On the Road Again - volume 5 - Page 21

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Posts: 3062

Reply: 401

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 3:02 PM 

Hi Mann; I am so glad to see you post again. Looking forward to seeing your pics on the tube making bacteria with their "berries" and stems.



Posts: 169

Reply: 402

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 5:17 PM 

No one asks you to accept geochemical explanations hook line and sinker. But the makeup and geochemiocal formative mechanism of the berries has been well explained and the erosional method whereby stalks can form has also been addressed in some depth. Yet you ask the question again, and again, and again. On reading the 2005 'back to live blueberries' thread resurrected in Mars Biology it seems evident that this is just your way. But it is wearing and perhaps an adaptation of Bill's pictogram approach may put this in perspective for you.
Look at this cool image.
and this/

What do you tunnel visioned people mean that these are artifacts of eolian erosion. Prove it. Yes I know you have explained how this occurred many times in the past but I am not interested in the fact that analysis proves that these are rocks because look, they have stems. One even resembles this particular fungus.

Obviously these are fossils of giant fungi. You people have closed minds.

Please accept that this is not in any way an attack on you Winston. Just an over the top example of why there is no point in reitrerating previous explanations. example of why


Posts: 3062

Reply: 403

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 5:40 PM 

Hort; I need some help.
I think the sol 2164 rock closeups are possibly the most important seen so far and deserve special 3D treatment to show some of the very many features that speak to perhaps something a little different to dry-as-dust explanations.

I've put my efforts below but I think you can do wonders to show up the features.

I think Barsoomer mentioned somewhere that underneath the crust it seemed that the rock was being modified. In fact, it looks as if the rock underneath the crust in those images have been significantly modified. Grateful if you can bring out that feature in the 3D. In addition, right adjacent to the rock on which the crust is peeling off is a surface of the rock that show many berries and stems leading to them. That surface is surprisingly flat. Taking Mann's point that fracture fill would be expected to take on the contours of the adjacent rocks, this seems a bit anomalous.

There are many other features of these rocks that I don't have time to go into at this time.

Here is my anaglyph and colour composite at the original magnification below



Posts: 2270

Reply: 404

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 7:18 PM 

Winston; How close to the screen are you when you look at these analglyphs.
Remenber there is a lot of vertical distortion !!!
The bedded rock surface you are looking at now is after "erosion" has modified it.
We don't know what the pristine surface looked like . Shocked Rolling Eyes


Posts: 3062

Reply: 405

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 7:59 PM 

Hi Serpens; Hope you don't mind reading through a long response to your previous posts. I also am not attacking you but trying to analyse blinkered mindsets that see only one aspect of the elephant in the room.

You and I come from two different backgrounds, perhaps eras, certainly disciplines, etc. You are rooted in a discipline that looks at the large picture, no less than the totality of earth's existence on a global scale. You attempt to understand Mars by transposing the truths of your taught Earth understandings to that of Mars. You attempt to do this by assuming that everything you see there has to be a subset of Earth's, just subtract a few billion years, add a few cataclysms and bingo, Mars is Earth in terms of geology. You pay lip service to life, like a poor cousin. Even though Ben has pointed out that life itself on Earth is responsible for the majority of Chemical species now present here, you don't go the extra mile and see that, just based on the chemical species found so far on Mars, Mars geology must have had significant influences from life in the past and perhaps even the present.

You fault me for not recognizing the, to you, obvious truth in the current paradigm of the meridiani situation and specifically the provenance of the berries.

That "truth" is not obvious to everyone. There are too many facts about the berries as observed for them to fit neatly in the McLennan et al's dogma. There are or were several alternative explanations for the berries, some of them mutually exclusive, that will not go away because there is a consensus by mainstream geologists. Just to mention a few; the berries are too regular (spherical) in size; they are totally unlike earth's concretions in terms of the range of sizes exhibited; the tails are totally unlike those exhibited sometimes by earth concretions (i've seen pictures of concretions with appendages and they do not resemble in any way the stems or stalks seen on the meridiani blueberries. One MI picture that is touted as showing a sectioned tail is almost certainly an artefact); The early pictures of the berries concentrated on wind tails to explain the stalks seen in pancam images by extrapolation not by carefully examining the berries with stalks (not windtails) by the MI. the current concepcion images cannot be extrapolated in this way. they show unambiguous stalks. Wind erosion of softer matrix material cannot explain what we are seeing at concepcion and that is why I keep going back to that question. You will need to go back to the drawing board on this one and find other more reasonable explanations.

