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Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Life

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the until-john-carter-killed-them-all dept.

Mars 81

sighted writes "NASA is announcing that analysis of a rock sample collected by the Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater last month. The announcement quotes Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program: 'A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment. From what we know now, the answer is yes.'"

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81 comments

Free Mars! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153163)

Free Mars!

Re:Free Mars! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153305)

So Mars is a slut, not a whore?

Re:Free Mars! (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43153523)

I'll take it!

Re:Free Mars! (2)

craigminah (1885846) | about a year ago | (#43154061)

Free Mars...with purchase of another Mars of equal or lower price.

Re:Free Mars! (1)

avgjoe62 (558860) | about a year ago | (#43156045)

With an offer like that, I would have thought your name would have been... Slartibartfast.

'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (4, Insightful)

Kittenman (971447) | about a year ago | (#43153183)

I can speculate just as well as the next slashdotter. Mars could have done all sorts of things.

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (5, Insightful)

CrashPoint (564165) | about a year ago | (#43153283)

Confirmation of "could" does not equal speculation of "did". This is a pretty big deal.

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154057)

"Could" have approaches infinity while "did" is basically finitely linear. There has even been some speculation in the past re: missing fifth planet, Mar's potential former water and atmosphere, the earth's moon and legends of the great flood all potentially "could" be related, all or in part.

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155107)

Well, considering that it has been out of the realm of possibility for so long, it seems this is rather monumental. I saw a funny flier on space colonization today but maybe it isn't quiet so irrelevant... www.arguethat.com/fliers/FLIER1.png

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43156465)

It isn't even confirmation, just additional evidence of what we already suspect and have some proof of.

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153293)

Mars could have had a Slashdot website with editors who filtered out stupid articles.

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about a year ago | (#43154419)

No, that isn't even possible on Earth.

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153307)

I can speculate just as well as the next slashdotter. Mars could have done all sorts of things.

Did you know that even the saturn COULD have been habitable?
Thank you. I see these articles every few weeks.

Whats it now? DID it or DIDN'T it?

Re:'Could' isn't the same as 'did' (4, Funny)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year ago | (#43153559)

'Could' isn't the same as 'did'. I can speculate just as well as the next slashdotter. Mars could have done all sorts of things.

Whew, good thing we had you to point that out for us!

Mars chose Austerity over Life (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#43153275)

Ancient Mars decided to go down the Austerity path, and thus life never progressed and never got out of the dinosaur age.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153341)

Ancient Mars decided to go down the Austerity path, and thus life never progressed and never got out of the dinosaur age.

So Mars evolved republicans...

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year ago | (#43153567)

So Mars evolved republicans...

Commies, surely.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153955)

So Mars evolved republicans...

Commies, surely.

Well, they do call it the Red Planet.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year ago | (#43157265)

Well done for getting it. I'm glad at least one person did.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155691)

Or devolved Tories

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (3, Funny)

avgjoe62 (558860) | about a year ago | (#43156055)

Republicans don't evolve. They are intelligently designed.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about a year ago | (#43156591)

Republicans don't evolve. They are intelligently designed.

Around about the same time god "designed" ebola and those horrible eye-worms that infest people in parts of africa. The old dude in the sky was in bit of a misanthropic mood that day presumably,

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | about a year ago | (#43157763)

Republicans are the result of sin?

Interesting.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

whitroth (9367) | about a year ago | (#43160707)

Yep. John Carter knew 'em as "White Martians", who preyed on the rest of the Martians for millenia....

And to the idiot who commented about the "red planet" being commies, may I point out that for the last 13 years in the US, for some mind-bogglingly stupid reason, the right wing has been labeled "red state". Now, unless they're claiming to be Stalinists, I'd say the color's wrong....

But with climate change deniers there, why not send all the Republicans to the place they want to make Earth for us: Venus.... (check out the climate there....)

                mark

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0, Flamebait)

ScentCone (795499) | about a year ago | (#43153595)

Ancient Mars decided to go down the Austerity path, and thus life never progressed and never got out of the dinosaur age.

Or, perhaps Mars decided it could borrow its way to prosperity and penalize its most successful life forms for being successful, and the desolate wasteland you now see is exactly what one might expect from that understanding of where prosperity comes from.

Yeah, two can play stupid insert-politics-into-everything games. But you shot first, Greedo.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#43153671)

Nope, they reduced health care costs. To zero.

Zero sum game.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (4, Funny)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#43153837)

Hey guys, guys! Now would Mars, the god of wars want you all fighting like this... , oh wait...

Ah, carry on.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#43153877)

We should make a game of it. The winner gets to destroy Mars.

Oh.

Wait.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43159003)

What are you guys, Venusians? [slashdot.org]

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154065)

But you shot first, Greedo.

And you chose to fight straw with straw, so kindly leave the moral high ground to someone with a legitimate claim on it.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154157)

oh snap!

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154461)

He was making a joke; you appear to be a butthurt rich guy. I hope something significant happens and you lose your wealth and/or status and/or money-making position.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (2)

ScentCone (795499) | about a year ago | (#43155345)

Ah, another person who thinks that only rich people care about the reality of what it takes to increase prosperity. What kind of person hopes that a hard working person loses their way of making a living for saying out loud that it's actually making a living that brings prosperity, and not unsustainable deficit spending.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#43158049)

People who make lots of money are not the planet's most successful life forms, otherwise George W Bush and Donald Trump would be among the highlights of human civilization.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43159307)

People who make lots of money are not the planet's most successful life forms, otherwise George W Bush and Donald Trump would be among the highlights of human civilization.

I don't know... I consider cockroaches to be highly successful lifeforms. They can survive if not thrive despite being generally hated and undesirable.

Re:Mars chose Austerity over Life (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#43156169)

Ancient Mars decided to go down the Austerity path, and thus life never progressed and never got out of the dinosaur age.

Not really, they had politicians just like this planet and look what happened. In fact, or not, they are probably the same politicians exploiting the next planet du jour.

In other news... (4, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#43153353)

Morgan Fairchild could have made mad passionate love to me last night as my house supports an environment an actress could survive in. Geez, I thought that article on Panspermia was bad...

Re:In other news... (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year ago | (#43153497)

Morgan Fairchild could have made mad passionate love to me last night as my house supports an environment an actress could survive in.

I suppose she could...but if course, she didn't.

After all, she is my wife!

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153513)

To each his own, I suppose, but really, of all of the celebrity women to pick from you choose Morgan Fairchild?

Re:In other news... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153553)

He could have picked Morgan Freeman.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43156127)

In another possible universe he did.

Morgan Fairchild (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43153591)

In her day, she was quite a beauty. The plastic surgery on the breasts later on was really sad, but hey, some people like that for some reason that's completely eluded me.

One of her interests is paleontology... that beats the heck out of a number of others one might run into...

Re:Morgan Fairchild (2)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#43154125)

You really don't understand why anyone would like big fake boobs? Really? I can understand it not being your thing, but it completely eludes me how someone other than yourself like them would completely elude you.

Re:Morgan Fairchild (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43176055)

Yeah, really. I find breast enlargements sad, pitiful -- on their best day. It's not breast. It's salt water or silicone. Furthermore, the common nerve damage that makes it so the lady can't feel things properly... that's just appalling; now you have fakes that don't even work other than to hold up clothes. I recognize in the abstract that people *do* like them, I just don't get it at all.

It's not a matter of not liking it when a lady gilds the lily -- I like evening makeup, lingerie, dresses, etc -- but damaging body mods just don't appeal to me on any level. Doesn't seem compatible with a goal of pleasure, and that's always been my focus.

Re:Morgan Fairchild (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#43176579)

Not being able to understand other people's desires must make the world a confusing and scary place...

Re:In other news... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153551)

that's like saying the fact that a woman COULD have a baby isn't important unless she DOES have a baby. but it is important, because men CAN'T.

this isn't a bad article at all. in fact it's huge news. KNOWING mars could have supported life is better than WONDERING if it could have. we now have evidence that life might once have existed on mars. we didn't know that before.

