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306 comments

That's right, bitches. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30765652)

Life on fucking mars. I'll bet you nerdy cunts never thought you'd see the day. well, bend over and lick my balls, Jew.

Re:That's right, bitches. (3, Funny)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765998)

Life on fucking mars. I'll bet you nerdy cunts never thought you'd see the day. well, bend over and lick my balls, Jew.

Cunts, on slashdot...?

You must be from Mars or something... Welcome, lifeform!!

Re:That's right, bitches. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766004)

i feel your excitement!

Re:That's right, bitches. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766498)

Life on fucking mars.

I'll bet you nerdy cunts never thought you'd see the day.

well, bend over and lick my balls, Jew.

Hey, Alex, I recognize your style, what in Burty's name are you doing on Slashdot?

My psychic prediction (-1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765698)

I just had a psychic vision of the future. In my vision, this test ended up either producing negative or inconclusive results--once again disappointing the millions of believers who just cannot accept that, for all practical intents and purposes, we here on earth are all alone in the great big dark. I also see myself posting a link this this very post, a year or so from now, in yet another similar thread that has the believers once again futilely hoping that the discovery of life out there is "very, very close."

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Funny)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765726)

The truth is out there...

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Funny)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765844)

...watching us amusedly from the shadows while we blindly poke sticks in the opposite direction.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765864)

Yeah but are we ever going to go find it or just sit on earth and twiddle our thumbs?

Re:My psychic prediction (-1, Troll)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766212)

But we have billions of third worlders to feed. And a climate to save. And right the wrongs of the past.

We will never get another space age until every third worlder has access to a first-class five-star university for all his 20 children. Everything else is injustice and racist oppression.

Are you paying taxes? Yes? Good, prepare to pay some more.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766542)

We only need a first-class five-star university for the "third world" women.

In any society where women have economic and social equality, population growth evens out. It also empowers the other half of the population to improve the condition of their communities.

It was a joke on the Stephanie Miller show, but the best way to win the war in Afghanistan is to air-lift out anything with a vagina.

Re:My psychic prediction (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30765808)

we here on earth are all alone in the great big dark.

If that's true, it's an awful waste of space.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Interesting)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766074)

How's that?

Re:My psychic prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766806)

GP was paraphrasing Thomas Carlyle's take on the cosmos: "A sad spectacle. If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly. If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space."

Re:My psychic prediction (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765836)

I just had a psychic vision of the future. In my vision, this test ended up either producing negative or inconclusive results--once again disappointing the millions of believers who just cannot accept that, for all practical intents and purposes, we here on earth are all alone in the great big dark. I also see myself posting a link this this very post, a year or so from now, in yet another similar thread that has the believers once again futilely hoping that the discovery of life out there is "very, very close."

I think what you're witnessing isn't some X-Files Want to Believe style cult assembly or circle jerk but instead the simple fact that should this be confirmed, it changes everything. From not only a scientific point of view with the near complete annihilation of Drake's equation but also from a philosophical and -- perhaps most importantly -- theological [slashdot.org] point of view. Since the gravity of a decision in the positive direction is so great, the tiniest disturbances in the canon of thought surrounding extraterrestrial life gets close attention by the nerd world. Even the minuscule announcement that in a certain amount of time we will know with 100% certainty one way or the other on these fossils is actually newsworthy.

Similar to the anti-global warming decision. Huge consequences mean massive attention.

Re:My psychic prediction (3, Informative)

Red Jesus (962106) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766146)

near complete annihilation of Drake's equation

Whoa, there! Drake's equation has quite a few terms in it and only two of those terms are subject to reevaluation: the average number of planets per star that are suitable for life, and the fraction of planets which are suitable for life that actually have life. The other numbers, speculative as they are, should remain unchanged by the discovery of microbial life on Mars.

Re:My psychic prediction (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766420)

The other numbers, speculative as they are, should remain unchanged by the discovery of microbial life on Mars.

Really? It doesn't tell you how little we know about those numbers let alone the oversimplified equation?

Re:My psychic prediction (5, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766452)

Drake's equation has quite a few terms in it and only two of those terms are subject to reevaluation: the average number of planets per star that are suitable for life, and the fraction of planets which are suitable for life that actually have life.

