Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Life On Mars: ALH84001

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the super-cool dept.

Space 198

Celestius writes "This press release from NASA Ames states that 'An international team of researchers has discovered compelling evidence that the magnetite crystals in the martian meteorite ALH84001 are of biological origin,' and moreover that these crystals are not only older than any previously known form of life, but were also definitely formed before the meteor fell to Earth. Skeptics remain, of course, as quoted in this article from today's Chronicle, but suffice to say, NASA seems pretty confident." There's also a report on the BBC as well.

cancel ×

198 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#399720)

Haven't you *ever* seen Star Trek? This just isn't a problem.

Re:Skeptic here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#399721)

Actually, my dog has a brain but I don't think he knows much about magnetite formations in meteorites. I don't know, I'll ask him.

Woof, evidently.

Sceptic or septic. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#399722)

Yup. perdida, inside five minutes, outsmarts five years of scientific endeavor from some of humanity's best minds.

potheads 1 : 0 NASA

Let's try that again. perdida the pothead troll, with no biological knowledge other than recognising the taste of KTB's semen, has spotted something that years of scientific experience and knowledge failed to realise.

Despite this evidence, I'm waiting for Heidi Wall's take before I form an opinion.

what's a plague every now and then? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#399723)

We need to cut the population down somehow :P

Seriously though, the articles say that we already have similar bacteria living in lake bottoms. I doubt skinnydipping is going to kill off the human population.

Re:How does this play into religion? (1)

Partisan (3249) | more than 13 years ago | (#399724)

*My* foundatation isn't shaken by this, why should it be? If God is God then why could he not create life on Mars or anywhere else? He is a creative creator. Look at all of the varity that's here on earth. He put life *everywhere* on earth. If God did it here why not anywhere else? We might be the center of creation, but that does not mean that He can't be creative anywhere else.

If you go the evolution route then what's to stop life from evolving on Mars or anywhere else. If there's enough random chance for it to happen here then why not everywhere? I personally don't buy this because there's not enough particles in the universe to allow that much random chance, but if you belive it's possible for life to evolve here then it seems logical to assume that it could evolve anywhere.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 13 years ago | (#399726)

Ooof. That'd be more effective if I hadn't mispelled "explorations". Mea culpa.

-

Re:Skeptic here (1)

nyet (19118) | more than 13 years ago | (#399728)

Since the moderators are seemingly out to lunch, I will blow a bit of auto-karma to quote this guy's post.


1) Skepticism is a healthy part of the scientific method.

2) Shaking bar magnets can result in chains, but it's unlikely. A lower energy config is clumping. (Try the experiment in 2D. Get a bunch of little bar magnets, put 'em in a shoebox, and shake. See what you get. Clumps? :-)

3) Experiments are also a healthy part of the scientific method.


Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

chris.bitmead (24598) | more than 13 years ago | (#399729)

Well, since we've already sent craft to Mars there is the slight chance that we've already introduced organisms. Perhaps some particularly hardy microbes could have survived the journey and are even now multiplying on Mars.

Anyway, apart from the scientific question of whether or not life existed it might be good to introduce life on Mars. Maybe it can be terra-formed into a livable place, who knows?

Re:Fuck NASA!! (1)

Skynet (37427) | more than 13 years ago | (#399731)

LOL! Too bad this will be modded down. Mod it up please!

Upon closer inspection... (1)

Skynet (37427) | more than 13 years ago | (#399732)

The chains of molecules spell out something...

A L L Y O U R B A S E A R E B E L O N G T O U S

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

Woundweavr (37873) | more than 13 years ago | (#399733)

Actually, microscopic organisms have been found near the poles before.

Re:my thoughts. (1)

thuddwhirr (52968) | more than 13 years ago | (#399739)

Isnt that the plot to Homeworld?

Hear the sounds of ALH84001 (1)

DroolArt (63002) | more than 13 years ago | (#399742)

Delien [delien.com] Industries Inc, your Industrial solutions provider has documneted well the sounds of asteroid designation ALH84001. Check their website for more information HERE [delien.com] .

Dr00lArt.

Re:my thoughts. (1)

AMD_Man (74331) | more than 13 years ago | (#399748)

Following this logic man would not be meant to fly, travel quickly, cross large bodies of water, etc.. Also following this logic but in a different way, one could say that if not for the wonders of the human mind, man would not have the cabability to reach Mars either.

Re:my thoughts. (1)

anothy (83176) | more than 13 years ago | (#399749)

I suggest you re-read Genesis 11:1-9, preferably using a Bible with good notes, since you seem to be having a hard time finding anything other than literal meaning there. First off, the Tower of Babel is a reference to the chief ziggurat of Babylon, the Esagila. we've already built buildings much, much taller than that, and God's not struck them down. the story of babel isn't about tall buildings, it's about building an urban culture in which God has no place. it's about pride and presumption.
if you're looking for scriptural backing of this sort of endavor (mars exploration, and indeed exploratory science in general), i'd point you at 2nd Timothy 1:7 - "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." i'd point further to the several parables about how not using your gifts (including the intelect and reason provided us) is sinful, and displeasing to God (sorry, can't find verse numbers right now).
i'd further point out that, in anything other than the strictest literal reading, one which ignores everything we know about astronamy, meterology, and general science, "heaven" isn't contained in the sky. in the Babel story, it's a metaphor; the same thing ticked God off there as it did in the garden of Eden, and in Sodom (no, that story isn't about homosexuality): pride and arrogance - thinking oneself equal to God. leaving the planet is no more offensive to God (from reading the Bible, anyway - i have no inside information here) than leaving your town; riding a space shuttle no worse than riding a horse.

