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NASA Rover Fails to Turn Up Methane On Mars

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the we-have-it-all-down-here dept.

Mars 106

The Washington Post is one of many sources to report the possibly disappointing news that NASA's Curiosity rover has failed to find any methane on Mars. "[NASA planetary scientist Michael] Mumma had high hopes for a positive result because he and his colleagues believe they have detected methane on Mars remotely, from telescopes on Earth that can discern the chemical nature of Mars’s atmosphere. A European orbiter around Mars also spotted methane. But the methane has proved ephemeral — now you see it, now you don’t. Mumma said he and his colleagues are reviewing their work to see if there is some error in the mix. Perhaps the methane simply disappears quickly on Mars, through some unknown chemical process. 'It’s possible that we don’t understand something that’s going on in the Martian atmosphere,' said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.'"

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106 comments

Which to trust? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920449)

On the one hand, we've had a lot of experience with spectroscopy, and on the other we have a rover actually there.

Re:Which to trust? (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#44920469)

On the one hand, we've had a lot of experience with spectroscopy, and on the other we have a rover actually there.

Depending on exactly where in the atmosphere the light used for the spectroscopy data is coming from, they might both be accurate: If you were working by telescope, Earth should show plenty of ozone; but if your ground-level sampling station is turning up any nontrival amount, that means that something is rather wrong...

Were that the case, I have no doubt that all sorts of vexing questions about how such a methane distribution could come to be would come up; but atmospheres do vary by location.

Re:Which to trust? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920509)

A lot of people volunteered for a possibly one-way manned trip to Mars. If they want methane on Mars, they should round up all of Earth's Mexicans and send 'em on a one-way trip. Then we can use spectroscopy in the absence of radio communications to determine whether or not the colony was successful. Don't worry about manpower, there are more than enough Mexicans available, and they breed like cockroaches.

Godspeed, captain Juan-Lucas Picante, godspeed!

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Which to trust? (1)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#44920533)

"ozone; but if your ground-level sampling station is turning up any nontrival amount, that means that something is rather wrong..."

Or your LASER printer is next to your sensor.

Re:Which to trust? (1)

utube-youtube (3170345) | about 10 months ago | (#44920575)

Perhaps the methane simply disappears quickly on Mars, through some unknown chemical process. 'It’s possible that we don’t understand something that’s going on in the Martian atmosphere

Re:Which to trust? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920599)

Perhaps the methane simply disappears quickly on Mars, through some unknown chemical process. 'It’s possible that we don’t understand something that’s going on in the Martian atmosphere

More importantly, how did the methane all end up millions of miles away on Uranus?

Re:Which to trust? (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | about 10 months ago | (#44921587)

Uranus? I think you mean UrRectum. That's the modern name according to television which never lies...

Re:Which to trust? (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#44922003)

The name change isn't due for a few centuries, astronomers still think it's funny.

Re:Which to trust? (2)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 10 months ago | (#44920881)

Whenever ephemeral methane is detected around here I blame the closest dog...
Seriously, with the oddball magnetic field structure that focuses on the southern hemisphere [sciencemag.org] (insert Uranus joke here) it's a wonder solar ablation has not wiped all gases from the place. As the solar wind (fart joke optional) takes gas from lesser protected areas of the globe gravity pretty much demands that pressures equalize, but I'm not sure if you would get a tequila sunrise effect(lighter elements on top) or if the normal heat engine circulation of an atmosphere would keep things mixed enough that traces of light things like methane [engineeringtoolbox.com] would remain without a source of replenishment. And that's the real question, is there a cause for new methane to be released into the atmosphere of Mars? Or could it be that we are reading gases BETWEEN here and the target when we do these long distance detections... Because if it is inter-planetary or even interstellar methane we detect, then I'm going to blame it on Space Truckers [youtube.com] ...

Re:Which to trust? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#44922063)

Martian methane plumes [nasa.gov] have been observed remotely, they appear to be a localised seasonal phenomena. It's not known if biology or geology is the source, I believe the rover was supposed to do isotopic analysis of the methane to determine if it was biological in origin. The fact they can't find any methane at all is odd, and we all know that the phrase "that's odd" has lead to some amazing discoveries.

I've followed climate science for a long time and it's interesting to note that the methane cycle on Earth is also poorly understood and notoriously difficult to model with confidence. It's a genuine problem in climate modelling that is fiercely debated in the community, but for some reason climate "skeptics" rarely (if ever) mention it.

