Archive for Life on Mars

A Martian Oz?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on July 31, 2010 by telescoper

I noticed a news item last week about research which points out that the remarkable fact that parts of Mars look a bit like Australia. Take this image, for example, of the region called Nili Fossae in which the Sydney Opera House can be seen clearly in the upper left…

Apparently the rocks in this region “resemble” those in an area of Australia called the Pilbara. Scientists believe that microbes formed some distinctive features in the Pilbara rocks – features called “stromatolites” that can be seen and studied today. According to  Adrian Brown, who works for the SETI Institute,

“Life made these features. We can tell that by the fact that only life could make those shapes; no geological process could.”

Unfortunately however, all that has really been established is that the Martian rocks have a similar mineral composition to those found in Australia – there’s no evidence (yet) that the “features” made by living creatures are present. Nevertheless, the newspapers have got very excited about this and today’s Guardian even ran an editorial on this item, from which I quote

Sceptics may think the comparison tenuous. They may also note that yesterday’s news reports either framed the possibility as a question – could there be life? – or put it in inverted commas. There is no proof. There is quite likely no life either.

Quite.

I always find it very interesting how everyone gets so worked up about the possibility of there being, or having been, life on Mars when we’re such careless custodians of the flora and fauna of our own planet. I suppose behind it all there’s a hope that there might be sentient beings out there in space who can tell us how to look after ourselves a bit better than we’re able to figure out for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the recent “discovery” provides very strong evidence against there being any form of intelligent life whatsoever on Mars. After all, it’s just like Australia.

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