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!

More Evidence for Early Oceans on Mars

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the wet-but-no-cigar dept.

93

DestroyAllZombies writes "More news about Mars. The good news: New Scientist reports that more analysis of Rover data supports the claims for widespread oceans in Mars' distant past. The bad news, from the article: 'An ocean of water once wrapped around Mars, suggests the discovery of soil chemicals by NASA's rovers. But the same chemicals also indicate that life was not widespread on the planet at the time the ocean was present.'"

cancel ×

93 comments

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

Bad news? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16619866)

Why is it bad news to learn that there was never any life on Mars? Wouldn't it be much worse news to learn that life was common there and was utterly wiped out?

I think most people would agree that a planet-wide extinction of all life would qualify as 'bad news'.

Re:Bad news? (2, Funny)

Ireneo Funes (886273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619890)

Why not neutral news?
What do I care if a whole army of amoeba got pwned by massive climate change?

Oh... wait.

Re:Bad news? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16619920)

Why is it bad news to learn that there was never any life on Mars? Wouldn't it be much worse news to learn that life was common there and was utterly wiped out?

I think most people would agree that a planet-wide extinction of all life would qualify as 'bad news'.


Neither is good news or bad news. Science exists to quantify and explain, not to hope for something. If hope that life existed on Mars is the major reason for your research, you aren't being a scientist. You are being a cheerleader.

It would certainly be interesting if life existed on other planets. It might give us insight into how life started here on Earth. But the opposite is also true. But we need the information first!

Re:Bad news? (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620264)

If hope that life existed on Mars is the major reason for your research, you aren't being a scientist.
Scientists are human and are allowed to have motivations. They shouldn't let it bias their work, of course, but still. If hope for finding something interesting and exciting got them into science, and keeps them at it, that's fine.
Also, who restricted this to scientists? You don't have to be a scientist to be interested in whether there had been life on mars or not.
I think the way "bad" is used in the article means "disappointing to those hoping for profoundly interesting and exciting news".

Re:Bad news? (1)

Venik (915777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620564)

If life existed on Mars, and if it was intelligent life, and if they developed to the point of creating computers, I would like to know what OS they used and whether it was open source or not.

Re:Bad news? (1)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623142)

They were wiped out, so I'd expect they had something quite similar to Windows.

Re:Bad news? (2, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 7 years ago | (#16624374)

Neither is good news or bad news. Science exists to quantify and explain, not to hope for something. If hope that life existed on Mars is the major reason for your research, you aren't being a scientist. You are being a cheerleader.

Wrong. Anyone who uses scientific method in his research is a scientist. It doesn't matter if he's motivated by dreams of going Kirk with alien females, or gets his kicks from abstract knowledge; purity of motive is irrelevant. The only requirement is the application of scientific method.

In any case, none of this matters. The news is bad for anyone who hoped to find life in Mars. Whether a scientist is allowed to belong to this group is irrelevant.

Re:Bad news? (2, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620260)

I think the crowd here wants to live in a SF universe. I for one, would like to see a contact with an alien civilization in my lifetime, even if I think it is improbable. A Big Question in science is : Is the apparition of life on Earth a common event in the Universe or is it a unique and almost impossible event ?

Having proofs of ancient life on Mars would have put us a step nearer the alien contact. Of course the crowd here is mostly optimistic about aliens intentions :-)

Re:Bad news? (1)

Decaff (42676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620632)

Having proofs of ancient life on Mars would have put us a step nearer the alien contact.

Only if it could be shown that this life had a different origin from that on Earth.

Is that really a question at all? (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621128)

"A Big Question in science is : Is the apparition of life on Earth a common event in the Universe or is it a unique and almost impossible event? "

Is that really such a question? Given that there are a bazillion (heh, scientific, I know) planets out there, there's a huge number of Earthlikne planets as well, making it likely that there is something similar elsewhere life-wise. Also, once we look past our "Star Trek" prejudices, there's the likelihood of even more different types of life in a variety of other environments.

In other words, it seems rather probably that there are other planets with a biosphere, so that answers your "big question". The bigger question is how common it is and what it is like. For this, we can only make the wildest of guesses, since it is impossible to generalize from a sample set of one.

Re:Is that really a question at all? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16621280)

Also, once we look past our "Star Trek" prejudices, there's the likelihood of even more different types of life in a variety of other environments.

The Star Trek universe is actually filled with non-humanoid life; it's just that humans tend to make contact with humanoid life and not interact much with any other life forms.

For this, we can only make the wildest of guesses, since it is impossible to generalize from a sample set of one.

Neither is it impossible, nor do we only have a sample of one. We have a pretty good catalog of the chemical substances, biological functions, biochemical pathways, and other constraints on life, and it doesn't look like there is a lot of variation possible.

