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Test Equipment Finds Life In Mars-like Conditions

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the germs-are-everywhere dept.

Science 159

DIY News writes "In a test of equipment that might one day be used to search for biological activity on Mars, researchers discovered life tucked deep inside a frozen Norwegian volcano, a test region said to have geology similar to that of Mars. The test instruments discovered a rare and complex microbial community living in blue ice vents inside a frozen volcano, which is the kind of evidence scientists have been searching for on the Red Planet."

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159 comments

This may sound dumb (1)

Anyletter (875753) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728017)

But why don't we go ahead and spend the money to see if life can exist on mars...on mars? I'd rather my tax dollars going into science more than most things. What say you?

Re:This may sound dumb (5, Interesting)

Lucractius (649116) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728026)

because if you build a fancy machine and dont test it before you actualy get there, What happens when it doesnt work, you dont know if thats actualy a real reliable reading. It doesnt make any sence to send untested equipment millions of miles to search for something when you dont even know if it can find it at all.

not only that (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728368)

What happens when it doesnt work,

Even worse, what happens when your fancy machine gets taken over by rare and complex microbial monsters?!

Re:not only that (0)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728524)

hi, were fancy machine-stealing microbial monsters, we steal fancy machines for profit. step 1 : steal fancy machine step 2: ??? step 3: profit!

Re:This may sound dumb (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728379)

i wonder what happens, when the nasa couln't keep their tools sterile.
what happens if life from earth is being found on mars and keeps surviving.

that would be interesting.

Re:This may sound dumb (1)

justforaday (560408) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728696)

i wonder what happens, when the nasa couln't keep their tools sterile.

I have the feeling many engineers at NASA have no problem keeping their tools sterile.

Intelligent life (2, Funny)

protagon (852658) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728288)

Researchers are now investigating wether there is intelligent life in Norway. "The odds are against it," says a swedish scientist.

we already did (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728338)

It came back positive, so NASA declared the test invalid. Now the developer of it (and others) have declared that the test was valid. All things considered, the test probably was valid.

Cool. (5, Insightful)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728021)

Now the question is not whether Mars can support life, it is whether or not Mars could have supported its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.

Re:Cool. (2, Interesting)

Boronx (228853) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728041)

Now the question is not whether Mars can support life

Is it even possible for water-based life to exist at such a low pressure? And I don't mean dormant spores waiting around for better conditions.

Re:Cool. (5, Insightful)

hostyle (773991) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728083)

I was thinking the same thing. Unless these life-forms evolved completely independent of other similar life-forms on earth, there is practically no corellation between life on earth (albeit at similar temperatures / conditions) and life on another planet. Earth-evolved life surviving on another planet might well be possible, but life beginning there is something else entirely.

Re:Cool. (2, Interesting)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728097)

I wouldn't even doubt that.

Sure, spores which could survive for thousands of years inside pyramids or for several years in cold vacuum on the Moon didn't actually grow or thrive there, but we do have extremophiles [wikipedia.org] which feel happy in only a notch more moderate conditions.

And if pressure is a problem, you can go under the ground -- you can get as high pressure as you want there.

Re:Cool. (1)

BRUTICUS (325520) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728049)

Yeah, these lifeforms in the volcano are quite unlikely to have evolved by themselves out of the primordial soup.

Re:Cool. (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728138)

whether or not Mars could have supported its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.

I think the question should be whether or not Mars DID support its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution. Sure whether or not it COULD have is interesting, but whether or not it did is much more interesting.

Question is whether we choose to add life to Mars (4, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728306)

You ask a very good question: but surely the findings of this research raise another question: if Mars-like conditions (therefore Mars itself) can support life, should we be importing life to Mars?

Long term colonisation of Mars would require locally grown food, and preferably not at the expense of shipping in from Earth all the resources they need to grow. Is this a step towards finding hardy life forms that can be mutated to grow in Mars, or in a hybrid Mars-Earth condition? (ie. giving plants some support but not having to create Earth conditions). Hence making the possibility of long term missions to Mars more achievable...

Re:Question is whether we choose to add life to Ma (3, Insightful)

going_the_2Rpi_way (818355) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728941)

Hey, I know you! You're the guy who planned the introduction of new species to Australia, right? Hence making the continent more easily colonized in the long term by Europeans.

Re:Cool. (2, Insightful)

Decaff (42676) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728307)

Now the question is not whether Mars can support life, it is whether or not Mars could have supported its abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.

The problem is that this is going to be very difficult to prove. There is almost certainly a considerable amount of ongoing interplanetary transfer of microbial life (at least spores). There is plenty of experimental evidence that bacteria could survive the processes involved in such transfer (asteroid/comet collisions with planets, capture of debris by other planets, then entry into atmosphere).

I suspect that if we find life elsewhere in the Solar System it is going to be DNA or RNA based, and either be Earth-like microbes or evolved from them.

Re:Cool. (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729513)

Of course, that leads to thoughts of panspermia. What it abiogenesis never took place on Earth, but instead was colonized by extraplanetary spores?

interesting article if I could finish reading it. (1)

cjsm (804001) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728025)

Went to the website and it froze up...slashdotted already?

