Science Saturday: Life on Mars + Earth Life in Space + Auroras on Uranus + Subspace Comms + More |
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Science Saturday: Life on Mars + Earth Life in Space + Auroras on Uranus + Subspace Comms + More April 14, 2012

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Trek Franchise , trackback

Welcome to Science Saturday! Tantalize your neurons this week with life on Mars discovered in 1976, how dino destruction sent Earth-life into space, auroras on Uranus (no, this is not a euphemism), and early subspace communication technology. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: augmented reality contact lenses!


Mars Viking Mission May Have Found Life in 1976
The Mars Viking mission, designed to determine whether or not bacterial life exists on the Red Planet back in 1976, sent back data that scientists say shows no evidence for the existence of life — until now. Researchers have taken a second look at the data and say that there is in fact evidence for microbes crawling around on Mars. According to the study, published in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences, in which Viking results were analyzed purely mathematically, the processes that occurred during the experiment are too complex to represent simple geological ones and therefor must be biological in origin.

“On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there,” biologist Joseph Miller told Discovery News. Other scientists are quick to point out that the methods employed by this controversial study are not well calibrated for differentiating between biological and non-biological processes here on Earth, and more needs to be done to determine whether these new claims are well founded.

An image taken by the Viking lander in 1976

That Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid May Have Sent Life Out into The Solar System (and Beyond)
Some 65 million years ago, a 10-km diameter asteroid smashed into Earth, creating tsunamis, major changes in climate, and, oh yeah, the extinction of much of the land-based life on Earth (including the mighty dinosaur). Now, scientists say that this impact may have also ejected life-bearing rocks into space — seeding the solar system and even nearby exoplanets with the ingredients for life. Many of these bio-rocks would have smashed into the moons of Jupiter, the scientists say, since Jupiter itself would pull in so many of the asteroids due to its massive gravitational pull. So, if we do find life on Europa or a nearby exoplanet, will we find life that originated right here on Earth?

Read more at MIT’s Technology Review, and read the scientific journal article.

Giant asteroid ended some life on Earth, may have seeded Earth-life in space

Hubble Gets First Ever Glimpse of Auroras on Uranus
In a stroke of photographic luck, scientists pointing the Hubble Space Telescope towards our distance planetary neighbor Uranus managed to take snapshots of aurorae lighting up the atmosphere of the icy gas giant. Auroras on Uranus have been measured before by passing spacecraft, but they’ve never been imaged. From the new images, scientists know that the flashes of light only last minutes, unlike the hours-long light shows that occur here on Earth).

Read the scientific journal article.

Aurorae on Uranus imaged by Hubble

Send a Subspace Message to Starfleet: Developing Tech for Communicating, Networking, Sending e-mail in Space
Optimistically, human exploration of space will be growing and booming in the coming decades, and those spacefaring people will need a way to send and receive information between spacecraft, ground stations, and of course Earth. Researchers at ESA are investigating ways to create an interplanetary internet of sorts using networks of satellites and satellite relay stations, for when that subspace message absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

Read more at Science Daily.

NASA & ESA already use satellite networks to send data to and from Mars

Gadget of the Week: Geordi LaForge-Approved Contact Lenses
Darpa has teamed up with Innovega to design prototype contact lenses made to work with compact heads up display (HUD) units, according to BBC. The tech could allow soldiers to get an unprecedented view of a battlefield by allowing the lens-wearer to focus on two things at once: the world around them as well as the HUD device displaying all kinds of information. Innovega says the lenses could easily be used with sunglasses-style HUDs with built in projectors.

HUD-compatible contact lenses — would Geordi approve?

Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.



1. Sebastian S. - April 14, 2012

Life on Mars?
I wish I could say I were convinced, but the data from Viking was inconclusive for over 30 years and now suddenly it’s being called a positive result? I’m not sold (but of course, I’m also open to the possibility).

I remember a similar ‘life on Mars’ mini-phenomenon with the Alan Hills Antarctic meteorite (ALH 84001) press conference in 1996; it had what looked like fossilized micro-bacterium on it’s interior surfaces. Both results are tantalizing; but not 100% conclusive. It’s as if Mars itself was begging us to take a closer look….

Let’s see what happens when the new MSL rover gets there. Maybe it’ll find yet another intriguing clue to the mystery of Martian life.

2. Orb of Wisdom - April 14, 2012

Those contact lenses are fascinating…but less Geordi LaForge-like and more like the Dominion viewscreen headsets from DS9.

