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bunny
2004-Oct-01, 02:02 PM
When I was in primary school, one of the topic covered was about the planets. For a particular class question we were asked to draw a creature that might live on mercury. We all drew different creatures, but when the work was marked anyone who answered the question got it marked wrong. When I challenged the teacher he said that there is no life on mercury and hence the bad mark.

Even at the age of ~8, I figured that something could live at the boundary between the hot and cold sides, or deep under the ground. I have never believed life can only be carbon based and breathe oxygen. Was my teacher narrow minded? and do I have a point?

GOURDHEAD
2004-Oct-03, 02:39 AM
Was my teacher narrow minded? and do I have a point?

We would need to know more about the constraints on the question in terms of context of what the teacher was trying to demonstrate. You have a point but it may not have lain within the context of the subject of the lesson.

Subsurface life on Mercury is possible but unlikely. If there my vote is for it being carbon based even if it includes more silicon than average.

ASEI
2004-Oct-03, 03:48 AM
Nah, not narrow-minded. Just cruel to mark 8 year olds down for being imaginative. They can learn about practical astronomy, ect, in high school.

Callisto
2004-Oct-04, 01:31 AM
You never know there might be life and the teacher can't say that there isn't life on Mercury, because that hasn't been proven yet has it? There might be life on Mercury, I mean here on Earth we have these bacterias that live in extreme temperatures so why couldn't there be any life on Mercury?

Duane
2004-Oct-04, 06:58 PM
Callisto has a point. There was a time when teachers taught that the deep sea floor was lifeless, and that the Earth was constant and unmoving. The someone saw some black smokers and the lifezone around them.

If I was a parent of one of those 8 yo's, I would have marched down and opened a polite debate with the teacher. (with the principal looking on)

wstevenbrown
2004-Oct-04, 07:24 PM
Bunny: I was taught that Mercury is tide-locked toward the sun, as the moon is to earth. We now know that Mercury rotates, but in resonance with its orbital period. Take comfort, though: if all you take away from school is data, you will be crippled for life. If instead you learn how to find out, how to evaluate the reliability of data, and how to enjoy this process, you'll stay both busy and happy. You're present and participating, so it's pretty clear which side you came down on. ;) Steve

lswinford
2004-Oct-04, 08:31 PM
Naughty, nasty teacher.

Sure there is life on Mercury, there are cities on the backside where people from Pluto escape their cold winters for the balmy temperate zones on Mercury's backside (which lends itself to a deriding comment from the Plutonians who stay home and watch the others leave to play all winter on Mercury's backside). :D

While I currently do other work now, for several years I edited test questions. It always amazed me at how many questions were not so interested in the facts and concepts as to play funny games of logic with the test takers. <_<

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-09, 11:12 AM
Originally posted by ASEI@Oct 3 2004, 03:48 AM
Nah, not narrow-minded. Just cruel to mark 8 year olds down for being imaginative. They can learn about practical astronomy, etc, in high school.
I agree&#33;

However, back to the original question, I also agree with "bunny" on what he says about never believing that life can only be carbon based and breathe oxygen. For all we know, there could be life on mercury - this life form may have adapted to the vast temparatures and the incredibly low ones. We don&#39;t know and probably never will&#33;

eburacum45
2004-Oct-09, 01:44 PM
Do you think we will never get to Mercury?
I am hopeful that we will;

there may be life there or some sort of self-organising complexity, but I am somewhat pessimistic.

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-09, 02:16 PM
If we ever will get to mercury, it&#39;ll be years and years away&#33; It&#39;s like asking "when will be able to survive on mars". Only time can tell.

lswinford
2004-Oct-11, 09:11 PM
Sure we will get to Mercury&#33;

(straightening out my prognosticator&#39;s hat) People will get to Mercury long before humans arrive to Neptune or Pluto because it is easier (the outer planets are soooo far away that Mercury will look like taking a short walk down the street). A distant planets probe will need to generate its own electricity from comparatively long-lived nuclear energy and half of what doesn&#39;t go to propulsion will need to keep temperatures up for the payload (both people and equipment) in that deep cold. A probe to Mercury would have little need for that because of the overly abundant available solar power. Mostly a probe to Mercury needs shade to keep from easily getting too hot. And Mercury trips would be so much quicker to get there.

eburacum45
2004-Oct-12, 11:45 AM
Yes; it is closer to Earth; but because it is closer to the Sun than we are, it will take a lot of delta vee to get to Mercury.
I nevertheless think it will be well worth the effort; Mercury could provide the material for billions of square kilometers of orbiting photovoltaic solar power collectors.. that little planet could power the solar system and eventually the exploration of the Universe.