Intelligent life on other planets at a similar stage of development to ours is likely is bipedal, warm blooded, has eyes like humans, breathes oxygen, has sparse body hair, has lungs, a heart, a circulatory system, sexual reproduction, extended infant maturation periods, similar emotions. It may not exactly look human and its internal organs may be different and arranged differently, but the general construction will be similar.

How do we know? Because biologists have found many of the evolutionary dead ends that didn't work, and they have found that many organisms independently developed the same solutions. For example, visual organs have arisen several times in evolution, and you get only two designs: the one for big animals like us, and the one for small animals like insects; there doesn't seem to be any other good way of building reliable visual organs. More generally, supporting our oversized brains completely dominates the design of our bodies; there simply isn't a lot of leeway in terms of design.

However, given that we can now co-evolve with technology, there are likely big changes in store for us. If we survive and remain a technological culture, we'll likely turn into cyborgs in a century or two. However, even there, we'll probably parallel the evolution of millions of species all over the universe, as will our inevitable demise.

Re:Is that really a question at all? (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621370)

"The Star Trek universe is actually filled with non-humanoid life; it's just that humans tend to make contact with humanoid life and not interact much with any other life forms."

I thought of mentioning that, but figured I'd leave it at the more superficial level of Trek, rather than deep Trekkiedom. You know, where the public knows "Star Trek" as a show where starships travel around the galaxy and interact for the most part with aliens that are nothing other than humans with forehead bumps.

We do only have a sample of one single biosphere to work from. The attention paid to Jupiter and Titan, which are other chemical cauldrons, has been so little as to not even count.

"Intelligent life on other planets at a similar stage of development to ours is likely is bipedal, warm blooded, has eyes like humans"

I'd bet you (if I had the money and the millenia) that the first "advanced" life form we have will resemble those "flashy light things" that they used in Trek when they wanted to save the budget, or red amoebas the size of Alcatraz, or something even more bizarre. It is so limited to think "yeah, they'll be like us". So limiting. Examples of how limiting this is are even found on Earth: Look at the canny, dextrous, octopus with its advanced eye. It's easy to see this type of life form going farther.

Re:Is that really a question at all? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#16631220)

A bazillion may not be enough, it is not infinite. It is all about the probability of the apparition of life. If the apparition of life on a earth-like planet has a probability of 1/X and there are less than X planets in the universe, then we probably are alone, and maybe it has taken several universes for the life to appear. Big numbers can exist on the two sides of the equation. We simply don't have enough data yet to know

Re:Bad news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16621166)

Is the apparition of life on Earth a common event in the Universe or is it a unique and almost impossible event ?

I think it's a little more than an "apparition"; more like an "appearance" or "emergence", actually...

Re:Bad news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16621538)

I think the crowd here wants to live in a SF universe.

The aliens must come from the Castro then. That certainly explains their obsession with anal probes...

Life is extinct? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621238)

You know that life is extinct on Mars? That would mean that you are the only person on this planet who knows that. The answer is that we do not know if Life does or does not exists on Mars. In fact, I think that we will never know until we go there. The problem is that somebody develops a test and once it is positive, another person will come up with a reason why it is inorganic in nature. That makes us back to square one. The issue is that it costs a lot of money to send up a multi-test machine AND will harvest for it. I find it highly unlikely that any life remains on the surface (but I could be wrong). So we will have to look in caves, gulleys, even underneath water ice (not likely under CO2 ice).

In addition, have life become extinct is not a big deal. It has happened here numerous times to high level organisms. It is quite possible that we could face new conditions that would wipe out all life except that we interfere. Or due to our recent nature of denying an issue, maybe we will be too late. But if life was on mars, it will be all over the universe.

Re:Life is extinct? (1)

burndive (855848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623526)

I'm pretty sure there are a few microbes in spore form on Mars: the first few missions we weren't too careful about not contaminating our probes, and so there have been stow-away bacteria on mars (from Earth). I doubt that life has thrived, given the harsh conditions. In fact, they will almost certainly eventually die out and become extinct unless we send more or go down there and change the environment.

Re:Bad news? (1)

subtilior (694729) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623864)

Also, if there had been life, we might have to worry about being invaded.

Re:Bad news? (1)

Geosota (976895) | more than 7 years ago | (#16633256)

In the source piece, we see oceans loaded with phosphates - which come from laundry detergents. So not only was there life on Mars but they were the worst kind of neat-freaks, ones that are environmentally irresponsible. You want contact with these jerks? Get a life!

Not widespread? (-1, Flamebait)

Ireneo Funes (886273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619872)

But the same chemicals also indicate that life was not widespread on the planet at the time the ocean was present.

