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Study: Martian Soil Has Signs of Life

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the look-again dept.

Space 382

geoffrobinson writes "Reuters is reporting that a scientist from Germany believes Viking probe data shows signs of life. From the article: "Joop Houtkooper of the University of Giessen, Germany, said on Friday the spacecraft may in fact have found signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing, arid Martian surface. His analysis of one of the experiments carried out by the Viking spacecraft suggests that 0.1 percent of the Martian soil could be of biological origin.""

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Alien! (5, Funny)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#20337277)

Who are we kidding, he's gotta have privileged information. With a name like Joop Houtkooper, he has *got* to be an alien. :-)

(Just kidding there Joop)

Re:Alien! (5, Funny)

Hardhead_7 (987030) | about 7 years ago | (#20337307)

Perhaps he works for the Democratic Order Of Planets.

Re:Alien! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337363)

Joop from DOOP? Nice.

Re:Alien! (0, Offtopic)

Hardhead_7 (987030) | about 7 years ago | (#20337957)

Thank you, now that you've pointed out the reference, I expect to be modded up any minute now. I mean, it's a Futurama reference, and this is Slashdot. Free mod points, really. ;)

Re:Alien! (5, Funny)

BJD3 (1042540) | about 7 years ago | (#20337369)

1. Move to Earth
2. 'Discover' Alien life.
3. ???
4. Profit!!

Re:Alien! (3, Informative)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 7 years ago | (#20338327)

If Buckaroo Bonzai taught us anything, it's that all aliens are named John. Not Joop.

Re:Alien! (3, Informative)

Traa (158207) | about 7 years ago | (#20338341)

The name "Joop Houtkooper" is most likely Dutch in origin. Houtkoper means "wood buyer", the double 'o' in Houtkooper is likely an old style spelling (1600's).

note: this information is worth less then $0.02

Re:Alien! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338627)

That was almost intelligent... double o is used in everyday dutch spelling. The word 'koper' has multiple meanings (such as copper and buyer), when used as in buyer, the o may be substituted with oo depending on the usage

Well... (2, Funny)

VE3OGG (1034632) | about 7 years ago | (#20337311)

I for one welcome our hydrogen-peroxide breathing overlords...

Re:Well... (5, Funny)

chromozone (847904) | about 7 years ago | (#20337349)

"I for one welcome our hydrogen-peroxide breathing overlords" You live in LA?

Re:Well... (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | about 7 years ago | (#20337643)

No, I doubt that it's Kathy Ireland [wikipedia.org] posting on Slashdot.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338031)

Is that "Lower Alabama"?

On the other hand (2, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#20337517)

I react very badly with them.

Re:Well... (3, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#20337563)

our hydrogen-peroxide breathing overlords

I wonder if our overlords would consume rocket fuel? Are they inherently as corrosive as peroxide normally is to metals? It would be ironic to discover the beginnings of life there only to find that it would be a major barrier to visiting the planet.

Hang on... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337317)

Viking probe data shows signs of life.

So the Viking probe data is ALIVE?!!!

Re:Hang on... (1, Redundant)

ArcherB (796902) | about 7 years ago | (#20337605)

Viking probe data shows signs of life.
So the Viking probe data is ALIVE?!!!
No, just the data.

Re:Hang on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338587)

Viking probe data was quote as saying:

"I feel STRONGER, BETTER than before!"

A lot of scientists thought so at NASA, too (4, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | about 7 years ago | (#20337341)

This isn't anything new... A lot of scientists at NASA thought the same thing 30 years ago.

When one experiment says yes, and one says no and you can't run them again there will be a lot of debate about what it all means.

Re:A lot of scientists thought so at NASA, too (4, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | about 7 years ago | (#20337513)

If I remember right, the one that said "no" was later re-run in an Antarctic dry valley. It said "no" there, too. Basically it's lower limit of detection was too high.

Mind, my favorite way of describing the whole Viking experiment situation is:

The Viking Lander experiments were designed to answer the question, "is there life on Mars?". They landed, performed their experiments, and beamed back: "could you repeat the question?"

Still it was inconclusive, why not land next to it (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | about 7 years ago | (#20337611)

Seriously, if one said yes, and the other said no, and we can send rovers to mars, then why the heck not send a rover and land it next to viking to repeat the tests?

I mean WTH.. is it not worth an astronomical version of a confirm/deny dialogue?

Now there's some data, not just a wish/hunch (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#20337915)

Of course it depends on what is meant by "life".

Is an ongoing chemical reaction life? Is a self replicating chemical reaction life?