Re:Which to trust? (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#44922415)

Most climate sceptics have no real insight in the actual science behind the climate debate. That's why.

Re:Which to trust? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 10 months ago | (#44921699)

On the one hand, we've had a lot of experience with spectroscopy, and on the other we have a rover actually there.

Depending on exactly where in the atmosphere the light used for the spectroscopy data is coming from, they might both be accurate: If you were working by telescope, Earth should show plenty of ozone; but if your ground-level sampling station is turning up any nontrival amount, that means that something is rather wrong... Were that the case, I have no doubt that all sorts of vexing questions about how such a methane distribution could come to be would come up; but atmospheres do vary by location.

Mars doesn't have much of an atmosphere nor much atmospheric pressure. I'm thinking methane just disperses fast and gets blown away on the solar wind.

Re:Which to trust? (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | about 10 months ago | (#44922661)

rather wrong?

It's like saying an Earth Rover failed to turn up any bauxite in it's drilling samples.

While we have an enormous amount of methane in our atmosphere, we also have a teeming biosphere. The methane might be frozen in the ground.

Re:Which to trust? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 10 months ago | (#44920835)

Yea but... the rover is also using a spectrometer.

Re:Which to trust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921693)

Would you conclude that their are no fish in the ocean if you were at the beach and collected a cup of ocean water and found no fish in it?

Re:Which to trust? (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | about 10 months ago | (#44923095)

I've watched a great lecture about methane "observations" on Mars a while a go. It's really worthwhile if you want to get some background into the claims made. Needless to say, what you hear in the press is not to be trusted. Listen to the scientists themselves, they give a lot more subtle story than the headlines in a newspaper.

2011 SETI lecture about methane on Mars [youtube.com] .

Astronomer asks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920451)

Who farted?

Which Pretty Much Proves ... (5, Funny)

Toad-san (64810) | about 10 months ago | (#44920463)

there are no cows on Mars.

As I had long suspected.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920581)

Fuck you, stupid shitball. How do you like those men's ball sacs slapping off your chin?
 
You're a regal fucking bore. Fuck your and your dumb fucking jokes. Bitchface fuck.
 
Keep bending over for the local faggots.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921121)

Well, that escalated quickly.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#44922079)

......you're in more dire need of a blow job than any white man in history. - Robin Williams.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44923835)

Actually the quote was from Adrian Cronauer, who Williams played in the movie and was co-writer of the original story for the film Good Morning, Vietnam, which was based on his experiences as a Saigon-based DJ during the Vietnam War.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Cronauer

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (1)

wmac1 (2478314) | about 10 months ago | (#44922121)

@Toad-san :

You see how denial of the existence of cows turned out? I guess you disappointed those sensitive creatures.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920617)

Good to have that sorted. It also proves that there are no humans on Mars.
It also proves that there are no methane synthesis factories on Mars.
It also proves that there are no pink unicorns running around on Mars opening large metal tanks of pure methane gas.
It also proves there are no pipes running from Earth to Mars carrying methane.
It also proves.... is not on Mars.

meh.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (1)

pahles (701275) | about 10 months ago | (#44921829)

meh.

So there are sheep?

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (1)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44927271)

Then it shouldn't be hard to get colonists lined up. There should be plenty from the Falklands and Utah.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921841)

Good to have that sorted. It also proves that there are no humans on Mars.

Exactly. They are under Mars.

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44922051)

Good to have that sorted. It also proves that there are no humans on Mars.

Or that the rover's methane tester is broken,
Or that NASA is lying,
Or that the air in the Hollywood studio where the rover is at has really good filtration.

That's it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920801)

Martians don't fart

Re:Which Pretty Much Proves ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921173)

It still doesn't rule out ephemeral cows, the kind we see in the tabloids.

Re: Which Pretty Much Proves ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921937)

There are but this methane was produced by Schrodinger's Cow.

Roundtable discussion (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920479)

As I remember from a discussion we had on Friday the methane detection claim has been held in some doubt because he didn't take the redshift/blueshift context into account. It's likely the ground observation just saw the methane in Earth's atmosphere. The satellite observation is harder to explain -- if the methane was there and disappeared, the forces making it go away would have to be over a hundred times more powerful than it is on Earth, a planet with a much more volatile atmosphere.

Re:Roundtable discussion (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920651)

The problem with the satellite observation lies with the low resolution of the instrument used for the detection: the methane bands were not observed directly.
Without going into the details, we can say that the error bars were pretty high on that observations.
So, these results by Curiosity are not really unexpected, nor dissatisfactory: they match very well with the understanding of the CH4 chemistry!

An interesting paper was published on that subject by Zahnle in 2011 : http://faculty.washington.edu/dcatling/Zahnle2011_Mars_CH4_Doubts.pdf

Re:Roundtable discussion (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#44922119)

The problem with the satellite observation lies with the low resolution of the instrument used for the detection: the methane bands were not observed directly.

Interesting, the theory of AGW was rejected for the same reason up until the 1950's, the narrow CO2 bands were said to be overlapped by the broad H20 bands thus "cancelling out" any warming from CO2. Work on infrared technology for heat seeking missiles lead to higher resolutions that showed the bands were interleaved rather than overlapped (as expected).

Poor NASA (4, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | about 10 months ago | (#44920507)

Can't find water, can't find their DICP, can't find methane - no wonder they have a hard time finding funding :)

Re:Poor NASA (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#44920577)

Just you wait 'til they find oil.

Re:Poor NASA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920597)

Could you describe how we'd find oil in space given that it's from biological origins? And can you tell us how you plan to go get it economically?

Re:Poor NASA (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 10 months ago | (#44920683)

I'm pretty sure he meant 'find oil on Mars', which while also unlikely, would guarantee them funding if they managed to do so.

Re:Poor NASA (2)

jythie (914043) | about 10 months ago | (#44920705)

Well, the former at least, there are some models for how oil could be produced from purely geological rather then biological processes, so there very well may be oil on mars.... but it would still be economically useless to try to bring it back to earth.

Now, as a one (long) time fuel source for a potential colony....

Re:Poor NASA (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about 10 months ago | (#44920719)

But it would make it easier to live there if we had a fuel source. Not to mention all the good work that carbon emissions should do for Martian atmosphere. Mars could certainly benefit from global warming.

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920851)

Could you describe how you would have the infrastructure already in place to extract this oil and refine it? Can you compare how it's done on Earth right now and calculate how much it would cost to set up this basic infrastructure considering there is nothing at all on Mars right now? ie, calculate where and how you would house and feed the workers?

Re:Poor NASA (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920923)

Also, could you describe what use oil would have on a planet with no oxygen? Include that fact into your calculations. Yeah, suddenly you have to bring a planet's worth of oxygen with you. Makes lots of sense.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921869)

Also, could you describe what use oil would have on a planet with no oxygen?

LUBE

Re:Poor NASA (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 9 months ago | (#44926693)

Don't bother me with details. We have people for that.

Re:Poor NASA (2)

cpotoso (606303) | about 10 months ago | (#44921373)

With a small atmospheric pressure and small concentration of O2, having a FUEL source would also seem pointless.

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921547)

You can't bring facts to a Space Nutter. It's a religious conviction to them that putting people on Mars is a given.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44927389)

Fuel is only one use for petroleum. If you want to spend 30 seconds thinking about it you will probably realize that there are a number of other uses for long-chain carbon compounds.

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44924037)

Mars' atmosphere is already mostly CO2. The trouble is there's almost no atmosphere at all. You're going to need a magnetic field to keep the sun from blowing the air away.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#44923007)

Give it time, give it time. Nobody considered the oil sands a commercially viable source of oil, then the barrel hit the 120s and suddenly it is.

We just have to wait until the barrel hits the 1000s. Which is far from unlikely, since we so vehemently avoid looking for an alternative to oil. After all, pretty much anyone who could decide to look has an interest that we don't.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#44923633)

I'm pretty sure that by the time oil get's THAT scarce, we will have long since moved on to nuclear and other sources of energy.

HAHAHAHa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921551)

WooooOoOOOOoooOOsh!

Re:Poor NASA (1)

someone1234 (830754) | about 10 months ago | (#44921917)

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44922645)

Titan's Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth

02.13.08

  Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.

  The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., are reported in the Jan. 29 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

  "Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material -- it's a giant factory of organic chemicals," said Lorenz. "This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan."

  At a balmy minus 179 degrees Celsius (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit), Titan is a far cry from Earth. Instead of water, liquid hydrocarbons in the form of methane and ethane are present on the moon's surface, and tholins probably make up its dunes. The term "tholins"was coined by Carl Sagan in 1979 to describe the complex organic molecules at the heart of prebiotic chemistry.