Nothing new (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#43153387)

So after all that money spent on rovers, scientists still can't tell us something we don't already know?

Re:Nothing new (2)

Kittenman (971447) | about a year ago | (#43154557)

So after all that money spent on rovers, scientists still can't tell us something we don't already know?

Maybe scientists should have spent all the money on fake boobs?

Re:Nothing new (3, Informative)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#43156345)

So after all that money spent on rovers, scientists still can't tell us something we don't already know?

From the second paragraph of TFA: "Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month."

That's something we didn't already know. Don't mistake your own inability to read the article for a shortcoming on NASA's part.

Re:Nothing new (1)

Kyusaku Natsume (1098) | about a year ago | (#43157691)

Yes, that money could have better spent blowing up another hut filled with men, women and children in the Middle East.

I'm being sarcastic.

Please read TFA, the key part is:

Scientists were surprised to find a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals, providing an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth exploit to live. This partial oxidation was first hinted at when the drill cuttings were revealed to be gray rather than red.

If you know of another, cheaper way to know this I'm all ears.

Re:Nothing new (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43158551)

No, we didn't already know this. Prior to this it was perfectly feasible that in fact Mars COULDN'T have supported life.

Now that we know that Mars still COULD have supported life, there is even more reason to keep looking for evidence of it, because the possibility remains.

Not just could have, but might in the future...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153425)

I know it's a huge leap with modern technology and just our overall understanding of such things, but what I read from this is not only could it have supported life, it possibly still could. Perhaps Mars is a dead world now, but it seems to have the right elements that would allow life to be reseeded, and possibly terraform.

You can see it in the rock. (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#43153479)

If you just look at the photo [nasa.gov] of the powdered rock sample, you can see it doesn't look dusty red, like soil samples and rocks from elsewhere on Mars [nasa.gov] . The red is hematite, a sign of high-oxidation. The grey of Gale Crater says right away that this environment is different, less-oxidized, and probably also a good deal less acidic.

that's a lot of money and effort for a maybe. (0)

pezpunk (205653) | about a year ago | (#43153487)

:|

Re:that's a lot of money and effort for a maybe. (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43153611)

From such maybes come later conclusions likely a good bit more concrete. Exploration and the resulting science is a process; it's not very smart to take a point in midstream and bitch about it. Don't hold your breath, go about your life, and eventually you'll catch notice of something that wows you, or enables your technology, etc.

Everyone knew that already (3, Insightful)

neminem (561346) | about a year ago | (#43153511)

Granted, this *is* confirmation that the possibility requires fewer additional variables than it would've without the findings, which is decent news, though not overly exciting. Still, I've read great speculative but not overly soft scifi in which life was found was found in a gas giant (Manta's Gift), even in a freaking star (Dragon's Egg). Almost anywhere *could* have supported life, for some definition of life.

Dang it, Capitalism (1, Offtopic)

Alotau (714890) | about a year ago | (#43153645)

Of course Mars supported life... until capitalism killed it. [reuters.com]

Re:Dang it, Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153789)

Of course Mars supported life... until capitalism killed it. [reuters.com]

Haha as a Venezuelan, I thank you for bringing up Chavez and show the world how crazy he was...

Could have been.... (4, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year ago | (#43153735)

Could have been....

One aspect of the possibility of life on Mars that is rarely discussed is the fact that there are still a couple of other characteristics of Mars in it's current state that preclude life, as we know it--a lack of a strong magnetic field and the permanent sequestration of CO2 in the ground.

Mars is dead. The core of Mars has long since cooled, leaving it with a much thicker solid mantle then Earth currently has. It may have similar "ingredients" to Earth, but those ingredients on Mars have stopped flowing--much of the magnetic field on Earth is a result of not only the ferrous content, but the motion of that content within the Earth, motion that can only occur in non-solids.

Why is this important? Without a swirling interior, you have a much weaker magnetic field protecting the planet from solar radiation, radiation that is harmful to life. Another more important aspect is the effect of a magnetic field in terms of solar pressure (the same pressure that propels a "solar sail") on the atmosphere of Mars. Here on Earth, our magnetic field counters that pressure from solar winds and literally keeps our atmosphere from "blowing" away. There are other things that keeps our atmosphere around (ha!), like gravity, but protection from solar pressure is important--the solar pressure exerted on Mars is greater then the countering effect generated by Mars' magnetic field.