Data (4, Interesting)

jshriverWVU (810740) | about 7 years ago | (#20337381)

Didn't the viking probes reach Mars in the 70's/80's? I find it fascinating that we can still data mine and extract information from a probes dataset from 20-30 years ago. It would be interesting to see how much data (TB? EB?) that was recorded from the Viking mission.

Imagine what people might learn from data we're getting now from the two rovers on mars.

Re:Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337579)

I'd be willing to bet that the sum total of data (excluding images) from the Viking missions (pre-processing) was well under a Gigabyte. Indeed I'd bet that it was under 100MB.

Maybe we should hold a sweepstake, and then ask NASA...? Who's in?

Re:Data (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337661)

You're kidding right? The Viking data is often held up as a prime example of data loss through format and equiment obsolecense. I'm surprised you hadn't heard that one.

Around 1999, Dr.J.Miller wanted to have a look through the data and found it couldn't be accessed anymore. Most of what he did get was reassembled from old paper printouts that other reseacher hadn't got around to throwing out yet.

Coincidentally, his research was another case of finding signs of Martian life in the old data.

Here's one version.
http://www.deadmedia.org/notes/50/502.html [deadmedia.org]

Re:Data (1)

mbone (558574) | about 7 years ago | (#20338603)

At least the data from the experiment I worked on is still very much with us and in use.

Re:Data (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about 7 years ago | (#20338515)

"Imagine what people might learn from data we're getting now from the two rovers on mars."

Not much, it's in OOXML. In 20-30 years scientists'll be running Windows Vista in virtual machines so they can view it in Office 2007 as it was originally meant to be.

That was a joke by the way :)

Re:Data (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 7 years ago | (#20338567)

Lander 1 was supposed to land on July 4, 1976, but was delayed a few weeks. Lander 2 was just a little later.

The Viking lander bit rate was low, and there was only comminucation when the Earth was above the horizon, and the radio bandwidth was only 2 MHz, so the data return was pretty tiny by modern standards (from the Landers - the orbiter data rate was consderably larger). My back of the envelope calculations says that the total Lander data return was on the order of a few hundred GB. (Also, in the extended mission, the data collection was slowed, I believe to once per week.)

Of course, these data are still being mined, and are absolutely crucial to our understanding of Mars dynamics, among other things.

How many more articles.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337391)

...am I going to have to read before I die that say that a researcher has found evidence of life of extraterrestrial origin.

Is there life or not? Come to a consensus, science.

Re:How many more articles.... (2, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#20337723)

Evidence isn't proof, chief. The stars alone are evidence that there could be life. The only way to prove there's life is to get a container, identify what we think is alive, and watch it reproduce. That won't happen until we actually send humans there, and probably won't really be settled until it's come back to earth for extensive testing.

Re:How many more articles.... (0, Redundant)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 7 years ago | (#20338337)

The only way to prove there's life is to get a container, identify what we think is alive, and watch it reproduce.

By that standard, a Viking landing on Slashdot planet would find no sign of life.

Tubular (5, Funny)

Climate Shill (1039098) | about 7 years ago | (#20337433)

Mars is one big beach, so peroxided organisms are to be expected.

Re:Tubular (4, Funny)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 7 years ago | (#20337561)

Ok, where are the silicone based life forms?

Re:Tubular (1)

darth_MALL (657218) | about 7 years ago | (#20337631)

You mean silicone *enhanced* lifeforms, yes?

Re:Tubular (2, Funny)

jonfr (888673) | about 7 years ago | (#20338199)

Not on Mars, it's too cold. Maybe on Venus if we have bad luck.

Martial Solal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337439)

Far as I know he's still playing and cutting jazz records [sunnysiderecords.com] , with no dropoff to speak of.

He what? *confers with bystander*

Ohhhh. *NEVER MIND*

IF its proven.. (4, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | about 7 years ago | (#20337441)

If this is proven to be fact ( and i dont think this really *proves* anything. Its still theory ), how is this going to sit with the religions of the world that truly think we are the only ones 'god' created?

Re:IF its proven.. (2, Interesting)

fimbulvetr (598306) | about 7 years ago | (#20337489)

They'll just re-interpret the bible saying "Earth" to mean "Earth and Other planets as well" because of translation issues. Just like they did with the Genesis 7 days thing.

Re:IF its proven.. (3, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | about 7 years ago | (#20337597)

Extending that concept... God explicitly handed supremacy over all living things to mankind... so if 'the world' becomes interpreted as 'the universe' we are going to have a very difficult time being good neighbors.

Not that it would be a cakewalk without religious fundamentalism. There will just be one more barrier to overcome before we can hope to deal with the existence of E.T. life in a rational manner.

