More results for the possibility of Life on Mars - Page 7

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Kevin Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: May 6, 2011 6:39 AM 

Thanks MPJ that is a good read and of no surprise to me, I have long discussions with Sir Patrick Moore who knew Fred Hoyle well and we both believe there is an abundance of life throughout the Universe in all its forms. We differ when it comes to life on Titan and Enceladus though!I am for he is against. Is it religious beliefs or is it "I am not letting you make the biggest discovery in Science ever made" that stands in the way? Perhaps both.

You clearly get my drift as it seems no matter what we do and whatever results we get there will be someone burning the midnight oil to disprove it. It is easier to do the latter than the former.

Getting deep beneath the surface of Mars is not possible now but maybe in the future or even find a way of flying down the deep sink holes we have seen using a probe that might just actually see living Bacteria. Fossils will always be contentious evidence as we have already seen with ALH84001 so even if a rover on Mars turns a rock over and spots something it will still be just a rock.

When the day eventually comes and someone produces evidence that cannot be argued against I am sure they will look back and start saying past results were correct and this person or that person were the first to discover alien life. Who knows even some of our comments and opinions here might be right!

Sadly not in my life time me thinks but hopefully my Son will be around and experience the change of attitude here on Earth when people realise we are not alone or unique.

Last I heard on ExoMars/Max-C is that the latter was to be dropped from the mission to save money and ESA were collaborating with NASA to get some MSL experience applied to ExoMars. Unfortunately the pockets are no longer deep and the cost of launches still very expensive. However I do like the idea of NASA/ESA/Private companies sharing resources and knowledge, competition is good but two minds are greater than one.


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PostPosted: May 6, 2011 7:28 AM 

MPJ, thanks for the reference to the paper EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE AND CENSORSHIP by N. Chandra Wickramasinghe.

The graph of Figure 1, "Observations of GC-IRS7 compared with predictions for desiccated E.Coli" was an eye opener for me.

For me, the match of the two spectra had the same visual impact of observing, say, that South America and Africa have similar coastlines and concluding that maybe - just maybe - it was more than "just coincidence" and should be further studied.

About a million questions and follow up programs immediately sprang to my mind and it is totally amazing to me that in the the intervening 30 or so years the issue has not been resolved scientifically.

But, on reflection, perhaps not so totally amazing - considering how many decades passed before Wegener's verifiable continental drift proposals and general acceptance? ( 3 generations? )

I regard myself as a fairly educated individual and I had never seen those two spectra side by side!

Why not? Just too "far out" ( pun intended ) to be contemplated by "inquiring minds" - or something else entirely - something distinctly human and tied closely to the social control mechanisms of "civilization"?

I think the word censorship is not too strong a word for what happened - and is is still happening to astronomical microbial theories of life.

Anyway, an interesting paper to start the day.


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PostPosted: May 7, 2011 4:17 AM 

Another recent case of silencing and ignoring, Wickramasinghe not included in that paper is Dr. Carol Stokers discoveries of chlorophyl spectra in Pathfinder superpans:

Last info about that case before goin under the carpet has been: Errors in her scan-algorythm and/or parts of the lander (yeah - sure). Nowadays she dont like to talk about that case anymore Smile


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PostPosted: May 7, 2011 8:41 PM 

Hortonheardawho. Indeed a reasonable match but I am not sure of the relevance given that unless my conversion is hopelessly out, this seems to represent the functional group area of the spectrum rather than the fingerprint . So it seems to identify the presence of C-H bonds and little else. Using your analogy this is similar to stating that South Africa and South America are both landmasses. It was the shape of the coastline (continental shelf margin) that provided the fingerprint match so the spectra would be more meaningful if it included the 500 to 1500 cm-1 area. I suspect that it doesn’t for obvious reasons.
The article makes some very strange assertions regarding the biological provenance of interstellar dust and molecules and I guess that there is a subconscious tendency for readers to associate ‘organic’ with life rather than carbon bonds. But dessicated e.coli? As I understand it the most complex interstellar organic molecule found to date is anthracene (C14H10 ) which caused some excitement although that particular finding is in doubt following more detailed assessment.
But you are the chemist so please put me right on the above if I have made an error. Personally I don’t think there is any conspiracy of censorship. But I do feel that most scientific journals and publications now hold reservations over claims of the discovery of extra-terrestrial life given the number of times that such claims were made only to be proven incorrect if not totally spurious as has happened with respect to Dr Stoker (separate to MPJ’s Pathfider reference). Dr Stoker is a well respected scientist but has in the past caused controversy by making unfounded assertions. Quite understandable as astro-biologists by definition need to find extra-terrestrial life but such instances dilute their authority. Given the immensity for the universe it is inconceivable that Earth is the only place that developed life (unless you are a creationist of course).


