In 1996, real-deal NASA scientists announced they had discovered signs of ancient microbial life in a rock that had broken off Mars and landed on Antarctica. The news set off a controversy still going today. Do we already have proof of alien life?
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Short Stuff: The Mars Rock with Signs of Life?
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I'm walking to the shorts that find Josh and there's Chuck Interiors even here. Two days here in spirit though. It's a short stuff. Let's go. Marsha and took, we did one recently on not just said he, but you know, how humans might respond with the protocols are for talking to aliens. I don't remember what we named it, but we mentioned this in passing in that episode. Cuz we're talking today about a particular chunk of rock. That was discovered on December 27th, 1984 in Antarctica, and it's called alh84001 and a. L h stands for the Allen. Hills region of Antarctica, has found 001 stands for the fact that it was the first rock discovered of the season and it was the 8485 collecting season. So that's where the 84 comes from. And you might say, hey, that's great. That's interesting. What's so remarkable about alh84001?
And I think we should talk about that in-depth real quick. Let's in death row classic. Yeah, we should do for sure. Shout-out geologist, Roberta score, who was the person who was out on a snowmobile? And saw this thing for the first time. Every time she found when she be like score,
just act like it was way too much of that. The police is myself. So, okay, so Roberta score finds this thing, they bring it back, and it's kind of Raiders of the Lost Ark style stuck in storage for a remarkably long time, cuz didn't really know what they had on their hands until 1993, when they finally being at work to be started, kind of looking into this thing a little bit more. And they said, wait a minute everybody, this rock is from Mars and it was formed when the Earth was still molten about four and a half billion years ago and the way they figured it is it there was some cataclysmic event that sent this rock launching out into space and it's sort of bumped around for about 16 million years and then eventually found our solar system with like 13 thousand years ago.
Yeah. And they got pulled into Earth's gravity in eventually. It died or visited in landed in Antarctica. Yeah, why is it? It's so funny. It just seems like that stuff Never Lands in a Suburban neighborhood in Alabama or something. You know, I think it it has plenty of times but we just so developed that and move so much Earth. We just have no idea what what those rocks are. We just pushing them out of the way and I guess they're even though it seems like there's people everywhere. There's still a lot more land where people aren't around for something to land on death row for the ocean. Of course, the only person to ever be struck by a meteorite, I think was a woman in Alabama in like the 50s or 60s or memory. I think it was Alabama, so it's it's raining meteorites in Alabama, parently, okay. So this thing with special, they realized it was from Mars and so they started to really take a much closer look at it and the first thing they discovered that really kind of knock their socks off where these orange grains locked
Side of it that they tested, and they found were made of carbonate. And they know, here on Earth, carbonate forms, when water, that has carbon in it flows, through cracks in a rock that water evaporates and leaves in that carbon remains. And so they said, hold on a second here. If this thing has carbon, which is an essential ingredient of life than that, might mean, this could be Proof of Life on Mars. And it also says everybody that there was water flowing on Mars, another vital ingredient for life, right? So this kind of got their attention and focus that toward the idea that perhaps there was some sort of evidence of life in this rock and he started looking very closely at it and as the BBC put it in that article that we read, they noticed near the carbonate grains, worms and sausages that looked just like Earth bacteria except much smaller and that really got their juices flowing. So now all of a sudden you have a team
The jet propulsion laboratory for studying a four and a half. Building your old piece of Mars, investigating it for possibly having harboured life at one point, right? And we should point out that there were obviously with something like this. There were people that were on what you would call or what that believe you called team believe 14 believer. But of course also people that said nothing was probably contaminated here on Earth, like some kind of terrestrial contamination, and that explains what we're finding here. So you had to sort of groups of I guess, for lack of a better word, naysayers, and Believers and they were studying. This thing really closely about what each team figured out.
Let's do it.
Sauschuck Carl Sagan famously said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, right? And the idea of a chunk of Mars bearing, evidence of microbial, life, ancient billions of your old microbial life is a really extraordinary claim. So there was a lot of push among team believer, to find extraordinary evidence to back this up. And like you said there was this idea that perhaps this has been contaminated terrestrial e? There was a study that was conducted by an entirely different group of people. From what I can tell that looked at other Martian rocks that have been found in the Allen Hills area of Antarctica. They have been processed at the same jet propulsion lab in the search for something that looks like, what was showing up on the alh84001 Rock and they didn't find anything. So that right there, kind of bolstered, the idea that this rock was special and unique in it and hadn't necessarily been contaminated here on Earth.
