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Mars: A Water World? Evidence Mounts, But Scientists Remain Tight-Lipped
Space.com ^ | 2/29/04 | Leonard David

Posted on 02/29/2004 2:25:17 PM PST by Brett66

Mars: A Water World? Evidence Mounts, But Scientists Remain Tight-Lipped
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 01:00 pm ET

29 February 2004

There is no doubt that the Opportunity Mars rover is relaying a mother lode of geological data. Using an array of tools carried by the golf cart-sized robot -- from spectrometers, a rock grinder, cameras and powerful microscopic imager -- scientists are carefully piecing together a compelling historical portrait of a wet and wild world.

Where Opportunity now roves, some scientists here suggest, could have been underneath a huge ocean or lake. But what has truly been uncovered by the robot at Meridiani Planum is under judicious and tight-lipped review.

Those findings and their implications are headed for a major press conference, rumored to occur early next week -- but given unanimity among rover scientists and agreement on how and who should unveil the dramatic findings. Turns out, even on Mars, a political and ego outcrop hangs over science.

Scientific bulls-eye

It is clear that Opportunity's Earth-to-Mars hole in one -- bouncing into a small crater complete with rock outcrop -- has also proven to be a scientific bulls-eye. The robot is wheeling about the crater that is some 70 feet (22 meters) across and 10 feet (3 meters) deep.

It is also apparent that there is a backlog of scientific measurements that Mars rover scientists working Opportunity have pocketed and kept close to their lab coats.

For one, the rover found the site laden with hematite -- a mineral that typically, but not always -- forms in the presence of water. Then there are the puzzling spherules found in the soil and embedded in rock. They too might be water-related, but also could be produced by the actions of a meteor impact or a spewing volcano.

A few spheres have been sliced in half and their insides imaged. Patches of these spherules, or "berries" as some call them, have undergone spectrometer exam to discern their mineral and chemistry makeup. Close-up photos of soil and rock have also shown thread-like features and even an oddly shaped object that looks like Rotini pasta.

Brew of dissolved salts

There is speculation that the soil underneath the wheels of both Spirit and Opportunity rovers contains small amounts of water mixed with salt in a brine. That brew of dissolved salts keeps the mixture well below the freezing point of pure water, permitting it to exist in liquid form.

Opportunity has revisited select spots in the outcrop, drawn there, in part, to look for cross-beds -- sedimentary deposits that are formed in beach, river and sand-dune environments. Using its Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT), the rover has carried out several cleaning and grinding sessions on exposed rock outcrop.

Cross-beds are patterns of curving lines or traces found within the strata of sandstone and other sedimentary rocks. Cross-bedding indicates the general direction and force of the wind or water that originally laid down the sediments.

Right around the corner

Opportunity's research is a "work in progress", said Ray Arvidson, deputy principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project from Washington University in St. Louis. Data is being gathered to present "a coherent story", he said during a press briefing last Thursday.

"That story is right around the corner," Arvidson told SPACE.com . "But we need to finish this work in progress, finish the set of experiments, get the data down from the spacecraft, processed and analyzed. Then I think that the story will be known," he said.

Arvidson said multiple working hypotheses are still at play. Water is involved, but only on some of the hypotheses. Until coordinated experiments on the outcrop are completed, what the right hypothesis is remains unknown, he added.

Severing the umbilical cord

Mars exploration using the rovers has allowed on-the-spot "discovery driven science", said MER Deputy Project Scientist Albert Haldeman. He likened the Mars robot work now underway to deep ocean research using remotely operated submersibles.

"It turns out that the best way to explore rocks [on Mars] is go look at craters. Mobility buys us the ability to do that. It was the right fit for looking at rocks," Haldeman told SPACE.com . "The discovery from the Microscopic Imager and seeing those spherules…and finding a larger population of spherules and seeing them in the rocks and the outcrop…that progression of discovery influences our thinking."

Haldeman said the next step will be severing the umbilical cord between Opportunity and the crater it's exploring. The robot would wheel itself out of that site and onto the expansive terrain of Meridiani Planum.

