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    Ten Reasons NOT To Live On Mars - Great Place To Explore
    By Robert Walker | August 14th 2013 09:32 PM | 111 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Mars is a fascinating planet, the most like Earth of all the planets in the solar system, and may help us to understand much about the origins of life on Earth. Undoubtedly, it's a wonderful place to explore, especially with augmented reality vision. But though it was quite Earth-like in its first few hundred million years, it is not at all Earth like now. Earth remains by far the most habitable place in our solar system. The most inhospitable places on Earth, such as Antarctica, even in the depths of winter, and at the centre of the continent, are far more habitable than anywhere else in our solar system. Space colonies and the poles of the Moon, are both more easily habitable than Mars, and more easy to make self sufficient. Why is that? Read on to find out more.

    You see so many news stories about the possibility of humans colonizing Mars, and many readers may get really excited by the idea. But few of these stories mention the many drawbacks and downsides of human colonization. I thought it might help redress the balance to talk about this.

    1. Cold

    You would agree that the center of Antarctica in winter is cold, not the best of places to set up home? Well Mars is far colder. At the Curiosity site, which is close to the equator, typical night time temperatures are -70 °C. Occasionally it drops to below -100 °C. It is often cold enough for the CO2 in the atmosphere to freeze out as dry ice. A human couldn't survive those temperatures without technology.

    Antarctica from space (NASA) - this is far more hospitable than Mars. Mars would also be covered in ice, the only reason it isn't is because it is so dry that there is only enough water to create the polar ice caps, and the air is so thin that water ice sublimes directly to water vapour whenever temperatures rise briefly above 0C.

    It gets warm at midday, briefly, can go over 0 °C. So is not cold all the time, but has these huge temperature swings of 70 °C between day and night, just about every day. You can check the current Mars weather for Curiosity. Dry ice for comparison melts at -78.5 °C.

    It might not look as cold as Antarctica because it has ice only at the poles. But that's because of the thin atmosphere. Over most of the surface, ice sublimes directly to water vapour without ever turning liquid. There is also not much water vapour. As a result it is extremely dry near the equator, cold enough so that it would have a permanent ice cover, like Antarctica, except that it is too dry, and the atmosphere is too thin to support it.

    If you are just looking for new land which can be made habitable for humans to live in, it makes much more sense to colonize Canada, or Siberia, or the Inner Hebrides of Scotland (where I live) or indeed the sea bed, than Mars. BTW this is a rhetorical question, I'm of course not actually proposing that any of these places are colonized, as they are already sovereign territory - except possibly the sea bed in international waters. For undersea colonies, see The Long, Ongoing Dream of Undersea Colonies, and Atlantica Undersea Colony

    If you are keen to set up a space colony, then a colony close to Earth, closer to the sun, and without the night time shielding effect of a planet would be like the tropics compared to Mars. Why colonize Antarctica first, when you can colonize the tropics?

    2. Vacuum

    Yes Mars does have an atmosphere, it's true. But it is so thin, it would count as a laboratory vacuum on Earth. For most purposes, you might as well be in space or on the Moon.

    A human would need to put on a spacesuit to survive the low pressure, never mind the lack of oxygen. The pressure is so low, your saliva and the moisture coating the interior of your lungs would boil. The average Mars surface pressure is well below the 6% Armstrong limit which absolutely is the limit for human survival. Average surface pressure is about 0.6% of Earth sea level. A leak in your spacesuit would kill you quickly. No oxygen to speak of either.

    The atmosphere does have some benefits, as a source of CO2, but even then, is low pressure so has to be pressurized to be useful. In a space colony, then you could make CO2 from the carbonaceous near Earth asteroids; it's not that hard to find ways to make it in space if you expand your habitat e.g. with greenhouses and need more atmosphere. So again that's not a major benefit over space or the Moon.

    3. The "it's been done" syndrome

    Okay I know that Mars hasn't "been done" yet. But many explorers who want to colonize Mars have as their main motivation that it is new. They aren't interested in colonizing the Moon, because it has already "been done". They just want to be the first people on a new planet. If that's your motivation, then remember, as soon as the first colonists arrive on Mars then it will already "be done". For a colony to survive it would need massive support from Earth, billions of dollars every few years.

    Those of us who lived through the Apollo landings will remember how much excitement there was about the first landings - and then within just two or three years, it became boring to the public, to see astronauts on the Moon, because "it has been done already". Apart from occasional moments of human interest such as the first time a golf ball was hit on the Moon, the general public lost interest totally and the news dropped to the back pages of the papers.

    Apollo mission to the Moon, victim of the "it's been done" syndrome. Is this not still an exciting place to explore, does it matter that it has already been visited by humans?

    The same would surely happen with colonists on Mars. Just as the Moon may seem boring to you now, well same would be true of Mars after a few years.

    4. Dust and Dust storms

    Every Martian summer, roughly every two Earth years, you get a higher chance of global dust storms. These can last for weeks, and the light from the sun drops by over 99%. Here is a photo showing progression of a dust storm as seen by Opportunity.

    Progression of Mars dust storm over three days, Opportunity Rover

    During the dust storms, then artificial light is needed in middle of the day to grow crops, and you won't be able to see anything. Solar power won't work.

    As a minor point, the dust itself may be hazardous to humans. Some studies showed that moon dust may be somewhat hazardous - not as much so as asbestos, but enough to be of concern. Mars dust may be similar (we don't know its constitution well yet).

    This last issue may be addressable however. The surface of Mars is covered in dust. However, the suitport should help prevent explorers from bringing it into the habitat.

    Not much you can do about the dust storms though except artificial lighting and just sit them out.

    5. Contamination

    It is almost inevitable that a colony on Mars will eventually contaminate the planet with Earth micro-organisms. At current levels of technology, I don't see how that can be avoided. A human is host to about 100 trillion micro-organisms in 10,000 different species. A habitat would have many other micro-organisms too, in the food, in the soil, other supplies, and floating in the air.

    Some of those may be able to reproduce on the surface, particularly lichens, and some hardy micro-organisms, polyextremophiles that may be able to survive in marginal habitats of cold salty brine that may form around deliquescing salts in the morning and evening. See my Might there be Microbes on the surface of Mars?. Some of these can do just fine in human habitats but have surprising hidden capabilities to survive in extreme conditions. The rovers are sterilized to prevent contamination - humans can't be.

    Now if you aren't a scientist that mightn't bother you much. But back on Earth you would be known as the people who irreversibly contaminated Mars. You would probably get a fair bit of negative press for doing that, and through all the future of human history would probably be known as much as the humans who contaminated Mars as the first to colonize the planet. For some idea of the potential value of a pristine Mars see How Valuable is Pristine Mars for Humanity - Opinion Piece?

    This would make it hard or impossible to tell whether or not any of the life forms you find on the planet are introduced Earth life or native (many micro-organisms on Earth are poorly characterized). It would also complicate experiments to look for trace biosignatures in the deposits on Mars, some of these sensitive enough to detect a single amino acid in a gram of soil.

    The contamination could also affect your water supplies. There's also the possibility that it could evolve on the surface through adaptive radiation into new forms hazardous to humans, because the conditions are so different (strong UV, cosmic radiation etc). These then could return to the habitats some years later, still retaining their abilities to survive in a human habitat, but with extra capabilities from their evolution on the surface of Mars.

    Some sources for contamination include

    • Habitat not completely self contained - e.g. maybe you need to dispose of human wastes outside the habitat - or some chemical builds up which needs to be vented to the exterior.
    • Spacesuits leak. The problem is - that the more flexible the spacesuit, then the more joints it has, and these continuously leak air. Could you contain micro-organisms within the spacesuit without them leaking out of the joints?
    • Suitport. Astronaut climbs into the spacsuit through the hatch. It does leak a small amount of air still, about a cubic foot. The spacsuit itself would also leak air constantly, all present day suits do, e.g. through flexible areas such as the joints.Airlock. It may be possible to do something about this, but no-one has yet designed an airlock that vents no air at all out of the spaceship. The suitport gets close to this, but is designed more to prevent dust getting into the cabin than to prevent air getting out. Some air would still escape, about a cubic foot in the current design of the suitport.
    • Accidents. E.g. spacesuit breached in an accident on the surface. Or one of the spaceships crashes during landing. Even if crew survive, the hull may be breached and contaminate Mars with the micro-organisms inside the habitat. If anyone dies, then that is a major contamination right away.

    What it amounts to is that to contain contamination we would need to land a biohazard laboratory on Mars, with the crew and all its contents as the biohazard to be contained and kept away from the surface of Mars. We don't have the technology to do that yet at a reasonable cost. Indeed I'm not sure it is possible at all with present day technology when you take account of possibilities of accidents and hard landings.

    There is also the possibility of life already on the planet. Some scientists think there may be life on the surface even now in the harsh conditions there. If so, there is a remote possibility that it might be hazardous to humans. Could be a pathogen like Legionaire's disease which we are not immune to. Could be that it infects other micro-organisms so infects micro-organisms within the habitat. Or could be an allergen for humans, e.g. when you breath in the micro-organisms into your lungs. This chance is probably very low, but not impossible. It's been reviewed many times by biologists, and so far, no-one can really say for sure, they can't go so far as to say that it is impossible based on the scientific knowledge of Mars so far.

    6. Unproven technology for self contained habitats

    This also applies to space colonies too, but I suggest that it is best to work on this in space colonies close to Earth first, where you can deal with emergencies more easily.

    • The ISS is not at all self contained. They can't even wash their clothes, but get new clothes sent up when they need clean ones. All the dirty ones are disposed of in the supply vessels which burn up in the atmosphere.
    • Overview of the ISS environment control system, which requires complex technology, and has many inputs and outputs and is not a closed systemHuman waste products can be problematic in a small habitat. Though urine can be recycled, without too much trouble, excrement is much harder to deal with and in the ISS is again disposed of in the supply vessels.
    • Atmosphere regulation is hard in an enclosed habitat. In the ISS there is a complex environmental regulation system which filters out many different harmful gases that can build up in an enclosed human system (that includes ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, acetone, hydrogen chloride, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide as well as carbon dioxide and many others) and keeps the oxygen levels right. If this goes wrong in the ISS (as has happened several times) you can send replacement components or emergency oxygen from Earth but on Mars you would be in trouble.
    • Micro-organisms are problematical in an enclosed habitat. This is something the Russians found out with Soyuz. In the ISS many measures are taken to keep the numbers of micro-organisms low, including keeping the atmosphere very dry and filtering them out. Still they have occasional build ups of biofilms. (For an overview of this issue see Microbial Colonization of Space Stations)

    All of this is solvable but requires complex machinery to keep it going. There are ideas for self contained habitats using natural methods, such as Biosphere 2, the ESA's Mellisa and the Russian BIOS-3 but these are larger than the first habitats, and again is not 100% proven technology for space yet.

    Biosphere 2, first large scale attempt at a self enclosed biosphere type habitat
    Biosphere 2, first large scale attempt at a self enclosed biosphere type habitat. The experiment was a failure but much was learnt and in future it may be possible to set up totally self contained habitats in space. The technology is not mature yet however.

    7. Hard to make self sufficient - need for parts and supplies from Earth

    Yes there are lots of resources available on Mars. But they are available in space too, mining the NEOs. Mining on Mars will be hard to do, as hard as in space. You still need to use space suits because of the vacuum conditions. And however much you can make from native Mars materials, at least at present levels of technology, then many components and replacement parts will have to come from Earth.

    Opportunity, in Endurance crater, the longest lived rover sent to Mars, has lasted since 2004, well beyond its original design lifetimeNone of our rovers on Mars have lasted for very long, except for Opportunity which has been active since 2004 (it's sister rover Spirit stopped working in 2010).

    Human habitats presumably would be rated to last longer than that. Yet, the habitats would be extremely complex technologically. Things would go wrong eventually, and you would need parts from Earth.

    It seems unlikely that you could really supply all the food by plants grown on Mars, and if you were able to do that, yet sometimes crop failures would surely occur, especially early on. Again this needs food to be supplied from Earth.

    Medicine would be needed too, and other supplies that need high levels of technology.

    The habitat would have many complex machines to maintain the temperature and the atmospheric conditions. Spacesuits are also complex mechanisms that could fail, and that the colony would be surely unable to make, and only able to do some repairs for them.

    Especially, you are totally reliant on the heating units, and the atmosphere regulation units in your habitat, without them you die.

    There is no way a Mars colony could be totally self sufficient in the near future - except with some game changing technology such as nanoscale 3D printing or self replicating nano-technology.

    8. Boring landscape to unassisted human eyes

    The landscape on Mars may seem quite stunning in some of the photos. But these have been digitally enhanced with the white balance changed, to help geologists to recognize rock types. To human eyes it is a dull reddish gray or brown. The sky is the same colour too. It will be hard to distinguish different colours and everything looks much the same.

    Shows effect of natural colour (centre) and processed to resemble Earth lighting conditions (right)

    You probably wouldn't get much chance to explore it directly for safety reasons and because it takes so long to put on your spacesuit. Mainly you would just see the view from your window whatever that is. You would soon get tired of the dull gray landscape and skies.

    9. Accidents

    Okay so accidents happen. On Mars they may well be fatal if they result in damage of your spacesuit or habitat.

    10. Mars is too small to be worth colonizing

    Yes I know the surface area of Mars is large, comparable to that of Earth. But there are several other consequences of such a small planet.

    • Cosmic Radiation - high levels, would need to limit the amount of time you spend on or near the surface without protection from the cosmic radiation - otherwise you have an elevated chance of getting cancer.
    • Low gravity - so far it's not known whether humans can remain healthy long term in a Mars gravity. Same is true for the Moon but is easier to return sick astronauts from the Moon to Earth, e.g. if it is found that bone loss is as bad in low gravity as in zero g. There have been many biologically surprising results for zero g, and there may be surprises for low g as well.

      "Inevitable Descent" by Pat Rawlings - astronaut landing on Mars. It's not yet known if an astronaut can remain healthy long term in a low gravitational fieldIssues astronauts encounter in zero g include, bone loss (in zero g is about 1% per month), muscle atrophy (about 5% per week to start with), blood loss (about 22% within a few days, could be a contributing factor for heart atrophy). Many of these clear up on return to Earth; as a rule of thumb it takes one day to recover for every day in orbit. But the evidence so far suggests you might not recover from bone loss completely. You can easily lose 20% of your bone mass in a long duration space flight. Long term you can get serious vision problems too, one third of astronauts returning from space have impaired vision and in one case the impairment was permanent.

      We have no way to truly simulate less than 1 g for long time periods on Earth. It might be completely safe for humans but again it might cause long term problems like zero g.
    • UV radiation - has hazardous levels of UV radiation, again have to be careful about exposure.
    • Atmosphere not recycled through continental drift. This is mainly relevant for long term prospects. On Earth CO2 which gets captured in the seas eventually recycles to the surface through continental drift and volcanoes. If we were somehow to find a way to introduce an atmosphere to Mars it probably wouldn't last long in geological timescales - unless some alternative cycle can be set up.
    • Surface area is far less than for space colonies - if you thought the surface of Mars was large, well space habitats potentially have much more space available. See my post Asteroid Resources Could Create Space Habs For Trillions; Land Area Of A Thousand Earths. So we shouldn't get too hung up on the large surface area of Mars, as it's not the only place we could colonize.

    Okay all of those can be addressed, protection from cosmic radiation, centrifuge sleeping quarters and indeed the whole habitat could be set spinning to increase the gravity felt inside, and UV radiation easy enough to protect against. The area for colonization is comparable to Earth so only seems small in comparison to space colony potential.

    But it all contributes to make Mars not quite as enticing as it would seem at first.

    Colonizing closer to Earth first

    I'll not go into this in any detail here, as it rather strays from the main topic of this post, and I've covered it in Asteroid Resources Could Create Space Habs For Trillions; Land Area Of A Thousand Earths. But in short the amounts of resources available to build space colonies just from the Near Earth Objects (NEOs) is surprising. There is easily enough material in NEOs to build habitats with many square kilometers of living area, and with just about all the materials we need to make them.

    Longer term, space colonies have more potential for human habitation than planetary surfaces - and that is iincluding the Earth itself. There is enough material in the asteroid belt to build colonies with the land area of a thousand Earths.

    Nerius is a likely target for materials for a space colony, as it is one of the larger NEOs to get to, and easier to get to than the Moon. Though only 300 meters across, it has enough material for cosmic radiation shielding for three square kilometers. of space habitats following the design of the Stanford Torus. Mars's small moon Deimos has enough to shield an area more than twice the size of Switzerland (e.g. as lots of Stanford tori). Then, when you get to the asteroid belt, there is enough material there for cosmic radiation shielding for a thousand times the surface area of Earth. This is a different idea from the idea of hollowing out the asteroids which creates much less living space, Nerius could only make a 300 meters diameter habitat if you hollow it out.

    In the nearer term the most habitable surface areas of any celestial body in the solar system outside of Earth are probably the poles of the Moon, where there are the "peaks of (almost) eternal light" that get constant year round light. This would give near constant solar power and light for greenhouses except during eclipses. They are also right next to the craters of eternal night which are thought to have deposits of ice and are the coldest places in the inner solar system. So a fascinating place to explore and live, and with just about all the materials you need to build a small near to self sufficient colony.

    The peaks of (almost) eternal light might need to be explored scientifically using rovers first to minimize contamination, for instance maybe there are layered deposits of ice preserving a record of the history of the early solar system and the solar winds. That exploration could be done by humans too, however, by telepresence. The moon is far enough away from Earth for telepresence exploration from L1 or L2 to be worth doing.

    NASA artwork from the 1970s for the Stanford Torus design
    Stanford Torus Interior (NASA), population 10,000, NASA space colony art from the 1970s

    This was something we could build already with 1970s technology and would be far easier to build today. Also, we would have sufficient resources to build this using materials from just one small NEO such as Nereus (perhaps the most accessible of them all, 300 meters across and easier to get to than the Moon in terms of delta v). It has enough material to provide cosmic ray shielding for about 3 square kilometers of habitat living area. There are many other NEOs comparable in size or larger.

    One would of course start smaller, but eventually colonies of this size and larger could be constructed, mainly with use of resources available in space within easy access from Earth.

    Other colonies could be in the other Lagrange locations, or orbit the Earth or co-orbit the sun with the Earth. Long term, a location close to the Earth makes for faster trade both ways, and permits space tourist visits. Shorter term it also makes for easy assistance and backup in case of emergencies, and astronauts can if necessary be returned to Earth within a day or two.

    Also, technical assistance for near Earth colonies can be given by experts on Earth in close to real time without the light speed delays of Mars. In the near term, just because of unavoidable communication delays from Earth during emergencies, I think that explorers who travel as far as Mars would probably have the best chance of success if they are experts who have "written the manual" on the spaceship systems, together with scientific experts able to make fast real time decisions about experiments on the surface.

    For more about all this see my Asteroid Resources Could Create Space Habs For Trillions; Land Area Of A Thousand Earths.

    Solution to all of this for Mars - telepresence

    So, I'm not "against mars colonization". Would be great if these problems could be solved and maybe with some future technology they could be. Perhaps self healing spacesuits and spaceships, able to hold in contamination even in a hard landing or accident? Perhaps some successor to the suitport that is self cleaning and lets no air escape at all? Or we might find out things about Mars that lead us to decide that it is okay to introduce Earth micro-organisms to it.

