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!

Intraterrestrials: Mars Life May Hide Deep Below

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the mole-man dept.

Mars 79

astroengine writes "Almost every month we see news dispatches from the Mars where the nuclear-powered rover Curiosity finds water-bearing minerals in rocks and other circumstantial clues that the Red Planet could have once supported life. But in terms of finding direct evidence of past or present Martians, the rover barely scratches the surface, says geochemist Jan Amend of the University of Southern California. Using Earth life as an example, some species of microbes live miles below the surface, without sunlight or oxygen, metabolizing chemicals that are the result of radioactive decay. Most intriguing of all is the microbe Desulforudis Audaxviator that dwells nearly two miles down, a life form that would feel right at home inside Mars' crust. 'This organism has had to figure out everything on its own,' says Amend, 'it splits water into hydrogen and oxygen for metabolism.' Amend hopes to drop probes deep underground in some of the world's most inhospitable locations over the next few years, creating a possible analog for future Mars subsurface studies."

cancel ×

79 comments

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

Jesus Christ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43394895)

They're already sniffing around for more money to send more hardware to Mars. Don't these fucking morons understand how far underwater this country is? We simply do not have the cash to continue shooting billion dollar probes around the solar system that most people do not give the slightest shit about, and paying all these people to sit around in their offices all day and dream up ever more expensive ways to spend my money.

Re:Jesus Christ (4, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43394941)

what are you blathering about, the wars of choice waste so much money the space budget (and all other science combined) is of no consequence

we do have the cash to do science, and we'd have a lot more not spending hundreds of billions every decade to slaughter innocents

Re:Jesus Christ (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395001)

You want to find aliens without a military? You'll be sorry when xenobacteria are shooting laser beams at your family.

Re:Jesus Christ (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395077)

hah, think of what the last 75 years have brought us: nuclear weapons, ICBM, satellites, lasers that can shoot down aircraft, rail guns, bioweapons, genetic engineering......now you're talking about a species centuries advanced from ours that can not only travel interstellar space but wage war on that scale? wouldn't matter if we had a military or not, we'd be dead meat before we even knew we were being attacked.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

sabri (584428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395287)

hah, think of what the last 75 years have brought us: nuclear weapons, ICBM, satellites, lasers that can shoot down aircraft, rail guns, bioweapons, genetic engineering......now you're talking about a species centuries advanced from ours that can not only travel interstellar space but wage war on that scale? wouldn't matter if we had a military or not, we'd be dead meat before we even knew we were being attacked.

Think about what the next 75 years will bring us. Science is advancing at such a rate that we might be a species capable of interstellar travel ourselves very soon. Regardless of this, having a well-trained military may be a costly burden on the U.S., but one day they might save your ass from a pissed off E.T.

I don't want to confuse science with fiction, but what if a fraction of the fiction behind Scifi series like Stargate would actually be close to the truth: alien civilizations far out of reach for our current detection technologies, that already know we are there but simply choose not to contact us.. yet.

Re:Jesus Christ (4, Funny)

only_human (761334) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395771)

For all we know, we might be more popular than Meercat Manor.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395817)

Or yet funnier: Scout ships that already detected us, and harvester mother-ships on route as we speak.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43398361)

en route

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396519)

99.5% of our military spending is on things which will be utterly useless in such a case, I've counting the $4 Billion spent on nuclear weapon maintenance as potentially useful.. Decades spending a tenth of the defense budget on pure science (physics, chemistry, biology) would be the better investment for such a future.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43399031)

I don't want to confuse science with fiction, but what if a fraction of the fiction behind Scifi series like Stargate would actually be close to the truth: alien civilizations far out of reach for our current detection technologies, that already know we are there but simply choose not to contact us.. yet.

Well, in that case, in reality, the Goa'uld would wipe us out and enslave us in a few days. (It takes a few days for the enslaving part)
The Asgaurd won't try and help us, why would they help a race that is constantly at war with itself 24/7?

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43399387)

Think about what the next 75 years will bring us. Science is advancing at such a rate that we might be a species capable of interstellar travel ourselves very soon.

