July 26, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Life on Mars – and Titan?

Life has not been found on Mars, but some scientists, according to National Geographic News, are worried that we are contaminating the planet with Earth germs that will make the search for Martians more difficult.  Speaking of Mars, a report in Science Now claims that Mars rarely got above freezing in its entire history.
    The life-on-Mars angle is not news, but life on Titan?  Sure enough, two astrobiologists, according to New Scientist, are claiming there might be faint evidence for life on the frozen moon of Saturn among the barbecue lighter fluid (see 04/25/2005 entry).  Based on initial chemical analysis from the Huygens Probe (see 01/21/2005 and 01/15/2005 stories), Chris McKay and Heather Smith think something might be feasting on gas.  “They think the microbes would breathe hydrogen rather than oxygen, and eat organic molecules drifting down from the upper atmosphere,” especially energy-rich acetylene, according to the report.  Better keep that oxygen from Saturn’s rings away (see 02/28/2005 entry), or the whole moon might blow like a torch.  That produces some follow-up speculations.  Would such an event cook the life well done?  If a barbecue happens with no one around to eat it, is there really a taste?

McKay ought to know better.  He knows chemistry, and he knows thermodynamics.  If life is information made flesh (see 06/25/2005 article), where is he going to import that ingredient?  Astrobiologists are going to lose their last smidgeon of credibility totally if they keep pushing the myth that life just happens everywhere just because they need to justify their careers.  Honesty is the best policy.

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