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Methane-Eating Bacteria May Presage ET Life

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the to-each-its-own dept.

Mars 91

asukasoryu sends along an intriguing piece in light of our recent discussion of possible signs of life on Saturn's moon Titan. "Researchers have discovered that methane-eating bacteria survive in a unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada's extreme north. The subzero water is so salty that it doesn't freeze despite the cold, and it has no consumable oxygen in it. There are, however, big bubbles of methane that come to the surface. Lyle Whyte, McGill University microbiologist, explains that the so-called Lost Hammer spring supports microbial life, that the spring is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars, and that therefore they too could support life."

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As a wise fictional character said... (4, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32503900)

Or, in fact, symbiotic organisms on Titan, along with ones which might well be methanogenic in nature if they exist, and at even lower temperatures. Life finds a way, ladies and gents.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504118)

Well, that's the Big Question, isn't it? While it is becoming clear that life can move from an enormously productive biosphere into ecological niches previously thought to be completely inhospitable to life, can it arise in such 'hostile' environments? TFA didn't really go into detail as to the biochemical characterization of the methanogenic critters. Likely that will happen sometime down the line and will be really interesting.

But we're going to have to get our respective asses to Mars if we really want to answer the question.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (-1, Troll)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504830)

But we're going to have to get our respective asses to Mars if we really want to answer the question.

And then we'll find out that Phobos is an artificial object.

My personal guess is that it was built by a much much earlier Terran technological society that abandoned it long before the last time Nabiru came through the neighborhood and tore shit up.

But what do I know? I'm only completely insane!

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32506120)

Naa, you're not insane. You're just a faggot that likes to play tummy sticks with north korean ladyboys.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32508760)

You're just a faggot that likes to play tummy sticks with north korean ladyboys.

They're not North Korean, they're from the Philippines.

Old news (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506060)

But are you referring to the hot or cold biosphere as being hostile? Ever hear of the deep, hot biosphere [rockefeller.edu] ? (PDF)

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506228)

We are on the verge of having the technology, but no-one seems committed enough. Its as if we are still cave men sitting on the edge of the ocean too afraid to build ourselves a raft even though we've been using rafts for travel along the rivers for as long as the older of us can remember.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32508202)

Its as if we are still cave men sitting on the edge of the ocean too afraid to build ourselves a raft even though we've been using rafts for travel along the rivers for as long as the older of us can remember.

Good grief, what is it with Slashdot and making analogies that completely miss the point.

Yes, we have built rafts before. However, apart from prestige and long term science the immediate return on investment was rather low. Since at the moment our supplies of food are depleted and the women in the cave are complaining about the children crying all the time because they're hungry, it might not be a bad idea for the cavemen to invest their time hunting for food and postpone the building of the next raft till after the next migration season, when the cave is full of food again.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (2, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32511268)

Since at the moment our supplies of food are depleted and the women in the cave are complaining about the children crying all the time because they're hungry, it might not be a bad idea for the cavemen to invest their time hunting for food and postpone the building of the next raft till after the next migration season, when the cave is full of food again.

If you wait until you have no problems before you start investing in the future, you'll never invest, because there will always be problems.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32506798)

Perhaps some bacteria (archeobacteria /extremophiles) are so endurance that it could travel through space more easily than we think, so life arise on every niche of the galaxy.

That is the reason why study titan life (if exists) is so important. If a life in a conditions so different from Earth has a common origin, it is more probably that Titan life don't bring from Earth but Earth's and Titan's life come from a common origin. Even with time it is possible that we detect life on meteorites (or anything that protects the water inside the cells)

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (5, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504266)

Life finds a way, ladies and gents.

We don't know that. We know that once life gets going it seems to be very resilient and manages to find a lot of different environments to colonize. But we don't know how easy it is for life to start. If life starting is really difficult, then it may be that Titan and Mars are completely barren. What this sort of thing does mean is that if there ever was life on Mars, there's a decent chance that there's still some.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (4, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504430)

I know it's off-form to re-reply, but sod it, your comment and the one above are too good not to discuss. Yup, you've both hit the nail on the head. I referenced a fictional character (and was also thinking of Stephen Baxter's excellent "Titan") because at the moment SF is at the forefront in many ways. Yes, there may be life out there, but we have exactly as much evidence for it as we do for god (take your pick), exactly none. If there is, then it might be like this, and it's certainly evidence that life, once established, can exist in extreme conditions compared to Earth's "habitable" zones, but until we find life that's without a doubt non-terrestrial then we're a one-off fluke as far as certainties go.

