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Tropical Lakes On Saturn Moon Could Expand Options For Life

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the going-for-a-dip dept.

NASA 84

ananyo writes "Nestling among the dunes in the dry equatorial region of Saturn's moon Titan is what appears to be a hydrocarbon lake. The observation, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, suggests that oases of liquid methane — which might be a crucible for life — lie beneath the moon's surface. Besides Earth, Titan is the only object in the Solar System to circulate liquids in a cycle of rain and evaporation, although on Titan the process is driven by methane rather than water. This cycle is expected to form liquid bodies near the moon's poles, but not at its dune-covered equator. Now scientists think they have found a tropical lake — some 60 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide, and at least 1 meter deep — in Cassini observations made between 2004 and 2008. Because tropical lakes on Titan should evaporate over a period of just a few thousand years, the researchers argue that these ponds and lakes are being replenished by subsurface oases of liquid methane. That would expand the number of places on the moon where life could potentially originate."

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harmoniums and tralfamadorians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319801)

Heed the call of Titan and her sirens

The Slylandro (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320083)

Titan is the only object in the Solar System to circulate liquids in a cycle of rain and evaporation

The relatives of the Slylandro would argue about that ~

Re:The Slylandro (0)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320167)

The inhabitants of earth have a pretty good case against that statement too.

Re:The Slylandro (2)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321433)

RTFS, dude. "Besides Earth" is right there next to gp's quote.

Re:The Slylandro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40325749)

The probes of the Slylandro would

oh wait

what's that they've jettisoned?

Oh, that's a missile.

Hdrocarbons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319887)

God created those for the US. I lay claim to Titan on behalf all Americans - Go US, US!

Tax (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319921)

Damn, discovery of a nearby lake will jack up my property tax. Nosy TRS*.

* Titan Revenue Service

An Alternative (0, Troll)

MadFan (2576513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319949)

Alternative story:

Instead of Titan being billions of years old, the evidence suggest that Titan is only thousands of years old because of the evaporation of the methane.
Yet the desire to prove life on other planets/moons requires for long ages hence the interpretation of replenishment of the pools. Evidence plesae?'

I know its not popular to say it, but there is no life on Titan, abiogenesis doesn't happen and no amount of speculation will put it there.
Cheers

Re:An Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40320905)

...abiogenesis doesn't happen and no amount of speculation will put it there.

Messrs Miller and Urey would disagree with you, as do I.

Re:An Alternative (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321013)

Are you joking or trolling?

Re:An Alternative (0)

MadFan (2576513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40323495)

Neither, I am pointing out that abiogenesis is impossible and it's only hope in evolution that is used to say there is life on Titan. (because if it happen here it must happen everywhere)
And as for evolution, you must have long ages hence the reinterpretation of the facts with speculations that Titan is refilling it's lakes.
So I was pointing out the philosophy used to come to his conclusion, not any facts of science.

Re:An Alternative (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40328955)

Oh, you're a creationist?

Re:An Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40332461)

Yes, I have a different starting assumption hence I can interpret the evidence differently. Most evolutionists do not know that they too have their own starting assumptions which is based on faith.

I also can't help but read that line as an attempted ad hominem argument. Which doesn't invalidate my comments

Re:An Alternative (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335851)

That explains at least why you claimed that Titan is thousands of years old. If it was formed thousands of years ago, it would still be forming today, since those processes of accretion don't operate on such small timescales. Not to mention that it would still be quite hot. It's only sensible if you believe some sort of fairy with a magical wand came by and poofed it into existence. Which is fine by me, but I see no reason to jump to that conclusion.

Re:An Alternative (1)

MadFan (2576513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40339991)

Hello Mr2cents,

You have missed the point of the starting assumptions of a creationist.
Creationist will hold the starting assumption that Titan was created already in orbit around Saturn, hence there will be no accretion disk.

So it is a logical fallacy to try to push a nebular theory into the creation model then use that to discredit the creationist model.

If the creationist scenario is correct, we would not expect it to be forming.
The rational of my conclusion for Titan is young is the atmosphere indicates recent creation by lack of ethane from the 4.9% methane in the air. UV light would of broken down the methane completely in just 10 million years. But in 4.5 billion years, we would expect to see such high concentrations of ethane if Methane was constantly being regenerated yet we don't see that.


Cheers

Re:An Alternative (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40340583)

But the thing is, we have these instruments called telescopes, and you can look at star nurseries where stars are being formed, you can see stars exploding, etc. And now we can even see accretion disks around young stars with some object sweeping up dust as they move along it (proto-planets). So this is a big hint as to how things work. Accretion is happening. Sorry but I really can't wrap my head around your point of view. If you are correct then things should either be really very different from what we observe, or some thousands of years ago everything should have popped into existence in a way that deliberately hides the fact that these were created at that time. All of a sudden, earth would be here, with layered sediments, a moon full of craters, light streaming in from non-existent stars and galaxies, creating them as our horizon deepens, gravity fields already in place while we await for the actual gravity fields to arrive, etc. I could go on and on, but you should get the point by now. And then, this creator forgot about making Titan look old. Hmm.. Call me gullible, but I think there is a better explanation than that to explain Titan's atmosphere.