"That umbilical cord…that's hard to break. It's more than even just a tension within the science team," Haldeman said.

Tantalizing hints

Scientists are carefully analyzing the rock data gleaned by the Opportunity rover. "We really want to understand that we've got those figured out right," Haldeman said. Up to now they have offered some "tantalizing hints", he said, that speak to a possible relationship with water.

Piecing together the story of what Opportunity has found involves great care and deliberation, Haldeman said, based on a wide-range of viewpoints and levels of expertise. "We want to be cautious," he explained.

More to the point, the science output from Mars must withstand scrutiny by experts outside the rover investigation teams.

"There are lots of geologists out there who are looking at these pictures and they are starting to drool," Haldeman said. "The American taxpayer that spent $800 million on this deserves a thorough analysis," Haldeman said.

Slippery slope leading to life

One scientist eagerly awaiting the news from Mars, particularly from Opportunity, is Gilbert Levin. He is Chairman of the Board and Executive Officer for Science of Spherix Incorporated in Beltsville, Maryland.

Levin is a former Viking Mars lander investigator. He has long argued that his 1976 Viking Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment found living microorganisms in the soil of Mars.

In 1997, Levin reported that simple laws of physics require water to occur as a liquid on the surface of Mars. Subsequent experiments and research have bolstered this view, he said, and reaffirms his Viking LR data regarding microbial life on Mars.

Levin detailed his Mars views in a SPACE.com phone interview and via email.

"It's hard to image why such bullet-proof evidence was denied for such a long time, and why those so vigorously denying it never did so by meeting the science, but merely by brushing it away," Levin said.

"Of course, now that it must be acknowledged by all that there is liquid water on the surface of Mars," Levin added, "this starts those denying the validity of the Mars LR data down the slippery slope leading to life."

Mars mud

Levin points to Opportunity imagery that offers conclusive proof of standing liquid water and running water on a cold Mars. 

Other images show the rover tracks clearly are being made in "mud", with water being pressed out of that material, Levin said. "That water promptly freezes and you can see reflecting ice. That's clearly ice. It could be nothing else," he said, "and the source is the water that came out of the mud."

As for the spherical objects found at the Opportunity site, Levin has a thought.

"I wonder on Mars if it can rain upwards," he said. The idea is that subsurface water comes up through the soils and then freezes when it gets to the surface.

"Maybe these little spherules form just like raindrops form up above," Levin explained.

Levin said that brine on Mars is a code word for liquid water. He senses that great care is being taken by rover scientists because the liquid water issue starts the road to life.

"That's the monument that they are afraid to erect without real due process," Levin concluded.


TOPICS: Front Page News; Government; Technical
KEYWORDS: jpl; life; mars; nasa; probes; rovers; space
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-86 next last
This gets more interesting by the minute........
1 posted on 02/29/2004 2:25:20 PM PST by Brett66
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To: Phil V.
Ping.
2 posted on 02/29/2004 2:25:42 PM PST by Brett66
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To: Brett66
It would still be a water world if Bush had gone to Kyoto.
3 posted on 02/29/2004 2:28:11 PM PST by Paul Atreides (Is it really so difficult to post the entire article?)
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To: Brett66
"This gets more interesting by the minute........"

you are a master of understatement
the presence of readily available liquid water might change things rather drastically.
4 posted on 02/29/2004 2:33:04 PM PST by King Prout (I am coming to think that the tree of liberty is presently dying of thirst.)
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To: Brett66
I wonder if a form of desparation is creeping into the MER Project. The lifetime of the craft are limited, the instrumentation can address some issues, but not all, and the list of subjects of interest grows with each passing sol.

When the rovers finally fall silent, in 50, 100 or 150 days, how many issues will be left unresolved?

5 posted on 02/29/2004 2:37:17 PM PST by Fitzcarraldo
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To: Brett66
Beagle, beagle, beagle...Calling the beagle. Where are you beagle?

