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Thread: Evidence of current life on Mars

  1. #151
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philippe
    To illustrate, try this. Find an acquaintance of yours that has at least college level education, but not in the science field. Make sure that that person is not interested in astronomy. Ask them if the Earth circles the Sun, or the Sun circles the Earth. I'm not kidding. I asked a few people with university degrees, and a few of them said "Sun around the Earth" after obviously having to guess.

    Ok, now we are all horrified, but ask yourself one last question. What does it change in their life?
    Reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes story where Watson is shocked to find that Holmes doesn't know that the Earth goes around the Sun. Comparing the brain to an attic that only holds a limited number of objects, Holmes explains that he makes a point of not remembering facts that have no bearing on his detective work.

  2. #152
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    Quote Originally Posted by W.F. Tomba
    If the "common masses" wouldn't care, then why does the press go bonkers every time the slightest possibility of life on Mars is raised?
    Because it's news and it makes a great headline.

    "Life On Mars!!"

    But then John Doe reads the article, gets to the part where it says that it's bacterias like the ones living on the fumeroles at the bottom of the ocean, or that the differences are infinitisemal (sic?) and then he goes to check the baseball score. He might mention it to a coworker if it's a slow news day.

  3. #153
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    Quote Originally Posted by W.F. Tomba
    Reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes story where Watson is shocked to find that Holmes doesn't know that the Earth goes around the Sun. Comparing the brain to an attic that only holds a limited number of objects, Holmes explains that he makes a point of not remembering facts that have no bearing on his detective work.
    Yes! Now that you mention it, I remember reading that. I have the Complete Holmes or some such compilation at home. I'll have to check in which story.

    Most likely, the person who proposed that exercice to me (asking around about heliocentricity) got the idea from that story.

  4. #154
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philippe
    Kaptain K, I agree with all your points. And I'm sure the scientific community plus assorted individuals (like the BABBers, myself included) would be quite excited by such news.

    But would the common masses really care beyond the original hooplah?

    So, it would be "a huge discovery" for a small percentage of the population, but nothing more then an interesting tidbits for the rest.

    To illustrate, try this. Find an acquaintance of yours that has at least college level education, but not in the science field. Make sure that that person is not interested in astronomy. Ask them if the Earth circles the Sun, or the Sun circles the Earth. I'm not kidding. I asked a few people with university degrees, and a few of them said "Sun around the Earth" after obviously having to guess.

    Ok, now we are all horrified, but ask yourself one last question. What does it change in their life?
    As a thought experiment, assume that CONCLUSIVE evidence for life on Mars is eventually found. Further assume it is microbial. There are two broad possibilities:

    (1) It appears related to earth life: DNA, similar mechanics, it may be possible to snip genes and swap them with earth life.

    (2) Very different from earth life, it may have some similarities (similar amino acids used, perhaps) but with biomechanics demonstrating a completely separate evolutionary path.

    In the case of (1), aside from demonstrating conclusively that life isn't unique to earth, it provides possible support for some form of pamspermia. There would be a whole new public evolution/creation debate, among other things.

    In the case of (2) there would be a new biology to explore, that could lead to another class of biotechnology. Being able to contrast two different biologies could lead to many discoveries that could directly affect people's lives.

    In either case, there would be widespread discussions of what it means - lots of religious debate, and far more widespread and even more ridiculous Hoagland-like speculation.

  5. #155
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    Re: Defining oneself as being against another

    Quote Originally Posted by spectator
    Basically, Phil hugs the trunk of the tree, while Hoagland is a bit farther out on the branch. Neither position is better; Hoagland can fall at any moment, and it seems people dismissively pass the decision that he's mad. But if it's fair to call Hoagland "mad," it's as fair to call Plait "timid."
    "They laughed at Einstein. They laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the clown."

  6. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn
    (2) Very different from earth life, it may have some similarities (similar amino acids used, perhaps) but with biomechanics demonstrating a completely separate evolutionary path.


    Can you just imagine the hard core creationist running wild with that one!

