future looks promising, as we havealready overcome what he sees as the most improbable of all major obstacles or;

ii) the discovery of exo-life implies that the truly improbable, major obstacles lie in our future, because if the emergence of life is common enough, (so as to be found on Mars), then abiogenesis etc, is not all that improbable in the overall scheme of things after all. We must therefore be destined to encounter other bigger improbabilities. A corollary to this is that these bigger improbabilities also imply the destruction of intelligent civilisations .. otherwise, we would already be in touch with other intelligent life-forms. The fact we’re not, means that they were likely annihilated by these bigger obstacles or, we’ll never bridge the distances over which to communicate with them and they’ll eventually drift beyond causal contact range (which he thinks is improbable because ‘it’s reasonable to think at least one species would have already expanded throughout the galaxy, or beyond. Yet we have met no one’).

I hope that's a reasonable summary (?)

I might say also that I think he takes quite a few 'quantum leaps' in logic, also.

Regards

Colin Robinson
2012-Jan-02, 10:14 AM
Hi Noclevername

209 KB.

This guy seems to be presenting his estimations of likely outcomes, associated with the Fermi paradox:

i) the non-observation of exo-life means that the truly improbable, major obstacles we’re already aware of from biological evolution, (such as abiogenesis, self replicating molecules, DNA structure, cell machinery etc), are all behind us .. so the future looks promising, as we havealready overcome what he sees as the most improbable of all major obstacles or;

ii) the discovery of exo-life implies that the truly improbable, major obstacles lie in our future, because if the emergence of life is common enough, (so as to be found on Mars), then abiogenesis etc, is not all that improbable in the overall scheme of things after all. We must therefore be destined to encounter other bigger improbabilities. A corollary to this is that these bigger improbabilities also imply the destruction of intelligent civilisations .. otherwise, we would already be in touch with other intelligent life-forms. The fact we’re not, means that they were likely annihilated by these bigger obstacles or, we’ll never bridge the distances over which to communicate with them and they’ll eventually drift beyond causal contact range (which he thinks is improbable because ‘it’s reasonable to think at least one species would have already expanded throughout the galaxy, or beyond. Yet we have met no one’).

I hope that's a reasonable summary (?)

I might say also that I think he takes quite a few 'quantum leaps' in logic, also.

Regards

You've made a creditable attempt to summarize an argument which I hesitated to summarize... Perhaps another way to say it is this...

The idea of a hostile universe is not pleasant for most people. It is more pleasant, for most, to think that there are lots of habitable worlds, and life appears naturally on them, and intelligence develops at least in one or two species, and we will be able to go and have a look before too long, because intelligent beings don't tend to get extinct, and interstellar travel is feasible too.

Only one problem... If all of the above was true, why don't we see lots of ET space-craft, coming to have a look at us?

So, if not all of the above can be true, which of the following would we prefer not to be true?

1. Lots of habitable worlds in the galaxy (which probably is true, whether we like it or not)
2. Life appearing naturally on lots of them?
3. Intelligence developing quite often?
4. Intelligence probably surviving rather than going extinct?
5. Interstellar travel being feasible?

Nick Bostrom's preference is for the not-true ones to be points 2 and/or 3, rather than points 4 and/or 5.

Preference in the sense of what he hopes, not necessarily what he expects...

eburacum45
2012-Jan-02, 10:58 AM
Bostrom is referring to the concept of the Great Filter, described by Robin Hanson in his 1996 essay.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter
Either we are past the most important filter that prevents intelligent life being everywhere in the universe, or we have yet to pass through it.

Most of the discussions on this section of the Forum either directly or indirectly address this issue. I would like to add my own, optimistic version; the great filter is in our future, but it is a positive phenomenon rather than a negative one- sufficiently advanced civilisations find a way to exist which satisfies them, but does not involve colonising every star in the galaxy and the universe. What form that existence may take is another matter, and I don't think we have enough information yet to find out what it is.