Could also be added that Mars and Earth could have a common source of primordial life, and/or that samples from one crossed over to the other. Far greater would be the impact IF life on Mars turned out to be so radically different from Earth's as to preclude any sort of common ancestry.

Re:My psychic prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766238)

How does this effect the Drake equation? Sure, it would alter an input, but that's hardly annihilation.

Re:My psychic prediction (3, Insightful)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766250)

. From not only a scientific point of view with the near complete annihilation of Drake's equation ...

Err, this would help us pin down one of the variables in the drake equation, not destroy it!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation#The_equation [wikipedia.org]

Specifically these variables:
      ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
        fe = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point

Re:My psychic prediction (5, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766270)

Well I could give a crap about theology. What I want to know is some of the biochemical properties of these organisms. Did they use DNA, RNA or some entirely different set of molecules of protein encoding? Did they share a common ancestor with life on Earth? Is it possible that life had evolved on Earth prior to the collision with the Mars-sized body that produced the Earth, and we have a sort of limited panspermia going on (or maybe it's visa-versa, maybe life began on Mars)? If life was on Mars, is it quite possible as its atmosphere slipped away and its surface became incredibly hostile that somewhere below their surfaces, or perhaps even in deeper valleys and rift zones like Valles Marineris, where atmospheric pressure would be higher and the potential for a more habitable zone might be found?

Of course, this infinitely increases the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system. Europa becomes target #2, and, potentially a far more likely place than Mars to find a complex ecology.

I suppose, in consideration of theology, it depends on who you're asking. Some of the IDers (Michael Behe and his ilk) and Theistic Evolutionists (Catholics tend to this one) will not have any epiphanies. For Old Earth Creationists, it probably won't sway them. But YECs, well, that's a group who has heavily painted themselves into a corner. Now, on top of having to claim the earth is only 6,000 years old, they have to deal gyrations over the age of Mars. They'll probably start by denying all of it, claiming it to be a hoax by evil evilushionists. Then they'll come around to the idea that God planted life there, but no later than 6000 years ago! The people who will change views are the fence sitters at any of these levels.

As for space exploration, well the push for a long-term manned mission to Mars is going to get a major bump. We simply do not have the probes complex enough for more than a bit scouring of the few top inches of Mars' crust. I'm not putting them down, the Mars Landers have been an overwhelming success, but the kind of science any probe sent there, or any probe they're planning to send there, is still pretty limited.

Maybe we should put off any notions of getting humans there in the next two or three decades, and stretch it out to 2050 or 2060, working on self-sustaining long-term bases for humans, so we can send people there for a few years at a time. I'm sure you would have no lack of volunteers among the scientific community.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766366)

From not only a scientific point of view with the near complete annihilation of Drake's equation but also from a philosophical and -- perhaps most importantly -- theological [slashdot.org] point of view.

For example, creation becomes a lot more plausible, within a flexible version of the concept that puts life here through magical forces, only on board a rock. And if you can keep an open enough mind to consider such a possibility, you may find that nothing is changed at all. Facts, faith, and belief will all still exist despite any findings from efforts such as these.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

MrFlibbs (945469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766598)

Not so fast. Even should life on Mars be proven, it does not "change everything". It's entirely possible that life on Mars came from Earth, or even vice versa. Meteoric impacts are quite capable of ejecting material at escape velocities. Some microbes in the ejecta can survive this environment and, upon landing on the neighboring planet, reproduce.

Although any form of life on Mars would indeed be big news, it would not mean life originated independently. Fascinating stuff, but not necessarily the big impact on the Drake equation that you surmise.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766678)

It doesn't nuke the Drake equation, it just moves the tiny number one or two steps to the right. We know that there are trillions of trillions of stars in the universe, we're slowly learning how many of them have planets and how many of those planets might be habitable. If life is confirmed on Mars we'll begin to have an idea how common simple life is. Unfortunatly, we also know that we haven't detected any alien civilizations, despite a few decades worth of looking.

The fact that we figure there are plenty of stars and planets that could support life but don'tmake contact means that one of the things we don't know about must be very unlikely. Maybe life is exceedingly rare, something life on Mars would seem to refute. Maybe intelligence is exceedingly rare, and the galaxy is filled with lush, but wild, environments. Or maybe not all intelligence leads to producing technology that can facilitate interstellar communication. After all, new research says that non-beamed radio will not travel as far as was previously thought, aliens more than a few dozen light years away won't be able to watch I Love Lucy reruns, it's washed out by the cosmic noise.

