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back to article NASA Mars tank Curiosity rolls on old WET PATCH, sighs, sniffs for life signs

The latest data from the Curiosity rover released by NASA shows the rover is trundling through what was once a large fresh-ish water lake that could have supported life as we know it – although radiation levels on the surface may have caused any organisms some problems. "The clay materials at what would have been at the bottom …

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Brilliant plan!

Go under a rock overhang and start drilling, what could possibly go wrong with that?

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Coat

Re: Brilliant plan!

As long as the driller is Portugese, all will be well*.

*oh look, a pun.

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Excellent!

The way this is going, they will soon discover the mysteriously lifeless body of a redshirt. Then the fun begins.

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sounding stupid

Wonderful that you to produce science-related articles, but your continued insistence on using the term "boffin" to refer to scientists is dated and sounds ignorant.

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Re: sounding stupid

Being the "newkid", perhaps you should do some research into this site before opening your own ignorant trap to insert your foot.

The term "boffin" is used in order to differentiate proper scientists and engineers, from those who have adopted the term into the job description to try and give themselves an air of importance. You know, like how your local garbageman is now called a "waste management engineer", or any other pretentious wanker who specialises in "social sciences".

Boffins do the hard math. The type where numbers arent enough, and they have to start including letters from both the english, and greek alphabets. They may, or may not have beards, but those who do have beards, have impressive beards that would put a Unix guru to shame. These are the types of guys who are but one lab accident away from giving Dr Doom a run for his money.

Finally, the term boffin is used with respect, and a touch of love towards these rainy folk who only tend to get out of bed once the other mad scientists have gone for a Bex and a lie down due to the complexity of the problems they are dealing with.

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Re: sounding stupid

Maybe, if this was 1945, or even 1955...but in 2013 the term is outdated, and somewhat negative (much like your "open your trap, insert foot" comments). Oh, and these are modern-day NASA scientists--largely American--not James Bond's "Q". They deserve to be called such, not tagged with a lowbrow British slang term.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: sounding stupid

"in 2013 the term is outdated, and somewhat negative"

Yeah, well...

C.

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Re: sounding stupid

YOU may think it sounds charming and affectionate, but it really makes you sound juvenile and provencial. Claiming that it differentiates "real" scientists from posers is kind of lame in this context, since the only people running MSL ARE real scientists. As long as you aren't quoting JPL's janitorial staff, I don't think you'll need to make the added distinction.

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Headmaster

Not a triumph

Please, no use of "kind of lame" around this here comment section.

> the only people running MSL ARE real scientists

Aren't they more akin to engineers though? In actuality, I would not want to have a honest-to-god scientist running space programs, quite apart from the fact that he/she should be doing Science!.

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Re: sounding stupid

This thread sounds like an infestation by trick-cyclists...

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Pint

Re: sounding stupid

The meaning of a word is whatever meaning is given to it.

Here at The Register "boffin" means a top scientist / engineer worthy of utmost respect. That's the way it is used by whoever writes it, that's the way it s taken by 99% of it's very loyal readers. If you choose to assign a different meaning to it, that's your problem.

After all, if I say "newkid is a cool guy" and you take "cool" or "guy" to be an insulting word, that is coming from your interpretation not my usage.

So cool your jets, guy, relax, have a beer and welcome to the El Reg party, where people (usually*) do not take themselves too seriously.

* unless the topic is climate change in which case hang on to your hat

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Re: sounding stupid

"* unless the topic is climate change"

or Mac v Windoze - na, na, missed that!

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Re: Not a triumph

When it comes to space, or any other cutting-edge endeavor, engineering and science form a pretty tight bond. A scientist who doesn't have some understanding and appreciation for engineering will be pretty useless, and an engineer who doesn't appreciate science will be limited.

Remember, science involves experiment as much as it does theory, and it's hard to do any decent experimenting without engineering help.

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Anonymous Coward

The toilet humour headlines are getting a bit tragic....pretty sure the target audience is 30+...

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Anonymous Coward

"The toilet humour headlines are getting a bit tragic....pretty sure the target audience is 30+..."

The average age here is 35 and many will not want to grow up.

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Anonymous Coward

Speak for your self, I'm 32 and still giggle like a school girl at farts.

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Boffin

There's no point in being grown up

if you can't be childish sometimes!

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Growing old is mandatory

Growing up is optional.

I would tell yo to embrace your inner child, but it seems your outer grumpy old man has told him to get orf the lawn.

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Happy

Benson

Here is a good chance for science to show us how evolution started on earth. Mars is offering science a clean slate, like here you go, start from scratch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Benson

Apart from the lack of water, the low temperature, the lack of breathable atmosphere... oh and the radiation.

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Joke

Re: Benson

... What have the Martians ever done for us?

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I'm amazed at how little the crater has changed in three-and-a-half BEEELION years. Compare that with almost everywhere on this planet. Yes I know the Martian planetary dynamo fizzled out a long time ago, putting an end to plate tectonics, even so that dried lake bed is very well-preserved for its age.