Re:interesting article if I could finish reading i (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728050)

Went to the website and it froze up...slashdotted already?

Note what TFA says: living in blue ice vents inside a frozen volcano. They're trying to reproduce the environment and temperatures from Mars, so freezing up makes sense.

I'm waiting... (1)

AnonymousYellowBelly (913452) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728035)

I'm waiting until they find life in Uranus!!

It really astounds me how life 'finds' a way to every possible surface/hole/place in this planet. As for Mars or any other planet, it's great if they find life... but I'm really only interested in 'big' animals, plants or 'sentient' beings. Bacteria/whatever is interesting, but I'm not of the camp of "life is exclusive to Earth", so I take life on other planets of the Universe "for granted".

Re:I'm waiting... (-1, Flamebait)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728143)

I'm waiting until they find life in Uranus!!

Well they won't find any in my anus. But I've heard they'll find plenty of diseases in yours.

Re:I'm waiting... (1)

cronotk (896650) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728180)

I don't think, that there are any 'big' animals. Even these crappy Mars-robots would have found them long ago. :)
Either that, or these "animals" are too big and clever to let someone see them ;)

I guess it's just the pure curiosity that the scientists search for any bacterias - just to see under which conditions they can survive. But I too think, that there must be any other lifeforms somewhere out there. Okay, maybe we all will never see them, but that's better than building an intergalactic beltway through earth...

Other Lifeforms (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728043)

Do these lifeforms work with oxygen and/or carbohydrates and/or water? Whenever a discussion about possible extraterrestial life pops up, I always have to ask if the researchers have considered lifeforms that don't work like the ones we're used to.

Re:Other Lifeforms (1)

mano_k (588614) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728245)

Well, it would be rather difficult to find lifeforms that work with an unknown chemistry, I suppose. At least if what you are looking for is microbe sized and you only have a robot probe in place.

Ok great news but... (1)

TarrySingh (916400) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728044)

"We tested equipment that we are developing to look for life on Mars and discovered a rare and complex microbial community living in blue ice vents inside a frozen volcano," Hans Amundsen of the University of Oslo said today. "The instruments detected both living and fossilized organisms, which is the kind of evidence we'd be searching for on the Red Planet."

So we can send our microbes there and just have to wait for like a few hundred billion years till humans's can survive there. I can't wait!

Photo of these virtual Martians (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728045)

The photo [space.com] shows one of these Martian-like creatures at work in their natural habitat. Apparently they look just like coke dealers here on earth filling up baggies for distribution. Except they are all red with purple hands.

The detail is amazing (5, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728075)

While this is amazing proof of life on Earth, unfortunately it is not proof of life on Mars.

These Earth-borne creatures are red because of the propensity of life on Earth to use iron as a key component in blood. I would expect that Martian creatures would have copper coursing through their veins.

Re:The detail is amazing (1)

Proc6 (518858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728313)

The point of TFA is the detection capabilities of the hardware not inferring that life in a volcano on earth increases the probability of life on another planet.

Re:The detail is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728323)

And even if we do find life on Mars, how do we know it wasn't brought there by one of those probes that were sent back in the 1970s?

Re:The detail is amazing (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728900)

These Earth-borne creatures are red because of the propensity of life on Earth to use iron as a key component in blood. I would expect that Martian creatures would have copper coursing through their veins.

Um ... you know why Mars is the "Red Planet," right? All that red stuff lying around everywhere?

It's rust. AKA "iron oxide."

Mistake? (4, Interesting)

SolitaryMan (538416) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728052)

I wonder, is there a possibility of not identifying Mars' living things as form of life, just because it is very different from ours? How do one check, whether the thing is alive or not?

Re:Mistake? (4, Interesting)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728100)

I've always thought that it was the height of human arrogance to presume that life on other worlds would be recognizable to us as "life" at all. There may be life on the moon for all we know. We assume certain organic forms, but why? Our experience with the world beyond earth is infinitesimal; how can we assume anything? what if there is life that doesn't exist as bacteria, as flora and fauna, as little green men, etc. Life elsewhere might be made of substances and energies that we don't even know exist. Evolution here took place in a particular context and environment -- who's to say what could happen in other environments? When it comes down to it, there is a whole lot we don't even know about life here on earth -- how can we assume that our assumptions about life here will have any relevance on other worlds?

Re:Mistake? (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728182)

We assume certain organic forms, but why?

Because carbon forms a wide variety of stable compounds. It is by far the most likely basis for life. The alternatives are not so good [wikipedia.org] .

Our experience with the world beyond earth is infinitesimal; how can we assume anything?

We can assume the laws of physics will hold constant (a safe assumption, based on our observations), so chemical properties will be the same.

Life elsewhere might be made of substances and energies that we don't even know exist.

Huh?

Re:Mistake? (1)

thousandinone (918319) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728902)

>Because carbon forms a wide variety of stable compounds. It is by far the most likely basis for life. The alternatives are not so good.

