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Viking Landers Might Have Missed Martian Organics

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the police-the-planet dept.

Mars 82

Sonny Yatsen writes "A new study suggests that the Viking Landers might have found organic compounds on Mars, but failed to recognize them because of the methodology used to detect organics. The findings may suggest specific strategies that would improve on the way organic compounds are detected on the red planet."

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The Universe (-1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515408)

Haha, I heard this on The Universe about a month ago. Nice job guys, getting the story out there in a timely fashion

The Post (2, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515438)

Haha, I read this post on Slashdot a couple of minutes ago. Nice job, guy, completely ignoring the article and just rushing to get the first post.

Re:The Post (3, Informative)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515464)

They specifically mentioned this study, and how the Phoenix lander found perchlorates, and how Viking's info may have been wrong. There's nothing in the article that indicates anything different than the episode, which is why I posted the comment about the "speedy delivery" of the news by Science News. That episode is at least a couple months past shooting by now.

Re:The Post (3, Funny)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515532)

That episode is at least a couple months past shooting by now.

That might be a good basis for a conspiracy theory... NASA is afraid we wouldn't be able to handle all of the information in one go, so they release it gradually. They may have found a couple of goldfish on Europa, but the information isn't due to be published until late 2011. The appearance of this life-on-mars related news was released to two recipients, but at incorrect dates. Someone will lose their job over this. When in doubt, default to weather balloons....

Re:The Universe (3, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515514)

/. is no longer hip to the world.

If it's "new to you" and you are reading the firehose, it gets clicked up, then the bots that have replaced the admins click on all the ones that are sticking up above all the others and they get conveyor-belted to the front page.

Occasionally, the admin who snuck the "Idle" page in will grab one that tickles his cat's fancy, but that's about the only variation in the zombie conga line that passes for a meme stream here any more.

Re:The Universe (5, Insightful)

Lotana (842533) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515820)

And yet despite all this, comparing to all others, it is still the best discussion site on the net.

Re:The Universe (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33534086)

That's only because I'm here, which is only because I'm bored.

Re:The Universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33516286)

Wow! You are so goth!

Re:The Universe (1)

cthulhu11 (842924) | more than 4 years ago | (#33530748)

I have *no* idea what you're saying here. You're one sassy frood who really knows where his towel's at.

Re:The Universe (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515658)

One of the jokes circulating at the time of the landings was that, because of the nature of the testing procedure, the Vikings wouldn't discover life on Mars, they'd just destroy it. Of course CmdrTaco was still only a spermatogonium and an ovum at the time, so the joke didn't get posted to /.

Re:The Universe (4, Funny)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515748)

Slashdot didn't properly detect it as a story. Probably due to methodology.

Re:The Universe (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33516676)

It's not even a month old: the problem with perchlorates was known several years ago. There have been documentaries that included detailed examinations of how Viking basically bungled the biology experiments.

These documentaries are themselves old enough to be outdated because they were about the Mars rovers primarily, which are themselves old news now. Viking was tossed in mainly for "this is how it used to be" coverage.

So while YOU may have just heard about perchlorates, and The Universe may have just talked about it, that does not mean nobody else knew. It's been known for decades. What to DO about it has been the issue.

Morbo predicted this... (4, Funny)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515420)

Re:Morbo predicted this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515934)

Another New Study... (2, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515422)

... suggests that Carl Sagan said exactly the same thing over three decades ago.

Re:Another New Study... (2, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515508)

Makes sense, Sagan was all about the "organics," man.

Re:Another New Study... (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515606)

Makes sense, Sagan was all about the "organics," man.

Yeah no sex bots for him.

Re:Another New Study... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515680)

Makes sense, Sagan was all about the "organics," man.

He shopped at Whole Foods [wholefoodsmarket.com] ?

Heh... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#33524512)

My first take on the submission was that those nice gentlemen with the funny horned helmets should have been looking out for alien organic compounds, but of course Mars is a long way to sail (or even row), no matter how hard you flog your crew...

Re:Another New Study... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515522)

when will Gilbert Levin get the recognition he deserves? shabbily treated by NASA, will history yet recognise him as the man who found the first extraterrestrial life, in 1976? or even if not, we can at least see that this space exploration stuff is not science, it's always been about protecting its funding. no, wait, that is science isn't it ...

Re:Another New Study... (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516746)

The difference being that Carl Sagan said it (and he said a lot of things), this study has shown it. One is PR puffery, one is science. There is a difference.

Re:Another New Study... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33517776)

The difference being the fact that the average person knows something a long time before it is ever proven 'scientifically'.

Here's how it goes:

1) someone notices a link... usually is ridiculed
2) lots of people notice the same link... its becomes 'anecdotal evidence'
3) science looks at the anecdotal evidence and decides, 'hey lets study this'
4) 20 years down the track, science comes out 'hey, guess what! Standing around in wet clothes in winter DOES cause increased incidences of colds! WTF?'

Of course, it can also go the other way, science disproves the 'anecdotal evidence'. However, often, new science then comes along another 20 years ago, 'proving it' once more. At least until the NEXT group of 'scientists' comes along.

Most scientific proofs are preceded by average people thinking something is true. Scientists don't have limitless time to investigate random things - they investigate what has been believed, either incorrectly or correctly, by other people for a while.

Re:Another New Study... (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#33518082)

I thought they tested the experiments in Antarctica (a similar cold dry desert on Earth) and they failed to spot life (when it was there) .....

Re:Another New Study... (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 4 years ago | (#33518758)

It's worse than that, it was in the desert of arizona or somesuch and they even scattered large bits of animal bone and fossils around, like massive deer skulls and the rover team still didn't find any. [citation needed] i know

Re:Another New Study... (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#33519672)

One of the experiments that missed going to Mars was the "Wolf trap" (designed by Wolf Visniac)

It has detected life on Earth, and on samples from the Antarctic Dry valleys that had been hand tested for life and shown not to contain any ... (which when retested by hand were found to contain life after all)

Dupe? (2, Informative)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515426)

TFA says that any organic compounds which might have been found would have been destroyed by heating perchlorate to 200-500C. I remember reading something similar to this a while back here on /. (but I don't have a link handy).

Re:Dupe? (1)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515582)

Is this [slashdot.org] the one you mean?

Re:Dupe? (1)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515860)

No, the one I meant was a lot longer ago, at least a few months. Can't find it right now though.

Re:Dupe? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516454)

Worse than that, Sagan said it decades ago.

Do what I do with milk. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515460)

They could do the same thing with Mars that I do with milk:

Sniff it.

If it smells like there's anything growing in it, throw it out.

If not, taste a little.

If it tastes distinctly bitter or sour, throw it out.

If not, put it back in the fridge until you need it.

Re:Do what I do with milk. (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515538)

Doesn't milk always smell like there is something growing in it?

Re:Do what I do with milk. (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515570)

Depends on where you live.

Re:Do what I do with milk. (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516712)

Doesn't milk always smell like there is something growing in it?

I think you have to take it out of the cow first.

Re:Do what I do with milk. (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515614)

I only sniff powdered milk... At least the guy who sold it to me said it is... Is it normal to pay 50 bucks for powdered milk?

Re:Do what I do with milk. (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515630)

Though sniffing martian organics could be an interesting experience. Spacing you totally out...

Re:Do what I do with milk. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516636)

You skipped a step after 4:

If you die after drinking it, throw it out.
     

Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515472)

with actual Viking explorers like Lief Ericson? Was totally confused, huh, how did Lief Ericson fail to discover martians in North America?

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515530)

Why do you think the Vikings didn't stick around? Couldn't cope with the Martian freeze rays (coincidentally responsible for both Mars' icy terrain and Canadian winters).

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515594)

how did Lief Ericson fail to discover martians in North America?

He didn't. He discovered them on Mars.

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516146)

ah, that explains the blue-eyed LGM. man those vikings were horny SOBs...

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515596)

I had the same immediate interpretation. Except that the Martians weren't on North America proper, but Greenland.

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515626)

Isn't that considered part of North America?

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (1)

danny_lehman (1691870) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517044)

yes, though its kind of counter intuitive because its Denmark's territory.

Re:Am I the only one who equated Vikings Landings. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33517880)

Leif, not Lief.

If they were real Vikings... (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515608)

They would have gone straight for the organics.

The prettier ones, I'm sure.

Tragic day on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515682)

Zort the last living Martian stood watching the alien spacecraft growing larger and larger and larger ......

Actually, they did (5, Informative)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515692)

But NASA invalidated the tests [utk.edu]

The results of these experiments were complex. The first three gave positive results, but the complete absence of any organic compounds in the Martian soil according to the mass spectrometer experiment suggests that the positive results for the first three were not evidence for life, but rather evidence for a complex inorganic chemistry in the Martian soil. Thus, the Viking verdict was that there was no evidence for present or past life on Mars.