Interstellar? You do know that means "between stars" don't you? At the moment we're quite impressed that we have got an unmanned probe out of our own solar system in 35 years.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about a year and a half ago | (#43404637)

The amount of resources marshalled to enable interstellar travel implies mastery of forces that can obliterate human civilization in a single blow. If aliens wanted to kill us, there wouldn't be a war. They could just accelerate a big rock at us and obliterate all civilization in a single strike, regardless of how big our military is.

Generally speaking, destruction is easier than construction. It takes a lot of effort to assemble castles out of chaos, but a good thwack in the right places is all it takes to bring it all down back into chaos. It's just moving with entropy vs. moving against it.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43399391)

No, you must be wrong, because in Hollywood movies, alien ships capable of interstellar travel are still always susceptible to small arms fire.

In former Soviet Russia (1)

jphamlore (1996436) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395107)

In former Soviet Russia, you don't search for aliens, aliens search for YOU.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Kittenman (971447) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395785)

I for one welcome our new laser-beam toting xenobacteria overlords.

(Oblig...)

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year and a half ago | (#43398799)

If they're toting laser beams, they aren't going to be xenobacteria, they're gonna be xenosharks.

Re:Jesus Christ (0, Flamebait)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395075)

what are you blathering about, the wars of choice waste so much money the space budget (and all other science combined) is of no consequence

we do have the cash to do science, and we'd have a lot more not spending hundreds of billions every decade to slaughter innocents

Spoken like someone who does not work hard and pay their taxes. It is indeed of consequence when that money could be put to better use and it is coming out of your paycheck. You present a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma [wikipedia.org] as if it was an all or nothing. Take each example of government waste one at a time or you will be overwhelmed by the task.

What is the "we" stuff. If you have too much cash then perhaps you should be donating some of it to the cause. Some people are more than ready to spend other peoples money but are unwilling to spend their own.

As for slaughter of innocents? How do you know who was innocent and who was not? Civilian casualties happens all the time including from suicide bombers employed by the other side. Do you not weep for them as well? Do you consider some lives to be more valuable than others?

Re:Jesus Christ (1, Offtopic)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395123)

I probably make more money and pay more taxes than two average slashdotters put together, professionals that are half a century old are generally like that....

we've caused many times more (hundreds of thousands) of Iraqi deaths than Saddam did. those people never attacked us. The villagers and goat herders of Afghanistan did not attack us either, Al Qaeda and the "Taliban" that hosted Bin Laden left there long ago and fled to Pakistan and other parts.

Now we are not "winning" in Afghanistan, and are negotiating with the Taliban groups because we are failing to "bring Democracy" (at gunpoint, which of course is doomed effort)

Re:Jesus Christ (-1, Offtopic)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395611)

we've caused many times more (hundreds of thousands) of Iraqi deaths than Saddam did.

"We" includes the suicide bombers and paramilitary executions (including groups that were created by Saddam Hussein or other Ba'athists). And it's worth noting that a number of the studies which claim to compare Saddam Hussein deaths with present deaths have a habit of downplaying the former and exaggerating the latter (eg, the Lancet studies).

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395143)

In the past, things like infrastrucure and wars were seen as benefitting future generations as well as current, so it was seen as ethical to borrow.

Current borrowing is largely to pay for retirement benefits that current retirees did not want to set enough of their own money aside for and another trillion of other spending that has nothing to do with fuure generations that the current generation does not want to pay for.

It is unethical borrowing. Forget the incremental cost of ongoing wars -- you could cancel the entire $700 billion military budget and barely recover half a year's borrowing.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43399433)

Some people are more than ready to spend other peoples money but are unwilling to spend their own.

Fundamentally, you do not own your own money/wealth. You live in a society that allows people to accumulate individual wealth almost infinitely beyond their needs. This is not some rule of nature, it is a distorted version of civilisation.

A CEO does not need to have thousands of times the wealth of his workers. It doesn't do him any good, never mind society as a whole.

