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Saturday, June 09, 2018

If you're holding out hope that Mars may have once been an inhabited world, two new studies should put a little spring in your step.


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NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has identified a variety of organic molecules, the carbon-based building blocks of life as we know it, in 3.5-billion-year-old Red Planet rocks, one of the papers reports.

The other new paper also details a Curiosity find: that methane concentrations in Mars' atmosphere cycle seasonally. The discovery suggests that this gas, which here on Earth is produced primarily by living organisms, is seeping out from underground reservoirs, study team members said.


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Seasonal methan seems to clench it, doesn't it?

#1 | Posted by Zed at 2018-06-09 11:56 AM | Reply

Wait till NASA gets to Uranus and Neptune. There's more methane there than you can shake a dirty toilet brush at. Ergo, it must have life. /s

NASA, what the Sam Hill happened to y'all? You've turned into a pack of raving lunatics.

You don't have to worry, the government will always need an outlet for geniuses to be employed...to keep them out of trouble. You don't have to say "life" every six months to keep yourself in the news.

#2 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-09 12:32 PM | Reply


#3 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-09 12:43 PM | Reply

"With these new findings Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet."



#4 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-09 12:47 PM | Reply

Mars still has fossil water in underground aquifers is my guess. And that's where the microbes are. They are probably like our archaea, living off minerals in the darkness. We need to think about a way to get a sample return mission going so we can return some of our new overlord, the nameless ancient martian telepathic collective cellular organism that has dreamed of our wold's riches with envy for billions of years, plotting and awaiting this moment.

#5 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-09 07:54 PM | Reply

MMMmmm Fe(II)O, Fe(III)₂O₃ ...delicious!

#6 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-09 08:06 PM | Reply

If there is life on Mars it would be about a yard underground and in caves.

I have feeling there is still microbe life on mars.

this new finding is very interesting.

#7 | Posted by PunchyPossum at 2018-06-09 09:33 PM | Reply

NASA claims counter all of their prior data analysis?! How possible is it they have discovered the only place on Mars with "life" unless their ENTIRE TIME "EXPLORING" HAS BEEN A TOTAL LIE, or they have indeed been misrepresenting the chemistry found the entire time?

Their engineers are liars, their administration are liars - NASA is not a "public" agency at all, but a military operation.

The world is not privy to any real milestones, imo.

#8 | Posted by redlightrobot at 2018-06-09 10:50 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

#8 Only that one viking lander had a real life detector on it, I'll link you: en.wikipedia.org

But people have argued the sample was contaminated by the exhaust of it's rocket landing motor.

We sent probes with better lab stuff, but we lose about half the missions we send. All countries do.

Which, of course tells us the one thing we do know about life on Mars: Martians eat space probes.

If there is life below the surface of Mars, it must be rather different, because Mars has a reducing soil. But there are extremophiles on Earth that can take that.

#9 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-09 11:31 PM | Reply

Mars has a reducing soil.
#9 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-09 11:31 PM | R

I am not sure what you mean by that but I do remember NASA scientists talking about some mars soil sample and saying that the soil would be a good soil to grow asparagus in.

most of the soil is fine to grow crops in but their have been places they looked and the soil was very acidic but that apparently is not most of mars

#10 | Posted by PunchyPossum at 2018-06-10 04:53 AM | Reply

#10 Really? Gonna read more about Mars, then. I thought that the soil slowly dissolved organic molecules, chemically attacking them. That's what 'reducing soil' meant. But yeah, I guess that must of been from the first reports, because I missed the asparagus story altogether. And I would have remembered that. But it probably wasn't widely reported because asparagus....

But hey, now I can get my science on! Thanks for the vector!

#11 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-10 08:01 AM | Reply

Oxidation is the loss of electrons. Reduction is the gaining of electrons.

Redox Chemistry

#12 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-10 09:16 AM | Reply

They spend a lot of time in Freshman Inorganic Chemistry in college on the topic of redox reactions.