Re:Actually, they did (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515814)

An interesting link. But, no, as it says, they didn't find organics. Finding organic (!= biological) compounds is what the 4th experiment was about and it came up negative (other than what they assumed were contaminants), and it's the results of that 4th experiment that are in question today.

Re:Actually, they did (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515878)

until there's an actual organism located and cultured the correct response is skepticism.

I, personally, think life doesn't just inhabit niches.. if there's life on Mars anywhere, there should be life on Mars everywhere.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516140)

Two problems with that theory:
1) Time. It's possible that we're exploring mars at a time in its lifespan (the lifespan of what we consider to be a planet, I mean) when life has just begun to spread. Even if, given a couple of million years, you'd see it everywhere on the planet, it may be that we're just there early. It's more likely, considering what we know (and/or have deduced) of Mars, that life already existed there, but it was wiped out due to some planet-wide event. In that case, it's possible that it was wiped out for good, but it's also possible that there are remnants in highly isolated locations.
2) Location. The word 'everywhere' covers a bit too much "ground". We've yet to find life existing higher than the stratosphere (and I don't mean frozen pico-plankton that happened to get swept up there), so there are physical barriers that are either too harsh for life to get through, or that it would take life too long to finally evolve into something that could survive in these areas ("too long" in the sense that the environment changes faster than life can adapt).

Re:Actually, they did (2, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516534)

1 is highly unlikely. Mars is losing its atmosphere at a rapid pace, and has no protection from bio-killing cosmic and solar radiation due to it's lack of a magnetic field. It has no magnetic field because the iron core solidified aeons ago - Mars is much smaller than Earth, and the thing simply cooled down faster.

It is far more likely that the failing magnetic field would have triggered the death of all Martian life (and it definitely would have, solar radiation in particular is very nasty), and would explain why there is no life today if there ever was once life on Mars.

2 only makes sense if 1 is true. On Earth we find life literally everywhere. Even in the most apparently barren places we have found life. They've found life in underground lakes in Antarctica that have been locked away by ice for thousands of years for god's sake! Even volcanic vents harbor life, it is literally everywhere on the planet. If Mars once had a thriving ecosystem, evidence of life should be everywhere as well. It really should not be difficult to find traces of it.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516782)

When you place '1' as highly unlikely, which part of it do you mean? When I separated the two "problems with the theory", I split it into two categories, not two scenarios. The '1' mentioned several *ways* in which our timing (the fact that we're exploring Mars *now*) would present a problem. Do you mean it's unlikely that Mars will have life or that is used to have life? According to the separating line ("It is far more likely that the failing magnetic field would have triggered the death of all Martian life") you mean that it's unlikely that there will be life (or that we will find it). In which case we have no argument, as I said -- "it's possible that it was wiped out for good".

Then there's '2', which, since I didn't understand the logic of "if 1 is true" (because 1 was not a single scenario), I'll address broadly:
Finding traces of life that used to exist is a separate matter. Considering that Mars is constantly being swept by sand storms, it's a very good place to hide evidence, as well as *erode* evidence. We might have to dig very deep to find even remnants of what used to be life. As for life's ability to survive harsh environments, there's one rule that is never (to my knowledge) broken: If there's no liquid, there's no life. Even if one can argue that life could exist in liquid methane, there's no liquid anything on most of the planet's surface. There may be liquid water in other parts of the planet, areas that haven't yet been explored.

Also, the argument that life was found underground Antarctica would support the theory of sparse life: You can send as many rovers as you like to roam the "deep south" areas in Antarctica, but unless you dig, you won't find anything but ice.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517192)

It's much easier to find something when people are there, rather than remotely operated machines with a very small, specific number of tests that can be performed.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#33519274)

It really should not be difficult to find traces of it.

On earth, finding traces of life that existed here millions of years ago does require a bit of effort.

Re:Actually, they did (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516142)

until there's an actual organism located and cultured the correct response is skepticism.

Not if we're just talking about organic compounds, which I and TFA are. Organic compounds have been found in all kinds of places where life is highly unlikely to exist, like Titan (which has oceans of methane) or gaseous nebulae.

I, personally, think life doesn't just inhabit niches.. if there's life on Mars anywhere, there should be life on Mars everywhere.

