Friday, March 24, 2017

Mike Bara gets it wrong as usual

        Mike Bara, the world-renowned geneticist and physiologist, was invited once again to blather for three hours on Jimmy Church's podcast Fade to Black this week. 90% of it was discussion of a series of images of odd-looking artifacts on Mars. There was the pistol, the sarcophagus, the fossilized dinosaur, and my personal favorite the 20ft high cat playing air guitar.

        This was just the standard Bara performance. He consistently confuses "looks a bit like" with "actually is," all the while insisting that there's no such thing as pareidolia. The supreme example of his delusion came last May, when in a different podcast he said he knew these exhibits weren't just rocks because "rocks have very specific shapes." Er... I don't think that's really true, Mike.

        It was such standard stuff that I wouldn't be writing it up at all if Bara hadn't strayed off the over-beaten path of Martian artifacts into areas of genetics and physiology. "The human race originally came from Mars," he said, and produced two items of pseudo-evidence. The genetic part was "Our DNA is alien." How does he know that? Well, it's simple. It's often said that human and chimpanzee genomes differ by only 10% (actually it's more like 4%note 1) but 10% amounts to 650 billion base pairs, and you can pack a lot of alien information into that. He didn't get around to actually saying how he knew that the extra genetic information came from Mars rather than, say, from seven million yearsnote 2 of adaptation to life on the ground instead of in the trees, and/or exposure to very different food sources and disease threats.

Adapting to Mars
        The physiology part was this: Astronauts in space, he claimed, tend to adopt a Martian-style circadian rhythm 40 minutes longer than 24 hours. I don't know where he got that pseudo-data from, and it's highly suspicious because astronaut circadian cycles are highly controlled. By default, NASA astronauts stick to Houston time simply because that makes life easier for ground controllers. Unless there's some compelling reason to do something at what would be 3 a.m. in Houston, sleepy time is scheduled in synch with Central Time. The fact that astronauts very seldom sleep the full eight hours is a slightly different story.

        I can say with certainty, moreover, that there's absolutely no evidence that humans are more comfortable with the Martian day length rather than the boring old 24 hours of Mother Earth. The truth is the converse--and I know that because the science teams controlling Martian rovers from Pasadena have a very hard time adjusting, as they must, to the Martian day. Shifting through two time zones every three days turns out to be a very hard routine to keep up: It leads to irritability, lack of concentration and all-around decreased performance. I remember reading an excellent article in Scientific Americannote 3 about this. Seems it became a serious problem at JPL, especially when rover operations stretched longer than expected.  The Pathfinder mission, for example, was initially expected to last seven days but ultimately ran to 85. Nobody had planned for it. Joy Crisp, now a principal scientist at JPL, said  "I just remember getting to day 30 and thinking, 'I can't keep this up.'"  The article continues:
NASA leaders claim they have become more sensitive to the issue over the years. Andrew Mishkin, who helped plan the Curiosity mission, says that for the first time NASA officials decided to put a definitive three-month cap on Mars time. They also scheduled people to work no more than four days in a row, encouraged employees to monitor their own and their colleagues' fatigue levels, and had Human Resources prowl the lab for zombied workers to send home. "But everybody was pretty tired of it by November," when the 90th sol finally set, Mishkin says. And when NASA officials wanted to extend the Mars schedule past the 90th sol because the rover was running behind schedule, they put it up to a democratic vote: The answer was a resounding "No."
        So I reject Mike Bara's idea, on technical grounds. I'm not even going to mention how totally daft it is to hypothesize an intelligent race of Martians who escaped catastrophe by emigrating to Earth. Oh well, perhaps I'll mention it after all. IT'S BUNKUM, MIKE BARA.

[1] ref: Comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes: Searching for needles in a haystack. Ajit Varki and Tasha Altheide in Genome Research:2005. 15: 1746-1758
[2] The common ancestor was between five and seven million years ago.
[3] Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars? Katie Worth, Scientific American 29 January 2013


Anonymous said...

" So I reject Mike Bara's idea, on technical grounds. I'm not even going to mention how totally daft it is to hypothesize an intelligent race of Martians who escaped catastrophe by emigrating to Earth. Oh well, perhaps I'll mention it after all. IT'S BUNKUM, MIKE BARA. "

Surely and by no means in defense of Mike "Cartman" Bara but your statement falls within the category of "All Swans are White"


Dee said...

Hmmm, it's true that at least for for a while the theory was there that the human circadian clock tends to crawl towards the 25 hours if not "tuned" by eg external daylight cues. But I think later research is more conservative with that. This link is from 1999: Human Biological Clock Set Back an Hour and settles for 24 hours, 11 minutes. Also it's known caffeine can add incidentally around 40 minutes to a clock cycle, depending on when you drink it during the day, which for some people can really mess things. It's all very interesting stuff and there might be more recent numbers, but the clock might, without feedback loop, run indeed a bit over 24 hours for whatever reason.

As for the human genome, not alien DNA perhaps, but I did see interesting research about DNA of bacteria and viruses ending up in there, even during later stages of evolution. It's possible that viruses are instrumental for this mutation process. Gene-swapping means you have alien DNA inside you (BBC). It's not that different from how it's done in laboratories so the question always will come up about alien guidance of some sorts. And if alien DNA would arrive through some mechanism (rocks, ice) like with panspermia, the concept of it ending up in our DNA is not that crazy after all.

The percentage game is trickier: one could argue there's more genetic difference in percentage between men and women than between male human and chimpanzee. The source of a lot of jokes but even when technically it's probably true, it shows the devil always sits in the details.


expat said...

