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Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the smells-like-gene-spirit dept.

Mars 119

First time accepted submitter GrimAndBearIt writes "NASA's Curiosity rover is poised to settle years of debate on the question of atmospheric methane on Mars, which would be a sign of microbial life. With parts per trillion sensitivity, it's not so much a question of whether the rover will be able to smell trace amounts of methane, but rather a question of how much. NASA has announced that Grotzinger's team will discuss atmospheric measurements at a briefing on 2 November. If the rover has detected methane at sufficiently high concentration, or exhibiting temporal variations of the kind that suggests microbial activity, then it will surely motivate a desire to identify and map the sources."

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First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851033)

Fart!

Re:First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851091)

Who smelt it, dealt it.

Re:First (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851761)

He who denied it supplied it.

Re:First (2)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851787)

Whoever made the rhyme, did the crime.

Re:First (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852095)

Joking aside, it is entirely possible that what the rover is detecting could be coming from the rover itself. There are all sorts of plastics on the rover: wiring insulation and cable ties, paint, adhesives, etc. that may be breaking down and giving off methane. There may be residues from the pyrotechnics that may be leaching traces of the gas. So yeah. It may be a case of "He who smelt it, dealt it".

Re:First (1)

smg5266 (2440940) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852213)

Not sure if insightful, or funny

Re:First (3, Insightful)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852355)

Just out of curiosity (no pun intended), wouldn't it be fairly easy to identify false positives? For example, if the concentration of methane appears to increase the longer the rover is stationary the more likely it is that it's coming from the rover rather than the atmosphere, assuming no wind anyway. And if there was wind any methane produced by the rover would be carried away and become a non-issue as well, right?

Re:First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41853893)

Would likely need a much more nitrogen and oxygen-rich atmostphere for that to happen to any appreciable level...

NAH THAT WAS ME AND TACO BELL !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851085)

Yo quiero Taco Bell !!

Re:NAH THAT WAS ME AND TACO BELL !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851123)

You know the gays have a disgusting maybe dangerous way they get high. Queer 1 will shove a straw up the asshole of Queer 2. Queer 2 will fart. Queer 1 inhales the fartgas through the straw and gets high on the methane and the anal gay love.

And if you think that's unappealing you are obviously a homophobe.

Lack of scientific knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851177)

ACs really are not much use nowadays. Every educated person knows it is cows that produce methane (herbivores) while humans produce mainly hydrogen. That is why lighting human farts is dangerous; hydrogen has a higher propagation speed and is explosive over a wider range of mixtures with air. So your post is nonsense. Also, a significant proportion of heterosexual women can be aroused by fart smells; they do contain some of the compounds that are used in perfumes. For most of history the human race lived huddled together, and a dislike of fart smells would probably reduce your chance of reproducing.

Re:Lack of scientific knowledge (2)

terjeber (856226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851687)

a dislike of fart smells would probably reduce your chance of reproducing

I don't think a dislike of certain kinds of smells is going to be this AC's main impediment to reproduction once he reaches sexual maturity. His never getting up the courage to leave his mommy's house will be higher on the list.

Re:Lack of scientific knowledge (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851821)

a dislike of fart smells would probably reduce your chance of reproducing

I don't think a dislike of certain kinds of smells is going to be this AC's main impediment to reproduction once he reaches sexual maturity. His never getting up the courage to leave his mommy's house will be higher on the list.

being gay is a certain impediment to reproduction you fucking bigot.

Life on Mars (-1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851101)

Methane? Call me back when the Mars rover found the Swasticas.

Re:Life on Mars (1)

RenderSeven (938535) | more than 2 years ago | (#41854189)

Hopefully a reference to "Iron Sky II"? And Im still waiting to see the first one [ironsky.net] , in a theater, on DVD, Netflix, anything. I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell, er, swastikas.

Cartman! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851107)

Did you fart?

The skunk.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851111)

..smells its own hole first.

Damn.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851113)

Who farted?!

Wow how sad (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851145)

8 posts so far, 8 fart jokes. I see space exploration is truly inspiring to Slashdot geeks...

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851157)

I made one of them.

In all seriously: I think we all know how awesome it would be if that was true. But I reserve the "aweome post" for when we have confirmation. As it's right now, we're fully in the realm of speculation and what should be added to that? Let's wait until we have solid facts to base stuff on.