3. Cygnus-X1 - April 14, 2012

Auroras on my…!?! (sorry, but someone was bound to say it.)

What I don’t get about this new Life on Mars theory is not the concept of re-examining the Viking data mathematically, but why none of the subsequent, more technologically advanced Mars probes wouldn’t have found evidence of life. I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense to mathematically re-examine the most recent probe’s findings rather than those of 30 years ago?

4. Thorny - April 14, 2012

Sebastian and Cygnus X1… The principal investigator for the Viking instrument that detected life in 1976 has been adamant all along that his test was positive. The problem is that his was one of three Viking tests for life, and the other two came back negative, so the consensus then was that Viking found no life on Mars.

Since then, results obtained by Mars Pathfinder, Spirit/Opportunity, and Phoenix have cast the other two Viking results more and more in doubt. Assumptions made by the other two Viking tests are now known to be dubious at best. But none of the more “technologically advanced” probes since Viking have actually looked for life (because Viking already did and the verdict was ‘no’). Even the new Curiosity (if it lands safely, which I wouldn’t bet on) isn’t looking for life, but it should answer once and for all whether life could survive on Mars.

The best chance for actually proving life on Mars is the Mars Sample Return Mission once planned for late this decade of early next, but now on indefinite hold due to budget cuts.

5. Sebastian S. - April 14, 2012

# 3, 4.

Yes, but sadly none of the subsequent vehicles to land on Mars (the three rovers or Phoenix lander) carried direct life experiments, either. They were more concerned with latent water in the rocks and soil (which is one of the ‘prime ingredients’ for carbon based life).

And yes, a mathematical result (while intriguing) is still no more conclusive than a political exit poll. It’s almost like asking a binary computer to define happiness or something. But the burning question of life still remains ambiguous and (IMO) begs to be answered someday.

Maybe the MSL rover (which as Thorny correctly points out, will also have more of a geological rather than a biological focus) will shed more light or offer a few more clues to this intriguing issue…

Still think the question will only be conclusively answered with either :

(a) A future (non-budget cut) sample return mission

(b). Human beings (preferably international scientists) landing on Mars itself!

I probably won’t live to see the latter choice, but maybe I might live to see the first one.

6. Red Dead Ryan - April 14, 2012

I don’t think life exists on Mars. It may have at one point, but even that is doubtful. The only way to find out would be to do some excavating on the surface, which right now, is unlikely to happen. It’s been pretty much proven that life does not currently exist on Mars. They haven’t found one bacteria, or microbe.

As for the idea of the dinosaur-killing asteroid impact sending up rocks loaded with microscopic life-forms which then possibly landed on Mars, or the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, I think that’s very remote, if not impossible. The explosion of the asteroid impact was too small to send enough debris into space, and no bacteria on Earth has been found to be able to survive in space. Even if there was, the tremendous distances and the asteroid belt would be a big hurdle. It took a billion years for life to begin on Earth, and it would’ve taken millions of years for rocks from Earth to reach Europa, assuming they didn’t land on some other hostile moon or asteroid first. Millions of years more would have been required just for any bacteria to thrive on a moon with little sunlight, and with extreme cold that is a lot colder than Antarctica. Water inside any of the rocks would have been vaporized in the explosion.

Plus the majority of the rocks ejected in the explosion ended up being incinerated, or fell back to Earth.

7. Phil - April 14, 2012

Isn’t “international scientist” relative to their point of origin? If they are qualified, why does it matter what country they are from…..

8. Thorny - April 14, 2012

6… Actually, Earth bacteria has already been found to have survived in space. Bacteria was found still alive inside the camera on Surveyor 3, which landed on the moon in 1967 and was returned to Earth by Apollo 12 in 1969.

9. crazydaystrom - April 14, 2012

Auroras on my WHAT?!? ( :-0)

10. crazydaystrom - April 14, 2012

Auroras on my WHAT?!? :-o

11. crazydaystrom - April 14, 2012

Double posts. Oh My!!!

12. Aurore - April 14, 2012

Not yours crazydaystrom…not yours….


Suh-weet ; I’m on the news.
Yes, people, it’s all about me, today…

13. somethoughts - April 14, 2012

Open your minds people, not only is there life on mars but theres evidence to suggest advance civ once lived on mars. I wish humans wasnt so closed minded and that the govts would tell you the truth.