True, but who is to say that 'stability' is entirely necessary? On the other hand, looking at its effect on many materials, oxygen itself is a dangerous substance. It can corrode and damage many materials. Look at the effect on the flesh of an apple exposed to the air; thats not a pretty picture. Humans as well can suffer negative effects from Oxygen Toxicity [wikipedia.org] .

Imagine, for example, a species that does not depend on carbon and oxygen at all for their source of energy. Perhpas a species could exist that derives all of its energy directly from radioactive isotopes. It seems strange, but I'd be hesitant to say it's impossible.

>We can assume the laws of physics will hold constant (a safe assumption, based on our observations), so chemical properties will be the same.

This is a problem as well. All of our established laws of physics hold true in our environment, but who's to say that's true everywhere? In accepting the big bang theory, for example, most of the laws of thermodynamics have to be discarded. This does not disprove the laws of thermodynamics, but merely indicates a situation wherein they do not apply.

>>Life elsewhere might be made of substances and energies that we don't even know exist.

>Huh?


Food for thought: A number of the elements on the periodic table do not exist in nature as far as we know, and were only created in laboratories. Add in the fact that there are numerous isotopes for any number of elements, and the number of possible compounds greatly exceeds the number we have been able to actually observe on earth. Additionally, there are several forms of energy and forces that, while observable, can not yet be explained. Example: Gravity. We know that masses are attracted to other masses, and that this is what gravity is. But we don't know why masses are attracted to other masses.

Ultimately, I'm a firm believer in extraterrestrial life. Whether you believe in Intelligent Design or Evolution, you have to admit the possibility; for the former, who's to say a creator would stick to one planet (and since most religions believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful creator, it'd seem strange for them to limit themselves to a single, infinismal [compared to the universe] planet). For the latter, however remote the chances of life evolving, there are so many stars in our galaxy alone, it'd be ridiculous to assume that it's limited to our planet. And for those of you who are pastafarian, is it not arrogant to assume we are the only ones touched by his noodly appendage?

Re:Mistake? (3, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728211)

I've always thought that it was the height of human arrogance to presume that life on other worlds would be recognizable to us as "life" at all.

No, I'd say it's optimism, not arrogance, that lets us hope that we will be able to recognize life on other worlds. Because if we can't recognize it, well for us, it might as well not exist. It would be great if there was life completely unlike we know it on another body (whether it be moon, jupiter or mars) and we did recognize it. That would be earth-shattering. But if we didn't recognize it, that isn't something I'm as interested in. Simply because even if I am interested in it, I'll never be able to know if it exists or not.

Re:Mistake? (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728312)

I've always thought that it was the height of human arrogance to presume that life on other worlds would be recognizable to us as "life" at all. There may be life on the moon for all we know

Rubbish, unless you consider rocks and dust to be alive. There may be grey areas (viruses) and contingencies (robotic factory cannot replicate without electricty and a supply or microchips, plants can't replicate without light and air) in the defintion of what is living and what is not, but you need something with at least a semblance of metabolism, reaction to stimuli and reproduction in order to even start that debate. Life on the moon? Come on dude, there's bugger all there.

Re:Mistake? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728314)

if it doesn't move, if it doesn't have any reactions going on .. then it isn't alive by any definition of the word. do you consider rocks, with no reactions at all going on, to be alive?

now, you could consider a flame to be alive by this definition but simple life is just chemical reactions, complex enough to be considered alive(and continuing).

Re:Mistake? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728104)

Responding to stimuli is the biggie, though there are other criteria like reproduction normally used as well. Don't you remember your high school biology?

Re:Mistake? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728170)

IIRC: Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Energy, Nutrition

not that easy ! (4, Insightful)

alarch (830794) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728176)

high school buiology is oversimplified and to large extent obsolete. imagine a simple electronic thingie which can respond to stimuli (my computer can do that), but is it alive? imagine a robotic factory programmed to replicate itself - is it alive just because it replicates itself and not cars or whatever? i think not. defining life is not that easy consciousness may be? but i am one of those that are sure that animals have "souls" and are consciouss as well as plants and may be even bacteria... but... we cannot mesure level of consciousness

Re:not that easy ! (2, Insightful)

bheer (633842) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728414)

High School Biology is simplified but that's because it's aimed at high-schoolers. But it's not as off as you imagine. response to stimuli AND reproduction are key traits: can your computer respond to a temperature or salinity change in a meaningful way? i.e., would it be able to sense danger to itself and move away? would it seek out nutrients, such as electricity? Further, can it reproduce sexually or asexually?

Programming in the response to stimuli is easy. Creating hardware which can do all of that AND reproduce sustainably isn't. Even if you make something limited (out of Lego bricks, say) that can do all of the above, you'll have created a very rudimentary form of life.

> defining life is not that easy [...] consciousness may be?

About consciousness-- I'll say one thing, I'm not a big fan of the term. I refuse to get into the a/theist wars but to venerate what you don't understand is a primitive and very human trait (early man worshipped fire and lightning, for example). Today you see that very same idea played out as Intelligent Design -- because we can't understand the origin of life, it must be the handiwork of God. On a less obvious level, people who believe in consciousness and 'soul' are similar: we currently do not understand how massively interconnected neural systems work AND we don't believe in God BUT we still need a pole on which to stick our uncertainties; hence, 'consciousness'/'soul'.

