November 21, 2012

Mars.     Photo: Luis Stortini Sabor/Shutterstock

An Earth-Shaking Discovery on Mars

Elements necessary for life?

The Mars Science Laboratory certainly knows how to generate publicity. Earlier this week, principal investigator John Grotzinger teased that a recent soil sample test from the Curiosity rover shows something "earth-shaking." "This data is gonna be one for the history books," said Grotzinger, also a professor at the California Institute of Technology and a celebrated paleontologist. "It's looking really good."

While the findings won't be verified and released for several weeks, we can make an educated guess as to what the soil sample, which was taken by Curiosity's SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument, has shown. The SAM was designed specifically to investigate the composition of the Martian soil and atmosphere and look for organic molecules, an important element in the search for life on the Red Planet. While a confirmation of the presence or absense of organic molecules on Mars would be something to celebrate, according to many scientists, it's assumed that Grotzinger wouldn't have teased a nil result and that the Science Laboratory has, in fact, made a discovery.

Why is that so earth-shaking? "Life as we know it cannot exist without organic molecules; however, they can exist wthout life" explained Nancy Atkinson, a senior editor at Universe Today and host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast. "SAM will be able to detect lower concentrations of a wider variety of organic molecules than any other instrument yet sent to Mars." So while the Science Laboratory has not yet discovered life, past or present, they may have discovered the necessary elements.

Via Universe Today


A bike commuter riding through the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon. Portland is one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States leading to many people, like this man, using it as their main method of transportation.     Photo: Jordan Siemens

Bike Thief Sentenced to 14 Years

Nabbed $110,000 in gear

Just two days before the Exergy Tour earlier this year, 13 bikes were stolen from Team TIBCO, a professional women's cycling team sponsored by TIBCO Software that competes in elite road racing events. Michael Lawrence, 19, cut the lock on the trailer where the bikes were being kept while the team slept in a motel in Boise, Idaho, last May, and rode off with approximately $110,000 in gear, including Specialized Amira road bikes and Specialized Shiv Time-Trial bikes. "These bikes are top-of-the-line race bikes, built with top-of-the-line SRAM Red components," Team TIBCO owner, Linda Jackson, said at the time of theft. "The time trial bikes specifically are very unique and should be easily identifiable. In addition, all these bikes were painstakingly built and fitted to each rider with the help of Specialized." So identifiable were those bikes that Lawrence would have had a lot of difficulty selling his stolen goods. He never got away with it; last Friday, a judge sentenced the thief to 14 years in prison.

Via Human Push