14. MJ - April 14, 2012

@13 I know, we just saw all about it in that major movie last month.

15. Vultan - April 14, 2012

Life on Mars?

It might only be a particle of preanimate matter…
Then again… it might not.

16. Craiger - April 14, 2012

We are the Martians.

17. Daoud - April 14, 2012

The planet is URR-uh-nuhss. It’s from Greek Ouranos.
Only silly people pronounce it like the element uranium (yuhr-AY-nee-umm).

18. SFC3 - April 14, 2012

Maybe Edgar Rice Burroughs was right about Barsoom (mars.)

19. Sebastian S. - April 14, 2012

# 15 Vultan

“There can’t be so much as a microbe or the show’s off…” ;-D

I think life on Mars is a possibility (not Barsoom’s Tharks or Helium inhabitants) but microbial is a possibility. I’m just not certain that either the inconclusive Viking data or the ALH meteorite are strong conclusive proof one way or another. It’s a fascinating mystery for humans (hopefully) to probe for ourselves someday, but I don’t we’ve answered the question conclusively with the Viking data….

And # 13 somethoughts–

It’s not that I (for one) wouldn’t want to believe in martians, but so called ‘proof’ like the ‘face’ or ‘pyramids’ (largely tricks of played played across natural formations) are simply not compelling evidence. Now if we found a martian corpse or honed metal (that wasn’t accounted for by the flotilla of Russian/US spacecraft that have bombarded the planet since the 1960s)? Then I might be compelled to believe that there were a past civilization. My cousin works for NASA at JPL; trust me, there is no conspiracy. The scientists at Caltech would be the FIRST people to break open the bubbly if and when life were discovered on Mars (even microbes). But as yet, the evidence simply isn’t there…

As Carl Sagan said (about observations of Mars from telescopes), “Where we have strong emotions, we are likely to fool ourselves…”

20. Sebastian S. - April 14, 2012

Forgive my ‘brain farts';

In the above paragraphs (post #19) I meant to add the words “believe” in between the last sentence of the first full paragraph (between ‘don’t’ and ‘we’ve’).

And I typed the word ‘played’ twice in the 2nd.

Forgive the incoherency; I attribute it early onset senility, folks…. ;-)

21. MJ - April 14, 2012

Seriously folks, I would bet that we will eventually discover signs that microbial life once existed on Mars. But I doubt it is still around today.

22. Vultan - April 14, 2012


“Does it have to be completely lifeless?”

Speaking of Wrath of Khan, have scientists done any serious research of how we would go about terraforming Mars? Though, I guess the first problem is figuring out how to actually get there!

Anyway, I think by developing tech to clean up Earth’s atmosphere we could maybe also apply it to the Martian atmosphere… eventually.

23. Sebastian S. - April 14, 2012


“Don’t tell me you’ve found something?” ;-)

I’ve gone to Planetary Society discussions (I’ve been a member almost 20 years now) about this very thing, and I’ve read Bob Zubrin’s idea of building giant greenhouse gas factories on Mars to thicken it’s CO2 atmosphere. The atmosphere would still be toxic, but warm and thick enough (after a matter of decades) to work in without full pressure suits (just O2 masks/tanks); and the thicker CO2 could be somewhat easily converted down to O2.

Also, there’s the idea of diverting water rich chunks of comets to the planet (I think even ENT used that one in a season 4 episode), or even genetically engineering plants to seed across the planet and attract sunlight and spark photosynthesis, etc. There are many theories; all of them (even the most ambitious) would take centuries. Sadly, there’s no Genesis device on the immediate horizon. I guess the bar alien in ST3 was right; “Genesis allowed is not”…. ;-)

However, I think if we DO discover any life there (even microbes)? We have to leave them alone. As Carl Sagan says, “If Mars is found to be inhabited (even by microbes)? Then the planet belongs to the Martians.”
Give them their own chance to evolve independently of us or our interference.

I know it seems ludicrous to essentially quarantine a planet for the sake of bacteria (we destroy trillions of terrestrial bacteria every day), but then again; we once began in earth’s oceans millions of years ago as simple, one-celled organisms. What would’ve happened if a superior form of life landed on Earth a billion or more years ago and decided we (in our very earliest stages of evolution) weren’t worth a quarantine?

Something to think about….