Re:Wow how sad (4, Funny)

telchine (719345) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851495)

Let's wait until we have solid facts

Mod parent up! Funny!

Re:Wow how sad (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851159)

Maybe the methane came from Uranus?

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851693)

Maybe the methane came from Uranus?

Astronomers renamed Uranus to end that stupid joke once and for all.

(sheesh, 2+ hours later...)

Re:Wow how sad (1)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#41853157)

No doubt they will get to the bottom of this

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851161)

I see 9 posts (8 fart jokes, and one talking about those fart jokes). Yup Slashdot has fallen alright, and you are part of the problem. Before someone points it out, I am part of the problem too, I know :)

Re:Wow how sad (2)

telchine (719345) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851501)

I am part of the problem too, I know

You're just a gasbag!

Re:Wow how sad (3, Insightful)

Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851229)

Not only that - said jokes are really plain and primitive. You can make a wide variety of jokes starting from "yo mama" (yo mama is so fat, that even the rover on Mars smelt her methane), all through "Uranus" jokes (to precisely detect methane you'll have to send the rover to Uranus), to some more abstract (let's hope that Mars is not a really shy planet, otherwise it'll become even more Red Planet if we manage to find methane there) and so on.

Even if not funny by themselves, these jokes at least be somewhat creative, and some even may be called elegant (not my examples, of course). And yet we get something on a level of a dumb teenager. Hmm... maybe it's a deep social or political satire in there? Like "look, candidates, with that level of funding all that NASA can attract is a bunch of stupid fart jokes lovers"?

Re:Wow how sad (-1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851257)

There is a genuinely funny episode of Family Guy when Peter Griffin farts in a lift in which there is one other person. The other person wrinkles his nose and looks at Peter. Peter looks at him and says "it was you".

Every joke has it's place BUT not every joke needs to be verbalised - particularly when it is obvious. We all thought it though I'm sure...

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851953)

Every joke has it's

Every joke has it is .. what?

Tradition (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851493)

Considering that fart humor is a longstanding tradition (even the great Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca is on record with a fart joke or two), all I have to say is:
Whomever criticizes my verse made the atmosphere worse!

Re:Tradition (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851791)

Whomever criticizes

Are you completely unanimous about that, Mrs Slocombe?

Re:Tradition (4, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852177)

Actually, it's even older than that: There's apparently a Sumerian tablet from 1900 BCE [reuters.com] with a fart joke. Aristophanes also was well known for writing fart jokes.

Re:Wow how sad (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852379)

And yet we get something on a level of a dumb teenager.

Judging by the recent proliferation of folks who don't know when and when not to use an spostrophe, don't know who's from whose, or their from there, refusal to use capitalization, I'd say there are way too many ignorant teenagers here.

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41854537)

And yet we get something on a level of a dumb teenager.

Judging by the recent proliferation of folks who don't know when and when not to use an apostrophe, don't know who's from whose, or their from there, or refuse to use capitalization, I'd say there are way too many ignorant teenagers here.

Hehe. I'm not normally a grammar nazi but you brought this on yourself. ;)

Re:Wow how sad (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852589)

Sure, the fart jokes are devoid of any real wit. OTOH, your post reminds me of the scene in "Good morning Vietnam" where the "red leather, yellow leather" guy tries to convince everyone he "knows funny".

Re:Wow how sad (1)

Zeromous (668365) | more than 2 years ago | (#41853761)

I called TBS and operators have confirmed farts are indeed funny. I'm not sure why we are discussing it.

Re:Wow how sad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851367)

Manned space exploration is inspiring. Sending out a bunch of probes .... not so much.

SpaceX has spent just $1 Billion in 10 years, and is looking by far the leading contender for landing the first man on Mars. The Mars Curiosity project costed $2.5 Billion. NASA's Orion spacecraft will probably be cancelled the moment a new President steps into office, replaced with a new project designed to redistribute pork-barrel money.

NASA's greatest recent achievement was providing approx $500 Million of funding to SpaceX, ironically enough. I appreciate the honesty of their motives, but even so it is a little damning that their once-great organization is now reduced to sub-contracting most of their work to other companies, and hitching lifts into space with the Russians.

For me, NASA supporting SpaceX is the best of both worlds, and I'm very happy to see how that is progressing. But NASA could and should have put a man on Mars twenty years ago. Part of me would love to see China announce a huge space program, complete with mega-funding. I think it would be the one remaining thing that could provoke the USA into properly supporting their space program again.

