It's a Micro World after all is a blog dedicated to discussing pretty much whatever I feel like. When I delve into scientific matters it will primarily be discussing microbiology (agricultural, bioenergy, and environmental focus). Otherwise, I'll probably ramble on about sports and life.
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[Thomas Joseph's second Research Blogging installment. Here he talks about Mars and the potential for life thereon.]
Welcome to my second installment of Research Blogging. As promised, this entry will discuss astrobiology, and in particular the potential for life on Mars. I've done some Research Blogging on the issue of life on Mars before, on a paper which drew on extremophile life on Earth and then proposed that similar "putative Martian oases" could exist which harbor similar life forms (ed note: that paper also spoke of the idea of cross contamination, which is a very important subject IMO).
Now, this paper isn't biological in its focus, at least from the point that it focuses more on models capable of simulating conditions which could possibly sustain life rather than the life itself. As such, this paper is outside my area of expertise, but should be an exciting read and hopefully expand the knowledge base of people who likewise are not astronomers but enjoy space talk at the lay level (like myself).
Fairén opens up talking about the two prevalent trains of thought on how water could have existed on Mars earlier in its life. The first commonly held hypothesis is that the early martian climate was more earth-like, being much warmer and much wetter than it currently is. The second hypothesis is that distinct, localized (in both space and time) events in the otherwise cold and dry Mars were enough to produce liquid water. So we have two scenarios which can be summarized as "warm and wet", and "cold and dry". To this argument, Fairén attempts to add a third hypothesis "cold and wet". This is explained in the final sentence of the Introduction: To do so, here is considered the hypothesis that aqueous solutions on Mars have been stabilized against freezing by the accumulation of solutes, allowing liquid water to flow in an enduring cold climate.
Anyone who has taken science lab in grade school has probably done the experiment looking at varying concentrations of table salt (sodium chloride) on the freezing point of that liquid. As you increase the concentration of sodium chloride, the colder it needs to be before the solution freezes. That is the very same principle in effect here.
Fairén, A. (2010). A cold and wet Mars Icarus, 208 (1), 165-175 DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2010.01.006
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