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Was life found on Mars 40 years ago?

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An artist's drawing of one of NASA's Mars rover on the surface of Mars From Ethan Siegel at Forbes:

The first test was performed first, and came back negative. The second test was next, and also came back negative. By time the third test was performed, with both landers in situ, the prospects were pretty grim, but the data was taken anyway. To the surprise of almost everyone, both Viking 1 and 2 detected metabolized, radioactive carbon-14 as part of the carbon dioxide emitted. They even took their samples from different locations: one from soil in direct sunlight, the other from soil found under a rock. In both samples, the carbon dioxide emission was immediate and sustained after the first injection. To great excitement and fanfare, the team led by Gilbert Levin thought they had their first signature of life on Mars.

The team held their breath as the control experiment was performed, and this is where things get fishy. Subsequent injections of radioactive nutrients failed to produce any response; what we were seeing was consistent with either organic or purely chemical, inorganic processes. Perhaps there wasn’t life on Mars, after all. Despite the initial declaration — that if any of the three tests came back positive, we’d announce life on Mars — these results seemed to be inconclusive. In the forty years since, we’ve never replicated the experiment, and we still don’t know for certain. More.

Our favorite physicist, Rob Sheldon, thinks they did find life but—as Siegel goes on to say—only a manned mission can really tell us.

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What made you lardasses think that robots could do all the work for us?

See also: Rob Sheldon reflects on the hunt for water on Mars

What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

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4 Replies to “Was life found on Mars 40 years ago?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to this quote from the article:

    This is one question that a crewed mission to Mars — with a human brain’s worth of resourcefulness — could answer far more robustly than any robotic mission ever could. Perhaps, in the next decade or two, we’ll finally have the answer to the biggest question raised by the first Martian laboratory ever.

    Before any Sheldon Coopers sign up and pack their bags to go live on Mars, perhaps a few warnings are in order:

    Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments – May 1. 2015
    Excerpt: What happens to an astronaut’s brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It’s besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition,
    http://phys.org/news/2015-05-l.....osure.html

    Houston We Have a Problem: Microgravity Accelerates Biological Aging – Oct. 31, 2013
    Excerpt: experiments conducted on the International Space Station involving cells that line the inner surfaces of blood vessels (endothelial cells) show that microgravity accelerates cardiovascular disease and the biological aging of these cells.,,,
    They compared space-flown endothelial cells to endothelial cells cultured under normal gravity, looking for differences in gene expression and/or in the profile of secreted proteins. Space-flown cells differentially expressed more than 1,000 genes and secreted high amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Ultimately, this induced significant oxidative stress, causing inflammation among endothelial cells, which in turn, led to atherosclerosis and cell senescence (biological aging).
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....125317.htm

    And once you get to Mars it is no picnic either. Besides the fact that Mars has no magnetic field or Ozone to protect you from cosmic rays, the soil of Mars is ‘toxic’

    Toxic Mars: Astronauts Must Deal with Perchlorate on the Red Planet – June 13, 2013
    Excerpt: The high levels of perchlorate found on Mars would be toxic to humans, Smith said.,,,
    “Anybody who is saying they want to go live on the surface of Mars better think about the interaction of perchlorate with the human body,” he warned. “At one-half percent, that’s a huge amount. Very small amounts are considered toxic. So you’d better have a plan to deal with the poisons on the surface.”
    http://www.space.com/21554-mar.....icals.html

    Mars Life Would Spit Out the Water – October 2, 2015
    Excerpt: “You might think that the first human explorers on Mars will park next to a salty stream and use it to manufacture fresh drinking water. Maybe they could even find life in damp Martian nooks and crannies, areas where the dusty red planet can still fuel microbes.
    Reality is much more subtle. Finding evidence for flowing water is not the same as finding life.,,,”
    “[Chris] McKay notes that the type of salts near the Martian streaks, called perchlorates, form different watery mixtures than the salts we’re most used to on Earth. In fact, it’s possible the perchlorate streaks could behave similarly to Antarctica’s Don Juan Pond, which is the saltiest liquid water body on Earth—and totally dead.
    “Such a brine is not suitable for life and is of no interest biologically,” McKay says. “Nothing can live in the brine of Don Juan Pond.”
    http://crev.info/2015/10/mars-.....the-water/

    Of related note, salt is ‘very effective at dismembering membranes and preventing RNA units (monomers) from forming polymers any longer than two links (dimers)’

    “…even at concentrations seven times weaker than in today’s oceans. The ingredients of sea salt are very effective at dismembering membranes and preventing RNA units (monomers) from forming polymers any longer than two links (dimers).”
    Creation Evolution News – Sept. 2002

    Early Mars Water Was Salty, Toxic Stew – 2008
    Excerpt: But data from the rover Opportunity is already suggesting that water on early Mars billions of years ago may have been fit for pickling—not supporting—life. That’s because the water was thick with salt and other minerals, making it far too briny for life as we know it, according to a new study.
    Nicholas Tosca of Harvard University and colleagues studied mineral clues from the surface of Mars sent back by the rover and used computers to turn back the clock.
    “Our sense has been that while Mars is a lousy environment for supporting life today, long ago it might have more closely resembled Earth,” said Andrew Knoll, a study co-author also from Harvard. But instead the team found that the soil’s mineral content would have made that liquid a salty, toxic stew. “No matter how far back we peer into Mars’s history, we may never see a point at which the planet really looked like Earth,” Knoll said.
    http://news.nationalgeographic.....salty.html

