Monday, March 30, 2009

Life on Mars Not Just a TV Show

With data this year from HIRISE and Phoenix, Mars is on the mind of planetary scientists. Thursday morning at the Lunar & Planetary Science Conference, one had to choose from three different tracks on Mars: "Dunes, Dust and Wind," "Volcanism," and "Upcoming and Future Missions." Most interesting is what is said between the lines. Opening the latter set of talks, Clive Neal talked about primordial life and the possibility of contemporary life. Attitides toward life on Mars have changed, and for the better.

Though we have all grown up with Sci Fi stories about Martians, science itself has been skeptical. When signs of fossil life were found on a Martian meteorite in the 1990's, scientists were quick to come up with alternate explanations. The possible bacteria were smaller than Earthly life forms, the detractors said. Since then we have found that Earthly bacteria come in smaller sizes, barely the length of molecules. One by one the objections to Martian life have fallen away.

NEXT: Attitudes on something else have changed too.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Tony Smith said...

As to planets and attitudes,
I know that Kepler's correspondence

Mercury
Octahedron
Venus
Icosahedron
Earth-Moon
Dodecahedron
Mars
Tetrahedron
Jupiter
Cube
Saturn

is only very roughly approximately accurate
sort of like tree-level stuff in particle physics,
and
is not taken seriously by real scientists nowadays.

However, I like it, and
it was bothering me that the 24-cell was the only type of regular polytope that was missing,
so I looked at its two central figures
the cuboctahedron and the rhombic dodecahedron,
and found that ( with suitable definition of inscribed radius for the cuboctahedron )
the following holds as well as Kepler's original stuff:

Saturn
Cuboctahedron
Uranus
Rhombic Dodecahedron
Neptune

It seems useful to me, especially since the cuboctahedron, which is complete only at the orbit of Uranus) is the root vector polytope of
the D3 Conformal Lie algebra SU(2,2) = Spin(2,4)
and that is where the Pioneer Anomalhy appears,
so
I put up a graphic on a web page at
www. tony5m17h.net/ConformalKepler.html
Even if you don't like my physics interpretation,
maybe you might think the picture is pretty.

Tony Smith

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Tony Smith said...

Sorry, there was a typo in the URL for the graphic.
It should be

http://www.tony5m17h.net/ConformalKepler.html

Tony Smith

5:16 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

That's cool, Tony. No one has yet found a formula behind spacing of planetary orbits. There may be something yet to those regular solids. Perhaps someday it will be a subject at LPSC.

3:15 AM  

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