Life on Mars (1)

smoondog (85133) | more than 13 years ago | (#399750)

I'm not surprised that magnetite is arising again as evidence for early life. I can think of lots of reasons to question any of the claims made by scientists, but still it is very intriguing. If true, it will be really neat to see what life might have been like on earth billions of years ago. But this may mean that life is more likely, or as others may argue (I personally disagree) that life originated from extraterrestrial origins. -Moondog

Re: Damned BBC! (1)

JoeGee (85189) | more than 13 years ago | (#399752)

Are you SURE this was the BBC's foul up? Sounds more like Rupert Murdoch's style.

BLOODY AUSTRALIANS! :)

I could understand the magnetic Martian lifeforms affecting cassingle sales, I mean ... Hello, magnets?! But CD's? Everyone knows CD sales are expect to rise due to global warming.

Amazing (1)

BobGregg (89162) | more than 13 years ago | (#399755)

I wonder how many people really understand the significance of this event, assuming the evidence holds up. The first verifiable evidence of life beyond Earth - most everything else kind of pales in comparison. If nothing else, hopefully this news will renew people's interest in the Mars missions, and particularly (!) the sample return mission scheduled for later this decade.

For those interested in getting more involved, by the way, the National Space Society [nss.org] lobbies Congress for more political and financial backing for NASA. They're always holding letter writing drives and needing new participants.

I can't wait... (1)

mikedotd (91056) | more than 13 years ago | (#399756)

To see what the Church says about this. If life didn't start on earth, then suddenly we're no longer the center of the universe again (ala' copernicus). Should be interesting...

BFG (1)

SmokeSerpent (106200) | more than 13 years ago | (#399761)

Isn't anyone else bothered that some accursed Martian stromatolites have obviously evolved a bio-organic railgun and even now we are under threat of attack by the Martian aggressors.

You are not alone. (1)

crashnbur (127738) | more than 13 years ago | (#399767)

(Disclaimer: Likeness of subject to a one Michael Jackson song of same title is unintended.)

So what are they saying? Something "alive" was once on that rock? It looks to me like someone's throwing shit at us. They know we're here. That was a warning shot. Who knows how long before the next one?

Beware the depths of the unknown...

Re:Wow (1)

jbrians (135805) | more than 13 years ago | (#399773)

Magnetite trails are created by organisms on earth. That's how we know they are formed by life. The reason they think these ones are special is that they believe they are older than life on earth.
-Brian

why isn't this being broadcast everywhere? (1)

Racer X (140445) | more than 13 years ago | (#399774)

I just hit cnn, yahoo news, nytimes, bbc, etc and this story, which apparently has nasa announcing some really compelling evidence for ancient life on mars, is no where to be found. its not on any of the major news sites. and i havent seen it on tv yet. isn't that a little strange? this is really big news, isnt it? why isn't it all over the place??

Re:I am sceptical (1)

sandgroper (145126) | more than 13 years ago | (#399776)

I am really curious how they can be so sure that the rock is from Mars. Simply because it has the same chemical composition as Mars stones?


More-or-less. Isotope ratios more than bulk chemical composition, actually. Very diagnostic.

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

sandgroper (145126) | more than 13 years ago | (#399777)

Look, the SFgate article dates the meteorite to have hit 4.6 bya, but the magnetite crystals were encased in carbon from 3.9 bya. Assuming this is true, how does NASA account for this .7 byr discrepancy?

They don't. According to their press release (I know, I know, another "reliable" source :-) they date at 3.9 bya.


Who knows where the 4.6 came from...

"Aliens" just isn't the same... (1)

zaius (147422) | more than 13 years ago | (#399778)

when you replace the big slimy-looking mosters with strings of bacteria filled with magnets...

Re:But that leaves one unanswered question... (1)

Ig0r (154739) | more than 13 years ago | (#399780)

This is the funniest comment I've read in a long time.
I wish I had mod points.


--

Re:That figures (1)

Ig0r (154739) | more than 13 years ago | (#399781)

Bar graphs!
We need brightly colored bar graphs.
They don't have to represent anything signifigant, random values will do.
To really get peoples attention and comprehension we need clipart scattered around a large bar graph.

And also a few phone-in surveys.
Those are always a statistically acurate representation of the average citizens' oppinion on matters such as these.
We need one master list of who believes this and who doesn't.
From this list we can use trial-and-error to eliminate the impossible and all that's left must be the truth!

--

Re:The future is here. (1)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 13 years ago | (#399783)

ROFLMAO. Man, you rock.

Re:Damned BBC! (1)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 13 years ago | (#399784)

LOL...

A momentous day. (1)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#399785)

I know this is going to come off as a bit sappy, and melodramatic, but...

This is one of those days I'm truly glad I was alive to see.

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

searleb (168974) | more than 13 years ago | (#399786)

C12/C13 are stable isotopes. Biological things deal with them as seperate entities. Abiological things don't. When you see a disproportionate amount of C12/C13 in a certain mineral deposit, it was likely created by a biological system. This is how life is dated on C12/C13 ratios.

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

searleb (168974) | more than 13 years ago | (#399787)

Also note the paper: Nature, Vol 384, p55-59, 1996 for a full description of the method.