Was it narrawly spread then? Or is it in the same way that the latest reports from the field indicate WMD's were not as widespread in Iraq as everyone thought?

If the water was there, where did it go? (1, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619904)

Water on earth tends to get "recycled" constantly: sea water evaporates makes clouds which make rain which eventually gets into rivers which go back out to the ocean etc. If Mars was covered with water, where did this water go?

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (4, Informative)

THE anonymus coward (92468) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619918)

Mars doesn't have the same gravity that the Earth does, nor does it have a magnetic field to stop incoming solar wind. The water could have evaporated, and since it is a lighter element (than CO2, which is most of Mars' atmosphere) it could have just blown away.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16619956)

Water isn't an element you dumb fuck.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620012)

Neither is an element; but that really depends on what kind of elementary elements our grammatical elements refer to in this particular context.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620634)

Owned? sorry, had to say it.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621170)

Owned? sorry, had to say it.

You misspelled owned.

Pwned.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16624294)

Ahh Internet slang!!!
TEH HAX!!!!
... no... I'm becoming one of them.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (2, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620036)

Chances are that if Mars is getting a full blast of solar wind, it wouldn't have been too suitable for life anyways.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

THE anonymus coward (92468) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620082)

This is a function of having a molten core, if there is moving metal, there is a magnetic field (which Mars doesn't have much of now, but it does have a weak one, probably residual from a time when there was a molten core). So, once upon a time, Mars did have a magnetic field, and that helped keep the water there.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620190)

This is a function of having a molten core, if there is moving metal, there is a magnetic field
Couldn't that weak field be the residual of one dissapearing or the beginnings of one forming around Mars as a result of a Geomagnetic reversal? Is there definite proof that Mars doesn't have a molten core? Or are we assuming because it has no field?

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

THE anonymus coward (92468) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620216)

Couldn't that weak field be the residual of one dissapearing or the beginnings of one forming around Mars as a result of a Geomagnetic reversal?

Sure, it is possible, but the field that is there is very weak (on the order of 1/100th of Earth's, if memory serves). Since we have only been measuring the magnetic field of Mars for the last 9 years (thanks to Mars Global Surveyor) there isn't the same long term magnetic data to compare with that of the Earth.

Is there definite proof that Mars doesn't have a molten core?

Well, the lack of active volcanoes seems like a fairly strong indicator.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620456)

The water could have evaporated, and since it is a lighter element.
Water is a lighter element than earth, yes, but not fire or air. I would expect those to have escaped first.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (2, Funny)

Olix (812847) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620976)

What about Milla Jovovich? She is probably heavier than water - does than mean she is still on Mars?

Then why did it even exist ? (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620998)

If there once were large pools of water on Mars, it's not the question why did it go, but much more one of why did it even form/exist ?

Was there an atmosphere once ?

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621444)

So water is an element now ?

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621764)

Mars doesn't have the same gravity that the Earth does, nor does it have a magnetic field to stop incoming solar wind. The water could have evaporated, and since it is a lighter element (than CO2, which is most of Mars' atmosphere) it could have just blown away.

So does that mean Earth is just loosing H2O more slowly than did Mars? Comforting, sort of.

But I get a kick out of astro-science. We know so little about the universe it isn't funny. We assume the universe is growing, while it may be that we are shrinking as Earths density is changing however minutely. We assume life elsewhere is not there as we cannot prove it exists. Yet we continue to have wars over religeous control of people, yes, that is what all the killing is about in the middle east. Think, what if mankind put the same effort used in planetarty civil war to peacefully get to the stars? It would be truly awesome.

Unfortunately, mankind is not yet mature enough for the stars. Maybe in 10,000 years if we don't annialate ourselves first.

But how oceans were formed in the first place? (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16630590)

If Mars' atmosphere was CO2 right from the start, then how were oceans formed? the slightest amount of water would have evaporated long before it had a chance to form an ocean.

If the observations are correct and there was water on Mars, then its atmosphere was different than it was today, and perhaps a catastrophic planetary-level event destroyed it.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (2, Informative)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620244)

Any number of places. A lot of it might be trapped as ice or hydrate crystals underground. At least some of it is frozen at the north and south poles. And as others have noted, Mars has significantly lower gravity than earth (approximately 1/3 gee acceleration at the surface), which significantly impedes its ability to hold an atmosphere (which holds water), and additionally lacks a magnetosphere (through not being geologically active, a metallic core surrounded by liquid layers is necessary for one) which increases the effect of the solar wind on atmosphere loss.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16620792)

It had "Global Warming' first

Mars' water is now in Earth's oceans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16623166)