When someone spends $500m on a yacht, he is simply thumbing his nose at society. There is no particular reason why the overwhelming majority of the population couldn't pass a law limiting wealth to ten times a reasonable average. The billionaire is ALLOWED to get away with having that money, he has not in any way EARNED the right to it. Working hard is no justification for anything. Plenty of miners, postmen and cleaners work a lot harder than any CEO.

Oh, and a big hi to all the libertarian mods out there. .

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43400437)

Fundamentally, you do not own your own money/wealth. You live in a society that allows people to accumulate individual wealth almost infinitely beyond their needs. This is not some rule of nature, it is a distorted version of civilisation.

I disagree that your original assertion is a distorted view of civilization. It is fundamentally a self-contradictory statement. To say that you don't own the money and wealth that is "yours", that is, which you own is an inherently false statement of the classic form, "A is not A".

A CEO does not need to have thousands of times the wealth of his workers. It doesn't do him any good, never mind society as a whole.

We don't do such things because of need, but merely because it's a better idea than the alternatives we come up with. It's worth noting here that no one else needs that wealth either. As to whether wealth does the rich any good or not - it's not your place to decide what is good for other people. No one should ever have that authority.

When someone spends $500m on a yacht, he is simply thumbing his nose at society.

That's ok. Society needs their nose rubbed in this sort of thing every now and then. It means either that the person provided something of immense value and demonstrates that to the rest of society (who has a nasty habit of ignoring contributions to society from the wealthy). Or it means that they obtained wealth via deception or coercion with the acquiescence of society (in which case it's a scornful reminder that society let that happen). Either way, this is a means to attack envy and greed in society.

There is no particular reason why the overwhelming majority of the population couldn't pass a law limiting wealth to ten times a reasonable average.

The particular reason is that such a policy would take money out of the hands of the people who make things, create jobs, and power society. And put that wealth in the hands of people who can't balance a budget or manage a thing. It's very harmful to society to do that. There are other reasons as well, but they don't stand out like this one does.

Sure, not all the wealthy fall in that category. But it's the primary reason we should tolerate wealth.

The billionaire is ALLOWED to get away with having that money, he has not in any way EARNED the right to it. Working hard is no justification for anything. Plenty of miners, postmen and cleaners work a lot harder than any CEO.

Bottom line is that a CEO has tremendous responsibilities and does a job that matters a lot. None of those other guys do. That's why he gets paid a lot more. And none of those guys are doing a job for which they'll get hated till the end of time no matter what they do.

Re:Jesus Christ (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395305)

Well, enjoy your status as a second tier nation in a couple of hundred years while everyone else is running around the solar system claiming its resources.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395631)

Because fiscal responsibility never helped anyone in the future.

Re:Jesus Christ (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395973)

It's called investing in the future. I'm sure that building all those aqueducts in various Roman provinces cost the Republic, and later the Empire, vast amounts of coin that if it could not be directly gained, had to be borrowed. The plus side was prosperous cities that were major economic generators. This idea that the only thing any state should worry about is the nebulous creature known as "fiscal responsibility" is pretty strange, first of all because the term has real meaning. Borrowing money to build infrastructure like highways will certainly throw major liabilities on a government's balance sheet, but no one seriously says that the only measure of fiscal responsibility should be liabilities.

Look at this way. At some point in the next century or two, the major industrial powers will likely begin some sort of race for solar system resources. But that race will not be built out of nothing. It will be built out of a whole series of major investments, many (if not most) by governments. Each one of the stepping-stone advances may seem on paper at that moment to be an utter waste of time and money, but at the end of the day, being in that race is only made possible by having made those other investments along the way.

If the US wishes to sit it out, that's fine. In short and medium terms, it will be a net gain, and give some temporary economic advantage over the Europeans, the Chinese and the Japanese (and, pretty soon, Brazil, I'll wager). But at some point, when they've made advances far in advance of the Apollo program, the US will have to rebuild what it gave up in the name "fiscal responsibility", and it may find that that is a lot easier said than done.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396595)

Let's give you an idea how these "investments" work. Every so often, you see people complain about how the private world is making 50 year old rockets. Part of the reason for that is that NASA hasn't done anything in the last 50 years to improve on that situation. The Space Shuttle was the only wokring orbital launch vehicle that NASA created since the 60s and it's far from being viable in a commercial sense (too much maintenance between flights and way too complex).