PS: to anyone moderating, could you please stop modding MadFan down, I'm trying to have a discussion here, this is a rather old thread by now so please, don't waste your points on it. (if you insist, mod me up instead :-))

Re:An Alternative (1)

MadFan (2576513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40343205)

Issue 1 - Accretion disks
There are dust rock/disks around stars, one example is pictrous beta, Which to my knowledge is the best example yet even in this it shows a fully formed plant that has already cleared its area of rocks. It does not show a forming planet but an already formed plant.
Note that when I say disks I am not saying those disks are the same in the nebular theory.
A counter example would be our every own Sun. Our Sun has 99.8% of the mass but only 2% of the angular momentum. If the Sun was made out of the nebular theory then just like how a ice skater spins faster when her arms are pulled in, then the Sun should have the bulk of the angular momentum. Yet the evidence shows otherwise.

Issue 2 - Star Nurseries
We see at best are cloudy areas that are getting brighter. We have not observed any stars forming, only glowing gas. The clouds in question are are glowing indicates that they are hot - thousands of degrees.
Problems with star formation from gas is that Gas is too hot to condense by gravity. That is, once you get the gas compressed enough, it becomes too hot and expand out because the particles are bouncing around too fast. This is a basic law of gases.
To get around this problem, it is claimed that you need a nearby super nova to compress the gas to trigger it from the gas's primed state to get it to the critical point of gravitational collapse. There are an observed 200 super novas in our galaxy, there should be been at least 5000 if the universe was old. Also from each of the observed 200 super novas, there are no stars being formed.

Issue 3 - Layered Sediments
The evolutionist view is that the sedimentary layers are millions of years old.
The creationist view is these layers are a result of a global flood covered all the land. (not a local flood)
It is fact that water deposits will form into layers, this is repeatable in labs.
The grand canyon layers are all sedimentary. The "geologic" column is only in the text books. That is no where on earth do you find the fossil record in the order in the textbook the fossil. i.e. Triobytes -> dinosuar -> birds ... .
An example of the fossil record supporting creation, is that you never find a transition record of humans or any phylum. (Phylum is roughly how we would describe "Kinds" in the Bible.) There is no dino bird (the archaeopteryx was a fully formed bird with the 2 of the 5 sacks that birds have, yes it had teeth so what several old birds had teeth.) I recommend the book "Evolution: the fossils still say no".

Issue 4 - Moon Craters
I just recently happen to got into an argument with a local preacher here and he wanted to know about the moon cratering supporting a young age. So I written a document around it around 6 pages long
I installed drop box so I could share the document I written if you want to read it, my file [dropbox.com]
To summarize:
The argument is the moon is old because there are lots of creators. The marinas (dark areas) are lava filled areas. Theses are located roughly in one corner of the moon, yet if the moon was evenly bombarded the dark spots will be all over the moon, not just in 1 corner.
There are ghost craters which are lava filled creators which must of happen after the first impact. but since there are so many of these, this musst of happen 500million years after the first impact. why wait so long to be filled in?
In the document I also talked about how the moon as a 1.3Billion year age limit otherwise the Earth would of destroyed it before it assembled.

Issue 5 - Distance of Light
There is a creationist cosmology, look up Russell Humphrey, he had several ideas, basically the stars/galaxies was created very close to earth. This would of put earth below the event horizon of a black hole. The size of the black hole's event horizon was very large, think no like a vortex but a pan pressed down and earth in the center.
In the Bible, God says he stretched out the heavens 17 times. So in this cosmology, God stretched out space and thus the event horizon shrunk. Anything out of the event horizon will have time started, anything below would still be paused in time. So hence the outer universe could easily have 13 billion years yet the earth only 6000 years.
I suggest reading a book called "Dismantling the big bang" by Alex Williams & John Hartnett, it shows the problems of the big bang and even compared it to the creationist model and even talked about so of the other models out there. It first ripped into the big bang, which I liked reading, then it ripped into the creationist model, which I though, wtf? but it's only being consistent. At the end of the book it does a occams razor about which view supports the evidence based on the number of assumptions required at each stage.
Creationist do not believe God created light in transit to fake an old universe as that would make God a lier. That was a big problem in the past as we didn't know how to explain distant light but we now have a model which does.

Whats most annoying with modding is that people sometimes mod me funny! wtf, I wasn't making jokes! arggg!
The second annoying thing is it limits how many times I can reply to people questioning me.
I agree that If people where going to mod against me, they should do it by modding you up.

Re:An Alternative (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40355999)

Thank you for the reply. I do appreciate you're not the dumb kind of theist and genuinely try to make sense of your point of view. Some points you made were really interesting. I wish I could go deeper into this, but I'm sorry to say that due to personal events unfolding, I won't have much time to delve into it for the next weeks :(. I did manage to read your document though.
Maybe some remarks I'd like to make: I have this eery feeling that if you do the math, there are some real problems that need to be explained from your side: one thing is the cratering (not only of the moon but of other celestial bodies).. if all these craters happened to be impacts of the last thousands of years, would there have been enough time to dissipate away all the heat?
Another is about the flooding theory: If biblical accounts are correct, then you'd get a world-wide flood in 40 days of rain. That makes 8000m/40 days = 200m of rainfall per day. World-wide. Quite hefty I'd say. Have you considered what the air pressure before that event would have been, and also, how much condensation energy would have been released by turning vapour into rain?
If you can't answer these questions directly, I wont hold it against you, as the discussion will have to wind down, I will be over my ears in work.