24. MJ - April 14, 2012

@23 Except that Mar’s seas dried up 2 billion years ago, and the future for any evolution of life from any current microbes would be extremely bleak. No air, no potential future of liquid water, and a planetary core who’s heat is dying down…no, any microbes there now are never going to amount to anything. Mar’s had its chance, and that period is long over with.

So if we do find a few microbes, after completing the science on then, I say bring in the trailer park trash and strip malls. :-)

25. Red Dead Ryan - April 14, 2012


Care to provide evidence?

Anyway, while there is only circumstantial (at best) evidence that bacteria and microbes inhabited the red planet, what we do know is that there is ice at the polar regions and that there were rivers and even lakes millions of years ago. The problem with Mars is, the atmosphere is too thin, and there is no volcanic activity which is needed to bring up valuable life-sustaining minerals from the interior. That is why civilization wouldn’t be possible without a bubble to create a sustainable environment made up of an Earth atmosphere and to protect people against solar radiation that easily penetrates the ozone layer-less atmosphere.

I agree with those that suggest we should build a base on Mars. I think we could learn even more about our own planet’s beginnings and also study the Red Planet much more closely and efficiently than what we are able to do now from Earth. I don’t see the whole planet being colonized though. I don’t think there’s enough natural resources there to sustain a billion people. I could see several cities of a thousand or so people in bubble environments making a go of it.

26. Sebastian S. - April 14, 2012

The Phoenix lander found subsurface water ice (even took photos of white water ice right before it sublimated into vapor in the thin Martian atmosphere). And orbital surveys have shown that water ice exists in great quantities at the northern pole. Atmospheric density is also far greater in places such as the bottom of Valles Marineris or the Hellas crater basin. There are also large concentrations of methane built up in certain locales on Mars (a lot more than can be accounted for on a near geologically dead planet). Martian ‘farts’ possibly … ;-)

There are lots of ‘hiding places’ for life (life is far more tenacious than we thought in previous decades; as expeditions to the North pole and deep seas of our own planet have proven). Life adapts to it’s environment in spite of itself… we’ve seen that much too often on our own world.

I’m not saying that this all adds up to conclusive evidence for life, but IMO it’d be many decades before Mars is so thoroughly explored to be declared alive or dead in a single breath.

And if we find microbes? Who are we to take their world away from them? They would be as we once were; and we shouldn’t play god with an alien biosphere (if we do indeed discover biology there). Study it and let it be. Let’s not repeat Earth’s mistakes all over again.

Only if Mars is conclusively proven to be 100% lifeless (which it very well may be)? Only then IMO would we have the right to use it for ourselves.
Just my opinion, of course…

27. Vultan - April 14, 2012


Thanks for the info, guys. Interesting discussion to say the least.

Whether there’s life there or not, I think we should go to Mars—plain and simple. Let’s see what’s there with our own eyes. And after that… who knows? The moons of Jupiter and Saturn look interesting…

By the way, on the subject of Saturn’s moons (specifically Titan), anyone else seen the movie “Gattaca”? I just watched it the other night and was blown away by it. Okay, it’s not quite as brilliant as “Blade Runner”, I think, but still deserves to be more well known.

28. Vultan - April 14, 2012

Oh, and on the subject of genetic engineering and space travel, check out this comic series called “Spaceman.” I haven’t read any of the issues, but the concept sounds like something we could see in the future.

29. MJ - April 14, 2012

Most of the work I have seen on terraforming mars pretty much straight-lines current technologies into building huge greenhouse plants on mars, combined with bio-engineered plants that can function on Mars, and then you have to wait hundreds of years for the atmosphere to develop.

If you look at advancements in nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, and let’s say those technologies advance significantly in 100 years from now, then you might see micro atmosphere processors in the form of “self-replicating machines” being introduced into Mars’s surface and atmosphere, where through continual self replication (based on materials available on Mar’s surface), you might see a cascading/chain reaction such that in a few decade you would end up with an atmosphere suited to human habitation.

30. somethoughts - April 15, 2012


I wouldnt just make it up :) there are 2 versions of truth and knowledge, public and need to know basis :) didnt you peeps watch transformers? So many movies and tv sci fi influenced by these types of black ops knowledge.

The worlds secrets has been always shown in form of entertainment :)

31. CmdrR - April 15, 2012

Just don’t know about life playing billiards in the planets. Doesn’t that just take a phenomenal longshot (life itself) and multiply the odds immensely (shooting a bullet in any direction and actually hitting sizeable matter, much less a body with enough of a biosphere to nurture life)? I’m not the brainiac here… seriously… but, I kinda of lean towards theories that say life is much easier to propigate than we have believed up to now… that is, water, sunlight, complex matter… sumthin’s gonna happen.