Mars and Earth both once had much more elliptical shaped orbits that periodically took the two close together, Mars' orbit inside Earth's orbit, and the very last time the two planets nearly collided, they did a planetary "slingshot dance" around each other and Mars was slung outward into its current orbit, and Earth's orbit was lowered a bit closer to the Sun and made much more of a circular orbit, and all Mars' water was slung off the surface and captured by Earth's gravity where it formed frozen ice rings in orbit around Earth for an extremely long time. The ice rings' orbit eventually decayed and the ice fell to Earth, melting and raining down into our oceans.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16624512)

Planets are not closed systems. The main route for water loss is via hydrogen loss. Water gets broken down to hydrogen and oxygen in upper atmosphere by solar radiation. Neither Earth nor Mars has enough gravity to hold Hydrogen gas. So once water is broken down, hydrogen either reacts with something very quickly or it escapes. OTOH oxygen stays behind and sooner or later (usually sooner) it reacts with something and become bound as an oxide. So next time a water molecule is split, there is almost no free oxygen for hydrogen to react with and stay in the Martian system. Hydrogen is a major component of solar winds, but Martian gravity can't keep incoming hydrogen as hydrogen gas and it has no significant amount of free oxygen (or sulfur, or anything else) to react hydrogen with and keep the heavier molecule. The only replenishment is via meteors and comets.

Re:If the water was there, where did it go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16626404)

The problem is that Mars is now geologically dead. This means that there are no more volcanic eruptions to replenish the atmosphere and it also means that Mars no longer has a magnetic field. The lack of a magnetic field will basically allow the sun to blow away the atmosphere. Now the atmosphere is so thin that liquid water will just evaporate. Some water might still be underneath the surface, but i guess most of it has evaporated into space.

That doesn't make any sense. (5, Insightful)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619992)

But the same chemicals also indicate that life was not widespread on the planet at the time the ocean was present.

Whoa whoa whoa... how is that bad news? We're not looking for widespread life, we're looking for life. In general. Any. At all. That sentence implies that there was life, just it wasn't widespread. I think that should have been reworded.

But disregarding that, just because there was a lot of phosphorus in the water doesn't mean that life couldn't exist there. It just means life identical to the structure of life on earth couldn't exist there. Who's to say that life has to be built just the way it is on earth?

Indeed (1)

lheal (86013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620016)

They're stacking assumption on assumption.

I hope we don't find life on Mars, and that it never existed. Why? Because there will be one less argument (however frail) against terraforming the place.

The cold (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620094)

While terraforming is cool, there may be severe health risks with finding unexpected life forms [imdb.com] .

But, the cold? Will, a green house effect be enough to heat it? Are there any published estimates of timings and what effects may be had?

(BTW, who would like to have near Antarctic weather [coolantarctica.com] . Yes. It's cool, but...)

Re:The cold (2, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620174)

actually i was reading a post by a pathologist a while ago concerning the fear of alien bacteria, and it's something of a misconception. it's actually very very likely that our bodies will be deadly to any alien life. example. can humans survive on mars unaided? no? so it means anything thats suited to the conditions on mars will die if exposed to our own viable conditions. interesting stuff i never thought it but it's quite obvious when you think it through.

Re:The cold (1)

zombie_striptease (966467) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620370)

I think that's a very good point to make against concerns of some sudden horrible epidemic, but I think there /is/ some potential for concern when it comes to people trying to live somewhere alien long-term. While it's likely we would kill all manner of alien life on contact to start with, sticking around would provide all sorts of opportunities for lifeforms to adapt. Rather than just having a stark difference between our conditions and theirs, there would be border areas, say, between our living space and their natural habitat, where the disparity between conditions would be less stark and microscopic life forms would be better able to survive and mutate, and be progressively more able to survie in conditions like our own. Now there's no reason to think this would occur much differently than it does here, where some lifeforms become harmful diseases and others take on a more subdued, symbiotic role, but the fact of the matter is that we've never encountered it and really don't know what would happen. One way or another, though, it's obvious that encountering alien lifeforms will be a tremendous learning experience. Hope I'm still around when it happens.

Re:The cold (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16624606)

Kind of like what happens constantly here on Earth?

Re:The cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16623726)

so it means anything thats suited to the conditions on mars will die if exposed to our own viable conditions.

Not necessarily, it could have a wider tolerance range. Especially since a human being is a far more complex system than a bacteria.

Re:The cold (1)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620202)

(BTW, who would like to have near Antarctic weather. Yes. It's cool, but...)
Sounds like a perfect place for penguins...
</badjoke>

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

Boghog (910236) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620802)

But the same chemicals also indicate that life was not widespread on the planet at the time the ocean was present.
Should be translated as "if life were present at all, it was not widespread".

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623006)

But disregarding that, just because there was a lot of phosphorus in the water doesn't mean that life couldn't exist there. It just means life identical to the structure of life on earth couldn't exist there. Who's to say that life has to be built just the way it is on earth?