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-12, 06:45 PM
It would certainly be nice if we could get to Mercury. Everyone spends so much time pondering over whether we&#39;ll get to Mars or Europa.

Can anyone estimate how long it will be before we will even attempt to get there?

Rigel

eburacum45
2004-Oct-15, 11:22 AM
About 2050 for a manned mission, probably; but there is an unmanned probe on its way now...
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-15, 05:14 PM
Thanks for the link, eburacum45. It&#39;s quite interesting&#33;

Rigel

haute
2004-Oct-15, 08:45 PM
Has anyone read Kurt Vonnegut&#39;s The Siren&#39;s of Titan? He came up with a interesting, if flippant, model for life in Murcurian caves. :huh:

lswinford
2004-Oct-15, 09:30 PM
I&#39;ll have to try that. One thing I remember reading as a kid in the 1960&#39;s was that amid all of the conjecture of space exploration and colonizing other worlds, one little quip that caught my attention was that "anyone interested in outer space had better not be claustrophobic." The transports, at least in the early years, are going to be like the early European ships to North America--incredibly cramped and, in retrospect, amazingly flimsy. But once we are there, whether the Moon, Mars, an asteroid or some moon on a gas giant, just as at out Antarctic South Pole station, almost all of it is really buried below the surface. The early settlers anywhere beyond our planet had better be comfortable living in capsules and caves&#33;

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-16, 09:12 AM
Originally posted by haute@Oct 15 2004, 08:45 PM
Has anyone read Kurt Vonnegut&#39;s The Siren&#39;s of Titan? He came up with a interesting, if flippant, model for life in Murcurian caves.
Sounds promising. I&#39;ll have to read it sometime. Just thinking of the small summary of the book haute gave us makes me change my personal opinion on life being able to survive on mercury.

Rigel

qraal
2004-Oct-17, 01:35 AM
Hi All

Mercury could have life under its polar ice-caps. The Mercurian equivalent of black-smokers could melt little oases for who-knows what. Stephen Baxter&#39;s "Cilia of Gold" is a good speculation on such life - derived from marooned ETIs but vastly evolved over gigayears.

Alternatively if Mercury had a sulphur-rich atmosphere it could have life based on fluorosilicones dissolved in it. These are essentially "organic" molecules which replace hydrogen with fluorine. They&#39;re relatively inactive at low temperatures but at higher temperatures the reaction rate speeds up. However the place is pretty close to airless so I doubt any life in the hot-zones - bar machine based life.

qraal

Chandra
2004-Oct-18, 09:23 AM
I think this was not the only teacher scuttling the imagination of the children. The teacher may have derived a pleasure on his (or her) smart question but an open discussion on the requirements of life even with the young students would have gone a long way preventing a mental block the students were dumped with. It is well nigh possible that high temperature, consequent lack of water, UV rays and so on wouldn&#39;t allow life there. But then don&#39;t we know that life can have many forms. Teachers have to, all the time, provide children with answers, some on daily life which children would better follow (they wouldn&#39;t get a second chance to find out if colliding with a rushing truck is fatal&#33;) but there are a lot of questions whose answers could be appended with some qualification especially in science. To believe that we have answers to all , most or even significant portion of questions would be preposterous. May be teachers should leave sufficient margin for further thoughts.

But you have come up, even if at this stage, to question that attitude. May be some of them will never.

It may not be a nad idea for those of ud whi can, to go to schools and talk to the young about science and help them to be inquisitive or rather continue to be inquisitive.

Chandra

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-18, 05:28 PM
I forgot to mention this before-

Even though what your teacher did was unfair, his point was clearly made.

Rigel

Jakenorrish
2004-Nov-03, 02:19 PM
I&#39;ve thought for a long time that as soon as the scientific community assume something without the evidence to back it up, they are on very dangerous ground indeed. Wouldn&#39;t it be a lovely irony if one of the children in that class were to discover life on Mercury&#33;&#33;&#33; Yes I know, very far fetched, but a few years ago if you were to be told that life could survive in some of Earth&#39;s most inhospitable places such as acidic pools in volcanic craters, you&#39;d have scoffed at the idea.