Eh. Everywhere there's sufficient food and energy, sure. If there's a Martian equivalent to deep-sea thermal vents, where life on earth is theorized to have started, then there might be life all around them but not on the surface where it's easy to find. Or maybe there was life on the surface while there was water there, but not it's no longer suitable.

The point of this new analysis is to see if maybe Viking really did discover organics, and also to refine techniques for finding them so future missions can do a better job of searching for them. It could in fact be that there is evidence of (former) life everywhere, but we weren't been able to find it due to lacking the proper techniques before. The only way to know is to check.

In the meantime, sure, skepticism is warranted. I'm not holding out for there being evidence of life on Mars. But I want to know, and this is an important step.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

Silpher (1379267) | more than 4 years ago | (#33519278)

May I point out that there are even places on earth where no (surface) life excists. "Mars like desert on Earth" [astrobio.net] I think it could be possible not likely that there is life on mars it's open for debate, heck they're still figuring out if the methane on Mars is biological or geological. "Methane on Mars" [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Actually, they did (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516482)

IIRC, the fourth experiment was a very cut-down replacement of the one developed by a team including Carl Sagan, and that Sagan regarded it as somewhat worthless. Whether I got that right or not (and indeed whether Sagan got that right or not) is less important than the fact that there was uncertainty as to what sort of test would indeed be useful. As a trivial example, let's say you've a soil sample containing some sort of organic material where the soil is very reactive with that organic material under the conditions of the experiment. The experiment would not then be capable of getting a useful result.

Was that the case? Probably not, though as I recall the rovers have detected some fairly reactive compounds on their respective journeys.

More likely, there was no organic material that close to the surface. With no atmosphere and a blasting by both solar and extra-solar radiation, I would imagine anything remotely close to the surface will have been well-and-truly fried, frozen, refried, then altered in isotopes.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517456)

I would imagine anything remotely close to the surface will have been well-and-truly fried, frozen, refried, then altered in isotopes.

I'm sure our neighbors from the Vega star system think the same about us. We live in an ocean of oxygen, which is a deadly poison to any known [to them] kind of life.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517798)

Fried, perhaps - there's plenty of thermophiles that love temperatures other organisms can't stand. The Chuck Norris' of the microbial world. Chemistry alone won't prevent an appropriately-charged particle converting a neutron into a proton (or vice versa), though. Which is actually very handy for people on Earth, as it allows you to determine the age of any exposed rock face with amazing accuracy - and, by implication, the age of any meteorite crater on, say, the moon, where direct evidence is extremely hard to obtain. Relying on counting the pock-marks where later meteorites struck is... well, haphazard. Grabbing a chunk of the surface of the crater and using AMS to date it via isotope ratios - now you've got a very direct measure.

Unfortunately for life, this process is going to really screw up the chemistry of any cell, given long enough. The key is "given long enough". When you fly on an aircraft, you're exposed to sufficient high-energy particles to alter your structure at the atomic level, but it would take thousands of years before you could even measure the effect sensibly. Mars hasn't had any significant surface climate for about 3 billion years, easily long enough to have radically altered single-cell lifeforms.

And that's the crux of the problem with the Voyager experiment. Scraping a very tiny amount of surface material will not even have necessarily produced authentic Martian matter. We have absolutely no way of knowing how great the errors were on even the common stuff. The rovers actually drilled into rock and did a fair amount of experiments on less-exposed surfaces - which, given the limitations of what you can take to Mars is extremely good going. They were also looking for decent-strength signals, whereas a life detector will have been pushed to the absolute design limits.

Re:Actually, they did (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#33519006)

I just read about this, in a book called "13 Things That Do Not Make Sense"

JULY 20, 1976. Gilbert Levin is on the edge of his seat. Millions of kilometres away on Mars, the Viking landers have scooped up some soil and mixed it with carbon-14-labelled nutrients. The mission's scientists have all agreed that if Levin's instruments on board the landers detect emissions of carbon-14-containing methane from the soil, then there must be life on Mars.

Viking reports a positive result. Something is ingesting the nutrients, metabolising them, and then belching out gas laced with carbon-14.
So why no party?

Because another instrument, designed to identify organic molecules considered essential signs of life, found nothing. Almost all the mission scientists erred on the side of caution and declared Viking's discovery a false positive. But was it?

The arguments continue to rage, but results from NASA's latest rovers show that the surface of Mars was almost certainly wet in the past and therefore hospitable to life. And there is plenty more evidence where that came from, Levin says. "Every mission to Mars has produced evidence supporting my conclusion. None has contradicted it."

