View Full Version : Discussion: Could Martian Life Fool Us?

2003-Dec-12, 11:10 PM
SUMMARY: Follow the water. That's the mantra astrobiologists have been chanting about the search for life on Mars. But even if they do follow the water, will they recognize Martian life when they're looking right at it? Some believe that the current search for life is very Earth-centric - our knowledge of life's limits on our own planet sets our expectations for what we might find in the rest of the Solar System. But life on other planets could exist at such extreme conditions, that many areas on Mars could be worth searching.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/mars_life_fool_us)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2003-Dec-12, 11:54 PM
If you want an "Earth centric" view of the life on Mars problem, consider the question reversed: If we were on Mars how could we tell whether there was life on Earth?

We wouldn't even need to send a probe - we could tell from ground based observations. The Earth is way out of equilibrium. It's too cold for it's location. It's atmosphere is too thin and is missing almost all of the carbon dioxide it should have - not to mention the presence of Oxygen which shouldn't exist in the Earth's atmosphere at all. Those and a hundred other indicators that would be easily observed from hundreds of millions of kilometers away are all dead giveaways for the presence of life.

Mars on the other hand is pretty much in equilibrium. Based on the one sample we have of a planet that contains life (i.e. the Earth Centric view), we can tell from here that there's no life on Mars, and we should have been able to figure it out several decades ago.

Actually, a guy named Lovelock did figure it out decades ago. But we so much want the other answer (me included) that we'll keep looking anyway. So this article really hits the point when it says we may be looking in the wrong places. If life does exist on Mars, it's going to be very different than life on Earth (or else we would be able to tell from here), so we should not be looking for Earth-type life at all.

2003-Dec-13, 03:09 AM
We have NOT explored all of Mars for life, and we have not explored Mars to any great depth. If you look at the amount of dust that is moved by duststorms, any signs of previous life would be deep down under the dust.

2003-Dec-14, 05:03 AM
Most research is done within the context of aqueous environments, because that is what we have data on. There is research also being done in other sytems at places like NASA/Ames. We might not recognize "life" right away, but it is only in the news articles that the understanding is trivialized. My work has been in aqueous and mildly aqueous systems, but i am also looking into methane/carbon dioxide systems and even considering bezene as the medium in which reactions occur. There has to be some starting point, and that is that the physical-chemical laws are the same throughout the universe and that the organic strands that we have identified in space are subject to those laws. That was the case when my mentor, Joshua Lederberg, proposed looking into cosmology for the answers to the formation of life and it is true now. The free-thinking people are still cranking out their thoughts.