Friday, August 01, 2008


Water on Mars

So... NASA is excited that they finally found water on Mars. Not only are there nice photos of white chunks disappearing before their eyes (cameras) but the analyses show actual water too.

This isn't quite as Earth-shattering (or Mars-shattering) as one might think, as this is a long way from proving there's life there. Nevertheless, it's a giant step towards discovering extraterrestrial life in the universe, and one that formally begins the science of exobiology.

Add to this the discovery of a large liquid lake on Titan and we have all the makings of another round of speculation about the nature of life "out there." The lake is the size of Lake Ontario and is made of ethane, a basic fuel, and will be handy once we get diesel generators orbiting Saturn for a quick gas-up.

As for life there, the SF story "Slow Life" by Michael Swanwick (2003) is one story about encountering life under Titan's seas. The classic novel is Titan by Stephen Baxter, whose awful book about terrestrial military conspiracies with a subplot of ammonia beings on Titan was actually about the Red Chinese.

Then there's The Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut's classic novel about Salo, the robot from Tralfamadore whose ship breaks down and needs a replacement part so he seeds life on Earth in order to develop it. And John Varley's Titan, which is downright weird and nothing really to do with the moon itself.
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