So one of the biggest problems in US space flight - how to get things into orbit and NASA hasn't done anything usable in the past forty years. That's definitely not "investing".

Sacond, NASA has (or perhaps had) research going back to the 30s (when it was NACA). What is it doing with that huge body of research? Throwing it away. As far as I know, there's no public discussion of the downsizing of NASA libraries over the last couple of decades, but that results in the loss of "investment" already made. Gives you an idea of how much the powers that be value research.

Finally, how do multibillion dollar probes actually help? They don't develop space technologies that will be reused for other purposes. Anyone who wants to use NASA tech to land things on Mars will probably have to start from scratch simply because there won't be a working example of that technology (or the people who designed it!) around any more. These are remarkably poor as investments just due to the lack of any long term usable infrastructure.

Basically, we'll learn some cool knowledge, and that'll be it. Terrible return on investment. And since everyone else gets that information as well, it won't help the US any more than it would help anyone else. There's nothing there that says, "We're doing something for the US." So what of this is actually going to help a US presence in a few decades? It'll all be gone by then.

In short and medium terms, it will be a net gain, and give some temporary economic advantage over the Europeans, the Chinese and the Japanese (and, pretty soon, Brazil, I'll wager). But at some point, when they've made advances far in advance of the Apollo program, the US will have to rebuild what it gave up in the name "fiscal responsibility", and it may find that that is a lot easier said than done.

It'll be the same for anyone else and the US will have a considerable economic advantage over those countries and supranational organizations which didn't do so.

I'll finish up by saying that I tire of people labeling any goofy spending as an "investment". The key aspect of an actual investment is positive return on investment. Spending a lot of money for scraps of knowledge fails that test.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43399809)

"Basically, we'll learn some cool knowledge, and that'll be it. Terrible return on investment."

I think that's possibly the most depressing comment I've seen on a technology news website.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43400163)

I think that's possibly the most depressing comment I've seen on a technology news website.

Look. I value knowledge too. But I don't like overpaying a lot for it or ignoring what else could have been done with the money spent.

What I think is mildly depressing here was the argument that launching the occasional very expensive space probe somehow is an "investment" or will give an advantage in some future space race. It doesn't follow logically.

Here's what I think the real argument is. I want space probes therefore space probes must be good for something. The rest of the argument is merely a fleshing out of a possible "something". The big things that are missing are a) cost/benefit discussion, and b) opportunity costs.

Now, consider also that this bit of wish fulfillment was done in response to a mention of fiscal responsibility and a near complete ignoring of the unhealthy economic situation of the present US. Where will the money come from? Why ignore the situations in countries like Greece or Japan who have spent too much and now have limited options for spending more?

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Reality Man (2890429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396147)

Ah yes, the old space FUD.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396313)

Ask the Germans and Italians how that went as they furiously tried to become grand colonial powers at the end of the 19th century.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Reality Man (2890429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396811)

Right here on Earth. And Germany and Italy still exist today... Say, Germany looks a lot better than the US, have you noticed that?

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43398365)

That's strictly your opinion. I've been to both, I'll stay here in the good ol' U S of A.

Re:Jesus Christ (1)

Reality Man (2890429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43399293)

Please do.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43396305)

They're already sniffing around for more money to send more hardware to Mars. Don't these fucking morons understand how far underwater this country is?

So they should do what? Say they're disbanding themselves because they don't think congress should be giving them money? Good idea. I feel much better spending that tax payer money on foreign aid and bombs and parties for politicians. Screw science...what a waste. Nuthin' good never came from fancy book lurnin'.

Re:Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43396737)

Don't these fucking morons understand how far underwater this country is?

Actually the ground level is still rising after the last ice age, and .. Basroom man, Basroom!