Cheers,
Mr2Cents.

Re:An Alternative (1)

MadFan (2576513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40357107)

Thats ok you dont have time, I spent all of my sunday replying my last post to another guy.
I dont know about dissipation of heat, I am not an expert in that matter and I havn't read anything about it either so I hate to use the evolutionist argument of "It had to happen because we see it that way today" and apply it to heat dissipation.. I really do hate that argument, it's logically flawed.
I just relised you might be talking about the nebular theory, It's a invalid position to take if the bodies were created, hence not the entire body was molten, only the parts of the already created smooth surface would of been hot after being hit. And it would of been weeks to months for such surface area to cool down.
With the flood you have made 2 wrong assumptions in that question
1 - It wasn't that rain that caused the flood, "the fountains of the deep opened up", we creationists believe that to be a layer of water below the continenal crust. This theory was is called catastrophic plate tectonics "CPT". Basically the land mass torn about in the Atlantic ocean when the Pacific sunk, opening the crack to a ocean of water which gushed out at super sonic speed because of the pressure. This is the rain that happen, so it's a symptom of that caused the flood. Of course to be fair there is another creationist theory called the water canopy but that would not produce the water required IMO, but it does explain alot of pre flood things
2 - 8000m, I am assuming you think the water had to reach 8000 meters (Mt Everest), this is not the case. The bible said it reach a little above the highest mountain on earth, that highest mountain would not of been Everest. With CPT you will get continents siding off the water layer away from the crack initially at up to 40 meters per hour!. These continents would then rub up against other plates and slow down after folding up and down, causing the mountians today and the deep valleys of the oceans, allowing the water to flow into. Hence we dont know how tall the highest mountain was but if the earth was purely flat then the water would of covered the land by 3 Kms so the mountain had to be shorter than that.
Oh yes Air pressure, The water canopy theory would make the Earth a big hyperbolic chamber, which would make for massive vegetation, allow 70 ton dinosaurs to breath through there horse size nostrils. Today, if you grow a mini tomato plant in these conditions it becomes 14 meters tall produce 15000 tomatos over its live and becomes an attraction in a japanese shopping center. Also some other guy grew piranha and they grew 4x times bigger. Of evidence of increase oxygen levels pre flood is in sap you find air bubbles with 30% oxygren, that 50% more than today and 70 ton dinosaurs that couldn't get enough oxygen with their small (horse size) nostrils .
The water mainly came from underground, yes a lot when into the stratosphere, I dont know how that would effect the temperature. How hot was the water under pressure in CPT? how much did it cool by being sprayed out? I just dont know. But that does raise an interesting question about the Ice age, (which was only on high ground) but we think that was due to the flood interfering with the water cycle around the earth.
I wish you all the best
Cheers

Re:An Alternative (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394507)

The biggest problem with Christianity is Christians, as a Christian I find that so often to be the case. I sometimes agree with what you say and sometimes want to just slap you through your monitor.

You keep saying "we creationists believe" as if there's only one interpretation of scripture. The bible is meant to tell us things we could not figure out ourselves (We could not have figured out the trinity or Christ's sacrifice, for example, without divine revelation of those things.) and contains many different writing styles. Some is poetry, some is history, some is laws. It is, in effect, a love letter from a parent to the children. Christians take various interpretations, quite a few, myself included, simply admit that we don't know how it happened in regards to the floods. I can of course think of a few ways, but I don't know. He could have used natural forces, he could have just plonked down a few miles of water, I don't know and that is OK. You are entitled to your interpretations, but please don't lump me in with your interpretation as you seem to frequently do.

I am reminded of Matthew 22:37, Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

We Christians don't get brownie points for being stupid. Science itself was founded on the Christian worldview, that the universe was real, orderly, and understandable. This is unique among worldviews. Robert Boyle, whom you yourself have quoted in the past, said “From a knowledge of God's work we shall know Him.” To ignore what we have learned about his creation, and instead try to make your interpretation of scripture fit instead, is a slap in the face of God himself.

We do this in our everyday lives, I read the Chilton's manual for my pickup and take an interpretation of the information there. Often I go investigate my pickup and find that my interpretation of that book was wrong, does that mean that the Chilton's manual is useless and was written by someone who had never worked on my pickup? No, it just means that my interpretation, based on the information I had at the time, was incorrect. The more I learn the better my understanding and the greater appreciation of the information I find within. Thus it is with the bible. Also like the bible, there is plenty I don't understand. Just because I don't understand all of it is no reason to dismiss the parts I do understand, nor is it reason to not try to understand it.