Unlike you, I have been involved in a discipline that used to look directly (under the microscope) at smaller organisms such as fungi and bacteria. So my perspective is on life and what microorganisms can do to survive in and modify their environment at a micro level. I have therefore been looking at the images from the perspective of "if microbes were there and we don't have the instruments to see them, how would we expect them to modify their environment in a way that we can see through Oppy's eyes".

I think there are numerous signs in the images, of life interacting with the soil and rocks at that micro level. I can't prove it but I think they are there.

The "mud" seen in the first few sols by Spirit and later by Oppy should not be ignored because it "couldn't be mud". Suppose the null hypothesis was accepted that it might have been mud indeed and steps were taken to not only explain the occurence of mud there using the wicking hypothesis in an offhand way but to look for other new evidence that might test the mud hypothesis. W might be farther along re. linking micro observations with possible microbial activity at or near the surface of Mars. The blue "stains" seen around rocks at both meridiani and gusev need not be just fine compacted dust, it might be evidence of biochemical reactions. Geology or even geochemistry does not treat these areas seriously at this time.

Re. your comic book illustrations in your reply #403. I don't do giant fungi anymore although there just might be a few giant fungal mats beneath meridiani producing those billions of blueberries. Who knows?

I think your absolute certainty of the sanctity of geological truths stop you from accepting that one can challenge conclusions drawn from extrapolating from these truths to a largely under researched universe on Mars. You and most geologists can't accept that there might be many things occuring there involving life at a level that we cannot understand at this time and that our current instruments there cannot give us any significant insight into what is going on there.

Don't get annoyed or frustrated by anything I might say about life or non acceptance of any geological theory about mars on a micro level. Just ignore what I write. I'll try not to call on you for explicit explanations.




Posts: 169

Reply: 406

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 8:09 PM 

The Planetary Society report is out.

Interesting that the age of the crater has been significantly upgraded. Now they talk about “thousands to tens of thousands of years old, definitely younger than 100,000 years old.” Not sure what the upper limit is based on.

One comment that doesn't really make sense to me relates to the initial indication that they thought the crusting may be impact melt. The comment is "Impact melts often include small particles, called impact melt spherules, that splash out of the impact crater, as well as larger sheets of melt that coalesce in low areas within the crater".
The laminated fracture fill adhering to the displaced ejecta sure doesn’t look like a lens of coalesced melt to me. Not can I envisage any kinetic/presure mechanism that could create what we see. I also note that the MER website now refers to this as’ interesting dark rinds’ and also defines the impactor as less than 1 meter across.


Posts: 3465

Reply: 407

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 8:17 PM 

with link to 3D false color.

It seems to me the essence of an "open" mind is to accept statemens of the form: if A and B then C.

Serpens images in reply 403 are verry interesting! It seems to me the reason the rocks were photographed is because they are rare. The fungus photographed is not so rare.

Considerable effort must have been required to locate these images with the sole purpose to ridicule the general principle that "form follows function".

OK, IF life existed at some point in the hostile environment of Meridiani Plain ( A )and was mostly subsurface ( B ) then the best place to look for fossils is... ( C )

OK, where could the life giving waters and sunlight be optimal?

My guess is C is a few meters from the surface in cracks that provided a path back to the water below and access to the shaded light above.

Now notice that this is a statement of the form IF A and B then C.

In my opinion A has already been proved: Life existed on Mars at some time in the past. It most likely still exists at depth.

B is a speculation that will not be answered for a few decades at the earliest.

In the meantime, it is not unreasonable to look for evidence for the proposition with whatever tools we have.

Personal scorn of people who are studying the proposition is not useful.

Building straw-men arguments is not useful.

If you have nothing useful to say on the proposition then I suggest silence as you look at the pertie pitchurs.

Note: This comment was edited to correct several typos. I dearly wish that this capability was available for all posters. I don't know why the beta version of the blog software that I use has never been released for general use.

I am always torn between devoting time to image processing and blog commenting. Maybe I should slow down to subsonic when I am typing.


Posts: 344

Reply: 408

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 8:42 PM 

The crust seems to favor rocks that are porous---possibly it makes them easier to infiltrate. Presumably when the pores fill with crust material, it modifies the rock matrix and makes it stronger, and perhaps fills it with berries.

Horton, you have said very eloquently what I have been feeling. Speculations about life are forbidden on the blue board but should be welcome here. Earthly analogues for possible Martian biology are part of this and entirely appropriate.


Posts: 2270

Reply: 409

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 8:55 PM 

An image where Spirit got stuck. And they call this a crater.

I hate to say it but sometimes I get the impression that what is reported to the public is often distorted to benefit those whose salaries depend on this sort of reporting.