    But in the meantime, space colonies would seem to make much more sense than a Mars surface colony. But Mars is such an interesting place to explore especially for scientists. With enhanced vision, the boring landscape would become interesting to look at and explore. And our mechanical rovers on Mars are so slow, experiments take months to complete, and they do in a month what a human could do probably in an hour.

    So, what can we do? Well the answer is telepresence. The technology is developing rapidly, both through the games industry, and through various applications such as remote telepresence surgery (surgeons in the USA operating on patients in France for instance), and field geology especially deep wells.

    With humans in orbit around Mars, then they could explore the surface with telepresence. You get super human abilities too, as you can build telerobots able to fly (hard for a heavy human to do in the thin Mars atmosphere), or smaller or stronger than humans.

    Video of Robert Michelson's entomopter.

    On Mars it might be easier for machines to fly with insect type flight with rapidly beating wings, using the bumble bee wings vortex effect for lift. On Mars that can work scaled up to wings a meter across because of the thin atmosphere also assisted by the low gravity. That's the idea of the entomopter. One way you could build telerobots able to fly on Mars.

    With several rovers spread out on the surface of Mars you can "hop" from one to the other in virtual reality, set up experiments, set them going to return to them later, or drive around on the surface of Mars in real time. The robots would be semi-autonomous, not just sit around doing nothing, but a bit like the game of civilization, you set them going doing various tasks then pop over to another place on Mars to take over another robot, and so on.


    Image from the Telerobotics Symposium held in 2012, one of the recommendations was that telepresence be used to explore Mars during the early orbital missions.

    Eventually we might have a sizeable colony in orbit around Mars and a sizeable "colony" of telerobots on the surface which might make materials for export to the orbital colony or indeed to Earth.

    Telerobots could do mining, and all the things envisioned for a human surface colony, with almost no risk of contamination, either of Mars, or back to Earth of any micro-organisms on Mars.

    As an astronaut, you could explore the surface within your spaceship in a shirt sleeves environment, no need to put on your spacesuit. The orbital spaceship would spin for gravity, probably using a tether system in early versions of the colony. With an onmidirectional platform and telerobots on the surface, you could walk and run over the surface too, as if you were there but with enhanced vision and capabilities.

    We could actually grow plants on the surface of Mars too by telepresence, since seeds can be sterilized. There are two types of hydroponics, and sterile hydroponics doesn't use micro-organisms, instead supplies all the nutrients the plants need in the water. Aeroponics is a version of hydroponics especially useful for space missions which uses minimal water as the roots grow in moist air.

    We could have greenhouses on the surface, and export the food to orbit using fuel also created on the surface of Mars.

    Little Prince rover,
    "Little Prince" rover designed to support a single plant on Mars. Book cover of "The little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-ExupérySince seeds can be sterilized (unlike humans or animals), these could be grown without any risk of contaminating Mars with Earth micro-organisms.

    Named after the "Little Prince" who looked after a single rose on his asteroid in the fictional book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    It's possible that plants may be the first living Earth colonists of another planet.

    Video of the Little Prince rover

    Later on, if the decision is made to send humans to the surface, you already have the telerobots there and whatever technology is associated with them, for the humans to use for their habitats.

    See also

    Then, on same subject as this article but a more leisurely treatment:


    Comments

    Robert, this is a great article. I have been arguing these same topics for years.

    If we want to determine if life is or was present on Mars, then we need to continue sending robots to the surface. Once we send humans to the surface, the chance of contamination is pretty much going to happen.

    If our goal is to colonize Mars, then we should consider what it would take to terraform the planet. We should set a lower limit on the acceptable "sea level" atmospheric pressure (perhaps equivalent to pressures here on Earth at 10,000 feet). Then determine how big Mars would have to be to maintain an atmosphere at the level. Once that is determined, we could start diverting asteroids and comets to bombard the red planet (making sure that we don't knock the planet out of its orbit in the process). If we add enough mass and heat from the collisions, perhaps the core will spontaneously create its own magnetic field.

    This would definitely not be a short-term endeavor. However, it would make the prospect of colonizing Mars much more appealing.

    In the mean time, we could start building colonies and manufacturing facilities in cislunar space. Once those are established, it will be much more cost effective to explore the rest of the solar system and start the terraforming of Mars and eventual colonization of the planet.

    robertinventor
    Steve, thanks glad you like it and good to meet someone else who has been saying the same things :). I think also probably the majority of exobiolgists think this way too from my experience.
    Actually if colonization of Mars is not urgent, and I don't see why it is for reasons in the article, then another idea if we find Mars life on Mars is to "Mars form it" - this is Christopher McKay's idea. To try to turn the clock back perhaps to make Mars the way it was in its first hundred million years, or to simulate the milder conditions you get when the orbital tilt is greater.

    It could be amazing to be able to study a planet that is almost like Earth, but not quite, and with different life forms on it not like anything on Earth - that is - if Mars life is eventually found. We certainly haven't looked anything like hard enough to expect to find it yet if it is there. Either in marginal micro-habitats or underground.

    Anyway as you say what we can do right now is building colonies and facilities, e.g. lunar L1 and L2, for that matter also co-orbiting the sun with the Earth, and then gradually further afield, while also doing interplanetary missions too with human explorers and using telepresence. After some time of that, we will probably have a very different view of Mars and what its value and importance is, and the solar system than we do now, though what exactly, we can't expect to anticipate any more than in the 1970s when I was young we could have anticipated the world wide web, or cellular phones etc.
    We might well also have awesome megaengineering capabilities too, able to do things such as you suggest, and very much hope we also have the knowledge and wisdom also by then to match them.

    I don't know what would be needed then, but just feel strongly we shouldn't do anything right now that is irreversible like contaminating Mars with Earth life, unless really sure that is the right way to go.

    The only real thing that you made a Point to was the Cost to make all of this work, & that there could be extereme backwards effects if something went wrong...

    The rest of it could be Proven wrong, due to People changing the Planet to be more like Earth ourselves...
    For instance, if we could get Plants to Grow, & Water, & such, & such...

    The Climate, Temporature, & all that other stuff might not show the same Results as what we see Today...
    Again, yes, your Results are correct, but your only seeing what you see Today, your not seeing Results of a Living Atmasphere, though... What if we could change it, & make it livable?

    Again, as I said above, there are Draw Backs as you have also state if such a thing does accur where there is a Problem... It could be Catastrophic, & trouble some if it caused People to Die in the Crossfire, if say something like Plants were to die, from something we did, or something like that... oO

    And the Costs would be a Problem to cover... It's doable, but getting it done would not be easy, @_@

    Do I like this Idea? Yes, hell yes it would sound awesome... Would I want to be one to make the Trip? Hell Yes...
    But more importantly, would I want to be among the first to make that Trip?

    Hell Friggen No!!! Not if there is a huge chance I could Die, i'd rather them come up with a more Stable Planet Living Environment before I could live there first... Otherwise I would not want to live there at all, if my Life was to be at Risk, ~_~

    Agreed? No?

    Again, most of what I have said was just a Theory I have, it's no where near Accurate, & is not 100% True, it is more around the lines of a Possibility, one i'm pretty sure i'm willing to stick by...

    Again, i'm no Scientist, though, ^_^

    rholley
    Quite right, in the short term.
     
    In the longer term, if one could import lots of carbon dioxide from Venus, and hydrogen from the Jovian system, one might be able to do something about that atmosphere.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    robertinventor
    Robert, yes, with Venus having too much CO2 and Mars too little, if only there was some way to transfer it from one to the other... I've read ideas for expelling the CO2 from the Venus atmosphere, but there is so much of it and apparently if it stays in same orbit as Venus then the planet eventually would recapture nearly all of it, and you are back where you started.

    That though suggests a rather wild idea, I wonder if there is some way to expel it from Venus with sufficient velocity and in a suitable orbit so that eventually Mars captures most of the CO2 way down the line? .. Seems a bit far fetched, you'd think it would disperse too much before it got there, but I don't know, just throwing out an idea.

    Anyway apart from mega-engineering, there is a possibility that Mars might have large CO2 deposits below the surface. If so there might be enough to create an atmosphere suitable for growing plants, just by warming it up e.g. by use of giant space mirrors to focus more sunlight on the planet. Higher plants don't need as much oxygen as humans though most need some for their roots, and can make do with lower pressure as well. Algae are fine without oxygen and at low pressures. The CO2 cycle could be fixed perhaps by using other processes for circulating CO2, there are natural processes that can return CO2 to the atmosphere apart from volcanoes.

    So - seems not impossible to maybe within a few centuries to get to the point where you can grow plants on the surface of Mars and have standing water. Whether you could get enough oxygen for humans to breath is another matter, and much harder, needs very efficient photosynthesis to do that with plants alone, in less than at least perhaps tens of millennia, though it might be possible with algae. And whether the atmosphere can be got into cycles that will sustain it long term - that I think might be hardest of all. Because on Earth then the atmosphere is maintained over geological time by many different interacting cycles. Those cycles wouldn't work on Mars, so, could we set up different cycles that would work on Mars, and keep its atmosphere long term? Or would it all just revert to present climate conditions, maybe even quite quickly within a few thousand years?

    Anyway I'm planning another article on ecopoesis for Mars. It looks at different ideas for doing this and at the importance of introducing life in a proper succession. For instance you probably want to introduce algae before you introduce aerobes that consume the oxygen, or micro-organisms and other creatures that would eat the algae. Which is another reason for caution for human colonization, you might, unintentionally, colonize Mars also with micro-organisms that would make future Ecopoesis type terraforming of Mars almost impossible to do, if it is true that it needs a careful succession of micro-organisms like that to do it well.

    This is a good starting point for anyone interested in exploring biological ways of terraforming Mars and setting up long term cycles, assisted with some mega-engineering: Some Ideas Regarding the Biological Colonization of The Planet Mars
    If the CO2 could be solidified and fired like giant dry ice bullets from Venus to Mars, would they stay solid in space or sublimate?

    robertinventor
    Hi Rabbitnexus, that's a great idea, was just thinking about it myself coincidentally, something similar.
    One of the ideas for a way to deal with the atmosphere of Venus is to freeze it out. Might be simpler than you would think. Seems not at all unlikely that through space mining we might develop the ability to create thin polymer type square kilometer sized solar sails and space mirrors. If so - well make a fleet of them and position them between Venus and the sun. Make enough of them and you can block out nearly all the light from the sun. 

    The CO2 would then freeze out onto the surface. That's not a new idea - the problem then is - what to do about all that dry ice on the surface, do you cover it with something else (maybe impact comets on the surface?) and how do you stop it from turning back into gas when the planet warms up when you remove the mirrors?

    Well the idea was - fire all that CO2 to Mars. So just like your idea. To keep it from warming up during the journey, you use the same space mirror technology to keep it cold as you used to cool down Venus.

    Obviously very sketchy but seems perhaps not impossible in a mega-engineering future that one could "join the dots" and make it practical.
    Has anyone considered the long term effects of erosion on a terraformed Mars? Given the basalt composition of its crustal rock, and the lack of active volcanism & tectonism, if you introduced large amounts of air and water wouldn't erosion rapidly reduce the entire planet to a polished cue ball covered in a thin film of water? It's my understanding that Earth only has large landmasses because plate tectonics took enough water down to the mantle to allow granite,a much more durable rock than basalt to form. Obviously this would take place on a geologic timescale, but given that we are discussing the reconstruction of a planet that seems appropriate.

    robertinventor
    Thomas, seems a good point to me :). Actually Mars is not totally geologically inert. There is evidence that Olympus Mons is still changing, from its caldera, and other volcanic activity in the last few million years, indirect evidence from Phoenix that the CO2 in the atmosphere is relatively young and been replenished by volcanoes. Nothing like the rates on Earth, but enough so it is not totally inert.
    Also of course you have occasional very large impacts creating craters, you get 1 km impacts creating 10 km wide craters roughly every million years or so.

    Most of the other surface features on Mars remain from billions of years ago, e.g. the 

    Valles Marineris


    Fastest average erosion rates for regions on Earth 20 cm every 1000 years, would be 2 kilometers every billion years, wouldn't make much of a dent on Mount Olympus at 22 km high. But mountains would be preferentially eroded, and  e.g. Indus river erodes at 2-12 mm per year which would be easily enough to erode Mount Olympus completely in a billion years, but that is just the bed of a river, not the whole mountain. 

    So my guess is, if Mars is terraformed, perhaps somewhere between those two figures? Also, of course also Mars very different, colder, CO2 ice (maybe not after terraforming though), lower g. So anyway just some figures to suggest ideas and maybe rough first guess at an answer....




    In my opinion the only good reason on this list is reason 5. Everything else is basically a technological challenge that humans should be undertaking anyway; we will go extinct someday if we never leave earth, so we may as well be thinking about how to do it. I thought this article was disappointing in it's lack of vision.

    Let me say I don't mean to sound dismissive or disrespectful; I was just disappointed by what is mostly a list of technological challenges, and not any real philosophical reasons for not going to Mars. That's what I was expecting from the title. It's not that your list is inaccurate; I just disagree with essentially 9 of your reasons to not go to mars.

    robertinventor
    Hi, yes well apart from 5, which is a biggy, then as far as I know, the reasons are mainly technological. 
    Yes the other challenges can surely be overcome, there is nothing impossible about any of them, but Mars, at such a distance from Earth, and with the 8 minutes round trip minimum communications delay doesn't seem the right place to address them.

    Why start your colonization efforts with a location that is colder (because of shielding of the sun by Mars), prone to dust storms, far from Earth, and requiring roughly double the delta v to get there, or else risky unproven aerobraking technology? When there don't seem to be any major benefits in terms of resource utilization either? And when long term, then space habitats could provide far more living space than any planet?

    It's like choosing to colonize Siberia or Canada when you could instead colonize the tropics (which is what a space colony in orbit around the Earth would be like climatically, if you so wished, unless you shaded it).

    I'm interested in other philosophical reasons. The only ones I know of are, the ones to do with wanting to preserve the planet in a pristine state, either biologically or physically, and there are various reasons given for that. I could have gone into that some more, maybe will do some time, there is a fair bit of material on the subject. But the article was meant to talk about issues for people who want to live on Mars.

    You might though be interested in my other articles such as Asteroid Resources Could Create Space Habs For Trillions; Land Area Of A Thousand Earths which can help with the vision for future - if we do want to colonize space, and find a second home for Earth, I think it could be done that way much more easily than via attempts at colonizing planetary or moon surfaces. Though the poles of the Moon, the peaks of (almost) eternal light do seem rather promising for human settlement, perhaps the most habitable places we know of on a solar system body outside of Earth - except perhaps - the seas of Europa or Encladus, as underwater habitats, which however we probably are wise to leave uncontaminated until we know what is there and have a chance to study it.

    Thank you for the response, I see where you're coming from.

    If we're going to be just "practicing colonization" in some sense, I do think the moon is more practical in many, many ways. It's probably a bit less awe-inspiring, which I think is the point with the private sector efforts to send people to mars. I think it's good that people are thinking about these things... and you raise good points about why we should possibly be thinking about them in a different way.

    I've always wondered why there aren't more efforts to "colonize" the oceans; by that I just mean building larger scale, longer term underwater habitats. The amount that we could learn from such a process seems well worth the effort to me; and has implications for studying parts of our own solar system.

    robertinventor
    Yes, that's it. Yes, I feel a lot of the reason Mars seems more inspiring than the Moon is because of all the sci.fi. stories about Mars. If humans do colonize Mars and they don't meet Barsoom type aliens or immediately start terraforming Mars, both of which pretty unlikely or impossible, it will surely turn out to be as uninteresting to the general public as the Moon is right now.

    I'm sure a lot of that inspiration of Mars will just fade away. Same thing happened to the Moon. But the Moon is a pretty exciting interesting place to explore too. One thing, would really intrigue scientists - there may be meteorites on the surface of the Moon that got ejected by impacts into the early Earth soon after the Moon formed (or indeed even before it formed). These could have fossils of early life forms, maybe even biosignatures, from those early times. 

    Then there are the ice deposits at the poles. And the poles of the Moon are easily the most habitable areas of the solar system, the peaks of (almost) eternal light, just close to the craters of eternal night with ice deposits preserved at the lowest temperatures of the inner solar system. 
    I think the ice deposits at the poles are likely to be sensitive areas that we should study cautiously at first with rovers, and not let humans near it until well understood in case there is something or other of great scientific interest there. After all here on Earth we learn much from ice cores in Antarctica etc. But close to Earth so easy to study thoroughly in a short time, and then maybe human colonization of the poles would be a prospect.

    Then there are the caves on the Moon too, and the Apollo astronauts explored less rugged terrain. Who knows what there might be of interest on the Moon especially with scientists and geologists on the missions, the last Apollo mission was also the very first one to send a scientist to the Moon.

    With Mars I think there will be more sustained long term interest by the general public if explored via telepresence, especially with the reason for it carefully explained and well understood. Also, telerobots exploring Mars, controlled by humans via telepresence, I think are really cool, and youngsters brought up on computer games, I think would find them especially inspiring. Plus there may by then be the prospect of real time HD streaming from Mars, maybe using optical transmission, and all the video feeds of the rovers and telerobots operated by the astronauts could be streamed straight back to Earth. 
    I.e. with less rush, more patience, then I think will be of longer term interest and also more value in what we discover.


    Robert, thank you, great article. Colonizing Mars, if we choose to do so, will present many challenges. A few comments:

    You wrote:"Micro-organisms are problematical in an enclosed habitat. This is something the Russians found out with Soyuz." I was unaware, but I suppose it's hardly surprising such a thing could happen. Do you have links or references that point to these problems?

    Also, you wrote "With humans in orbit around Mars, then they could explore the surface with telepresence." Areostationary space stations (as was originally proposed by Tsiolkovsky in 1920)??

    robertinventor
    Truly Anomalous, Thanks, glad you like it. Yes lots of problems with biofilms in Soyuz, then in MIR and now also in the ISS too they have to guard against it.
    Here is a good overview: Microbial Colonization of Space Stations. See also Biocontamination in spacecrafts from the Biosmhars project to model spacecraft microbial contamination.

    Biofilms particularly behave differently in microgravity and often cause problems in space. See  Bacteria Sent Into Space Behave in Mysterious Ways

    There is lots gets published on this topic, perhaps those can get you started.

    On exploration of Mars by telepresence, yes you could do that, a Tsiolkovsky type aerostationary space station. Actually the best way to do it for telepresence, might be via a nearly sun synchronous slowly precessing Molniya orbit with period half of a Martian sol so 12 hours and 20 minutes.

    The advantage is that it is very easy to get into such an orbit, it is pretty much the same as a Mars capture orbit. The delta v to get to it is actually less than the delta v to get to the lunar surface.

    Then another advantage of the orbit is that twice a day you are really close to Mars, close enough to do direct telepresence control of rovers. And also it takes you close to Mars twice a day, over opposite sides of the planet.

    So, every day, you visit both sides of the planet close enough for telepresence operation of rovers and telerobots by direct transmission to the surface without any need for relaying.

    So e.g. half the crew could control the rovers on one side of the planet and the other half, twelve hours later, control the rovers on the other side of the planet.

    This was all worked out for the HERRO proposed mission. Other missions similar to this were proposed by Russia and by Lockheed Martin. See  HERRO MISSION TO MARS USING TELEROBOTIC SURFACE EXPLORATION FROM ORBIT for the HERRO mission. This is in 2011, and they reckoned that a single mission to Mars could achieve as much by telepresence as three conventional surface missions as far as science return and value, of course also for a far lower cost. Technology has moved on a lot since then so much more could be achieved with modern technology for telepresence.

    Russia suggested a similar mission as an international effort with US participation for the landers, called the Mars Piloted Orbital Station. Lockheed Martin suggested another one, the "Red Rocks project" as part of their "Stepping stones to Mars" project - this time the target is Deimos rather than an orbiting station. 

    Then there's Robert Zubrin's Double Athena Flyby. That's an ingenious idea, to use a Mars flyby not to capture the spacecraft, but to put it into an orbit almost the same as that of Mars. You have some hours very close to the planet, enough time to get quite a bit of work done - and then for some months you are within 10 light seconds of Mars,  still a major advantage for controlling the rovers, the whole mission lasts for a year and still close enough of course to be a major advantage over the entire ission, towards the end you have another few months close to Mars, then another few hours, like a working day, of really close telepresence operations at the end of the mission, followed by a final flyby that returns you to Earth.
    The advantage is, almost no use of fuel at Mars, just need the fuel to get there so is a minimum fuel orbit pretty much to achieve a fair amount of teleoperation at Mars. So low cost too.

    In his original plan, he has a crew of just two astronauts, so it is a mission you could fly at very low cost, though quite high risk of things going wrong with no backup if one of them is ill etc. Still, something some adventurous astronauts might consider...


    This is BS disinformation
    Secret governments of us and Russian has done had bases on mars since the sixties and there plant and animal life, lakes and forest on mars. There already has been experiments in settling mars but most died by attacks by native wildlife. Even though the atmosphere is thin you can breath it, like being on a high mountain. So this story is total be just like the lies about Venus, Google "jump rooms".

    robertinventor
    Hi badger badgerism, yes of course I've read about those ideas. But as someone who has been following space missions since the 1960s, and who follows space news avidly, I just don't find them believable or plausible.

    It all fits together and there are many scientists in many different countries studying Mars. Not just directly, also you can study the atmosphere of Mars from Earth by spectroscopic means. Even before the first spaceships went to Mars, before the first close up images by Mariner 4, and the Viking landers, it was already known that there is no oxygen there because it would show up in the spectroscopic analysis. That is with the technology of 1909, you don't need anything advanced to discover that there is no oxygen in the Mars atmosphere. More about this in my blog post Might there be microbes on the surface of Mars?

    Then, some meteorites (found in Antarctica) have been studied and found to have little pockets of gas in them which exactly match the gas composition measured on Mars by the rovers.  They are believed to originate from Mars.

    Unless you suggest a huge conspiracy not just by governments world wide but many independent scientists as well, in dozens of countries and hundreds of universities and establishments, and a conspiracy that has been on-going for over a century now (or one that rewrites the history of science) it is simply not plausible, as far as I can see. And the technology to go to Mars without anyone else on Earth knowing about the launches or being able to follow the spacecraft (when every launch is observed by amateur astronomers world wide) would be so awesome, you would be literally centuries ahead of the rest of humanity technologically. There doesn't seem much evidence of that. 

    This also often goes along with the idea that aliens supply the technology. Don't know if you suspect that too. But if so - why would they preferentially help the US government or the Russians - it makes no sense, there is no particular advantage to aliens to do that. I'm sure neither government would have anything a technologically advanced alien would need. Again if there were aliens here, which seems highly unlikely for other reasons (our solar system seems to be pristine as far as we can tell as does our galaxy in the near vicinity of Earth at least, no evidence of mega-engineering anyway) - if they have the technology to do just about anything they like to, why would they need or want to collaborate with any of the world governments?

    It just doesn't seem to add up. Just saying how it seems to me, sharing a few thoughts, hope they are interesting if probably not convincing to you.
    Robert, thank you for this. I never was a "science buff", but you made the article very interesting. You might even have started me off as a "science buff". All the best to you sir.

    Re:
    ""Little Prince" rover designed to support a single plant on Mars. Since seeds can be sterilized (unlike humans or animals), these could be grown without any risk of contaminating Mars with Earth micro-organisms."

    Has there been any success in growing sequestered food plants that exist completely without any kind of soil micro-organisms? Plants depend on nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil near the plant roots, for one example. But then, Mars probably already has its own existing soil micro-organisms. Foreign enough, that any sterilized tomato plant seed would (I'm guessing) quickly shrivel up and die, if Mars dirt was used as potting soil for a tomato plant.
    Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin's proposal deserves consideration: a manned landing on one of Mar's 2 mini-moons: Deimos or Phobos. Might provide sufficient gravity to lessen the health dangers of a zero gravity environment.

    robertinventor
    Okay, as I understand it, you can do hydroponics either with a completely sterile medium or you can add micro-organisms. The plants don't need the micro-organisms if you supply everything they need as nutrients in the water. So, if I understand it right, you do the nitrogen fixing etc. chemically to substitute for the micro-organisms that do it in nature.

    One of the ideas for a plant to send - to the Moon in this case - was a tulip. Was a suggestion by a Dutchman. Tulips grow from bulbs really easily just in water, so it makes sense, if you just want to demonstrate a plant growing on another planet or the Moon. :). Though I wonder how easy it is to totally sterilize something as large as a tulip bulb, maybe a smaller seed is easier??

    Probably won't be much by way of micro-organisms in Mars soil -  if there are any, think Antarctic dry deserts rather than your back garden soil. They may be slow growing, live for thousands of years, and may be very sparse, and only occur under special condtiions when the mix of salts is just right for thin films of salty brine to form, or under the surface of transparent rocks, or around droplets of water melting about specks of dust in the snow.


    Certainly not abundant or we'd have seen the effects by now with our rovers, would change the composition of the atmosphere. There is some evidence from Phoenix of the atmosphere interacting with surface water, so small quantities it seems do form on or near the surface, perhaps the deliquescing salts -  though they are not sure yet if it is there every year or just occasionally e.g. after meteorite impacts. So in short no-one yet knows for sure if there are habitats on Mars, and if there are, no-one knows if they are inhabited by micro-organisms or not, but if they are, then the life must surely be sparse, and probably slowly metabolizing.

    Some links on hydroponics: Urban Hydroponics Myths

    Aeroponics (growing plants with their roots in moist air, uses less water, for space etc)



    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    This is another great article that you have written Robert, such an interesting topic that you have explored and explained so succinctly but which still gives rise to much cause for concern :( 
    You have gone to a lot of trouble explaining why humans visiting Mars with our millions of resident microorganisms could easily pollute the Mars pristine environment that is so crucial for our understanding of the evolution of life and how this could also easily allow unanticipated and potentially very dangerous microorganisms to evolve on Mars and why there are apparently protocols in place to try to prevent this.

    On your earlier blog asking if human explorers can keep Mars pristine for science you said 'our rovers are sterilized, to at most 300 spores per square meter. That's quite good - but the spore count underestimates the total numbers of micro-organisms. Probably only 1% of the species are spore forming. Over the whole spacecraft, you have hundreds of thousands of micro-organisms on them, in dormant state. Many of these are probably still viable, even after the journey to Mars.'

    'That may seem a lot, but compared with the trillions of micro-organisms on a human, they are clean. The numbers involved are small enough so that there is a good chance that they haven't been able to reproduce due to the harsh conditions there. The best sterilized rover ever sent to Mars is the Viking Rover, in the 1970s. It is still considered the "Gold Standard" of planetary sterilization. It was sterilized to less than 30 spores for the entire spacecraft. The rules were relaxed somewhat after that because Mars was thought to be so inhospitable. But then stronger requirements were introduced again, for "special regions" on Mars.'


    However, in this and earlier blogs you also repeatedly mention how areas on the Moon are probably some of the most habitable places in our solar system  away from Earth. You also say that 'the Moon is a pretty exciting interesting place to explore too. One thing, would really intrigue scientists - there may be meteorites on the surface of the Moon that got ejected by impacts into the early Earth soon after the Moon formed (or indeed even before it formed). These could have fossils of early life forms, maybe even biosignatures, from those early times. '

    'Then there are the ice deposits at the poles. And the poles of the Moon are easily the most habitable areas of the solar system, the peaks of (almost) eternal light, just close to the craters of eternal night with ice deposits preserved at the lowest temperatures of the inner solar system. I think the ice deposits at the poles are likely to be sensitive areas that we should study cautiously at first with rovers, and not let humans near it until well understood in case there is something or other of great scientific interest there. After all here on Earth we learn much from ice cores in Antarctica etc. But close to Earth so easy to study thoroughly in a short time, and then maybe human colonization of the poles would be a prospect.'

    'Then there are the caves on the Moon too, and the Apollo astronauts explored less rugged terrain. Who knows what there might be of interest on the Moon especially with scientists and geologists on the missions, the last Apollo mission was also the very first one to send a scientist to the Moon.'

    I have a picture frame on the wall in front of me, containing 4 photographs of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, all taken by Neil Armstrong. One shows Buzz Aldrin coming down the ladder, another shows Armstrong and Apollo 11 reflected in Buzz's face mask, a third shows Buzz setting up equipment and the fourth shows him standing and looking at the American flag, with obvious footprints on the ground between him and Armstrong. 

    I've had these photos on the wall in my kids 'den' for many years, so it was fantastic to be able to read the amazingly detailed transcript and description of what took place before, during and after these photos were taken, in a link that Patrick Lockerby recently posted on his Science20 blog called 'One Small Step, two Small Strips or maybe Three' about the recent auctioning of Neil Armstrong's EKG strip see NASA Apollo 11 One Small StepI think its very worrying, that this Apollo 11 landing transcript shows that one of the first things Neil Armstrong did when he was climbing onto the ladder was put out the garbage, which will still be lying in that spot probably, unless it was incinerated by the Apollo 11 the take-off? 

    Catarina Amorim also wrote a Science20 article here, called 'Social Skills Are Key to Bacterial Evolution' and in the comments section, we discussed the possibility of the bacteria in these waste bags still being viable because according to this NASA article 'space historians will recall that the journey to the stars has more than one life form on its returning passenger list: the names of a dozen Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon and one inadvertent stowaway, a common bacteria, Streptococcus mitis, the only known survivor of unprotected space travel.' :-
     As Marshall astronomers and biologists met recently to discuss biological limits to life on Earth, the question of how an Earth bacteria could survive in a vacuum without nutrients, water and radiation protection was less speculative than might first be imagined. A little more than a month before the forthcoming millennium celebration, NASA will mark without fanfare the thirty year anniversary of documenting a microbe's first successful journey from Earth.

    The Surveyor probes were the first U.S. spacecraft to land safely on the Moon. In November, 1969, the Surveyor 3 spacecraft's microorganisms were recovered from inside its camera that was brought back to Earth under sterile conditions by the Apollo 12 crew.

    The 50-100 organisms survived launch, space vacuum, 3 years of radiation exposure, deep-freeze at an average temperature of only 20 degrees above absolute zero, and no nutrient, water or energy source. (The United States landed 5 Surveyors on the Moon; Surveyor 3 was the only one of the Surveyors visited by any of the six Apollo landings. No other life forms were found in soil samples retrieved by the Apollo missions or by two Soviet unmanned sampling missions, although amino acids - not necessarily of biological origin - were found in soil retrieved by the Apollo astronauts.)

    How this remarkable feat was accomplished only by Strep. bacteria remains speculative, but it does recall that even our present Earth does not always look as environmentally friendly as it might have 4 billion years ago when bacteria first appeared on this planet.

    At that time I had just watched a 'Smarter every day' YouTube answering the question 'Is there poop on the Moon?' and the answer was a resounding 'yes'. Not only poop and the trillions of bacteria it contains but also urine, food waste, used towels and paper, cameras, batteries and much more were left behind by the astronauts. At the end of the YouTube video the presenter goes to a science museum and cuts open one of the 60 year old poop bags that did return from the space mission to investigate its contents. 


    It would be interesting to know what was happening to the trillions of bacteria that we have already left behind on the Moon wouldn't it? Have they managed to start to colonize the Moon yet or have they just formed bacterial endospores? Wiki describes how resilient these endospores can be :-
    Certain genera of Gram-positive bacteria, such as Bacillus,  Clostridium,  Sporohalobacter,    Anaerobacter and Heliobacterium, can form highly resistant, dormant structures called endospores.
    Endospores show no detectable metabolism and can survive extreme physical and chemical stresses, such as high levels of UV light, gamma radiation, detergents, disinfectants, heat, freezing, pressure and desiccation.[72] In this dormant state, these organisms may remain viable for millions of years,[73][74] and endospores even allow bacteria to survive exposure to the vacuum and radiation in space.[75] According to scientist Dr. Steinn Sigurdsson, "There are viable bacterial spores that have been found that are 40 million years old on Earth — and we know they're very hardened to radiation."
    Could the rudiments of bacterial life now be evolving on the Moon, thanks to man's visits there as the universetoday website also reports that there is definitely water on the Moon :-
    Three different spacecraft have confirmed there is water on the Moon. It hasn’t been found in deep dark craters or hidden underground. Data indicate that water exists diffusely across the moon as hydroxyl or water molecules — or both — adhering to the surface in low concentrations. Additionally, there may be a water cycle in which the molecules are broken down and reformulated over a two week cycle, which is the length of a lunar day. This does not constitute ice sheets or frozen lakes: the amounts of water in a given location on the Moon aren’t much more than what is found in a desert here on Earth. But there’s more water on the Moon than originally thought. Read more at :-   http://www.universetoday.com/41212/yes-theres-water-on-the-moon/#ixzz2FOPiVz6y
    Sorry this is such a long comment but I would love to know what you think about the Moon's previously pristine environment already having been so heavily polluted with our trillions of microorganisms left behind in our poop bags and rubbish and what the repercussions could be?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Hi Helen,
    Glad you like it. Yes surely there must be viable micro-organisms on the Moon from the lunar landings and the waste they left there. Actually the Surveyor camera result is controversial because there was a breach of protocol which meant it could theoretically have been contaminated by Earth life. But generally from what we know about micro-organisms some of them surely are still viable.

    However, the part of the Moon they visited is amazingly dry. No trace of moisture at all, or ice. Doesn't have any minerals with water as part of their composition either (such as clay).

    Yes, it's not totally dry. With modern tools small amounts of bound water can be detected, and not well understood how that happened. A space settlement might be able to extract that water. 

    Anyway but I gather, apart of course from the polar ice, the water is bound up in the rocks. It is there as water content of the mineral apatite. I don't think micro-organisms could use that water - not without some other source of free water to live in.


    Also there is nowhere near enough of a lunar atmosphere for micro-organisms to get water from the atmosphere, so the Mars lichen trick won't work there, also the deliquescing salts wouldn't work either. 


    So as all known Earth micro-organisms need water in some form to grow, seems pretty certain that any life there is dormant. Some of them were in little micro-habitats with water already in them so I suppose those would continue to metabolize for a while until they dried up. 


    It's also biologically reversible on the Moon. Unlike Mars - on Mars if you did the same thing left bags of waste on the surface then the global dust storms and the dust devils would eventually spread them around all over. On the Moon the atmosphere is so very thin, what there is of it, that you don't have any wind or wind erosion.


    On the Moon, all you have by way of erosion is the "gardening" by micro-meteorites which would stir it up a bit but not spread it far (this would eventually over geological time erase the astronaut's footprints too). Apart from a major impact, they will just stay where they are for millennia, just get spread out a bit by micro-meteorite "gardening". 


    So in principle if we wanted to we could send rovers to Mars to remove all the micro-organisms leaving a biologically pristine planet.


    For the polar ice deposits - then the ice is so very cold that again life could make no use of it, that is how it is able to survive over geological time because permanently shadowed - if any sunlight fell on it at all it would sublime and disappear.

    Temperatures in the lunar craters of eternal night never rise above 100 K or -173 C. The lowest temperature that life is known to be able to metabolize on Earth is -25C. Though that limit  will surely go down a bit further, as new discoveries are made, like most records, it is nearly 150C warmer than the lunar ice deposits at their warmest, as best we know, doesn't seem much chance that those could be habitable.

     The danger of contamination there is more just that if you get rocket exhausts or biological debris on the surfaces then no longer a pristine thing to study. So you probably want to send a minimal impact light weight rover there to study it in its pristine state first before you think about sending a heavy human ship + of course waste gases etc. Which surely you would want to do anyway before sending a human colonization expedition there, so you know what you are headed for, but if they found something really interesting I imagine it might need to be protected somehow or delay the expedition until it can be studied.



    benaroya
    Robert, a very interesting article. As you know, there has been a twenty year "battle" between those who want to settle the Moon and those who prefer Mars. Yours is a plausible proposal, but building a space station to orbit Mars is quite an undertaking. We saw how difficult it was building one just 250 above our heads in orbit around Earth. How would we bring all the Mass required to build the station? Would we use astronauts as construction teams? How would we shield them from radiation and the itinerant micrometeorite?

    In my view, a return to the Moon is ideal in so many ways, here are a few: 3 days' flight, instantaneous (almost) communications, no more hostile than Mars, numerous elements in the regolith for near-term in-situ resource utilization coupled with 3D printing of habitats and other needs, great place for all kinds of science.

    As an aside, estimates for terraforming Mars ~ 300 years. Talk about a long-term project! Maybe a project for the 2100s, after we colonize the Moon, Mars, and build space elevators to orbit both and Earth.

    Nice discussion, I enjoyed it.
    Haym Benaroya
    robertinventor
    Hayim, thanks, glad you enjoyed it :). I see an orbital Mars station as a gradual thing.

    For my first human mission to Mars orbit actually, I'd follow the HERRO plan, but send two spaceships to Mars. First would be sent unmanned, with all the same provisions as for a manned mission, and instead of crew, have extra provisions and duplicates of critical components.

    It would work as a "dummy run" to check the main hardware and would mean you have duplicates of everything already in place around Mars - and since the design process is the main part of the cost, would probably not add much to the cost of the mission. So you have duplicates of all the equipment in place at Mars and in the worst case if something malfunctions on your spaceship, you can transfer the entire crew to the duplicate ship. Or use components of one ship to repair the other.

    I.e. very like the plans for surface missions, which also send habitats in advance before the crew, but do it in space.

    Probably to start with the orbital habitats just as for the surface proposals would build up like that using modules from Earth. Shielding isn't as hard as you'd think because you only need to shield the sleeping quarters heavily, where they can sit out a major storm and spend much of their time. No need to shield a greenhouse so much if you have one for growing food (though in a bigger station, you can shield greenhouse areas too if you use mirrors to direct light around the shielding because thin mirrors do not reflect cosmic rays which pass right through them). Water is good for shielding, HERRO uses the water supply for shielding, you can use fuel for the return journey for shielding too.

    Yes I'd see a Mars orbital colony as mainly explorers to start with. Also at that distance from Earth you need highly trained people, who can handle any emergency without backup from Earth as with 8 minute round trip consultation time it could be a nightmare to assist them with some serious technical issue from Earth. Probably astronauts who "wrote the manual" for spaceship systems :). Plus some scientists too exobiologist / geologist for the experiments, you need both, ideally combined in a single person but if crew is large enough. 

    Less trained people can colonize colonies nearer to Earth, to start with. But once the technology is well underway then the Mars colony could expand to include dozens of people. And for resources - in Mars orbit you could use the resources from Deimos.

    You can also use materials from the NEOs since you'd be in no hurry - just like the habitats, send them in advance via the Interplanetary Super Highway - long leisurely paths probably including a few fly-bys of the Moon and Earth, so do much of the mining near to Earth which you are doing anyway for the Earth space colonies, just redirect some of the material to Mars. It might be easier than mining Deimos, if you already have mining companies in space mining the NEOs.

    Also just as on surface of Mars you would be using telerobots. So for mining Deimos most likely most of it is automated or using telerobots controlled from your spaceships in orbit around Mars.

    Yes totally agree about Moon. Another big advantage of it which you haven't mentioned (but surely know about) is that the far side of the Moon must be currently the most radio quiet area of the solar system, the only place permanently blocked from all radio signals from Earth. You'd be able to study the galaxy over the entire radio spectrum and not just the few frequencies allocated to radio astronomers on Earth.

    You could also do things like build huge accelerators like the LHC on the moon, I mean of course a long way down the road quite a few decades from now when you have industry there as well. Would already be a vacuum, and if you built it underground, would be pretty cold already as well.

    Also mining helium 3 for nuclear fusion power.

    Probably lots of other things we haven't even imagined yet.






    Piffle and horsefeathers!

    All we need to do is send Ah-nuld to Mars who will then activate an alien air-making machine, which hopefully, will also amp up Mars' magnetic field. And, voila, most problems solved.

    Things could still be a bit iffy about the low gravity, though. Maybe people could wear lead sole boots or something.

    Just trying to be helpful. Gotta problem that needs solving? Just send Ah-nuld to the rescue. Besides, he likes Mars. And wants to get there pronto if not sooner.

    robertinventor
    :)
    Interesting article, but as a Canadian, I don't quite appreciate the idea of "colonizing" my country...

    robertinventor
    Oh sorry, see what you mean, I didn't mean it seriously! Not proposing anyone else colonizes Canada or Siberia :).

    Was just a rhetorical question, to give an idea of inhospitability of Mars. I'm in a sparsely populated area too, in Scotland, Inner Hebrides, population density 11 people per square mile, not quite as low as Canada, but anyway, again much better place to colonize than Mars. I'll make it clearer.
    Hank
    Canada is still a separate country? I thought we bought them years ago, because we needing the parking space. 

    :)

    Clearly, Robert was kidding and it seems you were too, so I thought I would jump in. Have a nice weekend!
    robertinventor
    Hank, oh right yes, I think so, can easily miss humour in text replies :). Have a nice weekend too!
    This is a great article and for a while I returned to the hope I had as a child (52). Space exploration is one of the only aress of human endeavour not tainted by the evil NWO. We might get off this rock one day, but I can assure you, it won't happen with 7.1 billion peope still alive. Just like the truth on so many subjects, the truth about what is really going on in space alludes the majority of people. Take the statements made by Gary Mckinnon. The US already has a substantial space fleet. Every single space picture is carefully checked and if necessary, airbrushed to remove incriminating evidence. The staggering levels of corruption which Infect every area of life, surely the final frontier is just as corrupt.

    robertinventor
    Glad to hear it. Honestly though, there are numerous amateur astronomers world wide and they are the members of the public most familiar with astronomy from direct observation. Astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateur contributions are still important and significant. 

    I think that helps to keep astronomy grounded and it wouldn't be easy for some agency to fool all those amateur astronomers, never mind the professional astronomers worldwide too. Other countries many with fine astronomers and space programs of their own, such as Japan, China, Russia, India etc, would have no interest in maintaining a deception that promotes US interests.

    It's a similar situation for UFOs. As a child I used to think that UFOs might really be ETs visiting Earth, for a few years, and read many of the reports. But then gradually I realised, that amateur astronomers never seem to observe them, at least, none of the reports I read were from amateur astronomers.

    That's a bit strange as every starry night you get amateur astronomers out in large numbers observing and photographing the sky and they are by far the members of the general public most familiar with the night sky. More familiar with it than airplane pilots, I would say. They would surely be the first to notice if there really were ETs buzzing Earth with flying saucers visible to humans.

    Nowadays, I do still think that there probably are ETs (many astronomers think it is quite likely they exist), but they are most likely hundreds or thousands of light years away. So, it will probably, sadly, be impossible to have a two way conversation with them unless they have discovered faster than light technology. It is also highly likely that they would be millions of years in advance of us technologically because it would be just too much of a coincidence for two technological races to develop independently in the same "blink" of geological time.

    At any rate, why would ETs be on Earth and only in communication with the military (what interest could a millions of years old ET civilization have in the military of the US??), and why should they be seen often by members of the general public who are not particularly knowledgeable about astronomy, but almost never by amateur astronomers?

    Just some questions it might be interesting to think over.

    Oh and if we get to the point where it is as easy to fly into space as it is to fly to another continent, which may be possible with some of the new technologies underway, then the whole population of the Earth could migrate to space, if it so wanted to. Not saying it would, or that it would be a good idea to do it even, but it could do, there are about a billion airplane flights world wide, and so in a few years the whole population could easily leave the planet if there were the same numbers of flights into space.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    It's a similar situation for UFOs. As a child I used to think that UFOs might really be ETs visiting Earth, for a few years, and read many of the reports. But then gradually I realised, that amateur astronomers never seem to observe them, at least, none of the reports I read were from amateur astronomers.

    That's a bit strange as every starry night you get amateur astronomers out in large numbers observing and photographing the sky and they are by far the members of the general public most familiar with the night sky. More familiar with it than airplane pilots, I would say. They would surely be the first to notice if there really were ETs buzzing Earth with flying saucers visible to humans.

    Robert, a girlfriend and I clearly saw a totally silent, rotating, silver UFO for about 20 minutes, in broad daylight back in December 2006. We even managed to briefly focus a telescope on it but unfortunately it disappeared when I ran to get my camera. I have mentioned this several times here at Science20, even drawn sketches of what we saw and have been duly ridiculed by some skeptics.

    I can find the links if you want, however the general consensus of opinion from most commentators here is that what we probably saw was some kind of top secret, high tech, military aircraft that looked like a silver, flying saucer that was slowly rotating and that remained in one spot for quite some time before tilting 45 degrees and then apparently disappearing into thin air.

    You say that not many amateur astronomers have reported seeing UFOs, so I just Googled that interesting observation and found quite a few links disagreeing with what you are saying. Here is one called 'A list of sightings by Astronomers'. Also this Yahoo answers website asks the question 'How is it Claimed Amateur Astronomers Do Not See UFOs - How is 450 Years of Evidence Ignored?' which also links to the UFO chronicles http://www.theufochronicles.com/2008/11/… as a current set of examples and http://www.bufora.org.uk/Articles/Astron… as the referenced article in the above link.

    OK, these reported sightings are all very difficult to scientifically authenticate, just as our UFO sighting was but I don't think its fair to say that no amateur astronomers are claiming to have observed, documented and even photographed UFOs in the past, especially as there are apparently sometimes over one hundred in a year.

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Helen, that's interesting, didn't know about these observations. I stand corrected, so amateur astronomers do report UFOs :).

    As to what they were, some of them read to me like fireballs. Others could be satellites flying in formation, e.g. triangular formations, perhaps from the Naval Ocean Surveillance System, a striking thing to observe for an amateur astronomer who doesn't know about the possibility. Also satellite flares where a satellite briefly flares up brightly and then disappears from sight, making it look rather unlike the satellites you are used to, the Iridium satellites are renowned for that. 
    Another thing that can look like a UFO is a rocket launch from some distance away beyond the horizon. I mean a proper launch into space e.g. by US or Russia. You can check that by the times and if any launches were made on that date / time and what their orbits were. Ditto for the satellites too if they are those then even the classified ones are tracked by enthusiastic amateur astronomers so you can find predicted orbits for them (sometimes not too reliable long term as some of them are capable of changing orbit, I mean not rapidly like a UFO, but can change).

    I suppose the main difference between amateur astronomers and the general public or pilots etc is that they do quite often spot things in the sky that are UFOs strictly in the sense that they don't know what they are when they first see them, but they know of more things that could look like UFOs.  So an amateur astronomer would ask their friends and colleagues and probably eventually find out what it was. 
    But not always apparently :). Perhaps more likely to be baffled if the don't know many other experienced amateur astronomers to ask?

    As you say hard to authenticate. 

    For your own sighting, that does sound rather strange. One thing I wonder - could it be a UFO shaped kite? It could drop out of sight in between and might seem larger and further away than it was.

    It's a bit surprising but perfectly circular kites looking quite a bit like a UFO can have good aerodynamics and fly well. And in a strong wind can move rapidly.

    It's what immediately sprung to mind because you said in broad daylight, and spinning, and circular or ufo shaped kites usually spin, and could easily be silvery in appearance, might indeed be designed to look like a UFO for fun, and could be large too.


    Close up it is obviously manmade, but further away, and you can't see the string, and maybe one not so obviously wrinkled as this picture, it could look quite a bit like a UFO.
    Another spinning kite.




    Sounds a bit like a kite because in the middle of the day and spinning.



    That's just to give an idea, they can be large, and come in many different shapes.

    You also get silvery things floating in the sky in the daytime, helium balloons most likely of various shapes that can be quite shiny drifting overhead, again they can seem further away and larger than they are, I've seen those sometimes, perhaps a few hundred meters up.

    Some probably made deliberately by enthusiasts, like this one:



    and others, balloons for some celebration, that were released either by accident or on purpose, and can be quite large.

    Also weird flying machines made by enthusiasts, such as radio controlled UFO like models designed to look like a UFO.

    Here is a radio controlled UFO:


    Or commercial remote controlled drones such as are used by the police sometimes or for imaging purposes, or by hobbyists just for fun

    Here is a a rather fun human rated flying machine, though don't suppose you'd mistake it for a UFO :)



    (Germany, 2011)


    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Robert, thanks for sharing your thoughts and links :) I posted my original UFO sketches on Gerhard Adam's very interesting blog, which was called 'Are We Still Alone? Humanities Quest for a Friend'.

    Here are my rather bad sketches again below. Unlike all of the videos of kites the UFO that we saw was not moving around at all in the wind, it stayed in the same spot for 20 minutes, slowly rotating. The reason we knew it was rotating was because it had protrusions that could be seen to be moving around. I have searched through hundreds of photos of UFOs but have never seen one with these same protrusions.

    However, I did just find the UFO photo below at the Best UFO Pictures website and it reminded me of the UFO we saw quite a bit, because it was shiny silver metallic and similar shape, though the one in the photo is shinier than the one we saw and it is tilted away, so if there were protrusions you wouldn't be able to see them, so its the best match I can find but its still not even a good match.

    When I first saw the UFO I thought it was a glider coming towards us with the sunlight reflecting on its windscreen and on its wings and that this was somehow creating an optical illusion of a flying saucer. It was only when I noticed that it had stayed in the same location for 10 minutes or so that I decided to take a much closer look with the telescope, where I then saw it very clearly and it was almost definitely not a silver helium balloon or a kite.

    BTW I was at my farm at the time of the UFO sighting on a deck 100 meters above sea level looking down on the 100 acres of farmland that we owned below the deck and across the valley towards Tyagarah Airport and Byron Bay. There was no one visibly flying a kite or a radio controlled UFO on our land or on our neighbours land at the time because we would have been able to see them clearly   :-
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    How intriguing :). I have no idea what it is!
    Also you are talking about 2006, when radio controlled drones were rarer, and why would they fly over your farm anyway? And hobbyists RC controlled flying I believe is limited by regulation to a certain distance, so they would have to be close by it to control it and I can well imagine in the open countryside of Australia that you could be totally certain that there was no-one there controlling a kite or a RC vehicle.

    Just checked the regulations, seems in Australia, hobbyists have to operate within line of sight of their aircraft, and in designated areas for hobbyist flying.
    http://www.casa.gov.au/wcmswr/_assets/main/lib100071/uas.pdf

    Commercial UAVs can fly more widely if below 400 ft. Is there any chance it could be a commercial UAV - e.g. doing photographic mapping of the land? 

    That's about the only thing I can think of, that seems vaguely plausible, so far. :).

    Something like this
    http://www.coptercam.com.au/

    But you had a close up view in a telescope and clear sketch and doesn't look like a quadrocopter cam - anyone here recognise it as any other type of known commercial UAV?

    I've posted your image to my facebook timeline (with a link to your post here), in case maybe some of my friends there with experience of flying RC vehicles etc might have an idea what it is.
    KRA5H
    I took a look at the "best UFO photographs" website. most of the pictures are too fuzzy to identify, but I did come across this picture

    It seems to resemble this object:

    KRA5H
    here's a picture of the US Navy x47b:

    It resembles your drawing somewhat and might have been a test flight of an ozzie military drone.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks Steve for that photo, its a very impressive aircraft and I think it is the same one that Patrick Lockerby once showed me on another blog here, that I can't find now. That's almost the same close up detail that I saw through the telescope of our UFO, so I'm quite sure that what we saw wasn't a US Navy x47b. It didn't have a sharp edge like that, it was a different shape, perfectly symmetrical apart from the protrusions but even they seemed to be equidistant and symmetrical as the UFO rotated but I'm not sure if there were 3, 4 or 5 protrusions as I was only seeing it from one side and it was rotating so they were moving. 

    The UFO we saw was a metallic silver all over, there were no markings and no sign of any landing gear underneath or anything like a windscreen. Maybe the triangular protrusions were windows but they were not noticeably a different colour or texture when they were briefly silhouetted before rotating out of sight. The triangular protrusions gave the UFO an almost fluid appearance as it rotated, a bit like the liquid mercury which we used to play with at school in chemistry classes! Here again is the photo from the 'best UFO Pictures Ever' website that reminds me of the UFO we saw the most, as you can see it doesn't look like a US Navy x47b either, it has no sharp edges and is very smooth and symmetrical and almost fluid looking from below :-



    The account given for the UFO in this photo  is :- 
    'Palm Harbor Park, Florida - 01-17-13 - Unidentified Silver Object Photographed over Florida I was at WL Parks playing basketball, and taking my Garcinia Body pill around 11 am when 2 pool cleaners screamed, "Hey look."I looked at what they were looking at and saw a silver Frisbee-like object. The one guy said he watched it shoot backwards, then stay still, and that’s when he screamed for his friend to look which is when it got my attention.I ran over and they tried to take pictures and their cellphones weren’t working, so I ran back and got my camera that was in the truck. I just got back to a clearing by them when I zoomed in and took a picture. A second later it was gone; it disappeared as if you stomped on a soda can to flatten it.'

    It sounds as though the UFO they saw also disappeared suddenly like ours did. Maybe the UFO we saw was some sort of atmospheric phenomena, a rotating build up of some form of energy that is contained in one spot and looks metallic? Or maybe there are new secret military aircraft that are much more symmetrical than the US Navy x47b and that are able to rotate silently in one spot? 

    However, in the unlikely event that it was an extra terrestrial UFO that we saw, maybe its occupants have the same concerns about not polluting our prisitine environment on Earth with their extraterrestrial microorganisms that we have about Mars and the Moon or maybe our microorganisms could be dangerous for them, so they try to keep a very low profile and don'r make any contact? If that's the case then they are not doing very well at keeping a low profile because there are thousands of UFO sightings ever year by amateur astronomers as well as the general public and pilots. Maybe some or even all of those are bogus but all I know is that our UFO sighting was genuine!

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I think Patrick's image was at this link:
    http://www.science20.com/comments/144652/Helen_maybe_you_saw

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    Yes thanks Gerhard, that's yet another very impressive looking aircraft that fits some of the criteria of being saucer shaped and having some triangular protrusions that I checked out earlier but it was definitely not the UFO that I saw up close through the telescope in 2006. 


    Rereading your article I came across this quite interesting observation that I originally found at Science Panorama that I have decided to repost again here, as it seems quite relevant again. Maybe terrifying is a bit of an exaggeration though :)

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    The X47b is an impressive looking aircraft isn't it :)
    Helen, that's also a thought I have about if they are ETs, that for whatever reasons they don't want to interfere with us. And maybe they have colonized the entire galaxy but in a highly non invasive way, just a few ETs per star, say. That could explain why we don't see any evidence of them.
    But as you say they don't seem to be doing a very good job of hiding themselves.  

    That's surprising as it is extremely unlikely that any ET would develop technology even within a million years of us. So they are surely millions of years old civilizations.


    If they want to find out about us, they could surely do it using nanotechnology (self destroying nanomachines, that destroy themselves with no trace at all) or some other method that is simply not detectable at all at our level of technology. 

    They wouldn't need to come to the surface with their spaceships either as they must have telepresence and telerobotics far advanced over what we have, and why send big spaceships when they could send spaceships probably just as capable the size of an insect or even smaller?

    They might also be able to optically cloak their spaceships and at least could camouflage them to be almost undetectable so that optically and probably through all wavelengths, they seem to be just like the sky behind them, after all we can already do that with cars on the surface, not really that high technology, and they could probably be radar invisible too.

    Why send big spaceships that we can see? Unless they want to be seen? But if they want to be seen, why do they let themselves be seen only occasionally? What is it all for?


    BTW on your UFO, the thing that Billy thought immediately was a balloon. Is that possible? Maybe not an obvious helium balloon with a string, but e.g. something someone made to resemble a UFO, and then lost? Or a helium balloon after it is deflated a bit?

    There are clouds that look like UFOs but they don't disappear suddenly, just gradually, and are huge things, and white or generally cloud coloured, doesn't sound like the same thing. I don't know of any atmospheric phenomenon that resembles a silvery spinning ufo.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    BTW on your UFO, the thing that Billy thought immediately was a balloon. Is that possible? Maybe not an obvious helium balloon with a string, but e.g. something someone made to resemble a UFO, and then lost? Or a helium balloon after it is deflated a bit?
    I've Googled helium balloons that look like UFOs and it came back with hundreds of images. Like the photos of UFOs I couldn't find anything much that looked like the UFO we saw. Here are a couple of helium balloons that look like UFOs and both bear little resemblance to what we saw, the second one is best but still nothing like our UFO  :-














    There are clouds that look like UFOs but they don't disappear suddenly, just gradually, and are huge things, and white or generally cloud coloured, doesn't sound like the same thing. I don't know of any atmospheric phenomenon that resembles a silvery spinning ufo.
    There's no way that what we saw was a cloud, of that I am absolutely sure!
    They might also be able to optically cloak their spaceships and at least could camouflage them to be almost undetectable so that optically and probably through all wavelengths, they seem to be just like the sky behind them, after all we can already do that with cars on the surface, not really that high technology, and they could probably be radar invisible too.
    Now what you are saying here Robert is very interesting and may be relevant. The most amazing thing about the UFO we saw was really the way that it just suddenly disappeared. I got the impression that it was waiting quietly in the same spot, slowly rotating until it was exactly the right time and position to depart. Then it tilted 45 degrees, a bit like the angle of the top left helium balloon, made a slight upwards movement to the right and completely disappeared into thin air. No doubt about it, it didn't deflate or pop it just suddenly disappeared. 

    My gut feeling was that it left our atmosphere and Earth at something close to the speed of light and that it was waiting for that exact moment to leave in exactly that direction. I think we as observers were irrelevant. However, maybe I'm wrong and it just switched on some kind of optical camouflage to become optically cloaked to look like blue sky just for us, simply because I was running for my camera! I very much doubt it though. How would its occupants know that my telescope that I had focused on it earlier, wasn't a camera too?