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

searleb (168974) | more than 13 years ago | (#399788)

Look, the SFgate article dates the meteorite to have hit 4.6 bya, but the magnetite crystals were encased in carbon from 3.9 bya. Assuming this is true, how does NASA account for this .7 byr discrepancy?

Now it has been suggested that the magnetite crystals were older than life on Earth, but this is likely not true. We have fossil records of complex life on Earth dating to 3.5 bya and C12/C13 abundance records dating life on Earth to at least 3.8 bya. The techniques used to examine C12/C13 abundances were developed in 1996 (Nature, Vol 384, p55-59, 1996) and references a similar isotope formation "from nearby Akilia island that is possibly older than 3,850 Myr". Curiously, that's not much of a gap considering the accuracy of carbon dating from 4 billion years ago.

Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

searleb (168974) | more than 13 years ago | (#399789)

Look, just because some shmoo finds crystals aligned in a row doesn't mean that martian life did it. There are all sorts of problems with finding potentially biologicals on meteorites. This is illuminated by the C1+C2 meteorites (the ones generally studdied are the Murchison, Orgueil and Murray) which contain high concentrations of fixed carbons. People (i.e. A. W. Schwartz et al) have gone through rigorous testing to prove that the uracil they find on these three meteorites was actually there before they landed, and even then you can't be 100% sure.

In this situation, where you want to prove that Martian bacteria left a footprint on a meteorite, things get much more complicated. For example, what if the crystal chains were actually formed by bacteria after the meteorite hit but before it was found?
  • To prove this was false would require you to show that the chains couldn't have been created by any bacteria on this planet, which would make you wonder if they could have been created by bacteria-like-things on Mars either!

I have to speak... (1)

IamLarryboy (176442) | more than 13 years ago | (#399791)

First of all I don't buy into evolution. However that is a different topic. Second this is not a troll I am serious.The point I wish to make here is buy strict odds we should not be here so the chances of there being other life in the universe is slim. For the sake of this post I will even assume evolution can and did take place on earth. When you look into the sky you see thousands of Stars. When you look through a night vision telescope you see millions times that. When you consider that every one of those stars might have 9 planets or more you cant help but wonder if life may have evolved on one of those planets. But that is before you take into account the conditions that are neccisary for even the simplest life to exist let alone evolve into higher life forms. First of all there is the galaxy; it needs to be very very specific in both size, age, and type. The star has to be exacly the right size nad exactly the right point in its life. The planet has to be composed of exactly the right material be the right size and be at exactly the right distance from the sun. There has to be a moon at exactly the right distance and exactly the right size. The list goes on and on and on. The odds of all the things that need to be just right are astronomical(pun intended). And this is just for the simplest bacteria! After you calculate all the odds WE SHOULD NOT EXIST! Personally that is why I believe we were created by God. But if We should not exist then we have no reason to believe there are other life forms in the universe. But hey I could be wrong about God and lightning does strike twice. But even if I am wrong on both counts If there are aliens WE WILL NEVER KNOW ABOUT THEM(unless they are from mars). We will not know about them strictly from physical limitations. Well that ends my rant. It just pisses me off when people talk about other life in the universe, but hey you can never disprove a good conspiracy.

curious go to www.reasons.org or read a book by Hugh Ross

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | more than 13 years ago | (#399793)

I know that C14 has far too short a half-life to date rocks around a billion years old. The parent poster mentioned using C12/C13 dating to determine the age of the meteorite. Apparently, this method can be used for ages on the order of a billion years. But C12 and C13 are both stable, so I don't immediately expect an age dependance in their ratio. Of all the light nuclides I can find that would produce C13, all have very short lifetimes, most less than an hour.

I am genuinely curious about this method, and would appreciate it if searleb could comment further.

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | more than 13 years ago | (#399795)

The 700 million year difference is the time between the rock's formation and the asteroid impact, which knocked the rock into space.

And what is the accuracy of C12/C13 dating for 4 billion year old objects?

Re:Occam's Razor (1)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | more than 13 years ago | (#399796)

But that guy did die from natural causes. It's quite natural to die when you have 17 stab wounds in your chest.

Re:Skeptic here (1)

Chris-en-topper (215099) | more than 13 years ago | (#399806)

My previous understanding of the magnetites found in that rock were that they were apparently too smooth to have been created naturally. This is the first I've heard about their configuration in chains. It does seem a bit premature of NASA, though.

Except (1)

gimp999 (234460) | more than 13 years ago | (#399808)

Maybe ours is the only solar system that supports life.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

nanoakron (234907) | more than 13 years ago | (#399809)

I think that the main point here is that we all accept life bagan elsewhere, probably being started by a grat intergalactic dictator called Xenu, who told Earth that 'All your base are belong to us' and then began the religion of Scientology, which I strictly adhere to, yessiree I sure do. You can't fault Scientology......nor Earth's colonisation by martian microbes....both are equally valid theories......yep www.xenu.net -Nano.

Re:How does this play into religion? (1)

nanoakron (234907) | more than 13 years ago | (#399810)

I just have to say that the most important religion on earth...i.e. scientology....accepts the fact that we are all offspring of Xenu the intergalactic ruler and all of his H-bombed body thetans...You just haven't been told the truth yet..

-Nano (written with *incredible* tongue in cheek....www.xenu.net)

my thoughts. (1)

Pheersum (243554) | more than 13 years ago | (#399814)

I don't think man is meant to go to Mars. If the Creator, God Almighty, wanted us to visit other planets, outer space would not be a vacuum filled death trap. Ye must remember the tale of the tower of babel, when Man tried to reach Heaven. Must we risk God's wrath once more in an attempt to reach the heavens?