Woof, woof, woof.

We got a two fer and fixed one from afar.
6 posted on 02/29/2004 2:42:28 PM PST by montomike (Gay means happy and carefree not an abomination)
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To: Fitzcarraldo
Best bet, the scientists will say there is no definitive answer as to the presence of water.
7 posted on 02/29/2004 2:46:52 PM PST by cynicom
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To: Fitzcarraldo
When the rovers finally fall silent, in 50, 100 or 150 days, how many issues will be left unresolved?

Yet another legacy of not using RTGs. The Viking landers ran for going on six years, night and day, using good old RTGs. Ditto for the Apollo ALSEPs.

Just another example of how when it comes down to a contest between nuke and solar power, it really is no contest (nuke wins every time).

8 posted on 02/29/2004 2:48:51 PM PST by chimera
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To: Fitzcarraldo
We have not succeeded in answering all of your questions.

Indeed, the answers we have found have only served to raise a whole new set of questions.

In many ways we are as confused as ever, but we would like to think that we are confused on a higher level, and about more important things...
9 posted on 02/29/2004 2:49:49 PM PST by null and void (A $17/hr electronics assembly line worker is now a 100% employed $6/hr burger assembly line worker..)
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To: chimera
Not every time. I have a solar photovoltaic array on my roof, the nuclear equivalent is just too heavy...
10 posted on 02/29/2004 2:51:27 PM PST by null and void (A $17/hr electronics assembly line worker is now a 100% employed $6/hr burger assembly line worker..)
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To: Fitzcarraldo
When the rovers finally fall silent, in 50, 100 or 150 days, how many issues will be left unresolved?

More than before they landed. But thats a good thing.
11 posted on 02/29/2004 2:53:31 PM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: null and void
...but we are sure that for another billion or 2, we could tell you for sure.
12 posted on 02/29/2004 3:02:14 PM PST by NeonKnight
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To: null and void
What, you didn't get a Mr. Fusion?

Anyway, how does it stack up, availability-wise, against grid-power power sources? My brother-in-law has a PV system and about the best he ever does is 50% for the PV output at the bus bar. Usually more like 25-30%, but that's in the Denver area. I told him he needs to move his house to the Mojave to get a decent output from the PV, but for some reason, he won't listen to me.

13 posted on 02/29/2004 3:04:31 PM PST by chimera
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To: chimera
Dunno. I'm on the grid. My PG&E bill is usually in the sub $10 range, though.

If the law allowed me to sell power to PG&E, I'd get a bigger array...
14 posted on 02/29/2004 3:50:21 PM PST by null and void (A $17/hr electronics assembly line worker is now a 100% employed $6/hr burger assembly line worker..)
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To: null and void
If the law allowed me to sell power to PG&E, I'd get a bigger array...

I thought that federal law required all electric utilities to purchased it, but they get around it by requiring prohibitively costly interface devices.

There is a large "electric underground" that "sells" electricity back to the utilities on the sly. (They rig up their systems without the interface box, and allow their surplus to spin their meters backwards.) You should be able to find some info via google.

15 posted on 02/29/2004 4:03:52 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: Don Joe
California law specifically says that I can only sell PG&E as much power as I use.

IOW, I do have a bidirectional meter, it is calibrated to spin backwards when I'm generating, but if the end of the month balance is negative the "surplus" power I generated is a gift to PG&E.

16 posted on 02/29/2004 4:11:57 PM PST by null and void (A potential customer since 2001...)
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To: Brett66; zeugma; xm177e2; XBob; whizzer; wirestripper; whattajoke; vp_cal; VOR78; ...
Sorry for being so late, Brett but I've been so absorbed in the MIs that I've just now seen your post. I'll say up fornt (nothing to lose) that the announcement will be WRT fossil-water-life evidece. I'm "seeing" criters all over. . . . "son of thing" . . .


glyph of "son of thing" . . .


stereo of "son of thing" . . .