Thanks for the interesting comments. Dee, I would just add that it's one thing to insert a gene, quite another to get that gene actually expressed. Medical researchers struggling to make gene therapy work have found how hard that can be. I think the BBC piece was way over-optimistic on that score.

F.C. Trevor Gale said...

I do trust that my comment on this is at least as clear, helpful, explanatory and time-consuming as the quoted contributor to 'Fade to Black' (Mike Bara) was in his efforts.

Now, looking at the image it was immediately clear to me that it's been received and decoded from the ancient radio signals of the time (oops, sorry, dreaming).

Remember, please, that the propagation of radio signals into space occurs at a fixed speed* of 300,000km/S whilst space itself can be considered as being of infinite dimensions. (* This velocity is altered in the presence or effect of certain dielectrics but for our purposes here we can safely assume the free space velocity since free space is over 99% of the path).
That is why we can receive some of the Cosmic Microwave Background, representing what was emitted just a few moments from the dawn of beginning as it were. Such waves can also be reflected from objects, even returning to the area from which they were emitted.

To return to the subject, the actual signals to which I refer above were generated and emitted by the broadcasting (eons ago) of the television programme "Mars Got Talent". Television at that time on Mars was normally sent out with the standard 'MAB' [#1], remarkably similar to the American standard of today, 'NTSC' [#2]. It was therefore relatively easy to adapt our earth technology to decode these signals.

Ancient alien artistic talent was far more advanced than is commonly recognised: in the received screen-capture image you can clearly see the cat is actually dancing, something which even today in our world is not a normality even in tropical climes with tin roofs [#3] on buildings. You may not immediately realise it, but if you view the image properly, making a scientific observation, you can see the show host seen in the picture to the left of the cat - clearly a very distant predecessor of a tall, long-headed Egyptian King, looking on as the cat shows off its dancing. That, by the way, is backed up by the well-known fact that even high-level Egyptians in society held cats in high regard and with much respect [#4].
So, with all this unrefutable evidence duly considered the image shown provides absolute proof that in all likelihood we ourselves (and our cats) are descended from these beings who had such advanced scientific knowledge and ability on Mars so many eons ago. Naturally, due to the passage of such a long time, some of these abilities and the knowledge behind them have decayed during the journey and during the adaptation to the new and different conditions on the new planet, Earth. That is why we now have what are still inferior television broadcasting standards which to this day have not evolved to the point where all countries share the same advantageous standard. Knowledge is quite a delicate matter and can get rubbed off due to the erosion of time. (sorry, off dreaming again).

F.C. Trevor Gale said...

Okay, here I didn't mention the chimpanzees, but there's a reason for that. It's difficult. First off, adult chimpanzees are frightened when they see a half-size model of a chimpanzee head (Hebben & Thompson 1954 et al). Do we in general have a similar fear? No. Secondly, on the other hand, chimpanzees are frightened by snakes and certain reptiles - which is fairly logical as they represent possible danger. Do we in general have similar fears? Yes. Thirdly, chimpanzees will always avoid fouling their own nest or residence, often by leaning over the edge of the same. However, it is indeed accepted that we as humans differ only by some 5% in our genomes from chimpanzees.

So my difficulty in approaching the matter of alien content in our genomes versus evolved changes from chimp genomes comes from the lack of a reference sample: Taking the programme contributor (M.B) as a prime typical example of a human, I find it impossible to determine if he suffers from a fear of half-sized models. I also find it impossible to determine if he fears reptiles. On the other hand it seems quite obvious that he has no worry concerning the fouling of his own nesting area [#5]. Therefore in summary it is very difficult to arrive at any reliable conclusion concerning the genome make-up of this 5% on the basis of a sadly lacking and inconsistent reference sample.

To end, at last, let's face it, any kid can chuck a load of pebbles onto the grass and chances are you could act the 'artist' and suggest that the result shows 'a sort of' something - maybe a space station, maybe a dinosaur in the kitchen, anything. I used to build sandcastles on the beach as a kid, never did get to see any little warriors firing arrows over the walls though. Oh, and rocks? Sure they can have specific shapes, or 'formations' - of just about an infinite different kind but so can screwed-up bunches of tissues of piles of cut grass in the fields or whatever else springs to mind. I suppose if it looks like an arsehole it must be an arsehole...

[#1] - MAB : 'More Antiquated Bull', an attribute which can be well applied to the outpours of certain pseudoscientist authors.

[#2] - NTSC : 'National Television Standards Committee' - the video standard for television commonly adopted in North America and certain other parts of the world. Sometimes referred to as 'Never Twice the Same Color'.

[#3] - 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', a play by Tennessee Williams but also an expression for someone or something which moves rapidly and irregularly.

[#4] - Cats, felines, called "Mau" in old Egyptian, were seen as and treated as sacred in ancient Egyptian society. Some were eventually elevated to the status as deities.

[#5] - The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores ...
By Richard Estes

Eye opener said...

I have to agree with Bara on this bogus and contrived debunking term "pareidolia". Ashwin Vasavada and other NASA sycophants are so drunk on their flavor of Mars kool-aid saying everything we see on Mars is just a rock. Humans may indeed have a psychological weakness in that the brain tries to make sense out of abstract imagery, but I can tell you that Vasavada and others like Oberg suffer from a more debilitating condition known as denial. Defined as refusal to accept factual information that conflicts with strongly held beliefs. I met Jimmy Church last year at the UFO festival in Roswell as he came by my booth to examine my Martian artifact replicas, and I have to say Church and Bara are not idiots!

expat said...

Thanks for the comment Eye opener. Pareidolia is not a weakness but an adaptive advantage. It enables us to recognize members of our family and of our tribe. Think about the total number of people that you recognize on sight, including family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, celebrities. It's probably several thousand, and isn't that amazing?