Posts: 3062

Reply: 410

PostPosted: March 1, 2010 10:44 PM 


Thanks very much for the 3D images of the sol 2164 rocks. They are as usual fantastic and confirm what I had thought I could see in my anaglyph along with much more detail. Your 3D alignment gives a much better solid visualization of the image.

I still think that this rock and your image could become a turning point in our understanding of micro-meridiani. It may well be showing some aspects of a life-cycle and symbiotic relationships. Note that there is enhanced "weathering" of the rock surfaces from which the crust has eroded. This is by comparison of surfaces on similar looking rocks which show no evidence of pieces of crust on or near them. I think this "weathering" might be a result of the crust perhaps "feeding" on the rock matrix. Also note the absence of berries on the same surface. It is almost as if the crust selectively removed the berries somehow before it fossilized, leaving stalk remnants.

There were some interesting blackened rocks in yesterday's releases that had some bluish crusts on them still. I hope they do some further imaging on them as they might provide further data points for this search.

Thanks very much, also, for your mathematical theorem treatment of Serpens comments on my predeliction for disavowing geological and geochemical truths from earth as applied to mars. Your comments put this whole issue into better perspective.

Ben; if you read the above, I think I dealt with your comment about the erosion of the rock surfaces there. I think that there are enough similar looking rocks with no evidence of crusts to allow some speculation on the effect of the crust on the underlying rock. Also, I asked Hort to do a 3D as I was not confident that mine was indeed showing what I thought I was seeing.

Serpens; I agree with you re. your take on the Planetary Society update re. the impact melt and note that they now call the crusts "interesting dark rinds". That's very interesting. Please note carefully that they do not call them fracture fills.



Posts: 344

Reply: 411

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 12:07 AM 

I think the remark in the update about "dinosaur bone," while oblique, indicates they are fully aware of the possible implications of what they see and are measuring.


Posts: 3062

Reply: 412

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 6:06 AM 

Hi Barsoomer; That's what crossed my mind too.



Posts: 344

Reply: 413

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 1:52 PM 



The European Space Agency has discovered that lichens can survive unprotected in space. In an experiment led by Leopoldo Sancho from the Complutense University of Madrid, two species of lichen – Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans – were sealed in a capsule and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket on 31 May 2005. Once in orbit the capsules were opened and the lichens were directly exposed to the vacuum of space with its widely fluctuating temperatures and cosmic radiation. After 15 days the lichens were brought back to earth and were found to be in full health with no discernible damage from their time in orbit.


Posts: 3465

Reply: 414

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 4:19 PM 

Thanks Barsoomer.

From the original ESA article:

The outcome of this Biopan experiment also suggests that lichens might survive at the surface of Mars.

Er, about those Concepcion crusts...


Posts: 3062

Reply: 415

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 7:12 PM 

Hort and Barsoomer; I think I can declare that we are almost there even though the mainstream may never accept that there is an extremely strong possibility that the biological model is the only one that fits all the facts for Meridiani. The biological (lichen) model for meridiani explains the mud, the apparently moist soil surfaces, the very wide dispersal of the berries and their uniformity, size and shape, the concepcion crusts and practically all of the other observations that are disputed in the various concretion models.

Here's another collage comparing some MI's of chocolate hills with the fruiting bodies of a fairly typical lichen living on rocks.

Barsoomer; thanks for the reference above.



Posts: 344

Reply: 416

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 8:01 PM 

Winston, the lichen model is certainly suggestive, but there are unanswered questions:

Why have we only seen this phenomenon at Meridiani, and not at Gusev or the Viking sites? Orbital monitoring does show some other areas with the hematite signature, but it is not widespread.

At Meridiani, why only at a fresh crater?

If the crust is only active underground, it apparently can't be lichen as we know it on Earth. The photosynthetic symbiont would be useless underground.


Quote: "However because they depend on their Algal partners to photosynthesise in order to obtain energy for growth all lichens need light. There are therefore no subterranean or deep cave dwelling lichens. Generally speaking lichens like areas where their is plenty of light, such as the exposed surfaces of alpine rocks, and the rooves of our houses etc."


Posts: 344

Reply: 417

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 8:15 PM 

Contrary to the previously cited source, there is at least one cave lichen.


This one still does have a photosynthetic symbiont that uses the dim light in the cave. This lichen cannot survive bright light.

A lichen-like organism on Mars might involve lithotrophs, or there might be chemoluminescent sources of light underground.