Noclevername
2012-Jan-02, 11:00 AM
In my opinion #3 is the least likely of the scenarios-- non-sapient life has done quite well for billions of years on Earth before we came along. #4 is a toss-up, as it requires predicting what alien societies would do when we can't even predict what we will do in the near future. I think interstellar travel over short distances is feasible. Galaxy-wide or intergalactic travel is unlikely to be practical-- yet so often the assumtion jumps right from "ET can travel to another star" to "ET can go anywhere", with no middle ground. It may simply be that exploration is a young species' game, and mature civilizations have found more interesting things to do. Or it might just be that the universe is so darn big that they haven't reached us yet-- or reached us a mere million years ago and found nothing here but animals, and moved on.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jan-02, 11:12 AM
I think the concerns discussed in the last few posts are based on a fallacy. Nobody is really interested in species survival. We care about ourselves, our families, maybe a sports team, and our country. After that, it all becomes rather abstract.

Here's a thought. If there was a button that operated a machine to make everybody's lives slightly better, would you press the button?

If you answered Yes, here's another question: How much does it dismay you that the button doesn't really exist?

Imagine you live in the year 3000. There's a meteorite heading towards Earth and it's going to wipe out all life. How much consolation would you take from the thought that there are half a dozen thriving human colonies on as many exoplanets?

Selfsim
2012-Jan-02, 11:18 AM
Hi Colin;
Yes .. nice summary bringing together of a lot of points made by Bostrom.
(Mine was a quick attempt after a quick read).

Its certainly an interesting, well written commentary ... thanks for posting it !

Regards
PS: Its also interesting to note that it all seems to invariably boil down to personal opinions (somewhat unfortunately, I might add .. ie: the scarcity of the data is inversely proportional to the speculation). Cheers :)

Noclevername
2012-Jan-02, 11:34 AM
Nobody is really interested in species survival.

So you've read the minds of everyone on Earth and can speak for all of them, then?


Imagine you live in the year 3000. There's a meteorite heading towards Earth and it's going to wipe out all life. How much consolation would you take from the thought that there are half a dozen thriving human colonies on as many exoplanets?

If you're one of the colonists, it might matter. If you brought yourself, your family and your sports team to a distant colony specifically to get away from potential exctinction-level planetary disasters, purely for selfish non-altruistic personal-survival reasons, you might even feel a little smug about it.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jan-02, 11:59 AM
So you've read the minds of everyone on Earth and can speak for all of them, then?

I am speaking collectively - just as collectively humans are not interested in space travel. Do you have any evidence that people are concerned about species survival? (This is not an assertion disguised as a question, I really am interested in examples I haven't thought of.)

Without that evidence, we can hardly assert that alien races will "naturally" do whatever they can to ensure their species' survival. At the moment, I honestly think this is the reason why we don't meet aliens - they are simply not motivated to explore the universe.


If you're one of the colonists, it might matter. If you brought yourself, your family and your sports team to a distant colony specifically to get away from potential exctinction-level planetary disasters, purely for selfish non-altruistic personal-survival reasons, you might even feel a little smug about it.

(My bold.) This is rather my point.

Noclevername
2012-Jan-02, 12:16 PM
I am speaking collectively - just as collectively humans are not interested in space travel. Do you have any evidence that people are concerned about species survival? (This is not an assertion disguised as a question, I really am interested in examples I haven't thought of.)

Without that evidence, we can hardly assert that alien races will "naturally" do whatever they can to ensure their species' survival. At the moment, I honestly think this is the reason why we don't meet aliens - they are simply not motivated to explore the universe.


Humans are not a collective. They consist of varied groups and individuals; some of whom wish to explore, others wish to ensure species survival, and still others want both. You seem to be conflating exploration (which is driven mainly by curiousity) with one specific motive for colonization, which is not the same activity and which has multiple possible motives.

neilzero
2012-Jan-02, 01:33 PM
I can assume a million more advanced civilizations in our galaxy. 10,000 of them have traveled more than one light year from their planet at least once. 100 of these have reached the planet of another star, all but one of these less than one light year away = multiple star systems. We only have about ten solar systems within ten light years, so it is not surprising that we have rarely, (or never) been visited.
A few people would make major life style changes if there was a slight possibility that advanced beings from Mars will be visiting Earth soon. Most of us would continue our life style relatively unchanged, or changed for other reasons. We might use the possible visit as an excuse to make the life style changes, even if our guess was the visit was extremly improbable. Many people would reguard the news as science fiction = perhaps not a majority. Neil

Noclevername
2012-Jan-02, 01:41 PM
I can assume a million more advanced civilizations in our galaxy. 10,000 of them have traveled more than one light year from their planet at least once. 100 of these have reached the planet of another star, all but one of these less than one light year away = multiple star systems. We only have about ten solar systems within ten light years, so it is not surprising that we have rarely, (or never) visited. Neil

You can assume anything your imagination can come up with, one or one billion civilizations, no interstellar travel at all or easy travel between galaxies.

