Mars on Earth – Planetary Mashup

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Mars-Like

Places

on Earth

Will humans ever be able to live on Mars? That’s the big question that a lot of people wonder about. Nicknamed the Red Planet because of its bright rust color, it is the fourth planet from the sun and Earth’s neighbor.

Despite being much colder than Earth with an average temperature of around -80 degrees Fahrenheit, there are many other obstacles in the way of humans colonizing there right now, such as the fact that there isn’t any oxygen to breathe. Scientists, however, are searching for new ways to make it possible for humans to eventually move to Mars, such as potentially heating up the planet to create an atmosphere in which people can breathe in oxygen.

The progress that scientists are making is amazing and it may be very possible for humans to inhabit our planetary neighbor in the not-so-distant future. Having locations on Earth that are similar to the conditions on the Red Planet are extremely helpful for researchers… like these six Mars-like locations right here on our planet.

Lake Vostok, Antarctica

Lake Vostok, Antarctica is one of the biggest subglacial lakes on Earth. The lake, which is located near the South Pole in East Antarctica, is 143 miles long, 31 miles wide, and over 2,600 feet deep. It is buried beneath more than two miles of ice and is located close to Russia’s Vostok research station. It is estimated that the lake has been covered with ice for at least 15 million years, with no access to light, and is sealed from the atmosphere which makes it one of the most extreme environments on the planet.

A Russian geographer/pilot first noticed the buried lake in the 1960s when he spotted from the air a smooth patch of ice on top of it. In 1996, British and Russian researchers then confirmed that there was indeed a lake buried there. Despite the age of the lake being unknown, scientists believe it is only thousands of years old.

Although the location has an average temperature of around minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the lake itself is believed to be around 27 degrees Fahrenheit because of the huge weight of the ice on top. Scientists also believe that the freshwater lake could have creatures living in the darkness and the extreme cold. In fact, they did find that the lake contains microbes and multi-cellular organisms. And this gives hope that life can be found in the similarly extreme environment of Mars.

Dry Valleys, Antarctica

The Dry Valleys are a row of valleys located west of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. The valleys, which are subjected to cold permafrost, are said to be the closest terrestrial environment similar to the very north of Mars. Researchers have found bacteria that live in freezing temperatures where the water has turned to ice and where nutrients are scarce. Oligotrophs are slow-growing organisms that live in environments where nutrients are hard to find and they could help scientists figure out how life could possibly exist on Mars.

Researchers believe that Mars’ polar north may have supported life at one time because it received a lot more sunlight millions of years ago, which means the possibility of water and, of course, life. So researchers began drilling at this location in Antarctica to decide which machinery would be best to use on the northern locations of Mars. Scientists have found a patch of soil covering a layer of ice at the polar north of the Red Planet, and the environment is very similar at Dry Valleys, so that’s why this drilling research is being conducted there.

Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is a plateau approximately 1,000 kilometers long and is so extremely dry that it’s one of the most Mars-like locations on the planet. In fact, it can take decades of time between rainfalls, which ranks it among the driest locations on Earth. That is why, in 2004, scientists that were NASA-funded spent four weeks in the desert doing research on how life could possibly survive on Mars. And what they found is definitely mind-blowing.

In the dry core of the desert, scientists have found microbial life. And if they can find it on an immensely dry location like the Atacama Desert, where many people believe that nothing is able to survive, there’s a very real possibility that they could also find life on Mars. A planetary scientist from Washington State University was quoted saying “If life can persist in Earth’s driest environment, there is a good chance it could be hanging in there on Mars in a similar fashion.”

Pico de Orizaba, Mexico

Pico de Orizaba is a volcano located in south-central Mexico. It rises on the south edge of the Mexican Plateau and is located about 60 miles east of Puebla. The volcano, which has been dormant since 1687, is the third highest peak in North America, registering at 18,406 feet tall.

One big question in regards to the possible colonization on Mars is how would humans make it habitable? That is why scientists are so interested in Pico de Orizaba. It has one of Earth’s highest tree line elevations at over 13,000 feet and researchers are using this location to try to figure out how they could begin life on Mars.