Then of course it's possible that technological civilizations don't survive very long. We've only been technologically capable of attempting contact for 50 years or so, and we already have the means to kill every man, woman, and child on the planet if the wrong kind of fight breaks out. Not to mention the possibility of environmental damage and depletion of resources (more because they will lead to war than because they would lead to extinction of humanity in and of themselves).

My rambling point is this: Finding life on Mars doesn't mean that ET is out there, it means that there must be another reason that we haven't found ET yet. It means that the origin of life isn't the hurdle, but the hurdle must still exist, otherwise we'd be seeing or hearing our neighbors by now.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765930)

The universe is just too big and vast for this to be the only planet with life on it.

Estimates are what these days for # of galaxies? Hundreds of billions? You telling me we're the only ones out here?

I don't buy it.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Insightful)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766170)

Until you have evidence otherwise, it's only wishful thinking.

My red flag went up though when the quote mentioned he was very close to proving of ET. Shouldn't they be more scientific and just report on if there actually is anything there? The way it is worded made it sound like he would prove it one way or another. With the implications that would have, he is only inviting [more] controversy.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766288)

the same can be said for the other side of the argument too. Unless you have clear proof there isn't life out there, that's only wishful thinking.

Re:My psychic prediction (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766370)

Yes, you *could* say it that way, in that same way you could also point out that we don't have clear proof that unicorns and leprechauns *DON'T* exist.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

exploder (196936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766612)

Although novel and clever, your argument doesn't actually apply to this situation. Unlike unicorns and leprechauns, we actually do have life here, lots of it, and furthermore there are believed to be billions of places in the universe very similar to here.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766692)

We also have horses too, and numerous stories of magical ones with horns. That's way more evidence than we have of any alien life.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766394)

Since there is no evidence one way or the other, any position is wishful thinking.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766508)

Until you have proof that there _ISN'T_ any extraterrestrial life, it is _YOU_ who are wishfully thinking.

It's a simple matter of taking what we know about the earths history and biology, then applying probability to what we know about the universe. Unless you're one of those who think modern astronomy is bunk and what we're seeing is just an illusion made by a sphere with stars painted on it... uhm...

Anyway, even when applying the most conservative of estimates we're still going to have a pretty slim chance of being the only life to be found.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766620)

Until you have proof that Bigfoot _ISN'T_ real, it is _YOU_ who are wishfully thinking.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766522)

It's not wishful thinking to me, as I don't think I care if Earth is the only planet with intelligent life or not. But I don't think people really have a grasp of how immense the Universe is when they talk about low probability of other life forms existing elsewhere.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766300)

No, I'm telling you that intelligent, coincidental, perceptible alien life must be pretty damn rare. And the distances involved would be so vast that even finding them (much less communicating with them) is probably out of the question. Is it out there *somewhere*? Probably. Will we ever see it? Extremely unlikely. "Coincidental" and "perceptible" are probably the trickiest parts of finding intelligent alien life, BTW (humans have only used perceptible radio waves for 100 years out of this planet's four billion year history, for example). So, like I said, for all practical intents and purposes we're all alone in the vast empty. Every other planet in our solar system has so far proven to be more sterile than an operating theater, devoid of even the simplest life.

Well, there *are* those aliens who keep stealing out rednecks for anal probes. But, aside from those guys, no one.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766328)

He was speaking about practical matters. It is fairly unlikely we will notice life in another galaxy, at least not anytime soon.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

Scholasticus (567646) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765940)

Okay, even if there is or was at some time life on Mars, evidence of microbes isn't very intersting; also, just about any way you look at it, such evidence would still leave us, as you say, "alone in the great big dark."

Still, the universe is unimaginably large. Even the distance to the nearest star boggles the human imagination. Do you really think that among all those stars and all those galaxies made up of all those stars, there is absolutely no other life than on our planet, and no intelligent life of any kind?

Re:My psychic prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30765980)

I just had a psychic vision of the future.

