NASA Headquarters Mars-Rover Opportunity Press Briefing on March 2

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Brave, nonetheless.
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It's still only photgraphic evidence. Remember the "canals" on Mars. Mostly a product of optical illusion and wishful thinking.
chris in napa
Sir Charles W. Shults III wrote:

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chris wrote:

Here's the thing -- if you have to tell him that in the first place, then telling him now is futile. Paul Reiser did a comedy bit about people who "just didn't get it." It's pretty funny, but at first I was completely baffled. In the real world I think like a teacher: if they "don't get it" they must simply be misguided and after the reality is carefully explained if they still don't get it that must somehow be *my* fault for not explaining it well enough. Fortunately for me I finally did get what the comedy bit was about: people who don't get it already aren't gonna get it now! If you've followed that there is a bit of irony that I finally did get it... Regardless, these net loons aren't worth our time and trouble. Just kill file 'em and poof -- they go away.
--
Greg Crinklaw
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Man, the mystery of evolution! And before that there were reversible, self-reproducing non-living phases in the "soup" that grew more and more complex leading up to life.
If Mars is wet (liquid brine or acid solution) even today, with solar irradiation bathing the surface, life forming is a totally natural and deterministic thermodynamic response. In a much wetter (oceanic) environment an organism like a sponge might evolve through random mutations and fortituous assemblages of cooperating entities, but the final forms and life cycle is constrained to a small subset of stable geometrical and mathematical topologies. And thus similar patterns are repeated in nature in so many diverse contexts, even perhaps on another planet. The mathematician Rene Thom observed:
"Let us start with the very basic objection of the finalists to a mechanist theory of evolution: if evolution is governed by chance, and mutations are controlled only by natural selection, then how has this process produced more and more complex structures, leading up to man and the extraordinary exploits of human intelligence? I think that this question has only a single partial answer, and this answer will be criticized as idealistic. When the mathematician Hermite wrote to Stieltjes, 'It seems to me that the integers have an existence outside themselves which they impose with the same predetermined necessity as potassium and sodium,' he did not, to my mind, go far enough. If sodium and potassium exist, this is so because there is a corresponding mathematical structure guaranteeing the stability of atoms Na and K; such a structure can be specified, in quantum mechanics, for a simple object like the hydrogen molecule, and although the case of the Na or K atom is less well understood, there is no reason to doubt its existence. I think likewise there are formal structures, in fact, geometric objects, in biology that prescribe the only possible forms capable of having a self-reporoducing dynamic in a given environment."
He goes on to talk about the thermodynamics behind the process:
"In the last analysis, whence can life on our planet come but from the continuous flux of energy from the sun? The solar phtons arriving in contact with the soil and seas are immediately stopped, and their energy abruptly degraded into heat; in this way the discontinuity of the earth and water surface is a shock wave, a cliff down which the negentropy of the sun's rays fall. Now, life can be considered as some kind of underground erosion of this cliff, smoothing out the discontinuity; a plant, for example, is nothing but an upheaval of the earth toward the light, and the ramified structure of its stem and root is the same as that found when a stream of water erodes a cliff and produces a mound of debris. Plastids, veritable photon traps, are the miniscule orifices where this subterranean circulation begins. The energy stored in the noble form of chemical energy begins its slow decline. It flows underneath the cliff like a fluid, and its circulation echoes the inverted pyramid of the ecology of living beings. Each living species is a structurally stable singularity... of this circulation. As in hydrodynamics the energy of a turbulent regime flows from low-frequency oscillations towards higher frequencies, finishing in thermal chaos, so in life those with slow metabolism (plants) are the prey of the faster-metabolizing (animals)... There is no doubt it is on the philosophical plane that these models have the most immediate interest. They give the first rigorously monistic model of the living being and reduce the paradox of the soul and the body to a single geometrical object... [The] dynamical situations governing the evolution of natural phenomena are basically the same as those governing the evolution of man and societies, profoundly justifying the use of anthropomorphic words in physics... Biologists will perhaps reproach me for not having spoken of biochemistry in precise terms. This is true, and I do not deny the importance of chemical constraints on the dynamic of life. But I believe that any such constraint, and any chemical bond, can be considered as a geometrical factor in an appropriate space. Writing the equation, in atoms, that connects two constituents of a chemical reaction is one, the coarsest, of these constraints; the topology of biochemical kinetics and its relation with the spatial configuration of macromolecules are others that are certainly more decisive." -- Thom, "Structural Stability and Morphogenesis"
These mathematical structures, like the mathematical structures guaranteeing the the stability of Na, exist at each of the 100 billion solar systems in the Milky Way. It's vain to think that only in our locale were these types of pathways realized.
Joe
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wrote

Quite right. There is a fourth law of thermodynamics now, it is the science of self organization, once called chaos theory, now called complexity science. It is the mathematics of Darwinian evolution, but an abstract math that can be applied to any complex adaptive system, living or material. It is now known that the mathematics for living evolution is the same for material systems. Only the level of complexity varies.
INVESTIGATIONS THE NATURE OF AUTONOMOUS AGENTS AND THE WORLDS THEY MUTUALLY CREATE http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/People/kauffman/Investigations.html

Evolution is set in ...motion by randomness. The mathematics of evolution can be seen in a simple cloud. Which is a system that is at a phase transition between its system specific possibility space. A cloud is neither water or air, but is chaotically jumping between the two. Much as water when at the transition to steam, that narrow window when it's both at the same time.
The 'edge of chaos' is the technical term for a system at this phase transition. This 'edge' state is where classical mechanics completely fail, in math it's simply considered a discontinuity. A place where the chaotic behavior makes deterministic methods entirely futile.
But this chaotic edge state is in fact the realm where self organization occurs. It is where adaptation, self tuning and evolution is generated. The one place where classical methods fail, is the ....source.....of all natural structure and order...of evolution and life.
The very minute one applies objective methods to an evolving system, is the same minute the system is deconstructed to either its static or chaotic states. In the analogy above the system would become either water or air, since classical methods only work at either extreme, not at the edge state.
So you see, objective, deterministic or classical reductionism is completely useless in modeling a ...living or evolving system. As the source of the organization is destroyed by objective measurements. This is also the source of the mystery of the wave and particle duality. When we measure it becomes one or the other, in nature it's at the edge state, and is both at the same time, as in a cloud.
The mathematics of evolution, at its heart, is strikingly simple. See the link below for a great intro into the science of the future, as it's applicable to....any....discipline. Whether in biology, psychology, stock market or religion, it works just fine. It is a universal science of real world systems.
An Introduction to Complex Systems Torsten Reil, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford http://users.ox.ac.uk/~quee0818/complexity/complexity.html
People see the enormous complexity of the world around them and assume the mechanisms of order must be as complex. But in truth there is a single and simple underlying mechanism that can produce splendid complexity...all by itself. A person can understand all the disciplines at once, as they all share the same fundamental cause.
Self-Organizing Systems (SOS) FAQ http://www.calresco.org/sos/sosfaq.htm

Randomness forces systems to an edge state, an edge state forces the system to self tune and adapt. Evolution is an inherent and pervasive property of the universe. Spontaneous creation, increasing order and diversity is the norm, not a fluke.
A very readable and complete description of complexity science is at the link below, and all in essay form. Start with the themes and concept links. This page comes across a bit new-agey at first, but give it a chance. There will come a point when all of a sudden...the light switch is turned on...and you'll realize you can take this math anywhere, answer any question, and swim where everyone else sinks.
http://www.calresco.org /
Jonathan
s

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Thats exactly what I thought when I heard the news conference would be coming from NASA HQ instead of Pasadena. Seems like quite a dramatic event to simply announce they found evidence Mars had water - maybe theres a little more to it than that?
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Elysium Fossa wrote:

But finding water fulfills the primary mission goal. In a world where science often gets caught up in complex and often contradictory interpretations a simple result to a simply stated goal probably warrants bragging rights for the NASA administrators (and rightfully so).
--
Greg Crinklaw
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This should be interesting. I look forward to seeing what they think are "significant" findings.
Ron wrote:

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I think they have settled on a theory that explains the presence of the blueberries in their host matrix. I hazard a guess that they have strong evidence that water was involved. This would imply lots of water and lends credence to a once warm wet Mars. That would be a very significant finding itself. As to the presence of liquid water in the soil, I would be interested to see the proof of that. They have not shown photos of liquid water or ice from these missions. Finding a low concentration of water in the sand would not be such a significant result since the orbiters have already demonstrated the strong likelihood that water exists. I have a feeling they have hit the cover off the ball in some other respect. Maybe evidence of a hotspring or Jonathan's ancestors.
Spooky how MER-B was somehow attracted like a fly into a spider's web. Has anyone calculated the improbablility of winding up in a crater which hosted such a tremendous geological display? Must be near Superball odds on this terrain.
I'm looking forward to hearing the news! They certainly have hyped it up a bit.
Mark
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mlm wrote:

I would expect any crater this size to reveal the bedrock. I mean, why wouldn't it? Did anybody notice that they finally images the large crater to the east? What looks to be a much bigger outcrop! Also, craters this size or larger aren't everywhere but they are spread around pretty liberally. Unlikely yes, but I wouldn't think it "superball odds".
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My point is that it is extraordinarily unlikely that MER-B would wind up in a crater like this. Superball odds was hyperbole.
Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. Before 1/25/04 no one predicted there would be an outcrop of layered rock at the landing site and that MER-B was going to roll gently northward into a crater, changing course by 90 degrees after screaming in from the west. Now everyone can say it is obvious there would be exposed rocks in craters. Many of them are dust covered though, as you observe in the great majority of images from orbit.
Looking at the DIMES images, there are precious few craters of this size on this terrain in Meridiani. They are well spaced. I'd say by surface area, they would be on the order of 0.01% (1 in ten thousand). So the odds of winding up there must be on the order of a quite unnatural sounding 1 in a thousand if you allow that in bouncing across the terrain, the probability of bouncing into a crater is 10 times greater than hitting one at random from on high. Perhaps longer odds if you conclude it was necessary for the lander to make a sharp turn near the surface in order to find a crater.
When contemplating such an incredible long shot one can't help feeling that Mars might simply have wanted us to find this spot.
Mark
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mlm wrote:

No such thing as blind luck -- everything has to have a reason? There probably isn't a greater dichotomy in human thinking than that idea vs. happenstance. Personally, I think it was just a lucky bounce.
--
Greg Crinklaw
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mlm wrote:

...
So that would require the planet to have, at the least, some form of intelligence (does Mars have a brain?), an awareness of the existence of humans and the purpose of the Rover (does Mars have eyes, telescopes, radio and TV receivers?) and quite stupendous control of the movements of air currents (by what mechanism?) in order to quide the lander exactly into the crater.
It seems to me that if Mars had all this, and wanted us to find out about it, it would not be teasing us with hints of the existence of liquid water in ages past - it would be writing "HELLO NASA, WELCOME TO MARS!" in 10-mile-wide dust devil tracks on the Martian plains!
The more sensible explanation is that it was a fortuitous accident.
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165613.news.uni-berlin.de:

Subtlety is not your strong suit, Ic -- :-). Perhaps a closer look at those dust devil tracks might reveal a coded message in Martian.
Of course you are right, luck, or good fortune has everything to do with it! (That was very much my point, too)
It is like contemplating the improbablity of how we all managed to ride our little blue speck of cosmic dust long enough to develop rockets that could give us a real close look at the next speck over. The red one.
Mark
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mlm wrote:

You've got me there :-)

There's a saying, isn't there: "Any actual event is extremely improbable" (or something like that).
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A fluvial origin for Stone Mountain? The other site, Gustev, seems to be "101 varieties of boring basalt".
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Life on Mars? Some of the Sol 53 raw images looked like a running mouse, but that was just a rock shadow. Or was it?
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