Scientists believe that if they could warm up the Red Planet by using heat-trapping gases, raising the air pressure, and beginning photosynthesis, that they could possibly create and maintain an atmosphere that would support humans and other life forms that need oxygen to breathe. If they could use these gases to heat Mars to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, that would equal the temperature of the tree line on the Pico de Orizaba volcano.

Death Valley, California

Scientists have done extensive research and testing for decades at Death Valley because of the location’s ancient rock layers. Even NASA’s Curiosity was tested there to see how it would handle to harsh terrain on Mars. Death Valley is located in the southeast of California and is the lowest, driest, and hottest part of North America. The valley is approximately 140 miles long by 5 to 15 miles wide. Although the valley is excessively hotter than Mars, the harsh rocky terrain is said to be quite similar.

Since 2012, Death Valley holds a yearly event called MarsFest where engineers and scientists discuss with the public the similar relationship between that location and Mars. People can visit Mars Hill, which is covered with volcanic rubble and rocks, as well as take a walk to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the Ubehebe Crater volcanic field, and the Little Hebe Crater.

Devon Island

Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on the planet. Of all the islands on Earth – habited and uninhabited – it is the 27th largest. It is part of an archipelago (a group of islands) called the Parry Islands in Nunavut, Canada. It is located in the Arctic Ocean, south of Ellesmere Island and west of Baffin Bay. Devon Island is approximately 320 miles long and 80-100 miles wide with an area of just over 21,000 square miles.

The island, which was discovered in 1616 by William Baffin, has a huge 14-mile wide crater called the “Haughton Crater.” It is estimated that the crater was created around 39 million years ago when a comet two kilometers in diameter hit the area. Described as a polar desert, the impact zone is cold, dry, windy and dusty which makes it quite similar to the many craters on Mars, especially with all the loose rock in this earthly crater. Although Devon Island has an average temperature of 1 degree Fahrenheit and Mars averages -76 degrees Fahrenheit weather, the island is one of the closest comparisons to our planetary neighbor.

Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and is leading the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) where the Haughton Crater is being used for research of new technologies and strategies which will hopefully help prepare humans and robots for the exploration of the Red Planet. Every summer since 1997, Lee has led missions to the isolated island where they have tested many things that will help them for a trip to Mars, such as spacesuits and robots, as well as drills.


Mars on Earth –

Planetary Mashup

Weird Statues

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Top 10 Weirdest Statues On The Planet

People have been building statues since time immemorial. The Colossus at Rhodes, the Statue of Liberty– throughout the ages, we’ve been driven to build gigantic monuments to ourselves, and many of these have become iconic symbols of humankind’s artistry.

Then, there are these. For your careful consideration and endless bewilderment, here are a selection of statues from around the world that we can’t for the life of us figure out the thought process behind.

10. The Dream, St. Helens, England

the-dream

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa designed and built this 65-foot high disembodied head that graces the English countryside outside St. Helens, traditionally a mining community. The head has its eyes closed, so yes, it is conceivably dreaming.

The piece was commissioned by the St. Helens City Council to “reflect the aspirations of the local community,” which has nothing to do with mining and everything to do with, huge, white, creepy heads.

9. The Child Eater, Bern, Switzerland

child-eater

Well now, this just seems unnecessarily horrible. This 16th-century piece is called “Kindlifresserbrunnen” (“Child Eater Fountain”) and is located in Bern, Switzerland. It is exactly as advertised – it appears to be stuffing a baby into its mouth, and is in possession of a sack containing three more for the road.

Popular consensus is that it’s just an old carnival sculpture meant to frighten kids, but that’s perhaps the most disturbing thing about this piece: nobody knows just who built it, or why.

8. Hand Of The Desert, Atacama, Chile

desert-hand

Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal designed this three-story high giant hand, we hope; otherwise, it might belong to a stone giant that is ever-so-slowly clawing its way through the surface of the Atacama desert.

Apparently, Mr. Irarrázabal is a fan of giant hands rising from the desert, as he has built two similar sculptures in the US and Uruguay, though they are not as impressive in scale. But then, few giant stone hands are.

