Mars STINKS. But probably no life, despite best efforts of bored journos

MSL/Curiosity smelled methane a while ago; NASA feeds goldmine of speculation on slow news day

curiosity life mars methane nasa
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (pd)

The Mars Science Lab 'Curiosity rover' sniffed some methane a while ago. Big deal? It is if you're a journalist who's bored, with little sci/tech news to report.

Enter NASA on its white charger. Watch editors salivate over the prospect of little green men.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers desperately try to avoid making the obvious scatological gags (but fail).

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

It's a God-awful small affair to Sharon Gaudin: [I'm pretty sure her hair ain't 'mousy' -Ed.]

The mystery deepened as NASA's Mars Curiosity rover recorded a big spike in methane. [It] can be produced by bacteria or microbes [so it could be] a sign of life. [So] the latest data from the robotic rover is particularly interesting...if there is methane on Mars, there could be life.

Curiosity also found organic molecules in a sample it took from drilling into a rock. [They] are some of the chemical building blocks of life. However, they can exist without the presence of life.  MORE

But our Aunty is yelling 'No':

Researchers have hung on to the hope that the molecule's signature at Mars might also indicate a life presence...but the leading candidate is underground stores that are periodically clathrates.

The question the into the clathrate stores in the first place. It could have come from Martian bugs; it could also have come from...serpentinisation, which sees methane produced when water interacts with certain rock types. At the moment, it is all speculation.  MORE

And Xaq Rzetelny's daddy has told her to go:

Even today, despite the knowledge that there are no intelligent Martians, the idea works its way into science fiction, as movies like John Carter, The Last Days on Mars,...demonstrate.

Scientists, of course, aren’t expecting to find any little green men, but it’s still an open question whether some form of microbial life could exist. ... Is the planet’s apparent similarity to Earth really enough to allow for life to have formed? [And] is the planet habitable to life today?

There are no firm answers to these questions [but] ESA’s ExoMars mission, planned for 2016, is intended to finally provide some definitive answers.  MORE

But Sigurd Kleppe is nowhere to be seen, now she walks through her sunken dream:

The actual scientific article includ[es] a graph showing the measurements as a function of time. ... It's a significant but still faint detection, with the highest value being about 4 standard deviations away from zero.  MORE the seat with the clearest view, and Irene Klotz is hooked to the silver screen:

On Earth, more than 90 percent of the atmospheric methane is produced by biological processes. The rest is tied to geochemical processes.

Explaining [it] will require far more analysis, much of which may be beyond the rover’s capabilities.  MORE

But Methane? Cro Magnon is a saddening bore: [You're fired -Ed.]

I expected that around Uranus, but not Mars.  MORE

And Finally: Today's Earworm…
He's in the best selling show

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by , who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don't have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon