What’s wrong with this headline?
So, are we talking about Evidence for ancient life on Mars? No, we’re talking about how evidence for ancient life on Mars could be just below the surface, along with my missing socks and Hoffa’s body – can you *prove* they aren’t, huh? So, maybe not what it’s really saying. Yep, finally, the last 3 words are what we’re really talking about:
Researchers say that evidence of ancient life on Mars could take the form of simple organic molecules lying just beneath the Red Planet’s surface, and that it could be detectable by NASA’s newest rover, which is scheduled to touch down on the planet next month.
Bunch of nested ‘coulds’ there. The real science here, if any, is that somebody traced a series of questions back, did a little research and maybe even ran a few experiments, to try to better focus efforts to find organic molecules on Mars, and concluded that some very simple molecules could survive for quite a long time just a few centimeters down in the dirt, despite the super-harsh conditions. So, if you happen to have a rover on Mars – NASA is planning on having a new one there shortly – you could dig down a few inches and look for formaldehyde, which would prove conclusively that there’s formaldehyde in the dirt on Mars not too far down. Oh, and suggest that maybe some life processes created the formaldehyde – so – ready for some more nested ‘coulds’? – the formaldehyde could have been created by ancient Martian life, so life could have existed on Mars long ago.
I’m as interested in life on Mars as anyone, but sensationalist headlines over the possibility that there might be evidence of life somewhere on Mars seems, I dunno, a little breathless.