Posts: 3062

Reply: 418

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 9:21 PM 

Barsoomer; Re. your really good unanswered questions above. Of course I don't have all the answers but I do have some suggestions as to what might be the position ans perhaps the kind of research that may be necessary to address these matters.

Why have we only seen this phenomenon at Meridiani, and not at Gusev or the Viking sites?

a) The chances against seeing this phenomenon at a viking site were extremely high primaarily because they were Landers, not rovers.

b) You zero in on hematite content as the distinguishing feature for meridiani as against the other sites but it is possible that hematite content is not particularly important as far as putative biology is concerned. In addition, papers by Bauckner and to some extent Kirkland also, suggest that Hematite is universal on the surface of meridiani and is not limited to the berries. We may have been misdirected in concentrating on Hematite purely because it is important as a constituent of earth's concretions and was pushed for that reason by the mainstream.

c) We do not know that these "crusts" are unique to Meridiani. I've shown one rock with a crust looking very much like a concepcion crust at Gusev. I can show it again if necessary. Levin referred to lichen like blue green crusts in one of his papers on the Viking experiments so it is possible that these "crusts" have been indeed seen wherever we had a presence on the ground and were lucky enough to observe them in what might be their very infrequent occurences on the surface.

At Meridiani, why only at a fresh crater?

I was suggesting that conditions might have been temporarily changed soon after impact to provide the conditions necessary for the symbionts to merge on the surface and that the lichen fossilized form might be very susceptible to deterioration with time. Hence they might only be seen in association with a relatively fresh crater but would have deteriorated with no trace on the rocks around old craters. Serpens pointed out that with a small crater, such as concepcion, it was very unlikely that there could be impact melt and a lengthy period of increased temperatures. I accept that, but perhaps the period of time for germination of symbiont spores need not have been a long one for the components to come together, germinate and produce a lichen thallus.

However, I think that there are other clear signs of symbiont presence at most of the sites visited. One universal one is the berries on rock surfaces with long interweaving stems. I think that the possibly anastomosing berry stems might be conduits for interchange of materials with underground partners. You might recall that A1Call proposed some years ago, on the basis of what seemed to be a transparent berry, that berries might be organs trapping light and transferring light generated nutrients to organs under the surface. Perhaps this might indeed be happening.

In other words, the lichen form only presents under certain conditions. Under normal meridiani conditions berries and stems on the surface and near subsurface are producing nutrients for their symbiotic partners under the surface in cracks and crevices and bathed by upswelling water. In addition I am proposing that even at the surface, the long berry stems might be organs that bring water as well as other nutrients to the surface, thereby creating the mud which has been noted on several occasions.

If the crust is only active underground, it apparently can't be lichen as we know it on Earth. The photosynthetic symbiont would be useless underground.

I think I answered this in the previous question. The crust might not be active underground. It might only be active ephemerally as a total symbiotic lichen like body aboveground under certain conditions. The separate symbiont components would however be active separately below ground and above ground depending on their separate capabilities and vulnerabilities on an ongoing basis. However, if they are indeed lichen like forms, it is quite likely, indeed almost certain, given divergent evolutionary processes that the physiology of the symbionts might be completely different to Earth's lichens and that there might be lichen analogues that can live quite happily under the surface.

As usual, just thinking aloud, but I think that the observations suggest possible lichen like involvement in a new ecosystem. Lots of work will have to be done to elucidate how such a sytem could operate on Mars.

I think, given the facts, that the biology model is no more speculative that the current paradigm.



Posts: 3062

Reply: 419

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 9:35 PM 


re. your question on how lichens could survive under the surface of Mars. I forgot, in quickly putting the answers above together, that Hort's reply #415 above provides all that is necessary to answer that question. The ESA trial suggests that an Earth Lichen can survive in space and even on the surface on Mars. If an earth acclimated organism can, by extrapolation, survive on the surface of Mars why couldn't one that probably had billions of years acclimation survive for fairly long periods under its home surface conditions? The lichen-like crusts might therefore not need a portion of their life cycle beneath the surface for survival. In addition, it may be that infrequent impacts could allow it to reproduce sexually and compete with the other organisms that are almost certain to be there under the biology model.



Posts: 3062

Reply: 420

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 9:52 PM 

Barsoomer; Another thought just struck me. My first reaction to the crusts being seen at concepcion was that they had been laid down at impact or shortly thereafter and I think my posts reflected that. That impression is still there especially after seeing those blackened rocks in the new area that Oppy was passing through a couple days ago with crust draped over their tops. Perhaps the crust are a surface phenomenon only and are not present underground. Thus NASA's rinds that were at first thought to be impact melts formed just after the impact on the surface.


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