There is nothing to keep Mars' atmosphere from blowing away.

http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/personnel/russell/papers/mars_mag/ [ucla.edu]

All of that being said, any CO2 released from the ground--CO2 that would create a greenhouse effect--doesn't stay in the atmosphere. The idea of Terra-forming Mars wouldn't work--we could bring the entire atmosphere of Earth along with us to Mars and it would simply blow away into space.

But, Tardigrades have survived in space a very long time...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrades [wikipedia.org]

Re: Could have been.... (4, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#43153833)

Right, but if Mars was one warm and squishy, then it gradually cooled off and hardened internally.

So each successive generation would have selective pressure to survive a slightly lower temperature, a slightly weaker em field, a slightly more hostile environment. That's happening in geological time, and it's perfect for an evolutionary development of a species that could survive there.

It's unlikely though, and until they see fossils or movement, then it's still just potential. If we all lived up to our potential half of us would be living in space.

Re: Could have been.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154645)

"there are still a couple of other characteristics of Mars in it's current state that preclude life, as we know it--a lack of a strong magnetic field and the permanent sequestration of CO2 in the ground"

Lack of a strong magnetic field is irrelevant to subsurface bacteria-like organisms, which live inside the Earth's crust down to depths corresponding to about 60 deg C before they start declining. The upper km or so of the Earth's crust contains plenty of life. These bacteria don't need light, they don't need CO2 or O2, and they don't need a significant atmosphere above them or a magnetic field. They just need a decent amount of subsurface water and the right mineralogy in the rocks to survive.

What you're describing is the conditions for surface life (basically a persistent and reasonably thick atmosphere), which is indeed much more demanding, but the results they've gotten from the MSL do show that there was water *flowing* on the surface at one stage in its history, depositing pebbles and clays, and standing on the surface for at least a little while before eventually evaporating away. After burial, those sediments had water flowing through them in the subsurface that deposited a variety of other minerals in cracks and as concretions. This has little to do with how inhospitable the conditions are now, but it shows that in Mars' past when these sedimentary rocks were deposited and buried, the conditions were a lot better.

Re: Could have been.... (1)

mug funky (910186) | about a year ago | (#43155591)

the core would come to life again if we simply start the reactor.

the Cohagen and his corporate interests wont let that happen.

Re: Could have been.... (1)

CurunirAran (2811035) | about a year ago | (#43156885)

While the point you make about the slar wind blowing away any potential atmosphere on Mars, that is a process that takes MILLIONS of years. It is not a sudden process. Millions of years is enough for bacteria to evolve to the gradually increasing harshness of the environment. Also, it is important to consider that sub-surface bacteria do not need an atmosphere, light or even oxygen to survive.

Re: Could have been.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43158155)

In all the ideas? Come now, read back before high school. Look at the days prior to arm computers. Check the "bullitin boards" of the past generation. And see how the science has parsed life on earth. The latest definition of having intellegence with its formation, seems to having been modified. You now have to "shit" the right stuff to be life. Come on now, changing goalposts just to make a "score". How idiotic.
Life on earth has it's pitfalls also, But you take away the Carbon Dioxide and what happens you fools. No food, death of organism. No life here then. So magical sky creatures must have come here and left some trash? Even your books say no. Water vapor, coontrolled by the suns heat, is our savior, thats why you worship the sun, not the son.

Well, of course Mars used to support life (1)

Tex Bravado (91447) | about a year ago | (#43153801)

and if the Holy Therns had left the atmosphere plants alone, it still would.

why the preoccupation with Mars (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year ago | (#43153867)

Isn't anyone doing any research on Snickers?

Re:why the preoccupation with Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43156099)

Snickers is an exoplanet in a different system and can tolerate cowboy yodeling better than mars.

Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Life (1)

danielpauldavis (1142767) | about a year ago | (#43153939)

Earth-based or Mars-originated? Let's know that before we go claiming anything.

