Chlorophyll on Mars?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Julie K, Apr 5, 2002.

  1. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    This study is still in the very early stages and a lot more work needs to be done, but nevertheless, it has exciting possibilities.
    Analysis of Pathfinder data
     
  2. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Interesting, I'm loking forward to seeing more about this. Maybe there are no little green men there, but at least little green plants. [​IMG]
    What's most intriguing to me about life on other planets is how, if it's verified, religious leaders will be handle it (please don't discuss that here though [​IMG]).
    It also made me think of a quote by Dan Quayle: Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.
    /mike
     
  3. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    Dammit Mike, you're going to get my thread closed! [​IMG]
     
  4. Jason Handy

    Jason Handy Second Unit

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    I am not completely convinced yet. It sure makes a neat story, though [​IMG] And if true, I am sure we would step up our work to put a man on Mars sooner rather than later.
    Jason
     
  5. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    I agree that it's far, far from conclusive. However, if this is ever verified I think this will be the most significant and exciting discovery we've ever made.

    And of course, it would get humans on Mars a lot sooner than if not verified.
     
  6. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  7. Jason Handy

    Jason Handy Second Unit

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    The problem is that some of the most high profile science is skipping the formal peer-review process and being reported on the evening news. I think that, as a scientist myself, this is bad because a) people sometimes make mistakes and b) the bright lights and publicity are hard to deny if you are doing prominent research. We need the peer review to remain intact or else all science will become a public race to get to the papers first and that is where the integrity of work will decline.
    Sorry about the rant. The reason I am skeptical is that we might find out next week that the Pathfinder had chlorophyll residue on its tires after being driven on the front lawn near the research building [​IMG] Peer review would catch something like this and the scientist would avoid having to embarassingly(sp?) rescind his data.
    Jason
     
  8. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    While a peer review would undoubtedly catch many errors (and this could easily turn out to be one), Pathfinder was sterilized to avoid such contamination.
     
  9. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    What Julie said. The Pathfinder carrier vehicle and the Sojourner rover were constructed--like all spacecraft--in a clean-room environment.

    (As an aside, it's interesting to note that when Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Al Bean recovered parts of the unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft and brought them back to Earth, scientists were surprised to discover that an Earth bacterium had traveled piggyback-style on the lander and survived for three years in the lunar environment!)

    Thanks for the link, Julie. And I agree with you (and Robert) completely: If this evidence is confirmed, NASA's budget woes might come to an end--and we might live to see humans landing and walking on Mars!

    Funny how the most significant news items of our age are buried in obscurity. (To wit: The International Space Station generally receives no press--many Americans are not even aware the thing is being constructed in orbit. But when some spoiled, rich-kid celebrity from a damn "boy band" spends money to have the Russians ferry his privileged little butt aboard a Soyuz-TM to the ISS, the media put their attention on the ISS. Ugh. Sorry. In a ranting mood today.)
     
  10. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    Very interesting, it will indeed be one of the most important discoveries ever if it pans out. I would hope that it would mean a huge increase in NASA's budget if the early indications are verified, however I am afraid that it might even be counter-rpoductive for reasons I can not discuss here.
     
  11. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Jason, I understand your misgivings, but I think the scientists involved are being cautious enough. All they have declared is that some pixels in images show the spectra absorption characteristics of chlorophyll, and that those absorption characteristics were measured at only fifteen (at most) discrete frequencies of light. Far from declaring that they’ve discovered chlorophyll (or life) on Mars, they even concede that there may be many substances that show exactly the same absorption characteristics under the same conditions. Indeed, I believe they are calling for other scientists to scrutinize their data and to suggest experiments to disprove the presence of chlorophyll altogether. I’m happy to see this story in the mainstream press, and I expect the peer review process and further experimentation to proceed unencumbered as a result of this exposure.

    Let the review process begin!
     
  12. Jason Handy

    Jason Handy Second Unit

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    Brian,

    I don't disagree with you in general, but what I am nervous about is that some non-science journalist will start interpreting things and making their own assessments for the public. This is where things get hazy. I know I sound cynical, but having worked in a science field that is not very high-profile, I have seen the traditional peer review process and seen many great papers be returned for further work to clarify some point. When science is brought into the media, some of these steps are skipped.

    My primary misgiving is the idea that data is released to the public prematurely and ends up being recalled because somebody miscalibrated the detector (just an example). This makes all science look bad when a high profile project is is not fully studied, and makes it harder for scientists to get the research money they so desperately need to keep running.

    Does everybody remember the debacle of cold fusion about 10-15 years ago? This chlorophyll project is not so bold, but people have great imaginations, and it often does not jive with the facts!

    Jason
     
  13. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    What was the cold fusion debacle?
    I remember that i was talked about a lot in the early 90's, but I don't remember anyone saying that they had actually been able to do it. Was there such a claim?
    I wouldn't worry about the science behind news reports like the one Julie cited, I'm sure that they will go throigh the material rigorously. Of course, we probably won't find out what happens with it, if the evidence is refuted, since that's not newsworthy. [​IMG]
    /Mike
     
  14. Jason Handy

    Jason Handy Second Unit

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    University of Utah professors Pons and Fleischmann announced 10 years ago that they had solved the problem of cold fusion. Not to be too technical, but fusion is a potential energy source that, if properly harnessed, promised nearly limitless energy. The only problem is that currently, fusion only happens at very high temperatures.
    So, the big push is to make these fusion reactions work at room temperature, hence "cold fusion". Well, these two guys from the University of Utah ran some experiment that hinted that they had successfully made this reaction work. The only problem was they made an error in their calculations, which was only discovered after they had made international headlines. Their mistake was going to the media before presenting to the scientific community. They were afraid of getting scooped so they ran right to the public...and became a laughing stock once another group discovered their error.
    It is a classic story that was told to me on my first day of physical chemistry...of how NOT to report your experimental data!
    Once again, I am sorry if I sound like a raving lunatic; I guess I just feel very passionate about scientific integrity, and I get nervous whenever I hear about some huge breakthrough in science that has only got "preliminary data".
    Jason
    P.S. Here is a link about Cold Fusion in the news
     
  15. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  16. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Thanks for clarifying, Jason. I share your apprehension over media hype and undisciplined, improper disclosure of experimental results. I don’t think we’re seeing that here with this news item yet, but I think you’re right: It could turn into a circus at any moment without proper diligence.
     
  17. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Thanks.

    But, what was the harm in it? Wouldn't that instead work as a warning example of why you SHOULDN'T go to the press right away, if you become a laughing stock if the research is incorrect?

    Or, if it turns in to a "circus", what harm does it do?

    /Mike
     
  18. Jason Handy

    Jason Handy Second Unit

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    Micke,
    The harm in something like Cold Fusion is that you undermine the credibility of the scientific commumity as a whole, if only to a small degree.
    I am not trying to bully my opinion on others - everybody is completely entitled to their opinion. And I personally do not think that the news item is a case of bad science. This thread got derailed because I responded to this quote by RobertR:
     
  19. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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    Many of those that don’t want to find life on other planets for reasons we won’t go into in this thread will still be adamant that there is no intelligent life on other planets.

    It will be similar to what happened with computer chess. First there was a computer game that played chess but most people could beat it. So those that thought there would never be an intelligent machine would point out how dumb the machine was because they could so easily beat it.

    Then the computers could play chess better than most people could, then better than a grand master. Those that thought it couldn’t be done were gradually silenced.

    I’m guessing that the same thing will happen with discovering extra-terrestrial life forms as we first discover plant life, then simple animal life. Eventually, who knows? The scenario in the movie Contact may take place.

    Jay Taylor
     
  20. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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