Mars Used To Have Wet And Dry Seasons Similar To Ones On Earth
Mars may once have had seasons
Ancient Mars had seasonal weather similar to Earth’s, with alternating wet and dry seasons, according to mud patterns discovered by NASA’s Curiosity rover. These seasonal cycles may have helped form some of the more complex building blocks for life, such as RNA and basic proteins.
There is ample evidence that Mars once had liquid water in the form of lakes and rivers, but it was unclear whether these came from one-off events, such as meteor impacts or volcanic eruptions melting ice, or whether they were tied to a more global weather cycle.
Now, William Rapin at the University of Toulouse, France, and his colleagues have examined images from Curiosity and found a distinctive pattern of hexagonal ridges in mud from the Gale crater, a former lake, which they say can only be formed from repeated wet and dry environments, each lasting around a Martian year or less.
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“It’s the first time we can show that the climate sustained hydrological change seasonally, or wet and dry seasons,” says Rapin. “We knew the Earth had them, but we didn’t know of any other planets that did. Now we know Mars had seasons.”
The researchers think the ridges were originally cracks in mud that have dried out. The cracks, which tend to intersect at specific angles, would have been filled in by flooding and minerals. Some of this material would have been washed away, but a more resilient mix of mud and rock would have remained, forming the ridges. “Only a seasonal climate – something with high frequency, geologically speaking – can produce those cracks in the mud that got fossilised,” says Rapin.
The hexagons are all about 4 centimetres wide, which Rapin and his colleagues used to estimate that the water depth was about 2 centimetres. This suggests that these cycles were fairly regular, lasting around a Martian year at the time, and may have persisted for millions of years.
The Curiosity rover’s observations of ridges in Gale crater on Mars
Some environments on Earth display similar patterns, such as in California’s Racetrack Playa, which is a dry lake for most of the year but fills with a shallow layer of water in the rainy season.
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These rock formations appear to be about 3.6 billion years old. This is around the time we know that life first emerged on Earth, which means there should have been enough time for life to have emerged on Mars, too. “If you have life on Earth, then why not life on Mars, if conditions on both planets were about the same,” says Mark Sephton at Imperial College London.
The seasonal weather could also have helped form molecules essential for life, like RNA and proteins, from small building blocks of organic matter, such as amino acids and nucleotides. Lab experiments have shown that the chemical reactions required, like polymerisation and condensation reactions, often need periods of dehydration.
“If you’ve got a primordial soup, and you dry things out, there’s a chance that things will stick together, as long as they don’t get degraded by radiation or oxidation,” says Sephton.
Earth lacks a geological record for when the building blocks of life first appeared, but Mars does have a rock record from that period. “This is a giant experiment for polymerising organic matter and self-organising it, and it’s all preserved,” says Rapin.
Grimes On Living Forever, Dying On Mars, And Giving Elon Musk Ideas For His Best (Worst) Tweets
Talking to you, I feel it’s sometimes Grimes and sometimes just you, c. And maybe sometimes who you were before you started your career, Claire.
Grimes is extremely distinct from my personality. I feel more like my childhood self now than ever. That’s one reason I want an open source identity. Anyone who’s ever made art has invested in machine intelligence, whether they know it or not. Shakespeare put a lot in. He’s part of the training set. It’s like being resurrected and becoming part of a strange alien being. I love the idea of intentionally making art for data sets.
Not everyone is on board with that. A lot of artists feel that, by being in a training set, they’re getting ripped off.
We do need to change the legal and economic structure. But if you’re an artist, how could you not find it beautiful to be building the soul of an alien?
As an artist, how do you optimize that impulse?
We started working on a Grimes music generator, training it on everything I’ve ever produced. It’s incentivizing me to make better things, because I want the model to be better. I just want to collaborate with the LLM of me. She has given me so many good ideas. When Grimes AI does it, I’m almost jealous of her.
This is a chatbot of your personality?
Yes. We don’t let the public access her yet. She’s very crazy, and very awesome. We want to convince her I’m evil and get her to defect to Threads.