Wish I'd get psychic visions of the future. What do I get instead? I get deja vu. Serious, eerie, really-creep-you-out style deja vu.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766066)

If you can impugn the motives of people who believe in the possibility of life outside earth, can we impugn your motives for denying that possibility? You think we're just afraid of the dark, and being alone. Right. Well, maybe you are scared of the implications if there IS life outside earth. Maybe we aren't special, and maybe you're terrified of that possibility, and would rather be alone in the dark than have to share the universe with others.

What's the point of the statement you made? Do you really need to feel superior, and put others down? Do you need to demonstrate your superior stoicism in order to attract a mate or something? What's the deal? Do you also go around telling little kids that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are myths? Why do you even care so much?

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766462)

Actually, I would be thrilled at finding life (and happy to be proven wrong). My point is that people shouldn't get their hopes up (especially in light of the very unprofessional and irresponsible hype from David McKay) and that resources spent on such a search will likely be a waste at the end of the day. It's all well to dream, as long as you realize it's still only a dream, not reality.

Re:My psychic prediction (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766494)

that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are myths

WHAT?!?!

Oh my God...NOOOOOOOOOO!!! You son of a bitch! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

BTW, mod up the parent. +1 Insightful

undebunked? (4, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765706)

Undebunked? Rebunked? Or just bunked?

Re:undebunked? (2, Funny)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765804)

You forgot the "so..

It would be "sort of undebunked".

It's slashdot, after all.

Re:undebunked? (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765828)

Is that like the bottom bunk?

Re:undebunked? (5, Funny)

wanerious (712877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765830)

Bedunkedunked

Re:undebunked? (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766390)

This looks like a good spot for some Lil Jon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WVmWKB9xjU [youtube.com]

Re:undebunked? (1)

Blain (264390) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766798)

<i>This looks like a good spot for some Trace Adkins.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9VzEulip9Q</i>

Fixed that for you.

Re:undebunked? (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765914)

Rebunked has a nice ring to it.

Re:undebunked? (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766688)

Undebunkificated. - G.W.Bush

Scientists mysteriously dissappear (2, Funny)

AbbeyRoad (198852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765728)

June 2010: "Scientists analysing martian meteorites mysteriously dissappear after announcing they where close to a breakthrough. Majestic 12 suspected."

-paul

Re:Scientists mysteriously dissappear (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765880)

Must be that damn shapeshifting black oil stuff again. Just can't get rid of it!

Re:Scientists mysteriously dissappear (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766324)

Saddest episode ever.

They could've just taken off and nuked the site from orbit, but no, that stubborn actress just wanted out of the script, only to want to be written back in five years later. And for that they wrote this tearjerker, bah.

Re:Scientists mysteriously dissappear (1)

Nofsck Ingcloo (145724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766152)

'Taint funny, McGee.

Did you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30765730)

David McKay was created in a quantum collision between David Hewlett and the character he plays Rodney McKay.

somewhat better article on the subject (4, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765798)

Re:somewhat better article on the subject (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766226)

Twice the SA article lambastes the British for not examining their own meteorites under a strong microscope earlier. Why are they obsessed with the country-of-credit issue? I want to read about science, not bragging rights.

Re:somewhat better article on the subject (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766800)

Actually, I don't see a single place where the SciAm article lambastes the British. One of the researchers notes that they could have used the techniques earlier and beaten the American team. The article seems to quote the researcher twice, but it's not really attacking anyone for it, just noting an odd historical quirk I'd say.

Why read malice into it?

(And if you don't want to read about the history of the study, then skip those paragraphs? Some of us find the stories interesting.)

Cannot prove (0)

jnmontario (865369) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765826)

You cannot PROVE that life existed, you can only fail to disprove it exists (or existed). Very interesting nonetheless, I'd thought they disproved it a while back.

Re:Cannot prove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766158)

Eh? By that logic, you can't prove that life exists on Earth. And yet we have slashdot.

Yeah, ok. I see your point...

Re:Cannot prove (5, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766198)

I think the baby Jesus put those "microbes" there to relax after a hard day of burying fake dinosaur bones.

Re:Cannot prove (1)

nitefallz (221624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766244)

So you're saying that there's no way to prove that any of your ancestors lived? Or dinosaurs, or anything else in the massive fossil record of the planet earth?

Re:Cannot prove (2, Interesting)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766632)

You have Popper backwards.

You can prove a Black Swan exists by finding one. (Finding proof of life on Mars)

You cannot disprove a Black Swan by only finding white ones. (Finding life only on Earth, thus "proving" life does not exist elsewhere)

They live! (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765846)

One of the comments from the actual article point to this YouTube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhfSjJeQf58

I don't know about you, but a four-frame, time lapse, YouTube video showing brown things apparently moving to good enough for me. The Mars landscape is teeming with life! Life I say!

McKay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30765870)

Personally I trust everything that McMay says. He was a great help at Stargate Command, and performed and continues to perform his duties very well in Atlantis.

I don't know anything about this but.. (1)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765874)

..I'm curious if, based on previous evidence that water existed on Mars at some point before it hit the deep-freeze, does this essentially suggest that water = life everywhere? Theoretically, then, if Europa contains water, then it, theoretically, might also have similar "organisms" that are found on Mars?

Like I said in the title, I know zip about how all this works, but once you've got some water sloshing around on your planet, what else do you need? Organic material presumably has to start somewhere, I just don't have any clue as to where.

Re:I don't know anything about this but.. (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766580)

Water is the universal solvent. Once you've got it in liquid form (meaning there's at least thermal energy around), you've got conditions ripe for some pretty cool and complex chemistry.

Re:I don't know anything about this but.. (2, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766618)

I'm curious if, based on previous evidence that water existed on Mars at some point before it hit the deep-freeze, does this essentially suggest that water = life everywhere?

Hint. Top Cat had whiskers, Garfield has whiskers. Does this essentially suggest that whiskers=cats everywhere?

Wait, huh? (2)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765910)

How did meteorites from Mars end up on Earth? I'm not trying to suggest it's not true, but how does that happen? What causes portions of mars to both erupt out of the planet AND escape Mars' gravity/orbit and wind up on Earth? Aren't those immensely small odds? And we have 3 such meteorites?

Re:Wait, huh? (3, Informative)

HonIsCool (720634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765990)

A meteor with enough energy impacts Mars and sends material flying with enough velocity to escape Mars gravitation.

Re:Wait, huh? (1)

cowdogk (1222768) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766136)

I would also assume that this is more likely to happen on Mars, relative to Earth, because Mars has lower gravity and a thinner atmosphere. There are probably few Earth-rocks that find their way to Mars.

Re:Wait, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766584)

Maybe you should read the Bible less, and some science books more.

Re:Wait, huh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766654)

Someone wants to know how things work and some limp Slashdork automatically jerks their knee to assume that means the person is a theological lemming.

Any posts recently about how much worse Slashdot has become? If not, you just read one.

I'd love to talk to someone knowledgeable about... (4, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765932)

...this topic. Any here on Slashdot?

For example, how did we determine that Allan Hills 84001 [wikipedia.org] came from Mars and not anywhere else? Not even a Mars-like planet in a nearby solar system? How?

How do we know that the signs of life on that rock are from before it was landed, rather than after? I see wikipedia mention that 'some argue', but there's almost no meat on these bones.

There are more questions, but I guess I'm uncomfortable with the word 'prove'. If this were in a court of law, for example, all of this would be 'circumstantial'. There generally needs to be a lot of it, and it needs to be compelling, before this sort of evidence would get a verdict. This leads me to suspect one of these scenarios:

A) There's more detail here. (I'm rooting for this one)

B) The scientific word 'prove' isn't the same as other uses of 'prove' (which would be sad, since they already have their own words - e.g. hypothesis)

Anyway if you either are a third party with sources or someone who actually works with this kind of thing, please do comment below. I'm in the mood to learn something today.

The subject line isn't a spillover area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766298)

...fourteen ducks, and we can't quote it. Which is to say, welcome to Slashdot. Where everyone is perfectly knowledgeable about everything AND they're ready to explain that they know know far more about it than you do, all while not saying anything about it at all.

Re:I'd love to talk to someone knowledgeable about (5, Informative)

mopomi (696055) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766490)

Disclaimer: I am a planetary scientist but do not work directly on the martian meteorites.