  Cassini has mapped about 20 percent of Titan's surface with radar. Several hundred lakes and seas have been observed, with each of several dozen estimated to contain more hydrocarbon liquid than Earth's oil and gas reserves. The dark dunes that run along the equator contain a volume of organics several hundred times larger than Earth's coal reserves.

  Proven reserves of natural gas on Earth total 130 billion tons, enough to provide 300 times the amount of energy the entire United States uses annually for residential heating, cooling and lighting. Dozens of Titan's lakes individually have the equivalent of at least this much energy in the form of methane and ethane.

  "This global estimate is based mostly on views of the lakes in the northern polar regions. We have assumed the south might be similar, but we really don't yet know how much liquid is there," said Lorenz. Cassini's radar has observed the south polar region only once, and only two small lakes were visible. Future observations of that area are planned during Cassini's proposed extended mission.

  Scientists estimated Titan's lake depth by making some general assumptions based on lakes on Earth. They took the average area and depth of lakes on Earth, taking into account the nearby surroundings, like mountains. On Earth, the lake depth is often 10 times less than the height of nearby terrain.

  "We also know that some lakes are more than 10 meters or so deep because they appear literally pitch-black to the radar. If they were shallow we'd see the bottom, and we don't," said Lorenz.

  The question of how much liquid is on the surface is an important one because methane is a strong greenhouse gas on Titan as well as on Earth, but there is much more of it on Titan. If all the observed liquid on Titan is methane, it would only last a few million years, because as methane escapes into Titan's atmosphere, it breaks down and escapes into space. If the methane were to run out, Titan could become much colder. Scientists believe that methane might be supplied to the atmosphere by venting from the interior in cryovolcanic eruptions. If so, the amount of methane, and the temperature on Titan, may have fluctuated dramatically in Titan's past.

  "We are carbon-based life, and understanding how far along the chain of complexity towards life that chemistry can go in an environment like Titan will be important in understanding the origins of life throughout the universe," added Lorenz.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#44922133)

Titan has oceans of hydrocarbons, the logistical problems of getting it into your car are currently insurmountable.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#44922433)

The main problem is that the transport from Titan to Earth consumes much more energy than the hydrocarbons actually contain. Just accelerating the hydrocarbons enough to get them on a trajectory to Earth takes more energy already. So the logistics will stay unsurmountable for the future -- there is just no point in transporting hydrocarbons from Titan to Earth. It would be cheaper energywise to use that energy to synthetize hydrocarbons on Earth, where the materials (water and carbondioxide) are aboundant.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 10 months ago | (#44922639)

What about transporting Titan itself, putting it into an earth orbit? I bet you can crowdsource a pretty big amount of funding for that.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#44923625)

It still doesn't change the equations. The amount of energy necessary to move 1 kilogramm of matter from a Titan orbit to Earth orbit is larger than the chemical enery of 1 kg of hydrocarbonates.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 10 months ago | (#44924707)

Considering how high in the sky Titan is, I'm pretty sure the whole route is downhill.

Re:Poor NASA (1)

lgw (121541) | about 9 months ago | (#44927275)

A big enough solar sail and a lot of patience?

Re:Poor NASA (1)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44927553)

Cheaper to transport the car to Titan, right?

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44923909)

Slashdot: Where reality is overrated!

Re:Poor NASA (1)

libtek (902569) | about 10 months ago | (#44921275)

Just you wait 'til they find oil.

...or WMDs, then BOOM! We already have our first drone on standby in the area. No boots on the ground. 'Murica!

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44922677)

And then they'll make Chief White Halfoat and his tribe move again?

Re:Poor NASA (1)

kdogg73 (771674) | about 10 months ago | (#44922953)

Just you wait 'til they find oil.

QFT: Mod parent Insightful.

They already found oil ... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 10 months ago | (#44923249)

... and LPG/LNG on Titan. Lakes, if not oceans of it.

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920621)

Bet they could find methane on Uranus.

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44922499)

Urrectum, you insensitive clod!!!

Re:Poor NASA (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 10 months ago | (#44920833)

See? This proves NASA is staffed with incompetent government employees! Why, if we gave it over to private industry, I'm sure they'd find water and methane! NASA is just a useless jobs program!

