Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mathematicians Confirm Life on Mars

The 1976 Viking mission to Mars, sent to seek signs of life, may have found it. Viking's Labelled Release Experiment fed a mix of nutrients to Martian soil, cooked it, and measured the resulting gases for carbon dioxide or other products of biological action. To everyone's surprise, the soil yielded far more products than expected. Principal Investigator Gilbert Levin wanted to immediately announce the discovery of life on Mars, but was delayed by NASA bureaucracy. Before an announcement was made, other scientists popped up to claim that the results were due to non-biological chemistry. No scientist has ever found a way to reproduce these results without life. After 35 years Gil Levin continues to claim that his experiment found life on Mars.

A new study uses mathematical techniques to examine the Viking data. The study examines the raw data for signs of complexity, an indicator of life forms. Chemical processes are not complex; life forms are. The study appears to indicate that the labelled release results were produced by life. The paper, with Gilbert Levin as co-author, appears in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences:

Compexity Analysis of the Viking Labelled Release Experiments

This writer had the privilege of working with the scientists who in 1996 founds signs of fossil life on Martian meteorite ALH84001. That evidence has also been disputed. The argument over life on Mars may not be settled until scientists have a sample of Martian soil beneath their microscope. In today's funding climate, Mars has a low priority. While NASA was promised the basic research funding to go beyond Earth, planetary science budgets are being slashed. A complicated sample return mission is in jeopardy without US participation. Another way would be to send a scientist to Mars with a microscope. We all hope that the argument is settled someday.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be more inclined to believe the results if NASA funding was not being cut.

Sad, but that's the state of science these days.

Or as my department chair said when it was reported that a magnetic monopole had been found by a Stanford researcher - "How close is he to tenure?"

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Carl Brannen said...

My dad was involved with that program.

And I saw an interesting review of the faint young sun problem (still a problem):

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't the problem with concluding that the Viking results indicate life is the absence of organic molecules?

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Blogger qraal said...

I'm a year late to the party, but the lack of organics seen by "Viking" was due to the insensitivity of the instrument, not necessarily the lack of life. The same instrument also didn't find organics in Antarctic soils which successfully showed the presence of life by other tests.

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