Please mod into oblivion, or re-reply yourselves and be damned with the consequences ;)

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1, Insightful)

sgbett (739519) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504572)

it strikes me that far from being the sterile lifeless environments that other non-earth planets are assumed to be, that in fact every planet is likely riddled with life in some form, at a microscopic level at the very least. To assume otherwise is perhaps simply subscribing to that eternal 'truth' that humans believe that they are somehow special in the universe. The ancient greeks, as wise as they were, once believed the earth to be at the very centre of things.

One human may be special to another, but in an almost infinite universe our status of being special looks shaky. Likely 'fairly common' is the best we could ever hope for on a universal scale.

It seems absurd to me the idea that life can only exist in some arbitrary narrow range of conditions? I think we may underestimate that which is life.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (2, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505016)

I don't think your comparison to the existence of God is a good one. We know life got going at least once.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (0)

KrugalSausage (822589) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506350)

I think you're delving into semantics. Christians define God as Love as in "God is Love". Does love exist?

These questions wouldn't exist without humans. Right? ;)

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (2, Insightful)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505614)

but until we find life that's without a doubt non-terrestrial

  It might be difficult to prove that any organisms found elsewhere in the solar system aren't at least distantly related to those on Earth. The solar system being as old as it is, it's entirely possible that over the last three and half billion years or so micro-organisms have traveled between the planets. Deep analysis of their DNA won't necessarily be conclusive, if the organisms were transported between the planetary bodies say three billion years ago it's likely they've evolved and changed significantly since then to fit their environments.

    It's also possible that life here on Earth had more than one start - there has been some fascinating research on that subject lately and it's a good point to ponder, our earliest apparent evidence of life here on Earth was back when the planet was still subjected to potential bombardment by very large asteroids, and geological upheavals that could have terminated many early starts. For that matter it's possible that life started elsewhere in the solar system and only gained a foothold here on Earth because the environmental conditions were more suited.

  We may never know for certain, unless someone invents a time machine and spends a few thousand years taking samples over large timescales...

SB

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32506004)

A good clue would be whether the potentially non-terrestrial life is based on DNA replication or something else. All known Earth life uses the same molecules in their genes. On the other hand, if discovery of non-DNA organisms on other planets is followed by detecting similar non-DNA organisms in some niche environment on Earth, we're back to square one with regard to determining the origin of the organisms.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506150)

  On the other hand, if discovery of non-DNA organisms on other planets is followed by detecting similar non-DNA organisms in some niche environment on Earth, we're back to square one with regard to determining the origin of the organisms.

  Precisely. Right now we're discovering literally thousands of new organisms a day on our planet as our ability to find them and look deep into what makes them work improves. From what I've been reading recently it looks like we've barely scratched the surface of what's to find just here on Earth, let alone the solar system or universe.

  Are RNA fragments "alive"? Are protein complexes "alive"? We know so little about what really constitutes "life" that for us to say that it doesn't exist elsewhere in many other (possibly related forms) is more than a little bit premature.

  It's the most wonderful problem in science - the deeper we look, the more complex the universe is. Kind of puts the question of the existence of supernatural deities in perspective, doesn't it? Most current beliefs are nowhere near as awesomely complex and irritatingly hard to understand as reality is ;-)

SB

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32506444)

We know so little about what really constitutes "life"

Life is not gravity; it is not a force, nor is energy or matter. Life is a description. Life is merely a word we use to describe certain kinds of behavior. Thus, in the same way that orange describes the spectrum of light that we decided we would call orange, we have a perfect* [wikipedia.org] understanding of what constitutes life.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32507450)

the deeper we look, the more complex the universe is

No need to draw your deities out just yet. Complexity is just our POV, result of what and where we are in the large picture. Concepts we deem "simple" are no less complex then ones we are finding as we delve further from our immediate environment and magnitude scale, but we are just familiar with them. What is complex in all that is the translation, our mapping of new insights to our existing set of collected notions. Given enough time for practicing, our flexible brains would absorb these new concepts into "ordinary" bin. It happens as we speak, otherwise all our scientific research would cease as our scientists give up "too hard" problems.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32518192)

  I'm not sure what you meant by your first sentence - I have no personal deities, not even the universe or reality - but the rest of your post is very well said and deserves an insightful moderation.

  I have my doubts about whether human beings - or any intelligence that exists within this reality - can ever fully comprehend what they exist within. There are likely hard limits to what an intelligence within a system can learn about that system - of course it may be possible that said intelligence can learn enough to go beyond the bounds of that system, but we as a species are a long, long way away from that at this point in time. We don't even understand enough about our own POV of the system to make it possible to teach others about it...

  That's convoluted and horrible but I'm too mentally exhausted right now to try and rewrite it a dozen times...

SB

 

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32509344)

I know it's off-form to re-reply,

Re-reply? As in, reply to the guy who replied to your comment? How dare you try to have a conversation! This is slashdot!

That's such an odd comment that I keep listening for a whooshing sound, but every time I re-read it I can't shake the feeling that you really meant it.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32506510)

You admit life is very resilient, yet you're concerned with it not being able to start.

All it has to do is start once, be resilient, and it can populate every planet in the solar system.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

TheRecklessWanderer (929556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504464)

I don't think there was ever an issue that there are environments in the universe (aside from earth) that could support life. However, the question is, do they in fact support life?

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (2, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504582)

From the title, I assumed you were quoting a book. So I googled it. Congratulations, you are your own top google hit [google.com] .

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504930)

You made me smile when I wasn't previously :) Thank you :) The quote was the title, from Jurassic Park.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

TheRon6 (929989) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506972)

OMG, so are you! [google.com]

As a [wise ^W]fictional character said... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32507354)

Why does the "I'm My Own Grandpa" song, and the 'Futurama' episode with Fry being his own Grandpa come to mind?
*recursive loop*
*head A Splodes!*

Nevermind, problem(brain) disappeared.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504672)

They are smart fellers.

Re:As a wise fictional character said... (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:As a wise fictional character said... (1)

AnAdventurer (1548515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505742)

We learned recently that life can survive in the vacuum and lack of temperature of space. The relevant jump is that life can jump or piggy back on something through like a comet or rock the depths of space. Thus the seed theory (or what ever it's really called)

Don't let the door hit you on the ass... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32507488)

Revoke your geek/nerd card on the way out.

Thus the seed theory (or what ever it's really called)

To answer your question:

"I'll go with 'What is Panspermia [wikipedia.org] ' for two hundred, Alex?"
FTWA:

Hypothesis

The first known mention of the term was in the writings of the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Anaxagoras.[1] In the nineteenth century it was again revived in modern form by several scientists, including Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1834),[2] Kelvin (1871),[3] Hermann von Helmholtz (1879) and, somewhat later, by Svante Arrhenius (1903).Hypothesis

The first known mention of the term was in the writings of the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Anaxagoras.[1] In the nineteenth century it was again revived in modern form by several scientists, including Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1834),[2] Kelvin (1871),[3] Hermann von Helmholtz (1879) and, somewhat later, by Svante Arrhenius (1903).

There are those[1] that can proclaim:'Been there, Done that, and WORE the tee shirt out!'
*Disclaimer*
I'm not one of the above.[1]
 

Methane eating bacteria? (4, Funny)

highways (1382025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504140)

Can we transplant some of these methane-eating into the Gulf of Mexico? They're badly needed right now.

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504296)

Methane isn't crude oil.

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32504500)

And your point is...?

There's a shit ton of methane being leaked into the gulf with the crude oil. Enough that it's valid to be concerned over it as well. It's just invisible enough that it's easy to hide...

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504784)

> Methane isn't crude oil.

Right. Other bacteria eat crude oil.

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505652)

Sure do. But not these ones.

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

Government Drone (631596) | more than 4 years ago | (#32508014)

Sure do. But not these ones.

"These are not the bacteria you are looking for..."

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506304)

Yeah, but maybe the could mutate... introduced species never cause problems, do they?

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504368)

> Can we transplant some of these methane-eating into the Gulf of Mexico?

They're already on the job. Just give them a few decades.

(To be pedantic, different species, better adapted to the environment.)

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (3, Insightful)

cvnautilus (1793340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505936)

In addition to eating crude, they are also aerobic, and leave behind massive dead zones of oxygen-less water.

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32506352)

How is it water if there's no oxygen? Isn't that called hydrogen?