Martians from 1976? Did they wear red, three-piece liesure suits??

Never sure heads-up displays are a good idea. Hell, we can’t keep people from texting and driving. I think that stuff would be fine for one or two designated soldiers, but not the whole platoon.

Anyway… Thanks, Kayla.

32. Sebastian S. - April 15, 2012

#27 Vultan

My wife and I LOVE “Gattaca.” Saw it when we were dating (and of course, we own the DVD). If you enjoyed that one, you might want to check out some of director Andrew Niccol’s other movies, including last year’s “In Time”, and 2005’s “Lord of War” (one of Nicholas Cage’s best, IMO).”
He is also the writer of “The Truman Show.”

“Gattaca” was an amazing movie. Like “Blade Runner”, it gets better and better the more you watch it….

33. Jai - April 15, 2012

Speaking of dinosaurs, here’s an interesting article…

“Welcome to our new lizard overlords: New study suggests alien worlds could be full of super-intelligent dinosaurs

Life-forms based on different amino acids could be intelligent dinosaurs

Mammals only triumphed on Earth due to ‘accident’ of asteroid

‘We would be better off not meeting them,’ says American scientist

Nasa’s Kepler telescope scans the skies for ‘habitable worlds’ – but an American chemist has suggested the whole project might be a terrible idea.

Ronald Breslow suggests that life-forms based on slightly different amino acids and sugars could take the form of huge, ferocious dinosaurs that have evolved to have human-like intelligence and technologies.

‘We would be better off not meeting them,’ says Breslow, who claims that it was a stroke of luck that an asteroid wiped out dinosaurs on earth, leaving the field clear for mammals such as humans.

On other worlds, dinosaurs could have evolved into huge, intelligent warriors armed with hi-tech weaponry – but without losing their hunger for fresh meat.

‘Of course,’ Breslow says, ‘Showing that it could have happened this way is not the same as showing that it did. An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D-amino acids and L-sugars.

‘Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth.

‘We would be better off not meeting them.’

In the report, noted scientist Ronald Breslow, Ph.D., discusses the century-old mystery of why the building blocks of terrestrial amino acids (which make up proteins), sugars, and the genetic materials DNA and RNA exist mainly in one orientation or shape. There are two possible orientations, left and right, which mirror each other in the same way as hands. In order for life to arise, proteins, for instance, must contain only one chiral form of amino acids, left or right.

With the exception of a few bacteria, amino acids in all life on Earth have the left-handed orientation. Most sugars have a right-handed orientation. How did that so-called homochirality, the predominance of one chiral form, happen?

Breslow describes evidence supporting the idea that the unusual amino acids carried to a lifeless Earth by meteorites about 4 billion years ago set the pattern for normal amino acids with the L-geometry, the kind in terrestial proteins, and how those could lead to D-sugars of the kind in DNA.”

34. Jai - April 15, 2012

Sebastian S, re: #32:

““Gattaca” was an amazing movie. Like “Blade Runner”, it gets better and better the more you watch it….”

It sure does. Gattaca is beautifully picturised too. The whole visual style is very elegant, from the technology to the architecture to the fashion. It’s got that “early 1960s” vibe, obviously with a futuristic twist.

Speaking of stylish stuff, I saw you mentioned “Mad Men” a couple of days ago. I love that show too. In fact, you should also check out this article comparing Draper with Kirk and noting the parallels in 60s attitudes present in both Mad Men & TOS Star Trek…

“Why Don Draper is the Captain Kirk of Mad Men”:

35. Sebastian S. - April 15, 2012

#34 Jai

Brilliant article!! ;-D
Thanks. And yes, I definitely see a strong parallel between DD and JTK! Both screw around a lot, both have a strong marrow of fair play for others within them (despite their screwing around). And both are not necessarily the heads of their organizations (Kirk is only a captain, not head of Starfleet), but in many ways, they are the ‘face’ of their group (Kirk is ambassador to the Federation many times over).

Also read your post on intelligent dinosaurs. It is possible that reptiles are the ‘path of least resistance’ for the evolution of life (especially coming from the oceans), but I can’t help but wonder if extinction-level-event asteroid collisions are just as common in evolution? Maybe nature ‘wipes the slate clean’ on many life-filled planets every hundred million years or so? Perhaps clearing the stage for mammalian ‘uprisings’ on many such worlds. I also liked Breslow’s idea about L-geometry amino acids tipping the scales in favor of mammal evolution (possibly). Again, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this is a common influence on life everywhere?