Physics and chemistry says there is only a strictly limited series of chemical reactions that can drive life - and only a strictly limited series of enviroments where it can arise. (Yes, I know about the various extremeophiles here on Earth - but they live in enviroments they've colonized and adapted to, not where they started,)

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16624622)

Physics and chemistry say no such thing. Biology used to say things like that, then started to find out how wrong it was. Nobody knows which extremophiles are colonists and which ones are the originals who left to colonize other places, like the surface.

Physics and chemistry point out some things that probably won't work, and a few possibilities for others that could. There's a lot around the outside that we simply won't know about until we find it though.

We simply look for what we know because that's what we know how to look for.

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16626468)

Physics and chemistry say no such thing.

Um... yes, they do. You won't for example find a life form based on a Helium/Uranium reaction. Or any one of thousands of of other possible reactions. (For example it's impossible to base life around endothermic reactions - there has to be some exothermic reactions.)
 
 
Biology used to say things like that, then started to find out how wrong it was. Nobody knows which extremophiles are colonists and which ones are the originals who left to colonize other places, like the surface.

Again, you are wrong. If you find (terrestrial) life in say, boiling water, then you *know* it had to colonize there - because DNA and proteins are not stable in boiling water. (And so far, all life we've located on Earth has been based on proteins and DNA.) All biology has found itself wrong about is the location of enviromental borders.
 
Physics and chemistry point out some things that probably won't work, and a few possibilities for others that could. There's a lot around the outside that we simply won't know about until we find it though.

I see - you are one of those inidividuals who doesn't actually know anything about science other than watching the odd show on the Discovery channel. You *think* it makes you look smart to make comments like 'we simply won't know about until we find it', when it fact it has quite a different effect.

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 7 years ago | (#16626566)

Please. We don't even know that the fuck life even is, every year they come out with a new god damn definition. And this definition as such is based fully on life we've seen on earth. Who's to say that there can't be sentient "ghost" beings that are made out of a carbon/oxygen combination? Just because I can't easy recognize the fact that they are living doesn't mean they aren't. It just means we don't know what we're really even looking for.

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16629212)

Ah yes - another handwaver who thinks that claiming virtually anything not proven impossible is possible. He even thinks it makes him look smart - when the actual effect is quite the opposite.

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16626964)

You are somewhat correct, physics and chemistry suggest that certain reactions are more likely to form life than others. That still leaves a lot of others that might, only a subset of which are used by life as we know it. That leaves a bunch of others that could be used by life-as-we-don't-know-it. While your original post didn't explicitly say it, in context you were certainly implying that chemistry and physics pretty much rule out anything but life as we know it. You know we don't even have a really firm definition of life, right? The definitions that we do use tend to list properties that life has: maintaining an internal environment, reproducing, etc, processes that can quite conceivably be executed by alternate chemistries. There was quite a bit of speculation recently on possible low temperature chemistries, completely different from ours, that could form a basis for life on Titan, for example.

So you know where life originated on Earth? Do tell! Was it on land? In tide pools? In shallow ocean? Deep ocean vent dwellers? In deep rock (as has been recently hypothesized)? I'm sure the scientists studying the problem would love to hear the truth from, um, DerekLyons.

Yes, there are environments we can be pretty sure life didn't originate in (such as boiling water). There are LOTS of other environments, many of them extreme, that are candidates for the origin of life. It used to be pretty much accepted that life probably originated in tide pools. Now we think maybe the deep sea vent dwellers were first and then colonized the surface. Or maybe it really was the rock organisms.

Um, I'm a grad student in science about to defend my PhD. You are? If you're a scientist of any sort then you need to take a reality check and realize that we don't know everything, especially when it comes to things like life. If you're not, maybe you need to watch some more Discovery Channel and pay attention. Not very long ago we though all life must in some way depend on the photosynthesis based carbon cycle. Then we discovered deep sea vent colonies where chemosynthesis is the foundation of life.

More up your alley, microorganisms have recently been discovered (and featured on Slashdot) that depend on... wait for it... radioactive decay of uranium and other heavy elements to produce hydrogen from water. So I guess you could say that their metabolism involves uranium and hydrogen reactions. Sorry, I couldn't find an example of uranium-helium reactions, but you never know what we might find tomorrow.

Re:That doesn't make any sense. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16629242)

[handwaving snipped]
 
 
Sorry, I couldn't find an example of uranium-helium reactions, but you never know what we might find tomorrow.

Here's a clue for you - helium is an inert gas. What science exactly is your PhD in? Fingerpainting analysis?

Thank goodness there's no life on Mars (1)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619994)

Now, lets go put some there!