    I know the date was Sunday December 10th and roughly the time that the UFO departed, about 11:30 am and presumably I could calculate the latitude and longitude of where we and the UFO were, so what I think would be interesting would be to chart roughly where in our galaxy the UFO was heading towards in that direction, if it had continued in a straight line, wouldn't it? Unfortunately I don't know how to do that.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Okay, Helen - for the camouflage I meant something more like the Star Trek cloaking device, completely hides the ship from all viewers in all directions.
    All that needs is a lot of cameras so small as to be invisible from a distance all over the spacecraft, and lots of super bright LEDs covering it as well, and the cameras photograph the sky, or landscape etc, and display on the other side what a viewer would see. The LEDs have to be super bright in order to show e.g. the sky and even the sun with the same brightness that it falls on the spacecraft. It could then even fly across the face of the sun as seen from Earth, and not show a silhouette.

    There are other ways you could do it too, by bending the light around the spaceship. It is a bit beyond us technologically but not something that requires new laws of physics, more of an engineering and technological thing, and there are devices based on the cameras + bright LEDs idea, that can make a car or a tank almost invisible in infrared, unless you look closely.

    Its camouflage technology would be perfect and all their machines would surely be 100% reliable, probably with automatic self repairing nanotechnology. I may be missing something, but just can't see how their spaceships could be visible to humans unless they wanted us to see them. Also don't see how they could crash either. Not if it is a millions of years old technological civilization, and anything else is so much of a coincidence that they would develop their technology at almost the same time as humans, I find it next to impossible to believe.

    Not sure I'm understanding right, are you saying it disappeared in front of your eyes, you actually saw it disappear? I thought at first that you meant that you saw it, went for your camera, and it had disappeared by the time you turned your camera onto it. 

    For helium balloons, well there are lots of shapes, thousands probably, if it was closer than you thought, hard to judge distances and sizes in the sky, something like this


    with the cells around the edge deflated because it's been aloft for a long time?

    Just a thought, and not sure how it could disappear :).

    BTW didn't mean the cloud as a serious suggestion. Just because you were talking about atmospheric phenomenon and it's the only one (apart from ball lightning of course) I can remember that can be mistaken for a UFO. But yours surely wasn't a cloud, never heard of a silver cloud :).

    BTW if you do an image search for "ufo clouds" you come up with some nice images like these ones :).




    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I may be missing something, but just can't see how their spaceships could be visible to humans unless they wanted us to see them. Also don't see how they could crash either. Not if it is a millions of years old technological civilization, and anything else is so much of a coincidence that they would develop their technology at almost the same time as humans, I find it next to impossible to believe.
    Can you explain to me why any visiting ETs have to be from a millions of years old technological civilization because anything else is so much of a coincidence? We have done so much with just a couple of hundred years of technology, couldn't they have done a hell of a lot with say ten thousand years of technology? Why do they have to have MILLIONS of years of technology? Why is checking out another technologically advancing civilization using say 10,000 year old technology still not an option?

    If they have worked out ways of travelling that somehow exceed the speed of light or circumvent it somehow by maybe taking short cuts through 'wormholes' or by utilising branes or parallel dimensions or teleportation in technological ways that we don't yet understand, then maybe they are able to travel here occasionally or even regularly, check us out and/or collect things that they need and then leave without bothering us.

     Maybe they just view us as reasonably intelligent primates and mammals that they can avoid quite easily when they want to? Maybe they camouflage themselves most of the time and occasionally for some reason that we don't yet understand they don't bother to camouflage themselves? Maybe they get complacent or just see us a bit like cows or horses grazing in a field and forget the camouflage or maybe when they are waiting to leave the atmosphere at very high speeds or using complex or very precise technology they can't camouflage themselves so easily because they are too busy charging their spacecraft up in some quite complex way, while preparing it and themselves to leave?
    Not sure I'm understanding right, are you saying it disappeared in front of your eyes, you actually saw it disappear? I thought at first that you meant that you saw it, went for your camera, and it had disappeared by the time you turned your camera onto it. 
    Yes, it disappeared in front of our eyes, after tilting 45 degrees. It appeared to make a very slight movement up and to the right in the same direction that it had tilted towards, from where we were standing and then it vanished into thin air! 

    BTW Robert I'm certain that it looked nothing like any helium balloon that I have ever seen, either inflated or deflated. It remained in exactly the same position and shape for at least 20 minutes, it was not in any way affected by the wind or blowing around on the end of a string. The UFO was rotating at the same speed all of the time that I looked at it through the telescope and though the speed of the rotation was not so easily visible with our naked eyes, I never noticed any change in that speed or any other movement by the UFO other than the tilt and its subsequent immediate departure or disappearance.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Okay, then I give up no idea, with the sudden vanishing as well in plain sight. :). I can't think of anything that would do that.
    The reason I think their civilization has to be millions of years old, if there are ETs, is because otherwise it is just too much of a coincidence.

    Reasoning is something like this: our Earth is 4.7 billion years old. Their star would probably also be population I like the Sun (to have plenty of the higher atomic weight elements), but the oldest population I stars are about 10 billion years old, so it could be a few billion years older or younger/

    Then, could easily take a billion years more or less than us to evolve as well. Many of the steps in evolution that lead to us could have happened a few hundred million years longer or shorter, especially at the beginning, e.g. the slow oxygenation of our atmosphere. 

    So one way or another there must surely be leeway of at least a few billion years one way or another for evolution of life.

    So - chance that they develop technology even within a million years of us is probably less than one in several thousand, at a rough guess. Chance of an ET that develops technology within say 10,000 years of us, one chance in hundreds of thousands.

    Of course not totally impossible but seems very unlikely, unless there is some common cause for them and us to develop technology at almost exactly the same time.

    I like your idea that maybe they just don't bother about their camouflage, or have to switch it off on occasion.

    Yes I see nothing impossible about ETs that can do faster than light travel, because our knowledge of physics is so imperfect including not knowing how to combine GR and QM. I suppose if they had also faster than light communication and had automated listening posts on all the stars on the galaxy, they wouldn't have to be actually there, but could do FTL travel to visit a star if something interesting was reported by the listening post. If they can only find out by telescopic observation from stars thousands of light years away, they wouldn't know about us yet.
    KRA5H
    "it disappeared in front of our eyes."  Simply switching on active camouflage could create this effect. Various forms of active camo have been around since 1943. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehudi_lights). To paraphrase Fermi's Question: Where are all the gawking Tau Cetian tourists? Any civilization sufficiently advanced to be capable of interstellar travel wouldn't worry about disease (surely they can develop vaccines presuming they could be infected by earthly viruses and bacteria). Why not treat us like we treat a wild animal preserve? No need to hide themselves any more than we hide ourselves touring Bush Gardens. Would they be that concerned about cross-species infection?

    I think H.G. Wells wrote himself into a corner in War of the Worlds and used cross species infection to get out of it. Kind of a let down, really, narrative-wise. Cross-species infection is unusual on Earth. Seems darned near impossible to be infected by ET since it is unlikely their species evolved in any way similar to us (imagine something like cetaceans evolving opposable thumbs then building spaceships).
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    "it disappeared in front of our eyes."  Simply switching on active camouflage could create this effect. Various forms of active camo have been around since 1943. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehudi_lights). To paraphrase Fermi's Question: Where are all the gawking Tau Cetian tourists? Any civilization sufficiently advanced to be capable of interstellar travel wouldn't worry about disease (surely they can develop vaccines presuming they could be infected by earthly viruses and bacteria). Why not treat us like we treat a wild animal preserve? No need to hide themselves any more than we hide ourselves touring Bush Gardens. Would they be that concerned about cross-species infection?
    I agree Steve, I doubt if we are important enough for ETs to worry about, especially as we know little to nothing about them, which is how they probably want to keep things. Also, if they do exist and they are visiting Earth in UFOs then there is a reason they are doing that but we don't know what that reason is and we have no way of finding it out. 


    Its now seven years since I saw that UFO, I have been through various psychological stages and states since then. Initially I was really in shock, then I was quite determined to work out what we had seen. Then I started doing serious UFO research and read hundreds of accounts of UFO sightings and photos and bought and read about 50 books about UFOs, some of which included supposed encounters with ETs. Then I became pretty scared about ETs for a while and decided to stop researching them any more, especially as my kids and husband were concerned that other people generally think that UFO and ET believers are mad and even asked me to stop telling people we had seen a UFO.


    Nowadays I am a bit more indifferent about it all. The main thing I want to know is what direction and where in our galaxy was the UFO that we saw heading off towards at such high speed and who could help me work that out from the date, time, departure angle and elevation and my land coordinates? I'm quite sure that it wasn't a secret military aircraft or a helium balloon and that it seemed to be a vehicle with a purpose and a destination and it was waiting in that position for a reason and I doubt very much whether that reason had anything to do with me and my friend :)


    So does anyone here have any ideas as to who or even what software could work out that direction and possible destination?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Helen, certainly I think it's entirely rational to believe in UFOs, if you can find your way around the Fermi paradox and can find a reason why they would be here and yet not colonize our solar system, and not colonize the galaxy (or do either of those in a way invisible to us). That's the main reason I don't believe they are ETs because I find the solutions to the paradox unconvincing personally. But I am just putting forward my own point of view there, and there has been a huge range of different solutions to the Fermi paradox. 
    See all the hypothetical explanations of the Fermi paradox in the wikipedia article

    On your idea of Aliens with respect for life who deliberately leave us alone and don't intervene, that's the "Zoo hypothesis". So that article is interesting too.

    Also, BTW just wanted to say also my view I expressed, that any ETs able to visit Earth must be long lived like millions or most likely billions of years, is also a personal point of view. It's a basis for discussion not an answer. Some of the solutions to the Fermi paradox could have the ETs only a few millennia old.

    However, if they are here already and they are young races like ourselves, only a few thousand years ahead of us technologically, an almost inevitable conclusion is that young ETs have a short civilization life expectancy, because in that case, there must have been numerous such ETs arise over the last five or six billion years - and what has happened to them all? There are various reasons why that might happen too. Several possibilities in that link I just gave: hypothetical explanations of the Fermi paradox.
    If they wanted to be in our solar system and be completely hidden from view, again technologically surely they could. Also a billions years old civilization could presumably colonize our galaxy in a way that makes them undetectable from any distance, camouflage all their planetary systems and their dyson spheres and other mega projects so they too look uninteresting from a distance, but again, if they are so powerful, why bother?

    I don't know what you saw, but would still be very surprised if it is a UFO as in an ET operated spacecraft. It's because of the Fermi paradox, and the argument about if they are here, why don't we see more obvious signs of their presence in the galaxy, or indeed in our solar system? 

    Is a UFO, in sense of can't think of any explanation and you haven't found one yet obviously, and may suggest the universe is a more mysterious place than we know. BTW another way-out explanation of UFOs is that they could be time travelers from our future. 

    In the past they might have been interpreted as beings of another realm, e.g.  with bodies of light, or spirits, or magical beings such as fairies, or leprechauns, etc. Not sure those ideas also should be 100% ruled out. I do think it is possible that there may be more to our universe than just the things we know about scientifically with our present day science, though what that might be have no idea. And it might be that interpreting UFOs as ETs is an attempt to force something into our current world views that just doesn't fit them.

    Anyway to answer your question about the direction, if it was a UFO as in ET flown machine. I think you probably won't learn much from that. The problem is that there are so many stars in the sky. Even of the nearest stars, there are many more than the visible stars. The most habitable stars are orange dwarfs actually, and life is more likely to evolve around one of those than a yellow dwarf like the sun. There are a thousand of them within 100 light years. And if they are capable of superluminal travel then their destination could be any of those, or indeed any other star in our galaxy. If subluminal they would take centuries to get anywhere and so most unlikely to be heading out of our solar system. Orange dwarfs within 100 light years

    If you look at the distribution picture of nearby orange dwarfs, then there is no way you could work out the direction accurately enough to single one of those out. Yellow, orange and red dwarfs are also dim stars, and most of the bright stars in the stars are short lived giants which you can see from thousands of light years away.

    Most of those orange dwarfs are not naked eye visible so not a named star, most likely no more than a series of data entries in a catalogue. Plus much more likely they would be headed for a mother ship in our solar system, or headed elsewhere including just going into orbit, ready to return to Earth again.

    That is if it is ETs, which I very much doubt, personally. Though what else it could be have no idea. I think also most astronomers would be of the same view, for the same reasons. But certainly rational to believe that it was an ET.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this subject Robert. If ETs do exist I wonder if they also have an article somewhere called 'Ten Reasons not to Live on Earth - Great Place to Explore'? :)

    Even though you say that there are so many stars in the sky and that there are thousands of the most habitable orange dwarfs within 100 light years, I would still like to know which ones lie in that direction from Earth within that 100 light years. 

    There must be computer simulation software somewhere that can recreate the Earth's position in our visible and charted Universe on December 10th 2006 at 11.30 am and show what orange and yellow dwarfs lay roughly in that 45 degree direction, give or take 10 degrees, headed upwards and south above the eastern most point of Australia at Byron Bay. 

    If it was a UFO controlled by ETs then the Cape of Byron was clearly visible to them too, maybe they also have to use landmarks to navigate? All of this I realise would of course be dependent on them being capable of superluminal travel as subluminal travel would make the whole exercise pointless for them and me ;)

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Yes, that's a nice thought Helen :). Anyway if you want to get a rough idea of directions in the starry sky for any reason that's easy enough to do with a planisphere. This one for instance Virtual Planisphere
    You can just type in the time, e.g.
    Sun Dec 10 2006 22:30:00 GMT+0000

    (whatever it was in GMT) and your lattitude and longtitude and it will display the night sky for that time and location (even though it is daylight). 

    Doesn't matter where you were, just the direction so if South and upwards a few degrees, then  just look a bit up from the bottom of the planisphere and that should be the direction.

    But as to identifying any particular yellow, orange or red dwarf, I'm sure there will be at least hundreds even of the ones within 100 light years in that rough direction.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Wow thanks Robert, that virtual planisphere is absolutely brilliant. When the UFO we saw departed I can see exactly what lay in that direction at that exact time and then step it forward hour by hour, absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately I can't seem to save the images, every time I try to it they default to today's date, otherwise I would post one of them here. 

    Now all I have to do is figure out what I'm looking at! Blue 2070 and 3372, Pink 5128, 4945, 5744  and Yellow 4755, 4833, 2808, 2516, 5139, 3766, 3532, 3114, 2809, 2516, 2547, 3201. He says something about him using the numbers from the NGC for the southern hemisphere, so hopefully I will figure them out eventually. Anyway thank you very much Robert, that was exactly what I wanted :)

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KRA5H
    "So does anyone here have any ideas as to who or even what software could work out that direction and possible destination?" First, you could check with the airport to see if they logged any radar data of the craft. According to this wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_disc-shaped_aircraft) circular aircraft are "well suited to diffusing radar making the craft stealthy." This belief evidently went into the design of the Lenticular Reentry Vehicle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenticular_Reentry_Vehicle). Given the flight characteristics in the description of the article it was a flying brick like the Space Shuttle and seems that it would retain it's radar stealth as long as it's flight path remained edge on to the radar antenna. This can be interpolated from the design of the F117 Nighthawk. When the Nighthawk approaches an enemy position it's essentially"barnstorming," or flying at treetop level and the angular top of the aircraft should make it stealthy to radar. Of course, once the F117 deploys its weapons, it gives away its position and then it is free to show its bottom to the radar antenna--the wide flat bottom of the Nighthawk should show up on radar. While the craft you described was holding position for ten minutes, its wide flat bottom should have returned a signal to the radar antenna at the airport. Once you have its initial position you can deduce the direction of its exit from the area. Did you notice a sonic boom when it disappeared from view?
    robertinventor
    Hi Helen, the NGC is just a catalogue of various interesting objects in our galaxy and outside of it. Many of them are galaxies. It includes clusters of stars, nebulae and galaxies, anything except individual stars within the view of late nineteenth to early twentieth century telescopes. The numbers are used to this day to identify them. For objects within easy view of amateur telescopes, if it's not in the earlier 18th century Messier catalogue you'll probably use the NGC to identify it. New General Catalogue.
    So does anyone here have any ideas as to who or even what software could work out that direction and possible destination?

    It wouldn't do you any good, since you don't know what navigational dependencies might exist.Just like aircraft, their takeoff direction is dependent on the runway and wind conditions, not their destination.You can see from looking at the following diagram that there is nothing specific you can deduce by examining the flight path at any point.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Here is the diagram Gerhard was trying to post to prove this point to me :- 

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Sort of related to this, in Asimov's fictional "gravitic spaceships" (e.g. Foundation's Edge) then they travel through the galaxy by a series of jumps, can't get to their destination in one go. They have to travel well out of a star system before they reach a region of space flat enough to set up a gravitic jump reliably. In his fiction, you can tell the direction of the jump if you carefully observe the spaceship immediately before it goes into hyperspace, I think probably because it is a useful plot device :). Hyper jumps are a common theme in fictional hyperspace travel. 

    Other types of sci fi FTL travel involve travel through types of FTL intergalactic super highways, and in that case it is like looking at a car heading out of the driveway of a house, and trying to deduce its final destination from the direction it was going when you last saw it. All just fiction of course, real FTL may be nothing like it, if such exists.
    KRA5H
    Gerhard makes a good point. Think about how hard it was just to get to the moon. Would you expect it to be a straight shot from your farm in Oz to their home world?
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes Gerhard made a good point but we are only talking about potentially superluminal travel here, any subluminal travel like the trip to the Moon would not be possible over such huge distances so isn't really worth thinking about. 
    As David Halliday might confirm if he was here (where are you David?) superluminal travel could even mean arriving at almost the same time that you set off, in which case it could be almost a straight shot from my farm and yes that chart would be wrong :) 

    However, I always said that I was trying to work out what was in that general direction from Earth on that day. I was mainly just thinking about massive nebulae and star clusters containing hundreds of potentially habitable yellow dwarfs. I have to admit I don't really understand how all the charted galaxies in the universe relate to each other in the relatively near past, present and future and also how they move around three dimensionally, in relation to our Sun and Earth. I'm hoping that playing with the planisphere will help me to better understand this or maybe there is some other software available that can better simulate this from the outer edges of the charted universe looking in maybe?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, I can understand the point you are making about flight paths to the Moon changing direction all of the time during the Apollo missions but that is with conventional slower than light speed travel as we know it, rather slowly leaving our atmosphere and our orbit and then having to take into account other orbits, such as the Moon's orbit. 
    The UFO we saw made a very slight movement in a the direction that I'm interested in and then disappeared completely, so I'm just curious to know what stars and galaxies roughly lay in that direction, if the UFO did somehow have the ability to travel faster than the speed of light in that general direction.

    I've looked them up.  Blue 2070 is the Tarantula Nebula and Blue 3372 is the Great Carina Nebula which contains the peculiar star Eta Carinae, the most massive star in  the universe and which is 150 times the mass of our Sun. In 1843 it was the 2nd brightest star in the sky, magnitude -1 but this fluctuates and its behavior was still not fully understood as at 2000. 