  7. #157
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001
    On another front, a New Scientist article says Vittorio Formisano might be on the verge of discussing formaldehyde on Mars:
    The talk at the Mars Express Conference apparently has been given. I don't see a report yet that Formisano discussed formaldehyde.

    New Scientist: Frozen sea on Mars linked to elevated methane

    Most intriguing is the claim that the atmosphere above the frozen ocean in the Elysium Planitia region may have elevated concentrations of methane.
    Immediately after his talk, Vittorio Formisano, chief scientist for Mars Express's Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) which measures the composition of gases in the planet's atmosphere, commented: "Elysium Planitia is indeed the region where we have seen the maximum of methane coming out of the surface."
    But McKay warns that scientists have yet to reach a consensus about the presence of a high level of methane on Mars. Estimates of the expected lifetime of the gas in the atmosphere are uncertain, and may be off by a factor of 10,000. It is also possible that what scientists think is methane may be something else entirely, he says.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  8. #158
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philippe
    Quote Originally Posted by W.F. Tomba
    If the "common masses" wouldn't care, then why does the press go bonkers every time the slightest possibility of life on Mars is raised?
    Because it's news and it makes a great headline.

    "Life On Mars!!"

    But then John Doe reads the article, gets to the part where it says that it's bacterias like the ones living on the fumeroles at the bottom of the ocean, or that the differences are infinitisemal (sic?) and then he goes to check the baseball score. He might mention it to a coworker if it's a slow news day.
    I can't check the baseball scores, the season hasn't started yet.

  9. #159
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doe, John
    Quote Originally Posted by Philippe
    Quote Originally Posted by W.F. Tomba
    If the "common masses" wouldn't care, then why does the press go bonkers every time the slightest possibility of life on Mars is raised?
    Because it's news and it makes a great headline.

    "Life On Mars!!"

    But then John Doe reads the article, gets to the part where it says that it's bacterias like the ones living on the fumeroles at the bottom of the ocean, or that the differences are infinitisemal (sic?) and then he goes to check the baseball score. He might mention it to a coworker if it's a slow news day.
    I can't check the baseball scores, the season hasn't started yet.
    #-o

  10. #160
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    There is still some fallout from this story. Ever heard of NASAWatch? It's basically a forum where a former NASA employee can gripe about NASA, though there can be very insightful stuff posted there. It's also a good place for NASA rumors and such.

    Anyway, he's piped up about the space.com story. It's not hard to see which way he falls in this debate. 8)

  11. #161
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001
    The talk at the Mars Express Conference apparently has been given. I don't see a report yet that Formisano discussed formaldehyde.
    Formisano apparently did make a pitch for the detection of formaldehyde.

    Nature.com: Formaldehyde claim inflames martian debate

    Formaldehyde has been found in the martian atmosphere, according to a senior scientist working with the Mars Express orbiter. If correct, the discovery provides strong evidence that Mars is either extremely geologically active, or harbouring colonies of microbial life. But many experts are not yet convinced.
    "We all want to believe in something," says Yuk Yung, a planetary geologist from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "Even as scientists we're not completely objective, especially about something we've worked on for ten years. There's enormous pressure to deliver, and under this pressure you can easily believe things that are unbelievable."

    Many scientists are sceptical about the quality of Formisano's data. "The measurements are right on the borderline of the [instrument's ability]," says Mancinelli.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  12. #162
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn

    (1) It appears related to earth life: DNA, similar mechanics, it may be possible to snip genes and swap them with earth life.
    When "official" sources finally declare there is life on Mars, and I fully expect they will eventually do that, I predict it will be DNA-based life.

    Unfortunately we do not currently have a effective manned space program to resolve this issue, so I'm going to have to wait a while....

  13. #163
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    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    Unfortunately we do not currently have a effective manned space program to resolve this issue...
    An unmanned probe or a sample return mission could "resolve this issue". A crewed flight would be nice, but isn't particularly necessary to answer this question.
    The facts, gentlemen, and nothing but the facts, for careful eyes are narrowly watching. Isaac Asimov

  14. #164
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    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn

    (1) It appears related to earth life: DNA, similar mechanics, it may be possible to snip genes and swap them with earth life.
    When "official" sources finally declare there is life on Mars, and I fully expect they will eventually do that, I predict it will be DNA-based life.