A good argument for terraforming (1)

Kwelstr (114389) | about a year ago | (#43154089)

Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. It all makes sense now!

Europa / Titan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154141)

Why don't they move most of the budget from mars missions to Europa or Titan missions?
Everyone knows these are the most probable places to support live TODAY!

I know mars research must go on, but I'd move some huge budget to saturn's and juper's moon.

Re:Europa / Titan (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43154627)

In the case of Europa, it's obvious, unless the phrase "Attempt no landings there" isn't clear enough for you!

Re:Europa / Titan (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about a year ago | (#43168927)

The main reason is cost. Sending a ton of probe to mars is a lot cheaper than sending it to Europa or Titan.

Breaking news from NASA (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year ago | (#43154767)

It's now believed that early Mars could have supported Starbucks. It's thought the coffee chain might have spread to Earth when the collapsing Martian economy could no longer support over priced coffee drinks.

It could right now. (3, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43154935)

As far as we know their is life under the ice right this moment, where their might be large lakes or seas of liquid water. This life could even be fish like.
Hell we have bacteria living in ice on earth, we might find the same thing there.

Mars was very earth like far before Earth became more than a ball of molten rock and metal. If life is at all common, it probably had it, as it probably had about the same chances of it forming.

Re:It could right now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155721)

Mars was very earth like far before Earth became more than a ball of molten rock and metal.

Yes, but did they every have a conclave or a Pope? All we know for sure is that they had red dust, a clear sign that they may have evolved Cardinals, anyway.

Keyword: Could (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155619)

Meaning, just about as unequivocal as 'Maybe.'

Bottom Line: No 'life' on Mars; past, present or future, period.

Below The Bottom Line: NASA is FUCKED. Tens of Trillions of USA Dollars, in current FY valuation back to 1965, is TOAST.

Below Below The Bottom Line: NASA will be disestablished and there will be no, read NO, serious impact on USA engineering or 'science.'

Welcome the future Goddard, Ames, Langley, Lewis, Johnson.

The walking dead will quickly assume to the body in the coffin, each.

Bye bye,

Science and media (2)

Pecisk (688001) | about a year ago | (#43157037)

I think for common crowd and media it is quite frustrating: "didn't we already know that?". Well, for scientists to "know" isn't enough - they need evidence, facts, proof. Now proof just become much stronger.

I personally think that acknowledgment of "could have supported" is enough for me to be excited. I still in doubt and I think Mars probably didn't have any bacteria floating around, but it shows that scenario for setting up reasonable good odds for life isn't that unique. Yes, you need strong magnetic field aka natural protection from particle bombardment. Yes, life need to survive heavy artillery - like meteoroids, dino killers, etc. But still...

Also this is huge from supporting human colony there. Strange that no one here talks about that.

Again (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43158325)

Haven't we already seen this post? How many times have we seen something about Mars having or supporting life? It's getting redundant. I love the fact were still going at it hard but it's sounding like a broken record. There have been at least four other posts in the last few years about the possibility of life on Mars and so when you finally find it, is it that big a deal.

Use a thumper (1)

CHK6 (583097) | about a year ago | (#43158951)

Drilling holes isn't going to find you anything. Just sake down a thumper and wait for the sandworm to come. They always come.

Yes, but where is the GOLD!!!! GOOOOOLD!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160295)

Make it worth while to get there damn it!!!!
Where are the mining robots!!!!

Panspermia is part of a shell game. (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about a year ago | (#43259157)

This theory about panspermia was created to get around the fact that nobody can explain scientifically how life emerged spontaneously through abiogenesis (life from lifelessness) so instead they say "mars did it". The problem is that then one has to ask, that if panspermia occurred, how did abiogenesis occur on mars.

They are just shifting the cups around on the table without explaining a damn thing. What they should do is just admit that they don't know instead of creating even more convoluted "theories" to cover it up. They might as well say that the earth is on the back of a giant turtle and that it is turtles all the way down. An alternative would be for them to just throw up their hands in the air and say that "god did it".

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