Re:IF its proven.. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338343)

Actually, 'the world' DOES mean 'the universe' in some languages. Greek happens to be one of them. The most common Greek word that is translated 'world' is kosmos, from which we get our English word cosmos which means the universe. It is translated world because that usually makes the most sense in context, and sounds the best when rendering a thought in English, but it is not necessarily restricted to 'planet earth'. I don't know about Hebrew, but I suspect it may be similar.

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

Shados (741919) | about 7 years ago | (#20337497)

Same thing that happens everytime something like this is "proven".

"thats what we were saying -ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL ALONG-, but it doesn't change anything!"

Re:IF its proven.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337499)

Which religions would those be? The same ones that disappeared with the discovery of fossils?

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | about 7 years ago | (#20337511)

Well obviously it will be their divine mission to erradicate other life forms that would give conflict to their beliefs.
We could call them "Divine Alterationists (for the) Lord Ever Knowing.

Or DALKEK for short. EXTERMINATE - EXTERMINATE!!!!!!

Re:IF its proven.. (2, Insightful)

Drachemorder (549870) | about 7 years ago | (#20337549)

The Bible doesn't say anything at all about life forms on other planets. Intelligent life I might have issues with, but microbes? No problem there.

Re:IF its proven.. (5, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 years ago | (#20337645)

'The Bible doesn't say anything at all about life forms on other planets. Intelligent life I might have issues with, but microbes? No problem there.'

No worries, if it were intelligent life it wouldn't believe in the bible either.

Re:IF its proven.. (4, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 7 years ago | (#20337827)

The Bible doesn't say anything at all about life forms on other planets. Intelligent life I might have issues with....

I'm an atheist. A few weeks ago, a Christian friend asked me, "When you look out at the night sky, across billions of light-years of interstellar space filled with billions of worlds we haven't even imagined yet, aren't you a little afraid that you might be wrong?"

Your idiotic post made me realize -- way too late, of course -- that I should've asked her the same question in reply.

Re:IF its proven.. (0)

ArcherB (796902) | about 7 years ago | (#20337673)

If this is proven to be fact ( and i dont think this really *proves* anything. Its still theory ), how is this going to sit with the religions of the world that truly think we are the only ones 'god' created?

As a believer and geek, let me tell you I see it.

I think it is unreasonable and arrogant to think that an infinite being (God) would just create one planet with life. Why would we place such limits on an omnipotent and omnipresent God?

Just my $0.02

Re:IF its proven.. (1, Flamebait)

QuoteMstr (55051) | about 7 years ago | (#20337897)

Disclaimer: I'm not trolling; I'm genuinely curious.

How is it that you can be both a geek and a believer in a god, especially an omnipotent and omniscient one?

In saying you're a geek, I assume you're a pretty intelligent fellow who uses reason to form his view of the universe. I assume you don't follow crowds, that you evaluate products you buy on their merits, and that, at least sometime in your life, you've reasoned out who would win in a battle between two fantasy characters.

How is it, then, that you make a special exemption for your god? How do you reconcile the inherent illogic of religion with the rest of your life?

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 7 years ago | (#20338181)

Do you hold that faith and reason are mutually exclusive?

Re:IF its proven.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338211)

Yes. The very definition of faith is to believe in something without any proof to support that belief.

My answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338191)

Universe -- creator. The physical universe must have had something that caused it. An un-caused cause doesn't make sense logically. To get around the problem, some people have argued that if you go back far enough, the laws of physics break down. Maybe, but you still have the problem of fleeting infinity. How did we get to this point?

Conscious -- why do we have it? Why do we believe in justice? We should be eliminating competition whenever we encounter it unless we can use it to our advantage. Instead we have this nagging sense of morality or unfairness if we don't feel we were treated right. Why is this there? Why does every culture have a sense of it?

So what is this thing? I say, it's God. Now I fervently dispute that acknowledging a God should stop scientific discovery. I feel, like many early scientists, that scientific exploration is a form of pulling back the curtain of the mind of God and should absolutely be encouraged.

Now you might disagree with my points, but I hope that you can see that it is not completely irrational. We *all* have presumptions. What presumption is more rational? I would argue that time plus nothing becoming something (or an eternal universe) is way more irrational than believing in something outside the physical universe.

Re:My answer (2, Insightful)

PieSquared (867490) | about 7 years ago | (#20338399)

Fine, you have god creating the universe. So now god is your uncaused cause. What's that you say? Your god exists outside space and time so that question is meaningless? Fine then - my single infinitely dense point exists outside space and time. Now, which should I (given no evidence) believe exists outside space and time? A single point or an entire all-powerful being? That my friend is what happens when you have double standards... you forget that if I can't break a rule you can't either. And don't go claiming "god is special" or something because that's the same as claiming the laws of physics change as you go backward.

