Organics on Mars? More Importantly, Water Long Ago, Now Ice Cliffs!

On this site, all sorts of essays are found. Some are on the cutting edge of research (and a subset of those may even be right! After all just one somewhat right, on a subject of significance, would justify all my efforts…). We live in times when, for the first time ever, the social Machiavellianism of a biological species, yours truly, has the fate of the biosphere, and maybe even of intelligent life in this galaxies, in its paws. That has got to have happened many times in the billions of galaxies, long ago and far away. But this is here now, and philosophy and its practical side, politics, are in the driver seat of the honor of intelligence in the Milky Way…

So here is the time to celebrate the little world next door, Mars. Mars, although half the linear dimensions of Earth, has exactly as much land as Earth (2/3 of Earth is sea). Recent discoveries have put Mars in a more habitable light.

Big picture for Mars remains that the rover is in what used to be a giant lake one hundred kilometers across. So Mars WAS HABITABLE. For about a billion years. Whether life evolved there is not clear: Earth is a giant churning engine of creation, with perhaps kilometer high tides at some point, every couple of hours or so… That forcefully mixed continent, sea, volcanoes, lightning, etc. If life had evolved on Mars, though, it would have transferred on Earth… thanks to impacts…

Ice Cliffs on Mars, 100 meters tall, took me by surprise… A happy surprise: without water on Mars, colonization a no-go

All this is much more agitated and eventful than the old picture…
Those towering, 100 meters high cliffs of ice on Mars. Last year. That makes Mars colonization feasible (once we have a huge energy source, like portable thermonuclear fusion…

NASA announced the discovery of organics on Mars. Ian Miller’s blog put that into perspective.
This sort of discoveries, ice cliffs now, and water four billion years ago, are more impactful than whether life evolved there. Hunting for fossils is how to solve that one… And will not be easy: 4 billion year old fossils on Earth are very controversial…

I am a bit impact and significance obsessed… in all matters. The hierarchy of all values comes from the hierarchy of significance. That Mars is colonizable, because it has water, is a huge piece of information, full of hope. A hope to spread humanity beyond our endangered cradle. But we don’t have all the technology we need yet: even if the cost of launches is brought as low as Elon Musk hopes (6 million dollars per launch of his giant BFR rocket, he claimed…), we don’t have an energy source for Mars: a worldwide dust storm has just plunged the planet in obscurity, and a solar powered rover had to shut itself down. (the Curiosity rover is nuclear powered, so it’s not affected… It was the last nuclear power pack, or so… Nuclear ain’t PC, you know…)

Pretty much we will need to develop controlled nuclear fusion to go melt those huge cliffs of ice… Some will scream at ecological devastation. Not so: right now, the European Union, this high temple of hypocrisy and things not being what they seem to be, import enough palm oil from South East Asia to kill all the Orangutans there… Among other life forms. And what does it do with all this food? Fuel! Fuel which the EU, in its colossal madness and criminal alacrity to invert all values, view as more important than life itself! Yes, most of the palm oil imported to Europe is turn into car exhausts…

Palm oil is one of the main engines of environmental destruction. Found in food and cosmetics, its growing use is destroying rainforests and endangering all species of much of the world. And indeed, more than half of all the palm oil imported by Europe is turned into biodiesel and blended into fuel (the US does the same with corn, but that’s more honest, less colonialist, as it is the US Middle West itself that is devastated by growing too much corn…)

Conquering the Solar System, colonizing it, will force us to use much more efficient techniques. Then we can recycle those new technologies on Earth, to reduce our impact on the home planet…So it is highly moral, not just games in space to feel better about ourselves, and distract us from gravitas. For example Photovoltaics (“PV”) used in space have nearly 50% efficiency, more than twice the one realized on the ground (they are also more expensive…) On the ISS, sweat and urine are 100% recycled…

Art, morality are children of our technology, itself the expression of science.

Patrice Ayme


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10 Responses to “Organics on Mars? More Importantly, Water Long Ago, Now Ice Cliffs!”

  1. ianmillerblog Says:

    Ecological devastation on Mars is ridiculous. What is melting ice hurting? Whatever we do on Mars will only affect a very small part of it anyway. And your are right about Palm Oil. The ecological devastation is major from that. The Orang Utans will be exterminated, but so probably will be a number of other species that are not so spectacular.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well they are stressing out big time about Earthly beasties getting to Mars… spending dozens of millions to disinfect probes. I think it’s silly. Devastation in Borneo, Sumatra, is astounding. Only dirt oor, red soils are left…


  2. Gloucon X Says:

    “Conquering the Solar System, colonizing it, will force us to use much more efficient techniques.”

    Not necessarily, recent history proves that new technologies can remain unapplied, ignored, or delayed in a society ruled by irrational plutocratic forces with cartel and monopoly control of industry. For example, the US auto industry of the 1980’s and 1990 ’s foisted highly profitable but less-efficient, less safe, more polluting trucks, jeeps (WW2 technology), and SUVs on the American people. US plutocrats and the industries they own have learned that waste and destruction is more profitable than applying new more efficient technology and since they now own the government their monopoly control of industries is protected and subsidized.

    We went to the moon and applied some of the resulting technology but only in a cautious way that would not harm entrenched plutocratic interests. My society decided over the last several decades that the sole purpose of its existence was to enrich a handful of plutocrats. Trivial concerns such as efficiency or preventing catastrophic climate change are not permitted to get in the way of the absolute necessity of enriching tyrannical plutocrats.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Agreed 100%. Th other day I talked to a geologist (my father was a geologist too) who told me his company was all out to maximize profits, thanks to government connections it had, while perfectly knowing PhotoVoltaics were already more economical.

