Skip to main content

Phoenix processing a revolution ???

The Phoenix lander has succeeded beyond the hopes of its designers and has not only successfully landed on Mars near the ice cap but has managed to unearth (or unmars to be precise) frozen ice just under the soil surface near the lander. Now the lander undergoes the process of chemical analysis of the ice to determine if it has anything in it that we might consider as a form of life. It is amazing that we are in a position to answer the question of weather or not life is unique to our blue orb, at the same time the relative silence in the media is disturbing. I think the most important consequence of a discovery of living entities in the Martian subsurface ice would be the ability to adjust our estimates for the probability of life in the Galaxy.

We've known since the 50's that the elements of life, simple amino acids , lipids can be formed by simulation of conditions similar to what was found in the early Earth. However, amino acids do not life make, before we get to life we need to have complex replicating chains of Amino Acids , called RNA ...and then we need protective shells for these RNA that are able to be permeated conditionally based on various interactions with materials outside of the essence a primitive cell. Finding such entities on Mars would indicate that the process of building life is one that can form in the most inhospitable environments and should drastically increase the estimates for life in the Galaxy. Still it must be pointed out that life being able to form in extreme environments does not necessarily lead to life that can evolve to the complex form that we exist in, it could be that our form of life, introspective life is orders of magnitude more improbable to emerge from cell based life , leaving most of the galaxy one big petri dish of goo populated by the occasional macroscopic animal forms like ourselves only in rare occasions.

Still it is exciting to know that we are on the virge of finding out, it just may be that the results yield nothing interesting but that would not end the game, the solar system has several planetary bodies which have complex geothermal activity and chemistry that could be the seat of bizarre forms of life, such as the frozen moon of Saturn's Enceladus which is blessed with so much water it spews it into space in massive geysers that are now believed to be the source of one of Saturn's rings. Could Enceladus be spewing out more than just liquid to populate that ring? The preponderance of the materials that constitute living things in the solar system provides confidence that very interesting chemistries are being tried or have been tried and we know it happened at least once so it is possible that it could happen again.

Hopefully the experiments being conducted by Phoenix will answer that question definitively very soon.


Popular posts from this blog

Highly targeted Cpg vaccine immunotherapy for a range of cancer


This will surely go down as a seminal advance in cancer therapy. It reads like magic:

So this new approach looks for the specific proteins that are associated with a given tumors resistance to attack by the body's T cells, it then adjusts those T cells to be hyper sensitive to the specific oncogenic proteins targeted. These cells become essentially The Terminator​ T cells in the specific tumor AND have the multiplied effect of traveling along the immune pathway of spreading that the cancer many have metastasized. This is huge squared because it means you can essentially use targeting one tumor to identify and eliminate distal tumors that you many not even realize exist.

This allows the therapy for treating cancer to, for the first time; end the "wack a mole" problem that has frustrated traditional shot gun methods of treatment involving radiation and chemotherapy ...which by their nature unfortunately damage parts of the body that are not cancer laden but …

Engineers versus Programmers

I have found as more non formally trained people enter the coding space, the quality of code that results varies in an interesting way.

The formalities of learning to code in a structured course at University involve often strong focus on "correctness" and efficiency in the form of big O representations for the algorithms created.

Much less focus tends to be placed on what I'll call practical programming, which is the type of code that engineers (note I didn't use "programmers" on purpose) must learn to write.

Programmers are what Universities create, students that can take a defined development environment and within in write an algorithm for computing some sequence or traversing a tree or encoding and decoding a string. Efficiency and invariant rules are guiding development missions. Execution time for creating the solution is often a week or more depending on the professor and their style of teaching code and giving out problems. This type of coding is devo…

First *extra Galactic* planetary scale bodies observed

This headline

So every so often I see a story that has me sitting at the keyboard for a few seconds...actually trying to make sure the story is not some kind of satire site because the headline reads immediately a nonsense.
This headline did just that.
So I proceeded to frantically click through and it appears it was a valid news item from a valid news source and my jaw hit the floor.
Many of you know that we've been finding new planets outside of our solar system for about 25 years now.
In fact the Kepler satellite and other ground observatories have been accelerating their rate of extra-solar planet discoveries in the last few years but those planets are all within our galaxy the Milky Way.
The three major methods used to detect the bulk of planets thus far are wobble detection, radial transit and this method micro lensing which relies on a gravitational effect that was predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity exactly 103 years ago.