Levin stands by his claim, and he is no longer alone. Joe Miller, a cell biologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has re-analysed the data and he thinks that the emissions show evidence of a circadian cycle. That is highly suggestive of life.

Levin is petitioning ESA and NASA to fly a modified version of his mission to look for "chiral" molecules. These come in left or right-handed versions: they are mirror images of each other. While biological processes tend to produce molecules that favour one chirality over the other, non-living processes create left and right-handed versions in equal numbers. If a future mission to Mars were to find that Martian "metabolism" also prefers one chiral form of a molecule to the other, that would be the best indication yet of life on Mars.

"Something on Mars is ingesting nutrients, metabolising them and then belching out radioactive methane"

Not failed. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515736)

Could it be that during that time period we didn't fully understand all the chemical processes that could produce the Vikings findings?

Point is, we know more than we did then. Apply this to any old analysis and it's likely we missed something. Viking didn't fail here. We merely improved our understanding of observed data analysis.

Methodology? The lander studied methods? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33515774)

Will you people stop using 'methodology' when you mean 'method'?
For christ's sake, 'methodology' is the study of methods. Stop using big words whose meaning you don't know!

Re:Methodology? The lander studied methods? (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516370)

For christ's sake, 'methodology' is the study of methods. Stop using big words whose meaning you don't know!

LOL, back at ya, genius [reference.com] .

Re:Methodology? The lander studied methods? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516556)

Wow.

Reminds me of the guy a few weeks ago who thought "monetize" was a made up buzz-word.

Yeah, it was made up. A hundred-thirty years ago. And derived from Latin.

Re:Methodology? The lander studied methods? (2, Informative)

k8to (9046) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516598)

Your parent post is correct. Methodology is either the study of methods or a system or organized approach or set of methods. A few methods does not make a methodology at all.

Re:Methodology? The lander studied methods? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517198)

I think a few methods that are related is a methodology. You know, since "a few" generally qualifies as a set.

Original Vikings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33516090)

Was I the only one who read the title and thought it referred to the original Viking Landers in 1000 BC?

Re:Original Vikings (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516352)

Me too. Then I was wondering why they missed the organics they had back on Mars.

999 Profit! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516610)

Until something moving or reproducing is actually seen in a microscope, this issue will never be settled. Without such direct evidence, the algorithm will likely repeat:

1. Devise a new test for life
2. Mars probe results are positive
3. A plausible inorganic explanation is eventually devised
4. Go to step 1

Fox isn't news (-1, Offtopic)

Ramin_HAL9001 (1677134) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516624)

I'm not defending Democrats, advocating any political party when I say this, but Fox isn't news. The GOP+Fox have consolidated their power and have formed an authoritarian state, whoever posted this seems to be ignorant of that.

If its a story presented on Fox, then its intention is to make you hate the Democratic government (as if we needed the help). It isn't news and it isn't about Big Brother or your rights to privacy. The only reason a Fox story should ever be on Slashdot is to warn everyone of just how much the right-wing US government wants to take away our rights to open source, open internet, DRM-free artwork, etc., while squashing opposition to their corporate backers, all the while lying to you trying to make you think their standing up for your rights by drawing your attention to such a stupid story like this.

Re:Fox isn't news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33516760)

I agree with you, but I just thought you should know you posted on the wrong article (presumably, I guess it's still possible you're crazy. This is the internet, after all).

Re:Fox isn't news (-1, Offtopic)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517068)

Barrack Hussein Obama made you say that, and you have obviously been duped by the liberal media. It is clear that if you distrust glorious FOX News, you are not as patriotic as the rest of us who follow such masters of logic as Limbaugh and Beck. Stop trying to think for yourself, let Bill O'Reilly decide for you (nevermind his complete oblivion to that known as "fact"), and your simple mind will be much happier (unless Islamist extremists or Mexicans move in next door to you - you don't when them in your backyard, and they are invading American neighborhoods). In conclusion, fair and balanced, U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A.!

in other words... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517022)

... if you broaden your definition enough you'll be able to find a link between anything.

don't get me wrong i'm all for exploring mars and i'd love to find life, but let's not dilute the search so far that it loses all meaning.