      Another example is the Antikythera computer, which was, well, a computer, but direct democracy vanished into dictatorship, thanks to a gang the most prominent of which was Aristotle… However, Philip, father of Alexander was the real cause of the collapse of everything, namely Athens, Thebes, Greece… The collapse implied that of all critical thinking, hence science, tech, even philosophy, hence the rise of “Stoicism”…


  3. Ian Miller Says:

    The rover is in the remains of an impact crater, and I have seen maths that argue the heat of the impact would keep the water warm enough for about 30,000 years. We don’t know. I am actually giving a talk at an Astrobiology conference in just over a week, and my argument is for a variety of reasons, life has to start with RNA (It will take ten minutes of fast talking to cover why) which requires reduced nitrogen (things like ammonium cyanide and cyanoacetylene) but an interesting problem is ribose. Ribose is needed because it alone permits the phosphate ester that links the polymer, but how do you make ribose? In any ordinary pentose synthesis, all you get are xylose and arabinose, and they don’t work. However, there are reports you get ribose if the water has dissolved silica. That suggests life started near fumaroles, but the question I don’t know is will silica dissolve in water coming from basalt? All the silica deposits I have seen come from felsic ground, but that is hardly surprising because it is that that makes up Earth’s land masses, and hot-spot eruptions, like in Hawaii, are too violent. So I need to know whether olivine and/or pyroxene could give soluble silica. If not, in my view, no life on Mars. I shall post outcomes of this conference in a couple of weeks or so.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      So what you suggest is that Gale crater may just have been a 30,000 years event, a special, one time thing. Agreed, could have been. But, for various reasons, I believe Mars had standing water for a billion years, at least (which is the commonly accepted hypothesis).
      Main reason: Mars loses atmosphere during Coronal Mass Ejections. There may well have been LESS with the weaker sun. So atmosphere there was, thick enough for water.

      And that explains the giant water ice cliffs on Mars….

      On Earth the giant tides would have helped, as I said in the essay I just wrote (and before), by mixing earth, wind and fire. Violent conditions favor organic molecules, etc…. I just found this silly forum in which some papers I didn’t know of are mentioned…

      My own (!!!!) theory of Moon origination doesn’t use the giant impact, BTW, but the Moon forms at the Roche Limit… So very low, and Earth rotates. very fast… Giant tides again…

      Anyway you know things about of this I don’t even conceive of… Got to run now, but I shall think. Good luck with talk. My accompanying essay may have a whistle or bell of interest of cheer leading type, maybe…


  4. Ian Miller Says:

    The evidence that I have seen relating to Mars is yes, it had standing fluid on Mars over a period of about a billion years, or maybe even longer, but it was intermittent. There were very few places that had fluid continually over more than a couple of hundred thousand years, and I think there were periodic major volcanic eruptions that sent out a lot of volatiles, and then these subsided and the fluid from to ice.

    My own theory (!!!!) is that the fluid was never water, but rather ammonia/water, which is fluid at about -80 degrees C. I know people like Sagan say ammonia is unstable to photodissociation and wouldn’t last more than a few decades but what he overlooked is ammonia is extremely soluble in water (like HCl gas, it can work a “fountain experiment”) so it wouldn’t be in the air, and the upper atmosphere would form a haze like Titan anyway.

    That atmosphere also contained methane, i.e. it was reduced. The geologists say that is not possible -their models show the \gas had to be CO2, however, there are samples of atmosphere trapped in rocks from Isua, Greenland, that are about 3.8 Gy old, and they have enclosed methane. Further, there is a sample of ancient seawater trapped in rocks from Barberton that are 3.2 Gy old, and they have ammonia levels about those of potassium. What would then happen is that methane would oxidise to CO2, which would react with ammonia to form ammonium carbonate, and if this was buried ti would first form urea, and then who knows.

    So my argument is the water flows on Mars probably were ammoniacal water, and the nitrogen from the ammonia is still buried under the surface. A prediction, but like many others, you have to dig in the right place and that is probably fairly deep because the low spots where water would flow to would subsequently be filled with dust, etc.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well I don’t know enough chemistry to comment cogently… Sounds good, though…

      My hunch is that there was standard water for a billion years. After that, intermittence. Nothing but the developing consensus, here, for once… I don’t feel why not. Sun was weaker, it was further, there was a strong greenhouse on Mars (methane as you said, same as Earth then…)

      Only thing my other hunch is that life started on Mars, because Earth was still too hot then. It got transported by meteorites. Will be hard to prove, or then maybe not, if fossils are found on Mars, and we can detect genetic material… (Something we can’t do now, except for the occasional drop of material from a Jurassic denizen in amber…)

      The so-called “LATE BOMBARDMENT” was said recently to be just an artefact. Indeed, that was a weird idea…I also view dubiously the Moon impact theory, because i have questions… Like why was the impact in the ecliptic? Why having a sister planetoid on roughly same orbit???

      After I put out my Moon from nukes theory, a philosopher who gave conferences about my ideas prior to that called me crazy and stopped interacting with me (he has no formal physics and math, whatsoever, whereas I do, plenty… Strange world…)


  5. G Max Says:

    You and Elon Musk. You sound very much alike sometimes. Hell, I love it. The science article was more optimistic than you, btw. It talked about plenty of carbon molecules.

    Those Mars ice cliffs look too good to be true


  6. Ian Miller Says:

    Why RNA? I shall post on that after my conference, just in case something embarrassing happens like someone knows something that I hadn’t thought of.


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