If you'd like to be on or off this MARS ping list please FRail me
17 posted on 02/29/2004 4:18:28 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: null and void
Well....

Are you allowed to re-sell "your" electricity to your neighbors?

18 posted on 02/29/2004 4:19:40 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: Don Joe
Hmmmmm...
19 posted on 02/29/2004 4:20:04 PM PST by null and void (A potential customer since 2001...)
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. . . and of course "the rotini thing" . . .

20 posted on 02/29/2004 4:22:10 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: Admin Moderator
This IS breaking news.
21 posted on 02/29/2004 4:24:57 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: Phil V.
We're more interested in Hollywood than life on other planets, thank you very much.
22 posted on 02/29/2004 4:36:44 PM PST by Djarum
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To: Brett66
As long ago as the 1970s, people were looking at the first topographic maps of Mars and noticing that the terrain in the northern hemisphere was smoother than the terrain in the southern hemisphere, and that the dividing line between terrains looked remarkably like a dried, ancient coastline.

That would imply, of course, that half of the Martian surface was once covered by an ocean. Mars was a water world without any question.

IMO, NASA is simply trying to make PR points by proving and reproving something which was proven to most intelligent people's satisfaction long ago.

23 posted on 02/29/2004 4:39:21 PM PST by 537 Votes
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To: Phil V.
That pic in post 20, it's baffling. I suppose they could explain it away, but it sure looks like something beyond mere geologic origin.
24 posted on 02/29/2004 4:55:49 PM PST by Brett66
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To: Brett66
scientists are carefully piecing together a compelling historical portrait of a wet and wild world

"Eureka! Two jet skis and a 9 & 1/2-horse Johnson outboard!"

25 posted on 02/29/2004 5:02:39 PM PST by In_25_words_or_less
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To: Brett66
That pic in post 20, it's baffling.

. . . and there are others . . .

26 posted on 02/29/2004 5:03:34 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: Brett66
I'm waiting for the Hoexland report, he knows what it is. ;)
27 posted on 02/29/2004 5:11:48 PM PST by demlosers (Ann Coulter: Liberals simply can't grasp the problem Lexis-Nexis poses to their incessant lying.)
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To: 537 Votes
IMO, NASA is simply trying to make PR points by proving and reproving something which was proven to most intelligent people's satisfaction long ago.

To be fair, it is possible that we simply don't understand enough about areology to determine whether we're looking at a coastline or a merely a different kind of wind erosion pattern than we have here on Earth. Many intelligent people once looked at the water channels on Mars, looked at canals on Earth, and drew a conclusion to their satisfaction.

28 posted on 02/29/2004 5:22:29 PM PST by SedVictaCatoni (Yes, I know about Schiaparelli and the translation thing.)
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To: chimera
Too heavy for a rover isn't it?
29 posted on 02/29/2004 5:47:43 PM PST by DB ()
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contains small amounts of water mixed with salt in a brine. That brew of dissolved salts keeps the mixture well below the freezing point of pure water, permitting it to exist in liquid form.
Uh, no. There may be water ice in the soil, but it's clear from the "from nowhere to nowhere" erosion features that there are very brief, very localized events consisting of a temporary denser atmosphere made up of (for example) water vapor, making liquid water possible, and features to form in the permafrozen soil.
30 posted on 02/29/2004 7:12:23 PM PST by SunkenCiv (No human mission to Mars! Time for a permanent human presence on the Moon.)
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To: Brett66
from the article...

Levin said that brine on Mars is a code word for liquid water. He senses that great care is being taken by rover scientists because the liquid water issue starts the road to life.

"That's the monument that they are afraid to erect without real due process," Levin concluded.

Much like this monument...