Misleading conclusion (1, Interesting)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517194)

OK, here is one of my pet peeves and something I think is plaguing what we call science today (and why it is mostly pseudo-science) - that tone of the article assumes that life existed and we have just not been able to find it. What this means is *we do not know*. True, that means we may have dug it up and not know, but consider the following re-writing of the synopsis:

"A new study suggests that the Viking Landers used a flawed method to detect organic compounds. Because of the methodology used to detect organics all results would have been negative. The findings may suggest specific strategies that would improve on the way organic compounds are detected on the red planet."

and you frankly have a totally different report on the matter. The latter *is* science, the former is opinion and faith masquerading as science and our schools do *nothing whatsoever* to teach the difference. Indeed, they *encourage* the the pseudo-science. If you want to see what I think is going to eventually cause a total collapse of our society it is this - not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not Christians, not Muslims, not whatever social construct you want to pick. Those may be the final cause just as "emphysema" may go down as the report as to why a 4 pack a day cigarette smoker dies, but it isn't really the true cause. It is what allows that to occur and prevents it from being fought.

It is difficult to mount an attack on the so called "intelligent design" for that very reason. In the current state what the public face of science offers tends to simply be a thinly veiled pseudo-scientific version more based on what the person believes than what is shown to be true. As such it allows crazy ideas to flourish. If, instead, science had focused on what it *does* know, admitted that things it doesn't know could be true (even if you stated probably not), then crazy ideas like the current version of Intelligent Design would mostly drop away. As is it just becomes whose faith do you want to believe. Sadly real academic papers tend to understand this, it is when either journalists or individual scientists that can't separate their faith from their research speak (and the journalist who give them too much space to spout out their believes) that are causing it.

There is not a *single* thing in *any* evolutionary theory that has any say - positive or negative - about if there is an intelligence behind it. Once you choose one of those paths you are operating on faith. Once you choose that life exists outside of our planet you are operating on faith, not science. That it is more likely either true of false is *not* that same things as it *being* true or false, you can work based on assumptions (and often have no choice) but once it becomes such an ingrained idea that it is true by default then you are simply having faith in something despite the evidence. Once that happens it then becomes an argument of faith, not science and you compete with more popular faiths.

Re:Misleading conclusion (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517438)

I agree wholeheartedly.

In similar vein, I think that people overestimate the value of having certain "important" answers. Do we really care for an "ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything"? What insight would such an answer give us? What would be its predictive power? -- for without one, it wouldn't have anything to do with science, either. I think that 42 should really be the ultimate answer. It's useless, just as any other answer to such a question would be.

The major problem with ID and similar are that they are not really scientific theories. So of IDers claims may be true, but there's no way to test for it, ergo knowing that to be true gives us nothing of any practical value. There's no way to use the fact that IDers are right for anything in real life. I can use the theory of evolution to predict behaviors of real cell cultures, or of certain machine learning algorithms, ID does not give me any of that. And so on...

Re:Misleading conclusion (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | more than 4 years ago | (#33521994)

Once you choose that life exists outside of our planet you are operating on faith, not science. That it is more likely either true of false is *not* that same things as it *being* true or false

You make a lot of good points, but nothing in science is ever proven to be True or False. It only fits the theory or it doesn't. There were tests on the Viking lander that did show signs of life.

Earlier in the discussion thread VShael posted this: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1781330&cid=33519006 [slashdot.org]

Millions of kilometres away on Mars, the Viking landers have scooped up some soil and mixed it with carbon-14-labelled nutrients. The mission's scientists have all agreed that if Levin's instruments on board the landers detect emissions of carbon-14-containing methane from the soil, then there must be life on Mars.

So one test shows signs of life, and another shows no signs. We still don't know for sure if life was there or not, but it isn't just a made up idea that there was life there and the one test messed up the search. It looks like there may have been life, and one of the tests messed up the results. See the difference?

the joke was on us (1)

jadv (1437949) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517276)

As I read this, I had a mental image of a NASA lander on Mars, pointing all its sensors one way, while a bunch of little green men stood behind it, making fun of the machine's inability to look backwards.

What a negative title. (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 4 years ago | (#33517592)

I think it's incredible that those hardy Scandinavian reavers made it off world at all.

Vikings landing in america? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33518446)

Did anyone else read the headline, thought about the Vikings that landet in america around 800 and thought: Martians in the early america? WTF?

Re:Vikings landing in america? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33520332)

No, I misread it as "Viking Landers Might Have Missed Martian Orgasms".

Martian's organs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33520522)

Well, I suppose that missing martian organics ist still better than missing martians' organs ...
Yours sincerely,
Anonymous Coward

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