Friday, January 21, 2005

Titan updates

The ESA Web page has updated data from the Huygen probe's descent to the surface of Titan last week. Really strange stuff, including a "water table" of methane seeping through "sand" made of ice crystals; rivers, and springs. The Hugyens probe was so hot that methane evaporated out of the soil in "whiffs." So the geology is a weird recapitulation of earth processes, using a completely different suite of chemical players.

So: could there be life? It is too cold for a life based on earth-type chemistry. But extremely low temperatures on Titan would mean that information could be stably stored in a whole other kind of molecule, and that the "living" part of life-- metbolism, you name it-- could harvest chemical bonds that are completely unstable in our comfort zone. .. Some interesting speculation here .

UPDATE 22 Jan: The Register does a good job summarizing pretty much the same conference. Does anyone know what the deal is with "primordial argon?"

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