    Unfortunately we do not currently have a effective manned space program to resolve this issue, so I'm going to have to wait a while....
    Mars Science Laboratory will have instruments designed to detect signs of life.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  15. #165
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    Phoenix and ExoMars will also be able to test for biological processes in various ways. However, I agree with our froggy friend. The best chance would be a crewed mission, especially if the life is lurking in the subsurface.

    Jon

  16. #166
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    Unfortunately we do not currently have a effective manned space program to resolve this issue...
    An unmanned probe or a sample return mission could "resolve this issue". A crewed flight would be nice, but isn't particularly necessary to answer this question.
    Maybe....

    It could also easily miss something that would be obvious to a human.

  17. #167
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn

    (1) It appears related to earth life: DNA, similar mechanics, it may be possible to snip genes and swap them with earth life.
    When "official" sources finally declare there is life on Mars, and I fully expect they will eventually do that, I predict it will be DNA-based life.

    Unfortunately we do not currently have a effective manned space program to resolve this issue, so I'm going to have to wait a while....
    Mars Science Laboratory will have instruments designed to detect signs of life.
    Yeah....

    Maybe....

    If it survives this:

    Mars Science Laboratory is intended to be the first planetary mission to use precision landing techniques, steering itself toward the martian surface similar to the way the space shuttle controls its entry through the Earth’s upper atmosphere. In this way, the spacecraft would fly to a desired location above the surface of Mars before deploying its parachute for the final landing. As currently envisioned, in the final minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft would activate its parachute and retro rockets before lowering the rover package to the surface on a tether (similar to the way a skycrane helicopter moves a large object).

  18. #168
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    Airbags were cutting-edge, untried technology once, too, and now they're 3-for-3.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  19. #169
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    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    It could also easily miss something that would be obvious to a human.
    ...if it survives.
    It seems that you're made a conscious decision to be pessimistic...

    ...which is fine by me.

  20. #170
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    Airbags were cutting-edge, untried technology once, too, and now they're 3-for-3.
    This new one sounds like it's probably too heavy for an airbag. Besides, you can't extrapolate from 3 airbag successes to any other Rube Goldberg idea they dream up.

    Instead, think about this: What is the % of spacecraft that never complete their intended Mars mission?

  21. #171
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    It could also easily miss something that would be obvious to a human.
    ...if it survives.
    It seems that you're made a conscious decision to be pessimistic...

    ...which is fine by me.
    I am what I am. I've always been a skeptic. Way too much hogwash out there in way too many areas.

    The thing that annoys me is when I have to debunk the debunkers.

  22. #172
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    Quote Originally Posted by junkyardfrog
    The thing that annoys me is when I have to debunk the debunkers.
    This means what, exactly?

  23. #173
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    From another article by his_emminence, Carol Stoker's denial, in General Astronomy:

    Scientist at center of Mars flap speaks out

    Stoker says she is still shocked that comments made at a private party could become fodder for a news story to begin with.
    Berger, meanwhile, maintains that the story as originally reported was legitimate.
    Reporter Berger is looking more and more like he messed up by not being more skeptical of what people thought they heard -- especially on a story that seemed so big.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  24. #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001
    Reporter Berger is looking more and more like he messed up by not being more skeptical of what people thought they heard -- especially on a story that seemed so big.
    I agree...how sad is it that he "jumped the gun" on this story, perhaps ruining the future credibility of these scientists.

    Sadder, still, is his unwillingness to admit his mistake. [-X

    ...and sad for me, for when I read the next space.com article, I'll have to decide if they know what they are talking about or not...

    The worst thing that could happen to a scientific internet site is to lose credibility...
    The facts, gentlemen, and nothing but the facts, for careful eyes are narrowly watching. Isaac Asimov

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