(The above is sarcasm, for those who are sarcasm-deficient)

Re:Poor NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921239)

efficient comment re-use.

captcha: refrain

No shit, Sherlock (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920517)

"It’s possible that we don’t understand something that’s going on in the Martian atmosphere" - Ya think?
In truth, this is an excellent result. Some of the most profound scientific discoveries have been preceded by a null result.
How many times have we heard this sequence... "If we look here we should find X... WTF??... Oh!!... Hole crap!!!!!"

Re:No shit, Sherlock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920669)

"Hole crap"? That's usually where crap comes from, yes.

Late-breaking wind: Quadhydrocarbon release! (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | about 10 months ago | (#44920535)

The Council has declared a day of rejoicing, relaxation and release as intelligence reports from the blue world confirm that the latest invader from the blue world has failed to detect appreciable quantities of quadrohydrocarbon.

K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, addressed a tightly-clenched world: "Our collective tightening effort over the past year has not gone in vain. Long and hard have we clenched, and now it is time for all right-thinking citizens to reap the rewards. Our symbol must no more be the clenched fist, but the unfolded flower! REJOICE with your podmates, RELAX your cloacae, and RELEASE upon our impoverished atmosphere a deluge of accumulated flatulence so great that the very canyon walls shall shake, enveloping the invaders in dust and cutting off their vital power!"

When a junior reporter reminded the Speaker that the latest invader was powered by something other than mere radiant stellar energy, K'breel, in his mercy, had both of the junior reporter's cloacae sealed until the pressure of accumulated quadrohydrocarbon was released through the second-weakest point of structural failure: the gelsacs.

Re:Late-breaking wind: Quadhydrocarbon release! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920601)

meh.

Old non-funny meme is old and not-funny.

Re:Late-breaking wind: Quadhydrocarbon release! (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 10 months ago | (#44920701)

Yeah, and the "meh" meme is so unique and thought-provoking.

Re:Late-breaking wind: Quadhydrocarbon release! (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 10 months ago | (#44921761)

How is "meh" a meme?

It's simply a reply indicating indifference.

Re:Late-breaking wind: Quadhydrocarbon release! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44923785)

How are the K'Breel posts a "meme"?

Why not only in certain areas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920591)

Honest question...could somebody please explain why it couldn't be that the methane, and thus whatever produces it, is only in certain areas? So it could in an area that the telescopes and orbiter detected but not right where the rover is?

Yo Mumma (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 10 months ago | (#44920605)

The martian extractor fan is on!

They should have fed it some burritos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920691)

:D

Inherit The Wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920707)

"Climate scientists" on Earth do not understand Earth's atmosphere physics!

Why? "Climate scientists" do not understand physics!

A dreadful situation for the immaculate conception AR5 from 'Mother' IPCC.

QED

Hint: (1)

AndyKron (937105) | about 10 months ago | (#44920733)

Hint: Farts float

Major Tom ... Major Tom (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920791)

The trouble is being in the wrong spot and at the wrong time and with the wrong equipment and with the wrong people trying to figure things out on the Government dime.

The worst of all worlds.

Re:Major Tom ... Major Tom (1)

larwe (858929) | about 10 months ago | (#44921089)

Given that more or less every month we find out some new organism, some new life process, or other similar thing on this planet, I think the only "right" place to be on a body is "everywhere". So any one spot is definitely the wrong spot to observe all the possible processes that are occurring on Mars. I mean, hell, one very simple explanation is that all the CH4 is being created by microorganisms that live in a specific stratum of the atmosphere. (Note: I am ENTIRELY in favor of disbanding government space exploration programs and privatizing them. I think people looking for freedom, fame and riches will make inroads into space much faster than scientists looking for research papers funded by governments looking for military applications or ego boosts. We won't really understand for sure if Mars does or did have life until we have a lot - a LOT - of prospectors accidentally finding fossil Martian trilobites while looking for uranium or whatever).

Dup (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44920813)

The Rover didn't manage to find this dup [slashdot.org] , either.

Daily updates? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921107)

Are we having daily updates on this topic?

21/09: No methane on Mars
22/09: Still no methane on Mars
23/09: Breaking news ... no methane. Check back tomorrow!

This exciting barrage of news makes the moon landings look pretty boring! Go NASA!

Are they sure the sensor was plugged in? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 10 months ago | (#44921169)

Silly debugging question but how do you they know the sensor is working?

Refreshing view from scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921255)

"It’s possible that we don’t understand something.."