In fact from your statements about everything possessing a soul I speculate you believe in the classical Gaia hypothesis: that the Earth is 'alive' and a living organism. Again, I say: Gaia and Soul are every bit as bunk as ID is. Gaia's adherents do not understand how truly complex large-scale non-linear systems work AND they don't believe in God BUT need a pole to stick their uncertainties on, hence it helps them to think that the planet is a live organism in itself.

The scale has changed since floods, famine and disease was thought of as divine retribution, but like those even allegedly modern men think nothing of invoking mystical mumbo jumbo as a prop for their fears. Plus ça change.

Re:not that easy ! (2, Interesting)

alarch (830794) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728534)

can your computer respond to a temperature or salinity change in a meaningful way? i.e., would it be able to sense danger to itself and move away? would it seek out nutrients, such as electricity? If it is programmed an equipped with appropriate sensors.. then yes. And it doesn't make it alive. Beside, many living things cannot do such things (eg. sense danger and move away). There are organisms that cannot reproduce (not species, but individuals) - and they are living too... I would say my fried she is not alive because she cannot have children... if you make something limited (out of Lego bricks, say) that can do all of the above, you'll have created a very rudimentary form of life. I do not think so. I think that it would soon be feasible to construct mechanical/electronical... device that could accomplish all things simple bacteria can. I am not sure whether it would be alive. I cannot define life, but I not agree with this simple definition. It is an ad hoc definition appropriate at the time when it was developed. Our technical abilities changed since then, but our toys are still not alive. And about the consciousness - yes I see the problems. And I am an atheist. When I am saying "soul" I do not mean "eternal soul" or something like that. I just feel that there is something that differs living things from technical devices we can imagine now (however advanced). And I also think that this difference can be scientifically described in the future (and we would be able to create real living things then).

Re:not that easy ! (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728654)

> If it is programmed an equipped with appropriate sensors.. then yes.

Yes, sensors, especially basic ones, are easy. Now that you have sensors, can you imbue your toy with enough programming for it to have a survival instinct so that it can avoid certain things and seek out others, the goal being to build up enough of something that'd enable it to reproduce?

> I would say my fried she is not alive because she cannot have children

False Dichotomy. Your friend has all the apparatus to enable her to have children. She could have prepared herself socially for it too, by dating and/or marrying. That she cannot is because of unknown problems with her reproductive organs, not because she is not alive.

Pointing to vegetative, sterile or comatose humans and asking if they're alive is to create a false dilemma because the real question is not whether THEY are alive (that is a question for bioethicists -- sterile people display many other lifelike behaviors, so that's a no-brainer, many comatose people show signs of cognitive thought under EEGs, and then you have a stray case like non-cognitively alive Schiavo where the EEG and physical evidence shows her brain has decayed to the point that there's no measurable brain activity left but clearly her other organs are alive in the sense of response to stimuli -- ingesting food and air and producing waste CO2 etc) but rather whether the design on which they are based is capable of life. And we know by our very existence that the answer is yes.

And if you create a thousand of these 'toys' and even 80% don't manage to reproduce, that's okay ... it'd show your basic idea was sound, you'd do better next time.

I think that it would soon be feasible to construct mechanical/electronical... device that could accomplish all things simple bacteria can.

The problem is that there is a huge gap between your thinking and actual practice. So far, the only place such toys have been built has been in computer simulations. If you indeed can build one of these with current technology, several people would be VERY interested. As it happens, our current level of expertise in nanoassembly places us years away from self-replicating nanoassemblies, which I believe are necessary for self-reproducing organisms.

Of course, as you say, response to stimuli + reproduction are thumb-rules that describe the most basic forms of life. However they are GOOD thumb rules because we know that more complex organisms can be derived from these simple ones. (In some ways I guess this is an unconscious hark to machine evolution, somewhat like biological evolution)

Nothing stops you from building something de novo that displays multiple high-order cognitive abilities (such as making a pretty watercolor and riding a bicycle) -- and if you do that I'm sure we'd revise our notions of life/non-life, but my intuition is that you'd find it very hard to accomplish.

Re:not that easy ! (0)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728432)

but i am one of those that are sure that animals have "souls" and are consciouss as well as plants....

Sssshhhhhh..... don't tell the vegans...

Re:not that easy ! (3, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728599)

imagine a robotic factory programmed to replicate itself - is it alive just because it replicates itself and not cars or whatever?

Erm... yes. Yes, it definitely is.

'A robotic factory programmed to replicate itself' is a really good definition of what a living thing actually is. It's something every living thing has in common. It takes in materials and energy from its environment, and uses them to maintain itself and to manufacture more like itself. Bacteria do it. Plants do it. Animals do it. And your robotic factory does it. That's life.

Re:not that easy ! (1)

ShadowBot (908773) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728868)

The simple definition may not be perfect, but it is necessary. It is a measurable approximation of what we generally consider to be alive.