Conscious? Well, what happens to a species that goes around destroying all other examples of itself? Why, it loses diversity mister AC! And then what happens if something goes wrong? Why, that species goes and dies out, doesn't it! And so, for long term protection of similar genes, we tend to protect things that are similar to ourselves. As we have advanced as a species we have come to identify non-human animals as close to ourself, and instantly began to emphasize with them as per the above trend. And now we find ourselves aware that destroying things (even if we see them as competition) will end in a bad way... so we have more environmental awareness.

"So what is this thing? I say, it's God. Now I fervently dispute that acknowledging a God should stop scientific discovery. I feel, like many early scientists, that scientific exploration is a form of pulling back the curtain of the mind of God and should absolutely be encouraged."

Oh, so we should keep looking into the cause of the universe when we know god caused it? That seems kinda contradictory. Either he didn't cause it or we should stop looking. Now take that back a few tens of hundreds of years... the sun rises every day. God did it, no need to study it. Hense the dark ages.

Now grow some balls and question your religious mythos, and that goes for everyone.

Re:My answer (0, Offtopic)

Trogre (513942) | about 7 years ago | (#20338461)

Oh, so we should keep looking into the cause of the universe when we know god caused it? That seems kinda contradictory. Either he didn't cause it or we should stop looking. Now take that back a few tens of hundreds of years... the sun rises every day. God did it, no need to study it. Hense the dark ages.

Ummm... no.

It's a given that God created the universe. Great, so we have the Who. There is good reason to believe that it was created for us (intelligent life) to live in, and us to worship Him. Great, so now we have the Why too. What we don't have much of is the How. That's where scientific discovery comes into it.

Re:My answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338545)

It's a given that God created the universe.

Wow, sure didn't take long for your whole argument to fall apart. No, it is not a given that your so-called "God" created the universe. Just because you say it is so does not in fact make it so.

Re:IF its proven.. (3, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | about 7 years ago | (#20338335)

I'm a geek, but I believe in supernatural things and beings greater than ourselves. I don't believe they are Gods or whatever, but I do believe there are things in -this- world we can't even understand fully yet, so I'm pretty sure there are things -out there- which I can't even start to grasp. I have no evidence for this, I have no faith for this, I just think logically the universe is way too big for there not to be other life and the way we evolved and changed won't be the same as others, so for all we know there are beings who can breath fire or live in molten lead without flinching.

Logic tells me there is some crazy stuff out there, stuff I probably don't want to mess with, but I'm not going to worship it, just going to go "oh it's possible, believe if you like but I want to meet this guy before I believe in him directly".

Re:IF its proven.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338383)

And your beliefs are perfectly rational. You're saying that you're open to the possibility of other things being out there, but you're not telling yourself or others exactly what they are or that others should believe in them (especially considering we don't know specifically what "they" are). To this AC, this belief system makes perfect sense.

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about 7 years ago | (#20338479)

Faith equals belief without proof, so he has faith. Therefore existence of god is a question of philosophy.

He is a geek because he believes in science, he does not disbelieve when proof is presented to him.

So he likely believes in the existence of god (without proof Aka :faith) But disbelieves that the Bible is proof of god because of its disproved (scientifically) events and paradoxes.

Basically a geek believer in god accepts that his belief is scientifically irrational, yet still believes without evidence (faith).

There is no disconnect with the rest of one's life, just live life to rationally logical set of morals. While belief in god requires faith it does not require religion. You are free to make your own judgment on what "logical set of morals" would be acceptable to the possible existence of a omnipresent and omnipotent being.

Re:IF its proven.. (4, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | about 7 years ago | (#20338547)

If you read the Catechism of the Catholic church, it states that "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth."

A belief in a God does not require you to contradict the Big Bang or evolution or anything else. Unless, of course, you think that it is important for a god to lie.

What this leads to is that some fairly savvy folks in the religious community primarily don't want you to try and argue that because we descended from the same stock as the Bonobo it's OK to fuck like Bonobos... but it's OK to say that we descended from the same stock as Bonobos. This, of course, gets turned by the far-less-savvy religious right into an excuse to attack evolution.

I tend to think that the whackos on the religious right has pushed the thinking person towards aethism, when a thinking person might had been a member of a fairly liberal faith or agnostic before.

Re:IF its proven.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338617)

How is it that you can be both a geek and a believer in a god, especially an omnipotent and omniscient one?

Why not?