    Surface of Mars an unlikely place for life after 600-million-year drought, say scientists – February 2012
    Excerpt: The results of the soil analysis at the Phoenix site suggest the surface of Mars has been arid for hundreds of millions of years, despite the presence of ice and the fact that previous research has shown that Mars may have had a warmer and wetter period in its earlier history more than three billion years ago. The team also estimated that the soil on Mars had been exposed to liquid water for at most 5,000 years since its formation billions of years ago. They also found that Martian and Moon soil is being formed under the same extremely dry conditions.
    Satellite images and previous studies have proven that the soil on Mars is uniform across the planet, which suggests that the results from the team’s analysis could be applied to all of Mars. This implies that liquid water has been on the surface of Mars for far too short a time for life to maintain a foothold on the surface.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....092006.htm

    Also of note: it is interesting to note man’s failure to build, right here on ‘friendly’ Earth, a miniature, self-enclosed, ecology in which humans could live for any extended period of time.

    Biosphere 2 – What Went Wrong?
    Excerpt: Other Problems
    Biosphere II’s water systems became polluted with too many nutrients. The crew had to clean their water by running it over mats of algae, which they later dried and stored.
    Also, as a symptom of further atmospheric imbalances, the level of dinitrogen oxide became dangerously high. At these levels, there was a risk of brain damage due to a reduction in the synthesis of vitamin B12.
    http://biology.kenyon.edu/slon.....wrong.html

    Maintaining a suitable ecology for an extended period of time appears to be a far more complex affair than Martian wannabes had first presumed:

    “Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides.”
    – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers

    Microbial Mat Ecology – Image on page 92 (third page down)
    http://www.dsls.usra.edu/biolo.....nit2.2.pdf

    Please note, that if even one type of bacteria group did not exist in this complex cycle of biogeochemical interdependence between different bacteria, that was illustrated on the third page of the preceding site, then all of the different bacteria would soon die out. This essential biogeochemical interdependence, of the most primitive different types of bacteria that we have evidence of on ancient earth, makes the origin of life ‘problem’ for neo-Darwinists that much worse. For now not only do neo-Darwinists have to explain how the ‘miracle of life’ happened once with the origin of photosynthetic bacteria, but they must now also explain how all these different types bacteria, that photosynthetic bacteria are dependent on, in this irreducibly complex biogeochemical web, miraculously arose just in time to supply the necessary nutrients, in their biogeochemical link in the chain, for the photosynthetic bacteria, as well as each other, to continue to survive.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    as well:

    Fine tuning of Light, Atmosphere, and Water to Photosynthesis (etc..) – video (2016)
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1136462999699965/?type=2&theater

    Verse. Quote and Inspirational:

    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

    “My sister asked me do you hear God speak to you. My reply was this. I hear Him in the whisper of the wind. In see Him in the sunsets as He paints the skies pink and gold. I feel His breath as it passes over the foxtail and the sagebrush. I cannot deny his presence. Do I hear Him? Yes!”
    – Greg Thomas

    The Earth as You’ve Never Seen it Before: Atmosphere, Airglow and Aurora – video
    https://vimeo.com/42909676

    “Walking On Air” – NASA (Expedition 30) – time lapse video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWz5ltE_I4c

  3. 3

    Ethan Siegel, like many involved in the NASA press releases, misrepresents the results of the Labelled Release Experiment, whose PI was Gil Levin. Gil was muzzled by NASA for 30 years, but upon his retirement, published all the papers that NASA wouldn’t let him release.
    http://www.gillevin.com/Mars/R.....femars.htm
    It is unfortunate that Ethan didn’t go to Gil’s website and read the papers, but instead spouted the “official” line from the censored (and misleading) NASA reports.
    (a) the gas chromatograph that “didn’t see life” was shown upon Earth testing to have a clogged Palladium filter. Its backup couldn’t see life on Earth either, which the LRE could detect. Gil suggests that his experiment was at least 1000x more sensitive than the one that had Carl Sagan as an investigator–and possibly 100,000x more sensitive.
    (b) Seigel conveniently forgets to mention that LRE had a control. Each time they saw something growing, they did a 2nd test where they baked the soil at 300C and then added the nutrients. Each time the control saw nothing.
    (c) The result of adding nutrients several times was not as Siegel reported. Gil says that the results are consistent with bacteria on Earth that behave identically. The initial pulse of new nutrients suppresses growth, a bit like overeating at Thanksgiving, but later leads to further growth. This is not consistent with chemical or non-biological models.
    (d) NASA standard line was that super-metallo-peroxides could mimic this behavior, and thus LRE was not 100% proof of life. Further, argued NASA, Mars was bone dry and couldn’t support life.
    (e) Both of these statements were in-your-face falsehoods. Gil did many experiments with super-metallo-peroxides and showed that they couldn’t mimic his results. Furthermore, should these peroxides exist, there would be hydrogen peroxide in the atmosphere, which there wasn’t. It was a desperate theory without support.
    Finally, although it took 10 years to get published because NASA suppressed the images, (as in removing them from the archive), they took pictures of snow on Mars with the same Viking lander that collected Gil’s data. That’s proof positive that Mars is not a desert and that life can find water. They knew this even while they were shutting down Gil’s publication of the discovery of life.

    So start a campaign to get Gil’s work recognized, and nominate him for the Nobel Prize. He’s 89 and won’t be with us much longer. And his detractors need to be shamed into silence.

  4. 4
    daveS says:

    Dr Sheldon,

    What do you think NASA’s motive for covering up these discoveries is?

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