Of course there could have been water on Mars... (1, Funny)

Hamster Lover (558288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620050)

6,000 years is a long time.

Re:Of course there could have been water on Mars.. (1)

imemyself (757318) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620096)

Six thousand years? Six thousand years is like a blink of an eye in terms of planets and such. Even six million years isn't a terribly long period of time geologically.

Re:Of course there could have been water on Mars.. (2, Funny)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620220)

Ahh... but you've been corrupted by "science" and that "evolution" fairy tale. All graduands of the Kansas school system know that the world is only 6,000 years old [wikipedia.org]

Re:Of course there could have been water on Mars.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16620746)

* WHOOSH! *

Re:Of course there could have been water on Mars.. (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620270)

Good one. Of course I'm now imagining a theological argument along the lines of: The bible does explain what happened to the water on Mars, The great flood! It was the water above the firmament!

More Evidence for Early Oceans on Mars (1)

kbox (980541) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620102)

Was it an advert for time-share beach side appartments?

yay! (1)

Wizzerd911 (1003980) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620126)

*even more eagerly awaits a rover finding a giant, 2 headed martian dolphin fossil*
Ooh ooh, or Frankenfish! :D http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384833/ [imdb.com]

Explains a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16620196)

At least we know now why they keep finding fossilized surfboards.

Does this look like a beach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16620198)

Have a look around: McMurdo Panorama [fotoausflug.de]

A long way to go... (1)

XV-745 (994208) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620252)

These little rovers are doing great, but they're penetrating the rocks how deep? A couple cm? I think the last paragraph should've been a little closer to the top:

"The researchers admit that the similar phosphate-to-sulfate ratio seen on opposite sides of the planet could also arise if wind mixed these materials together after the bodies of water disappeared."

The evidence may suggest similar water chemistry across the planet, but it doesn't prove it. I think we need to dig a little deeper, literally.

Well, where is THE water now? (1)

Badflash (812406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620284)

Do you know? The polar ice cap? Well, isn't it too small to be ALL the water? Underneath the surface? May I say: "Yeah right" ?

Evidence of underground water? (1)

anethema (99553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620628)

Reading the mars trillogy right now, and the whole series is facinating.

Is there eny evidence of underground aquifiers like in the books?

Re:Evidence of underground water? (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#16622572)

The thinking is that there probably *were* aquifers. Whether or not there still are is the current question du jour.

There is a story about the possible causes of martian channels over at Space.Com [space.com] that speaks to this.

It could be life, but not as we know it... (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620990)

...is what they said in the article:
"To a first order approximation, you couldn't have had a biosphere that was anything like the one on Earth," Greenwood says.

Maybe there was life that created phosphorus instead of converting it, that's what they are saying.

To the submitter: RTFA

Re:It could be life, but not as we know it... (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621448)

From what? Nuclear reactions? The very point is that they think that the amounts found here are consistent with inorganic extraction from minerals. You can of course stipulate that the conditions that made those reactions favorable were created by life, but there is nothing that indicates that. If there was life with a different chemistry, the current results make it just as likely that this form of life was indifferent to phosporus.

Arrrr!! (5, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621034)

And where there be oceans, there be pirates. And where there be pirates, there be buried treasure! Hoist up the sails, me hearties, and set course to Marrrrs!

Re:Arrrr!! (1)

arachnoprobe (945081) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621136)

And where there be pirates...
... there be global warming.

Re:Arrrr!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16623148)

And where there be oceans, there be pirates. And where there be pirates,

call the RIAA!

fuc8k a homo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16621460)

Mire 0f decay, BSD's filesystem to deliver what, could sinK your came as a complete may be hurting

No, I'm not religious (1)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623298)

BUT, there is no way we are going to find intelligent life in this galaxy, and life itself is going to be rare.

To understand why, consider the galaxy is only about 100,000 light years across. Super intelligent species are super intelligent because they crossed biological distances, and the same forces will cause them to cross galactic distances and explore.

some may say 100K light years is so large as to be impossible to explore. But consider this idea. What these civilizations will do is create cell sized artificial life. The DNA of the artifical cell will create a RF receiver that takes instructions from remote locations to build whatever analytical equipment is necessary to explore the planet. given we can already accelerate protons to near speed of light, why couldn't an intelligent race build something that sprays the galaxy with the artificial DNA? Clearly, it would need to be wrapped in some kind of seed, etc., but still, this is doable. Since you aren't sending around a huge multi-kilogram mass, the enormous energy requirements to achieve near SOL isn't there.