    Wiki says that 'Until recently, Eta Carinae was thought to be the most massive single star, but in 2005 it was proved to be a binary system....One remarkable aspect of Eta Carinae is its changing brightness. It is currently classified as a luminous blue variable (LBV) binary star due to peculiarities in its pattern of brightening and dimming...Eta Carinae is expected to explode as a supernova or hypernova some time within the next million years or so. As its current age and evolutionary path are uncertain, however, it could explode within the next several millennia or even in the next few years.'

    'It is possible that the Eta Carinae hypernova or supernova, when it occurs, could affect Earth, which is about 7,500 light years from the star. It is unlikely, however, to affect terrestrial lifeforms directly, as they will be protected from gamma rays by the atmosphere, and from some other cosmic rays by the magnetosphere. The damage would likely be restricted to the upper atmosphere, the ozone layer, spacecraft, including satellites, and any astronauts in space. (At least one paper has projected that *complete* loss of the Earth's ozone layer is a plausible consequence of a nearby supernova, which would result in a significant increase in surface UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface from our own Sun.) At least one scientist has claimed that when the star explodes, "it would be so bright that you would see it during the day, and you could even read a book by its light at night". 

    Four of the yellow numbers 5139, 3766, 5128 and 4945 are part of the southern constellation of Centaurus all the rest are mainly part of the Great Carina Nebula. Alpha Centauri is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Centaurus and the third brightest star in the sky and it is part of the closest star system to Earth. It is only 4.4 light years away and it is in the direction that the UFO that we saw was heading!

    So maybe the ETs in the UFO we saw were heading back to wherever they live or originated from in that direction and maybe their planet is not as well protected against Eta Carinae's inevitable hypernovae explosion as our planet is? Maybe that is why they are interested in our planet? Wouldn't you be if your planet or habitat was under threat?

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Is mildly intriguing you came up with Alpha Centauri, figure of so many sci. fi. stories for missions to nearby stars :).

    Eta Carinae is about 8,000 light years from the sun, AFAIK would have to be much closer, 100 light years away to be a serious danger to us or any ET within tens of light years of Earth. See Near Earth Supernovae.
    But really, you are basing all this on very slender evidence. Whatever it was, why assume it is an ET that suddenly decides it wants to exit our solar system, and to do so uses a FTL travel method that permits it to travel to a distant star simply by accelerating in the exact direction of the star from a planetary surface? And then because there is a future distant supernova in the sky in that general direction, to deduce that it's mission has something to do with that as well? It is just building one thing on top of another with none of them any basis in what you actually saw.

    It makes a nice story yes, perhaps could be a starting point for a sci fi short story :).
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I didn't come up with Alpha Centauri Robert, the wonderful planisphere link that you gave me did! 
    BTW I''m not assuming anything I'm simply speculating, I certainly haven't deduced anything! I knew nothing at all about Eta Carinae in the Great Carina Nebula being the most massive star and once the second brightest star in our universe that fluctuates in brightness a way that we don't understand and is expected to explode at any time between now and a million years, until a few hours ago. 

    I also didn't know that Alpha Centaurus the third brightest star and the Constellation of Centaurus with its hundreds of yellow dwarfs are all in the same direction from Earth as Eta Carina and the Great Carina Nebula. Surely its just logical to wonder if there is a link between an exploding supernova or hypernova and possible threatened ET habitats in the same vicinity and coincidentally the same direction from Earth within our Universe? Especially when you are trying to work out where a UFO that you have seen with your own eyes appeared to be heading?

    Anyway, I don't want to discuss this anymore. It was fun and thank you very much for sharing your wonderful thoughts, knowledge and links and especially the planisphere, which will give me hours of fun!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Okay, glad you like the planisphere link and I enjoyed the conversation too. Is fun to speculate about ETs even though personally I think it is unlikely that the UFOs are ETs. Like many astronomers do, I think is likely there are other ETs somewhere in our galaxy or other galaxies, my skepticism is more about whether they could be here rather than about whether they are likely to exist. I am pretty sure there must be ETs living around other stars somewhere, who are probably speculating about us much as we speculate about them.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I am pretty sure there must be ETs living around other stars somewhere, who are probably speculating about us much as we speculate about them.
    I hope they are better at not discussing it any more when they say they want to stop, than I am :)

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Actually no. The concept of an advanced civilization [especially as advanced as to have FTL] would be foolish to be interested in our planet. Why risk the biological and other types of problems, when they could readily settle down on Mars with a minimal amount of effort [give their technological level] and live/create a world they could use.

    However, back to your point about the general direction of travel. Remember that even with FTL, that doesn't matter, since the stars/planets, etc. are NOT in the places you can actually see [because of the delay in light] so you would still have no idea where they were going if it were 7500 light years distant, because you're seeing the sky of 7500 years ago.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, not many planets have a magnetosphere that can protect its life forms from gamma rays and cosmic rays from an exploding supernova or hypernova. Mars certainly doesn't :) 
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Well, now you run into a problem. If there are enough planets with life, such that intelligent life is established in another place AND it is prevalent enough so that it isn't just pure chance that they would have found us, then I have to believe there must also be many planets that are suitable for life, which again renders the point of looking at earth somewhat suspect.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, I've started a new thread to reply below, this one is getting a bit narrow :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Another point to consider, is that if they are capable of traveling between star systems, then clearly they have dealt with the issue of radiation exposure. Therefore one would expect that they are certainly capable of building habitats that would ensure their safety and reduce the risks of exposure.

    Hello,

    Thank you for the highlight of the concerns we should have before thinking about colonize Mars.

    However, I have just one question about point 5. I totally understand that as human, we can bring some micro organism that will contamine Mars. But what about the robot we keep sending there ? I'm not a scientist, so maybe I'm just talking shit, but these robots may not have some micro-organisms stick to them ? If so, what did we do to prevent such contamination ?
    My guess is this is easier to clean up a robot than "clean up" a human being, but is that true ?

    Anyway, I'm part of those people who are excited about the idea of colonize Mars. Not because it is Mars, but because it is space. And unfortunately, I can't read that much about any progress we could have done these years that could lead to this. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'd love to be still living when this process starts, as I cannot believe that it will never happen. But it seems from my point of view that nobody is interested by this topic apart from some marginal scientists. Hope I'm wrong though.

    PS : Sorry, I probably made many english mistakes, but I'm french and we are not well known for our english knowlegdges :D

    robertinventor

    Hello Valentin,

    Yes, we sterilize our rovers. The best sterilized rovers were Viking 1 and 2. They were assembled in a clean room, and everything kept clean, then finally heated in an oven for 30 hours at 125C, which is thought to be enough to reduce the already low microbial population by another million-fold

    One of the Viking landers being prepared for dry heat sterilization.
    One of the Viking landers being prepared for dry heat sterilization.
    The aim was to have less than 30 spores on the entire spacecraft.

    The Viking landers found that the conditions on Mars were very hostile to life. Most scientists came to the conclusion that there is probably no life there at all - though there were a few dissenters because one of its experiments, the labelled release, gave results that were hard to explain at the time without life. (For more about this, and present ideas about it all see my Might there be Microbes on the surface of Mars?)

    So, as a result lower standards were used for later missions. Now there are three categories of misison to Mars, categories IVa, IVb and IVc, and only category c needs to be sterilized to the Viking levels.  Category c is used for missions to "special regions" thought to be habitable.

    Curiosity is category IVa which means clean to the same standard as Viking before it was put into the oven

    It is hard to sterilize modern landers to the same standard as Viking because it would destroy some modern materials and thin layer electronic chips. However NASA has just approved a new method using low vapour hydrogen peroxide, so future missions may be able to be sterilized to this level again.

    Curiosity's sterilization level

    Curiosity is sterilized so that it has less than 300,000 spores total, and less than 300 per square meter. Only some micro-organisms form spores so the actual numbers may be 100 times that i.e. 30 million total. It may seem a lot but for micro-organisms it is not a lot and is very clean. Many of them also probably got killed by the UV radiation on the journey out to Mars or on the surface.

    Still there are probably quite a few dormant micro-organisms still left, that were able to survive the UV radiation (perhaps in micro-cracks on the surface of the spacecraft), and others inside the spacecraft where they are sheltered from UV. 

    Low probability of contaminating Mars

    There is a good chance that none of our spacecraft have contaminated Mars yet because of the harsh conditions there. The aim was never certainty, as next to impossible to achieve that. The aim was to reduce the chance of contamination per mission to less than 1 in 10000 which over the period of exploration of Mars that we are in currently - means a chance of less than 1 in 1000 of contaminating Mars in total.

    There were some failures of the procedures such as the crash of the Mars climate orbiter, not sterilized for the surface. So the chance we have contaminated Mars may be a bit higher than 1 in 1000 but most think it is still very unlikely that we have contaminated it yet with our rovers.

     Biologically reversible

    Chris McKay has argued for a stronger requirement that our missions should be biologically reversible. By this he means that we should be able, if necessary, to remove all dormant micro-organisms from the planet and return it to its pristine state.

    Other ideas

    Some also argue that we should think further ahead than just this exploratory period and should aim to keep all biologically interesting extraterrestrial solar system bodies pristine for the foreseeable future (at least until we have better knowledge about them and their potential value). The idea is that the current pristine solar system is of value not just to us but to all future generations who should e able to study it in its pristine state. 

    That idea has been applied more to Europa than Mars, it might mean for instance that we shouldn't leave long lived spores on the surface of Europa and such like places, if there is a chance that they would eventually end up in the oceans below the surface (even if that process would take thousands of years).

    It seems quite probable that our missions to Mars so far have been biologically reversible as well, although that was not the mission design requirement. 

    It is not yet part of the guidelines that our missions have to be biologically reversible, or that solar system objects should be kept clean for the foreseeable future. These are just ideas, that have been discussed.

    Others, in the same work groups, have also have argued that we should set up "planetary parks" for objects and regions of outstanding interest in our solar system, to be kept free from all contamination (including non biological e.g. rocket exhausts or exploitation by mining etc).

    Excitement of space

    Yes for those who are excited, not because it is Mars but because it is space, I hope they can also be excited by the Moon, is pretty exciting place to colonize if you think about it some more - and about space colonies. And about telerobotic exploration of Mars too.

    Your English is absolutely fine, I can understand clearly what you said. Yes, some minor grammatical errors but who cares :).

    Your textbook explanations are obsolete. Our bases on Mars prove you wrong. Its not that great, however it's not near as bad as you think. www.TheMarsRecords.com

    robertinventor
    How do you explain spectroscopic measurements from Earth? Here is an abstract of a 1934 observation which was already reasonably conclusive that it hasn't got much oxygen.
    I'm sure astronomers who make spectroscopic observations of the Mars atmosphere from Earth would notice right away if Mars had huge amounts of oxygen in its atmosphere, enough for humans to breath.


    I can well believe that the military has some secrets, of course, but not as advanced as almost undetectable spaceships able to travel to Mars (why not use the technology on Earth if they have it?). 


    But apart from that the spectroscopic observations seem pretty conclusive, that there is no oxygen to speak of in the Mars atmosphere 


    Don't expect this to convince you, just saying how I see things myself, hope you understand. To the best of my knowledge what I wrote here is as accurate as I can make it, and will keep an eye out for any mistakes and correct them.

    A great article and a great, courteous discussion, a rarity. I started out thinking, philosophical reasons to colonize Mars surely outweigh all those concerns - the way we are, we need another earth away from earth - and have been completely turned around by Robert's and other contributors' argument. Thank you everybody (including the site.)

    robertinventor
    Citicrab, thanks, glad you liked it, and thanks also to everyone else who contributed to the conversation so far.
    Good evening All!

    Robert, first and foremost I wanted to take the time and thank you kindly for such a highly informative, sensible and adventurously fun article/post. I stumbled upon this page by simply entering "space colonization" into the google search engine. I've now bookmarked the page and look forward to regularly tuning in for new articles and updates. Please keep up the good worker. For an Adventurer at heart since childhood, sitting here in my camp room in the remote Canadian Wilderness next to directional drilling oil rigs, I can only wonder, speculate and imagine what life could be like on Mars or the Moon. What especially interests me, being employed in the front lines of the Energy Industry, is the harvesting of minerals and resources from asteroids close to us, and planets afar. Please feel free, should you find the time, to message or email me anything interesting you may come by. Makes the lonely nights on the night shift a tad more bearable :) Have a pleasant evening everyone.

    Dominic

    robertinventor
    Dominic, thanks glad you liked the article, and stumbled on it. It's nice to think about all the many people who can find your content on the webin so many places all over the world. Perhaps in the future websites will also be read by people like yourself living in habitats in space next to factories mining the NEOs and asteroids :).
    Since there's been so much interest in this article, as well as my others too, I'm planning to do some video talks on youtube as well. They would be more of a conversational type, not just reading out these Science20 articles, but talk about some of these things in more detail. They would complement the articles. Then viewers can post questions in comments and I can talk about that more in following videos, also probably in more articles too.

    The first one will probably be titled something like: "Why have we found out so little about Mars and why do scientists still find it so interesting?". Have just done a dry run of it, I think it might go quite well, probably upload first one quite soon. Short 20 minutes or so talks, leading on one to the next.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well, now you run into a problem. If there are enough planets with life, such that intelligent life is established in another place AND it is prevalent enough so that it isn't just pure chance that they would have found us, then I have to believe there must also be many planets that are suitable for life, which again renders the point of looking at earth somewhat suspect.
    Why should looking at Earth and other planets with life forms be suspect? There may be many other planets that are suitable for life but they might be a lot closer than the Earth is to Eta Carinae, the most massive star in the Universe, that is expected to end life as a super nova explosion sometime between today and the next million years. We don't know.

    It doesn't matter how intelligent an extra terrestrial life form is or how advanced it is technologically, it can't fight a super nova explosion in its vicinity and maybe many planets with life forms in the universe have magnetospheres that are not as protective against gamma and cosmic rays as ours? We might also have a few problems if the super nova explosion blasts away our ozone layer, as apparently some scientists think it could.

    Maybe ETs are secretly visiting our planet and other planets with life forms, to collect genetic material and building blocks that they are using to genetically modify themselves to be able to live in this or other life supporting planetary environments, at some point in the future? A bit like genetically modifying the Florida orange trees, this can't always be done quickly, then when they are eventually ready, all they would have to do is release something like a bacteria carried by an insect pest to wipe the rest of us out, a bit like the world's orange trees are currently being wiped out and then they can take over running the planet. Hopefully they will do a better job :) 

    They also might have a better idea than we have, as to when the Eta Carinae binary star is due to explode into a super or hyper nova. It might not be for thousands of years or it might be in twenty years, unfortunately we don't know do we?
    Another point to consider, is that if they are capable of traveling between star systems, then clearly they have dealt with the issue of radiation exposure. Therefore one would expect that they are certainly capable of building habitats that would ensure their safety and reduce the risks of exposure.
    They might be able to ensure their own safety but presumably no life form can live alone without other life forms can it? Could they shield all of the life forms and the habitat that they are dependent upon from the super nova blast and radiation? They may be intelligent and technologically very superior but they are not gods :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Hi Helen, first I might have to close this conversation temporarily because I've had masses of pink spam comments and one that got through the filter today. That happened before for this page, I got about 100 spam comments in a day, so temporarily closed it, next day opened it for comments again and they had given up.
    I've had more than 40 spam comments so far today. Though I think they might get deleted automatically as I don't have as many as 40 pink comments on the page.
    If it gets too overwhelming I might have to do the same again. I'll post here first before doing it if it happens. So, please nobody here take it personally if that happens.

    Anyway - hope you don't mind if I chip in on the supernova extinction thingy. I think the chance that what you saw was a UFO headed on an interstellar trip to a star in the direction of Eta Carinae on a single hop from Australia is almost infinitesimal. Yet it's interesting topic to talk about, if you don't mind that I treat it as just an idea rather than something that I think is at all likely to be true.

    So - yes I think there may be galactic events that are really hard for even advanced ETs to deal with. Example might be if their star is about to fall into a singularity. A supernova too. Even just their star going red giant, might be quite hard unless they are already all in space habitats that can just be moved out further to avoid it. So might need to migrate to other star.

    But in case of Eta Carinae, that's thousands of light years away. Any star that is in more danger from Eta Carinae than Earth must also be significantly closer to Eta Carinae than us, which makes it thousands of light years away from us. There would be tens of thousands of yellow dwarfs, and even more orange and red dwarfs they could migrate to between Eta Carinae and ourselves. And most of those would be uninhabited most likely at least by ETS, unless they are nearly all non technological - or the sky would be full of radio beacons from all the techy civilizations. The orange dwarfs also would be more sensible homes to choose than a yellow dwarf, especially after your star has gone supernova, as they are habitable for trillions of years (while ours will go red giant within a billion years or so). And their astronomy more advanced than ours would be able to predict the supernova as at least a possibility surely thousands of years before it happens.

    So, I think there is about 0 chance that any civilization would need to invade another civilization in order to deal with a civilization threatening issue. They could also construct space habitats too, same as we could. Just as we could construct space habitats - with cosmic radiation shielding, for surface area of a thousand Earths, so could they, just using the asteroid belt of a single star, and with that level of technology, which we nearly have and surely anyone with FTL travel would have, then it would be a fairly trivial thing to do, mainly automated, to make space habitats for all the inhabitants of a planet a thousand times over. 






    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Robert, I was only joking about ETs invading our planet and wiping us out with a bacteria spread by an insect, like the world's orange trees, and then replacing us, at least I think I was ;)

    I think that its more likely that if ETs exist and are visiting us, then they could be using this planet as a valuable source of genetic material and even possibly some other resources to modify and propagate themselves and/or another habitat orbiting around one of those thousands of orange dwarfs you keep mentioning. However, I don't understand why you and others here often sound so confident about ETs abilities to construct space habitats with cosmic radiation shielding, using the asteroid belt of a single star for example just because they have mastered FTL travel.

    FTL travel might be something that they have utilized but not necessarily mastered, like the sky raining animals that supposedly have been sucked up by waterspouts or tornados, though there is no definite scientific consensus about this yet. Just because an animal has somehow been lifted up and then dropped from the sky somewhere else doesn't necessarily mean it has totally mastered that process, even if it then learnt how to utilize the same process again in future, assuming it survived the first falling ;)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Helen, yes that's possible. I suppose the thing is that the best ideas we have for FTL seem to involve heroic manipulation of space - the best theoretical warp drive I've seen a year or two ago involved exotic matter with the mass of Jupiter. But the numbers keep coming down, here is a new version which only requires the mass of Voyager in exotic matter
    Still way beyond us though. We can't even create a significant amount of anti-matter, so if you needed say a kg of antimatter to power a starship, we couldn't do that either. And exotic matter, with negative energy, is something no-one has yet proved actually exists, except in a kind of transient way with the Casimir effect.

    Also it had an unfortunate side effect that your warp drive would destroy all life at any destination you aim it at, so you would have to be careful never to aim it at a planet which you thought had life on it, which would make use of it to travel between inhabited places in the galaxy a bit tricky :). See Damaging effect of Alcubierre drive.

    Anyway that is all way beyond anything we could even think about making, yet, because we don't know if it is possible to create exotic matter, or how to do it, or even if the idea is physically possible in our universe.

    On the other hand, building space habitats from materials in the asteroid belt is just mega-engineering. We already have the technology to do it, it is just engineering and cost. We could have done it even in the 1970s, and though very expensive, still, something that e.g. the USA could have taken on as a major project in those times, to construct the first space habitats.