As Spock says, ‘there are always possibilities’…. ;-)

Also glad to see a little more love for “Gattaca” on this site!
It was one of my favorite movies of the last 20 years. I love the ‘retro-futuristic’ production design as well (and the clever use of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture; George Lucas used many of the same locations in “THX-1138″). The short-lived BSG spinoff “Caprica” was clearly influenced by “Gattaca” (though sadly, not as good as Gattaca, IMO).

Getting back to Mars? It’d be interesting if life is present on Mars (even if only microbes). It would literally DOUBLE the odds for life in the universe everywhere, according to Frank Drake’s equation! ;-)

36. Buzz Cagney - April 15, 2012

Life ejected from Earth after the meteor strike? Now we know why they speak English at every world the Enterprise visits!

37. Buzz Cagney - April 15, 2012

#24 Nah, Mars has had it. MJ said so- so there it is. Sorry little green fellas! :-p

38. Buzz Cagney - April 15, 2012

What did they say the chances of anything coming from Mars were? I think it was quite a lot wasn’t it? I think it was a Million to one they said. But, well, still it came….. :-D

39. Vultan - April 15, 2012


Haven’t seen “In Time” yet, but I have seen Niccol’s other works.
His writing reminds me of Rod Serling in a lot of ways.

Good to see some Mad Men fans here, too. What do you guys think of season 5 so far? Seems to be taking a bit longer to find its direction this time around.

40. Jack - April 15, 2012

Love Gattaca. A little romancy, but, yeah, both visually and, well, everything else, one of my favourite genre movies. Heck, one of my favourite movies period.

In Time is good and has some good ideas underpinning it (ideas which don’t really get developed, but it is nice not to have “this is the message” thrown at in lengthy speeches, although there is some of that) and a nice anti-capitalism bent — it’s a lot more over the top crazy-actiony (and over the top visually, comparably — but it’s still not the standard movie near-future with flying trains and giant video-screens everywhere) than Gattaca..

41. Amish Electrician - April 15, 2012

You may not believe this but i just saw cabin in the Woods….best movie of the year

42. Kayla Iacovino - April 15, 2012

Loving the discussion in the comments this week.

43. Cygnus-X1 - April 15, 2012

4. Thorny – April 14, 2012

I understand your point, but it seems strange that NASA wouldn’t have built some redundancy into the missions subsequent to Viking. That they just gave up so easily on testing for life after the ambiguous results of the Viking tests is puzzling.

44. Vultan - April 15, 2012


Feel free to join in, Kayla. I mean, c’mon, it is your article. And the opinions of a REAL scientist can’t hurt the discussion.

Oh, and tell Neil Degrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku they’re welcome here, too. ;)

45. P Technobabble - April 15, 2012

How about that Martian monolith?
“Dave… Dave… I’m afraid, Dave…”

46. NCM - April 15, 2012

Thanks, Kayla. I always enjoy your articles, even if I usually refrain from comment, for lack of anything to offer.

47. Basement Blogger - April 15, 2012

Oh, oh. Speaking of robots, DARPA has released video of this robot climbing stairs. Scary because the robot is very militaristic. Didn’t these guys watch Terminator?

48. Sebastian S. - April 16, 2012

#47. BB

Or the new Battlestar Galactica? I could see it now:

“The Stairclimbers were created by man…

They evolved. They walk like humans. Some believe that they are human.

And they have a plan!”

49. Desstruxion - April 16, 2012

People really shouldn’t have to suffer from this anymore. With all the fast acting creams and salves and such.

50. Jai - April 16, 2012

Sebastian S, re: #35:

Apparently Don Draper is basically supposed to be a younger, more ruthless version of Roger Thornhill, the iconic Madison Avenue ad exec played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest”. During the first couple of seasons of “Mad Men”, Draper even wears exactly the same business attire as Thornhill.

Jon Hamm has stated in interviews that he’s deliberately trying to avoid getting typecast in 60s-style roles, but I think he’d be great as a Starfleet captain, either in the JJverse movies (the threequel ?) or in some spinoff TV show in a few years.

