There are some scientists who claim that the Mars Rovers have ALREADY proved life..

existed on Mars. One such person Sir Charles Schultz is being interviewed tonight on Art Bell and has compiled MANY of these images at his website from JPL data (which he links) . You can listen to the interview either on local radio tonight or at . This information was so compelling TO ME that it caused me to abandon my study this evening for a major nursing test (at least for an hour or so).

What are the “counter arguments” to his hypothesis about these being fossils?

Well, for one thing, he does appear to be some sort of a scientist, but self admittedly, not in the field of biology or anything of the sort. From the qualifications section of the linked page:

So he’s a hobbyist. Longtime hobbyist, to be sure, but not learned in the subject, nonetheless.
I’m unaware of anyone else claiming what he has clamed, so the first question I ask is “Why isn’t someone in the field (i.e. who knows what they’re talking about) claiming the same thing?”

intelligence (then again this could have been said of Linus Pauling, but he was still out there with unproven assertions on the subject of Vitamin C). However he also presents his argument in sufficient detail that it can be analyised and responded to in a meaningful way by scientists in the field. Also, I did not spell his name correctly it should read, Sir Charles W. Shults III . Do a Google search on the guy and the hits are virtually endless. Until this interview you would probably characterize him as very mainstream.

The dude seems a bit out there, to say the least, but I do give him credit for linking to the JPL images as well as having the images shown on his site. Keeps him honest, if not exactly grounded in the scientific method.

Look like just plain old rocks, to me, with the sole interesting point being that some share common markings. Dunno how that would happen, but I would be a bit more cautious before yelling, ‘Its Alive!’

After all even NASA recently announced that the evidence supported the notion of water on Mars (a lot of it at that which was probably around for a long time). In addition, we had the meteorite from Mars which many believed showed evidence of ancient like. On top of that even going back to the Viking probes there were some experiments conducted that were not inconsistent with biological life (although few accepted this interpretation.) They were as follows:

The two Viking landers conducted four experiments intended to detect the presence of microbiological life on the Martian surface. Soil samples were retrieved by the landers’ extendible arms.
The Gas Exchange Experiment (GEX) was looking for changes in the makeup of gases in a test chamber, changes that would indicate biological activity. The results from this test were taken to counter-indicate biology.

The Labeled Release Experiment (LR) was set up to detect the uptake of a radioactively-tagged liquid nutrient by microbes. The idea was that gases emitted by these microbes would show the tagging. Initial results were in line with this prediction but in the end, the overall results were inconsistent.

The Pyrolytic Release Experiment (PR) involved “cooking” soil samples that had been exposed to radioactively-tagged carbon dioxide to see if the chemical had been used by organisms to make organic compounds. Seven of nine experimental runs seemed to show small concentration of micro-organisms but the results were later discounted.

The Gas Chromatograph – Mass Spectrometer Experiment (GCMS) also heated a soil sample and revealed an unexpected amount of water but failed to detect organic compounds. This absence was so absolute that it seemed there must be some mechanism actually destroying carbon compounds on the surface.

How is it that we were able to include such detailed experiments DECADES ago and we couldn’t put anything similar on the Spirit or Opportunity?

to read the evidence that man as assembled and not at least believe that it merits FURTHER STUDY. We’re not talking about fleeting phenomina like UFO’s ect. The "evidence’ is right there on the JPL site for ALL to evaluate. Surely there must be many in this forum who can tell a fossil from a rock AND have enough photographic knowledge to do honest enhancements and make their own conclusions. IF TRUE this would arguably be the biggest news story of the last decade or more. As Carl Segan once said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. However, I would offer this corollary “extraordinary claims that have PROFOUND implications and SOME evidence merit closer examination than do those with mundane ramifications cetaris paribus”.

In other words I am adding the concept of EXPECTED VALUE to the equation. In the same way that it makes more sense to play the lottery when you can win fifty million than when you can only win a million so to is the expected value of a discovery of this magnitude. IF you evaluate the evidence and agree that it merits further study, then you should consider contacting Nasa and ask that they at least furnish a reply to the evidence…

Yep. Hence, NASA and ESA spend all that money to send probes to Mars. But that is all that merited, at this point; Further study. There is no conclusive evidence as of 19 Apr 04 06:44 GMT -5:00.

But jumping the gun and making sweeping claims, based on a few odd-shaped rocks is just as bad as jumping on the UFO bandwagon. Science takes time, and science takes hard data. If we as a people want to know what is up with those rocks, we can find out. But until then, we can’t just say, “Well, they look like bunny rabbits.” or whatever.

What Chuck has engaged in is not completely dissimilar to looking for shapes in clouds. My burden of proof is a bit higher than that.

NASA doesn’t need me to tell them to send stuff to Mars. As to life on Mars, unless the conclusion is arrived at through sound science, supported by lots of evidence, it isn’t a conclusion that is worth simply accepting.

Well, he hasn’t really assembled any evidence as such - he’s taken NASA’s pictures of the spheroids found on Mars, drawn some lines on them and declared that they must therefore be shells by showing some pictures of Earth shells that are also sort of round. This leaves a lot to be desired from a scientific standpoint.

Heck, having read this page I’d almost be tempted to say that he’s having a great joke at the expense of conspiracy theorists. His line of argument is literally, “look at this picture. Of course it’s an alien.” The endless Google hits are newsgroup posts expounding his theories, which isn’t exactly characteristic of an eminent scientist, and if he’s a roboticist as he claims, I certainly haven’t heard of him (and this is my field). I can’t find any evidence of him being knighted either. The radio station he was interviewed on appears in large part to be devoted to UFO sightings and other paranormal stuff. His “research grant” comes from a corporation which does not exist. In short, “mainstream” is the last word I would use to describe this person, before or after the interview.

I’m not sure what to make of your question about the landers’ scientific equipment - they both have significant chemical analysis tools well in advance of the Viking payloads, which have been extensively used to check for the presence of water and other indicators of life. If they’d happened across actual biological matter, don’t you think they would have told us?

I have two issues with the site:

  1. It seems to me that the author got an idea, then started to look for confirmation of his idea. (“When I saw this image in the Sol 15 microscopic images, I knew that these were fossils…”)

This is a flawed approach and easily leads to errors. What he should do, is if he thinks these are fossils, is try to disprove that idea.

This is not just abstract logic or philosophy. It is a normal instinct of scientists that you can see in their publications. Lack of this attitude reduces the credibility of this site.

  1. He uses just one source - the photographic data. There is much more data available - data from the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and Mossbauer spectrometer. He should try to look at multiple “independent” evidence and look for contrary data. I don’t think he even mentions those instruments (carefully chosen to complement the other investigations). Plus I am under the impression (could be mistaken) that there is no carbon content in these rock formations? Wouldn’t that affect the fossil hypothesis?

How difficult would it be to equip a probe with a number of mini-petri dishes, an incubator and a powerful microscope to examine them? Problems I can forsee would be:
-We wouldn’t know what nutrients were suitable (so we’d have to pack a wide range of different ones)
-Contamination from Earth-based organisms hitching a ride (so irradiate the dishes before exposing them to the Martian environment).
-The size and weight of the microscope (how small can an electron microscope be made? Is it possible to fully automate the process of preparing the samples?)
-The organisms might not be floating around (so the probe would have to be able to dig/turn over rocks etc (no problem as we’ve done this bit already).

Is there anything I’m overlooking that would be an absolute stumbling block to such a project?

His accomplishments in other fields have zero bearing on his ability to look at photos postd by JPL and determine that certain features are biological in origin. I really can’t emphasize that enough.

In this sort of endeavor, he is much like a very well known and distinguished geologist (I will not name him here, but folks who have been to GSA conferences will be able to figure this out) who, in the twilight of his career, has decided to champion the purported existence of nannobacteria based solely on SEM (scanning electron microscopy) imagery. His entire presentations, which I have personally witnessed, consisted of slide after slide with the comment, “See that? Doesn’t it look biological to you?” People don’t say much publically because the man did make significant contributions earlier in his career, but his activity is discussed privately with some sadness and embarrassment. Maybe the reason Sir Shults’s colleagues haven’t stepped forward to comment is that they feel embarrassed for him as well.

As for NASA - recall that they really got burned by the controversy over the alleged fossils in Martian meteorite ALH 84001. They were roundly criticized for being so eager to announce life elsewhere, the cynical (and frankly, correct) assumption being that increased funding was on the line. NASA is now much more cautious about the conclusions that they reach with the data in hand, while still holding out the possibility that we can discover so much more. I think that’s the most appropriate approach to take.

BTW, you had better believe that there are plenty of people, both NASA scientists and those from universities affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute who are scrutinizing six ways to Sunday every bit of data that comes back from Mars. If there’s something to be found within the data that comes back, it will be found.