Wisdom 11:17-20
For not without means was your almighty hand,l
that had fashioned the universe from formless matter,*
to send upon them many bears or fierce lions,
Or newly created, wrathful, unknown beasts
breathing forth fiery breath,
Or pouring out roaring smoke,
or flashing terrible sparks from their eyes.
Not only could these attack and completely destroy them;
even their frightful appearance itself could slay.
Even without these, they could have been killed at a single blast,
pursued by justice
and winnowed by your mighty spirit.
But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.


To translate for those unfamiliar. God COULD have created a world that operated like the Paean worldview, at the whims of magical beasts and demi-gods, but in his love created a world that we humans, created in his image, could come to know and understand. If Science says that the world is 14 billion years old, then great. The fact that our dating isn't 100% perfect or we don't fully understand something doesn't mean we throw it all in the bin and shoehorn a biblical interpretation in. We just say humbly that we don't know and continue looking for explanations. We are not going to have a complete understanding of the universe tomorrow, next year, or next century. Perhaps we'll find a reason for the supposed discrepancies.

I don't buy the interpretations that show the wold as only 6,000 years old or that scripture shows the date of the second coming. (Matthew 24:36: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.") God has unlimited time and unlimited resources with which to create. If he wanted to create a universe that took ~14 billions years for us to receive the breath of life, that is his business. The people who think 6,000 years make me imagine God as being in a rush to create, like he had a golf game to get to or something. It reeks of a Paegan view of the world.

Science and Christianity are not at odds. Science and some Christians interpretation of scripture is. If anything, science of the 20th century has been a boon for Christianity and a major headache for Atheists. 200 years ago we did not have Scientific evidence of a fine-tuned universe with a beginning and we also did not have some of the superb Christian philosophy that has arisen over the last 50+ years.

/Have a good evening.

Re:An Alternative (1)

MadFan (2576513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40414733)

The biggest problem with Christianity is Christians, as a Christian I find that so often to be the case. I sometimes agree with what you say and sometimes want to just slap you through your monitor.

I agree

You keep saying "we creationists believe" as if there's only one interpretation of scripture. The bible is meant to tell us things we could not figure out ourselves (We could not have figured out the trinity or Christ's sacrifice, for example, without divine revelation of those things.) and contains many different writing styles. Some is poetry, some is history, some is laws. It is, in effect, a love letter from a parent to the children. Christians take various interpretations, quite a few, myself included, simply admit that we don't know how it happened in regards to the floods. I can of course think of a few ways, but I don't know. He could have used natural forces, he could have just plonked down a few miles of water, I don't know and that is OK. You are entitled to your interpretations, but please don't lump me in with your interpretation as you seem to frequently do.

You are right, I shouldn't do a generic all encompassing statement, as you also can't pin down what an evolutionist believe as they all believe different things. You are free to assume how God did the flood to the parameters givens in the Bible.

If Science says that the world is 14 billion years old, then great.

Wrong, lets assume that science says that and it's not the spin put on it from a atheist world view like now. If the Earth is 4.5 billions then that would make God a lier not only in Genesis, but also Jesus himself. It would make his death meaningless as sin and death would be already in the world. It would make God a cruel and sloppy designer unable to make anything complex and needed pain and suffering to get anywhere. The believe in long ages total undermines the Bible and Atheists can see this quite clearly. The another issue here is why not take him at his word? He says it did it in 6 days, 6000 years agos. If you dont believe in what he says how can you possible believe him when he says your sins are forgiven?

Side note: The atheist's believe is that it is the universe that is 14 billion years old, not the earth. This use to be a problem in the past for creationists as it's obvious how far the stars are away but we now have our own cosmologies to explain an old universe (stars created on 4 day) yet the Earth being 6000 years old. The two are not incompatible anymore, only based on the Genesis record.

Science and Christianity are not at odds. Science and some Christians interpretation of scripture is. If anything, science of the 20th century has been a boon for Christianity and a major headache for Atheists. 200 years ago we did not have Scientific evidence of a fine-tuned universe with a beginning and we also did not have some of the superb Christian philosophy that has arisen over the last 50+ years.

Science and Christianity isn't at odds, only the religion of evolution being masked as "science". I agree that with more advance science we are beginning to understand how radically complex life is, but as predicted in the Bible, the scorners will continue to mock the creator saying everything is just like they were from the beginning.

Now i have to prepare for another reply from an eager evolutionist in another thread.

Cheers

Re:An Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40324015)

You seem to be making a claim that's debunked by your own existence. Of course life develops from non-life, or there would be no life.

Sky-fairy nonsense doesn't help, since that life would also to have come from non-life.

Re:An Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40332543)

Where do I with an argument like this?

It's Affirming The Consequent [wikipedia.org] . You are using the fact that we live to prove your cause, yet you have failed to prove that that the cause is the only "cause".

Also I could point out that your "fairy" nonsence about you comming from rocks, to make that claim you will have to prove that life, any self repeating structure based on a dna sequence can form from any chemicals.

I am rather generous, Show me an example of life comming from rocks, if you can't replicate it in the lab, then it is not science by definition.

The Urey Gray experaments in the 50s showed how awfully hard it is to create life. In thier experaments, they only created some amino acids in a 99% tar filled trap. The trap to catch the chemicals is outside interference already, The 99% tar kills any protein chains, and the amino acids them selves are toxic to each other because they are both right and left handed. That means you have a 50% chance of the chain being terminated everytime the 1% of amino get together.