Those who would deny that there are a large number of great mysteries around us that are beyond our current understanding, and a somewhat smaller number of even greater mysteries that appear to beyond our very capability to understand, are demonstrating a profound ignorance of the human condition. A life based on pure reason is a life void of friendship, ecstasy, and love. However this would not be Nirvana since anyone living this kind of life will definitely experience other irrational states like loneliness, pain, anxiety, and agony.

From a pragmatic viewpoint, a life based on some kind irrational belief system is to be preferred since it is a far richer and more enjoyable experience than a life of pure reason. Whether the irrational part represents as a desert war god like the christian trinity or the witches' fertility goddess or some quasi-Jungian humanistic grouping of totems is mere detail.

Of course the devil is in the details, but that's another myth. Read some Connie Willis if you think your reasoning abilities are up to that kind of challenge.

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 7 years ago | (#20337715)

If this is proven to be fact ( and i dont think this really *proves* anything. Its still theory ), how is this going to sit with the religions of the world that truly think we are the only ones 'god' created?


I'm not aware of any religions that have taken a firm stand that life can only exist on Earth, but then again, religions that have predicted a date certain for the end of Creation as unquestionable doctrine more than once (more than once during the 20th Century even) are still going strong, so I don't think that being wrong about a thing like whether or not there could be life on another planet is really going to be a big deal for the kind of religions that might have taken such a stand in the first place.

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#20337751)

I don't know, but I do know of religions that sincerely believe that God created this planet, its life, all the other planets and life on those planets as well. One religion in particular believes that God created intelligent life on other planets.

Re:IF its proven.. (0, Troll)

Azuma Hazuki (955769) | about 7 years ago | (#20337865)

The same way evolution and the round earth did.

In other words, they'll jam their fingers further into their skulls via their earholes and shout "La la la, I CAN'T HEAR YOUUUU, puh-RAAAAAZE beee to the Lawwwwwwd JAY-zuz Christ!"

Re:IF its proven.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338179)

They'll just make up some new bullshit to cover it. Worked for the Mormons...

Depends (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about 7 years ago | (#20338281)

The article mentions that life on Mars could be from Earth originally.

Re:IF its proven.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338313)

The way I see it, life on other planets only strengthens my religion's foundations.

All hail Xenu!

Re:IF its proven.. (1)

gral (697468) | about 7 years ago | (#20338339)

Dude, don't you know everything in space is made up stuff to temp us from Gods true word? The reason dinosaur fossils exist where they do in the crust is because of the great flood.

The ability of religions to morph 2000 year old text into todays logic is amazing dude. They will take this in stride as well, or ignore.

Re:IF its proven..HEY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338609)

Cut that out - it's not Friday yet...

- T

Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (5, Insightful)

dontthink (1106407) | about 7 years ago | (#20337453)

Our friend Joop has also published a lot of work on ESP and paranormal activity: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Joop+Houtkoope r&hl=en&lr=&btnG=Search [google.com] .

I call BS.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337533)

Not only that, but Joop is also "The world's oldest orangutan" [lostpedia.com] !

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (2, Funny)

Gabrill (556503) | about 7 years ago | (#20337577)

I find your lack of faith . . . disturbing.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (4, Funny)

dontthink (1106407) | about 7 years ago | (#20337625)

Ah shit, now Joop's gonna strangle me all the way from Germany.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (1, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 years ago | (#20337679)

'Our friend Joop has also published a lot of work on ESP and paranormal activity'

What's your point? There is substantial data supporting both and thus far no data that would rule out the possibility of either. Unlike creationism both could theoretically be disproven given continued observation. Oh wait, you must be one of those crackpots who somehow thinks science is a field for people with CLOSED minds that already believe they know the answers to the big questions.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | about 7 years ago | (#20337767)

And how would you go about disproving the existence of ESP? Studies have been done (I don't have references handy, but I could go find some if needed), and have failed to find evidence of ESP. These studies have been repeated. How many would you need to be convinced that ESP does not exist? Ten? A hundred? A thousand?

ESP is about as likely as creationism, and the people believing in it are using the same thought processes as the made-in-seven-days crowd. Science can disprove nothing. What it can do is collect evidence and give us likelyhoods. With no reliable evidence supporting it, ESP is as likely as the tooth fairy. You can't believe something simply because you'd prefer it to be true.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (3, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 years ago | (#20338099)

'How many would you need to be convinced that ESP does not exist? Ten? A hundred? A thousand?'

None. So long as there are millions of credible reports in the field no failure to replicate the condition in a lab would prove to me that the condition can not exist. As a technician there are no shortage of conditions my customers have reported that I have been unable to replicate, that hardware manufacturers and software firms have been unable to replicate. I might like to dismiss these strays reports as mistakes but if there are enough of them I am forced to accept that the conditions are occurring and the failure is on the part of myself/firms/manufacturers.