While what we generally instinctively consider to be alive can probably be more accurately described as consciousness (although this immediately precludes things like plants and bacteria and so falls short) it is a value that is really impossible to measure or even define!

For instance how can I prove that you are actually conscious? and not just some mindless automaton prorammed to give answers and perform actions that you yourself do not understand (Of course, you will immediately deny it, but that's just what I would program an automaton to do if I wanted it to pretend to be conscious)

Personally, i'm more interested in finding other 'measurable' qualities in these creatures beyond our planet.

Like 'Intelligence': i.e. the ability to ask questions about the world around, research those questions and find useable answers. Preferably answers (and possibly questions) that we humans haven't already found ourselves.

and 'Friendliness': i.e. the willingness to share above mentioned answers with these strange human creatures who've come visiting, as opposed to the desire to test some of the new planet-busting technology on that pesky little flooded planet!

Re:Mistake? - or definition (1)

StonePiano (871363) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728171)

In New Zealand, the Maori traditionally attributed life to fire. I'm sure they were not the only ones. It consumes, reproduces, moves and behaves chaotically.

Re:Mistake? - or definition (2, Informative)

StonePiano (871363) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728192)

Cellular life we know of on Earth is based on complex molecules. Basically carbon is the only atom that can form these complex molecules (with an outside chance that silicon could do similar).

Studying the radiation from other parts of the universe, it seems that stars out there are made of the same basic elements as the ones we are familiar with here. So it follows that if there is complex life out there, it is probably carbon based. So we have a fairly clear idea of what carbon-based cellular living organism looks like.

Once you get a chunk of some substance under the microscope, it shouldn't be too difficult to make a determination about whether it was or is living.

Anywhere at all there is liquid water... (2, Insightful)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728059)

There is life. Anywhere there is no water (Atacama Desert, Chile - no measurable rain in 100 years) there is no life. That's been borne out by every observation of Earth. Although increasingly hostile conditions make for less and simplier life (ie extremophiles), there is still life. Now the question is, 'Does that apply to other planets too?' I imagine that at some point, a planet or moon would need to have a large body of liquid water to facilitate the initial creation of life.

Re:Anywhere at all there is liquid water... (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728304)

Yes, but. As someone else remarked below in other word: Earth-life has colonised the Atacama Desert, but can it originate and evolve under these conditions? If not, then Mars may be barren.

It Would Be Nice (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728099)

It would be nice to have an article description that is repetitive without adding detail. And also redundant.

Psychological? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728108)

At least some aspect of the human race is earnestly exploring the possibility of living in other planets/moons/galaxies in whatever timeframe. If such an endeavour is taken up, almost certainly, we are going to build a habitat thats suitable for us...warm, abundance of water, sunlight, etc.

Search for/Finding out that indigenous life exists is merely a psychological boost to set that up than to find little green (wo)men.

A.

What is life? (3, Interesting)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728132)

We are looking for a precise thing we call life [wikipedia.org] . This quest is very specific and could lead to wrong considerations.
The point is that we know too little about life, Universe and everything to do something resembling a real search for life.
I recall Cristoforo Colombo that knew too little about India to understand that it was not India at all!

Re:What is life? (1)

rcbarnes (875915) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728183)

Actually, he was totally aware of his non-Indian landing. A conjunction of stupid educators and bad author's unresearched publications has created a massive myth surrounding his landing. First, he didn't have to convince anyone that the world was round. Sure the stupid peasants thought it was flat, but anyone educated knew that it was round. In fact, the Greeks even measured the diameter to within a few percent (as I recall, a little less than one percent). This was the real issue. All the educated classes knew how big the world was, and consequently said his voyage was impossible (which, if not for the intervening Americas, would have been), and refused to fund a suicide mission. He had to convince the courts that the Greeks were too stupid to get the dimensions of the earth right. He based his arguments on citing obscure Greeks who had come to various highly underestimated conclusions (one Greek is as good as another, he said). All the sensible courts turned his wholly unsubstantiated arguments out to the cold. Second, he never thought he hit India. He told his financiers that he just needed a few more trips to get around the mass that was in the way, or to find a group that traded with the (India) Indians. Third, he didn't name the people he found Indians, since that name for the country wasn't used by cartographers until long after he died. Rather he called them "Indeos" (excuse my spelling, I don't know Portuguese), meaning "with God." A large number of 'Native Americans' are aware of this correct origin, and prefer Indian to "Native American." Besides, anyone born here is a "Native American." Also: I hereby moderate this entire message [-1 Off-topic]. :-P

Re:What is life? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728205)

You are 100% right. Mine was only an example on the "common sense": we look for something we don't actually know that well!

What should that tell us?! (-1, Redundant)

cronotk (896650) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728146)

"[..]researchers discovered life tucked deep inside a frozen Norwegian volcano, a test region said to have geology similar to that of Mars."