How refreshing. A scientist that admits they don't know everything--and quoted on /. I wonder how often scientists neglect to tell us that something isn't known or understood or observable? How often scientists pontificate when they should be quiet. The difference between Science the religion and science the field of study that that the quote reveals is refreshing.

Re:Refreshing view from scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921561)

> The difference between Science the religion and science the field of study

There is no "Science the religion", only imperfect instantiations of science (which is isn't a "field of study" but rather an epistemological paradigm).

Your post appears to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding about what science is. Perhaps you should study it, understand it, or even (gasp!) try it out before posting vacuous comments about it? You're already, by posting, enjoying its fruits...

Re:Refreshing view from scientists (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | about 10 months ago | (#44921647)

"It’s possible that we don’t understand something.."

How refreshing. A scientist that admits they don't know everything--and quoted on /. I wonder how often scientists neglect to tell us that something isn't known or understood or observable? How often scientists pontificate when they should be quiet. The difference between Science the religion and science the field of study that that the quote reveals is refreshing.

Well now when the first atom bomb was exploded the scientist did take bets on whether or not it would ignite the atmosphere and burn the whole earth. Don't recall but I think the odds where 70/30 against with a very generous payout if it did! I think they, much like computer programmers never admit they are wrong for fear of the bean counters. It must be hard to find a job as a scientist in a nation that wants to go back to teaching creationism!

Re:Refreshing view from scientists (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 10 months ago | (#44922681)

I would have taken that bet and put all my savings on the earth not burning. Who were the idiots betting the other way? What did they think they would do with the money if they won?

Re:Refreshing view from scientists (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | about 10 months ago | (#44922769)

They only bet a dollar.... black humor. None of them really knew for sure. If such a device had went off in the distant past it probably would have burned the whole earth.... o2 was much higher at one point... If I remembering my epoch old info... But I'm not sure that was the problem. You would need to google it but they did place a bet and Oppenheimer did say right afterwards "I have become death, distorter of worlds." and not in a cute way. It really freaked him out because he knew he had helped end the world. He was sure what he and his people made would kill all of us. I saw an interview with him and it was clear the man was scared although he hide it well but a few questions you can see it show. Wish I could point you to it but this was years ago and on pbs or something so I donno... I'm talking 1994 here...

Re:Refreshing view from scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44925825)

It must be hard to find a job as a scientist in a nation that wants to go back to teaching creationism!

The nation doesn't want to teach creationism, just some idiots in Texas and Kansas.

MEBCAK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44921747)

The Methane Exists Between Chair and Keyboard

It's dead (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about 10 months ago | (#44921845)

How long does it have to take before we go from "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it" to "It's dead, Jim"?

Key word: "disappointing" (1)

Prune (557140) | about 10 months ago | (#44922117)

Mars has a long history of unfulfilled wishful thinking associated with it. Let's not forget Percival Lowell's early telescope observations of the planet leading him to claim it was covered by canals undoubtedly built by an extraterrestrial civilization. Mumma and Meyer's are the modern day Lowells. Other posts in this discussion already have the large error margins in the satellite observations covered, and the scientists behind this ought to have known better. But hey, NASA needs the hype, right? After all, they managed to do the impossible over the last 40 years and make space boring--complete with a shrinking budget.

Re:Key word: "disappointing" (2)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 10 months ago | (#44922729)

I'm actually rather pleased that no life has been found. This increases the probability of the long term survival of humanity.

After all, if some simple life form existed on Mars, we could reasonably expect the galaxy to be teeming with life everywhere. And in the right conditions (which exist in plenty of places), we would expect those life forms to have evolved just like we did. So why haven't we received any intelligent signals from space, then? Only one variable left: maybe intelligent civilisations tend not to survive very long. Maybe we're overdue for some huge natural disaster, or maybe it's just the inherent instability of civilisations with huge destructive power in the hands of individuals.

If, on the other hand, no life is found on Mars, the very occurrence of the first basic forms of life may be so extremely rare that that explains why we haven't detected any other civilisations.

Oops (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#44923203)

And yet this is the method they use to determine the exact makeup and temperature and earthiness of a planet lightyears away. Good job, guys.

Mumma said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44923293)

,,,there'd be days like this.

There is methane in Uranus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44923865)

If NASA is looking for methane they should probe Uranus.

Perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44924783)

"But the methane has proved ephemeral — now you see it, now you don’t."

Extraterrestrial life farting I say!

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