    An ET just a few decades ahead of us technologically would probably find that really easy to do.

    So that is why FTL travel seems, on basis of what we know so far, to be likely to be a later technological development, if it is possible at all.

    Of course it could always be that our science has taken some kind of a "wrong turn" and another way of looking at things changes everything, or we are just missing something that someone will discover that will make it possible. 

    Also another idea in sci. fi is the idea of an ancient race that colonizes the entire galaxy, threads it with intergalactic super highways, and then goes extinct. So then later ETs discover these highways and have no idea how they work but they are so reliable they are still functioning and they just travel around the galaxy on those.

    Or discover an ancient FTL starship still functioning in an archaeological dig, that sort of idea. 

    If so, yes you're right, it's not a logical consequence and you could have scenarios perhaps where the ETs have FTL but in other ways are less technologically advanced than we are or similar in our level of technological development.







    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Robert, you are such a mine of information! Please keep writing these fantastic articles, they are wonderful and so is my planisphere, thanks again :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    It seems clear that there might be 100's of scenarios, but there is no evidence to support any of them.
    Mundus vult decipi
    robertinventor
    Yes exactly, and not so much you can do about it except speculate, probably, when you have only one data point. Actually finding out more about whether life ever evolved on Mars may tell us a bit about other planets too. It might tell us how likely it is for life to evolve, and whether life tends to evolve in the same way on different planets or whether in practise one planet tends to seed life on another planet etc etc. 
    Then - obviously if we detect radio signals from an ETI we would learn a lot. But also we can already detect spectrographic signatures of atmospheres around other planets, by the transit method, and also more recently through direct observation. If that detects signatures of life, and combine with observations in our solar system, might be able to start to put concrete numbers to some of the parameters in the Drake equation.
    Gerhard Adam
    Precisely. For example, if life were determined to be present at any point on Mars, that would suggest that it is quite prevalent. After all, what are the odds that we would find traces on the first planet we look on? On the other hand, no life wouldn't tell us much since we have so few suitable objects to examine. In any case, I still maintain that the overall problems will be biological and despite many optimistic claims to the contrary, any encounter between alien civilizations could prove catastrophic.
    Mundus vult decipi
    robertinventor
    Actually you would learn a lot from no life too. Because it is not a black and white life or no life. 
    The origins of life on Earth are very imperfectly understood. It is hard to be sure that a structure is a fossil micro-organisms and the earliest unambiguous fossils are cells that are large enough so that they must have had hundreds of different proteins in them plus DNA, RNA, metabolism etc if anything like modern life - and they are just fossils so don't really know for sure how they worked. And then that's it, we can't trace evolution any further back than that. The first few hundred million years are completely unknown. Just have zircons further back in time, not much use for telling us about life (and they don't go all the way back anyway).

    On Mars, even if it didn't get as far as life, it had all the conditions for life to evolve, as far as we know - so how far did it get? There are many stages, hypothesized, before life proper appears on the scene. There's the possibility of RNA world - because RNA is easier to form than a double helix like DNA. Then RNA also may be too complex, so you have PNA (peptide nucleic acid), TNA (threose nucleic acid), GNA (glycol nucleic acid), and various other ...NAs, generally XNA for Xeno Nucleic Acid - with different backbones, easier to form possibly. There are many options for the bases, and the helix can spiral the opposite direction and triple helixes, and lots of other ideas. 

    So - do all those get explored and one of them win out? Do some come first and others later? And RNA is not really life, just a molecule, how does it develop into life?

    You have the metabolism first ideas, too, and loads of other ideas of Abiogeneisis.
    So just as for ETs basically that is all speculation too. No-one really has a clue about how life really began. So studying Mars would be not just one more yes / no data point but since we have the potential to preserve pristine biochemistry on Mars, for billions of years, at -80C in clays and sulfates that can preserve organics in pristine state - we might be able to not just have fossils of these early forms of life, but the actual life itself.  Like the mammoths preserved pristine to the extent they could be DNA sequenced - but preserved at a much colder temperature, and in perfect conditions for preservation, possibly. Is at least a good chance of that - we might learn a huge amount about the origins of life.

    But the same is also true of non life too, if there was a RNA world or a PNA world on Mars we can hope to actually find preserved molecules of RNA and PNA or whatever from those times. If that happened but didn't evolve into life we could learn a lot from that too. We could learn a lot also from the icy moons with oceans and Encladus but Mars of especial interest because it was so Earth like for the first few hundred million years and also because it then went into a deep freeze and much of it has probably stayed unchanged for billions of years so can hope to find preserved organic deposits from those times there.


    I go into this a bit also in my How Valuable is Pristine Mars for Humanity - Opinion Piece?


    Gerhard Adam
    Actually you would learn a lot from no life too
    I agree with your point, but mine was simply to say that even if there were no indications of anything, we couldn't draw any conclusions since it is still such a small representative sampling.

    Finding life is a strong indicator that it may be prevalent, while no finding doesn't inform us, except in the context you described where there may be precursors that promote a higher degree of confidence.
    Mundus vult decipi
    robertinventor
    Ah yes, but there will be precursors too, in the sense that there will be amino acids and nucleobases at the least, and surely protobionts too. The amino acids and bases would be delivered by comets and meteorites and the early ocean must have had them - unless something really surprising was going on in the early Mars ocean - so if no life evolved and even no RNA or PNA etc - that again tells us something, that in a planet spanning ocean, that lasted for millions of years, with organics in it seeded from comets - that none of the steps towards life happened at all. If that was the case, then would be quite good reasons for suggesting that it is really hard for life to get started - or at least - that it needs conditions different from that in early Mars. One might wonder if the Moon and the tides had anything to do with it for instance.
    It is hard to think of a result from Mars that wouldn't tell us a fair bit about evolution one way or another. Iif no life evolved there, is in a way less interesting especially no precursors because you don't get to see the details of how life evolved on another planet, but is a whole lot more than just a null type data point.

    If the ancient ocean hypothesis was disproved, or somehow shown not to be sea water but some toxic chemical or whatever that you'd never expect life to evolve in - that would be like your "no information" situation but that seems fairly unlikely at present that that would happened, the evidence for water on Early Mars is strong and Curiosity has already shown that there were conditions conducive to life in Early Mars a somewhat later period than the seas, but still a long way back to the times of the great floods on Mars..
    KRA5H
    "The UFO we saw made a very slight movement in a the direction that I'm interested in and then disappeared completely" Ever hear someone crack a bullwhip? The snapping sound is the tip of the bullwhip moving faster than the speed of sound. A sonic boom in miniature. That's why I asked if you heard a sonic boom when your thing took off. Also was there radar tracking of the object? Physical things tend to leave physical traces. Exotic propulsion such as an Alcubierre drive (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive) or Kip Thorne's traversable wormholes, well, I dunno, switching them on in an atmosphere could have unpredictable effects. exiting the atmosphere very quickly but at subluminal speeds might have made a sonic boom. Once the craft was a safe distance away then it would be free to switch its exotic propulsion drive.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Sorry I didn't answer your question earlier Steve. The UFO made no sound at all! It was rotating silently for over 20 minutes then when it departed or disappeared after a very slight movement upwards and to the right towards the direction that it had tilted. It also left nothing audible or visible behind.

    It almost looked as though it was sucked away at very high speed rather than by using its own propulsion in the way that we are used to our vehicles moving but that is maybe just my imagination because there was no sound at all. I'm afraid I don't know if there was any radar tracking of the object.

    Robert also mentioned the Alcubierre drive and exotic matter and Wiki describes the related Casimir effect which sounds very interesting :-

    'Alcubierre type warp might be realized by exploiting certain experimentally verified quantum phenomena, such as the Casimir effect, that lead to stress–energy tensors that also violate the energy conditions, such as negative mass–energy, when described in the context of the quantum field theories.'

    'The causes of the Casimir effect are described by quantum field theory, which states that all of the various fundamental fields, such as the electromagnetic field, must be quantized at each and every point in space. In a simplified view, a "field" in physics may be envisioned as if space were filled with interconnected vibrating balls and springs, and the strength of the field can be visualized as the displacement of a ball from its rest position. Vibrations in this field propagate and are governed by the appropriate wave equation for the particular field in question.'

    'The typical example is of two uncharged metallic plates in a vacuum, placed a few micrometers apart. In a classical description, the lack of an external field also means that there is no field between the plates, and no force would be measured between them. When this field is instead studied using the QED vacuum of quantum electrodynamics, it is seen that the plates do affect the virtual photons which constitute the field, and generate a net force—either an attraction or a repulsion depending on the specific arrangement of the two plates.'

    It makes me wonder if the UFO somehow acts as one of the two parallel metal plates, the other metal plate could be at the UFO's destination and they would obviously be entangled somehow while still separated by a massive space and vaccuum that could then somehow create a correspondingly massive attracting or repelling force. Something like the Casimir effect but in reverse because obviously the force couldn't fall off with distance and it would be on a much larger scale that somehow results in the UFO's subsequent movement, disappearance and FTL travel that needs to overcome the current problem that :-

    'Because the strength of the force falls off rapidly with distance, it is measurable only when the distance between the objects is extremely small. On a submicron scale, this force becomes so strong that it becomes the dominant force between uncharged conductors. In fact, at separations of 10 nm—about 100 times the typical size of an atom—the Casimir effect produces the equivalent of 1 atmosphere of pressure (101.325 kPa, 1.01325 bar, 14.69595 psi), the precise value depending on surface geometry and other factors.'

    Anyway, this is all just pure speculation based on just one UFO sighting and two witnesses. Being one of the witnesses means that I am of course much more convinced that UFOs with FTL travel exist than most people are and I am also probably much more interested in finding an explanation for what we saw and I will keep looking for one. I will also keep looking out for another UFO and next time I will definitely get it on camera :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Hi Helen, I believe the Casimir effect is something that only happens when you have the two plates to reduce the possibilities for the alternative paths for the particles, and can't be sustained without the plates. Also that it is thought to be not real "negative energy" such as you'd need for the drive. And that the whole phenomenon is not clearly understood since theoretically if you take account of all the quantum possibilities, the vacuum should have infinite energy and all of space time should instantly collapse on itself. 
    But am no expert on this, just repeating what I've read.
    The Acubierre drive works by warping space time. A force acting between the two points however strong wouldn't work because any communication due to the force would itself operate at the speed of light. You need something that warps space and time. Which also rather suggests it is the sort of thing you probably wouldn't want to be too close to when the spaceship starts off, though this is all speculative.

    As for what you saw yourself, well, if it did indeed disappear in front of your eyes - well - since you saw no motion of it, just a tilt, the simplest deduction, Occam's razor and all that, is to assume it did just disappear. If it moved, well you don't need to move at anything like the speed of light to seem to instantly disappear. Insects do it quite easily, our eyes are easily fooled, e.g. grasshopper jumping. At a distance has to be faster, but even a thousandth of the speed of light is 30 kilometers in a tenth of a second i.e. a blink of an eye. And if it is something that was much closer to you and also smaller than you thought even slower. Certainly no reason for FTL for it to vanish.

    That's why what you suggest is going way beyond what you saw. Not saying it is wrong to speculate like that, but simply isn't enough evidence to decide between numerous different possibilities, all you saw was that it was there one moment, tilted slight, and was gone the next.
    And there is always the possibility that someone will come up with a more ordinary explanation. I can't think of anything yet. My best guess perhaps is some kind of an aerial mapping device mapping the Australian landscape, which could be small and manouverable, since there are companies in Australia offering those services. That could explain the hovering and then suddenly moving to a new location maybe too fast to notice what it was doing especially if not expecting it.

    Not too convinced by it because AFAIK they normally use quadcopters which don't resemble what you saw - but someone else might come up with something...

    Sometimes you just have to leave things as unsolved mysteries and I don't think there is enough information to do more than speculate. Which is fun to do of course :).



    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Hi Helen, I believe the Casimir effect is something that only happens when you have the two plates to reduce the possibilities for the alternative paths for the particles, and can't be sustained without the plates. Also that it is thought to be not real "negative energy" such as you'd need for the drive. And that the whole phenomenon is not clearly understood since theoretically if you take account of all the quantum possibilities, the vacuum should have infinite energy and all of space time should instantly collapse on itself.
    Robert, we were only speculating about the Casimir effect because the Casimir vacuum  has been implicated as being part of the mechanism that the Acubierre drive would need to enable faster than light travel and it was you that first mentioned it :)
    The Acubierre drive works by warping space time. A force acting between the two points however strong wouldn't work because any communication due to the force would itself operate at the speed of light. You need something that warps space and time. Which also rather suggests it is the sort of thing you probably wouldn't want to be too close to when the spaceship starts off, though this is all speculative.
    If the UFO we saw did leave the Earth's atmosphere using something like an Acubierre drive then there were no noticeable dangerous after effects on the surroundings, we were about one kilometre away I would guess.
    As for what you saw yourself, well, if it did indeed disappear in front of your eyes - well - since you saw no motion of it, just a tilt, the simplest deduction, Occam's razor and all that, is to assume it did just disappear.
    Wrong, there was as slight movement Robert, it tilted and then visibly moved very quickly, for only a fraction of a second, up and to the right in the direction that it had tilted and then disappeared.
    If it moved, well you don't need to move at anything like the speed of light to seem to instantly disappear. Insects do it quite easily, our eyes are easily fooled, e.g. grasshopper jumping. At a distance has to be faster, but even a thousandth of the speed of light is 30 kilometers in a tenth of a second i.e. a blink of an eye. And if it is something that was much closer to you and also smaller than you thought even slower. Certainly no reason for FTL for it to vanish.
    True.
    That's why what you suggest is going way beyond what you saw. Not saying it is wrong to speculate like that, but simply isn't enough evidence to decide between numerous different possibilities, all you saw was that it was there one moment, tilted slight, and was gone the next.
    True. However, you seem to have forgotten the slight movement, so what you are saying to me now is  not based on all of the facts. Does the slight movement change your opinion somehow?
    And there is always the possibility that someone will come up with a more ordinary explanation. I can't think of anything yet. My best guess perhaps is some kind of an aerial mapping device mapping the Australian landscape, which could be small and manouverable, since there are companies in Australia offering those services. That could explain the hovering and then suddenly moving to a new location maybe too fast to notice what it was doing especially if not expecting it.
    True. However, I focused the telescope on the UFO and saw it very clearly. It looked a lot like the silver metallic UFO photo that I posted above, nothing like any normal man made aircraft that I have ever seen. If you had seen what we saw I doubt if you would suggest this at all.
    Not too convinced by it because AFAIK they normally use quadcopters which don't resemble what you saw - but someone else might come up with something...
    True. It was absolutely nothing like a quadcopter.
    Sometimes you just have to leave things as unsolved mysteries and I don't think there is enough information to do more than speculate. Which is fun to do of course :).
    True, let's leave it as an unsolved mystery, next time I'll definitely get a photo!

    BTW Wiki's description of the Alcubierre drive is very interesting isn't it?  Any chance of you writing an article on this subject? I like to think that I saw a UFO that left the Earth in that direction using something like an Alcubierre drive to acheive FTL travel. Unfortunately the planisphere doesn't show me where it was heading because as Gerhard pointed out, we are looking at light from stars that is thousands of light years old. I need to know what was in that direction on Sunday, December 10th 2006 between 11 am and noon. There's no way of finding that out is there? Because we don't know :(
    The Alcubierre drive or Alcubierre metric (referring to metric tensor) is a speculative idea based on a solution of Einstein's field equations in general relativity as proposed by Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, by which a spacecraft could achieve faster-than-light travel if negative mass existed. Rather than exceeding the speed of light within its local frame of reference, a spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, resulting in effective faster-than-light travel. Objects cannot accelerate to the speed of light within normal spacetime; instead, the Alcubierre drive shifts space around an object so that the object would arrive at its destination faster than light would in normal space.

     Although the metric proposed by Alcubierre is mathematically valid in that it is consistent with the Einstein field equations, it may not be physically meaningful or indicate that such a drive could be constructed. The proposed mechanism of the Alcubierre drive implies a negative energy density and therefore requires exotic matter, so if exotic matter with the correct properties does not exist then it could not be constructed. However, at the close of his original paper Alcubierre argued (following an argument developed by physicists analyzing traversable wormholes that the Casimir vacuum between parallel plates could fulfill the negative-energy requirement for the Alcubierre drive.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Helen, just to say, when I mean not based on facts, just mean, there are alternative interpretations. And of all the interpretations that are possible, FTL flgiht seems to me amongst the least likely. You don't have any evidence that suggests FTL flight must be what happened rather than any of the other possibilities which don't involve a new yet to be discovered form of matter or else new laws of physics. Plus you have no evidence that there were any lifeforms on it, rather than some kind of remote controlled vehicle, and so on and so forth. 
    Yes I know not a quadcopter. There are many other types of machine though, and also many natural phenomena as well. We haven't yet come up with an explanation that fits everything you saw, but it's still possible someone will.

    The Casimir effect as I understand it suggests the possibility of negative energy. Basically it shows that just possibly the idea of negative energy is not completely absurd. But it couldn't be used to make the Alcubierre drive. You need to find some form of matter that behaves like the Casmir effect, but does so without the plates needed to create the Casmir effect. As far as I understand it anyway.

    I wouldn't bother about the motion of the stars. Yes they do move over time periods of thousands of years. But you said you thought it was headed for Alpha Centauri. And the furthest stars have to move proportionally faster to be in a place different from where you think they are. 
    It is well possible that in the distance new stars come to birth which weren't there before, and stars will go supernovae and so on. So the stars will get transformed a fair amount if you travel a great distance, at least some of the many thousands of stars. 
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    We haven't yet come up with an explanation that fits everything you saw, but it's still possible someone will.
    Yes Robert, well anyway thank you so much for trying, I've learnt a great deal from this article and from the comments section. It has been very interesting for me anyway. BTW, I don't mind if you delete these comments about the UFO because they are a bit off topic.
    I wouldn't bother about the motion of the stars. Yes they do move over time periods of thousands of years. But you said you thought it was headed for Alpha Centauri. And the furthest stars have to move proportionally faster to be in a place different from where you think they are.
    Why do you say that I shouldn't bother with the motion of the stars? I don't know where the UFO was headed, Alpha Centauri just happened to be in that direction when I looked at the planisphere for that specific day and time but so were plenty of other stars and galaxies and the light from those stars and galaxies would have been emitted many lights years before December 10th 2006.

    Was I right in saying that we really have no way of calculating most of what lay in that direction from Earth on that specific day because the planisphere is only showing the visible light that was emitted from stars many light years earlier? I suppose Alpha Centauri is the one exception because its only 4.366 light years away, so I should check the planisphere to see if Alpha Centauri was still in that direction exactly 4.366 ± 0.007 light years later, sometime in 2011. I'll do that tomorrow :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Helen, with the motion of the stars, I meant, it is an effect, yes, but AFAIK is going to be too small to notice with naked eye estimations.
    E..g Barnard's star, 6 light years way has fastest measured proper motion across the sky of 10 arc seconds per year. Means that in 6 light years it travels one arc minute or a sixtieth of a degree. There one degree is approximately the angle of the sky your little finger covers if you hold it out at arms length, so the difference between the actual location of Barnard's star and where it appears to be is less than a sixtieth of that angle..

    http://astronomycentral.co.uk/measuring-degrees-in-the-night-sky/

     So yes - if you headed out in a FTL ship (if that is ever possible) and aimed it at exactly where Barnard's star seems to be right now, and forget to take account of its proper motion, you would miss it by quite a distance in, say, kilometers, if I get the calc. right, you would be out by 6*sin (2*PI*1/(360*60))  = 0.00174532922 light years, or about 1.65117367 × 10^10 kilometres.

