Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Odds of finding life on Mars

When I first read about the "Big Belch" on Mars, in the Sun of all places, I was a tad incredulous. Turns out however that the evidence is pretty tantalizing. But short of going there and digging we won't know for sure. What do you think are the odds that the origin of the methane is biotic? Turns out bookies have stopped taking bets since the discovery. In the 1970's the odds of finding past or present life on Mars were 1000:1, and before the discovery they were hovering around 16:1. Bookies however are still taking bets on whether life is still present on Mars at 500:1 (seems like a good bet to me), and whether president Obama will announce the discovery of intelligent extra-terrestrial life in this current year, and the odds are 66:1 (seems like a bad bet to me). Gentlemen, time to make your bets, comment with your odds and the wisdom of the crowd will enlighten us.


Rob said...

I, for one, welcome our methanogic overlords.
I would also love to be in the first lab that gets their nitrile gloves on these martians, if indeed they exist.
However, I find the timing of the release of these results a bit suspect. NASA has been looking at this data accumulating for three years, and now, at the beginning of a new US administration, announces that their might be life on mars.
Sounds like they might get more funding from the new and improved science friendly US government.
bad astronomy has a good take on the media coverage.

Overall though I have to say I am just giddy about the possibility of life on Mars.

Bayman said...

Martian methanogens. The perfect solution to reliance on foreign oil and the associated political difficulties. In the absence of domestic reserves, it's the perfect time for the US to shift from foreign dependencies to extraterrestrial dependencies. After all, everyone knows there's no terrorists on Mars. As for Canada's part in the effort, I suggest we leverage our expertise in Canadarm development to get a headstart on the interplanetary pipeline business.

NASA just wants to get in on the imminent alternative fuels funding goldrush. You heard it here first.