See also Lewis acids and bases

And Brønsted–Lowry acids and bases

#13 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-10 09:20 AM | Reply


Much of the surface of Mars is little more than various oxidation states of Iron as Ferrous and Ferric Oxide.

#14 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-10 09:31 AM | Reply

#14 Did you know that in the Viking Labeled Release life-detection experiment, the results showed a precise day/night circadian rhythm? And at first that was overlooked?


Here's the actual graphs of the test results: www.google.com

Hey, I'll read your stuff in a little while, but Sunday is bingo at the local grotto, and you know social pressure....

#15 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-10 10:29 AM | Reply

Methanogenesis replacement by iron oxide reduction:

Under conditions favoring iron reduction, the process of iron oxide reduction can replace at least 80% of methane production occurring by methanogenesis. This phenomenon occurs in a nitrogen-containing (N2) environment with low sulfate concentrations. Methanogenesis, an Archaean driven process, is typically the predominate form of carbon mineralization in sediments at the bottom of the ocean. Methanogenesis completes the decomposition of organic matter to methane (CH4). The specific electron donor for iron oxide reduction in this situation is still under debate, but the two potential candidates include either Titanium (III) or compounds present in yeast. The predicted reactions with Titanium (III) serving as the electron donor and phenazine-1-carboxylate (PCA) serving as an electron shuttle is as follows:

Ti(III)-citrate + CO2 + 8H+ → CH4 + 2H2O + Ti(IV) + citrate ΔE = –240 + 300 mV
Ti(III)-citrate + PCA (oxidized) → PCA (reduced) + Ti(IV) + citrate ΔE = –116 + 300 mV
PCA (reduced) + Fe(OH)3 → Fe2+ + PCA (oxidized) ΔE = –50 + 116 mV

Titanium (III) is oxidized to Titanium (IV) while PCA is reduced. The reduced form of PCA can then reduce the iron hydroxide (Fe(OH)3).


--Sivan, O.; Shusta, S. S.; Valentine, D. L. (2016-03-01). "Methanogens rapidly transition from methane production to iron reduction". Geobiology. 14 (2): 190–203. doi:10.1111/gbi.12172. ISSN 1472-4669.

#16 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-10 10:45 AM | Reply

Concerning phenazine-1-carboxylate:

Many phenazine compounds are found in nature and are produced by bacteria such as Pseudomonas spp., Streptomyces spp., and Pantoea agglomerans. These phenazine natural products have been implicated in the virulence and competitive fitness of producing organisms. For example, the phenazine pyocyanin produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa contributes to its ability to colonise the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. Similarly, phenazine-1-carboxylic acid, produced by a number of Pseudomonas, increases survival in soil environments and has been shown to be essential for the biological control activity of certain strains.


1. Turner, J. M. & A. J. Messenger (1986). "Occurrence, biochemistry, and physiology of phenazine pigment production". Advances in Microbial Physiology. Advances in Microbial Physiology. 27: 211–275. doi:10.1016/S0065-2911(08)60306-9. ISBN 978-0-12-027727-8.

2. McDonald, M., D. V. Mavrodi; et al. (2001). "Phenazine biosynthesis in Pseudomonas fluorescens: Branchpoint from the primary shikimate biosynthetic pathway and role of phenazine-1,6-dicarboxylic acid". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 123 (38): 9459–9460. doi:10.1021/ja011243. PMID 11562236.

3. Dietrich LE, Okegbe C, Price-Whelan A, Sakhtah H, Hunter RC, Newman DK (2013). "Bacterial community morphogenesis is intimately linked to the intracellular redox state". Journal of Bacteriology. 195 (7): 1371–80. doi:10.1128/JB.02273-12. PMC 3624522 Freely accessible. PMID 23292774.

There are certain reagents missing in the Martian soil for these Archaea to complete their organic reactions. Namely, citric acid.

#17 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-10 10:55 AM | Reply

Their engineers are liars, their administration are liars - NASA is not a "public" agency at all, but a military operation.
The world is not privy to any real milestones, imo.

While astronauts do get military space pins/ribbons for achievement, NASA isn't part of the DNI which it would/should be if it was an Intel shop. Meanwhile, the department of the treasury, curiously, is in the DNI.

#18 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2018-06-10 11:10 AM | Reply

#17 | Posted by madscientist "There are certain reagents missing in the Martian soil for these Archaea to complete their organic reactions. Namely, citric acid."

Now that is a fundamentally flawed argument. We are talking about Martian extremophiles that had billions of years to evolve as the planet slowly died.

Please explain the seasonal methane we just found and the circadian rhythm in the test results of the Viking Labeled Release life-detection experiment.

I'm sorry, but iron reduction creating methane does not occur in the same pattern as life flourishes. In fact, it should occur at a steady rate. How could you not think of that?

#19 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-11 07:20 PM | Reply

Sorry, Helium. Wanting there to be life on Mars is a nice idea. But, without more proof, it's just a pipe dream. Sure NASA will still look, nothing wrong in that. I say go for it. But don't confuse the public under the authority of being a scientist that WE FOUND LIFE!

That is the big difference. It gives ammunition to the detractors of Global Warming--understandably. Which scientists do we believe? This is not a good way of going about science. Sorry. Don't take my word for it. Look around the internet and you'll see other scientists pissed off at NASA for its behavior.

#20 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-11 07:29 PM | Reply

There simply aren't the necessary building blocks for life, even single celled organisms, to be alive. Mars is essentially a great rock in space made of Iron, Magnesium, Copper, etc. With a thin atmosphere of Argon, Carbon Dioxide, and a little water vapor. It has 1% the atmosphere of earth. And little NITROGEN. Which is necessary for the building blocks of amino acids to make proteins and enzymes.

#21 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-11 07:33 PM | Reply

#21 Yeah, today. But once that planet had a magnetic field and water. And organics going back 3.5 billion years says something. Life is very adaptable. There could be surviving life today, especially deep underground.

#22 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-11 07:58 PM | Reply

#21 Like mole-people. And I don't think we want to anger the mole-people.

#23 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-11 08:30 PM | Reply

They need nitrogen, phosphorous, and cobalt. Not to mention other things like an electron transport system such as oxygen or carbon dioxide for respiration. I'm veering off into biochemistry territory here, but AMP, ATP, etc. need to be present for energy transport. Not to mention RNA and DNA for reproduction. None of those hundreds of thousands of molecules and enzymes are there even for the simplest life to exist.

Nova used to be a good PBS program, but about 10 years ago it went to ----. I think it's because the Koch's started funding it.

But, do you get my point that the public is confused about what the difference between a hypothesis and theory are? Or free association and brainstorming. It's one of the reasons man made global warming and climate change are so misunderstood. NASA overhyping their findings to keep funding coming is bad in my opinion. The government will always have an out to keep intelligent people busy. I'm talking guys so intelligent you feel like a lower species than them. Like chemistry and physics professors.

#24 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-11 08:41 PM | Reply

And some patent lawyers I've met. People so smart you wonder where the hell they came from.

#25 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-11 08:43 PM | Reply

Like the Manhattan Project.

#26 | Posted by madscientist at 2018-06-11 08:45 PM | Reply

#24 "I'm talking guys so intelligent you feel like a lower species than them. Like chemistry and physics professors."

I've worked with both, and doctors (thankfully only lawyers once) in my career, and they seem to be about on the same level of professional more or less, and regardless of how creative I am, I still get surprised by people coming up with things you never saw coming....

Look, I'm talking about having billions of years for Martian lifeforms to evolve as the planet slowly died. Remember, it once had a reasonable biosphere 3.5 billion years ago or the evidence would not be there.

Now, the core is dead, the water is gone or deep underground, and the atmosphere is mostly gone. Like what Trump wants to do to the Earth.

#27 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-06-11 09:52 PM | Reply

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