Friday, August 14, 2009

Rock and a hard place

There's a community of ardent armchair researchers to be found on the Internet determined to prove that intelligent life once existed on Mars. To this end, they're scouring images returned from Mars looking for a smoking gun. One of the most perplexing images that has turned up in this search appears to show a monolith like object on the Martian surface, in fact not a little like the famous monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey. But of course at the other end of the spectrum, scientists working in the field of Mars exploration are less than thrilled to be told they are covering up the existence of life on Mars, though I've yet to see it explained why they would send probe after probe to Mars with all the attendant risk that they'll be rumbled. And so to the Monolith, snapped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists at the University of Arizona are equally determined to put the monolith down to natural causes. Most likely says Alfred McEwen, "it's more likely that this boulder has been created by breaking away from the bedrock to create a rectangular-shaped feature." That sounds pretty reasonable to me, but while my strong inclination is to err on the side of caution, that's not to say that one-day, some amateur observer might spot something missed by the experts. But for now, the scientists at NASA really are stuck between a rock and a hard place.