But this is all a threadjack anyway-- we're supposed to be talking about how our society would be affected by the discovery of life on Mars.

swampyankee
2012-Jan-02, 02:52 PM
Unless the life discovered on Mars is large and potentially technological, not at all.

Noclevername
2012-Jan-02, 07:10 PM
I don't quite agree; the effect would be small outside scientific communities, but there would be an effect-- if only a brief media splash (and certain people saying "See, I told you so!") followed by more subtle changes in our speculation about our place in the universe.

eburacum45
2012-Jan-02, 09:03 PM
But this is all a threadjack anyway-- we're supposed to be talking about how our society would be affected by the discovery of life on Mars.
Bostrom's ideas are directly connected to the reaction to any discovery of life on Mars. He says that discovering life there would indicate that life is widespread in the universe, and that some other factor has prevented intelligent life from developing to the point where it has filled every niche in the galaxy (including all the planets in our system, as well as our own.)

There are many factors that can affect the Great Filter Hypothesis, and they are worth talking about, in my opinion. The discovery of life on Mars, in particular life which has emerged from an independent abiogenesis event, would make those factors even more worth talking about. Two separate abiogenesis events in a single system would raise the probability of a life-filled galaxy to a near-certainty.

swampyankee
2012-Jan-02, 09:31 PM
I don't quite agree; the effect would be small outside scientific communities, but there would be an effect-- if only a brief media splash (and certain people saying "See, I told you so!") followed by more subtle changes in our speculation about our place in the universe.

It's nice to see some people aren't quite as cynical as am I.

Selfsim
2012-Jan-02, 11:14 PM
Two separate abiogenesis events in a single system would raise the probability of a life-filled galaxy to a near-certainty.
I think a single separate abiogenesis event anywhere, would then give a legitimate mathematical basis for discussing probabilities of separate lifeforms from ourselves. Extrapolation of that data would then be open for debate, I think ... as it then calls into question the nature of the parent population distribution, and the causes of abiogenesis.

Regards

Noclevername
2012-Jan-03, 12:39 AM
Depending on when you think life may have separated, it may be difficult to prove two abiogenesis acts-- if it happened recently enough and we share a measureable percentage of DNA markers, all well and good, we're cousins and that's that. But if the split happened early, when we were still at the stage of self-replicating molecules, or if we both have DNA but the Martians' is entirely different, we could still posit that that's just how life forms and DNA is just a useful molecule generally, so they might have developed it independently-- biochemical necessity driving parallel evolution. Which, like the evolution of eyes on Earth, would spark off a long and never-ending debate. Martian DNA, if it's unlike ours, could also be a big blow to the Shadow Ecosystem idea-- which would also trigger loud debates.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jan-03, 08:56 PM
Humans are not a collective. They consist of varied groups and individuals; some of whom wish to explore, others wish to ensure species survival, and still others want both. You seem to be conflating exploration (which is driven mainly by curiousity) with one specific motive for colonization, which is not the same activity and which has multiple possible motives.

I think I'm conflating all forms of going further than low Earth orbit. It took the collective will of the most powerful nation to get as far as the Moon, and then the will ran out.

Noclevername
2012-Jan-03, 09:04 PM
I think I'm conflating all forms of going further than low Earth orbit. It took the collective will of the most powerful nation to get as far as the Moon, and then the will ran out.

Extrapolating from an example of one, and anthropomorphizing aliens. Also, we still have the capacity to go BEO, and our species hasn't ended yet, so to close the curtain on either exploration (which is currently ongoing) or colonization is vastly premature.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jan-03, 10:12 PM
Extrapolating from an example of one, and anthropomorphizing aliens.

I am doing neither of those things. In fact I am doing the opposite. I am emphasising that when people come up with arguments along the lines of, "If there are alien civilisations out there, they will have colonised the galaxy by now," they are extrapolating from a sample size of zero.


Also, we still have the capacity to go BEO,

And yet we haven't for very close to 40 years, which is an astonishingly long time, with no sign of it happening any time soon.


and our species hasn't ended yet, so to close the curtain on either exploration (which is currently ongoing) or colonization is vastly premature.

I hope you're right. I really do. But I think you could end up waiting forever for our species to suddenly decide to go back to the Moon, let alone on to Mars.

Selfsim
2012-Jan-03, 10:38 PM
Interesting.

Richard Dawkin's conclusion is that the sole purpose of DNA (& presumably the entire associated self-replication mechanism), is one of pure survival. Its a pretty tough argument to counter when molecular machinery's sole role seems to be to replicate.

Perhaps we should not overlook that the moon trips had a large chunk of cultural/political survival motivating them. Once survival was assured, the motivation diminished and took on other directions.

I really think our search for life-as-we-recognise it, being centered around identifying unrecognisable C12/C13 isotope ratios in longer chain organic molecules, chirality, evidence of photosynthetic process gases, etc, skews the entire debate automatically in the direction of survival and thereby 'extrapolation from an example of one'. This theme persists, (perhaps undistinguished), as speculation inflates.

I sometimes ponder why humans seem to reject the concept of simply 'unknown' ..?.. Extrapolating from 'unknown', has been demonstrated time and time again, to lead to tangible progress. Society's reaction to a potential discovery of 'life-as-we-recognise-it' on Mars to me, still leads to having to cope with all the states of 'unknown' remaining from its discovery.

The question, (from my perspective), remains … why does Society in general, seem to automatically deal with 'unknown' throug the process of speculation as a default mechanism, when there are other tangible, progressive possibilities ?

Regards

Noclevername
2012-Jan-04, 12:14 AM
And yet we haven't for very close to 40 years, which is an astonishingly long time, with no sign of it happening any time soon.

...I hope you're right. I really do. But I think you could end up waiting forever for our species to suddenly decide to go back to the Moon, let alone on to Mars.

It's an astonishingly short time compared to how long our species might still survive. And the Chinese have already decided to go to the Moon, and are apparently implementing plans to do so.

ravens_cry
2012-Jan-05, 01:30 PM
Imagine you live in the year 3000. There's a meteorite heading towards Earth and it's going to wipe out all life. How much consolation would you take from the thought that there are half a dozen thriving human colonies on as many exoplanets?
Quite a bit. I would likely die, but hey, I am going to die eventually anyway, sooner or later.
But I love humans, all humans. I love our perversity and our unique brand of cunning.
I don't always love what we do, but I love us all the same.
I want us to continue.
I will not say "whatever the cost", but pretty close.
I am not going to see the end of the Story, but I want there to be a Story.
It started huddled around a fire in the night, then grew to the nearest creek, then to the shore of the ocean, then across that greater water, across distant mountains, until it covered the entire planet.
I hope it grows to the planets and even the stars.
The Story of the Human.

Zo0tie
2012-Jan-05, 03:48 PM
If we discovered that life exists on Mars (or anywhere outside Earth - I think Mars is our best bet), even just microbiol forms life, how would this discovery effect our society? Would it have a major influence on global politics and economics? In which way?

How do you think the discovery of life on Mars would effect our society? How would it effect the space exploration industry?

Besides the brief flash of public awareness and denial by the fundies as a trick of Satan, I could imagine a company starting a brisk mail order business in tektites or meteorites, advertising them as Martian Eggs. Scientific accuracy notwithstanding, any society that would buy pet rocks would go for this scam.

JESMKS
2012-Jan-07, 08:07 PM
I think we have already found evidence of possible past life on Mars. Spirit accidently discovered a deposit of almost pure opaline silica (Gertrude Weise). This deposit has the appearance and properties of diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossil shells of one celled plants that live in water and have been common on Earth since the Jurassic period. Possibly the early seas and lakes on Mars abounded with diatoms and produced some of the oxygen that turned the planet red. Diatoms may have come to Earth as alien invaders from Mars. I doubt that the confirmation of such a finding would do more than produce some headline and news articles.

Selfsim
2012-Jan-08, 12:48 AM
I think we have already found evidence of possible past life on Mars. Spirit accidently discovered a deposit of almost pure opaline silica (Gertrude Weise). This deposit has the appearance and properties of diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossil shells of one celled plants that live in water and have been common on Earth since the Jurassic period. Possibly the early seas and lakes on Mars abounded with diatoms and produced some of the oxygen that turned the planet red. Diatoms may have come to Earth as alien invaders from Mars. I doubt that the confirmation of such a finding would do more than produce some headline and news articles.
Hi JESMKS !

Would you have any reference material you could share on this ?

My understanding was that this discovery was possible evidence of a possible previous habitability zone (ie: hydrothermal conditions - fumarole and/or geyser). There are a couple of working hypotheses for the origin: (i) acid sulphate leaching of precursor rocks or (ii) by precipitation from silica rich solutions or by some combination of both. There is some evidence that might be consistent with Earth-analogous fumarolic acid sulphate leaching, and/or sintering produced by silica precipitation.

I would appreciate any pointers, or material(s), you may have access to on this.

Regards.

JESMKS
2012-Jan-08, 09:47 PM
Since Spirit and Opportunity started their travels on Mars, I've been watching for two things. One was diatomaceous earth and the other was lichens. When Spirit accidently uncovered an almost pure deposit of opaline silica, I was elated as it looked almost like a surficial deposit of diatomaceous earth. I was dejected when NASA decided that it was probably a sinter deposit without justifying the elimination of an organic origin ( I like Multiple Working Hypothesis in the approach to solving geologis problems where you use facts to narrow the field of possibilities).

I've spent nearly forty years before I retired as a government geologist. Though my specialty was not mineralogy, I have observed a number of diatomaceous earth deposits. The most memorable was the diatomite mine at Redmond Oregon. It is an unconsolidated suricial deposit of diatomite that looked almost exactly like the material at "Gertrude Weise" on Mars . The following USGS paper has a good description of diatomite

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/diatomite/250400.pdf

NASA also uses diatomaceous earth in their sandbox to simulate Martian soill for their testing rover driving conditions. I would like to see a comparison of test results, using monitoring equipment like that on Spirit, on an opaline sinter deposit and a surficial diatomite deposit. I'll put my money on the diatomite as being the most representative of the Spirit findings.

Back to the thread,I believe the finding of fossils of one celled plants on Mars would create little responce from most of America's adult population and only celebration within a small part of the nation's scientific community. Most adults don't even know the names of our two rovers on Mars

Selfsim
2012-Jan-09, 04:06 AM
JESMKS:

Thanks for that … very interesting read. Much appreciated.
With a little luck, MSL/Curiosity might re-open the organic origin questions you raise, (fingers crossed). Perhaps if there is a possibility of organic origins in specimens retrieved in the Gale crater region, its instrumentation should deliver some hard chemical, spectroscopic and isotopic data (ie: beyond macroscopic images).

How will we react when/if this happens ?
At least we'll have a shot at finding out within a couple of years!
:)
Cheers

JCoyote
2012-Feb-12, 06:11 PM
Diatome-type lifeforms do make sense in the context of an environment that likely had a long slow slide into harshness. But I don't think they will grab the public's imagination for very long. A couple months maybe. Cultural change? Oddly I think the fundamental cultural changes involved in accepting alien life are already out there. This is what ups the threshold into something moving and communicating. Discovering alien life won't be a big deal - challenging our preconceived notions about it will be the big change, and that won't happen unless it's sentient on some level that we engage with. Otherwise it's just a neat factoid on youtube.

About the Great Filter: let's be honest, most methods of interstellar travel require speculative physics or impractical resource investment levels... planetary levels. Even the most probable methods for interstellar travel require engineering beyond our current understanding of materials science... and that's pretty hard to get around. Since we are solidly in the field of speculation with that, then "sideways" seems just as good an explanation as any. Parallel/divergent universe schemes are causally disconnected, but then again so is traveling anywhere faster than light and people have vaguely plausible-ish ideas for that. If a species learns how to go sideways, even if the resource consumption is similar, it maybe ultimately be more productive because an alternate uninhabited version of your own planet is a lot more useful than most interstellar planets are going to be. So maybe interstellar isn't bothered with if interuniversal turns out to be of similar difficulty. Just as good a ridiculous explanation as any in a field with few solid facts.