Man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43394897)

I've always wanted to visit the Mars.

"intraterrestrial" (5, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43394945)

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

Re:"intraterrestrial" (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#43394973)

But intramarstrial is too hard to say.

Re:"intraterrestrial" (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43394983)

"Intramarsial" has an unpleasant tendency of making people think of antisocial kangaroos.

Re:"intraterrestrial" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43395043)

Really? That didn't seem so bad to me, compared to "news dispatches from the Mars." I didn't bother to read the article, but it seems the summary at least could be suggesting that there may be life on Mars similar to intraterrestrial life that we've already found.

Re:"intraterrestrial" (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395915)

Given that the article is about understanding life forms deep in the Earth's crust (which provides an analogous habitat to Mars' crust), what different meaning of "intraterrestrial" do you think the authors should be aware of?

Re:"intraterrestrial" (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43397221)

Intraterrestrial? You mean like, life on uranus?

Re:"intraterrestrial" (1)

Trogre (513942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43408037)

Heh good point, but perhaps the poster might be forgiven as much as someone referring to seismic activity on another planet as an earthquake.

   

Insigt mission to drill on mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43394959)

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/details.php?id=5928

The InSight mission (formerly called GEMS), would place a lander on Mars that would be designed to drill beneath the surface and investigate the planet's deep interior to better understand Mars' evolution as a rocky planet. As part of its investigation, InSight would use a seismometer and a heat-flow probe to study the interior structure of the Red Planet.

It's more geology than biology oriented, but afik, the final hardware has not yet been determined.

Deep underground = inhospitable? (2, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395007)

>> Amend hopes to drop probes deep underground in some of the world's most inhospitable locations over the next few years

Where? Beijing? Mexico City? Or the real kind of inhospitable like the Gobi desert or Antarctica? I'd think once you get far enough underground pretty much anyplace would be inhospitable...to humans.

Re:Deep underground = inhospitable? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395227)

Depends how deep you go. Most cave systems are far more hospitable to humans than the world outside, once you aren't worried about food and in some cases clean water. Stable temperatures, little chance of exposure, no heavy rains or winds, a nice cave makes a good hidey hole if you're stuck.

Ugh, more Mars love (4, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395049)

I wish I had a few hundred million to push NASA out to Encelaedus or Europa. I bet we could just take samples of water spewed up from below to find evidence of life it it exists on either moon.

Re:Ugh, more Mars love (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396947)

All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

Clarke thought Europa to be the most likely candidate for extraterrestrial life. Still unlikely but perhaps more likely than the rest, based on the albedo. And if there's a chance of life, some of us might not want to disturb it. And would violently protect it.

Mole men? Crab men? (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395081)

Hey, if we're just speculating, why stop at microbes?

IPU 2 U (0)

AndyKron (937105) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395111)

Invisible Pink Unicorns definitely live way above.

Mars life will be DNA based (3, Interesting)

Invisible Now (525401) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395175)

Panspermia is the theory that life is ubiquitous and travels from planet to planet and star to star. Less unlikely than it seems. For example, dormant spores trapped in salt crystals 25 million years old rejuvenated themselves when released. Life is hardy.

Which of three theories seems on the right side of Occam's Razor:
    That life is unique to Earth (where it is all DNA/RNA based)?
    That life originates in novel non-DNA based ways independently on each planet?
    or that DNA-based life is mobile, seeds planets from above, and then evolves to suit each new environment?

(Wait, I think that could be a Slahdot poll...)

I believe we will find the same is true for life in the the seas of Europa, and elsewhere, too.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (4, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395297)

James Lovelock pointed out in the sixties that viewed from space, it would immediately be apparent that earth and life. The prescence of huge amounts of gases which are not stable distinguishes from all other planets in the solar system. He predicted that Mars was in fact dead (before the Viking landers). The idea was that if life had got a foothold, it would probably have managed a similar totally transforming expansion over millions of years. Life that does not leave a big footprint wouldn't seem very much like the life we know from Earth.