I say Bara is an idiot because he makes statements like "John Glenn is a liar" (Hidden Agenda, p.174) and he's dishonest because he took an image of a landslip on the Moon, turned it upside down, and claimed it is a "crystal tower" (Hidden Agenda, p. 117.)

Trekker said...

Pareidolia isn't a 'weakness', Eye Opener, but a perfectly normal trait of the human brain to make sense out of random noise. Bara won't accept such a neutral, non-judgmental definition, but lashes out instead at anyone who calls him out on it. He has to, of course. To do otherwise would be to admit his books, based on pareidolia, are a pile of nonsense.

Chris said...

Isn't it funny, Eye opener, that all the supposed artifacts seen in Mars rocks are things which make sense to alien hunters on Earth in 2017? I mean, surely we'd be seeing artificial relics all over the place with no idea what they do, but clearly not natural? What is this odd looking device made of some kind of alloy? Is this perfectly cut glass? That metal object isn't natural! Is this infrastructure? Is that a factory?

But no, there's curiously none of that at all. This advanced alien species which escaped into space left zero evidence of their technology. But what's that over there, is it a partly fossilised rocket, or perhaps a broken and eroded pipeline? No, it's a cat playing air guitar!

This is bara and his kind doing mental gymnastics and fitting whatever he can to any pattern that is half usable. He is pathetic, a joke, and I think even he knows it deep down. It's not denial to reject the idea of aliens based on no evidence for their existence. If you think it's something more then you need to come up with some evidence for it. It's as simple as that. I want to see hardcore alien technology and unattural objects, not endless rocks, a fossilised sneaker-looking thing or a cat with bizarrely long legs playing air guitar.


Trekker said...

Chris, good point about the 'artifacts' making sense only to 21st century humans. If Galileo or William Herschel, or any of the great observers of past centuries had access to these images, I wonder what they'd see? They certainly wouldn't recognize his 'satellite dishes', or anything else that hadn't been invented before the 20th century.

Eye opener said...

Trekker and Chris, how to respond to you guys is a bit of a challenge as always when confronting skeptics. Sometimes a statue is still a statue even if it is broken and lying on the ground. Are sure when you look at Mt. Rushmore that you are seeing the faces of great presidents? We have been told that somebody spent years carving them into the mountainside, but it could still be just a trick of light and shadow or better yet-- "pareidolia". I would like to personally invite you guys to attend the UFO Festival in Roswell, NM. this coming 4th of July weekend for the 70th anniversary of the saucer crash. I will have a booth there, and I will be happy to show in detail how my replicas of ancient Martian artifacts are faithful reproductions of unquestionably artificial objects on Mars. Natural geologic processes can not create the intricate details (such as reptilian scales) that depict a crocodile, a snake, or create a temple archway with a satkona yantra (six pointed star) in the center of the archway. All of my artwork is copyrighted but by the hardest as the Library of Congress mysteriously "misplaced" my deposit copies, requiring me to resubmit copies directly to the director Juanita Jackson for special handling. It seems that maybe there are some "heavy hitters" in prominent institutions that would prefer the public not see the truth about Mars. Peace.

expat said...

I'd love to see your model of the air-guitar-playing cat. However, I will not be in Roswell in July.

Trekker said...

I have no intention of going to any such conference a) so far from home and b) so lacking in interest to me.

Your Mt. Rushmore analogy doesn't fly as it's not an example of pareidolia, but of sculpture of known provenance. There were no 'tricks of light and shadow' involved in its creation.

You still didn't address my point about recognition of anomalous 'artifacts' on Mars. Besides the satellite dishes (on the moon, but a claim by Bara nontheless), how would an astronomer from a century previous to the 20th explain the 'Theme Restaurant in LA', the 'tank' and the 'turbo charger', to name but three items, that Bara claims to see on Mars? Would such an astronomer from those bygone years even SEE those items against the background noise? Why does Bara see only 20/21st century machines? Why does he never see a spinning jenny or a steam engine from centuries past, for example? Let's say there WAS an alien artifact lying in full view of Curiosity. Would Bara even see it? Would he recognize it as an alien artifact or pass over it because it looks just like a rock? See what I'm getting at? We're all influenced by the culture around us, Bara included.

expat said...

Eye opener: I'd like to see the reptile scales and the satkona yantra. Can you post links to jpgs? I mean the originals on Mars, not your models.

Eye opener said...

Expat: On the NASA photo found at is a carved crocodile artifact lying on its side. The belly area of the artifact has rectangular scales, whereas the exposed side of the crocodile body has more circular shaped scales (similar to a real crocodile). The lotus flower motif on the crocodile's headdress suggest this crocodile was female; perhaps a matriarchal "Sobek" prototype icon. Interestingly, in the upper right hand side of the photo is another strange artifact that can best be described as a mechanical crablike rover. There are clearly two rows of articulating appendages running parallel on the viewed underside of the artifact. The six point star relief carved into a broken in half "torana" archway can be seen lying on the ground in PIA 16702 at the far top end of the photo to right of center a bit. Download the .tiff and with a high res monitor, you can zoom in and find this artifact, and many others. Happy artifact hunting. Cheers.

expat said...

EO: Either you are George Haas or you share George Haas's delusions. Mars has never had enough oxygen for a croc to evolve or even survive. Beyond that, the context is woefully insufficient. A crocodile-carving civilization would need houses to provide shelter, roads of some kind to move around on, solar collectors to provide energy, and the infrastructure of water management. We see none of these things.

Eye opener said...

