WSU Astrobiology Seminar Series 2006/7 Academic Year


Gil Levin
Friday, March 23, 3:10-4:00 p.m, CUE 203

Gil Levin

Spherix Incorporated

The Case for Life on Mars

Abstract

In 1976, the Viking Mission to Mars's Labeled Release life detection experiment (LR) returned positive results to Earth from a series of tests of Martian soil. However, a companion experiment, Viking's Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (GCMS), failed to detect organics in the Martian soil. Primarily because of the GCMS's negative result, the scientific community attributed the LR response to putative chemical oxidants on the surface of Mars. Subsequently, a large number of theories were presented to contraindicate the possibility that the LR had detected life. Cautious because of the vast implications of the detection of life on Mars, I and my Co-Experimenter, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat, stated only that the LR results were "consistent with a biological explanation." However, studying the LR and relative data, along with new scientific findings made on Mars and Earth over the years, I was forced to the conclusion that the LR had, indeed, detected living microorganisms.

This talk will present the rationale behind the conclusion that the LR found life on Mars, and show how more recent data have strongly supported and reinforced it. Direct evidence will be presented refuting the prevalent theories against the biological explanation of the Mars LR data. The claims for a highly oxidizing environment will be countered, and data requiring the long-disputed presence of liquid surface water will be presented. Comments will also be made on the recent paper, "Possible Biogenic Origin for Hydrogen Peroxide on Mars: the Viking Results Reinterpreted," by Joop Houtkooper and Dirk Schulze-Makuch.

The case will be made that it is now more difficult to propose a sterile Mars than one with living microorganisms, and that Carl Sagan's oft-quoted axiom, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," has been satisfied. For those still demanding more evidence, a new experiment to provide unambiguous confirmation of life on Mars is proposed.