Do I get this right? They found little lifeforms in an area that is geologically similar to Mars.
I mean: Good work ppl, for finding out something absolutely irrelevant (IMHO).
I don't think that there is any air on Mars and also not really much water. These lifeforms don't eat rocks to survive, do they?
They'd probably die in an instant when being set out on Mars :)

Re:What should that tell us?! (1)

g0sub (582599) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728315)

Yup, I don't see why people bother with testing and training, whether it's for space missions or going to war.

Re:What should that tell us?! (1)

Filik (578890) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728496)

So why exactly do you need air? Remember that this is deep underground, in tunnels of water within ice, near volcanoes who can give heat. Also, for other posters who complain about no pressure, I imagine there is plenty of pressure once you go deep enough into the ice (3-5km). I don't think there was alot of air where they drilled in Svalbard (Norway)... Water on Mars has been proven, and you don't need alot of water for this scenario. -Filik

I gotta ask.. (4, Insightful)

xx01dk (191137) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728156)

What would it mean if we discovered microbial life on another planet? Honestly. What would it mean. One, it would mean that the posibilty of life is not that uncommon. Life prevails under the harshest of circumstances here on Earth. Why not elsewhere?

Two, if it does exist elsewhere, then what's so special about our planet?

Three, what's stopping it from evolving beyond the microbial stage? It opens the floodgates on "what is possible" in this universe.

I for one, welcome.... nm. I'm interested to know if mankind as a whole is ready to comprehend the fact that life is not indigenous to Earth...

Depends Where You Find It (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728395)

There is a high probablility that Mars has blowback from meteorites from Earth. So life on Mars may have very well been there, but from Earth.

Better things to focus on... (0, Redundant)

Max Nugget (581772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728174)

You know, although I do think it's really important to discover if there's *any* life on Mars, I think ultimately humanity is being foolish by not focusing in other, more fruitful directions.

It would be an interesting discovery if we found life on Mars, because it would be our first opportunity to examine a lifeform (however simple) that is not of Earthly origin.

But, I can't help but feel like a lot of the focus on finding life on Mars is for a more basic reason: we're eager to find ANY life on ANY other planet, just so we can finally put to bed the question of whether there's life elsewhere in the universe. Mars may represent the easiest way to meet that goal, since it's the most promising planet that we can actually land a ship on in a timely fashion.

And although I'd love to see it happen, it's sort of a stupid reason to focus on Mars. Why? Because this question of "is there life out there" is all but a foregone conclusion. Honestly, what scientist, from a scientific perspective, thinks we are the only planet with biological life on it? The scenario in which we really are alone in the universe is the statistically improbable one. It's only our emotional sense of galactic loneliness and our overblown sense of how special and unique we are that makes us think it's a significant possibility.

Why is it the majority of the population believes in the existance of God, a being with no scientific basis, but yet we can't just accept that it would be one of the biggest surprises in the history of humanity if we one day discover that we ARE, in fact, alone in the universe.

So I'm just asking whether there's more to be learned from the intense studies being done on Mars, than if that effort were spent focusing on other NASA-like things, such as figuring out how to build better and faster spaceships to take us further from Earth so that we might discover more INTERESTING lifeforms than microscopic bacteria.

Is what we're finding on Mars really more important than expanding our overall space explorations, or are we simply allowing ourselves to be biased from this foolish desire to prove to ourselves that we're not alone in the universe?

Besides, don't you think it would be a lot more efficient to travel through space looking for giant giveaways of intelligient life, like, say, planets that look like ours, satellites and space stations orbiting planets, or OTHER spaceships flying around? Wouldn't we be making much faster progress if we just ASSUMED there is life in the rest of the universe and GET OVER our need to examine every last speck of Mars?

Re:Better things to focus on... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728227)

Besides, don't you think it would be a lot more efficient to travel through space looking for giant giveaways of intelligient life, like, say, planets that look like ours, satellites and space stations orbiting planets, or OTHER spaceships flying around? Wouldn't we be making much faster progress if we just ASSUMED there is life in the rest of the universe and GET OVER our need to examine every last speck of Mars?

No. Because we currently have no means to examine any planet outside of our own solar system closely enough to determine if such things are present. It's hard enough to determine at this distance if there even are any earth-like planets out there. And any telescope capable of seeing that clearly at that distance is more than a few years off. (Read: not in our lifetime)

If we are going to find any life with the tools we have, it will be in our own solar system.

Re:Better things to focus on... (2, Informative)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728403)

Honestly, what scientist, from a scientific perspective, thinks we are the only planet with biological life on it?

If by a 'scientific perspective' you mean 'based on evidence' then no scientist thinks there is life on other planets, as life has not been proven to exist on other planets, no matter how likely it seems. If by 'scientific perspective' you mean 'based on confidence that evolution would probably have happened elsewhere' probably many scientists think life exists elsewhere. Until there is actual life discovered, it could hardly be considered a scientific fact. (Mind you, it's not a topic I follow alot, if life has been proven _not theorized_ to exist outside our planet, by all means let me know). The idea that life exists on other planets is so far in the same category as the idea that life does not exist on other planets, ie: it's an opinion.

Why is it the majority of the population believes in the existance of God, a being with no scientific basis...