Expat: My friend, I'm a little surprised by your response. The evidence of civilization and infrastructure IS there on Mars, albeit in ruins. I believe it is a sad mistake to predispose yourself to unreasonable cynicism by assuming that everything you have been told by the established scientific community to be gospel truth. The truth about Mars is probably more bizarre and horrific than you can imagine. I find Dr. John Brandenberg's investigations into the presence of Xenon 129 in the Martian atmosphere to be highly credible. Extremely powerful nuclear detonations are most likely the reason we see so much of Mars in ruins. You are welcome to remain in your comfortable compartmentalized little box of safe mainstream "sanitized for the masses" reality. I prefer to observe evidence without prejudice, and hopefully open the eyes of those who are not afraid to say the emperor's choice of royal attire sucks.

expat said...

« The evidence of civilization and infrastructure IS there on Mars, albeit in ruins. »

Well, now it's my turn to be surprised. You surely can not take seriously Hoagland's "discoveries" of the ruins of a motel (that turn out to be a few cm between floors,) a sneaker, a child's toy, and a wonky pentagonal pyramid. This is mere childish error.

« I find Dr. John Brandenberg's investigations into the presence of Xenon 129 in the Martian atmosphere to be highly credible. »

Well I do not, as I expounded at possibly boring length last May. To save you the trouble of reading all my turgid prose, there are better explanations for the excess of 129Xe than a thermonuclear war. Chief among them is the established facts that:

* 129Xe is formed by decay of 129I.
* Iodine is a solid at Martian temperature and pressure.
* It follows that, when the planet lost most of its early atmosphere, iodine would not have been affected by whatever calamity caused the loss.

I believe it is a sad mistake to predispose yourself to unreasonable fantasy by ignoring established and peer-reviewed science.

Eye opener said...

Expat, I am no big Hoagland fan, nor do I embrace the Cydonia claims by George Haas whom I never even heard of until you mentioned his name. I am not a NASA hater, in fact I have hired former engineers from NASA as consultants and found them to be quite competent. I appreciate the hard work NASA has done to get these big Mars projects off the ground, but I do not appreciate the obfuscation by amateurish photoshopping and smudging over details in the Curiosity photos-- and I have seen quite a few. Malin's boys need a little schooling in that area. I'm sorry I don't buy into the Iodine decay hypothesis to explain the Xenon 129, as I'm sure you would rather not consider the trinitite evidence that Brandenberg also presents. Nonetheless, I read your blog on the matter, and I saw you humbly admit to not being a physicist, but in the next breath you slam Brandenberg as a pseudo-scientist. I would never throw out the I'm a nuclear physicist and you are an ex BBC producer canard, but I think John could give you a run for your money in a real debate on the subject with all due respect. As for ignoring "established and peer reviewed science" goes, I could not accomplish doing difficult engineering projects with that mentality. However, when people like Ashwin Vasavada contrive voodoo Martian geology to explain away building ruins as rock formations, I could not care less how many papers he has submitted for peer review on the subject. Peace.

expat said...

« I'm sorry I don't buy into the Iodine decay hypothesis to explain the Xenon 129, as I'm sure you would rather not consider the trinitite evidence that Brandenberg also presents. »

Iodine decay is rather more than a hypothesis, EO. The half-life is 16 million years. Per Zahnle (1993), Mars lost most of its primordial atmosphere within the first 100 million years. That means 129I has had 4.4 x 10^9 years to make its contribution. That is 275 half-lives.

129Xe is not a fission product of either 235U or 241Pu. It only appears in the atmosphere as a result of the rare process known as fast fission. Brandenberg is indeed more expert than me on these questions, but he is not justified in ignoring the 129I > 129Xe pathway.

To support his trinitite hypothesis, Brandenburg cites a paper by Horgan & Bell from Geology 2011, but the article offers no real support for his contention. Horgen & Bell report widespread volcanic glass and do not even mention trinitite. The entire Northern hemisphere of Mars shows evidence of past volcanism—there is nothing special about the two areas Brandenburg focuses on.

Anonymous said...


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Two Percent said...

Looks like this thread might still have Life! More than there is on Mars, anyway.

Obviously, "Mars Madness" is extremely contagious. Anyone can catch it, and it's really difficult to realise yourself, that you have it. And once you have it, you can't recognise it in anyone else, either!

Obviously, Hoagland has it. Bara has it. Brandenburg has it. To name just a few.

Here's a new one: Stephen L. Petranek.

I recently read his book: "How We'll Live on Mars".

Ok, that's an exaggeration. I read bits of most of it, but it really wasn't worth the time to read it properly, despite being a very small book. It's small because it's promoting an impossibility, so it can't go into too much detail. It was all ifs and maybes. Very big IFS at that. But it never gave up its ridiculous notion.

Fact is, the planet is stuffed. We ain't gonna be living there in any numbers, ever.

For a start, it has no magnetosphere.
Hence, it has virtually no atmosphere,
And no protection from cosmic rays etc.
What little atmosphere is has is about 95% CO2.
It has hardly any water.
It has virtually no free oxygen.
There isn't much we could eat...
Oh, not to mention, it's damn cold. Apparently, it can get to 20C on a hot day, and -75C most nights. That's colder than the North (or South Pole) on a cold night. So, that's another massive challenge. No growing food outdoors then...
Then, there's the dust (storms.)
And, obviously, many more meteorites than we get.
Of course, being so much further from the sun, it gets only about 40% of the amount of sunlight - but that's unfiltered by any atmosphere, ozone layer or anything to provide protection from the bad aspects of solar radiation (etc), so it's no doubt relatively more intense than what we experience, but still, it doesn't provide nearly as much energy. That's another problem.