31 posted on 02/29/2004 7:39:10 PM PST by Dialup Llama
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To: Brett66
I don't see how anyone can argue that robots are always better than people in space after they read what exactly they do with these rovers. For goodness sake! If it were me on mars instead of that rover, I could pick up that little rock and show you the side of it so you could decide whether it was a frozen bug or not. I could turn back around and look at my footprint and stick my finger in it and tell you whether or not it was icy. I could dig you a little hole in the ground, instead of turning the rover back and forth for hours on end to make a little rut. These little rovers are certainly good, but they don't replace people.
32 posted on 02/29/2004 7:44:58 PM PST by unibrowshift9b20
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To: unibrowshift9b20
These little rovers are certainly good, but they don't replace people.

Except that these rovers cost a tiny fraction of the amount that a manned mission would cost. For the projected cost of even the cheapest manned mission to Mars, we could send separate digger-bots, thermometer-bots, frozen-bug-finding bots, and a whole slew of others.

33 posted on 02/29/2004 8:18:40 PM PST by SedVictaCatoni (Wouldn't you be wearing gloves?)
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To: demlosers
I'm waiting for the Hoexland report, he knows what it is. ;)

I grit my teeth and looked. No surprises there. He's still hallucinating machinery in the rocks. Apparently it is possible to fail a Rorschach test.

34 posted on 02/29/2004 8:35:10 PM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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To: Don Joe
Ah from the pics I've seen, and everything else we've learned in the past from the topography, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the MANY MANY artifacts in these pics are indeed fossils and that Mars was once like Earth. There are way too many artifacts of organic appearance in almost every photo to be some kind of igneous anomoly that just "happens" to look like a fossil. NUTS to that. And I wish the scientists would stop being elitist and tell us what we already know.

The overwhelming evidence discovered thus far makes it imperative we send astronauts to Mars to attempt to learn what happened to "kill" the planet and perhaps help us keep it from happening here on Earth, as well as to confirm the presence of hardy life that still remains, and the types of life that did exist, which could very well be similar to early life on Earth due to the planet's proximity. I've already seen what appears to be trilobite and erypterid fossils as plain as day in some of the pics.

35 posted on 02/29/2004 9:17:51 PM PST by Indie (The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.")
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To: Brett66
Here is a link inside of the article that you posted:
http://www.space.com/news/spacehistory/viking_life_010728-1.html

The link above is for an article about the Viking I/II mission.

Here is a quote from the article:
""To my surprise, in their LR experiment, they seemed to have clear periodic oscillations in the release of gas from a Martian soil sample injected with a nutrient solution. The oscillations in gas release had a period of what appeared to be one Martian day. Being a circadian biologist, I became very excited," Miller told SPACE.com.

On Earth, Miller said, circadian rhythms -- oscillations with a period of nearly 24 hours -- are present in every species examined down to blue-green algae. Was it possible, he asked, that the LR experiment was recording the circadian rhythm of a Martian soil-dwelling microbe?

NASA worked with Miller, providing him the 1976 LR data sets, as well as converting the information to an electronic format. That allowed the circadian biologist to study the data using modern computer-based analytical tools.

"I found that the gas release was indeed rhythmic, with a period of precisely 24.66 hours, a Martian day," Miller said. This finding, along with other painstaking assessments about LR operations, the scientist feels that a Martian circadian rhythm in the experiment may constitute a biosignature - a sign of life."
36 posted on 02/29/2004 9:23:42 PM PST by NotQuiteCricket (10 kinds of people in the world)
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To: NotQuiteCricket
How constant was the temperature? If it was allowed to deviate with day-night temperatures then, of course, the "chemical reactions" would be a function of temperature . . .
37 posted on 02/29/2004 9:34:39 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: Phil V.
Here is what the article has to say about the experiment:


The scientific squabble centers on one Viking biology investigation: the Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment. It used a small measure of scooped up soil, stirred together with a nutrient "soup" containing carbon-14.

The idea was that any living organisms present would digest the radioactively labeled nutrient solution, then belch off gases as life metabolized the nutrient. And guess what? The LR experiments on both Landers coughed up puffs of radiolabeled gas - evidence for microorganisms in the soil of Mars.