If ESP is to be shown not to occur it will be through a more perfect understanding of how the brain DOES function. There are loonies who would have you believe we know nothing of how the brain functions, the only ones worse are the neurologists who would have you believe the scant data we have on the brain constitutes anything like a rudimentary understanding of its function.

'ESP is about as likely as creationism'

Neither are especially likely or unlikely.

'the people believing in it are using the same thought processes as the made-in-seven-days crowd'

The made in seven days crowd are beginning with an elaborate myth and assuming it is true without evidence. I would agree that those who believe in ESP fall in that category as well. The same is true of anyone who believes ESP does not exist, or has a belief in creationism or a lack thereof. The only ones who do not fall into this crowd are those who refuse to adopt a belief on a topic without substantial evidence.

'Science can disprove nothing.'

Science can in fact disprove very specific things. Objective findings can eliminate possibilities. That's is what science does, it is a process by which we gather data, form possible conclusions based upon the data and hope to disprove those conclusions by continuing to gather more data.

'What it can do is collect evidence'

Right.

'give us likelyhoods'

Wrong. Science does not give likelyhoods poor scientists do. Good scientists collect data and let the data determine what is and is not.

'With no reliable evidence supporting it, ESP is as likely as the tooth fairy.'

Reliablity of evidence does not determine likelyhood. Reality is fairly likely even when we have observed NO evidence of it yet. There is no evidence of a tooth fairy credible or otherwise. ESP has not been confirmed in the lab but there are mountains of credible eyewitness accounts (even more that are not credible and that is why closed minded fools dismiss the possibility).

The lab may not be as far away as you think either. There are ongoing experiments at MIT where individuals are able to influence robots with thought in a manner that consistently beats statistical probabilities.

The brain is a complex machine and we do not understand the technology. Until we do, only an idiot would reach conclusions about its capabilities.

Define "credible" (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about 7 years ago | (#20338625)

So long as there are millions of credible reports in the field no failure to replicate the condition in a lab would prove to me that the condition can not exist


So, you think science is something like democracy, if enough people believe in something then it must be true?


To me, credibility is pretty much linked to repeatability. In order for something to be credible it must be either replicated or shown by a well-reasoned chain of evidence to be possible. If you report a phenomenon that (a) no one can repeat and (b) negates facts that we know both from the labs and from day-to-day experience, then you are in trouble.


Reliability of evidence does not determine likelyhood


Yes, it does. Ask any judge, any lawyer, any juror. Would you like to be convicted of a crime based solely on unreliable evidence presented by the DA?


There is no evidence of a tooth fairy credible or otherwise


Yes, there is. Millions of children have put a tooth under their pillows and found a bicycle in the porch next morning. What more evidence do you need? There's *more* evidence for the tooth fairy than for any other ESP phenomena.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#20337773)

Would you mind linking to that supporting data? I've never heard of any well-executed experiments that support ESP.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (1)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | about 7 years ago | (#20338029)

I don't believe in ESP, but somehow I knew somebody was going to ask that question. Weird.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 years ago | (#20338259)

'Would you mind linking to that supporting data? I've never heard of any well-executed experiments that support ESP.'

I never said anything about experiments. The only well executed experiments i know of (supporting or otherwise) regarding ESP are ongoing at MIT. The supporting data I am referring to are credible (by any definition that does not automatically assume an ESP report is intristically not credible) eyewitness accounts. Inability to recreate ESP in a lab isn't proof of anything, there are no shortage of conditions that are difficult to replicate in the lab.

I'm not saying I believe in ESP. I am not an individual who feels compelled to choose a side before the results are in. All I am saying is that the results aren't in and in my mind the results won't be in until we are able to reverse engineer the brain. More than that, we will probably need to reverse engineer a lot of brains to eliminate the possibility.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338451)

Ok, I'll bite - how about links to "credible eyewitness accounts"?

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (2, Interesting)

dircha (893383) | about 7 years ago | (#20337973)

"What's your point? There is substantial data supporting both and thus far no data that would rule out the possibility of either. Unlike creationism both could theoretically be disproven given continued observation. Oh wait, you must be one of those crackpots who somehow thinks science is a field for people with CLOSED minds that already believe they know the answers to the big questions."

There is no known scientific evidence of ESP and "paranormal activity".

If you believe you can provide scientific evidence of such powers, Mr Randi stands ready with your check for $1,000,000 (http://www.randi.org/).

Should I tell him to anticipate correspondence from a Mr. "shaitand"?

I didn't think so.