Re:Wow how sad (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852467)

This is because NASA's mission was changed from "win the space race" to "shovel money derived from runaway deficits into the coffers of favored corporations" sometime around 1990 (+/- 4 years)

Re:Wow how sad (5, Insightful)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851445)

Maybe it's because the article title uses the word "Sniffed" rather than, for example, "Detected".

Re:Wow how sad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851609)

Maybe it's because the article title uses the word "Sniffed" rather than, for example, "Detected".

He who "Detected" it ejected it.

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851527)

As opposed to your oh-so-informative post? At least they tried, you're just complaining. Goddamn, son.

Re:Wow how sad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41852043)

As opposed to your oh-so-informative post? At least they tried, you're just complaining.

No, they didn't, they made a lazy joke because they didn't have anything better to say. Seriously, if people didn't have anything to add except being the 100th person to make the same obvious joke, they'd contribute more by not saying anything.

It's very noticeable on Slashdot that when the discussion involves something scientific that's even moderately outside the core interests/competences of the average reader (i.e. tech and computer-related sciences), the number of jokes goes up.

You expect one or two jokes, but it was depressing reading the thread about Uranus a week or two back when one scrolled down and there was nothing but an endless parade of not-as-all-round-smart-as-they'd-like-to-think nerds making lazy and repetitive jokes, while anything insightful about the genuinely interesting article was well over halfway through.

Honestly? The "Urectum" reference was funny when it appeared in Futurama. Now that it's been repeated so many times here as second-hand humour, and it's utterly predictable that someone is going to bring it up, it's not funny at all.

Re:Wow how sad (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851591)

8 posts so far, 8 fart jokes. I see space exploration is truly inspiring to Slashdot geeks...

I'd be willing to bet a good number of them have been made at NASA and JPL, too.

Fart jokes are like love -- they're a universal language that binds us all together.

Re:Wow how sad (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852861)

Well, we didn't start it. [youtube.com]

Re:Wow how sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41854103)

Why in God's name would I wanna keep reading a site filled with characters whose central preocupation is weed and dick and fart jokes?

Methane must be very effecite as a drug (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851169)

Some robot on Mars sniff it, and on Earth people get excited.

Perhaps what we need is.... (3, Insightful)

meglon (1001833) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851175)

to go with a set of small, dedicated probes that can only do a few things (say mass spec, air sampling, basic instruments) that have no mobility. They'd be loaded in bulk onto a platform to go from Earth to Mars, then into orbit. As it orbits, the platform drops the probes off at certain intervals, or in certain specific places. You could have a mix of probes doing different things, and use the one that would give the most information for that area; hell, you ould make it refillable, and send more as needed.

More limited than a rover, but much less expensive, and a lot less that could go wrong.... with a lot larger coverage area.

You do not understand systems engineering (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851199)

I think the easiest part of the experiment is the rover. Getting delicate scientific instruments to survive the trip is challenging, and getting them integrated a space system is brutal.

Re:Perhaps what we need is.... (1)

Firemouth (1360899) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851385)

Oh great, littering on another planet before we even step foot on it! No wonder aliens haven't contacted us yet. They don't want us filling up their planet with our junk!

Re:Perhaps what we need is.... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851677)

Seriously? Do you have any idea just how fricking big a planet is? Although smaller than Earth, Mars is HHHUUUUGGGEEEE on human scales. And it is all empty. Barren. Desolate. Look out your window now, and imagine all the buildings, roads, people, animals, plants, rivers, oceans... everything except for the dirt and the rocks.. gone. All the way to the horizon. Just barren, rocky nothingness. Now imagine that from the horizon to the next horizon. And again, and again, and again. Imagine walking or driving for weeks or months through that landscape, seeing nothing but rocks, rocks, dirt and rocks. And you thought it was a long way down the road to the chemist.

Do you really think a few tiny bits of technology scattered here and there - hundreds or thousands of miles apart - are really going to spoil the view? And for who exactly? If there is life on Mars it's not exactly going to be worried about property prices. You could strip-mine an area the size of Brazil into a toxic sludgepile and still have infinitely more square kilometres of perfectly-preserved rocky boringness left over than you'd know what to do with.

