Monday, September 28, 2015

Today in things that are not aliens...

So that big huge NASA discovery that we've been waiting all weekend to hear about? Liquid water and potential life on Mars! Did your head just explode?
"This is tremendously exciting. We haven't been able to
answer the question, 'Does life exist beyond Earth?' But..."
Great opportunities to investigate?
So nothing. You've got nothing...
That's James L. Green, NASA's director of planetary science raising our hopes of discovering alien life on Mars. Now, let's dash them by completing the quote:

"...following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, great opportunities in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that."

-James L Green, crusher of dreams

Pfft...water? We have
that here on Earth.
Yup. NASA called a press conference to announce that they've found the 'strongest evidence yet' that there's liquid water on Mars, which while exciting if you're the director of planetary science at NASA, is perhaps somewhat less press-conference worthy than Green might think. When they announced that a major scientific discovery would be revealed on Monday, I kind of thought, you know, aliens. Or at least alien microbes or fossilized alien microbes. Something more interesting than water.

Mars could possibly have potentially
favorable conditions for life to maybe
exist. We think. But who knows?
Sure, the implication is that the presence of liquid water could open up the possibility of life on Mars, but that's not the same thing as finding life. Here, check out the study's co-authors and how careful they are when they talk about their findings:

"Our results point to more habitable conditions on Mars than previously thought."

-Mary Beth, Wilhelm
co-author of the study

Or at least evidence of smoking gun
molecules detected from orbit...
"It is very likely, I think, that there is microbial life somewhere in the crust of Mars."

-Alfred McEwen, another
co-author of the study

"What we see now for the first time is an actual detection of the water molecule so it's basically the smoking gun."

-James Wrey, yet another co-author

'Point towards,' 'very likely,' see? Careful is good. This is science, you don't want to go around making broad claims without evidence to back you up. And look, liquid water is great. We've been enjoying it for years, but making us wait three days to tell us about the water they already told us they were pretty sure is there? That just seems like they wanted to hold a press conference. 
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for coming. Today, we we wanted to show
  you this cool thing Steve found in his desk. It's got wires and several screws. We think it
might be part of the old copier, but we won't be sure until we run some tests. Any questions?"

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