That's right. So that's when positive step forward for Life on Mars, more and more people, I think started to kind of fall into the team believer camp, but there was one person a specialist in microscopy Force. Copy, what are you saying? I'm going to say microscopy. Oh well, I meant yeah. Keep on here. Do you looked at your microphone microscope? So this person join the team basically saying,
Advising them hate. We may want to hold our horses here because we don't want to make fools of ourselves by going public with some findings that I don't even know if I believe. And she started looking through this thing, obviously through a microscope. And when you get down there in microscopic land, it's they described it on the BBC is terrain, which is kind of cool like the terrain of this rock and saw these little black grains on the rims of these carbonate Globs and they were very very tiny just nanometers in size and she learned that these were magnetic crystals made of iron oxide and iron sulfide which was another big aha moment. And it turns out here on Earth there actually a byproduct of the specific kind of Magneto tactic, bacteria is a cool word once you master it
And it's it's a byproduct of the process of life that produces these little magnet Heights. It can also be created in other ways, right? Non-organic lean on biologically, but to do that, to create these little magnet Heights nanometers across non biologically. It requires really, really high temperature, really, really high ph and an environment. That's not at all hospitable for life, but that also means it's an environment not at all hospitable for liquid water. And since they had basically essentially confirmed that liquid water had deposited, those car that carbon, it would have had to have been liquid water that, I guess, house, whatever bacteria that might say, to those my tights, it was to put it differently. It was another check in favor of the idea that something living had once been on this rock right found by someone from tme naysayer.
If you come on to it, I think they kind of save her colleagues from embarrassment. If she started out as a genuine scientist is supposed to shoot attempted to debunk. This not to be a jerk. But again like she actually scientists are supposed to do. I think from what I could tell, she was also taking it upon herself that she wanted to be the one rather than say other scientists who might not be nearly as kind or gentle about it. Yeah, I seen a Sarah gives it a negative connotation team, skeptic, Poo-poo Pants. I like all three. So the team believer gets back on board to do some more studying. They found organic molecules called a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons pahs that are in these carbon deposits that they had originally found. And here's the thing, you can find the stuff in the cosmos. You can find it here on planet Earth when you charge your meat.
Negril, they are the you know you might have heard that if you do things in a certain way with big chard grilled marks, there can be a carcinogen carcinogenic compounds, that's what that is. And it just occurred to me. That's probably why you don't grill food, huh?
Yeah, I'm not really happy about the taste of charred stuff but also I don't own a grill so that kind of protect me from Grimm. I said there's a lot of stuff so that's what the pH is are, but they're created as a by-product of life, which is sort of the key as far as this rock is concerned and they found the stuff, like, when things to Kay's like an oil deposits in cold deposits. Yeah. From when microbes Decay and become fossilized, right? So here's the thing, again, just like those magnets, Heights, pahs can exist and can be created 9 organically, right? This is how their part of cosmic dust and all that stuff. But again, the way that these, that they showed up in this rock really made this team. Say, you know, this is exactly what you would expect. This this these pah has to be deposited in this form if it had been deposited by a decaying microbe rather than happening now
Organically, right road. Again, another big check and another box that supports the idea that life had once been inhabiting this rock, that was from Mars. Okay, so this point it's the mid-90s, it's 96, it's a summertime, they don't have definitive proof but they did submit findings in a paper in the in science in the journal science. It was reviewed by a very same panel, which did include Mr. Seguin, or Doctor S Esquire in the NASA? Got involved and Grill, done, and they finally decided. All right, I think we, at least have enough to make a public announcement that we have possibly discovered life on or evidence of past life on Mars, an old Billy Clinton got up there, made that announcement and it was a really, really big deal as you would expect. I think the BBC reports that within just a few
A million people had seen the the science paper online and this is a science paper. It's not generally, the kind of thing that most of the public will like click on and download and read and people are really into their new screws around the block in Houston, trying to get a look at this thing. In the first week, there were more than a thousand stories that NASA counted on the announcement and they suggested that the scale of the coverage across the world actually eclipse, and exceeded the coverage of the first moon landing. So, it would like you said, it's a really big deal. I mean, think about a Chuck the president of the United States, arguably back than the leader of the Free World said, hey some of our scientists think that they found evidence of ancient Life on Mars said it out loud in the Rose Garden at the White House. So yeah it was a huge deal and the public received it pretty well and pretty enthusiastically again, they're talkin about microbes that existed, 16 million years or more ago.
On Mars. It was still evidence of life in the scientific Community however it was not receive quite so well. Yeah. You know, I think since then, all the evidence has been looked over and there is there still team naysayer Star Team skeptic who pants is very much alive as is our team believer and it did the jury still out. It's there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that points to it being Life on Mars. And I think that definitely sort of helped kick off a lot of our subsequent research and interest on Mars. Just that first little hint, I don't know if you could Point like a direct line to funding or anything like that, but it wouldn't surprise me to see which is pretty low funded today. Yeah, so it was a really big deal and the fact that the jury is still out like you said means that it's somewhere. I believe in Houston we have a meteor.
That contains evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, just not everybody believes. That's what it is and they probably put in a great and rolled it back to next to the Ark of the Covenant. That's right. You got anything else? Nothing else could one, everybody? Sure stuff is out.
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