Can anyone here please tell me why the whole world seems to have caught Mars Madness? Is there anyone not yet infected left?

Why is there suddenly so much interest in an obviously all but dead planet? Is it simply all because ex-POTUS Obama tried to have a JFK moment, by declaring "We're going there"? I don't believe that, but I'm open-minded.

Which brings me to another comment here:

" expat said...

EO: Either you are George Haas or you share George Haas's delusions. Mars has never had enough oxygen for a croc to evolve or even survive."

expat, what is your evidence for that? "Never", I mean?

While I agree the publicly available evidence of past civilisations on Mars is scant, something is definitely fueling this big PR exercise to convince the punters to fund a daft, live-expedition-iary attempt on Mars. Obviously, there are things out there that we are not being told. It's Moon Madness, all over again.

Can anyone throw any more light, so to speak, on this?

expat said...

« expat, what is your evidence for that? "Never", I mean? »

Now that you challenge me, I take it back. Tuff, Wade & Wood of Oxford Dept. of Earth Sciences reported in Nature 2013 that Mars' atmos may have been oxygen-rich 4000 million years ago, even before Earth's atmos acquired its oxygen. The work compared Martian meteorites with in situ soil analysis.

expat said...

Here, have a link.

Two Percent said...

expat said...

Here, have a link.

Cool! Many thanks. You maybe guessed I was going to argue the point, but you have done even better! I would have to agree with you/them, though I suspect their timing may be a little optimistic. But who knows? Mars is (ok, was) another world! (Don't get me wrong on that point, I don't mean another Earth.)

So, 4000 million y.a. That's like 4 billion? Maybe 500 million years after it 'formed'? That's Waaay ahead of Earth's timetable, right? I thought "Zahnle (1993)" was 'a tad' off the mark.

Next question, if I may?

" expat said...

Horgan & Bell from Geology 2011, [...] report widespread volcanic glass and do not even mention trinitite."

Did you read the entire article, or just the free Abstract? (In case I need to get the full text, to be "on the same page". Or, maybe it doesn't matter.)

I'm no expert on this subject, so I don't know what distinguishes the two. Could you give me a brief overview, please?

The reason I ask is, what is required to distinguish the two, and would Horgan & Bell have had the required data?

Could you also do us all a favour and tell me how to "<>" properly, please?

expat said...

« Did you read the entire article, or just the free Abstract? »


« what is required to distinguish the two, and would Horgan & Bell have had the required data? »

Chemical analysis. The primary component of trinitite is what was dominant at Trinity, namely arkosic sand. What Horgan & Bell reported was volcanic glass. They would not have had the data to diagnose trinitite, but then neither would Brandenberg.

« Could you also do us all a favour and tell me how to "<>" properly, please? »

Do you mean « »?

The numbers you need are 0171 and 0187 respectively. Or if you mean how to format HTML, there are millions of words about that on the interwebs.

Two Percent said...

Hi again expat,

Sorry, I apologise for being flippant earlier. You must be an Ex-Pat Englishman, who was originally raised to think that 1 billion was 1 million million, as logic would dictate - until the Americans irrationalised it.

Thanks for the quote codes.

Thanks also for the answer regarding Trinitite. In short, melted airborne sand (from near Trinity, USA), fused into blobs. Not sure of the sequence, but not relevant here. No doubt Brandenburg would not have had any better data. And even if the glass in question was melted/formed by thermonuclear energy and Trinitite could be considered a general term, I'd still be reluctant to assume the glass on Mars was made from sand. But we can all see what Brandenburg was suggesting. The "glass" could have a nuclear origin.

Of course, I'd have to forgive Brandenburg for calling it Trinitite. He was obviously suffering Full-blown Mars Madness post-infection fever at the time. Obviously, it can't be true Trinitite, per se, and calling it so was not a career enhancing move. Obviously, Horgan & Bell were not so brave / foolish / infected. But that still doesn't mean it wasn't formed by thermonuclear energy, right?

Actually, this "iron-bearing glass" is extremely interesting.

According to Horgan & Bell, these deposits cover " >10^7 km2 in the northern lowlands of Mars". Imagine 1,000km x 10,000km. 10 million km2 - quite a large area. About the size of the USA, no less.

According to Head, Kreslavsky & Pratt (2002), "The northern lowlands of Mars cover about one third of the surface of the planet".

Mars has a surface area of about 14.5 x 10^7 km2. Being a little generous, that gives about 5 x 10^7 km2 for the northern lowlands.

By my simple reckoning, that means this mystery glass covers at least 20% of the northern lowlands. Unfortunately, the abstract doesn't discuss the distribution of the glass, only calling it "widespread", but I'm not sure if that matters.

How do we resolve this chicken and egg situation?

The northern lowlands were apparently underwater following the relevant (atmosphere-(and-water?)-generating) volcanism.

Per Tuff, Wade & Wood (2013) "it is likely that the ‘red planet’ was wet, warm and rusty billions of years before Earth’s atmosphere became oxygen rich."

We know from the photographic evidence that Mars underwent water erosion for millions of years - not sure it was 'billions' - but a decent period of time.

That water drained mainly into the northern lowlands sea. This, by my understanding, would have caused deep sediments to cover the then seabed.

Later, all that water suddenly disappeared, apparently into outer space, but I see no explanation to account for the seabed being apparently uncovered now, to expose layer/s of volcanic glass.

There are a few obvious possible mechanisms for the water loss.

