Monday, January 05, 2009

Staying Ten Years Old

Here's a cool TED talk from 2006 by scientist Penelope Boston. She has specialized in searching for life in extreme places, from the Antarctic to high deserts to caves to Mars. She talks about the importance of "staying ten years old" (and curious) and the idea that "perspective is everything" (looking at Earth as an "exoplanet"). Some of the caves she has explored are incredibly hostile to human life, full of sulfuric acid and lethal levels of poisonous gases - but various non-human life thrives in these nasty places. Based on the surface discoveries of the Mars rovers and high-resolution images from Mars orbit, she believes there is a good chance (25 to 50 percent) that there is life on Mars now, most likely in caves, and quite likely very different in chemistry and biology from life on Earth. She even gets into how caves on other planets may help future humans to survive there.

Update: For a fictional (hard SF) view of life in caves on Mars, The Martian Race by Gregory Benford is really good. One of my favorite Mars exploration novels.

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