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

stcanard (244581) | more than 13 years ago | (#399815)

Seems to me that we're too late anyway. With the number of items we've sent to Mars, it could already be polluted with earthly bacteria. We might as well take the chance on this one, and think about this in places like europa which definitely haven't been touched by us.

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (1)

kriemar (247929) | more than 13 years ago | (#399816)

I'm in an ENTIRELY different field than geology or chemistry, but from what I've read (unfortunately, not the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS, www.pnas.org] articles, which I will read when I get my copy) is that the dating of the material surrounding the magnetite is much older than any known life on Earth, and, more importantly, much older than the estimated time that the meteorite hit the surface.

So you basically have to suggest that the meteorite hit the surface much much earlier than current estimates, or that somehow Earth fossils much older than the time the meteorite hit the earth became embedded within the meteorite.

The more serious problems are (a) ruling out nonbiological formation of magnetite chains, or (b) inappropriately focusing on anomalous magnetite formations while ignoring other magnetite formations consistent with nonbiological origin.

First of all.. (1)

perdida (251676) | more than 13 years ago | (#399818)

you fuxors slashdotted the pictures of the magnetite crystal comparison on the NASA website.

Second of all,

The researchers found that the magnetite crystals embedded in the meteorite are arranged in long chains, which they say could have been formed only by once-living organisms. Their results are reported in the Feb. 27 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Uh, don't magnets normally form chains, orien ting north poles to south poles?

Just wondering..

Re:I have to speak... (1)

amirboy2 (264999) | more than 13 years ago | (#399827)

What you are saying is true ... if you are trying to evolve a different race of earth lifeforms.
infact, life doesn't even have to be cellular.

Re:How does this play into religion? (1)

amirboy2 (264999) | more than 13 years ago | (#399828)

which religion?
there's nothing in Islam that rules of extratrestrial lifeforms. in fact, if you read the holy qoran you will see that it talks about 7 different worlds, earth being one of them.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

astr0boy (265689) | more than 13 years ago | (#399830)

and why shouldn't we fuck it up? if noone else is using it i might as well.

-----

Re:Occam's Razor (1)

astr0boy (265689) | more than 13 years ago | (#399831)

and the knife is metal, which last i checked is natural. nature killed him.

-----

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (1)

tykals (266589) | more than 13 years ago | (#399832)

I suggest you read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (Red, Green, Blue). It covers the (fictional) colonization and terraforming of Mars. In later books, a group called the "Reds" comes around, who are opposed to the terraforming. They see the old environment as something to be respected, and not conquested. It's a great read, and the author covers the topics quite well. I can see how this would be even worse if there is life there already.

That figures (1)

viperjsw (304123) | more than 13 years ago | (#399836)

What is wrong here people? Well can anyone cee it? Yes! The American public, or for that matter, the world public, needs tangible evidence that it can understand! Those of us more science minded people, namely most slashdot er's, can understand such evidence or at least comprehend it's possible meanings. So this info is all good and well to us, but to others? Worthless.

Re:But that leaves one unanswered question... (1)

ex pope john (312896) | more than 13 years ago | (#399840)

Two actually.

first answer.- even if the formation looks just like a face and isn't quirky light and poor photography, do you ask that question about the faces you see in a cloud or a rock formation that looks just like a chicken or whatever. Humans have a poor appreciation on the time scales involved in existance and the saying nothing new under the sun pretty much covers it.

second answer - dried riverbeds

Re:A momentous day. (1)

ex pope john (312896) | more than 13 years ago | (#399841)

having been very close to missing then altogether I pretty much treat every day like that now

Re:I have to speak... (1)

ex pope john (312896) | more than 13 years ago | (#399842)

see what i mean about no understanding of the numbers involved in creation. and that's just the stars as they currently exist Why do you assume that life had to come into existance on any other planet at the same time it did on earth. couldn't it have come into existance on some planet in some part of the universe in the last 12 billion years or whatever or will do so somewhere in the next 12 billion or whatever.

or that it can only ever happen once on each of those planets. there have been how many major extinctions on earth three or more that could have eliminated life and it could have come back.

the surprising thing is more that we aren't crowded out already. Logically the fact that we exist when we should not means that we should not then be surprised that there are others when we find them.

Personally i believe in god as well, probably for different reasons. I figure that he can do whatever he wants and he doesn't have to tell me. But I never assume there is something he can't do.

NASA: Mars bacteria got lost easily (1)

dkwright (316655) | more than 13 years ago | (#399845)

Apparently, despite the built-in compass they all veered left.

Re: Damned BBC! (1)

Account Number Three (317062) | more than 13 years ago | (#399846)

Hey! Murdoch's an AMERICAN now!

Re:my thoughts. (1)

disconect (317202) | more than 13 years ago | (#399847)

I don't think man is meant to use slashdot. If God had wanted us to be able to waste our time talking about science with people around the world, he would have given us telepathic powers to have psychic chat rooms or something.

How does this play into religion? (1)

sawilson (317999) | more than 13 years ago | (#399848)

Just to be clear I'm not trolling, just interested. I am not a person of religion. It would seem to me that this discovery along with the recent evidence backing evolution would shake the religious foundations of many. Saying the devil did it to confuse us just isn't cutting it anymore. Any thoughts?



Simple Explanation (1)

sawilson (317999) | more than 13 years ago | (#399849)

These are 'nascar' bacteria



Re:Skeptic here (1)

jpetzold (319053) | more than 13 years ago | (#399850)

yeah and in a clump of shit there are carbon chains but guess what it is still a clump of shit

-----------

You just don't see the whole picture.. (1)

KingAzzy (320268) | more than 13 years ago | (#399852)

According to my mother, Mars used to be inhabited by two major tribes which are the ancestors of the Jews and the Germans and they had a big battle which destroyed the atmosphere on Mars and then migrated to Earth on big spaceships and thus this explains why the Germans hate the Jews so much.

She also has quite a bit to say about the lizard people following the Hale-Bopp comet in UFO's.

God bless ol' mom.

Re:Occam's Razor (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#399857)

If many magnetite crystals were found in addition to the 'biological' ones, then why (humor me for a moment) couldn't the 'biological' magnetite crystals also have a non-biological origin?

But, your honor, if so many people die every day from natural causes, why couldn't the guy I'm charged with murdering also have died from natural causes?

When I go in to see a doctor and complain about stomach aches, the doctor begins down a list of common explanations -- flu virus, food poisoning, etc. He _doesn't_ simply leap to the conclusion that I have a demon in my belly which must be exorcized.

And, of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the simple explanations, but the NASA scientists who spent four years studying the meteorite rejected them anyway.

If you're going to complain about somebody's conclusions, actually make sure you're well-informed about what the conclusions are and how they were reached. (Hint: the Slashdot summary doesn't count.)

Re:Chains Possibly of Earth Origin? (2)

volsung (378) | more than 13 years ago | (#399858)

I assume you're talking about Carbon-14 dating. Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5700 years, which is too short to use on 4 billion year old objects (moreover, 4 billion year old objects that had not very much carbon to begin with). You can, however, use other methods like Potassium-Argon (isotope mass of 40) dating, Uranium and Thorium, etc. Potassium-40 has a half-life of over a billion years, so it would be good for this time-scale.

However, I have no idea what this group used to date the rock.

I am sceptical (2)

Philipp (1858) | more than 13 years ago | (#399860)

NASA paid the researchers that came up with the new findings and NASA has strong interest in hyping the whole issue of space exploration.

I am really curious how they can be so sure that the rock is from Mars. Simply because it has the same chemical composition as Mars stones?

Re:do you mean (2)

unitron (5733) | more than 13 years ago | (#399861)

Maybe he meant the guy who created Babylon 5. Isn't he J. Michael?

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 13 years ago | (#399865)

Pardon me for channelling Joe Straczynski while he's still alive, but if we don't start exploring other worlds with an eye toward eventual colonization, we're doomed. The sun will explode, and all of this, from Plato to Moses to Slashdot to ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US was a waste of time.

Allowing the GUARANTEED destruction of our species (the sun won't last forever) because we might hurt another would be immoral.

Yes, I realize we have hurt people and critters in our explanations. My wife and son are part American Indian. But they're also 100% alive.

-

broken URLs fixed while U wait (2)

WillWare (11935) | more than 13 years ago | (#399866)

Bunch of rocket scientists can't correctly spell a URL. Let's try that again.

Images of the magnetite chains inside the ALH84001 meteorite and, for comparison, inside a modern magnetotactic bacterium are at:
http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/releases/2001/01image s/magneticbacteria/bacteria.html [nasa.gov]

Re:First of all.. (2)

nyet (19118) | more than 13 years ago | (#399869)

As somebody already pointed out in a different thread, mixing a box of magnets will form clumps, not chains.

Try it.

Then post your results ;)

Re:How does this play into religion? (2)

nyet (19118) | more than 13 years ago | (#399870)

As usual, religion is very resistant to any criticsm. I doubt very much anybody's faith is going to be terribly shaken.

Start with the concept of an omnescient, omnipotent being, and anything that follows is pretty much impervious to logic.

The faithful, of course, see this as a feature, not a bug, however.

You may as well try to explain nuclear physics to a tree sloth.

Re:How does this play into religion? (2)

nyet (19118) | more than 13 years ago | (#399871)

If you go the evolution route then what's to stop life from evolving on Mars or anywhere else. If there's enough random chance for it to happen here then why not everywhere? I personally don't buy this because there's not enough particles in the universe to allow that much random chance, but if you belive it's possible for life to evolve here then it seems logical to assume that it could evolve anywhere.

Care to back this unfortunate bit of psuedo-science with some actual numbers? Do you have any REAL grasp as to how easy it its to get a bunch of complex proteins to form in a nice warm bath of hydrocarbons and water and a bit of electricity? Do you have any real grasp of exactly HOW large the universe is? Do you have any real grasp of exactly how OLD the universe is? How about the Earth.

Oh wait, I forgot. Earth is only 6000 years old. Gosh, you're right! There is NO way life could develop in the span of 6000 years!

chortle

Occam's Razor (2)

RobertFisher (21116) | more than 13 years ago | (#399872)

The authors of the study claim that the magnetite samples found could _only_ have a 'biological' origin. Yet the Chronicle article points out that there were many magnetite crystals found in the rock sample, and only the ones with a presumed 'biological' origin were studied in detail.

This appears contradictory. If many magnetite crystals were found in addition to the 'biological' ones, then why (humor me for a moment) couldn't the 'biological' magnetite crystals also have a non-biological origin? A non-biological origin would seem to be a much simpler hypothesis.