1. The core cooled. (It's only a small, lower density planet, and seemingly, it was a "fast burner", so maybe "burned out" quickly.) The magnetosphere consequently faded simultaneously, resulting in the loss of the atmosphere and water. Certainly, the magnetosphere is now gone, but I'm not sure how rapidly that would have occurred. I lean towards exponential decay, at least until the core started to solidify, with rapid decay thereafter. Not sure if that would be sudden enough though.

2. A massive meteor(ite?) grazed the planet delivering huge destructive energy. Given historical meteorite impacts with Earth, this seems unlikely to completely destroy the biosphere and cause the sudden loss of most/all of the water. If a meteorite came from the asteroid belt, it would also be traveling much more slowly than the ones reaching Earth.

3. Aliens, H-bombs...

What about the glass? What's the logical explanation?

What's your hypothesis?

expat said...

« What about the glass? What's the logical explanation? »

Early and widespread volcanism.

Two Percent said...

Doesn't fit the known facts, old chap.

Early and widespread volcanism is not in dispute. That happened, no doubt.

However, volcanism would have ceased at around the same time as, if not before the magnetosphere decayed, with the cooling of the core. Don't know how long, but I'm guessing at 2-3,000 million (2-3 billion) years of age. Maybe less, maybe more.

Assuming no outside intervention, the atmosphere would then have started to disperse (escape), and the water along with it. This would have taken a while, as the cooling of the core and the decay of the magnetosphere would not have been instantaneous, so life might have died out long before the atmosphere went. There is still a little atmosphere left even now, and various erosion processes obviously still continue.

(Volcanic) glass however is a relatively short-lived material.

On Earth it lasts about 65 million years. "Spontaneous" devitrification seems to be the primary decay path. On Mars, while a decaying atmosphere may have slowed the process, conversely the increasingly extreme diurnal temperature variations, combined with water and a CO2-rich atmosphere would probably have greatly accelerated the process. On balance, let's say the time is the same (or less).

On that basis, you might have to argue that massive volcanism (maintaining 10 million km2 worth of glass) ceased much less than 65 million y.a.

Or, maybe that the water and atmosphere (but not temperature variation) are responsible for the devitrification, AND that they suddenly and rapidly disappeared (How / Why?) coincident with the cessation of volcanism, thereby hugely reducing the glass devitrification rate.

It seems to me the cart is still before the horse.

What say you? ;-)

expat said...

Very interesting. I hadn't been considering devitrification, but I don't think your timetable is too securely based.

Here, have a read.

Here, have another read.

Two Percent said...

The second link doesn't...

But the first link does it! HeeeHeee!!

I hope you know that website.

The story is obviously fake. The photo (enlargement)

is 100% genuine (PhotoShop?) fake. Just look at the shadows of Pengy and his friends. Sun at a low angle (as you'd expect) from the near left. Meaty (the "meteorite") illuminated from above-behind. Pengy and his friends are obviously tame and used to people, as you can tell by the camera angle (close up to Meaty), so they don't even bother looking at the photographer. Yawn.

Meaty is sitting in a massive impact crater, as you'd expect... Must have been hot, to melt THAT much snow! Notice the vertical walls...

Check out the caption:

"Basalt meteorite (sample nr BET-M7-0104) discovered in a remote part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (ANSMET)"

That "Ice Sheet" is pretty thin right there. Lucky he didn't fall through! Meaty appears to be sitting on gravel of the exact same colour, about 150mm below the surface of the ice "sheet". Are those tractor tracks running past Meaty? The snow and ice is all messed up, just like it would be, in some "remote part" of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. What's that "tower" in the background? I bet that's the Tower of Babel.

Sorry, but Fair's Fair, isn't it?

As for the story, reads like science fiction:

"After running hundreds of numerical simulations for various volcanoes in the Solar System, the supercomputers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, could narrow candidates down to only one suitable candidate: Mt. Olympus volcano. "

Sounds like Humpty Dumpty. All the King's horses and all the King's men... All those supa-dupa-woopa computas!

"Bombs ejected under the right angle and at sufficient speed (approx. 2 miles per second) can reach planetary space."

Approx. 2 miles per second! Approx 3.2km/sec -> almost Mach 11 -> "High-hypersonic"

A little fast for a molten lava ball, I suspect, but those darn aliens must have used a rail gun for this trick.

One last little point:

Intro: "NASA scientists studying volcanic rocks from Mars came to the conclusion that the red planet´s volcano, Mount Olympus, is not dead or dormant but in fact an active volcano whose last eruption might have been as recent as a few years to decades ago." (My emphasis)

Conclusion: "Although we don't know the precise date, geologists can now be sure that the last eruption of Mt. Olympus occurred at some time in the 20th century, and that the volcano is certainly alive!" (My emphasis again)

No 5 is ALIVE!


Two Percent said...

expat: Thanks for posting my previous contribution. I was thinking you might rectify the broken 2nd link and give us something more authoritative to dig into, but I guess you don't work weekends. Fair enough!

Knowing you have some spaceflight expertise, I left all the meatiest bits for you to enjoy, but I guess a quiet Friday night drink was much more appealing.

Just for the sake of completeness then...

As you know, 2 miles per second, equal to about 3.2km/s, is nowhere near fast enough, even for a solid lava ball, to break free of Mars' gravity. Mars' Escape Velocity (Ve) is over 34km/s, almost 11 times higher. So, while the writers probably should have said:

"Bombs ejected ... at sufficient speed (approx. 2 miles per second) can reach interplanetary space" in the context of this fake news story, they were quite correct in relation to the velocity stated.

However, my searches could not find a figure of greater than 400m/s for lava bombs ejected from Earthly volcanoes, hence the rail gun comment.

I also thought you might have wanted to comment on the path taken by said lava bomb to reach Earth, and the time suggested, but I think it's sufficient to say, like the rest of the story, both are ridiculous.