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PostPosted: May 7, 2011 10:44 PM 

Serpens, the point of the remarkable spectral match is that IF you look at the sum of all the spectra of the individual C-H bonds in a typical bacteria and the sum of all the spectra of individualC-H bonds in a typical astronomical sized infrared object THEN you will find a similarity!

Perhaps all it means is that just by coincidence the most common combinations of C-H bonds of the most common relative abundances just happen to be the same in these two entirely different objects.

That is a possible explanation that, unfortunately, can not be disproved.

The more scientific hypothesis is that the spectra are the same because they are caused by the same process - Carbon based life. It may take a million years to falsify this hypothesis - but it can be done.

Comets and the Origin of Life by Janaki Wickramasinghe, Chandra Wickramasinghe and William Napier
Cardiff University, UK ( 2010 ) presents more detailed spectral arguments. ( see page 38 and beyond. )

Please, no more ad hominem attacks.

Er, do you understand the enormous social control over all groups of society - including the vanishingly small numbers of scientists?

Of course, you are not forbidden to do research - just not funded - or advanced in your career - or attacked as "making unfounded assertions" ( jasp!)

Your capital-S cientist may be pure and driven by a search for capital-T ruth - but his bosses aren't.


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PostPosted: May 9, 2011 7:34 AM 

Serpens, I still think Stokers approach of looking for the clearly distinguishable red edge spectral feature of chlorophyll bearing cells is a worthwhile and comparable easy way of finding (photosynthetic-)life at given locations - occams razor proof. Unfortunately no "respected" Astrobiologist seems to be interested in such basic and easy way of detecting life. Its really peculiar this is not a common astrobiology process yet - I mean do they realy want to find et-life?

If I were to search life on Mars or other locations I would, among all the other complex stuff, include an automatic scan algorithm like Stoker seems to have developed on every planetary probe for baseline in-situ analysis of NIR data as photosynthic life seems the most basic and archaic life. Who cares if we get positives or not as it doesn't cost anything more - but imagine we would get positives on Mars...

btw. same Pattern with Levin (who seems to be not a respected scientist anymore) and his Viking Experiments: While his Labeled Release Experiment did yield positives by pre-Mission standards this was later turned to the opposite with the result of there is absolutely no life on Mars!? Unfortunately (for him?) Levin keeps insisting his experiment points to life on Mars.


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PostPosted: May 9, 2011 10:54 PM

It is thought that the evolutionary "purpose" of the red edge is to prevent plants (or cyanobacteria) from overheating during photosynthesis. That might be less of an issue on Mars. It might be more advantageous for photosynthetic organisms on Mars, if they exist, to use some other chemical pathway.


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PostPosted: May 9, 2011 11:43 PM 

Hi MPJ. While the chlorophyll peak and much more intense red edge reflectance are readily identifiable for individual foliage, I thought the variation for red edge was only a few percent averaged from close earth orbit? So identification of a chlorophyll type feature with interstellar origin would seem on heck of a signal to noise ratio challenge. But I think I read somewhere that it is one of a number of potential indicators used in optical SETI analysis at Berkeley.