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Apparently it was buried for a very long time, which did indeed preserve it. The sediment stack that now makes up Mount Sharp once filled the whole crater, and very likely much of the surrounding terrain. Now that the pile is being slowly worn away by wind erosion, the basal sediments are once again exposed in places. Kudos to those who selected this site. It was a great choice.

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For some reason we tend to have a static model for Earth. The fact that 60 million years ago winged dinosaurs and flying insects had double the wingspan indicates that there was at least double. But since "lift" is a function of area, a square function of wingspan, then likely four times the current atmosphere level. Our atmosphere is constantly stripped by solar wind and the molecules broken by solar radiation, as in N14 decay to C14. The atmosphere is replenished to a limited degree by 'elemental' atoms, by products of Earth's variable fission rate. These 'new' atoms are forced under high heat and pressure to form elemental molecules and elemental compounds. These compounds include CO2 and Methane gases, as well as water which feed the underground aquifers from below. Hydrocarbons are a natural, continually produced compound and NOT a finite residue of past life. More on this under the Geo-nuclear tab at Faux Science Slayer website.

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Anonymous Coward

Perhaps you should go slay yourself, as that was the biggest load of old bollocks I have read in a long time.

On second thoughts, I've just read your back catalogue. ...

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wtf

I can't even begin to imagine how your mind got so confused about everything, if i didn't know better, I'd swear I was reading a post by Deepak Chopra. Utter fecking nonsense.

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FAIL

Quit the comment-vertising

Notice the site you plug is the same as your account name, got yourself an El Reg account just to advertise I'm guessing. If your website has as much bollocks as that post then most people here won't be stupid enough to visit it. Do us a favour and quietly efutue

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"Hydrocarbons are a natural, continually produced compound and NOT a finite residue of past life."

Speculations on possible a-biotic origin of oil are not new. Nothing, though, suggests that it is in fact the source of natural oil.

It would also make more sense thermodynamically to first let the chemicals concentrate themselves by means of self-propelled grazing organic reactors-aggregators (aka "dinosaurs") munching on solar-powered stationary capillary-hydrated saccharide producers (aka "trees") and then cook the nicely enriched and conglomerated biomass into petroleum rather than trying to rely on direct solar-to-oil conversion in the atmosphere of diffuse gases.

Gaia is not stupid, man. And she will bite you if you don't show respect.

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Coffee/keyboard

oh. em. ef. GEE.

Just checked out this clown's site on your recommendation, and holy fuckin' shit. "Bollocks" isn't the word for this zaniness. I haven't seen a load of balloon juice this unhinged since I saw the Time Cube page.

Ironically, he has a section for "satire".

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Re: oh. em. ef. GEE.

Oh. Crikey. I only just realised how Gaia is oppressed by Demonic Warlords in rotating Universe...

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Boffin

no Methane . . .

. . . NO life.

USA Today had a similar article about the exciting possibility of finding signs of past life on mars because of the once wet lake... where she is currently sniffing...

The problem here is that water is just one factor, and methane can not be detected... at all, not even a tiny little bit... no methane... no life. It really is that simple.

So, keep sniffing around the water hole...

Cheers

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Anonymous Coward

So, seriously for a moment

As someone who was in college when NASA landed the Vikings on Mars and later reported that the planet was completly sterile, and probably always has been, it has been encouraging to see the turnaround in planetary science over the last decade. Gone are the false color images of the Martian horizon artificially purged of any and all blue, as are the defensive arguments that whatever created the canyons and rivulets cut across its surface, it couldn't have been water. But in its place I'm thinking we're now got a climate of over-optimism that could be sending us in the wrong direction when it comes to investments in the search for extraterrestrial life. The extraordinarily thin atmosphere of Mars is troubling enough, but millenia of bombardment by radiation that reaches at least 3 meters below the surface is something that makes you wonder if we'd be better off with the admittedly premature assessments given in 1976. Maybe then we'd be tackling the really hard challenge of mounting expeditions to Europa, Titan, Enceledas or other horrendously difficult places to get to. As it is I wonder if Mars exploration could turn out to be another Shuttle-class drain on NASA's exploration buget, without much promise of results.

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Re: So, seriously for a moment

What you patently fail to realise is that space exploration requires baby steps. We can't just go into warp drive from day one. It takes time and a measured approach, currently we don't have the technology to get that far in a reasonable amount of time - atleast to keep the population interested.

So little steps, ISS, explore mars using rovers, land on an asteroid or two, may be think about technology for a manned mission to mars, and then who knows what next. It's slow, and requires lots of patience - unless you can indeed develop the next impulse drive or warp drive - in which case, feel free to drop your local space agency a note...

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Re: So, seriously for a moment

Life isn't the only thing worth looking for on Mars -- in fact, if our real goal is exploiting the resources of other worlds, it's better for all if life doesn't happen to already exist there. Mars is still worthy of exploration even if life never existed there at all.

As for its habitability, it really is intriguing finding out that it had portions, at least, which could be considered habitable. But it's a bit optimistic without knowing more to think that life did exist there. After all, we only know what the requirements are for life to survive, not what the requirements are for life to form. They may be two different sets of conditions. Whether Mars ever had the kind of conditions that would allow life to develop from scratch is still anybody's guess.

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