About dinosaurs and extinction level events…it’s obviously impossible to speculate with any accuracy until ET comes a-calling or mankind travels out there and checks everything out first-hand ;) The twist is that evolution doesn’t necessarily guarantee the development of intelligence equalling or surpassing the level possessed by humans, even if any given predatory species survives for tens of millions of years. There’s a fantastic book called “The Eerie Silence” by SETI’s Paul Davies which explains all this brilliantly. (The book is full of mindblowing ideas about technologically advanced alien civilisations; you should definitely check it out).

“Caprica” had a nice retro 50s style, at least for the male characters. The writers dropped the ball with the execution of the storyline, except for the gripping finale, which was outstanding (the whole show should’ve been like that right from the start). It’ll be interesting to see what they do with “Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome”, if that show manages to see the light of day; according to Bear McCreary, the show is ready to go.

51. Jai - April 16, 2012

^^”The twist is that evolution doesn’t necessarily guarantee the development of intelligence equalling or surpassing the level possessed by humans, even if any given predatory species survives for tens of millions of years.”

On second thought, if it’s common for alien worlds in the rest of the galaxy to have dinosaurs, it’s possible that some of them will have evolved into intelligent species. “Some” is a relative term; recent studies indicate that there are at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy, so potentially even if a minority of those can support life, that could still mean a pretty big number with intelligent dinosaurs.

Good if they’re vegetarian. Not so good if they’re the super-intelligent, warlike carnivorous types discussed in #33…Yes folks, apparently “V” was a documentary ;)

52. Sebastian S. - April 16, 2012


#50-1; I’ve not read “The Eerie Silence” but I’ve heard of it (it’s on the Planetary Society’s ‘must read’ list). I do vow to check it out someday.

I agree about Caprica; if the entire season had been as good as the last five episodes? It’s possible it’d still be on the air today! So much potential….

As for Blood and Chrome, there was a briefly leaked (since pulled) teaser trailer that I was fortunate enough to have seen (it was about two minutes long). I have to say, the ‘virtual’ Galactica sets (and CG viper mockups) looked a bit ‘cartoonish’ to me. And it looks like the producers are attempting to rectify the failure of “Caprica” by overdosing on mindless, Michael Bay style action. As a BSG fan, I’m not overly optimistic (it looks like an exercise in style over substance perhaps), but I won’t strangle it in the cradle either; I want to at least see if first and reserve all real judgment until then….

As for intelligent dinosaurs? I don’t doubt the possibility. This re-evaluation of the old Viking data doubles the odds for life everywhere in the universe (if life happened twice in one average solar system? Who knows where else it might’ve evolved…).

I’m reading another book called “The Elusive Wow” by Robert Gray about the 1977 ‘wow’ signal (probably part of the inspiration for the movie “Contact” I’d imagine) that briefly swept across radio receivers at Ohio State. By all accounts the signal COULD NOT have been terrestrial in origin, it was too narrow a bandwidth to be a natural source and it was within the frequency of hydrogen (exactly where aliens might choose to initiate contact, as it would be universally recognized). Attempts to relocate the signal (which only occurred on one night) have been negative. But it led to very interesting speculation at the very least! ;-)

53. Sebastian S. - April 16, 2012

And Jai?

I hope you’ve enjoyed “Mad Men” as much as I have this season. The Pete/Lane fight was utterly hilarious!

And yes, I agree about Don. He is very much Cary Grant, but I still seem to find some Kirk parallels as well; both come from rural farmboy stock. Both have a lot of personal drive and ambition. Both are prone to be somewhat moody and capricious at times. Both have romanced younger women (well actually ALL the men on the show do that…).

At any rate, I’m probably pushing this thread way off topic now, so I’ll stop here….


54. somethoughts - April 16, 2012


One of many aliens :)

55. Sebastian S. - April 16, 2012

# 54

A nice speculative illustration, but it’s not really any kind of proof of extraterrestrials. It’s like that site is making an ‘Encyclopedia Galactica’ based on pure speculation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the first ETs we encounter are either Martian bacteria (which, according to the revised Viking data in the article, we possibly may have already encountered; but I’m skeptical) or perhaps in the more distant future we may find some kind of hearty oceanic life living beneath the Galilean satellite Europa’s thick ice layer….

But speculation on grays, lizard people, or bug-eyed UFO denizens are more science fiction at this point, IMO. There’s no proof other than ‘eyewitnesses’ who are simply people with no evidence of their encounters trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame (or infamy; whichever).