7. Totem, Leuven, Belgium

totem

Belgian artist Jan Febre unveiled this piece in 2005, commemorating the 575th anniversary of the Catholic University at Leuven, Belgium. Dubbed “Totem” for some reason, it depicts a gigantic upside-down beetle impaled on a 75-foot needle, outside the University library.

This is supposed to represent the spirit of the city and the University somehow. We’re not art critics, so we’re not going to argue. but to us, it just looks like a serious warning to beetles for miles around.

6. Ozymandias On The Plains, Texas, US

ozymandas-in-the-desert

Eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 (not III; he dislikes Roman numerals,) has no relation to the South Park character … we think. He commissioned this piece, which was completed in 1997 by artist Lightnin’ McDuff. It’s somewhat ironically named after a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem about the futility of building monuments.

The plaque explains that Shelley wrote the poem on that spot, after coming across those very ruins, which of course is ridiculous since the sculpture is less than twenty years old. The gym socks were painted on by pranksters, but Marsh liked it so much he took credit for it.

5. Maman, Ottawa, Ontario (and other places)

Maman

Louise Bourgeois, a French-American artist and sculptor, produced this sculpture that many of you are just not even going to be able to look at. Its title is informal French for “mother,” and it is a 30-foot bronze spider with a sac containing 26 “eggs” made of marble. It was unveiled at Tate Museum Of Modern Art in the UK in 1999.

Said the artist: “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

Please let us know in the comments if you agree that spiders are “friendly presences” or, conversely, if you now have a 30-foot high case of the willies.

4. Mazinger Z, Mas del Plata, Spain

mazinger-z

Mazinger Z is a famous series of Manga- a pioneering one, beginning in 1972. It was influential on the development of Manga as a whole, on other properties like the Transformers and Power Rangers (not to mention countless other “giant mecha” books, movies and TV shows) and also seems to have made quite an impression on a small suburb of Catalonia, Spain.

The Mas Del Plata suburb was never actually finished, as funding dried up before it was complete. We have to wonder if this 40-foot tall statue of a famous Japanese robot had anything to do with that. The giant fiberglass Mazinger eternally guards the entrance to the suburb that never was, and has become a pilgrimage for Manga and anime fans.

3. Tarasque, Tarascon, France

tarasque

The Tarasque is a creature of legend, a sort of bear-dragon-turtle thing that supposedly terrorized the village of Tarascon centuries ago. According to the stories, the beast was tamed by St. Martha and brought back to the village, only to be killed by the villagers. We cannot say that we blame them.

Sorry for their understandable knee-jerk reaction to the terrifying beast, the villagers named their town after it, which it retains to this day. Artist Pascal Demaumont completed this statue in 2005, which is the centerpiece of a yearly festival in honor of the town’s namesake.

2. Lobster Mickey, Massachusetts, US

lobster-mickey

Artist Breanna Rowlette created … this, as part a Disney-sponsored project involving 75 700-pound Mickey Mouse statues getting tricked out by various artists to reflect different regions of the U.S. (cleverly titled “75 InspEARations”). Being from Boston, and since apparently nobody associates that city with anything but lobsters, Breanna decided the only sensible thing to do was to slap lobster claws on Mickey Mouse and call it a day.

The six-foot, anthropomorphized crustacean/rodent hybrid sits in Faneuil Hall marketplace in Boston, confusing the hell out of all who cross its path.

1. Pigduck Of Turku, Finland

turku-duck

And speaking of hybrids, this is called “Posankka,” but just look at it. It’s either a pig-duck or a duck-pig, we’re not sure which. This insanity was created by artist Alvar Gullichsen in 1999, and was floated down the Aurajoki river. It’s been at its current location near the University of Turku since 2001.

According to the artist, it’s meant to be a criticism of modern gene-splicing technology, which actually sort of makes sense. Many residents are not too fond of the statue, probably because when you see one of the craziest things on the planet every day, life starts to lose its ability to surprise you.

Weird Statues