You got to admit, it's held up for a long time. Viking sondes found no life on Mars. OK, maybe there used to be life on Mars, at least microbial life? Newer sondes with better instruments find no evidence of that either. If there was, wow, it's done an exceptionally good job of dying out without trace (considering the extremophiles we know from Earth). Now maybe there's life deep in the crust?

Maybe not. And maybe still more excuses will be made if that too fails to pan out.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43395747)

Great post. The whole 'dying out without a trace' might be excusable in the face of numerous mechanisms that have acted to erase Mars's atmosphere and thus hydrosphere - for an excellent, mind-bending article see http://faculty.washington.edu/dcatling/Catling2009_SciAm.pdf. It may be better to think of any current life on Mars (if present) as simply restricted by aridity (as happens on Earth today). The prohibitively arid regions of Mars have expanded enormously over geological time whereas Earth's have enjoyed relative stability.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43395775)

As a fringe aside, some consider the debate unresolved with regards to the Viking results: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_spacecraft_biological_experiments

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396381)

Not even life can make up for what Mars does not have as compared to Earth. It has a far lower gravity and virtually no magnetic field, meaning any dense atmosphere is going to essentially be eroded into space. As I said in another post, the Mars of today is not the Mars of 4 billion to 3 billion years ago, and it seems more and more likely that its early conditions were no more inhospitable to the evolution of life than Earth's (being further away from the Sun it may even have been able to form bodies of liquid water earlier). So if it did have some portion of its biosphere (presuming it ever had one) survive the inevitable decline in favorable conditions, it would have been in places deep in the Martian crust, where some geological energy as well as liquid water could still exist.

Stating that life is going to leave a monstrous footprint on the surface of a planet is a pretty major assumption, that I think at this point is unwarranted. After all, if planets like Europa and Callisto have life in oceans underneath an icy crust, that life may not leave much of detectable evidence on the surface of those worlds either.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43397459)

Stating that life is going to leave a monstrous footprint on the surface of a planet is a pretty major assumption, that I think at this point is unwarranted.

I think it's reasonable to assume that any life on Mars would be self-replicating and subject to evolution (which isn't Earth-centric). Meaning that it would adapt to a variety of living conditions over time.

Given that the extremophiles which live deep underground and survive in very marginal environments on Earth are genetically tied to some of the earliest organisms indicates to me that metabolic processes of Earth organisms were among the earliest things to be optimized and that there probably was some spread of single-celled life to just about anywhere it could live in the early history of life.

Similar patterns of adaptive radiation [wikipedia.org] have been seen in plants and animals in isolated environments (such as geologically recent Pacific islands) on Earth. So the idea isn't something that hasn't been seen before.

It seems reasonable then to expect that any sort of life evolving on Mars would adapt relatively quickly to a variety of environments including deep underground. If it exists, it would have had a long time to adapt.

A possible alternative here is that due to the mass wasting of the atmosphere and the supposed deep sanctuaries for life, there would be evolutionary pressure to be very efficient. Any waste products which aren't used would escape eventually to the surface and be lost.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year and a half ago | (#43410205)

Stating that life is going to leave a monstrous footprint on the surface of a planet is a pretty major assumption, that I think at this point is unwarranted.

But on earth, the footprint is truly monstrous, touching the atmosphere, every part of the surface, and deep into the crust. The carbon cycle even takes a trip down into the mantle via subduction of limestone. I agree, it's not necessary to believe it would have been that omnipresent on Mars. But how reasonable is it to believe it would be totally undetectable to this day?

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43396999)

or perhaps that there is life on Mars, but it is a dying planet, with an extremely limited biosphere in which dwindling amounts of extremophiles are pushed to the limit.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43395339)

Essentially, we believe that DNA/RNA life did indeed arise somewhere at least once. If it did indeed happen once, why do you believe #2 in your list is untenable? Why is it not likely to have happened more than once. There would seem to be many "novel" DNA or DNA-like approaches life could have taken using different nucleic acids, amino acids.

It would be fascinating if we did find DNA-based life on Mars. Then the race would be to try and determine whether this was from recent contamination, which planet seeded the other one and when or if it's just so different that it clearly isn't from the same origin.