Carbon traces that could be analyzed to determine whether they are biological in origin would be handy. However, they aren’t actually required to demonstrate the existence of a fossil. Fossilization on Earth frequently involves the replacement of organic matter with an inorganic material like silica, and that replacement can be complete. If the replacement has occurred on a molecule-by-molecule scale, the fossil can preserve even microscopic details of biological structures (e.g., you can still see individual cell structures in petrified wood). Where you run into a problem, clearly, is the case where all organic material is gone and the structures observed are not diagnostic.

Mangetout, to the best of my recollection some of the earlier Mars expeditions did include a petri dish sort of set-up, although the experiment was designed to test for possible chemicals produced by metabolic activity (i.e., no microscope). Those earlier tests weren’t definitive, and provoked some discussion about appropriate nutrients, sampling locations, etc. To be honest, I think that this sort of activity is really best handled by humans with more extensive equipment resources than could be packed on an unmanned lander.

I listed above the experiments for life present on the original Viking landers. They did show results somewhat CONSISTENT with life, but in and of themselves did not constitute proof as many interpretations were possible.

Did any of you read the technical paper posted at the site? I’m not saying the guy is correct, only that NASA should provide a response to his assertions (after all MILLIONS heard his perspective on Art Bell last night we deserve to hear the OTHER side as well).

Quite honestly, if he wanted to be taken seriously, the last thing he should have done was gone on Art Bell’s show.

I did read his “technical paper.” It does nothing to change my opinion that his expertise in other fields has no bearing on his ability to determine anything about biology, here or on another world. He ends his paper thusly:

The problem is, all he’s done is read some references about various types of small, rounded Earth organisms and concluded, based upon his examination of the Martian photos, that life existed there - he hasn’t done any original research in biology. While it is possible to be well-informed on a topic without having personally researched it, I can tell you (from personal experience) that it is extremely easy to make simple assumptions that seem reasonable but are in fact drastically incorrect, because the in-depth knowledge is lacking. My own expertise lies in geology, and I can tell from what he’s written that he doesn’t quite understand the geology end of things either. Moreover, it’s plain bad science to say that any preliminary data set “must” have a given interpretation. We all know that interpretations can be subject to change with new data.

If he were to submit this “paper” to a peer-reviewed journal, I am absolutely confident it would be rejected.

While NASA has an important obligation to inform and instruct the public, IMHO it does not have an obligation to address every public proclamation made about the data generated by its missions. It doesn’t matter if the person making the proclamation is famous in another field or not. (In fact, as I mentioned earlier, his fame in another field might actually push people to bite their tongues if they feel that public comment on his views would be embarrassing to him.)

The OTHER side will come out in time, once all the available data have been thoroughly examined by the science teams already working on them. Good science, like fine whisky, takes some time to produce. :slight_smile:

From link:

Bull. The Spherules are Hematite (laden) Concretions Much more discussion here.

Here’s an amusing tale of pareidolia.

If Shults is going to assert expertese in this sort of manner:

on his page making these claims about the "fossils, then it’s fair to point out that the only track record he seems to have in nuclear physics is co-authoring a paper about cold fusion in Infinite Energy in 1995. Furthermore, the other author is Nelson Ying, the guy who appears to be providing the grant he refers to.

The guy’s a crackpot. The whole thing is such a mess, it’s hard to know where to start. Maybe with the idea that a web page is not a scientific paper. If the guy’s got any actual qulificiations, he doesn’t list them. There are no references at all in the “technical paper”

But what really bugs me is the total lack of a scale on any of the photographs. He claims that the Martian critters are the same sort of things that occured on Earth, but they are tiny. If you actually go to NASA site listed, it’s really easy to find out the scale of the pictures. Apparently this kind of detailed research is beyond Mr (sorry, Sir) Shultz III. Incedentally, the same page also gives the spectroscopic analysis of the Marchin’ Martians - they are nothing but Hematite.

And here I thought you had to be an expert to have a website! You mean just anyone can set them up? :eek:

More than anything else, the thing that highlights this guy’s lack of suitable qualification to make sound judgment on this subject is comments like:

They resemble organisms like cladocera, a simple crustacean with a split shell. Some of the spheres in the panoramic images are clearly fractured in half, and that is one reason why I think that cladocera might be the proper classification.

(my emphasis in all quotes)

This is just pure bullshit and demonstrates that the guy is talking out of his arse; IF these structures really are fossils of macroscopic organisms, they are incredibly unlikely to be related to anything on Earth, except maybe sharing a common ancestor with our bacteria - the only way true echinoderms could exist on Mars as well as Earth would be if someone put them there deliberately, or if Mars and Earth were once part of the same planet, then broke apart (which would be catastrophic enough to destroy all life present).