Do the odds, for getting a single 100 acid long protein is 1 to 1267650600228229401496703205376 agianst. Once you have that single protein, the Tar will destory it.

There was no oxygen in the experiment because Oxygen destroys the proteins and acids With Oxygen you can't have life from abiogeneis. Oh my, without Oxygen the UV light from the sun destroys the protein chains too. Another catch 22.

Please provide evidence for abiogeneses to assert your claim.

Any pics of lake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319951)

I googled around and found no images of the tropical lake. The photos given were usually file photos of the general surface; none clearly identifying the new lake. Was it discovered using something besides imaging and spread radar, such as point radar?

Re:Any pics of lake? (5, Funny)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319961)

Was it discovered using something besides imaging and spread radar, such as point radar?

Imaging of data gathered in a chronosynclastic infundibulum, AFAIK.

Needless(?) to say, life found THERE would be... (3, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319955)

Absolutely positively evidence that the universe was crawling with life!

It would mean life is not only not based on DNA (and thus couldn't be a result of cross-contamination with earth as has been suggested might be the case for any Maryian life we might come across), but wouldn't even be based on WATER! It would mean that perhaps anywhere there was a liquid at perhaps almost any temperature we should be on the lookout for life! (Liquid helium on Pluto? Molton magma in the earth's mantle?)

I read in the book "Life as we do not know it" that Titan could be the home to up to three(!) completely separate "Domains" (the authors term) of life. Water based (around some heated cryo-volcanoes perhaps), ammonia-water, and methane based.

Someday we'll send a manned mission to orbit Titan. Then using remote balloons(!) and boats(!) they'll be able to really investigate these possibilities. Until then, the time lag will make things difficult (but not impossible I hope).

CHON is where it's at (5, Interesting)

Pfhorrest (545131) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320099)

AFAIK there's nothing to say that methane-based life couldn't also use DNA. Methane is still carbon and hydrogen. All living organisms on Earth are composed primarily of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen (CHON), and the general presumption looking for life elsewhere in the universe is that places with high concentrations of those elements is a good place to look, because we know life can be built out of them. Hydrogen and carbon dioxide are interconvertible with methane and water very much like carbohydrates (such as methane) and oxygen are interconvertible with carbon dioxide and water; all these processes involve the, C, H, and O of CHON equally, and the former was actually quite common early in the history of life on Earth. It wasn't until photosynthetic organisms started using light to convert CO2 and H20 into O2 and various CH's that the now-free O2 and CH4 reacted to become more of the H2O and CO2 that now cover our planet. (And then the O2 kept piling up and almost killed it all until some enterprising organisms started combusting it with those other CH's into more H20 and CO2).

TL:DR; methane really isn't all that weird an environment to find life much like we know it. Molten silicon and iron, on the other hand, or liquid helium, that would require some as-yet-unknown chemistry).

Re:CHON is where it's at (5, Insightful)

codewarren (927270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321315)

Extreme cold, on the other hand, does reduce the odds of finding life. Not because things can't live in cold climate, but because evolution is ultimately a chemical process, and all chemical processes are retarded by cold. It took life on earth billions of years to evolve in a temperate climate. In a gigantic freezer, it could be expected to take much much longer.

Re:CHON is where it's at (4, Informative)

grep_rocks (1182831) | more than 2 years ago | (#40322067)

It takes more than just having the right elements to create life - water has some interesting chemical properties that methane lacks - such as it is one of the only chemicals which expands when it freezes, water is a polar molecule being slightly positive on one side and negative on the other, can form a large number of hydrogen bonds for its size, and especially relevant is that it is a fantastic solvent - all these properties are favorable for life, for example being a good solvent allows other molecules and ions to dissolve into water, allowing for lots of different types of chance chemical reactions to occur between different dissolved molecules - Methane is not as good a solvent as water, as it lacks polarity, however some people have proposed life working using poly-lipids as a substitute for proteins in non-polar liquids but because it is a poor solvent the chances of life working in a methane ocean seem less likely than water...

Re:CHON is where it's at (3, Interesting)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 2 years ago | (#40322907)

One of the things that contributes to 'life as we know it' is the lipid bi-layer which forms cell membranes.

The lipid bi-layer is formed by molecules one end of which is hydrophobic and the other end of which is hydrophilic.

One has to wonder if similar analogous molecules exist for methane instead of water? Ie methane-phobic on one end and methane-philic on the other.

 

Re:CHON is where it's at (2)

Obfiscator (150451) | more than 2 years ago | (#40331365)

Sure...the same lipids that are found in the phospholipid bilayer in our own cells. The hydrophilic end is methane-phobic, and the hydrophobic end is methane-philic. This would cause them to organize in the reverse direction so that the hydrocarbon tail is solvent-exposed. There seems to be some work on the subject, perhaps starting with Rand et al, Biochemistry, vol. 29, pp. 76--87 (1990), though it's really not my field so I'm not familiar with all the literature.