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32509102)

> In addition to eating crude, they are also aerobic, and leave behind massive
> dead zones of oxygen-less water.

Thereby creating habitat for endangered anaerobic organisms.

Re:Methane eating bacteria? (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506070)

You'd be better off inserting them in cows.....

The problem with using extremophiles as models (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504246)

Organisms on Earth which live in extreme environments probably evolved from related species which live in less extreme environments. I have no doubt that there are Terrestrial organisms which could survive in certain environments on Mars, but if they have counterparts on Mars, where did they come from? If they evolved on Mars, there has to have been an environment in which such evolution could have taken place over some kind of condition gradient, from less hostile to more hostile. If they came from Earth, you need a hell of a story about how they got there -- not only are meteor strike ejecta a lot less likely to make it from Earth to Mars than the reverse, you have to envision one piece of rock that just happened to be carrying a viable population of (already rare, even here on Earth) extremophiles that were suited for certain (also very rare) Martian conditions, and landed in just the right place.

If we can ever confirm that Mars had a more life-friendly environment for a significant portion of its history, of course, then these objections can be disregarded. But until we have much more evidence of that than we currently do, I'd be very surprised to find native life on Mars. It's much more likely that if anything is living there, it was carried there by probes from Earth -- and even that seems like a one in a million shot.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504320)

About 300kg of rocks make their way from Earth to Mars every year. The reverse is more, about 500kg. The total of "hospitable" rocks that might harbor stowaway life for an Earth to Mars transit is about 150kg/year [tpg.com.au] . So, you see, we're constantly seeding life on Mars.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (3, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504626)

Interesting link, thanks! And I really hadn't realized that much stuff made it from here to there.

The question is, out of all that, how likely is it that an extremophile suitable for Martian conditions would be one of the passengers, and would land in a hospitable environment on Mars? The link doesn't address that directly, just noting that the Terrestrial organisms would have a good shot if they landed on Mars in a warmer, wetter age -- the problem there being that we don't know if there ever was such a time in Mars' history, or if so, if it lasted long enough to be significant on evolutionary timescales.

Again: extremophiles and the conditions in which they live, are almost by definition rare here on Earth. And conditions suitable for any Terrestrial life are obviously even rarer on Mars, and quite possibly always have been. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that it seems like awfully long odds.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505732)

  Not very likely, but when we're talking about timescales of billions of years, that changes the odds somewhat ;-)

  In addition, we *know* that Mars once had enormous oceans of water, probably at a time when the Earth was fairly hospitable to life as well. Given a few hundreds of millions of years of material transfer, it's pretty likely that there was some transference of biologicals, and that some of them found conducive environments on both planets. Remember that many of the extremophiles on Earth are rare because those environments are "rare" here now - but that wasn't always true. The Earth has undergone many extreme swings in global environment since it was formed, from global volcanic environments to global ice environments.

  The question we really need answered is exactly when was Mars hospitable, and for how long? Sample returns from Mars wouldn't hurt, either...

SB

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506490)

we *know* that Mars once had enormous oceans of water

This is news to me. Would you have a link to a credible source talking about this?

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504634)

(here, 'constantly' means 'in sporadic bursts spaced ~5million years apart')

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504656)

cosmic timescales son.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (2, Interesting)

blhack (921171) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505486)

Even on a cosmic timescale, that isn't very often. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old, no? Life on earth is, what, 3.5 billion years old (at least these are the earliest fossils we can find)?

So if this happens once every 5 million years, that is still only 1000 times that we have traded rocks with Mars.

That's a lot, but if you're talking about the chances of those rocks containing some absurdly rare strain of bacteria that can exist in an environment very much unlike that of the majority of this planet, it starts looking pretty damn unlikely.

Cosmic time scales or not, one every 5 million years is certainly not "constantly".

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505504)

Who said it was absurdly rare? Go pick up any rock, give it to a skilled microbiologist, you're almost guaranteed they'll find bacteria living inside it.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32512640)

that can exist in an environment very much unlike that of the majority of this planet

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32517310)

The inside of a meteorite is much the same anywhere in the solar system.. that's the point.. the bacteria are bringing their environment with them. The inside of rocks on Mars is much the same as the inside of rocks on Earth, too.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505522)

Gack, that should say "that is sill less than 1000 times".

No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening now (1)

prakslash (681585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504800)

Earth and Mars are constantly seeding life to each other? Wow!