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PostPosted: May 10, 2011 8:01 AM 

Regarding the Murchison meteorite Wickramasinghe refered to (among other things) in his recent paper: interesting news: Asteroids make life's raw materials

Barsoomer, overheating or at least basic protection from the full power sun radiation on Mars (no atmospheric scattering - no or very few clouds...) during summer should be an issue there as well - maybe not that much like on Earth but still resulting in a detectable red edge feature of photosynthetic life imo.
Actualy If theres any life at the surface of Mars it will most likely be based on harvesting light in some way. All other kinds of biology will be underground most probably and extremely hard to detect with current technology and upcoming missions.

Serpens, the approach of detecting vegetaion on distant exo-planets by the red edge reflectance feature will most propably be very difficult as you point out. My idea (as well as Stokers?) would be to scan the close vicinity of landers and rovers on Mars. Maybe there are some photosynthetic bugs at some martian stones which we came/come by. Actualy I wouldnt rule out the possibility of earth contamination of the pathfinder landing site with a hardy kind of cyanobacteria which then was detected by Stoker at certain spots near the lander and on the lander itself.
Maybe..just maybe this is what happened on Oppys rover deck aka "the Stain" Very Happy

If we do rule out certain possibilities a priori we will not likely find a thing ever...


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PostPosted: May 10, 2011 8:00 PM 


Discussion of ossibility for life on asteroids.

Kevin Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: May 11, 2011 6:24 AM 

Thanks for the link Barsoomer, we get a chance to observe from Earth later this year a 400m object which should prove quite interesting. It is of no surprise that future missions to the Asteroid belt are still in the planning despite tight budgets. Asteroids still hold a bunch of keys that can unlock some of the mysteries as to how our Solar System was formed and where all the water/water ice on the Planets came from and did they possibly provide some of the ingredients to kick start life.


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PostPosted: May 12, 2011 9:55 AM 

This recent NYT article is quite interesting as well: Fountains of Optimism for Life Way Out There

Especial interesting for us Mars-fans is the last part about the droplets on struts of Phoenix-lander.

Seems like the horizon of mainstream science is widening and the way is getting free for more realy interesting discoveries soon.

Kevin Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: May 13, 2011 5:29 AM 

Thanks MPJ, nice article. Initial results from Comet Wild 2 suggest the presence of water, they need to do more to verify that but no doubt it will be confirmed.

The droplets on Pheonix were fascinating, Horton did some great work illustrating the growth process, it's amazing how under played that event was. No doubt the science work on the findings from Pheonix continues and hopefully we will hear more in time.

It is also of interest that the article says that liquid oceans on Enceladus are probably formed from the ice being melted by either radiation or the pressure from gravity or both. I have always and still believe there is liquid water deep beneath the Martian surface. What a shame Spirit expired as a lander it could have taken the measurements to establish if Mars has a liquid core, that could answer a few questions too.


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PostPosted: May 13, 2011 11:40 PM 

Kevin; I too believe liquid water is present at depth below Mars surface but am a bit vague on how Spirit would have proven it ? Smile

Kevin Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: May 16, 2011 9:43 AM 

Ben: Well not actually providing evidence of liquid water but a liquid core as they were planning on taking measurements of the rotation of the Planet to see if Mars has a liquid core. If proven to be so it could possibly be molten rock and that in turn might be able to melt the water ice beneath the surface.

Lots of might, possibly, perhaps, maybe....not very good science but its just the way I think.


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PostPosted: May 16, 2011 11:15 AM 

You might want to read these papers:

Chemistry on Mars reveals cooling rate


Accessible Water on Mars.

This paper has specific contour maps for Mars showing calculated depth to subsurface ice ( 10s of meters at the equator ) and a discussion ( around page 113 ) of the geothermal gradient of Mars which places the depth for liquid water around 0.5-2 km.


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PostPosted: May 16, 2011 12:54 PM 

Thanks Hort; The second one appears to be almost a Tome but I intend to browse it.

Kevin Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: May 17, 2011 4:13 AM 

Ditto Ben, thanks Hort thats my spare time sorted for the next few days! Right is there enough ink in the printer!

Kevin Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: May 17, 2011 4:46 AM 

Sorry couldn't resist.


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PostPosted: May 17, 2011 11:05 AM 


Testing ability of organisms to survive in space.

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