Re:CHON is where it's at (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 2 years ago | (#40332371)

Sure...the same lipids that are found in the phospholipid bilayer in our own cells. The hydrophilic end is methane-phobic, and the hydrophobic end is methane-philic. This would cause them to organize in the reverse direction so that the hydrocarbon tail is solvent-exposed. There seems to be some work on the subject, perhaps starting with Rand et al, Biochemistry, vol. 29, pp. 76--87 (1990), though it's really not my field so I'm not familiar with all the literature.

I wonder if they would function like this at the temperatures where methane is liquid?

Re:CHON is where it's at (1)

Obfiscator (150451) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395241)

My guess is yes. These effects are because of ordering in the system, which means the enthalpic gain is more than the entropic cost. The entropic cost is higher at higher temperatures. So if they display this behavior at room temperature, lowering the temperature to where methane is liquid (even at infinite pressure, the temperature has to be below about 180 K to get a liquid phase, if my memory of the coexistence curve is accurate) is going to reduce the entropic cost even further, which should make them even more likely to self-assemble. So you should at least get some organization, which might be enough to have a cell membrane replacement.

  It would be fun to see a methane-membrane protein. I wonder if you could create it by taking a regular membrane protein and making all the polar residues non-polar and vice versa. That would probably really mess up the folding, though.

Re:CHON is where it's at (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40323901)

Molten silicon and iron, on the other hand, ... that would require some as-yet-unknown chemistry).

The Hortas would disagree with you.

Re:CHON is where it's at (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40329363)

This may sound nit-picky to any non-chemist, but our terms are not up for discussion:

carbohydrates (such as methane)

Methane is not a carbohydrate. It's a hydrocarbon. Sugar is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrate: "carbon and water (water a. k. a. DHMO)"; hydrocarbon: "hydrogen and carbon".

[...] photosynthetic organisms started using light to convert CO2 and H20 into O2 and various CH's

No, they started using light to convert CO2 and H2O into O2 and carbohydrates, not hydrocarbons. Like:

6 CO2 + 6 H2O -> C6H12O6 + 6 O2

This mission project does exist: TSSM (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320579)

It was one of the last NASA / Esa proposals for an ambitious large mission, only, the thing was automated:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_Saturn_System_Mission [wikipedia.org] -nicknamed 'TSSM'

In 2009 an easier-to-do competitor was chosen, to Jupiter (also because we already went to Titan with Cassini/Huygens, similarly a joint NASA/ESA mission), but TSSM does remains a convincing candidate for the next row of selection...

Herve5, former tech. resp. of the Huygens probe to Titan ;-)

Nuke ALL Planets! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40320017)

We should nuke all of the planets we discover, beat them down and watch the candy drop from their interior.

Rivers? (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320131)

Maybe liquid methane flows from the poles to the equator and evaporates there. Then gaseous methane flows to the pole through the atmosphere and precipitates out.

Re:Rivers? (3, Funny)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320151)

Maybe liquid methane flows from the poles to the equator and evaporates there. Then gaseous methane flows to the pole through the atmosphere and precipitates out.

Nooooooooo GLOBAL WARMING has broken Titan!!!!

Re:Rivers? (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320173)

Global warming stops the place from freezing solid. More greenhouse gasses could only improve the situation.

Re:Rivers? (2)

Quakeulf (2650167) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320297)

"Titan's grandtacular bean-eating contest"

Re:Rivers? (1)

Walruzoar (514362) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320321)

If these guys breathe methane, do they fart oxygen?

Re:Rivers? (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320327)

Its an interesting question. If you could find fossil oxidisers on Titan, you could run internal combustion engines on methane.

Re:Rivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321595)

Agreed. Scientists are dumbasses.

Just like "dark matter", there is an obvious and simple answer that scientists fail to believe in. Idiots.

No Proof (2)

lixns21 (1887442) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320161)

There is no proof that there is any life at all. The paper(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103510001053- login needed) that interpreted the data from the Cassini mission has been questioned by Chris McKay (NASA http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Have_We_Discovered_Evidence_For_Life_On_Titan_999.html [spacedaily.com] ). The possibilities do NOT rule out life but comes out with other explanations that are more plausible.
1. The determination that there is a strong flux of hydrogen into the surface is mistaken. It will be interesting to see if other researchers, in trying to duplicate Strobel's results, reach the same conclusion.
2. There is a physical process that is transporting H2 from the upper atmosphere into the lower atmosphere. One possibility is adsorption onto the solid organic atmospheric haze particles which eventually fall to the ground. However this would be a flux of H2, and not a net loss of H2.
3. If the loss of hydrogen at the surface is correct, the non-biological explanation requires that there be some sort of surface catalyst, presently unknown, that can mediate the hydrogenation reaction at 95 K, the temperature of the Titan surface. That would be quite interesting and a startling find although not as startling as the presence of life.
4. The depletion of hydrogen, acetylene, and ethane, is due to a new type of liquid-methane based life form as predicted (Benner et al. 2004, McKay and Smith 2005, and Schulze-Makuch and Grinspoon 2005).

