[meteorite-list] Book Review: The Rock from Mars

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon Feb 6 14:55:15 2006
Message-ID: <200602061937.k16JbCg25737_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Book Review: The Rock from Mars by Kathy Sawyer
February 6, 2006

Scientists detect signs of primitive life in an ancient Mars meteorite.

Science journalist Sawyer takes us on a compelling journey that began 16
million years ago, when a catastrophic explosion on Mars, possibly
caused by an asteroid, sent a fist-sized volcanic rock on a journey
through space that would eventually land it in Antarctica and in
headlines around the world. Discovered in 1984, the rock was put aside
for years, misidentified as an asteroid fragment, until a NASA scientist
in Houston realized he was looking at a 4.5-billion-year-old piece of
the red planet, the oldest rock ever identified in our solar system. The
story took another dramatic turn when a team of scientists led by NASA
geologist David McKay discovered what they believed to be evidence of
ancient microbes and bacteria that once lived on Mars.

The team, including Everett Gibson, Kathy Thomas and Texas A&M
geochemist Chris Romanek as well as McKay, published their startling
findings in August 1996, setting off a worldwide scientific debate that
remains unresolved. Leading the chorus of skeptics was celebrated UCLA
scientist Bill Schopf, already credited with discovering the earliest
known Earth rock. Most of the action in this unique story takes place in
a tiny, submicroscopic world, but that hardly diminishes the drama as
world-renowned scientists stake out their positions in an arena a
fraction the size of a pinhead. Sawyer does a laudable job of
translating the deeply nuanced science at work here into everyday
language. No matter what the ultimate verdict on ALH84001 (the Mars
rock`s NASA ID number), its discovery has already improved our
understanding of early life on Earth and provided important new tools in
our continued search for life on Mars.

Riveting, though the dense microbiological detail will challenge all but
the scientifically fluent.
Received on Mon 06 Feb 2006 02:37:11 PM PST

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb