Life on Mars? Scientists believe carbon in Martian meteorite has biological origin

Carbon in a Martian meteorite that fell to Earth four years ago probably has a biological origin, researchers have said, suggesting life on Mars is more likely than previously thought.

A team of scientists from the EPFL’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory have come to the conclusion that the carbon inside the rock could have been deposited by fluid that was rich in organic matter, while it was still on the planet.

They hope it will further the debate on whether there was life on Mars.

The meteorite fell to Earth in Morocco in 2011 after completing the long journey from Mars. It is only one of five Martian rocks that has been seen to fall to Earth.

Tissint was thrown from the red planet after an asteroid crashed on to its surface, around 700,000 years ago.

Previously, another team looking at the meteorite said that it contains evidence of water weathering on the planet’s surface.

The team proposed that liquids, which contained organic compounds of biological origin, infiltrated the rock the meteorite came from while at low temperatures near the planet’s surface.

They disagreed with another previous study that the organic compounds inside came from the crystallization of magma.

Philippe Gillet, the head of the lab, said: “In this rock many fractures are present and they are willed with carbon-rich matter and this was a subject of the collaborative work we have carried out with our Japanese and Chinese colleagues.”

Several research teams have previously agreed that the component inside the rock is organic.

“The debate is intense whether this organic matter is the result of biological activity or not. Our favourite explanation is that it could be associated with a biological process until now we do not see any other possible explanation, but of course we remain open for any other mechanism that would explain the measurement.

“Another exciting outcome of our study is the discovery of the first Martian diamonds they formed at the expense of the organic matter I just described and are the result of the impact of an asteroid on the surface of Mars a few billion years ago.”

However Gillet isn’t putting all his rocks in one basket.

“Insisting on certainty is unwise, particularly on such a sensitive topic,” warns Gillet.

“I’m completely open to the possibility that other studies might contradict our findings. However, our conclusions are such that they will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity on Mars – at least in the past.”


Featured image courtesy of EPFL’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory


Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC