Getting to Know Our Neighbors – WIF Solar System Perspective

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Fascinating Mysteries

of the Planet Mars

For being one of the closest objects to us celestially, we still know about as much about the planet Mars as we do the depths of the ocean. Which is to say, not a lot. The things we’ve seen in pop culture about Mars makes us conjure a red, dusty planet where Matt Damon grows poop potatoes. But there’s more to Mars than that.

Mars is the second smallest planet in the solar system (with only about 10 percent of Earth’s mass), yet Earth and Mars have about the same amount of actual land. Mars also has the tallest mountain in the entire known solar system. Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, will be torn from the planet’s orbit one day, creating a ring that will last hundreds of millions of years. Those are some really cool things that we know about the planet. But there still remain many Martian mysteries that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

10. Mars has two drastically different hemispheres

The northern and southern hemispheres of Earth may have different kinds of topography, but they’re relatively similar. Mars, on the other hand, has a much lower and flatter northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere has an average elevation that’s about 3 miles higher. That’s a pretty drastic difference, geologically speaking, and no other planet we know of exhibits such a trait.

Scientists once thought that a huge asteroid could have crashed into the top half of Mars early in its life, making a much flatter northern hemisphere. Later computer simulations rendered that theory less than ideal, unless the asteroid only glanced against the planet. Like a big, rocky kiss that flattened part of Mars. Newer theories suggest that the resulting magma flow from such a cosmic punch would have inundated the southern hemisphere, creating the resulting terrain elevation difference.

9. Mars has a lot of methane (usually produced by living things)

We humans normally come across a slight knowledge of methane amounts from jokes about cow farts. And that’s part of it. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the rising warmth of Earth. It’s trapped in our atmosphere and causes the temperature of our planet to rise even more than carbon dioxide does.

Mars, curiously, has a lot of methane too. But here’s the kicker: methane is usually released by living things. At least for the most part. So why is a planet that we’ve never discovered life on releasing a bio-signature? Well, we don’t know yet. It could have been trapped under ice for ages, or caused by a release from ancient microbes on the planet, or even from a freak chemical reaction. We do know that a plume of methane was detected by spacecraft in Mars’ orbit more than once, which is notable because the gas is finicky to pick up, especially in such a thin atmosphere that the planet possesses.

8. Mars has signs of water, but it can’t be from the surface

The discovery of ice near the poles of Mars sent ripples throughout the scientific community in 2008. If there’s ice, that means there’s water, and if there’s water, that means there could be life, right? Well slow down there, Andretti, because there’s a lot more going on here.

Yes, there have been more and more spottings of icy polar caps and frost-filled craters. And that’s really cool. But what if we told you there was a subterranean lake of standing water on Mars? It shouldn’t be possible. Liquids at that depth from the surface should have a temperature of -68 degrees Celsius. Orbiting satellites have yet to get a visual on this “lake,” but that could be hard since, you know, it’s underground. And of course a portion of the science community is using this to prove that life on Mars is an indisputable truth. It is pretty tempting, especially if you think back to how and where we humans began.

7. Can we live on Mars?

This one seems pretty straightforward. It would be a hard no, correct? At least with the technological capabilities we have currently? And the atmosphere is way different than Earth’s, so we couldn’t just walk around like we do in everyday life.

Yet in direct defiance of all things holy and sane, NASA is determined to get the ball rolling on human colonization of Mars. By 2030, they think they’ll get feet on the red planet. Radiation is an obvious concern if we were to ever set up shop there, so underground shelters would be a requisite. We can’t grow food in the soil. Like, at all. But, humans had to start from scratch here on Earth, so we would likely at some point find a way to use Mars’ alien resources to develop new methods of survival. There really isn’t a way to know how we could fare on Mars, long-term, until the first people reach the planet.

6. Why did Mars totally change its climate?

One billion years, in the grand scheme of the universe, isn’t much at all. Four billion years ago, judging from the vast veins of old waterbeds on Mars’ surface, water flowed all over the planet. Since we know that Mars is about four and a half billion years old, science can say with some certainty that the red, dusty planet we think of now actually used to be quite moist.

Then somewhere along the way in the next few billion years, something happened. The atmosphere of Mars starting disappearing. The sun reached the next stages in the life cycle of a star and became hotter. So how did the red planet continue to have water in a place in the universe where the sun should have evaporated it all? Scientists have a pretty cool-sounding theory that maybe Mars was in orbit much closer to the sun, closer to Venus, and then began trailing behind like a C student, eventually ending up where it presently resides. It’s also about the best answer we currently have, because we don’t even really know why Earth has water.

5. We don’t know much about Mars’ two moons

For being as close as it is to Earth, we know very little about Mars, and even less about Mars’ two weird moons, Phobos and Deimos. Some think they may have possibly been asteroids that were snagged into orbit by Mars, but the problem with that theory is that the shapes and angles of the moons don’t necessarily fit that scenario. More likely, something struck Marshard, and flung the eventual moons out into orbit.

While we’re in the realm of the weird, there are some formations on Phobos that would give conspiracy theorists night sweats. There’s what seems to be a large rectangular monolith on Phobos, standing over 90 meters tall. While it’s likely just an abnormal chunk of Martian rock, it’s still pretty notable.

4. What caused the bright white light in a 2019 photo?

When you are in charge of receiving photos of Mars from a rover light years away, you might be taken aback when you see a picture with a bright white spot where there shouldn’t be one. An image taken in June 2019 by the Curiosity rover showed a weird white glow emanating in the distance behind some hills.

Aliens were the immediate explanation by non-scientists, as you would expect. But it was most likely a lens flare or a cosmic ray, and NASA admittedly has captured tons of these things. The white anomaly doesn’t show up in pictures taken immediately before or after the event, and the team that created the Curiosity’s camera system says that they come across oodles of pictures with bright spots every week. Still, can they prove it was a lens flare? That seems exactly like something aliens would say to throw us off.

3. What lines the dry ice pits at Mars’ poles?

We mentioned before that the poles of Mars contain some known deposits of ice, which means liquid, which means potential for life. We also know that near the southern pole is a sub-glacial lake, the first known stable body of water we’ve found on the planet. What’s really interesting about those polar caps is that nearby there are some pits of dry ice that are lined with … well, we don’t really know.

There is some kind of dust that lines these gorgeous pits. They’re huge, some of them two hundred feet across. There is a possibility that the dust they’re lined with what could be gold, but we still don’t know for sure.

2. How do Mars’ giant dust storms happen?

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The thin, brittle atmosphere on Mars is absolutely perfect for some truly epic dust storms that can shoot particles at speeds of over 60 MPH and, in some cases, cover the entire planet for weeks at a time.

Thing is, those planetary-scale dust storms still hold a lot of mystery in them. We think that they may be the largest dust storms in the solar system, and since the planet is essentially a desert, it doesn’t take much to get them rolling. And while science is pretty sure that sunshine is the catalyst, they aren’t too sure how they get to become so massive. One theory thinks that the dust particles are warmed by the sunlight, which then warm the thin atmosphere, causing more wind, and thus capturing more particles in a repeating cycle. We, of course, still say aliens.

1. Did Earth life come from Mars?

Bear with us here, because we’re about to get weird. So, perhaps you’re already passingly familiar with the basic theories of how life began: Big Bang, primordial ooze, etc. Well, early on in Earth’s history, the building blocks of life were pretty much non-existent. Remember how we mentioned that early Mars could have been a quintessential Goldilocks planet? What if the essentials for life came from outer space, survived the trip on a meteorite, for example, and arrived on Earth and evolved there? It’s something science is highly considering.

It’s called panspermia, and it suggests life arrived on our home planet in the form of spores. So basically, life may have arrived on Earth, not started on Earth. The primordial soup version of life-building holds some water, sure, but it’s that exact water that almost kills RNA (a fundamental part of genetics) in its tracks. Minerals like boron and molybdenum give life to RNA, and those were plentiful on Mars four billion years ago. So when we talk about aliens on Mars, we’re probably just referring to our last universal common ancestor.


Getting to Know Our Closest Neighbor –

WIF Solar System Perspective

Theories About the Universe – WIF Space

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Mind-Blowing Theories

About the Universe

Image result for the universe

As we mentioned in our first list about mind bending theories about the universe, the universe is a vast and mysterious place. For centuries, people have looked out into space and tried to explain why we’re here and where we came from. While it may take even more centuries before any of those questions are answered, it doesn’t mean scientists don’t have any theories.

We should also point out that these are just theories, so at times, some theories may not align with each other, or even contradict each other.

10. Why is Dark Matter so Hard to Detect?

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Throughout this list, we will talk about something called dark matter. Dark matter makes up about 27 percent of the universe and about 83 percent of all matter. It is invisible because light doesn’t bounce off of it and it has a gravitational pull on regular matter, meaning it affects the movements of galaxies and galactic clusters. While it does have a gravitational effect, dark matter can pass through regular matter almost undetected. For all of these reasons, dark matter hasn’t been detected yet, but physicists are sure it exists.

One question is: why is it so hard to detect dark matter in Earth-based experiments? One possible answer comes from a group of particle physicists called Lattice Strong Dynamics Collaboration. In their simulation, they found that dark matter might have noticeable interactions with ordinary matter if they are both in conditions that are similar to the start of the universe, which is extremely high-temperature plasma. If their simulation is true, that means in the early days of the universe, dark matter might have been observable.

The good news is that these types of conditions can now be recreated in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Researchers are awaiting a chance to test the theory and for the first time, dark matter could be detected. If their theory is correct, it would suggest that before the universe cooled, there was a type of balancing act between matter and dark matter before they spread across the universe.