Until someone can prove that there is no life on Mercury, it is foolish in the extreme to assume it. There probably... ok, almost certainly isn&#39;t but when they find Elvis living in Gracelands 2 situated at one of the polar craters, I&#39;ll be having the last laugh&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;

Jake B)

ulgah
2004-Nov-05, 02:47 AM
Jakenorrish,
It&#39;s impossible to prove a negative, the proof lies with the one claiming a positive.

Matthew
2004-Nov-05, 09:00 AM
The sheer unlikely hood means that there is no real poin in looking. Perhaps when we can drive our massive ships and scan the planet in a few minuteds for any signs of life.... but until then we might just leave that until later.

Jakenorrish
2004-Nov-05, 01:13 PM
Quite true on the impossible proving a negative. As for the no point in looking thing, I don&#39;t agree. If we had relatively simple and innexpensive methods of looking, then we must utilise them. After all the mission on its way to Mercury could look to see whether there is any possibility of water at the poles. If there is, then it opens up a whole host of questions. How did it get there? what is in it?

Can you imagine being able to get a sample of Mercurian water/ice back to Earth in decades to come? It would tell us a huge amount about the evolution of the solar system, so I think that when the cost effective means to look for any possibility (one of which is life when water is present however unlikely that seems) are there, then we should embrace them. &#39;No point in looking&#39;? There&#39;s every point in looking.

dgold44
2004-Nov-17, 09:41 PM
life on mercury. you would have a better chance of surviving a hydrogen bomb that landed 2 feet in front of your face&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;

Mercury is a DEAD_WASTELAND. With temps ranging from 1000 degrees at day time to about 200-300 below zero at night. You thought phoenix was hot.. baby you aient seen nothing yet&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;

damienpaul
2004-Nov-17, 09:56 PM
as mentioned there are several areas of mercury that never have direct sunlight, such as in the craters.

I don&#39;t think it reaches 1000 degrees and the lowest anything could go is 273.15 degrees below, and I do not think it reaches quite that low.

I think until we explore every square inch in detail we cannot say yes or no.

qraal
2004-Nov-25, 11:49 AM
Originally posted by dgold44@Nov 17 2004, 09:41 PM
life on mercury. you would have a better chance of surviving a hydrogen bomb that landed 2 feet in front of your face&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;

Mercury is a DEAD_WASTELAND. With temps ranging from 1000 degrees at day time to about 200-300 below zero at night. You thought phoenix was hot.. baby you aient seen nothing yet&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;

At the equator at Mercury&#39;s closest to the Sun the highest temperature is 710 K - 438 C or 820 F - which is "colder" than Venus&#39; 735 K. At Mercury&#39;s apoapsis that drops to just 576 K - 303 C. Still hot. However since there&#39;s just a gnat&#39;s breath of air the heat at higher latitudes is much, much lower. Towards either Pole and Mercury is no worse than the Moon, and unlike the Moon, large areas of the Poles stay dark and cool all year round. We know from radar that there&#39;s something in the coldest craters - maybe ice, maybe sulphur - and there are hints of on-going vulcanism on Mercury. Hence my suggestion of melt-ponds beneath the glaciers, with life fuelled by "black smokers".

And who knows what caves/lava tunnels might radiate out from the Poles???

qraal

Jakenorrish
2004-Nov-25, 01:44 PM
&#39;&#39;life on mercury. you would have a better chance of surviving a hydrogen bomb that landed 2 feet in front of your face&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;

Mercury is a DEAD_WASTELAND. With temps ranging from 1000 degrees at day time to about 200-300 below zero at night. You thought phoenix was hot.. baby you aient seen nothing yet&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#39;&#39;

Dead wasteland? Well that&#39;s your opinion, but whenever people make assumptions about space and science without covering all the options, they are nearly always proven badly wrong. I think the chances of life existing there are almost ridiculous, however I wouldn&#39;t say for definite that there is no life there.

Dead Wasteland? I doubt it. There will be an enormous amount of information to be gained from Mercury which is why Nasa has just spent a few million dollars on sending a probe there.