38 posted on 02/29/2004 9:39:28 PM PST by NotQuiteCricket (10 kinds of people in the world)
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To: Phil V.
Thanks for the ping!
39 posted on 02/29/2004 9:41:01 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: NotQuiteCricket
"I found that the gas release was indeed rhythmic, with a period of precisely 24.66 hours, a Martian day . . ."

I'm curious about what the temperature variation of the "soup" was. Unless it was constant and protected from the day-night Martian temperature swings then the period could reflect a 24.66 hour Martian temperature cycle as opposed to a bio-rhythm . . .

40 posted on 02/29/2004 9:48:26 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: Alamo-Girl
They are trying hard as heck to try to find life on Mars.....when they can't even find life in the womb! Saying it just a mass of tissue, go ahead and get rid of it. Only over 40 million ever since Jane Roe vrs......
41 posted on 02/29/2004 9:53:05 PM PST by Ramtek57
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To: Brett66
If you looked quickly after I hit this thread with the MARS PING I placed it in the BREAKING NEWS side bar. It stayed there for at least FIVE MINUTES! It got yanked and my heart is warmed to see that as of this moment at the top of the BREAKING NEWS sidebar is . . . (warm, fuzzy glow) . . . the OSCARS LIVE THREAD!!!


. . . WORTH AT LEAST 1/2 CUP OF WARM SPIT . . .
42 posted on 02/29/2004 9:55:16 PM PST by Phil V.
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To: Phil V.
I don't know if they controlled for temperature or not or if temperature would be something that would cause the reaction that they noticed.

Here is a link to the article:
http://www.space.com/news/spacehistory/viking_life_010728-1.html
43 posted on 02/29/2004 9:59:50 PM PST by NotQuiteCricket (10 kinds of people in the world)
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To: cynicom
Just a gut feeling...could be wrong...but I really think we'll hear a "startling announcement" from the Mars team sooner rather than later.

IMO Levin has it nailed...we speculated about it here on FR when the rovers started moving and the tracks were seen in the pictures...there is a kind of brine mix just below the Martian surface. The rover's wheels press it into a kind of mud. In fact it was seen at the landing site. The soil looked as if it splattered like cake batter.

FWIW I think Levin's experiment on Viking did indeed find micro-organinic life. We'll have to wait and see if he gets the credit.

prisoner6

44 posted on 02/29/2004 10:07:50 PM PST by prisoner6 (Right Wing Nuts hold the country together as the loose screws of the left fall out!)
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To: Ramtek57
Indeed, it is sad that "life" has no definition in science and yet is defined by political "correctness".
45 posted on 02/29/2004 10:10:41 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Don Joe
Apparently it is possible to fail a Rorschach test.

Waddaya mean I'm sex obsessed?!?! You're the one with the dirty pictures!

46 posted on 02/29/2004 10:15:15 PM PST by null and void
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To: null and void
I have a solar photovoltaic array on my roof

Really? Does it work at all? My brothers Kidz bought him a solar array for his cabin on an island in Lake Nippissing a few years ago. It was the first power to his cabin since he bought the property in the early 60's. We don't talk much but I think he said it's enough to power a couple of small appliances, radio, tv, lights for a few hours a day. Apparently it didn't cost too much although when I've looked into solar arrays (that put out any kind of usable power) it seems to mee it added up to thousands of bucks along with (costly) battery packs that had to replaced often.

I've also noted those roadside radio stations...low power...broadcasting looping road info...are often powered by solar arrays. I see one such set up just about every day on a bridge over the Ohio river. Maybe five 3 foot square panels powering the lo power transmitter. I don't there's ever been any maintenence and it's never gone down even in poor weather.

prisoner6

47 posted on 02/29/2004 10:21:11 PM PST by prisoner6 (Right Wing Nuts hold the country together as the loose screws of the left fall out!)
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To: null and void
I have a solar photovoltaic array on my roof, the nuclear equivalent is just too heavy...

Of course, if you did have a home RTG, there would be no point in putting it on the roof. It would be buried in the backyard.