Now why don't you go back to the Neighborhood of Make-believe and play? I believe I hear the trolly coming 'round.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (1)

dontthink (1106407) | about 7 years ago | (#20338477)

Oh wait, you must be one of those crackpots who somehow thinks science is a field for people with CLOSED minds that already believe they know the answers to the big questions.


No, I happen to be a scientist who believes in the scientific method. I have read a fair amount about paranormal phenomena, and it is my belief that in all probability it's just wishful thinking. A lot of people have shown off a lot of numbers that look like they support ESP. This list of unclaimed prizes ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prizes_for_ev idence_of_the_paranormal [wikipedia.org] ) goes to show nobody has able to do it in a controlled environment.

You know, I support the research of the paranormal. If someone reproduces an event in a controlled environment, the experiment is reproducible, and it is deemed valid by experts in the field, I will believe it. I won't believe a collection of anecdotal evidence. I equate paranormal research to alchemy research - the fruits of the research may not be what we're expecting, but could end up useful. I certainly would like various anecdotal paranormal phenomena to be genuine (it certainly would make life more interesting), but reason prevents me from believing in them.

I've never met Joop, but given the disparity between his paranormal research and the research this thread is concerned with, I'm inclined to believe that he relishes the fringe. I'm also inclined to believe that the same desire for the paranormal/out-of-the-ordinary to exist that I just expressed about myself may also drive spurious conclusions.

As a side note, given your apparent interest in the topic Mr. shaitland (having mentioned the research going on at MIT in another comment), I recommend you look into the PEAR program at Princeton that operated for about 30 years ( http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/ [princeton.edu] ). Personally, I found their results (based on 30 years of data) less than convincing.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338249)

Probably a different Joop Houtkooper.

Re:Take with a whole shaker-full of salt (2, Insightful)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 7 years ago | (#20338517)

I applaud your logic!

Why yes, he must most definitely be utterly full of BS.
And by that logic, so is Newton. He was nutty enough to actually engage in personal undertakings in alchemy and numerology.
What a crack-pot psuedo scientist, whose entire body of work should be thrown out as BS.

You sir have shown a remarkable skill in exposing your utter lack of understanding the workings of the creative mind.
Perhaps, because you are completely lacking this thing known as "creativity".

my thoughts... (3, Insightful)

daddyrief (910385) | about 7 years ago | (#20337617)

I am not an expert in space-related fields in any way, but I always thought, if life was discovered somewhere else in the universe, who's to say it remotely resembles anything we have here on Earth? Just as humans are a result of adaptation and evolution to Earth's atmosphere and chemical makeup, I bet the first form of life found outside of Earth is wacky and customized to its home planet's conditions.

Of course, if the alien being's stage of life is infantile upon discovery, little microbes aren't very exciting. But imagine finding some race that walks on 5 legs with two tails, that is smarter than humans, but dies upon contact with oxygen or something......

/end speculation :p

Space.com article offering counter-point (5, Informative)

Mundocani (99058) | about 7 years ago | (#20337627)

Here's an article [space.com] with some counter-points to this theory.

Re:Space.com article offering counter-point (2, Informative)

CODiNE (27417) | about 7 years ago | (#20337909)

So I read the article and found mainly this counter-point :

But Pace, the University of Colorado microbiologist, thinks there is one very important reason why hydrogen peroxide life is unlikely. "Hydrogen peroxide inside cells is deadly in terrestrial kinds of cells," Pace said. "In fact, that's one way that our cells combat bacteria, by producing hydrogen peroxide locally."



I'm no scientist, but his reasoning doesn't seem very convincing. There's lots of chemicals that are deadly in our own bodies. He even says we make hydrogen peroxide in limited amounts. Why would that fact alone make a lifeform that depends on it unlikely?

Re:Space.com article offering counter-point (1)

tftp (111690) | about 7 years ago | (#20338321)

This quote simply proves that Martian microbes probably are not "terrestrial kinds of cells." Wasn't it obvious to begin with?

Re:Space.com article offering counter-point (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 years ago | (#20338429)

From link:

"If we assume these gases were produced during the breakdown of organic material together with hydrogen peroxide solution, we can calculate the masses needed to produce the volume of gas measured," Houtkooper explained.

Assuming organics is a helluvan assumption.

For Pace and many other scientists, the definitive experiment performed by the Viking landers was the gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) test, which was capable of identifying substances by their chemical makeup. That test failed to turn up evidence of organic compounds.

Especially in the face of that.

Democratic Life? (5, Funny)

HalimCMe (528821) | about 7 years ago | (#20337719)

It is clear that we must promptly launch an investigation on whether this "life" believes in a democratic system of government. If not, we should immediately impose sanctions, inform the public their WMDs, and begin planning a military invasion to begin approximately 18 months from now. If the terrorists possess oil and make attempts to trade it under the Euro currency, we must accelerate this plan, using any means possible to defeat this threat to America. It is clear this life poses a terrorist threat to America. We must preemptively strike against us before they bring their War on Terror to our soil.