Related, I did a bit of searching for evidence of on-going volcanism, and was surprised by the rather limited thinking of many planetary scientists. Apparently, it's taken until this year to work out what happened to the Martian atmosphere, but even now there's no mention of the magnetosphere's part in it:

It's therefore no surprise to see that many of them fantasize that Mars' volcanoes are still not extinct. More soundly based thinking on the matter can be found here:

Regarding possibly visible ancient volcanic activity (e.g. glass, discussed earlier) in the Northern Lowlands, this page offers the following:

"However, thick layers of dust and sediment cover both the Northern Lowlands and the large basin floors. These layers reflect a long history of winds, glaciers and flood events. They also hide any volcanism that may have occurred in the low areas on Mars."


"The youngest lava flows on Olympus Mons are only 20 to 200 million years old. These flows are very small, however, and they probably represent the last gasp of martian volcanism. Thus, the odds of finding an active volcano on Mars today are very small."

Last, I thought this photo was extremely relevant, though I don't know if it's genuine, or where it came from. If anyone can enlighten us, please do! ;-)

I believe the blackened area is the one Brandenburg is so excited about, and also the subject of Horgan & Bell's optical analysis. The non-blacked "shadows" apparently "downwind" of various surface prominences are especially interesting.

expat (or anyone else): can you explain this?

Two Percent said...

That photo...

Looks like it came from

Great version here:

expat said...

2%- I think you're right about Martian escape velocity but I can't be arsed to check the math. The Great God Wikipedia sayeth that some 132 meteorites have found a path from Mars to Earth, and that some of them are evidence of recent volcanism. I'm not too sure about the latter point, however. There are other, more inherently violent, ways for rocks to be flung into space, as you know.

The gorgeous whole-disk piccy is from Viking and may have been retouched as part of the mosaicing process. Not with dishonest intent, I add.

Thanks for all the info, I love it.

Two Percent said...

You're welcome. Thanks - it's been a great debate.

Yes, it's a stunning pic. Would like to think it's true colour, and that it was taken as a single frame during approach, perhaps. That said, the apparent illumination is too unlikely for that scenario.

Having seen it, I suspect you'll agree that the first sentence of Horgan & Bell's Abstract makes a lot more sense, the first two words especially. Their abstract is couched in such properly obscure scientific language... ;-)

Half the mystery solved, 'I propose'. As previously, I just don't buy the volcanism bit, for origin. Interestingly, they discuss (weathering) rinds on the glass at some length, but make no mention of devitrification or time frames. Too hot a potato for career conscious scientists? Or maybe not their field?

Two Percent said...


I can't get your << quote >> codes to work, but never mind.

You hate Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Pseudoscience as much as I do, right?

I just had a frightful thought!

You are good at maths. Are you willing to participate in this exercise?

<< There are other, more inherently violent, ways for rocks to be flung into space, as you know. >>

I thought I did, until you said it. I know the theory. But now, I suspect it's just another baseless belief, an unfounded assumption.

Let's consider Mars. Let's ignore the meagre atmosphere - assume no atmosphere, and a roundish-figured Escape Velocity of 35km/s.

On Mars, I erect a giant, massless "golf" tee on top of the highest mountain. On top of this golf tee I place any size and shaped piece(s) of Mars rock or rocks you specify.

For your part, you direct any incoming asteroid, comet or piece of space rock of whatever size, shape, mass / density, direction and speed you choose, to impact the target Mars rock(s) on the tee, at any angle and alignment you choose.

The only objective is to get any single piece (fragment or whole) of the target rock to depart the vicinity of the tee, intact, at a speed and direction sufficient to escape Mars gravity.

Can it be done, without the target rock being vaporised / shattered into dust?

(I mean, 0-35km/s in the space of even 10 metres is a pretty large acceleration!)

expat said...

Cor blimey, what a poser! I don't think I'm capable of that, 2%. But I'll put in two pennyworth by remarking that vaporization is probably allowed, since there would be plenty of time for resolidification.

Two Percent said...

Since I missed an appointment thinking about this myself, may as well post where I got to.

First, I'm assuming I understand Escape Velocity correctly - that it's the speed that an object fired from the surface must reach (with no further driving force applied), to escape the gravitational field of the planet in question. I'm not clear if the angle matters but I assume not, since if fired completely tangential to the surface of a planet (without atmosphere), it will soon be traveling almost directly away from the planet anyway.

1. Required Acceleration to achieve Ve.
For this step, I'm imagining impact by a nice softish, fast, round comet, 10m in diameter, and of "perfect consistency" for this purpose. So, by the time the comet has passed around the target rock, the rock will have been "gently" accelerated to 35km/s. Whether such comets exist, I have no idea, imagine highly unlikely, but this is just to get an idea of the force involved to accelerate the rock.

As I recall it, assuming linear acceleration of the target rock, v^2 = u^2 +/- 2ad can be applied.

Hence, since u = 0, a = v^2 / 2d. (v = 35km/s)

Thus: a = (35 x 10^3 m/s)^2 / 20 m
a = 1225 x 10^6 (m2/s2) / 20 (m)
a = 61.25 x 10^6 m/s^2

Yep, a bit more acceleration than a Tesla, even in Ludicrous Mode.

2. Force required
If I'm right this far, then by F = ma, this works out to a Force ratio of
61.25 M Newtons per kg of target rock.

For those who don't have a good feel for Newtons etc, that converts to about 6,000 TONNES of constantly applied force to linearly accelerate a 1kg lump of Mars rock over a distance of 10 metres, from zero to 35km/s.