Now, the next point about intelligent life is that we are just at the very beginning of the whole thing. This is /., so I won't bore you with the "how short intelligent life" has been around, but consider life has been around roughly 4 billion years, and intelligent life perhaps .0025% as long. Now to really get to it, civilization has been around for maybe 30K years (.00075% as long), and automobiles have been around a hundred years. Imagine what the next million years is going to bring? I believe in the next 10,000 years exploring the galaxy will be possible after the fashion I suggest above, and it will take about 500K - 1M years to do it.

Now, if intelligent life is really common, in this galaxy, then wouldn't there have been a race that could do do this already? I say YES! Of course there would have been, unless we are just incredibly lucky to be the most advanced. But given our evolution, that seems unlikely. What is more likely: that intelligent life itself isn't so common. Maybe even there is NO other intelligent life in the galaxy.

That's why I think SETI is a bunch of nonsense. If there were other intelligent life, it would have found us. It almost certainly would be > 10K years advanced to us, probably closer to 100M years or so, and it would have discovered us.

There are of course other alternatives, which I don't like too much.

1. Intelligent life is unstable, there is little chance of getting to through the next 10K years.
2. Intelligent life is inherently introverted (not social).
3. Life and consciousness are an illusion, and our deaths aren't worth other races' consideration.

But being an optimist, I will continue to believe intelligent life is just rare.

Re:No, I'm not religious (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623570)

I believe in the next 10,000 years exploring the galaxy will be possible after the fashion I suggest above, and it will take about 500K - 1M years to do it.

You suggest human life will still exist in the 22nd century? Talking about an optimist point of view...

Re:No, I'm not religious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16624102)

makes you wonder if there isn't another race out there saying, "no, we can't give you funding to listen for aliens in teh sky, if there were other intelligent life out there they'd have found us"

think about how many civilizations there are on earth, and how few of them have put any real effort into exploring nature and the world around them. you have mideval muslims and india developing math, you have greeks exploring nature and physics, and you have the catholic church supressing advancement for centuries. how many people that qualify as 'intelligent' under the scientific defenition do you know that do nothing to expand their own horizons?

Re:No, I'm not religious (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 7 years ago | (#16628750)

You are arguing for the Fermi Paradox: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox [wikipedia.org]
I find it fairly convincing but many people don't.

I think the most plausible explanation is that simple life (RNA or equivalent) may be common, but complex life (DNA or equivalent) is very rare. Considering all the things we don't know, though, any particular explanation at this point is probably wrong.

Re:No, I'm not religious (1)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16632942)

Looks like this is exactly what I was arguing :). Thanks for pointing it out. One thing I don't see though is the following idea.

What are the chances there are just several (2, 3, 4) intelligent life forms in the Galaxy? I think the chances of this are very low. I believe 1 intelligent life form is much more likely than 2, 3 or 4, and I also think that many intelligent life forms in the galaxy is more likely than a small number. Given many intelligent life forms, it would seem one of them would seek us out.

Your logic is severely flawed. (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16630638)

There is no problem with the hypothesis that our galaxy has plenty of intelligent life in it but at the same time there is no contact yet between them and us:

1) the amount of time that humans exist on Earth is every small. Our recorded history is in the range of 10000 years, which is a very small amount of time, in cosmic terms, for other intelligent lifeforms to find us.

2) we have been sending radio signals to space for almost 100 years now. Considering the direction and width of radio emissions, the chance of a radio signal traveling in the path of a civilization is extremely small and most probably is not there yet.

3) perhaps alien civilizations have landed on Earth previously, found nothing interesting in terms of intelligent lifeforms, and got away to the next planet. Perhaps they will visit us again in a few thousand years.

4) alien civilizations are already watching us, but in ways we are unable to understand yet. If they are 100M years more advanced than ours as you say, then this is quite possible.

The real truth is that we are too primitive to make any definitive statement about the universe yet. We may be alone, we may be not. All hypotheses are far fetched, and we need to really grow up in order to find the truth.

Re:Your logic is severely flawed. (1)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16632878)

Addressing your points:

1. I would think that a race advanced enough to explore the galaxy would have anough capability to realize if intelligent life were likely, and continue to observe it.

2. is the main point of the argument. In a short biological period of time we will be able to explore the entire galaxy. So radio waves not reaching other planets, etc., is moot.

3. is addressed in the main post as a possibility. I believe that there is only one intelligent race in our galaxy is more likely than that there are exactly two. I think it is more likely that there are many such races than that there are exactly two. Given the idea there are many, one of these would keep tabs on us, find us interesting enough, etc. If they don't, then I guess I have to agree that our petty lives are inconsequential, but I'm an optimist :).

4. Is also a possibility. If alien civilizations are watching us, and they wish to be undetected, what are the chances SETI is going to find anything out there? Also, this goes to 3., which is that if there is one more then there are probably many of them, and one of these many would spill the beans.

Re:Your logic is severely flawed. (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16635850)

I would think that a race advanced enough to explore the galaxy would have anough capability to realize if intelligent life were likely, and continue to observe it.

Your hypothesis makes the assumption that the advanced race would want to stay here to observe our evolution. Perhaps there is a better assumption that they will come back.

is the main point of the argument. In a short biological period of time we will be able to explore the entire galaxy. So radio waves not reaching other planets, etc., is moot.

You make another great assumption...the fact that we have made biological progress in such a short period of time does not mean that we are going to be able to explore the galaxy.

Given the idea there are many, one of these would keep tabs on us, find us interesting enough, etc. If they don't, then I guess I have to agree that our petty lives are inconsequential, but I'm an optimist :).

Again, your logic makes a leap of faith: the fact that can be many intelligent races does not mean that we are interested enough for them.

Is also a possibility. If alien civilizations are watching us, and they wish to be undetected, what are the chances SETI is going to find anything out there? Also, this goes to 3., which is that if there is one more then there are probably many of them, and one of these many would spill the beans.

SETI may find other civilizations that are at a similar point of progress...fat chance, but why not?

Re:Your logic is severely flawed. (1)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16637928)

Let me help you out a little:


is the main point of the argument. In a short biological period of time we will be able to explore the entire galaxy. So radio waves not reaching other planets, etc., is moot.

You make another great assumption...the fact that we have made biological progress in such a short period of time does not mean that we are going to be able to explore the galaxy.


You will notice I made no mention of biological progress. Just a short period of time biologically speaking. Very different things, aren't they? But your reply is something to anything in my post: that because we have made biological progress means we will be able to explore the galaxy. Who said this? I certainly didn't. You claim I did, or used it as a basis for my argument, none of which is correct.

In fact, everything in your reply is either a leap of ignorance or non-sequitor.

I need to sometimes realize it is almost useless trying to have a rational discussion with dim witted arrogant people. If you do come back, please don't come back with another idiotic or unrelated statement.

Re:Your logic is severely flawed. (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640031)

I too never spoke about "biological progress means we will be able to explore the galaxy"...you mentioned it.

The fact remains that neither the pessimistic view or the optimistic view can be regarded as established: we simply do not know (and can not presently know) what has happened in the rest of the galaxy or the universe.

Personally I go with the optimistic view, because it is more logical than the pessimistic view: if God does not exist and Earth is the creation of chaotic processes (orders does come out of chaos; check the chaos theory for 'pullers'), then it is logical to assume life exists elsewhere in the universe; and perhaps this life is intelligent.

Re:Your logic is severely flawed. (1)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16652225)

I too never spoke about "biological progress means we will be able to explore the galaxy"...you mentioned it.

I mentioned this where?

I contend there are indications there is no other intelligent life in this galaxy (I would guess it exists elswhere in the universe). From a probability perspective we can cut out:

All those instances in which we become aware of that other intelligent life.

I like to argue the set of universes in which intelligent life exists and the set of intelligent life exists and we are aware of it are nearly the same.

No, this isn't the same as "knowing."

Anyway, as another poster pointed out, it turns out this is fermi's paradox or other, so my ideas aren't original, and as such I'm losing interest in them.

Re:No, I'm not religious (1)

jbuck (579032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16645833)

"Now, if intelligent life is really common, in this galaxy, then wouldn't there have been a race that could do do this already? I say YES!"

Uhm... They are simply following the Prime Directive. As soon as we develop warp technology, we will hear from them.

And we will get them drunk.

So it has been written, so shall it be.

Life could of existed on mars from my perspective (1)

A Wise Guy (1006169) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623716)

Life could of existed on mars from my perspective. Remember folks, when the planets are formed, it is hot and there is lots of whirling gases and splashing seas of unknown chemicals at a certain point. The surface is hot and like a rock at first but mars has red dirt and sands like the ones found in zacatecas, mexico. Dirt just doesnt form after rock formation. Around the area where a sea should of been, you should see sands and not dirt. around where you see dirt, you should see dirt, not sands. Sands are formed from water or wind pounding on a rock surface for centuries. soil is made by small insects like earthworms who take in dirt and further mixes it with all kinds of stuff to make it work with plants. The Soil part is what seems to be missing in mars.

Intelligent life springs up everywhere (1)

jbertling1960 (982188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623852)

Intelligent life springs up everywhere. Then they discover television or its equivalent. Shortly thereafter, they amuse themselves to death(apologies to Roger Waters.) If you disagree, cancel your cable subscription and spend the next couple of months watching only network tv.

Good news? Bad news? (1)

JohnWiney (656829) | more than 7 years ago | (#16624920)

Why is this "good news" or "bad news"? It is simply (evidence of) facts. Facts are what they are - there is no "good" or "bad" about them.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?