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (0)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395481)

Wait, I think that could be a Slahdot poll...

It definitely not a Jahdot poll, mon... :p

Re:Mars life will be DNA based (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43398181)

Planet-to-planet to a couple places within one solar system is feasible. However, if we end up discovering that not every potentially habitable niche in our own solar system is (or at least has been within recent geological history, prior to some particular ecological disaster) absolutely teeming with life, then the interstellar hypothesis becomes quite unlikely. If life-supporting planets are spewing out space-hardy life seeds at a high enough rate to chance upon planets in solar systems several light-years away, then all the bodies within our own solar system should be absolutely drenched by colonizing life-forms. If we don't start finding life-forms nearly everywhere we look in our own solar system, then the argument for exchange with other stars is seriously undercut.

This would be the least interesting Martian life. (3, Interesting)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395199)

At this point, we've learned enough about the hardiness and versatility of microbes that I would frankly be surprised if we found a completely sterilized Mars. In the history of the planet, many rocks knocked loose from Earth have landed there, and we know many organisms that could have survived the whole trip. If absolutely nothing took root, I would consider that a mild surprise. With extremophiles being found at pretty much everywhere we looked, we should be ready to find terrestrial extremophiles living even on Mars. That's definitely worth a few articles and TV specials, but it wouldn't really change the way we see the universe. Much more exciting would be to find Martian life of a totally independent genesis. Somehow I find that deeply unlikely, given that life genesis seems to only have happened once even in a place as comfy as Earth.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (0)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395325)

Me -- I want some proof.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43395887)

Me -- I want some proof.

That can be a problem. If it was at all possible to prove/disprove the existence of something then the whole discussion about God would be a non-issue.

Well, I guess that it still is possible to prove the existence of something but we will never reach a point where we have proven that there is not life on Mars.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43397213)

If it was at all possible to prove ... the existence of something

That one's easy: find one.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43398975)

If it was at all possible to prove ... the existence of something

That one's easy: find one.

It's not that easy, just because you know it's real doesn't mean others will.
If most people think that it is fake or a misreading then it isn't proven. There is also the whole issue with contamination.
Another problem is that proof is subjective. What one person considers proof another might disregard as opinion.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395385)

Life happened when Earth was in general far far less comfy to life than it is now. Mars likely had similar conditions very early on, but for a number of reasons (lower gravity, lack of magnetic field), it lost the thick atmosphere that would have made liquid water possible for extended periods of time on its surface. The hypothesis is that Mars may have evolved a biosphere during that period when it possessed a dense atmosphere and liquid water. In that case, even after most of the atmosphere disappeared, some portion of the biosphere that had adapted to living deep underground would have continued on even after the surface of the planet had been rendered completely uninhabitable.

And, of course, we do not know for certain that the entire surface is uninhabitable. We have a damned small sample size, and have landed no probes in places like Valles Marineris, where the atmosphere is considerably denser and liquid water may last longer (we have observed fog there). If I was looking for life closer to the surface, I'd bee doing it in the deepest points of Valles Marineris.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43396117)

Somehow I find that deeply unlikely, given that life genesis seems to only have happened once even in a place as comfy as Earth.

It can't be proven it only occurred once on Earth, it could just be each redundant genesis was similar enough to combine and we see no difference. There might also have been silicon based lifeforms on Earth before carbon based (if they're better suited to extreme temperatures, and then it'd be even harder to notice them if Si lifeforms live in something like molten salt).

There's probably a clever way to identify non-carbon based lifeforms, by measuring patterns of heat, in some very generic way that indicates a type of recurring multi-step metabolism rather than a simpler chemical reaction. The thing that makes life on earth so widespread and successful across the globe is harnessing solar radiation. Not all forms of life might do that, and then might exist in closed loops (briefly, with the inevitably run-down loop acting like a spore). So, lifeforms might even exist in bizzare places where our type can't, like near black holes or inside stars. Heck, life as we know it is an elaborate chemical reaction, something life-ish based on a fission instead could exist.

