back to article Unable to give up on life on Mars, bio-boffins now thrilled to find boron

Boron, a relatively rare chemical element, has been detected on Mars for the first time. It's a sign there may have been life on the Red Planet. A paper published in the Geophysical Research Letters on Tuesday links the presence of boron to the possible presence of ribonucleic acid on the unforgiving dust world at one time or …

  1. laurence brothers

    Isn't boron formed by cosmic ray activity? How could there *not* be boron on Mars?

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "Isn't boron formed by cosmic ray activity? "
      Yes. Also in supernovae. Essential trace element in plant nutrition.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      News flash - traces of 92 elements found on Mars, plus those transuranics powering the Mars Rover.

  2. Alister Silver badge

    It's a sign there may have been life on the Red Planet.

    This phrase could be applied to almost any chemical element you care to name, without it actually signifying much.

    1. fajensen Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: It's a sign there may have been life on the Red Planet.

      Lets launch a tech-squillionaire at Mars and settle the issue I say. Larry Ellison perhaps?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: It's a sign there may have been life on the Red Planet.

        Can't we send Trump? Since he knows more about ISIS than the generals do, he probably also knows more about exobiology than NASA does!

  3. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Joke

    The chances of anything coming from Mars...

    Are a million to one they said...

    1. hnwombat

      Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

      = Are a million to one they said...

      But still they come! (+1 upvote for your obscure reference!)

      1. Ian Bush
        Boffin

        Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

        Obscure!? Sigh ... kids these days

        That said I'm mildly confused by this. There's no reason boron won't be found in Mar's surface, and it's no big surprise that any boron on Mars will be in the form of borates given the highly oxidised state of the surface - on Earth (almost?) all boron containing minerals are borates. So given that why the big fuss about life? For me the most amazing thing is that the truly amazing Curiosity rover can detect a rare element like boron - I wonder what the concentration is?

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

        (+1 upvote for your obscure reference!)

        Obscure?! The appearance of a Jeff Wayne quote is inevitable in the comments on any article about life on Mars.

        And I wouldn't have it any other way.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

          If you want obscure, how about H G Wells' original, before Jeff fiddled with it?

          “The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to one,” he said.

          Or,

          "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. "

          1. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

            @ Alister:

            I always read that in the RC broadcast voice in my head.

            And when I picked up The Map of Time, I read most of the book in that voice too.

            <we need an "Old, dusty Tome" icon ElRegitors!">

            1. Alister Silver badge

              Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

              I always hear Richard Burton's dulcet tones when I read that passage.

      3. IT Poser

        obscure reference!

        The chances of finding that comment on a Mars story are a million to one, yet it appears nine times out of ten.

    2. Andy E
      Alien

      Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

      Who was it who said the thing with million to one chances is that nine times out of ten they come in?

      Terry Pratchet? Douglas Adams?

      1. Ian Bush

        Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars...

        Pterry said that one

  4. 0laf Silver badge

    "Without RNA, you have no life", well on Earth that's true but it isn't necessarily a universal rule.

    And finding one bit of Boron in one sediment....

    However, science is good and funding is hard so don't knock them too much.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    Presence of B <> presence of RNA

    So Boron, necessary , but not sufficient to demonstrate RNA on Mars.

    TBH it's a low atomic number element, so I'm not too surprised that if analyzed enough Martian regolith you'd find some there. Y'know, planets are all made of stars, and Boron is early in the fusion list?

    Given there's plenty of Iron on the surface I'd say anything below Iron was an odds on bet to existing there.

    Still. Handy for ticking off a list of elements you'd want if you were setting up home there. IIRC Boron is quite useful for making alloys in electric motors, generators and transformers. If you want to create a self sufficient settlement being able to make these is going to be quite important.

  6. Dr. G. Freeman

    No, they found morons on Mars.

    Autocorrect strikes again.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Moron

      That's how I read the headline at first.

      Morons on Mars! Sounds like a movie title to me. Now who could play the lead?

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Moron

        Now who could play the lead?

        Rick Moronis, of course...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Moron

          Don't be a moron. It has to be Jimmy Nail!!

    2. nijam

      No, no, they found morons in bars.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When do we give up?

    I'd be as overjoyed as the next geek if we did find life on Mars but only once we decide we're not going to find life there can we start terraforming, right?

    It just feels at the moment like having an offsite backup of humanity might come in handy.

  8. DNTP

    I found borates

    ...in my lab. But no life was observed. I suspect it will spontaneously generate at 9am when the workday starts. Using that model, we should send coffee and donuts to Mars- that always seems to stimulate the prompt emergence of technologists around here.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    so a fuel source?

    boron based fuels created locally for higher performance aerial vehicles?

    or is this all just leftover from the Martian interplanetary cannon? :P

  10. Stumpy

    Am I the only one who read the headline as

    Unable to give up on life on Mars, bio-boffins now thrilled to find bacon

    1. thx1138v2

      Well, I read it as bourbon. I can see why they would be thrilled in either case but drilling for bourbon seems more news worthy.

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