This sounds very interesting at first glance but from the same link:

There is a trap in considering average (annual) values because the transfer of rocks occurs in spikes. It is assumed that impacts by asteroids 1km in diameter or larger are needed to launch ejecta into interplanetary flight. Such impacts produce craters 20km or more in diameter. They occur on Mars and Earth (land impacts only) over typical timescales of one to ten million years.

By definition, viable transfers only take place within 100,000 years of the impact so there are long periods between impacts when Mars rocks that fall to Earth have remained in space for too long and any hitchhiking microbes are assumed to have died. There do not appear to have been large impacts on Mars (or the Earth for that matter) over the past 100,000 years so it is unlikely that "hospitable" Mars rocks are reaching the Earth at present, or vice versa.

Ergo... we are not CONSTANTLY seeding any life to Mars or vice versa

Re:No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening no (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504882)

There's been an incredible number of papers on the subject, and the overall conclusion is that lithoautotrophic extremophiles most likely do survive the trip. Your objection to the timescales involved is anthropomorphic thinking. On geological timescales the exchange of meteorites between Earth and Mars is constant, and so yes, we are constantly seeding life to Mars.
   

Re:No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32505078)

And yet, even though it's been happening for a really long time, the supposed life has not grown out of single-celled bacteria, nor has it been observed by humans. On cosmic timescales, the Sun is going to die pretty soon, and humans will probably die in an instant, will we be able to see Mars life before this happens?

Re:No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening no (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505228)

Well that's the controversial part.. almost every instrument that has been sent to Mars to search for life, actually made it to the surface safely, and managed to turn on, has returned positive results of life on Mars. Every time this has happened there has been denials.. as there's always a malfunction or non-biological explanation that can be used to explain the data. Similarly, every instrument that has returned a negative result for life on Mars (and there's less than have returned positive results) have been shown to be unable to detect life in the extreme locations of Earth, whereas a microbiologist with a $5000 microscope and some plastic slides can find life in these same areas without any trouble. Which is why the question of life on Mars remains open.. and probably will remain open until a sample return mission gives a positive result, and maybe even then not until the first extraterrestrial genome has been sequenced.

As for multi-cellular organisms, for all we know there's plants, moss, or fungi in caves on Mars.. but we'd never know because we've never explored any of them.
 

Re:No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening no (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32507944)

caves on Mars.. [...] we've never explored any of them.

That's something that's always bugged me about the Mars missions. Maybe it's just that I've only seen the popular images from the rovers - the panoramas of plains - but it seems fairly obvious to me that if life isn't rampant on Mars then it might be hiding in more sheltered environments, such as caves.

There is the human interest element, too. People see a panorama of Mars and most people say "wow, you went to a lot of trouble to take a photo of some rocks that kinda looks like Arizona through a colour filter". Even if you understand how awesome it is (and it is awesome) the photos aren't spectacular until you realise what they are of. If you want to increase interest in exploration take a photo of Olympus Mons. Take a photo of something that looks, well, out of this world.

Re:No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32511316)

Funny you should mention that. I took a bunch of pictures with my hot-wheels pathfinder model when I went to Arizona on vacation many years ago. A lot of the regular people who I showed them to couldn't tell the difference until shown the real images side by side.

Re:No viable Mars-Earth rock exchange happening no (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505428)

Your reference scale is too short. Human life vs Age of Earth. Every 100,000 years for 4.5Billion years is pretty constant.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (3, Interesting)

EasyComputer (797633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504802)

The whole idea of cross contamination across the universe is what makes sense to me. Life in one of the "habitable" planets seeds life in another less "habitable" planet. As that newly arrived "life" thrives, it creates a hospitable environment for other types of organisms which might be arriving on some of the 100 tons of comet debris that enter into the planets atmosphere and/or evolving locally. Effectively the planet changes from a desolate wasteland into a place that can sustain life. Basically the life is what creates the hospitable planet, not the other way around. There was a program on a few days ago about this same idea a few days ago.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505044)

How do these rocks hoist themselves upwards from the surface and into space without the life on them being slagged by the meteorite that just smashed into them?

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505130)

Glad you asked, cause I love educating random people on Slashdot who can't even be bothered clicking on the links I supply to them, or do their own research.

