In 1976, NASA conducted a research mission on Mars called Viking. It was an experiment of sending special robots to the red planet and it was aimed to detect extraterrestrial life. Thirty-six years later, an international team of mathematicians and other scientists concluded that the mission could have actually discovered traces of life on Mars!

Wait, don’t get overly excited yet – no one found an alien civilization on the red planet! The research team made an interesting assumption based on the data from the Viking mission though.

Why did researchers come to this conclusion?

In fact, biologist Joseph Miller argues that a human mission to Mars is necessary to check the results of that experiment. A tiny camera is enough to record the movement of bacteria on the surface of the planet.

A research team led by Miller decided to re-examine data from the Viking mission. According to the primary interpretation, the mission’s robots had collected inorganic matter. The team of Miller put these results under doubt. The researchers took the initial data collected by the Vikings and estimated their complexity.

Since living systems are more complex than non-biological processes, the idea was to examine the results of the experiment from a purely arithmetical point of view.

The researchers found a close correlation between the complexity of the experiment results and the terrestrial biological datasets. It might mean that the samples from the Vikings are more likely to be of biological nature rather than purely geological one.

The final conclusions of the new study will be presented in August 2012. Professor Miller added:

Based on what we have done so far, I would say that I am 99% sure that there is life up there“.

Of course, these results are not conclusive, and no matter how tempting it may be, we can’t say for sure that there is life on Mars. With NASA’s new missions and more sophisticated rovers, we will hopefully learn more about the red planet very soon.

Anna LeMind, B.A.

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the power of misfits

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