The hard truth is, most of space is dead, dead, dead. There might be a lot of question marks in the Drake equation, but even with the most optimistic numbers, most of the of the worlds in this galaxy are just drab, sterile rocks floating in a vacuum, with nothing better to offer existence than to be explored and exploited by us. Undoubtedly there are pristine habitats and natural wonders out there worthy of preservation. Olympus Mons almost certainly counts among them. The Valles Marineres too, and doubtless other sites yet to be discovered. Yet another Martian plain, however, does not warrant UNESCO galactic heritage status, and even if it did I would still dispute your assertion that a little remote-controlled buggy driving over it is somehow ruining it forever.

And besides, even if we did find life on another world- not even intelligent or even multicellular life- then you can bet your luddite ass that NASA and their counterparts in other space programs would be insanely respectful of it. If Curiosity digs up a microbe on Mars, they'd be extra-triple sure their next mission was even less likely to bring Earth organisms to the planet than the last. Hell, they would probably seriously question whether to send anything else to the surface at all. And not just because they wouldn't want to contaminate the science - they'd do it because that microbe is important in its own right, and it would be wrong for us to jeopardise its survival, and because Mars rightfully belongs to the microbes.

Trying to portray our planet's space scientists as inconsiderate jerks firing shit up into space willy-nilly like a bunch of rednecks with a stack of beercans and a skeetshooter does no justice at all to a group of thoughtful, intelligent and passionate people who value the beauty and majesty of the heavens a thousand times more than you or I ever will.

Re:Perhaps what we need is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41854657)

Read this:

http://www.space.com/12801-space-junk-threat-orbital-debris-report.html

Then this:

http://www.space.com/14217-space-junk-satellite-crashes-public-consciousness.html

Then watch this:

http://www.amazon.com/Wall-E-Single-Disc-Edition-Ben-Burtt/dp/B0013FSL3E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351875684&sr=8-1&keywords=wally+dvd

  Then re-read your post and tell me more about 'Inconsiderate jerks firing shit up into space willy-nilly".

Re:Perhaps what we need is.... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851405)

> More limited than a rover, but much less expensive, and a lot less that could go wrong.... with a lot larger coverage area.

To be fair, not much has gone wrong with the rovers. OK, a bit fell off this one but it still seems to be functioning OK, and I hardly need to remind you of spirit and opportunity's track records.

All the Mars mission failures so far have occurred in space. That's the bit we need to work on.

I'd really like to see some kind of rover or instrument package dropped into the Valles Marineres. The ancient conditions that might have once harboured life on Mars (like the thick atmosphere, running water) should have persisted longer in those low altitudes than anywhere else. And if the Valles is in fact the result of some planet-ripping catastrophe that sterilised Mars, then I think we'd like to learn more about that, too.

Re:Perhaps what we need is.... (2)

terjeber (856226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851705)

All the Mars mission failures so far have occurred in space

I'd say they have occurred on earth, prior to lift off, but...

Re:Perhaps what we need is.... (3, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852099)

More limited than a rover, but much less expensive, and a lot less that could go wrong....

Yes, (much, much) more limited than a rover, but no, not much less expensive in the end. You're talking a big and fairly capable mother platform to carry and communicate with more than one or two probes, and those don't come cheap. (Neither do the EDL systems for the probes.) And no, there isn't much less that could go wrong - each probe could go wrong, and you have a single point of failure in the mother platform.

So, for not much less money and roughly the same level of mission risk - rather than getting comprehensive science on a single location, you get pretty much useless individual and unrelated data points from a variety of locations.

Who here worked on Viking? (4, Interesting)

Maow (620678) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851191)

I remember reading something on Slashdot *years* ago by someone (MBone?) that worked on Viking and still had some documents / protocol info in his garage.

Anyone who did work on Viking landers, I'd love to read what you think about this impending announcement.

Feel free to add any tales / memories that might be relevant; I'm sure there are some fascinating stories that could be told from a real space nerd.

Dammit, I wish I could find the original post referred to in my first line...

Cheers

Re:Who here worked on Viking? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851759)

I remember reading something on Slashdot *years* ago by someone (MBone?) that worked on Viking and still had some documents / protocol info in his garage.

Anyone who did work on Viking landers, I'd love to read what you think about this impending announcement.

Feel free to add any tales / memories that might be relevant; I'm sure there are some fascinating stories that could be told from a real space nerd.

Dammit, I wish I could find the original post referred to in my first line...