Does it have to be pure methane? (2)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320177)

Could it be a brew of organic compounds that would normally freeze, but with just enough methane to keep it liquid? The methane vapor pressure could be in equilibrium with the atmospheric methane. It'd also have to be some blend that doesn't want to slowly crystallize out the solute. So solubility would have to be high for the solutes.

An Earth equivalent would be honey. Liquid, water based, stable, doesn't dry out.

Chances are the authors have thought of this and rejected it. If someone could explain why, that'd be great.

Re:Does it have to be pure methane? (3, Informative)

lixns21 (1887442) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320401)

Plausible but unlikely. Plausible since remnants of methane tend to form complex organic compounds but unlikely since if the entire composition was a single compound, the spectrographic analysis would have likely identified it! And honey does dry out! http://scienceline.org/2007/04/ask-westly-crystallizedhoney/ [scienceline.org]

The Alternative (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40320235)

Or how about we just make do with what we have and focus our efforts on living in harmony with nature and each other?

Re:The Alternative (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321195)

What makes you think we're not already doing that? Well, sometimes we're not living in harmony with each other.

Re:The Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321715)

What we "have" is only limited by our current technology and is ever expanding. At one time, we didn't have cures for some diseases that we can easily cure now. Does that mean the people from before then should have remained complacent and not advanced themselves?

Helium rain (5, Informative)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320281)

Besides Earth, Titan is the only object in the Solar System to circulate liquids in a cycle of rain and evaporation

No, [latimes.com] it is not [space.com] .

Re:Helium rain (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320809)

What about Venus ? I thought it rained on Venus, hot sulphuric acid, but still..

Re:Helium rain (4, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321027)

What about Venus ? I thought it rained on Venus, hot sulphuric acid, but still..

Yes and no. It rains sulphuric acid in the upper athmosphere (which is almost all carbon dioxide and so dense you can almost swim in it), but the rain never hits the ground.

Still, Venus is - by far - the planet that resembles Earth the most. Much more so than Mars.
Yes, it's more inhospitable too.

Re:Helium rain (3, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40323095)

Still, Venus is - by far - the planet that resembles Earth the most. Much more so than Mars.
Yes, it's more inhospitable too.

The surface of Venus is inhospitable. But people could live in the atmosphere. The atmosphere of Venus is so dense, that a floating city filled with an Earth-like atmosphere of oxygen+nitrogen would have enough buoyancy to float. The upper atmosphere is much cooler than the surface. Sunlight is more than twice as bright as on Earth, so there would be plenty of energy.

Re:Helium rain (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40323983)

One nice thing about Venus is its size and mass: it's nearly identical to Earth in both regards, and in gravity. Whereas tiny little Mars has only 1/3 of Earth's gravity.

I wonder how hard it'd be to terraform Venus' atmosphere to be breathable, or at the least stop the runaway greenhouse effect and make it habitable to humans (wearing respirators outdoors). It seems like some clever, large-scale chemical reactions, probably with some kind of genetically engineered bacteria, would be a lot easier than trying to engineer floating cities.

Re:Helium rain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40324683)

I like your attitude. Easier to just transform the whole planet to a basically completely different atmospheric composition than to build some strange-ish city.

Re:Helium rain (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40326425)

A floating city is a little more than just "strange-ish". I know the atmosphere there is thick, but it's not a liquid like water (which we actually do have experience building floating cities for--we call them "aircraft carriers" and "cruise ships"); the landers we've sent there had little trouble descending to the surface and landing and taking photos, though they didn't last long in the intense heat and corrosive atmosphere.

Changing the atmosphere is obviously a little sci-fi at this point, but we already know a fair amount about bacteria and are able to use it already on industrial scales to do work for us. Notice how, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, naturally-occurring bacteria very quickly consumed the oil (not quick enough to avoid a lot of ecological damage unfortunately); that's the kind of thing we need to take advantage of. Create some kind of bacteria that feeds on the materials in the Venusian atmosphere and emits earth-like compounds as waste, then seed the atmosphere there with them. With so much "food" available, they'll quickly multiply and change the atmosphere for us. It's not like we have to build some gigantic machine to change the atmosphere.

Re:Helium rain (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40326447)

Also, IIRC (and I think someone in another comment here mentioned this), Earth's atmosphere used to be largely methane gas, not N2 and O2 and CO2 like it is now; this was changed not by aliens with terraforming equipment, but by microbes.

Re:Helium rain (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390005)

Earth's atmosphere used to be largely methane gas

How sure are you of this? As far as I know, methane (CH4) is a so called "non-equillibrium" gas (in the context of looking for haitable planets and such)

In english, that means that CH4 will quickly be destroyed (photodissociated [wikipedia.org] )- so in order for it to exist for prolonged amounts of time, it will also have to be created somehow (i.e. "sources" of CH4)

Scientific teams use this to determine weather planets can (may) host life [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Helium rain (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#40338905)

the landers we've sent there had little trouble descending to the surface and landing and taking photos, though they didn't last long in the intense heat and corrosive atmosphere.