Of course, this cushy comet scenario is "fairly unlikely" since Mars does have some atmosphere which would probably deal with a comet well before it reached my rock, but it's all hypothetical. A much more likely scenario would be meteorite->rock impact, and the contact distance might be 0.1m. This would have the effect of multiplying the force by a factor of 100 (10m/0.1m), requiring a constant linear force of a mere 600,000 Tonnes. Let's continue with the comet and the 10 metre acceleration path for now.

3. Rock Strength
The next bit is to calculate the strength of the target rock; here my knowledge is very limited. Some research suggests the hardest Earthly rocks are able to withstand (unconfined) pressures of up to 400 MPa (for nephritic jade, the hardest before diamond and other rarities). Since Mars rocks are typically high in iron, rightly or wrongly, let's double it to 800 MPa, and call it 1,000 MPa for round figures.

(If the rock is confined, as it effectively would be if being impacted by a slushy comet, it's a different figure altogether, but I don't know how to calculate that. Not yet, anyway.) Although the 10 metre diameter comet scenario is effectively impossible since rocks on Mars are not generally perched on high golf tees for the purpose of being launched off the planet, a confined pressure calculation seems irrelevant, but it turns out it may not be.)

For now, because I can, I assume unconfined, as is almost certainly the case for a meteorite to rock impact. (The supposed scenario, as I understand it.) The rock's pressure handling capacity of 1000 MPa equates to 1 x 10^9 Newtons/m^2.

Although a meteorite-to-rock impact is likely to be closer to a point-point contact than a flat face-to-flat-face contact, in these simple estimates we are trying to calculate possibilities before (im)probabilities, so I assume the contact areas "crumble" (liquify?) tidily to provide a suitable "cushion" between the two faces. We can then calculate lowest contact pressures (as "might" in 10 million years, be possible).

[Oops! Too long...] TBC

Two Percent said...

Considering a 10kg rock with a density of 10 (e.g. 10kg/litre, 10,000kg/m^3), our rock will have a volume of one litre, and assuming further that it's conveniently shaped like a cube, 'the contact face' will have an area of 0.1m x 0.1m = 0.01 m^2.

Now things could get interesting. We need to accelerate this 10kg rock with a force of

61.25 MegaNewtons per kg.

As the rock weighs 10kg, it requires an accelerating force of 612.5 MN. (Approx 61,000 Tonnes!)

For calculation purposes, consider this force applied to one face, which has an area of 0.01m^2.

This will develop a pressure of 612.5 x 10^6 N / 0.01 m^2 = 61,250 x 10^6 Pa,

which equals 61,250 MPa!

This is at least 60 times the maximum estimated "reasonable" unconfined Mars rock crush pressure, and this in a highly contrived "hit by a feather duster [comet]" scenario with a 10 metre acceleration path.

Convert the "comet" to a far more plausible Asteroid Belt meteorite and the forces increase by a factor of 100 or more.

4. Conclusion
From this, it's clear that a "simple" impact scenario could not eject a Martian rock sample from the surface into interplanetary space. Simple momentum transfer is just not enough.

Something else is required, and I'm not sufficiently expert to make further calculations. But I've had a wee think...

5. More...
There is a scenario that could apply. A while back I calculated the kinetic energy of a large meteorite, traveling at around 30km/s. Can't recall the numbers, but it's high. Nuclear explosion-type high. And No, I'm not referring to Brandenburg here, just indicating order of magnitude.

So, imagine such a meteorite making a head-on impact with the centre of a large, unbroken slab of hard Mars rock. The meteorite will embed itself deep into the rock, vaporising itself and the rock it passes directly through. It will be not unlike an underground nuclear bomb test. A huge amount of energy, released in an instant. A massive pressure will instantly develop inside the rock slab, creating a huge radiating shock wave. Energy which will ultimately shatter the rock and leave a crater full of molten rock.

Now, think about one of those desktop ornaments: "Newton's Balls".

This demonstrates the transfer of momentum from the ball at one end, through the stationary line of balls, to the ball at the opposite end, with no visible movement of the intermediary balls.

A massive pressure impulse occurring beneath the surface will be transmitted through the surrounding rock outward in all directions, but upwards is what interests us. Looking at Newton's Cradle, it's easy to imagine that the rock at the surface will receive a large dose of momentum. At that instant, it's confined laterally and subordinately by the solid rock all around and below it, so it could withstand a very much higher force from below without shattering. Upon receiving that momentum, it could then be expected to break out of the rest of the rock like shrapnel from a bomb casing. Being rock, it's likely to form as nice regular block, perfect for space travel.

The question I cannot answer is whether the force / momentum received would be enough for the rock to exceed Ve.

Interestingly, there seems to have been very little published on this question. The question was "resolved" in 1983, but the mechanism remains unclear.


Two Percent said...

"The assumption was that the meteorites were blasted off their planet of origin by a large impact. But which planet or asteroid? .... Venus was not likely because its thick atmosphere would impede escape of impact ejecta. Mars was the best bet.

The idea was not embraced enthusiastically, especially by scientists who study the dynamics of the impact process. They argued that there was no way of getting a meteorite off Mars without melting the rock, and there was no evidence for impact melting in the Martian meteorites, although the effects of impact short of melting were evident in many SNC meteorites. In fact, they argued, it was not possible to eject a rock from the Moon without melting it. .... the debate raged from the mid-1970s until 1983.

Old, but still very relevant!

expat said...


expat said...

BTW... to print a left guillemet, hold down the ALT key as you enter 0171 from the number keypad. It doesn't work if you use the numerical key row.

That's for a PC, no idea how Mac people do it, if at all.

Two Percent said...

« Roger that! »