Cheers

Like a few posts above, most of the slashdot comments so far have been about fart jokes. I remember reading slashdot years ago, as well. All the intelligent posters have been driven away by the fart joke trolls and the tin foil hat lunatics.

microbial or anorganic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851197)

Methane is not uncommon chemical compound in universe. In absence of free oxygen in Mars atmosphere, it is probably quite stable.

Re:microbial or anorganic? (5, Informative)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851391)

In absence of free oxygen in Mars atmosphere, it is probably quite stable.

No, quite the opposite actually- it gets destroyed (photodissociated) by -mainly- UV radiation.

Methane being unstable and easily destroyed in the Martian atmosphere is the whole point of using it as a 'life-tracer': if it is around at high and unaccounted for amounts, then there has to be continuously produced somehow, and so far a biological origin for its production cannot be ruled out.

Re:microbial or anorganic? (-1, Troll)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851733)

We shouldn't rule out the possibility of a colony of Mexicans (presumably subsisting on a diet of bio-engineered, greenhouse-grown Frijoles Negros). ;)

Re:microbial or anorganic? (0)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852631)

Sheesh, getting ganged-up on by poltically-correct, humorless nitwits... I give up! :)

Re:microbial or anorganic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41853731)

Mexican food == flatulence. Yes, we get it. It's not that people are humourless, it's that your joke isn't funny.

Re:microbial or anorganic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41853529)

OK, I'll correct myself: "In absence of free oxygen in Mars atmosphere, if frozen in the soil, beneath the surface and in semipermanent shadow, it is probably quite stable."

I'm so sorry (-1)

stifler9999 (1184283) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851201)

I couldn't help myself,
NASA smelt it, NASA dealt it.

Odorless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851235)

Methane is an odorless gas.

Re:Odorless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851245)

Odorless, only for the human olfactory system. Curiosity can smell anything.

Re:Odorless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851955)

Curiosity also killed the cat. Would you really trust a murderer?

False alarm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851259)

It wasn't methane it was menthol. The martians like Newports.

Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? No (4, Interesting)

Nerzhul (1969786) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851301)

Re:Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? No (2)

The Pea! (323436) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851365)

There's already previous evidence of methane from spectrography.

Re:Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851621)

So its really more like a guidelines to casually consider, rather than a law.

Re:Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41852079)

So its really more like a guidelines to casually consider, rather than a law.

OMG really? Due to my complete lack of reasoning ability, I... I just didn't know! Is Slashdot the right place for me?

Re:Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? No (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851581)

No one cares. They really don't. I don't see how you got modded up as insightful when your posting could be handled by an automated shell script. Just look for the question mark and insert lame link. How insightful.

This is getting OLD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41852021)

So here ya go:

Can any headline that ends in a question mark be answered by the word "no"?

(I should have a plug-in for canned responses)

Re:Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41852055)

This meme has to die

Actually, it hasn't (2)

proslack (797189) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852651)

If you read the article, you will find that "NASA's Curiosity rover is poised to settle the question as early as this week." No findings have been released as no data has been acquired (at least nothing acknowledged in the article). In any case, the presence of methane is of less interest than the concentration; it is found in interstellar space http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1991ApJ...376..556L [harvard.edu]

Is Betteridge's law of headlines correct? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41853323)

Well, acccording to betteridge's law... look, guys, just because someone proclaims something as a "law" doesn't make it one. Especially if the someone is a journalist.

Wikipedia backs me up in your own link: "Betteridge has admitted to breaking his own law, in an article published at his own site."

Sign of microbial life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851323)

..... and about a BILLION other things.

Could be microbial life. Could be that a comet crashed into Mars billions of years ago.

Re:Sign of microbial life... (1)

terjeber (856226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851721)

Could be microbial life. Could be that a comet crashed into Mars billions of years ago.

Unlikely, since stored Methane would, if it could be sniffed on the surface in high enough quantities, be destroyed by now unless the comet event was rather (cosmically) recent.

Re:Sign of microbial life... (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852289)

More like 4-5 other things. Volcano's for one. Also methane bleeding off the plastics on the rover...there is a wide spectrum of possible sources

So now we can burn it for energy on Mars . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851343)

. . . as soon as we find oxygen . . .

Even if there is temporal variation... (1)

fufufang (2603203) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851399)

Even if there is temporal variation, why are they so certain that the methane in the air is due biological activities?

Re:Even if there is temporal variation... (4, Insightful)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851461)

Even if there is temporal variation, why are they so certain that the methane in the air is due biological activities?

They are not, in fact scientists have been really busy trying to come up with alternate explanations for the presence of methane on Mars. However, the indications that the methane may be due to life are strong enough to make this worth investigating even though the odds are probably rather slim.

Has it? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851447)

So exactly how would we on /. be able to answer that question?

Has Rover smelled something?

Unless the rover posts on /. the question will go unanswered but will provide space for many fart jokes and such, because it's a mature crowd here with serious people.

Re:Has it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41852583)

don't get your panties in a bunch just because we're too smart to agree with your gayass economic rants.

how's Ron Paul's campaign going, btw?

Urectum (0)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851471)

...just trying to fit in.

Re:Urectum (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851615)

It's Uranus, twit.

Let us assume there is methane. (3, Interesting)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851577)

And let us assume that microbial life is the explanation we are or, better, NASA is going for. What then ? Will this radically change the focus of Mars exploration ? Are we then going to search frantically for said microbes ? And if so: how ? And when ? And where ?

Re:Let us assume there is methane. (2)

biodata (1981610) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851611)

There was discussion here before that Venter is planning the next bit - to try to amplify any DNA that is there and sequence it http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/10/20/1446244/craig-venter-wants-to-rebuild-martian-life-in-earth-lab [slashdot.org] That takes care of the what and how. Not sure about the other two.

Re:Let us assume there is methane. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41852141)

It gives NASA an excuse to have more funding and could start a new age of space exploration. We've had mission after mission searching for life, and so far they have all come up dry.

In polite company... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41851655)

We call it a "Nebula" of Methane...

Life on Mars? Forget about manned missions. (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#41851803)

If there's any evidence of life whatsoever on Mars, likely, any attempt to put humans on Mars will complicate any attempt to learn more about it.

Taking the long view, if there's any life there at all, then we would probably be doing the wrong thing to put anything living on Mars at all (in case we contaminate or interfere with what's already there), which rules out manned missions and human settlement.

The isotope ratios will be the most interesting (4, Interesting)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852039)

The significant part of the observation will be the C13/C12 isotope ratio. Curiosity's SAM/TLS device can sort out carbon (and oxygen) isotopes. Enhanced C12 would suggest a biological source.

Re:The isotope ratios will be the most interesting (2)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852899)

But....first MSL has to detect methane and then it has to get enough to run the TLS isotope detection. Also enhanced C12 suggests life but this is based on Earth life. Maybe Mars life is different, if it even exists. Also a baseline for the a-biotic Mars C13/C12 ratios for Mars needs to be established which not easy either....

K'breel missive? (1)

sapped (208174) | more than 2 years ago | (#41852129)

Where is the missive from K'breel warning the martians about this impending disaster? Could it be that the methane has already taken out this planetary spokesman?

Late-Breaking News: FLATULENCE! (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41853235)

Where is the missive from K'breel warning the martians about this impending disaster? Could it be that the methane has already taken out this planetary spokesman?

The Council has been in deliberations. K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, summarized the minutes of the deliberations thusly:

"Why, do the beings from the blue world seem so fixated on the offensive properties of methane, a gas released during respiration? Yet they completely ignore the offensive properties of water vapor, the substance most commonly associated with gaseous release during the process of digestion?"

"All the blueworlders point appendages their spindly little appendages at us, and some of the pink ones even make flap-flapping sounds with their upper orifices while expelling water vapor. This insolent gesture is an attempt to mock us; they project their insecurities over the fact that 70% of their world's surface is covered in condensation formed by their own rampant and uncontrolled flatulence!"

When a junior exobiologist suggested that the presence of oxygen in the blueworlders' atmosphere would imply a very short half-life for methane in their atmosphere (and the simultaneous production of egregious quantities of both water and carbon dioxide), K'Breel had the exobiologist sent on a field mission to the blue world, whereupon his gelsacs were dissolved in a can of soda left on someone's desk at JPL.

Insert here (0)

azav (469988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41853167)

Obligatory "he who smelt it dealt it" inserted for your listening pleasure.

Re:Insert here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41854529)

Thank you. I was waiting for that one.

The real question is ... (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#41853393)

Did it come from Mars cows and when can we turn them into burgers?

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