There's a whole class of bacteria that live inside rocks, they're called lithoautotrophic extremophiles. They suffer through extreme heat and pressures all the time. They have existed for billions of years. When a meteorite impacts the Earth a certain number of these fertile rocks are sent skyward.. the bacteria are protected from the radiation of space by the mass of the rock. Some portion of these rocks are captured by Mars and some even smaller portion are carried to the surface as meteorites. It's a big numbers game.

The speculation is that maybe these extremophiles are now making a living on the Mars service.. bacteria moving from one rock to another isn't that big a stretch of the imagination. Some of them may even make the return trip.

Every year, for sure (0, Troll)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32507882)

Do you realize what you are writing?

You tell us that *every year*, we are impacted by meteoroids so gigantic that the blast sends tons of rock into space.

I'd find humiliating to even ask you where were last year's impacts.

Slashdot looks more and more like the worst sides of Wikipedia: this guy must be right, since he points to an existing url, even if its affirmation is pathetic. Let's mod him interesting.

"Every year".
Convincing.
I suppose now some guy will come telling me it's on the average, on a billion years, that was just a way to talk. Sure.

Re:Every year, for sure (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32507980)

... and the worst is, I do trust that this transfer is valid, and probably along with bacterias, on the million-year average.
I would buy this rock-transfer-spawning-life theory for the solar system (while not at all for life coming from elsewhere, in which case the probability just turns so ridiculous it's just a way to refuse thinking about the origins of life).
What really turns me sad, is how we can tear true points into pathetically wrong affirmations.
I can readily see myself, juste a couple of years from now, announcing this yearly thing to a neighbor without blinking.
And then feeling him think "so yes, he's a lunatic, but not dangerous yet"

Re:Every year, for sure (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32508212)

All he is saying is that over geological timescales, enough impact events ejecting material out of the atmosphere happen that the resulting debris cloud in space is big enough for a certain mass of material transferred between Earth and Mars per year. Where exactly is it necessary that there is one big impact per year? You think an impact produces straight trajectories of ejected rock from Earth to Mars? There is a shitload of ejected rocks floating around in space, and a certain amount gets captured on a yearly basis. I suggest you think before posting your arrogant tripe next time.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

wye43 (769759) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523522)

Just to clarify for those that did not read the article that you linked:

Ejecta happens very seldom. We are not talking about a constant stream of 300 kgs that constantly goes from Earth to Mars every year, its more like spikes of 3000 tons every 10000 years. And my guess is, there is a good chance that when a big enough meteor hits earth so an ejecta has good chance to reach Mars, that meteor will wipe all life on earth.

But if you are talking about cosmic time measurements like 1 bilion years, yeah, it happens a lot :)

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (2, Funny)

ulzeraj (1009869) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504580)

So, you really think that when the first signs of life developed here on earth, this planet was confy and cozy?

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504664)

By comparison to Mars, yes, it was. Oh, we wouldn't find it comfortable, of course, but our distant ancestors did -- and there's no evidence that it was "extreme" in the sense that we now talk about such environments. Lots of not-too-briny water (much less salt in the oceans then than now, I'm pretty sure) and a dense atmosphere, even if the composition was very different from the modern one; also temperatures roughly in the range we now consider conducive to life. Except for isolated spots, Mars is just a much, much more hostile environment than Earth has ever been in the entire history of life.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32504740)

Thank you for pointing this out. For example, oxygen [wikipedia.org] was very hard to come by early on in earth's development.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504658)

The problem with making statements about where and what kind of life can exist in the universe is that we have only one data point. That's ignoring the question of what conditions on earth led to life.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32509228)

The question of what conditions on Earth led to life is impossible to answer (for now). The focus of the article is whether or not life could currently exist on other planets/moons. If it can, it would be worthwhile to make a trip and get a sample. If we have no reason to believe life could exist on Mars or Titan, it would not make sense to go there. There is no problem with questioning the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Re:The problem with using extremophiles as models (1)

Group XVII (1714286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504866)

Could life in comet water [astrobio.net] fit the bill for the less hostile end of the proposed condition gradient?

faGorZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32504444)

I wonder sometimes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32504486)

If humans actually came across intelligent life forms on other planets that were inferior to us, would we:

A. Adopt the Star Trek philosophy
B. Immediately try to "civilize" them like we did to every other foreign culture on our own planet
C. We accidentally kill each other due to cross infection; OOPS!