Re:Democratic Life? (1)

Telepathetic Man (237975) | about 7 years ago | (#20338485)

If they do have a democratic system, then we install our own puppet dictatorship on them instead.

Indeed. (1)

someguyfromdenmark (910971) | about 7 years ago | (#20337741)

Who is this Martian Soil.. And was his mother ever the subject of ridicule because of her last name?

We gotta hide! (1)

Non-CleverNickName (1027234) | about 7 years ago | (#20337835)

If Marvin finds out we know where he lives, he's going to be very angry...

Very angry, indeed...

Re:We gotta hide! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338193)

You lived up to your namesake right there. Buuuuu!!!

Peroxide? (0, Redundant)

gwoodrow (753388) | about 7 years ago | (#20338067)

Killer Blondes from Outer Space!

not exactly news (1)

m2943 (1140797) | about 7 years ago | (#20338075)

Suggestions that the Viking experiments were positive for life have been around for many years, and the conclusion has been... that the data is inconclusive. We won't know until we send more probes with more experiments.

Note that hydrogen peroxide is interesting not only for its oxygen content, but also because it greatly lowers the freezing point of water, which would be useful on Mars. Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide does occur naturally in cells, sometimes in significant concentrations and volumes (relative to the whole cell), so the suggestion isn't completely far-fetched.

Martian soil showing signs of life! (2, Funny)

tenyearsgone (1132747) | about 7 years ago | (#20338387)

Fine, as long as I don't have to mow it.

Slashdot User Has Awesome Sex! (2, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#20338431)

Actually, the cute girl from marketing made eye contact and winked so this is conclusive evidence that sex may have or will happen at some point in the fullness of time. Or not.

Sheesh, could we give the sensationalist headlines some rest?

I worked on the Viking Lander project... (5, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 7 years ago | (#20338487)

I worked on the Viking Lander project (but not on the biology side). Before the landing, NASA published and sent around little promo phamplets describing what a positive (biological) response would be from each of the 3 biological experiments. (Along the lines of, add nutrients to a soil sample, get CO2 out, sterilize the next soil sample, add nutrients, get no CO2, that is evidence for life. No CO2, or CO2 with a sterlized sample, not evidence for life.) I still have mine in my basement.

Each of the two landers had 3 biological experiements. All six worked fine. All six had a positive response based on the criteria published before landing.

However, because the mass spectrometer detected no organic molecules (not one of the pre-published tests), these results were ascribed to non-biological causes.

I could never understand why one of the biological researchers didn't just say, "we have detected life, by our published criteria, but we don't understand it." However, none did.

Science doesn't always move in the nice linear fashion described in the text books...

Damn spillage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338513)

Those Americans that went to Mars in the 1960s in flying saucers should have been more careful not to contaminate the planet. But I guess they weren't so environmentally aware back then.

Unsung Hero (4, Interesting)

Chemicalscum (525689) | about 7 years ago | (#20338525)

For years Dr. Gilbert Levin, leader of the labeled release biology experiment of the Viking project. Has been arguing that the experiment produced strong evidence for life on Mars.

http://mars.spherix.com/ [spherix.com]

In 1997 he presented a paper showing that after 21 years of study of the data he felt that:

Objective application of the scientific process to 21 years of continued research and to new developments on Mars and Earth forced this conclusion. Of all the many hypotheses offered over the years to explain the LR Mars results, the only possibility fitting all the relevant data is that microbial life exists in the top layer of the Martian surface.

The main argument against Levin's conclusions was that the Viking lander's Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) experiment showed no evidence for the presence of organic compounds in the Martian soil. As an analytical chemist who has worked in the field of GCMS since before the time of the Viking probes, I have my doubts about the Viking GCMS experiment having enough sensitivity and reliability to exclude the low level presence of organic material in the Martian soil.

In 2000, Dr. Steven A. Benner published a paper concluding that the Viking GCMS was insensitive to certain organic molecules including those left behind by any microbial life that might have been on Mars. At the same time Dr Joseph Miller reanalyzed the original Viking labelled release experiment data and concluded that it showed circadian rhythms thus supporting the case for Martian life.

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/mars-life-00g.html [spacedaily.com]

Now Joop Houtkooper proposes further evidence that Levin was right. I think Levin will go down in scientific history like Wigner the proposer of the continental drift theory in the 1920's, as a researcher whose ideas were scorned by large sections of the scientific community at the time, but that were eventually proved right.

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