48 posted on 02/29/2004 10:26:51 PM PST by BlazingArizona
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To: prisoner6
It works quite well. I don't have or need storage, as I am tied to the grid. I also have better sunlight - lower latitude, and mostly sunny weather.
49 posted on 02/29/2004 10:55:41 PM PST by null and void
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To: Indie
Ah from the pics I've seen, and everything else we've learned in the past from the topography, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the MANY MANY artifacts in these pics are indeed fossils and that Mars was once like Earth. There are way too many artifacts of organic appearance in almost every photo to be some kind of igneous anomoly that just "happens" to look like a fossil. NUTS to that. And I wish the scientists would stop being elitist and tell us what we already know.

I think there's a good chance they'll admit to the various small fossils we've seen in the rocks (i.e., tiny molluscs, coral, etc.), but not to the conch-looking fossils seen on the surface.

As to the "blueberries", it suddenly occurs to me where I've seen that shape and size object before. I've seen them in my garden, and in the woods, and in my barnyard. I've even seen them at the actual moment of production, when they've come a-tossin' out my goat's ass.

There are probably animals other than goats and whitetail deer that produce loose spherical fecal material, but those are the only two I know of.

That is not to say that the "blueberries" are fossilized ruminant turds. In fact, I rather suspect they're not. <g> I would not be surprised, though, if they're some analog to fungus or "cacti", of the very hard type -- plants that make very spartan use of water. I saw one photo that someone commented that some of they looked like they were "dying" -- dimpled, shriveled, in various states of decay. Their ubiquity -- buried deep in solid rock, buried in the sand, tossed about the surface willy-nilly -- is just too strange IMO for a mineral explanation, especially when combined with the lack of any non sperical examples. If mineral, I'd expect to see some that were teardrop-shaped, some that were flattened into a disc shape, etc. The consistency of the spherical shape says "biological" to me, at least -- as does that strange "peach line" they bear.

The overwhelming evidence discovered thus far makes it imperative we send astronauts to Mars to attempt to learn what happened to "kill" the planet and perhaps help us keep it from happening here on Earth, as well as to confirm the presence of hardy life that still remains, and the types of life that did exist, which could very well be similar to early life on Earth due to the planet's proximity. I've already seen what appears to be trilobite and erypterid fossils as plain as day in some of the pics.

I suspect one of two things -- or, two of two things. It could be that the planet simply lacks the mass to retain its atmosphere over a long period of time. Or, it could be that whatever created the asteroid belt also affected Mars, blowing off most of its atmosphere in the process. I think it's likely that both processes are involved. The planet is smaller than Earth, and, it's close to the asteroid belt, and, contains some really dramatic impact-scars, including one that goes nearly halfway across the planet, as if something really ugly took a long glancing blow before continuing off into space.

One other likely contributing factor would be the lack of a magnetic field, which leaves the planet's surface exposed to a variety of radiation that we're spared by our magnetic field.

On the "pro life" side, there's something I read about a while back, and have not heard a peep about WRT these two missions. If my hunch is right, one of the bits of data they've been holding very close to the vest is the sub-surface temperature.

I don't remember the exact figures, but I recall reading about a very dramatic air temperature gradient between near the surface, and a few feet above the surface. IIRC, the incredibly bitter cold temps we're familiar with hearing about are based on the avg. temp a couple of feet off the surface, but, when you get very close to the surface, it's a lot warmer, IIRC in the 70 deg F. range during the day.

The very thin air could explain this, if the ground temp is in fact considerably warmer than the air temps commonly tossed about, because it would have very inefficient heat conductivity and convection.

So, I think it's quite possible that the ground temp, esp. a few inches below the surface, may be much warmer than anyone would ever suspect given the commonly understood air temps. The implications for ground level (and lower) life speak for themselves.

This is also consistent with Levin's observations of liquid water being driven to the surface by the rover's wheels, and then freezing and glistening when the air hits it.

50 posted on 03/01/2004 2:33:23 AM PST by Don Joe (We've traded the Rule of Law for the Law of Rule.)
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