The great thing about carbon and silicon are the variety of chemical bonds possible, and with the possibilities that most alternate chemistries could have they might not be capable of becoming multicellular, or even cellular at all. Most life in the universe could be hydrogen based, whose existence involves condensing sets of gaseous molecules into particular isomers and living off temperature differences.

We define life too rigidly. I've heard people argue viruses don't qualify, and these days prions. Organic and inorganic are not the right way to think if you want to find new lifeforms, besides what we already know exist on Earth.

Re:This would be the least interesting Martian lif (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43399055)

many rocks knocked loose from Earth have landed there

Really? I find that very hard to believe. Earth's atmosphere is so thick that a rock would need to be extremely elongated, basically rocket-shaped, to escape. This is not simply a question of starting out with "escape velocity". Do you have any references to back up that claim?

Like I said the other day (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395315)

NASA these days is staying alive more by issuiing a weekly
PR-bulletin than by good old scientific or technological achievement.
It's their Swan-song, in a way.

Re:Like I said the other day (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395561)

That's because a press release that says "Hey, we invented a new metamaterial that might go in your arteries in 20 years" is lost in the noise. That worked when there were 3 TV channels, not so much now. There are few more important things, but a lot more urgent things (Watch Beeb's new youtube video NOW NOW NOW or risk falling behind on current events and not being able to connect to your peers!). The issue is that it's an evolutionary arms race: every organization has to spend more and more time/talent/resources into self promotion, and less and less into what they're actually supposed to DO. The end result probably looks like those "charities" that get 100$ for building wells in Africa and spend 90$ in promotion, 5$ in salaries and 5$ in wells.

Frack Mars . . . ? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#43395837)

So is that what we need to do to smoke them Mars critters and varmints out . . . ?

And maybe some natural gas, on the side, to power our Mars colonies . . . ?

Stop dreaming (1)

jacekm (895699) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396395)

There is no life on Mars. Stop dreaming.

Re:Stop dreaming (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#43397829)

not for the last 3 billion years anyway, but possible before that

Earth First! (1)

miracle69 (34841) | about a year and a half ago | (#43396427)

We'll strip mine the other planets later.

Curiousity needs to find a fresh crater (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year and a half ago | (#43400241)

If MSL could find a fresh crater, it might have a chance to sample potential microbes / organics before the UV and peroxides break them down. The craters left by the tungsten EDL weights would be ideal but their craters are too far away....

Slashdot: *terrible* headline... and incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43405715)

It's intraAreale (from Ares), unless you're suggesting that if we go under the Earth (terrestrial) we come up on Mars on the other side....

          mark

Life IN Mars (yet again) (1)

Randym (25779) | about a year and a half ago | (#43406835)

Here [slashdot.org] is my second comment entitled "Life IN Mars"; my original comment on this was so long ago that it has vanished. Let me merely add that eventually we will find life inside almost every extra-terrestrial planet-sized-or-larger object (assuming we get there), with the probable exemption of solar objects.

Unlikely metabolism... (1)

Randym (25779) | about a year and a half ago | (#43407083)

'This organism has had to figure out everything on its own,' says Amend, 'it splits water into hydrogen and oxygen for metabolism.'

It's hard to believe that geochemist Dr. Amend said that about Desulforudis Audaxviator, since D. Audaxviator is completely intolerant of oxygen, and its sulfate reduction mechanism is right there in its name!

If anyone had bothered to follow the links in that discovery.com article, they would have found this useful article [mst.edu] that quotes the original discoverers of Desulforudis Audaxviator: "Tullis Onstott classified the microbe under the genus Desulforudis for its ability to get energy from sulfate and its rod shape... Living deep underground for such a long time has also stripped D. audaxviator of the ability to use oxygen as an electron acceptor in its metabolic pathways, thus making it a strict anaerobe. Instead of oxygen, sulfate is used as an electron acceptor...These [2157] genes allow the microbe to live in almost all conditions except in the presence of oxygen." (my emphasis)

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?