It's mostly the upper atmosphere that's corrosive - the troposphere is almost entirely carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
AFAIK, it was the combination of heat and pressure that did the (mostly Soviet) probes in - batteries depleted, and camera lens caps failed to deploy.
The new Venera probe scheduled for 2016 is supposedly tested underwater as well as in really high temperatures, and should have a longer life.

Re:Helium rain (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#40323513)

No, helium rain does not operate in a cycle of rain and evaporation. The He takes a one way trip deeper into the planet depleting the outer atmosphere of He.

Re:Helium rain (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390061)

No, helium rain does not operate in a cycle of rain and evaporation. The He takes a one way trip deeper into the planet depleting the outer atmosphere of He.

You could be right- but it depends on who you ask!

Thanks.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40320395)

Thanks..
http://www.sanalbeyin.net

Perhaps weather patterns have changed (3, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320599)

We know on earth deserts can form in a few thousand years so why not on Titan? Perhaps that lake is the remenant of something much larger that formed when that part of the moon was far wetter a few thousand years ago?

Titan (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320671)

Guess we will call the lake "Clear Lake" [wikipedia.org] .

Bait (1)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 2 years ago | (#40320937)

Now scientists think they have found a tropical lake — some 60 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide, and at least 1 meter deep ...

What other bass fishermen out there read that of the summary and immediately thought, "Topwater!"

(I'm going on a fishing vacation all next week. All I've been doing this week is planning rod setups, and posting to /. of course, to the detriment of my real work.)

Re:Bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321099)

Bundle up, it's about -290F.

Re:Bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321345)

It's all about rods isn't it? :)

For baiting :)

Anyway have fun with your rods :)

I mean enjoy your fishing trip.

And don't forget paper and towels to clean your hands! :D

How can anything live in methane lakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321015)

It'd be like living in farts. Is there life in farts? I don't know but when I fart I feel alive so maybe true.

Since the boiling point of methane is... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321291)

below -160C, who in their right mind actually thinks that there will be life?

Re:Since the boiling point of methane is... (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321831)

I'd love to think that right now on Titan some right-minded blob is telepathically ranting "But the melting point of dihydrogen monoxide is 273K! Nothing could live in such a hostile environment!"

Re:Since the boiling point of methane is... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40323785)

Sure, that would be great.

But seriously, what chemical reactions actually happen in water ice?

Re:Since the boiling point of methane is... (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40324299)

Water ice has nothing to do with hypothetical life on Titan. Liquid methane would replace water as the main solvent, so no water would be required. The freezing point of water therefore becomes irrelevant- it's the freezing point of methane that becomes a lower limit.

Re:Since the boiling point of methane is... (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40325163)

Great. Let's rephrase GPP's rhetorical question to be precisely on-point to Titan.

But seriously, what chemical reactions actually happen in liquid methane?

Except I'm not being rhetorical. Can we even conceive of biochemistry at -161 C? Or do we have to speculate wildly?

Re:Since the boiling point of methane is... (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40332525)

Again, temperature has nothing to do with it. The reason earthly life does poorly at sub-zero temperatures is because it is below the freezing point of our body's solvent (water). Different freezing points for different liquids mean different habitable temperatures for hypothetical life. Since Titan is the perfect temperature for liquid methane, a potential methane-based life form would also find that the moon's surface is the perfect temperature. Earthly temperatures would literally boil their blood.

Obviously it's all wild speculation, mind. Try the wikipedia article if you want to know the details:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_types_of_biochemistry#Non-water_solvents [wikipedia.org]

I for one welcome our new brethren (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321297)

I for one welcome our new brethren that we will accept and take with us on our quest to fill the universe with life.

"Life" may be overrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40321697)

We may one day discover that what we define as life may not be the most interesting or most important phenomena out there.

To use an analogy: Human beings in the universe may be like a rare radioactive isotope flying through a rain forest wondering why the planet is so barren.

life but no civilization (2)

Papa Legba (192550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40321735)

Implications of the fact that step one in building a technology base/civilization is the discovery of fire, which for a methane based life source is not going to go over so well. I can only assume that development is going to be stunted in an enviroment where a strike anywhere match is the same equivilant as the deathstars laser.

Re:life but no civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40322313)

Implications of the fact that step one in building a technology base/civilization is the discovery of fire, which for a methane based life source is not going to go over so well. I can only assume that development is going to be stunted in an enviroment where a strike anywhere match is the same equivilant as the deathstars laser.

Nonsense, the air doesn't burn unless you supply it with fuel! Our ancestors distilled their fuel and used it in liquid form as fire starter. Today we get it in convenient and safe tanks sold by Lihh Knah, who sells oxygen and oxygen accessories, so you can taste the meat, not the heat!

Re:life but no civilization (3, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#40326505)

On Titan you're surrounded by combustable fuel, but you have to go looking for oxidizer. On Earth, we're surrounded by oxidizer but have to go looking for fuel. As far as fire is concerned, it's the same thing.

Re:life but no civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336631)

The only difference being that on Titan you are the fuel...

Re:life but no civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40326617)

Well then, looks like we should crash Cassini into Titan like we crashed Galileo into Jupiter.

It is apparently in our nature to want to blow shit up, right?

Oxygen meets spark on Titan means... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40330431)

Galactic fried chicken!

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