Because people have experiences that they beleive are communication with God. You may or may not agree that their experiences are actually communication with God, but people are sure that they have them. Same with other 'experiences' like alien abdictions etc. Not scientific at all, but science is (rightly or wrongly) much less important to most people than their own experiences. I think it is good also to realise that evidence != science, that is, there are other forms of evidence that are convincing to people, for example, in court, eyewitness accounts are evidence, and do not necessarily require scientific evidence to be accepted as true. Science ought not to be a religion where things are accepted as facts just because it seems likely to someone, most people or even everybody. To be credible as science, it must be based on scientific evidence only. Of course, unproven ideas are the fuel of science, otherwise science would never reveal new information. The idea that life is out there is the fuel or motivation to investigate and discover. If the evidence is discovered, the ideas will become science, not before.

Re:Better things to focus on... (3, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728454)

Why is it the majority of the population believes in the existance of God, a being with no scientific basis, but yet we can't just accept that it would be one of the biggest surprises in the history of humanity if we one day discover that we ARE, in fact, alone in the universe.

Because it is by no means a foregone conclusion that there is life elsewhere. Probable? Possibly, but we don't have much data to back it up. So far we know of only carbon based lifeforms, and we know of no planets outside the solar system even remotely likely to be able to sustain lifeforms like us. We don't have any data (as opposed to theories) that indicates that other types of lifeforms are even possible.

We don't even know if planets likely to harbour life will ever be found outside the solar system, or if our system is an aberration.

You say it's an overblown sense of how special we are, but that's not only it: IF there is only one planet with intelligent life in the universe, then if you are discussing the issue of whether or not there is life in the universe you will be on that planet.

In other words, the likelihood is 100% that in the case only one planet harbours intelligent life, and intelligent being will find itself on that planet.

So talking about the probabilities is meaningless: If the odds of life starting are high, then yes, the probability that we are alone is low. But we don't know that - we have never observed the evolution of life from precursors to life in any meaningful sense, and still do not understand the process very well.

And we certainly don't know if the conditions in which life arose on earth has ever existed anywhere else, nor if there are other conditions which are favorable enough for life to develop.

That is why finding life on Mars would be important - it would increase our number of data points from one to two, and possibly give us significantly better data on the range of conditions that life can survive in as well as the forms of life that exists.

THOUGHT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728232)

It's funny how bugs eating the oceans millions of years ago led to Tangerine.

Frozen Volcano? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728285)

Isn't that an oxymoron, like 'jumbo shrimp' or 'Microsoft innovation'?

Reaching the wrong conclusion (3, Insightful)

arun_s (877518) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728295)

'Test Equipment Finds Life in Mars-like Conditions '
Yes, but its life that has evolved over millions of years on the Earth. Living creatures are extremely adaptable. Given time, you could expect some life form or the other to make it thru' in the worst of climates.
So it does not follow that you can extrapolate this to a conclusion that life of a similar sort could have existed in Mars. The toughie is finding out if life can start anywhere, and in what initial conditions. Natural selection will take care of the surviving.

Re:Reaching the wrong conclusion (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729442)

Well, most researches suggest that mars WAS quite a bit warmer and friendlier to live in the past.
Which would allow for live to evolve first and than adapt to the increasingly harsher enviroment.

I, for one... (0)

dorkygeek (898295) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728316)

  • I, for one, welcome our new microbial-community-living-in-blue-ice-vents-insid e-a-frozen-volcano overlords.

  • In soviet russia, life discovers you.

  • Imagine a beowulf cluster of researchers on mars.

  • And who discovers me in my volcano, you insensitive clod!??

Re:I, for one... (0, Offtopic)

Xoo (178947) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728447)

most popular definition of a clod for the rest of us
(courtesy of Urbandictionary [urbandictionary.com] )

clod
1. A hardened mass of dirt.
2. A person who would have to learn ettiquette just to elevate himself to the title of hardened mass of dirt.
3. A popular French given name.


It hasn't rained in weeks, look at all those clods!

Some clod sped through the puddle and splashed mud all over my suit!

Clod DeBussy was a good composer!

Re:I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13729083)

And google defines [google.co.uk] a clod as an awkward stupid person :-)

Not the first time we see it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728481)

There is a river in Spain (Tinto River) in which life is supposed to be impossible and still, some kind of bacteria has been found in it.

Now, we know life rises in unthinkable places, but it is the final time now to go to Mars and stop doing experiments about where life would grow in Earth even if we think it is not possible.

We could be wondering and experimenting thounsands or maybe millions of possibilities, that wont bring the fact that there is life in Mars. Going there and check, that will.

Surviving != evolving (-1, Troll)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728553)

Unfortunately a lot of these researchers seem to think that
just because something can survive in hostile conditions it
could have evolved in similar conditions elsewhere. As far as
we can tell life on earth evolved in failry benign conditions
(warm seas, plenty of mineral nutrients etc) and then moved
out to the less hospitable places later. If the whole earth
had been dry volcanic craters with little or no water what do
you reckon the odds on lfe ever evolving would be? Right, probably
next to nothing. So just because something could *possibly*
survive on Mars that sur as hell doesn't mean anything even as
complex as a bacterium could ever evolve there.