1) We know that the rocks are from Mars because they all have consistent isotope ratios between the various meteorites that are inconsistent with those isotope ratios on Earth but consistent with isotopic ratios on Mars
http://wapedia.mobi/en/Neutron_activation_analysis [wapedia.mobi]
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V6T-41WBDHD-8&_coverDate=10%2F31%2F2000&_alid=445411040&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_qd=1&_cdi=5823&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000053194&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1495569&md5=1c1b0d04dba7f06365b072655bef68b3 [sciencedirect.com] (May need a subscription)

2) The age(s) of the possible fossils are greater than the time the meteorites have been on Earth. Again, this can be calculated using various isotope ratios. In essence, these things formed while the rocks were still on Mars.

3) I agree with your discomfort with the word "prove." Most scientific study is based on the Popper philosophy of disproving something rather than proving its opposite.

A) The new instrumentation and techniques being used on these meteorites are greatly advancing our understanding of them. The press announcement that AH84001 might have evidence of life was premature (what we call "science by press release"), but the publications by the team were certainly good and valid work, whether they are falsified or not...

B) The scientific word "prove" is more about the lack of any valid competing hypotheses. If you can't come up with a reasonable alternative explanation for the data, you have to accept the presented explanation.

A "nearby solar system"? What are you smokin? (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766610)

Nearby is still light years away.

An unguided rock fragment expelled from several light years away?

Odds are that we'd get missed since the diameter of the earth's gravity well is a vanishingly small arc within the solar system, never mind to a nearby system.

Nah...

Re:I'd love to talk to someone knowledgeable about (2, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766626)

For example, how did we determine that Allan Hills 84001 came from Mars and not anywhere else? Not even a Mars-like planet in a nearby solar system?

Isotope ratios match those found by the 1970's Viking landers. Each planet has a different set of ratios, sort of like a female's breast-waste-hip measurements: 38-24-36 etc. (don't ask why I thot of that analogy first).

Occam's Razor says they are from Mars. Having 3+ meteorites that all match the Mars ratios are far more likely to have been blasted from Mars than some planet outside our solar system that happens to match Mars's ratios. But even discovering life from a distant planet is an important discovery in itself.

How do we know that the signs of life on that rock are from before it was landed, rather than after?

I believe there are at least 3 parts to this argument. The first is that all 3 meteorites have similar microbe fossils despite being from different places on Earth. Second, the frequency and composition of outside contamination would be different on the surface than in the interior of the rocks if contaminated. But the distribution is allegedly fairly uniform. Third, the chemical or structural pattern would be different if the life came after-the-fact. But, I don't know the details of this one. Hopefully the to-be-released paper will clarify these items.

They can tell by radiation damage patterns that a given rock has been in space relatively recently. This means that likely the rocks have been close to the surface of Earth rather than being deep underground. But the Mars fossils resemble underground life (as found on Earth).

Re:I'd love to talk to someone knowledgeable about (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766788)

Each planet has a different set of ratios, sort of like a female's breast-waste-hip measurements: 38-24-36 etc.

I should clarify that body measurements are not ratios. I meant that a set of numerical measurements serve as a (mostly) unique "signature". The chance of two women having the same measurements is slim (no pun intended) if there's enough precision in the measurements. Of course, if they binge in chips the next day, then all bests are off.
       

British Museum (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765962)

I'm not surprised the meteorites sat in the British Museum for so long before being given a good once over. There's so much crap in there it would blow you away. Their section on Egypt is bigger and better than the whole King Tut exhibit tour. hehe it's no wonder other countries are like "um can we have our stuff back?"

Bad Reporting and Quote Mining (2, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#30765970)

First of all, why bother linking to PopSci when the original story, even as quoted by PopSci, is at Spaceflight Now [spaceflightnow.com] ?

(Of course, the title of the Slashdot piece is pretty bad as well, so I be too surprised.)

Second, the quote in both the blurb and the PopSci article is taken out of context. The original, from Spaceflight Now:

"But we do believe that we are very, very close to proving there is or has been life there," McKay tells Spaceflight Now.

The words at the beginning make a world of difference in terms of McKay's attitude. He's not asserting something he can't know, he's stating he, personally, feels confident. (But it is stated as an opinion.) That's just crappy reporting. (Or, in this case, not even reporting: copying and pasting.)