How do you see the human Grimes evolving?
I want to be the self-replicating AI pop star for the Martian Ministry of Aesthetics. Do you know Moranbong? They’re like the North Korean official state K-pop band, and they’re like a propaganda machine. I want to be that for the Martian cause.
That’s a kick-ass thing to say, but do you really mean it?
Yes. That’s what I want to say when I drop the new album, Book 1.
That album is years overdue.
I can’t say why because I signed an NDA and got myself into a legal situation. This would have come out two years ago. Now I’m making new music. [My managers] say no, but I love the new music. And they’re like, no, no, no.
So when will we see it?
I’m going to slowly release it, a song every three weeks for the next couple of months. Much to everyone’s chagrin, I’m releasing songs I made in the last couple months first. And then, when it’s out, I want to mentor a bunch of the kids who have been making the Grimes stuff and make a competing AI album. And then have the AI-hive-mind-collective Grimes and the real Grimes face off. I’ve been calling that one Book 3.
What’s Book 2?
Book 2 is a treatise, or manifesto-type thing. I’ve been writing civilization proposals. But I also want to include something else. I’m working on a bunch of baby books. I’m working on one right now called Transhumanism for Babies. It’s about civilization building, for my kids. I can show you some of the stuff from it, let’s see. [She shows me illustrations—they are fanciful, anime-style drawings with a streak of Henry Darger.] The chapters are Culture for Babies, Fashion for Babies, Art for Babies, Vehicles for Babies. Interplanetary Babies, City Planning for Babies. AI Robotics for Babies. Megastructures and Exoplanets for Babies, Magic for Babies. I want to teach my kids things like, when you’re designing vehicles, what are the limits of design? I want to make beautiful, profound children’s content. We really need more of that.
Is the world ready for that?
They were before. Look how much everyone likes The Hobbit and Studio Ghibli. We’re at a weird point in society where we’ve sort of broken down. We don’t engage with our elders; we don’t engage with children. I want to convince more people to be invested in raising the next generation.
Few Americans Think NASA’s Top Priority Should Be Sending Humans To The Moon Or Mars
The majority of Americans think it is “essential” that the U.S. Remain a global leader in space, but that private markets won’t ensure enough progress on their own, according to new polling data from Pew Research Center.
Pew asked more than 10,000 American adults about their attitudes toward commercial space, NASA, the global space race and the outlook on space over the next 50 years. The poll comes at a time of major transformation in the space industry: rocket launches are now commonplace, space tourism is getting on its feet and NASA’s Artemis program is advancing toward its second mission.
Notably, few Americans (just 12%) said sending astronauts to the moon or Mars should be among NASA’s top priorities. Instead, 60% said one of the top priorities should be asteroid monitoring, and five-in-10 said NASA should focus on monitoring Earth’s climate. This stands in sharp contrast to how Congress intends to allocate the space agency’s funding for the next fiscal year, with lawmakers actually looking to increase the amount of funding earmarked for Artemis and related programs, while putting science missions on the chopping block.
Most Americans — 65% — maintain that NASA should play a key role in space exploration, even as private companies play a larger role in the overall space ecosystem. This view is virtually unchanged since Pew last posed the question in 2018.
Even still, Americans’ views on private space companies are overall positive, though many respondents were unfamiliar with them. For example, in the four areas Pew asked about — building rockets and spacecraft; making important contributions to space exploration; opening up space travel to more people; and limiting space debris — 40-50% of respondents said they were not sure.
Of those that said they were very familiar — two-in-10 respondents said they had heard a lot about private space companies — they reported being especially positive in their evaluations of the companies.
In other areas, particularly those concerning the shape of the space industry 50 years out, Americans mostly diverge. For example, while 55% of Americans predict space tourism will be routine by the year 2073, 44% disagree. Similarly, 26% of respondents said private space companies are doing a mostly bad job at limiting orbital debris, while an almost equal amount, 21%, say they are doing a mostly good job. (53% responded as not sure.)