Re:Surviving != evolving (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728730)

"If the whole earth had been dry volcanic craters with little or no
        water what do you reckon the odds on lfe ever evolving would be?"

How about "If the whole of MARS had been dry volcanic craters. . ."?

You're forgetting there is a plethora of evidence to suggest it was much wetter in the past. A frozen volcano on Earth and a Martian lake/sea are not similar conditions.

coc4 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728621)

others what to to have regular guests. Some people me if you'd like, Ma@rket. Therefore would be a bad the time to mmet sling, return it to

On Life (1)

Spencer Mabrito (890642) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728780)

Hmmm [slashdot.org]

As others have noted, perhaps expecting life on Mars or any other heavenly body to be even recognizable is foolish. What if other forms of life move slowly through time? Imagine a human-like being who lives for a billion years, but moves so slowly that they only manage to get done what one normal human gets done in their 75 years. Or visual a rock. Just a stone. It's life span is a few billion years. It thinks, lives, reproduces, but far too slowly for us to notice.

Refering back to the acetylene life, what if we slowed down normal chemical rxns associated with life on earth down immensely, but they still worked for some other type of organism?

Why does life have to exist in our four dimensions?

Is it that hard to believe that life could be made up of large-scale mechanics? Earth-life is chemical in nature, but getting down to the nitty-gritty of the chemistry sends you back to physics. Couldn't we have large-scale life, using the mechanics of chemistry, but on much larger atomic particles?

Just a few things that came to mind when I read this article.

Keep in mind (-1, Redundant)

kukickface (675936) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728785)

Assumptions are evil so keep in mind that proof that life can exist is not proof that life does exist.

Mmmmmmmmm...aromatic hydrocarbons! (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#13728790)

"Our instrument, designed by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), detected minute quantities of aromatic hydrocarbons from microorganisms and lichens present in the rocks and ice," said JPL researcher Arthur Lonne Lane."
Mmmmmmmmm...aromatic hydrocarbons......
In case you were wondering....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatic_hydrocarbon [wikipedia.org]

WIKIPEDIA----
An aromatic hydrocarbon (abbreviated as AH), or arene is a hydrocarbon, the molecular structure of which incorporates one or more planar sets of six carbon atoms that are connected by delocalised electrons numbering the same as if they consisted of alternating single and double covalent bonds. After the simplest possible aromatic hydrocarbon, benzene, such a configuration of six carbon atoms is known as a benzene ring.

PAHs and the origins of life In January 2004 (at the 203rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society), it was reported (as cited in Battersby, 2004) that a team led by A. Witt of the University of Toledo, Ohio studied ultraviolet light emitted by the Red Rectangle nebula and found the spectral signatures of anthracene and pyrene. (No other such complex molecules had ever before been found in space.) This discovery was considered confirmation of a hypothesis that as nebulae of the same type as the Red Rectangle approach the ends of their lives, convection currents cause carbon and hydrogen in the nebulae's core to get caught in stellar winds, and radiate outward. As they cool, the atoms supposedly bond to each other in various ways and eventually form particles of a million or more atoms. Witt and his team inferred (as cited in Battersby, 2004) that since they discovered PAHs--which may have been vital in the formation of early life on Earth--in a nebula, nebulae, by necessity, are where they originate.

The interesting thing is that life as we know it can form out of combinations of stellar particles, is it just a random occurence? It is possible that Mars has life and we just haven't found it? Of course, but we will need a machine that can dig deep in the ground with greater power, mobility and flexibility.

Alternate Headline... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13728954)

Scientists discover life on Earth!

False implications (1)

garver (30881) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729097)

I think it's false to imply that if we find life in a Mars like place on Earth, then there must be life on Mars. After all, on Earth, life may have developed somewhere/sometime friendlier and adapted to these harsh conditions. Mars may not have a friendly place or had a friendly time.

Mars ain't the same as Earth and life ain't simple. For that matter, science ain't simple. But we're learning and that's cool.

interplanetary "infections" (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729233)

I predict life will probably be found in all hospitable sites in the solar system, and it will all be more or less similar to Earth biochemistry. That is because meteorites bounce back and forth between the planets and moons all the time. About 30 Mars meteorites have been identified on earth so far. Considering how many get lost in the ocean and jungles, its likely that thousands have hit earth. And earth has probably, sent out many itself, though its larger gravitation means not as many as Mars.
Life has been found in nearly all deep drill holes in Earth, indicating that bateria can exist in rocks for million to hundreds of millions of year, more than long enough for a meteor to travel to another planet.

A second guess I making is that life may have originated on Mars first, because the surface of this smaller planet probably stablized quicker than Earth's. Then it infected Earth. Whether it lasted on Mars is unknown.

Data, we don't have time for this ! (0, Offtopic)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 8 years ago | (#13729468)

I just LOVE scanning for lifeforms!
Life forms!
You pretty little life forms!
You precious little life forms!
Where are you?
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