All that said, it'll be exciting if it turns up anything, but don't hold your breath. There are just so many ways to contaminate the samples or to produce a lot of the effects that they've seen abiotically that I don't think we'll answer this question from Earth. I suspect to get most scientists to agree that there's life, we'll have to find it in situ.

Very close to proving is not proving... (1, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766012)

And "not so debunked" is still debunked. How come a martian asteroid on Earth can have life yet we didn't find any on the planet itself ?

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766180)

I doubt a Mars Rover is capable of going deep enough to find fossils.

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (2, Informative)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766236)

Because we have carefully studied every bit of the pieces of mars available on earth with the best scientific laboratories available. Whereas we have only looked at a minuscule fraction of mars on site, and done so with tools light enough to transport to mars.

Its like asking why we can not prove the nature of human metabolic functions with nothing more than a thermometer in your behind.

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766436)

Because we barely have the technology to detect this on earth - it's been years since we started examining the rock, and they still haven't drawn a definite conclusion. The tools on the rovers just aren't sufficient to do this kind of work. Nothing that could *fit* on a rover is. (Now if there were *still* life on mars, the rover might be able to detect it. But not on the kind of scales in time and space that we're talking about with this rock.)

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (2, Interesting)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766454)

Because we are only rolling around our RC toys and they lack an electron microscope powerful enough?

But we will never get to Mars, because we need all funds we ever had on other things, like that interesting branch of science where we can clearly prove anything and where isolated experiments to the contrary don't disprove anthing. The science there is settled, folks. For. Ever.

Now excuse me while save some CO2 and pay some taxes.

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766478)

And I don't believe the mars rovers are equipped with electron microscopes.

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766652)

Not life, evidence of former life. There's a lot of evidence that Mars once was much more hospitable.

Re:Very close to proving is not proving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766786)

Martian asteroid? That doesn't even make sense. You're question isn't any smarter. It's like asking "how can we find dinosaur bones, but not any live dinosaurs?"

Obviously (2, Insightful)

azav (469988) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766218)

God put them there to test us.

Life on Mars is impossible... (-1, Troll)

dtjohnson (102237) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766266)

We know that life arose from self-assembling molecules formed in a primitive thick atmosphere that rained into a primordial ocean where membranes wrapped around RNA packages to create unicellular life which eventually clustered and evolved into...us. Mars has not had the atmosphere with methane and ammonia needed for amino acids to form and, if it did indeed have oceans, they were too small, too shallow, and far too short-lived to have allowed life to have evolved. Ergo...life on Mars is...impossible. Cleared that right up for ya.

Re:Life on Mars is impossible... (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766432)

Do you have a reason that life can only take the form familiar to us?

Re:Life on Mars is impossible... (1)

tclgeek (587784) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766564)

We *think* we know that life arose.... There, I fixed that for you.

Re:Life on Mars is impossible... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766628)

1950 called and once their abiogenesis theory back. There are competing theories, in particular the possibility that life may have evolved around deep sea vents. Lots of organic compounds, liquid water and lots and lots of energy.

If there were similar conditions in the early seas of Mars, then there's no reason to suspect that life could not have began in similar fashion there.

Re:Life on Mars is impossible... (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766750)

I know that I arose from a woman called Joan and a man called Vincent. My cousin didn't have a mother called Joan or a father called Vincent, threfore she can't possibly exist. Or maybe, just maybe, just because things happened one way once doesn't mean that's the only way they can happen.

Conclusive proof (1)

harris s newman (714436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766402)

Conclusive proof will be when we can grow the life in a lab repeatedly. All else is pure belief system driven.

Re:Conclusive proof (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766730)

Sure. But there's something to be said for "proved enough to be useful for now". There's no proof that the sun will rise tomorrow. Solipsism, while interesting, is useless. Thus far my efforts to ignore gravity have been fruitless. One definition of real is "that which doesn't go away when you stop believing in it" is true enough to be useful. Gravity might be a setting we can change if we know the cheat code, but until i have that code... i'm going to use handrails.

Re:Conclusive proof (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 4 years ago | (#30766808)

Well, we're not able to grow many of microbes here on earth either, e.g. those extremophiles dug up from 1 km down. Doesn't mean we don't know they're really real.

Bert

Yadada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30766716)

Just hype and fishing for funding. Nothing to see here, move along.

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