Super Cooled Water (1)

EasyComputer (797633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504506)

This discovery follows closely, in terms of the implications for life on other planets, with the work of Dino Leporini at the University of Pisa & the Indian Institute of Science. They have observed two new phases of liquid water which form at extremely low temperatures.

http://www.physorg.com/news165084657.html/ [physorg.com]

In high-density liquid (HDL) water, the molecules are close together and break some hydrogen bonds. That sounds like the conditions of meteorites. Extreme low temps, H20 under high pressure similar to the experiment of Mr. Leporini and you have a pretty good way of transporting life across space.

"Methane-eating bacteria" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32504630)

Hey, that's what my ex called me! So I guess I'm your man- er, bacterium

Ask slashdot (3, Interesting)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504724)

The story intrigued me, so I browsed wikipedia searching for the history of the atmosphere and atmospheric methane [wikipedia.org] . I find it very difficult to believe the idea of a chunk of Titan travelling all those years, carrying life and enough reserves of methane for the trip. And since methane used to be much more abundant in the atmosphere, isn't it possible that very old, earthy life forms lived off methane?

Re:Ask slashdot (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#32504870)

I can't remember where I read it, it was oh 6-8mo ago where they published that methane and CO2 were the main atmospheric gases at one point. Oh well maybe someone else will remember.

Re:Ask slashdot (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32508270)

That is actually not new research. From geological data it has been clear for a long time that the early atmosphere was reducing, as compared to the oxygen-rich atmosphere we have now, and which is mostly an artifact of life. The earliest atmosphere was probably mostly nitrogen with a mix of CO2, methane and ammonia. That was very early, even before the formation of continents and oceans. With the cooling of the molten Earth, the composition switched to a more water-vapor rich N2/CO2 atmosphere. The true revolution in atmospheric chemistry started with the advent of photosynthesis-capable life. The oxygen it produced began to dominate the atmospheric chemistry and also allowed ozone production, which led to a reduction in UV imission, ultimately allowing life to conquer the land.

Human traits (2, Funny)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 4 years ago | (#32505110)

As if being fixated with our own farts isn't bad enough, now we intently study microbe's trumps...and use them to spot life on other planets! *sigh*

I wonder how ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32505596)

... this dude [facebook.com] feels about that.

I'm confused (but I'm no biologist either) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32505638)

Researchers have discovered that methane-eating bacteria survive in a unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada's extreme north. The subzero water is so salty that it doesn't freeze despite the cold, and it has no consumable oxygen in it. There are, however, big bubbles of methane that come to the surface.

If they're methane-eating bacterias, how come there's big bubbles of methane that come to the surface? Or are the bacterias unrelated to the production/source of said methane?

Your so-called grammar skills suck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32505918)

so-called

That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Amazing news! (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32506474)

Slashdot has just discovered the anaerobe

Would that be analog to... (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32507034)

Pre-Cambrian "carpet mold"? It was very basic...seemed to stay that way an awfully long time.

Is there anyone here who'd stop and consider the intelligence of the find, if it happened on the toilet seat? ;>

Not all respiration is aerobic (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#32508640)

Lack of oxygen does not mean life cannot exist. Not all life processes need oxygen.

Google "anaerobic respiration"

Discovery of Gaia (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514468)

When Lovelock was first contracted by NASA to invent machines to search for life, he investigated all sorts of extremophiles--the kind of 'life' we might expect to find on Mars--and quickly concluded that life isn't a bacterium, it is a system of recycling various chemicals that works in conjunction with the sorts of organisms we think of as 'life.' That was his discovery of Gaia. Too many 'real' scientists didn't understand what he had discovered and bought into the greenie definition of Gaia as some sort of spiritual earth mother. They replaced the concept with Earth Systems Science but that is not the same concept.

Thinking of Gaia as a one-celled organism puts it into better perspective. A cell is not completely controlled by the nucleus nor does it cause physical processes like osmosis. Gaia does not create species; it does not have a controlling brain, and it 'makes use' (do not interpret that phrase anthropomorphically) of calcium carbonate subduction under continental plates. Organisms depend on free chemicals for respiration and physics tends to work against providing free, easy-to-connect-to chemicals.

Lovelock lost the contract because he said we can use spectrometers to investigate whether an atmosphere is 'alive' or not and not have to send expensive equipment. This was not the answer the NASA contracting officer was willing to accept.
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