Sunday, January 7, 2007

I want to believe!

Life discovered on Mars! Old news...

I kinda hate that "I want to believe" slogan from the Xfiles. I know more than one person who has completely screwed up their life, and the lives of those around them, in obsessive pursuit of ridiculous beliefs. That's one of the many reasons faith-based spirituality is so bankrupt. Knowing is better than believing. But I have to be honest and state I do really want to believe life has already been discovered on Mars!

Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them...The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn't recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said. Dirk Schulze-Makuch presented his theory in a paper delivered at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington. Based on a more expansive view of where life can take root, the paper's findings may prompt NASA to look for a different type of Martian life when its next spacecraft to visit Mars is launched later this year...Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Schulze-Makuch. The Viking experiments of the 1970s wouldn't have noticed hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch.

Oh great!!! Just like the people who first captured a Giant Squid!

"The problem was that they didn't have any clue about the environment on Mars at that time," Schulze-Makuch said. "This kind of adaptation makes sense from a biochemical viewpoint."

OK, so basically he is saying that it's not our fault. Phew!

Even Earth has something somewhat related. He points to an Earth bug called the bombardier beetle that produces a boiling-hot spray that is 25 percent hydrogen peroxide as a defense weapon.

Why am I not surprised that Entomology has something to do with this!

Schulze-Makuch's research coincides with work being completed by a National Research Council panel nicknamed the "weird life" committee. The group worries that scientists may be too Earth-centric when looking for extraterrestrial life.

Cool! A "Weird Life" committee! (I'm on the "Twisted Pride" committee.) I hope they have not forgotten ALH84001! Chris McKay, a co-investigator and NASA astrobiologist said the research piqued his interest. "Logical consistency is nice, but it's not enough anymore," McKay said. What a great line: "Logical consistency is nice, but it's not enough anymore". Heh, I'm glad that came out of the mouth of NASA astrobiologist, and not some other explorers I know.

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