When I go in to see a doctor and complain about stomach aches, the doctor begins down a list of common explanations -- flu virus, food poisoning, etc. He _doesn't_ simply leap to the conclusion that I have a demon in my belly which must be exorcized. This basic principle of simplicity of hypotheses is well-known, and is sometimes referred to as Occam's razor, or the 'Keep-it-Simple-Stupid' (KISS) principle. This paper, along with much of the recent work on water/life on Mars completely neglects this principle, which to me appears to be a very dangerous position to take.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

tbo (35008) | more than 13 years ago | (#399873)

First of all, the life on Mars is probably extinct, except perhaps for isolated pockets that wouldn't be likely to be contaminated by a few manned probes.

Second, who the fuck cares about primitive bacteria? It's scientifically interesting, so we probably want to study it, but there's absolutely no good reason just to leave it alone. It's not sentient, it doesn't look cute, and it doesn't play an important role in our ecosystem.

Also, it's unlikely Earth bacteria would be able to out-compete Mars bacteria in their native environment. Our bacteria--particularly the ones that would be carried by humans--are not well-suited to surviving in the Mars environment, whereas Mars bacteria are presumably well-adapted.

Finally, if you haven't noticed, the Martian environment isn't exactly friendly right now. It's hard to imagine how we could make it worse (from a human habitation point of view).

Fixed link (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 13 years ago | (#399874)

The link on the NASA page [nasa.gov] to the full article is incorrect. It should point to here. [nasa.gov]

Even more humorous than the bad link n the page, is that the page was generated by:
<META NAME="Generator" CONTENT="Microsoft Word 73.1">

A Cure for Repeatedly Botched Mars Science (2)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 13 years ago | (#399875)

The finding of biological magnetite on Mars highlights the profoundly frustrating goings on with Mars science to date, starting with the cessation of all Mars probes for over 15 years that began in the 1970s followed by the failures of Phobos I [erau.edu] , Phobos II [erau.edu] , the Mars observer [msss.com] and Mars 96 [newscientist.com] . Then there is the ridiculous way NASA handled the Cydonia face business [geocities.com] and the fact that NASA has now reimaged only the portion of the face already, repeatedly, imaged [geocities.com] .

Over a decade ago I proposed the National Science Trust [geocities.com] that would be a trust fund that paid out only for information delivered, from whatever source and by whatever lawful means. In other words, new information flowing in causes new cash to flow out.

I'm no longer one to advocate political action about anything, but The National Science Trust idea can easily be adapted to private philanthropy as well.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

nihilogos (87025) | more than 13 years ago | (#399879)

The rock in question was supposedly ejected into space 3.9 billion years ago. All the mars missions that haven't crashed and analysed rock samples have found no evidence of continuing life.

I think the knowledge we could gain from studying alien bacteria cultures would contribute enormously to our understanding of genesis here and elsewhere in the universe. You can bet researchers would take every imaginable precaution to ensure their beloved data are not contaminated, and they're probably capable of pulling it off.

And calling bacteria cultures an 'ecosphere' is a bit much. I can't speak for everyone else, but my conservationist leanings on this planet derive from a weird sense of kinship with other creatures on this planet, and awareness of their symbiotic relationships. I couldn't care less about bacteria on mars.

Just a question (and a link) (2)

twjordan (88132) | more than 13 years ago | (#399880)

So, I am wondering as I search, does anyone know a resource that would show if it is common to have magnetite that looks like this in other meteorites? Has anyone looked at a bunch to see if it might be more common?

Just a thought.

This link [calacademy.org] presents the theory they announced today a couple years ago, search it for magnetite.

Re:But that leaves one unanswered question... (2)

BobGregg (89162) | more than 13 years ago | (#399881)

>>...who or what formed that face on the Martian surface?

*I* formed that face on Mars. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

Zeus305 (104737) | more than 13 years ago | (#399883)

To say that the sole reason that we should look to colonizing other planets is the eventual exploding of our sun is ridiculous. It is theorized that our earth will become uninhabitable for human as the sun expands to the width of Venus's orbit in approximately 5,000,000,000 years, when in about 50 years our space program has completely developed the technology to land probes on mars and even asteroids and send a man to the moon. Certainly there are many important reasons that we need to look to colonizing other planets and solar systems, such as the exhaustions of out resources here or a catastrophic life ending event, but to single out the end of our sun as a reason is irresponsible. Even if it took us until the year 7000 AD to leave our solar system, one could slow our rate of technological progress by a factor of 1 million and we would still leave before the sun exploded. In short, future space exploration and colonization is necessary and inevitable, but to cite the explosion of our sun as grounds for future research in space is ridiculous.

Re:Skeptic here (2)

Midnight Ryder (116189) | more than 13 years ago | (#399884)

*SIGH* - I know the rules, don't feed the trolls... but... I gotta respond to this one.

yeah and in a clump of shit there are carbon chains but guess what it is still a clump of shit

Yep. And you know what's interesting about that statement? A "clump of shit" would indicate the presence of life - ya can't have a clump of shit without someone to take a dump. Think about it...

Re:First of all.. (2)

348 (124012) | more than 13 years ago | (#399885)

LOL, This is funny and actually quite correct. Perdida get's a gold star for seeing what most would miss.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

348 (124012) | more than 13 years ago | (#399886)

Terra-formed? Are you insane? WTF have you been soking. Here the post is speaking to not fucking up the environment and you're speaking of terra-forming it>? Now that's the way to leave it un blemished. Screw it up like we are own planet. LOL Dude, you need to turn off the TV, go outside and see real life for a little while.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

348 (124012) | more than 13 years ago | (#399887)

Earthly microrganisms could leak into the Martian environment and cause havoc.

Puhleeze.

The ecosphere on Mars will be completely unchanged by mans presence. Look at antarctica, save for a few hundred oil drums and some old buldozers it's just like we found it.

Re:Skeptic here (2)

sandgroper (145126) | more than 13 years ago | (#399889)

1) Skepticism is a healthy part of the scientific method.

2) Shaking bar magnets can result in chains, but it's unlikely. A lower energy config is clumping.
(Try the experiment in 2D. Get a bunch of little bar magnets, put 'em in a shoebox, and shake. See what you get. Clumps? :-)

3) Experiments are also a healthy part of the scientific method.

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (2)

juju2112 (215107) | more than 13 years ago | (#399896)


What about the converse? Consider this passage:
The fact that a small (about 4-pound) meteorite from a planet contains large numbers of bacteria suggests that such bacteria were widespread on the surface of Mars, the researchers say. A stone of similar size from Earth would contain many bacteria.
What happens when the astronaut returns to Earth?? Our immune systems have evolved defenses to bacteria in OUR environment. What are the chances that an extraterrestrial bacteria could wipe out our civilization?

If we ever become capable of really exploring the galaxy, and the universe really is as diverse as this article suggests, then i'd say our chances wouldn't be that good. Of course, there might not be any bacteria alive on Mars today. But that still doesn't exclude further extraplanetary explorations.

-- juju

Hmm NASA really seems to be low on funds... (2)

amirboy2 (264999) | more than 13 years ago | (#399899)

I mean, didn't they try this a couple years ago to suck some more money out of the US government?
...
hell, its 2001, they ought to have found something by now...

Re:this may be unpopular but... (2)

ex pope john (312896) | more than 13 years ago | (#399900)

i bet you're a lota fun at parties.

Can't we get more proof? (2)

disconect (317202) | more than 13 years ago | (#399901)

I just don't know if I can buy this meteorite as absolute proof. It certainly suggests there's a high probability that life on Mars created the formations, but it doesn't guarantee it. Too many others things could be the cause and too many variable affected the meteorite....who's to say it didn't happen on earth? But now that we have this -good idea-, we should send a probe (or manned mission - pick me! pick me!) up to Mars to look for more rocks that exhibit this same formation and search for more conclusive proof.

The future is here. (2)

qpt (319020) | more than 13 years ago | (#399902)

Despite the general lackadaisical attitude of your average Joe on the street, the discovery of extra-terrestrial life - if proven - will be the most significant scientific discovery ever.

Mankind has speculated for centuries that earth could not be the sole cradle of life, and proof of this intuition will result in a massive shift in how mankind relates to the cosmos. Instead of regarding ourselves as its sole intelligent organisms, we will be forced to reevaluate our role in the universe.

However, it will be a grave and perilous time for our species, and one made graver still by philosophies that now or subscribed to by our technological elite. Surely we must display unity and purpose as we go to meet or destiny, yet so many among us cling to a model that encourages - nay, demands - fractured individuality.

Yes, I'm talking about open source software. Software represents the pinnacle of man's achievement up to this point. In terms of sheer complexity and operability, it is unparalleled in our history. Yet, we are expected to trust its development to the whims of individuals.

This is not right. May this monumentous discovery of alien life drive us closer together, and force us to reevaluate the destructive and futile practices that open source demands.

- qpt

Re:This could be bad news for manned space travel. (3)

nyet (19118) | more than 13 years ago | (#399904)

Unless we invent a time machine this won't be a problem.

Where in the article were you led to believe that there is CURRENTLY life on Mars?

Or perhaps it was a different article than I read.

The one I read indicated the rock was 3.9 billion years old.

Wow (3)

Arker (91948) | more than 13 years ago | (#399907)

For those that can't be bothered to read the articles, at least check out the pics [nasa.gov] . This could be really huge. The arguments will surely go on until more blatant evidence comes out, but this looks pretty solid - magnetotactic bacteria leave pretty distinctive, if small and fragile, artifacts, and the stuff buried in these rocks sure look like it.

The NASA guys have been studying the artifacts since 1996, and they are now convinced enough to put their reputation on the line. These aren't people to do that lightly.


"That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

It's too late. (3)

YIAAL (129110) | more than 13 years ago | (#399908)

Earth and Mars have been transferring tons of bacteria-laden rocks to one another for millions of years. This means that each planet has already been exposed to the other's bacterial life. At any rate, Mars's soil is full of peroxides. Between that and the high UV flux, there's not much likelihood of Earth bacteria surviving.

Damned BBC! (3)

startled (144833) | more than 13 years ago | (#399909)

I just can't believe what passes for journalism these days:
"Scientists have published what they claim is conclusive evidence that bacteria once lived on Mars.... But some British experts are sceptical, saying the study falls short of absolute proof.... One thing is for certain, though. The crystals, regardless of origin, are agreed to have been a major factor in plummeting CD sales over the past year, and may have single handedly caused the recording industry wordwide losses of over a billion dollars."

Just uncalled for. Truly sloppy journalism. Fact checkers?

