Is the announcement of fart gas on Mars, just before a new administration and NASA budget comes into play the biggest news story ever?
The web has a tendency to promote news with good headlines rather than the truth. There is no better headline than ‘life on mars’ which has spread from the UK tabloid, the Sun, to Drudge, which makes a living from picking interesting headline links.
After the disappointment of the unconvincing find of fossil bacteria in a Martian meteorite scientists are more careful these days, but this time the omens are good. Its precisely because of this caution and the general fact that science is often not as dramatic as fiction that the serious news outlets aren’t able to run front page, ‘Life on Mars’ headlines.
Carl Zimmer live blogged the NASA press conference:
Mars is active and producing plumes of methane (which amazingly were discovered from Earth based telescopes not Martian probes).
The methane comes from volcanoes or bugs.
The evidence (lack of other volcanic gases, for example) points to bugs.
For further bug evidence we would need to look at isotopes in the methane.
To look for bugs we would have to either drill wide and deep (not going to happen soon) or if we are very lucky, scratch through a layer of permafrost.