Put it more succinctly; I’ll believe it when I see it and when there is verifiable proof from the scientific community.

As Ben Kenobi says, “Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them…”


56. Greenberg - April 17, 2012

If there is life on Mars, we won’t find it until we send humans. All of this nonsense with robots… honestly. You’ll find more with a human scientist in a week than we have with probes in decades.

57. - April 17, 2012

So we might have found life on Mars but may not have, can’t really say.


58. Jai - April 17, 2012

Sebastian S, re: #52 & #53:

Something that really struck me while reading “The Eerie Silence”, especially the last few chapters, is that ST:TMP could actually be a pretty realistic depiction of alien civilisations thousands or millions of years more advanced than us. Read the book sometime (it really is brilliant); you’ll find out what I mean ;)

You’re right, it’s a shame about “Caprica”. Hopefully Ron D. Moore and his team will do a better job with “Blood and Chrome”, as long as they remember the reasons that BSG was frequently so good.

The famous Wow! signal definitely is very thought-provoking (it’s also an easter egg in the current viral promotional campaign for “Prometheus”, which references our most recent outbound “cosmic calls” too). If you’re interested in other examples of unexplained communications which possibly strongly indicate alien origin, do a Google search for the Crabwood crop circle message.

“Mad Men” started off slow for the first couple of episodes this season, but it’s become obvious that it involved some necessary initial “scene-setting”. I thought the show really took off again in the fantastic episode where Don has the flu and a hell of a lot ends up happening storywise. That was the last episode shown here in the UK (last week, with a new episode later tonight), so no spoilers please ;) The latest season is turning out to be outstanding as usual.

59. Vultan - April 17, 2012


Is Mad Men very popular in the UK? I’m sure Jared Harris’ being in the cast helps. But in any event, Brits should love the most recent episode, “Signal 30.”

No spoilers. You’ll see what I mean.

60. Vultan - April 17, 2012

By the way, thanks for the book recommendation, Jai.
I’m going to check out “The Eerie Silence” right now.

61. Sebastian S. - April 17, 2012

#58 Jai.

My apologies about the spoilers. Similar thing happens with “Doctor Who” and “Being Human” when my UK e-friends accidentally spoil them for me. Sorry about that. I’ll be more careful next time… ;-)

And yes, I really plan to read “Eerie Silence” soon; you’ve piqued my interest! And I also didn’t know that the Wow signal played a part in the “Prometheus” movie! One more reason I am absolutely SALIVATING to see this movie….

62. Vultan - April 17, 2012


Have you seen the new “David 8″ video for Prometheus? It’s pretty cool. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen actors from a movie be this involved with the marketing.

63. Sebastian S. - April 17, 2012


I did!! Thank you.
I think the cast must be thrilled to working with Ridley Scott on his first foray into scifi since “Blade Runner”. I know I would be kissing the soundstage floor on a daily basis…. ;-D

64. Vultan - April 17, 2012


Yep. And what a great cast Scott has put together!

Fassbender has become one of my favorites since last year’s X-Men First Class. He may be the first android to win an Oscar. ;)

65. Jai - April 19, 2012

The “Weyland Industries” viral website has been completely revamped:

There’s some interesting stuff on the homepage, but if you hover the mouse over the blue box on the top-left of the screen (where the Weyland logo is), a large drop-down box is displayed with further links to all kinds of goodies.

66. Jai - April 19, 2012

^^Sorry, wrong thread. I’ll re-post it on the correct one.

67. Jai - April 19, 2012

Re: #60 & #61:

Enjoy the book. Fascinating, fact-filled, thought-provoking, mind-blowing, and the most thorough, intellectually brilliant analysis of the subject I’ve ever read.

Re: #59:

The situation with “Mad Men” in the UK is basically the same as in the US: It’s more of a cult hit, but it has a very high profile in British culture and the media. Some of the leads have become iconic figures too, especially Don and Joan. The show has also had a huge influence on fashion trends for both men and women in the UK during the past couple of years.

68. The Younger & Hotter Zefram Cochrane - April 27, 2012

Hmmm, Mars is beginning to sound more and more like Ceti Alpha V more and more. Wait, did I say more and more? I meant more and more.

I wonder what the Human life on Earth would think if a Zefrham Cochran of sorts actually lived on the planet TODAY?

Things that make you go, Hmmmm?

69. The Younger & Hotter Zefram Cochrane - April 27, 2012


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