*We’ve heard for years, due to the popular best-seller, that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Sisters have gotten a lot of mileage out of that concept. According to new science — and some theories that aren’t so new — we might ALL be descendants of early Martians.
According to some scientists (and the Huffington Post) small biological bits left Mars and migrated to Earth and continued life here. If that’s true, all forms of life on earth originated on Mars.
How did the biology make it to Earth, you ask? I did, too! The vehicle is called “panspermia”, and it’s not exactly a new theory. According to Seth Shostak (doesn’t his last name also make you think about the Sleestaks from Land Of The Lost??) from the SETI Institute, life migrates from one world to the next on sunlight or inside rocks. More than two millennia ago, the philosopher Anaxagoras was the first to publish on panspermia, but it’s current interest goes back only a century or so, to experiments by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, who theorized that microorganisms might be moved from one planet to another by the radiation pressure of stars.
I almost flunked out of engineering school in college, so all of this is a bit over my head, but stay with me.
Some believe that a better theory, given the distance that martian microbes had to travel, is that microorganisms traveled in dirt clods jolted into space by a meteor impact. Called “lithopanspermia”, this mode of transport protected the microorganisms — cosmic rays and extreme temperatures can beat a microorganism brother down if he’s not hiding in a rock.
Scientists estimate that in the solar system’s early days, billions of rocks between an inch and a yard were shuttled form Mars to Earth, taking anywhere from a year to a million years. It seems it’s hard to estimate the travel time of a rock that’s floating aimlessly through space looking for a new home.
Could an organism hiding in a rock have survived such a long trip, especially if they’d been cut off from water, bombarded with radiation, and subjected to temperature extremes? Maybe. Astrobiologists have identified terrestrial bacteria to survive in spore form for a million years, only to be revived when reintroduced to water.
The possibility of life on Earth being derivative of Mars might sway our priorities of finding ET.
Should we continue to focus on Mars, for example, or since they might be distant cousins of ours, would we look further out — like to Jupiter or Saturn? Life there, being far more distant from Earth, would be unlikely to be related to us. And as fascinating as this all sounds, panspermia doesn’t offer any clues about life’s origins. It only pushes the question off to another planet. If life can spread, then potentially many planets could have been polluted with biology even if generating it there is next to impossible.
So, to my brothers: the next time your wife or girlfriend tries to give you that “Mars / Venus” line, tell her “Hey! We ALL might be!”