    If you are trying to get somewhere, to be out by 16.5 billion kilometers is a bit of a big miss. But as seen from Earth by naked eye the difference would be tiny.

    For a more distant star, well it is rather similar. If Barnard's star was a thousand light years away, and with the same speed (not the same angular proper motion but relative speed) then in the time it takes for the light to travel from the star to your eye, then again, it would traverse about an arc minute of the sky.

    Some stars would be travelling faster than Barnard's star relative to us.

    This is one of the fastest stars, in unusual circumstances, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071128151817.htm

    Using google, 3 million miles per hour in light years per year, is 0.00447349479 light years per year.
    So to try to find out the angle in the sky it would traverse in a year, using arcsin(0.00447349479) then I make it about a quarter of a degree in the night sky (assuming it is travelling at right angles to the line of sight to the star). 

    In that calc, it wouldn't matter how far away it is, so that's probably about the maximum that you could expect the apparent visual positions of stars to be out by relative to their actual position in the sky right now, about a quarter of a degree. Most would be out by far less than that, probably most out by less than an arc minute I would guess.
    Thanks for saying it is okay to delete this discussion. However, I'm okay with "off topic" discussions if everyone else is okay with it :).

    So far the only things I've deleted are obvious spam. I suppose this might sometimes make it a bit hard for someone to read the comments if they just want to find the things of most relevance to the article, but the most active discussion happens soon after the article is posted normally, so not such a deal there, I don't feel that off topic discussion has been any issue so far anyway.

    I suppose the ideal there would be if there was some way to collapse the more off-topic discussions to help readers who want to find just posts on the exact topic of the article - maybe with an option to "expand all" for anyone who wants to read everything.


    KRA5H
    The Casimir effect is nothing mysterious. Think of it this way: Nature not only abhors a vacuum, she doesn't even allow it. Everywhere in the observable universe is, as it were, "elementary physical stuff."  In ‘A Universe From Nothing,’ by Lawrence M. Krauss, Kraus tries to sell you on the idea that a universe can pop into existence from nothing citing, I think, among other things, the Casimir effect. The following is an excellent criticism of Kraus' book:
    "What on earth, then, can Krauss have been thinking? Well, there is, as it happens, an interesting difference between relativistic quantum field theories and every previous serious candidate for a fundamental physical theory of the world. Every previous such theory counted material particles among the concrete, fundamental, eternally persisting elementary physical stuff of the world — and relativistic quantum field theories, interestingly and emphatically and unprecedentedly, do not. According to relativistic quantum field theories, particles are to be understood, rather, as specific arrangements of the fields. Certain ­arrangements of the fields, for instance, correspond to there being 14 particles in the universe, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being 276 particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being an infinite number of particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being no particles at all. And those last arrangements are referred to, in the jargon of quantum field theories, for obvious reasons, as “vacuum” states. Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-­quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument — or thinks he does — that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.


    But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing."

    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html


    You can do a simple reality check: if subatomic particles (virtual photons that communicate the electromagnetic force--the measurable force of the Casimir effect) can pop into existence from nothing, and our observable universe can pop into existence from nothing why can't, say, a Volvo pop into existence from nothing? Imagine you're driving down the road one day and a Volvo just suddenly materializes right in front of you! 
    <p>
    Why is it that when someone reaches behind your ear and pulls out a coin, you always know it's a trick?





    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Interesting article that you've linked to Steve, which you consider to be an excellent criticism, though I'm not sure that I totally agree with you. As you know it was written by David Albert who is a professor of philosophy at Columbia and the author of “Quantum Mechanics and Experience.” and he is basically criticizing Krauss's criticism of religion and even defending religion, if you read a bit further he says (my bold letters) :-

    'Krauss, mind you, has heard this kind of talk before, and it makes him crazy. A century ago, it seems to him, nobody would have made so much as a peep about referring to a stretch of space without any material particles in it as “nothing.” And now that he and his colleagues think they have a way of showing how everything there is could imaginably have emerged from a stretch of space like that, the nut cases are moving the goal posts.'

    'He complains that “some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe,” and that “now, I am told by religious critics that I cannot refer to empty space as ‘nothing,’ but rather as a ‘quantum vacuum,’ to distinguish it from the philosopher’s or theologian’s idealized ‘nothing,’ ” and he does a good deal of railing about “the intellectual bankruptcy of much of theology and some of modern philosophy.” But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.'

    'Who cares what we would or would not have made a peep about a hundred years ago? We were wrong a hundred years ago. We know more now. And if what we formerly took for nothing turns out, on closer examination, to have the makings of protons and neutrons and tables and chairs and planets and solar systems and galaxies and universes in it, then it wasn’t nothing, and it couldn’t have been nothing, in the first place. And the history of science — if we understand it correctly — gives us no hint of how it might be possible to imagine otherwise.'

    'And I guess it ought to be mentioned, quite apart from the question of whether anything Krauss says turns out to be true or false, that the whole business of approaching the struggle with religion as if it were a card game, or a horse race, or some kind of battle of wits, just feels all wrong — or it does, at any rate, to me.'

    'When I was growing up, where I was growing up, there was a critique of religion according to which religion was cruel, and a lie, and a mechanism of enslavement, and something full of loathing and contempt for every­thing essentially human. Maybe that was true and maybe it wasn’t, but it had to do with important things — it had to do, that is, with history, and with suffering, and with the hope of a better world — and it seems like a pity, and more than a pity, and worse than a pity, with all that in the back of one’s head, to think that all that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb'

    Ha ha, well I also think that most religions are dumb and cause so many problems in the world, so I'm more in agreement with Klauss. Recently I watched a science documentary explaining the structure of an atom as being comparable to St Paul's Cathedral which is pretty huge building and imaging a grain of sand lying in the middle of the floor of the cathedral. That grain of sand was the equivalent of the nucleus material of the atom and the cathedral represented the actual space that the atom occupied. They then went on to say that if you took all of the nuclei material from all of the atoms of all the people alive in the world today and pressed them together, they would be a tenth of the size of a sugar cube :) Here is how Quantumaniac describes the same analogy from different perspectives and even uses another fist!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KRA5H
    "so I'm more in agreement with Klauss" hmm...let me see If I understand you correctly. If you agree with Kraus with regard to his critique of religion, I don't care--I leave it up to people who might be interested in the topic such as Kraus, philosophers, theologians, or what have you to sort it out. If, on the other hand, you agree that (as we are discussing here) the Casimir effect energy arises from nothing, may I ask you to explain how you think this is so?

    "Recently I watched a science documentary explaining the structure of an atom as being comparable to St Paul's Cathedral which is pretty huge building and imaging a grain of sand lying in the middle of the floor of the cathedral. That grain of sand was the equivalent of the nucleus material of the atom and the cathedral represented the actual space that the atom occupied."


    What are the four fundamental forces of nature? Why do the planets orbit the sun? Why do electron clouds surround the nucleus of an atom? What holds the protons in the nucleus? What is beta decay?


    What is vacuum energy?
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I'm a laywoman but as you are asking, my best guess at simplistic answers to your questions taken from too many different references to mention here, would be :-
    What are the four fundamental forces of nature?
    1. The strong interaction which is very strong, but very short-ranged because it acts over ranges of 10-13 centimeters and is responsible for holding the nuclei of atoms together. It is basically attractive, but can be effectively repulsive in some circumstances.

    2. The electromagnetic force which causes electric and magnetic effects such as the repulsion between like electrical charges or the interaction of bar magnets. It is long-ranged, but much weaker than the strong force. It can be attractive or repulsive, and acts only between pieces of matter carrying electrical charge.

    3. The weak force which is responsible for radioactive decay and neutrino interactions and has a very short range and, as its name indicates, it is very weak.

    4. The gravitational force which is weak, but very long ranged and is always attractive, and acts between any two pieces of matter in the Universe since mass is its source.
    Why do the planets orbit the sun?
    Because of gravity and inertia.
    Why do electron clouds surround the nucleus of an atom?
    Electrons have an electrical charge which is negatively charged, while the nucleus is positively charged. Because opposites attract, electrons are pulled toward the nucleus by the electric force, just like planets are pulled to the sun by gravity but they also never meet. The electron is present as an electron cloud which is really just a smear like state of the electron. It's not a picture of where some dot-like particle is because it isn't anywhere in particular. It also doesn't have any particular velocity.  In a hydrogen atom, it's certainly not going in a circle. An electron also exists as a wave function. The velocity of the wave function is not separate from how the wave is distributed in space. The momentum is a function of how rapidly the quantum wave changes from place to place. Any electron in a confined space must have a wave function that changes from near zero far away to something else in the central region. Since the wave function must change from place to place, the wave is made of components with momentum, so electrons must keep moving within their electron clouds or smears that surround the nucleus.
    What holds the protons in the nucleus?
    The weak force is stronger than gravity, but weaker than an electric force; its presence is only apparent in certain forms of radioactivity. The strong nuclear force pulls together protons and neutrons in the nucleus. At very small distances only, such as those inside the nucleus, this strong force overcomes the electromagnetic force, and prevents the electrical repulsion of protons from blowing the nucleus apart
    What is beta decay?
    Beta particles are electrons or positrons (electrons with positive electric charge, or antielectrons). Beta decay occurs when, in a nucleus with too many protons or too many neutrons, one of the protons or neutrons is transformed into the other. Beta decay is a process which allows the atom to obtain the optimal ratio of protons and neutrons. There are two types of beta decay, a decay that is mediated by the weak force: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus (β−), while in the case of a positron emission as beta plus (β+).
    What is vacuum energy?
    Vacuum energy is a manifestation of quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg uncertainty relation that delta-E x delta-t is greater than or equally to Planck's constant divided by 2. Everything has a small residual energy - that is delta-E can never be total zero, there can be other contributions as well. The cosmological constant is a measure of the energy density of the vacuum - the state of lowest energy - and although we cannot calculate the vacuum energy with any confidence, this identification allows us to consider the scales of various contributions to the cosmological constant especially as the Higgs boson also implies that the vacuum energy may be a fully tangible concept in real phenomenology.

    Why are you asking these questions Steve? Is it because no one really knows the answers?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KRA5H
    I glad you researched the four fundamental forces of nature and vacuum energy. Keep this stuff in mind.

    “Why are you asking these questions Steve? Is it because no one really knows the answers?”

    I’ll borrow a quotation from Richard Feynman: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

    But that’s ok. Even if we treat QM like a black box, entering carefully measured inputs here and carefully measuring the outputs there, we can learn a lot about it. And we have learned a lot about it. After a century of investigating, there have been stunning technological advances because of what we have learned about it. What’s even more exciting is that there is so much more to learn.

    For a long time you could ask, “is an electron a particle or a wave?” And the answer has ever been, “it depends on how you set up the experiment.” Sometimes it exhibits wave-like properties and sometimes it exhibits particle-like properties. Fairly recently, however, it seems possible to photograph an electron:

    Do take a moment to read the article that is the source of this picture.

    It is interesting that the uncredited author of the article says the following: “The movie shows how an electron rides on a light wave after just having been pulled away from an atom.” Why is this interesting? A long time ago there used to be something called the De Broglie-Bohm pilot-wave theory, but it had fallen out of favor in the QM community. Fairly recently, however, it seems to be making a comeback:

    Here's the link to the web page if the embedded movie does not display: Source: http://math.mit.edu/~bush/?p=582

    Pretty interesting, but is it a fair analogy of what is happening in the quantum world? I don't know (seriously, I dont).

    Anyway, keep this stuff in mind for now. I’m getting pretty busy, but do have some further comments. TTFN.

    robertinventor
    Sorry accidentally had this set to close the comments automatically, didn't mean to interrupt your conversation, opened it to comments again.
    robertinventor

    Video talk about this article in five parts (playlist of them all)

    (deleted the videos here, urls won't work any more, did louder versions for youtube, playlist url remains the same)

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Robert I have tried to watch yor first video several times and each time it has either hung or your voice was too quiet for me to hear all of what you are saying. I think that these might all be technical problems from my end but I thought I would give you some feedback anyway :) 
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Okay Helen, is rather quiet anyway, is this better, I've increased the volume. But there is a strong reverb in this room too, is nice for recording music, but for voice, with the increased volume makes it a bit buzzy now, and perhaps it doesn't help too much with it.
    1. Reasons not to live on Mars, great to explore - cold, dry, vacuum, supply chain (part 1)


    Anyway this is the best I can do for now. Is it any better?
    The quiet sound and the echo are issues at my end. My voice tends to be quiet anyway, was actually talking as loud as I could comfortably believe it or not :). And just recording in a room that has a lot of reverb.

    Have done increased volume for the other ones as well, just uploading them now, prob. be ready by tomorrow.


    It needs a bit more experimentation probably for future videos. For these ones, might be possible to do things to improve it further with some processing or something, will take a look see if I can find any way to make it less buzzy but also clear to hear.


    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well I really enjoyed this first video Robert, its interesting, informative and strangely relaxing! I think you must have a very calming voice because I felt very relaxed even when you were describing such hostile environmental living conditions and the possibility of almost instant death on Mars without a spacesuit and even the concept of blood boiling inside our bodies because of the low atmospheric pressure!

    I also enjoyed the Viking exploration and colonisation analogy. My father has Dupuytren's Contracture in one of his little fingers which is a Viking genetic disorder and he is related to Neil Armstrong who traced his origins back to my father's Scottish clan and family. So maybe Neil Armstrong was also of Viking descent? In which case Vikings didn't just discover and briefly colonise America, they also put the first foot on the Moon and maybe they will put the first foot on Mars and fail to colonize either of them too? 

    The cryptoendoliths hiding in the rocks in that bleak Antarctic Mars-like terrain sound interesting, hopefully they will be discussed further in the next video? Presumably they would also be unable to survive anywhere on Mars?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Helen, thanks that's really encouraging :). Actually I have been invited to talk to David Livingston on his "The Space Show", and was a bit unsure about talking about this subject because I've just not given any public talks about it just written lots. So that's part of the motivation for doing these videos actually, to get into the way of talking about it, because you do things and present things so differently in speech (e.g. no section headers, and you instinctively use various rhetorical devices in speech to keep up the interest that wouldn't work on a written page and vice versa, and in speech you have to think quickly "on your feet" to keep up a continuous flow without irritating and confusing stumbles and repetitions or self corrections).

    So is great to get positive encouraging feedback about it. BTW the talk is 4th October, 9.30 - 11.00 AM PMT, 5.30 PM to 7 PM GMT. They have a toll free number you can ask questions during the talk is only toll free in Canada and America but I think you can also connect to it toll free using IP services such as VOIP possibly from anywhere in the world (though definitely would want to check before trying it!). It's an 866 number. It's only just arranged so won't see a mention of me in the latest space show newsletter but would be mentioned in the next one I expect.

    It's interesting what you say about your father's Viking inherited defect. Actually I've noticed my own hands naturally curl and though I can lay them flat on a table, it is only by stretching the fingers flat in a way that is quite painful in the fingers, and noticed other people's fingers seem to lie flat in a much easier more natural way. I wonder if I have a very mild form of the same defect :).

    On the cryptoendoliths on Mars actually there is one cryptoendolith which its thought might well be able to survive on Mars just as it is. I talked about it a bit in Might there be Microbes on the Surface of Mars? so just copying / pasting from there:

    It's a a primary producer, meaning it depends on nothing except the rocks, water and light (photosynthesis) to survive and needs no other micro-organisms - and also - it is also a single species ecosystems in some of the colonies in the Atacama desert (though elsewhere it coexists with other micro-organisms) - and also it is very resistant to UV light, to dessication, and to cosmic radiation.

    This is the entry about it in Wikipedia Chroococcidiopsis - though the article there is incorrect when it says the conditions for its survival can't occur on Mars, the way it survives in the Atacama desert is by using deliquescence of salts, just as it would do on Mars and the temperatures and the humidity on Mars would be within the right range for it to be able to survive.

    Remarkably it can repair its own DNA within 3 hours, when subjected to X-rays, very like Radiodurans, so as that is an ionizing radiation, presumably does the same trick with be cosmic radiation resistance I would imagine. They are also UV resistant too, with photo-protection chemicals and seem to do fine when exposed to the UV on the martian surface as well as to the cosmic radiation too. 

    See Desert Cyanobacteria under simulated space and Martian conditions

    They might well be able to survive just fine on the surface of Mars as cryptoendoliths - to photosynthesize they would need to be beneath a transparent layer of rock to let the light through. Or they could be in the very top layer of the soil surface slightly protected from the sunlight by a thin layer of dust (which as an iron oxide again protects from UV). I'm not sure but they might even be able to survive on the surface itself exposed to the direct Martian sunlight or sunlight on an inclined surface a bit like the lichens - the problem there would be what the source of water is, but just below the surface then you could have deliquescing brines. Also if you had lichens or other organisms on the surface to collect the moisture from the atmosphere they could probably co-exist with those. Don't think they can do that trick by themselves??

    Again they could survive below the ice or dry ice layers at the poles of Mars, where you would get liquid layers through the solid state greenhouse effect (a warming effect you also get below ice layers on Earth as well).


    I do talk a bit about cryptoendoliths in Mars in the next video but not in this level of detail and don't mention Chroococcidiopsis in these talks as far as I remember, (unless I mention it as "a cyanobacteria" - if so that's what I mean). Rather talk about other things, you'll see when you watch it.

    I've also planned out a series of talks similarly on Mars sample return, same topic as my article on the topic here, but in more detail, and this time I thought I'd experiment with just talking to the camera about it, without any visual aids or anything, as even closer to the "the Science Show" talk show format. I did a first try at the first of those talks but haven't yet uploaded it.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Anyway this is the best I can do for now. Is it any better? The quiet sound and the echo are issues at my end. 
    Yes that's much better thanks Robert. There was also a technical problem this end that my son has fixed (rather embarassingly for me) so now you are loud and clear and I will look forward to watching all of the videos over the next few days ;)

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    robertinventor
    Okay great, glad it's sorted out, Helen. Here are the others again, all with the sound increased in volume. 

    2. Reasons not to live on Mars, great to explore - is there life, dust, microbe contamination 



    3. Reasons not to live on Mars, great to explore - where should we colonize instead? 





    4. Reasons not to live on Mars, great to explore - space colonization, exploring Mars from orbit 





    5. Reasons not to live on Mars, great to explore - telepresence, plants, ancient ocean, far future 




    Video talk about this article in five parts (playlist of them all)

    I might do a series of short articles here based on the videos, so going through the material more slowly and in depth (probably better than one article for them all). 
    If you go to the youtube video info you'll see I've made a start at adding the links to find out more about the topics in each video, but there is a limit to the amount of text you can add to a video in youtube, and not so easy to read either without embedded images and linked text, and I think I could do a nice short article for each one :).


    Too many science fiction junkies at this site.

    Beam me up Scotty!

    Hank
    You have to admit, it's more fun to hang out with sci-fi junkies than it would be to hang out with people who write "High School Musical" fan fiction.

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