Martian Meteors (3)

10.0.0.1 (153985) | more than 13 years ago | (#399910)

Perhaps NASA should try crashing some more shit into Mars. We sure could use some more meteors to look at. This time, though, they could just leave out all of the expensive electronics and save some money! :o}

Re:It's too late. (3)

amirboy2 (264999) | more than 13 years ago | (#399913)

Didn't they find a couple bacteria on the one of the first satellites (i think it was the eagle something) and they though it was alien?
then they checked it out and found out one of the engineers had sneezed on the glass before getting it ready. The interesting part however is that the bacteria started reproducing as soon as it was back. it actually survived.

This could be bad news for manned space travel. (3)

Urban Existentialist (307726) | more than 13 years ago | (#399914)

This discovery of life on Mars could be very bad news for manned space travel. Many think that it could be good news, because there will be pressure as never before to visit Mars and investigate the life that may be there and was once there.

However, is this the responsible thing to do? Wherever man travels he brings with him a shower of varied microrganisms, which adapt to local conditions. It would be extremely difficult to rid any travelling ship or astronaut of the organisms. If they got free in the Martian environment, they could wreak havoc.

The great irony of the War of the Worlds is that the precise opposite of the conclusion to that great tale could occur if we visit Mars - Earthly microrganisms could leak into the Martian environment and cause havoc.

Although this is unlikely, extremely unlikely in fact, even assuming that life exists on Mars now, the chance is not one we should take. I do not support a manned mission to Mars in the light of this discovery - this is rational because although the chances are so very small, we would be risking a lot - an entire ecosphere.

You know exactly what to do-
Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh-

Re:I have to speak... (5)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | more than 13 years ago | (#399915)

>First of all there is the galaxy; it needs to be very very specific in both size, age, and type.

Bullshit. Just because our galaxy has a certain configuration doesn't mean that's the only configuration that can support life. Do you honestly think that life can only occur in the uncharted backwaters of the unfasionable end of the western spiral arm of a particular type of galaxy?

>The star has to be exacly the right size nad exactly the right point in its life

Bullshit. Our sun is about 4.5 billion years old. Life has existed on Earth for better than 3 billion years of that. So the sun has been at "exactly the right point in its life" for 2/3 of its life. Uhmm, right. As for size, the only thing that matters is the luminous intensity at the planet's surface. A larger or brighter star simply requires a larger orbit, thicker atmosphere, or more temperature-tolerant life.

>The planet has to be composed of exactly the right material...

Bullshit. Earth is mostly iron and nickel. The crust is mostly silicon, aluminum, and oxygen. Only one of these elements is important for the basics of life. To produce Earth-like life, the planet needs certain amounts of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, etc. at the surface. These do not have to be the primary constituents of the planet.

>...be the right size...

Bullshit. Earth-like life requires a certain minumum size, to hold an atmosphere. There is really no definite upper limit on size, though. Life, especially simple life like bacteria, would have absolutely no trouble evolving on a planet 10 times as massive as Earth.

>and be at exactly the right distance from the sun

Bullshit. Again, Earth-like life requires the surface temperature to be within a certain range, but it's hardly exact. The primary requirements are that water be a liquid and proteins hold together against thermal disruption. Known life on Earth exists in temperatures over a range of better than 350 Kelvins. Even if you needed a smaller temperature range, you have 3 variables to adjust. Sun brightness, orbit distance, and atmosphereic reflectiveness. It's not too hard to find a combination of those that will produce the right temperature.

>There has to be a moon at exactly the right distance and exactly the right size

Bullshit. Whose ass did you pull this statement out of? Do you honestly expect me to believe that chemical reactions on Earth's surface are dependant on the luminosity and gravitational pull of the Moon?! At least the other arguments sounded credible before you thought about them. This one's just ridiculous.

>...this is not a troll...

Sure had me fooled.

Re:Occam's Razor (5)

coughlin (244007) | more than 13 years ago | (#399916)

Some of the magnetite and pyrrhotite in the Allen Hills meteorite was found in or very close to calcium carbonate globules with surface textures consistent with partial dissolution. While magnetite (Fe3O4) and pyrrhotite (FeS) can be inorganically precipitated under reducing conditions (high pH), these conditions stabilize carbonate.

It is possible that the iron sulfides were created at high pH and then the pH was lowered and the carbonates were partially dissolved; however, under such conditions the pyrrhotite and magnetite would also exhibit some kind of weathering, which is not evident in the samples.

Bacteria, however, are known to exhibit intracellular coprecipitation of iron sulfides and magnetite and extracellular coprecipitation of the same in anaerobic conditions.

See J.L. Kirschvink, A.T. Maine, H. Vali, Science 275, 1629 (1997) for more information.

I don't know if the crystal chains reported today were found in close proximity to carbonate globules, but they came from the same meteorite.

All of the various findings that indicate possible life in ALH84001, from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, to magnetite crystals to the so-called microfossils have possible non-biogenic origins.

The real question is what is more likely -- that a bunch of (generally) incompatible inorganic processes all occurred at approximately the same time and place, or that ancient martian life [of which we have no hard evidence at all] is responsible.

At some point Occam's Razor points to life; I am not sure we are there yet, but every new study of ALH80041 seems to push the balance a little bit further in favor of ancient life on Mars.

Do you know what this means (5)

bedel231 (266732) | more than 13 years ago | (#399917)

That means that the chances of wierd sex with some alien chick with 3 breasts just got so much better.

:)

http://cgs.wox.org
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>