9. Dark Matter Killed the Dinosaurs

An asteroid is the most likely culprit for what killed the dinosaurs. However, what really kicked off the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction 66 million years ago is still debated. A very far out and cosmic theory comes from physicist Lisa Randall is that it was an impact event that was caused by dark matter.

The basis of the theory goes back to the 1980s, when paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski found evidence that every 26 million years since the Great Dying of the Permian-Triassic, (which happened about 252 million years ago and 96 percent of life was wiped out), there has been a great mass extinction. Upon further research, going back a half a billion years ago, it appears that Earth suffered some type of cataclysmic event approximately every 30 million years, give or take a few million years.

However, scientists have never really sure why cataclysmic events would happen on a timetable like that. Randall’s theory is that dark matter is involved. Dark matter is believed to be scattered throughout the universe and it is used as scaffolding on which galaxies, including our home the Milky Way, are built. As our solar system rotates around the Milky Way, it “floats” and at times, it bobs like a cork in the water. And this bob happens about every 30 million years.

When we bob, our solar system may encounter a disk of dark matter. The disk would need to be one-tenth the thickness of the Milky Way’s visible disk of stars, and have a density of at least one solar mass per square light-year.

Matter and dark matter can pass through each other, but dark matter can affect regular matter through gravity. The result is that when some matter floating in space comes into contact with dark matter, it could send things flying throughout the universe, which ultimately hit Earth.

If Randall’s theory is true, dark matter could be responsible for major parts of the formation of the universe.

8. Life Spread Across the Universe Like an Epidemic

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When talking about the universe, there’s one question that always pops up: is there intelligent life other than our own? Or are we just alone here? Well, scientists wonder about this too, and currently they are looking at how life, including our own, came into existence.

According to a research paper from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the most logical answer is that life spread from star to star, like an epidemic. The concept that life spread from planet to planet and star to star is called panspermia, and of course, if you’ve seen Prometheus, that concept is a major plot point.

If life passed from star to star, that means that the Milky Way could be full of pockets of life. If the theory is correct, then it is possible that other planets in the Milky Way may host life as well.

Another interesting thing they found in their calculations is that life could be spread by microscopic organisms that hitched a ride on an asteroid, or it even could have been spread by an intelligent being or beings.

7. Why is the Universe Made of Matter?

Matter is everything that takes up space and has weight, and the opposite of matter is called anti-matter. When matter and anti-matter touch, they annihilate each other, which is exactly what happened at the start of the universe and helped drive its expansion. At the beginning of the universe, there should have been an equal amount of matter and anti-matter. However, if there was an equal amount of both matter and anti-matter, they would have canceled each other and the universe would have ceased to exist. This has led physicists to believe that there was slightly more matter than anti-matter. An amount as small as an extra particle of matter for every 10 billion antimatter particles would have been enough for matter to spread out across the universe.

The problem was that while physicists knew that there was more matter, they didn’t know why. That was until 2008, when researchers at the University of Chicago were observing subatomic particles that lived very short lives called B mesons. The researchers, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery, found that that B mesons and anti-B mesons decay differently from one another. This means that it is possible that after the annihilations in the start of the universe, the B mesons and anti-B mesons decayed differently, leaving enough matter behind to create all the stars, planets, and even you and everything you touch, including the air you breathe.

6. Disorder Made Life Possible

Entropy essentially measures the amount of disorder in a system. If something is high in entropy that means there is more disorder, and low entropy means there is more organization. An example to visualize this is with Legos. A Lego house would have low entropy and a box of random, disconnected pieces would have high entropy.

What’s interesting is that entropy may be the reason that life exists in the first place, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you take a look at the complexity of something like the human brain, which is the pinnacle of order.

 Nevertheless, according to a theory by assistant MIT professor Jeremy England, higher entropy may be responsible for life in the universe. England says that, under ideal conditions, a random group of molecules can self-organize themselves to efficiently use more energy in their environment. How entropy plays into this is when energy is added to a system. The molecules jump and bounce off each other. If a few were to clump together, and energy was used more efficiently, it would continue to hold together, collecting more molecules, until eventually enough molecules clump together to become a life form. However, if there wasn’t a high entropy state, the molecules would have never been bouncing off each other. Therefore they would have never clumped together and brought about life.

This theory still has a lot of testing to go through. However, if England is correct, then an expert suggested that his name would be remembered the same way we remember Charles Darwin.

5. The Universe Has No Beginning

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The prevailing theory of the start of our universe is that over 13.8 billion years ago, from a point of singularity, the Big Bang gave birth to the universe and it has been expanding ever since.

The Big Bang was first theorized in 1927 and the model is based on Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The problem is that there are some holes in Einstein’s theory; mainly that the laws of physics break before reaching singularity. Another big problem is that the other dominant theory in physics, quantum mechanics, doesn’t reconcile with general relativity. Also, neither relativity nor quantum mechanics explain or account for dark matter. This means that although the Big Bang is one of the best theories about how the universe started, it may not be correct.

An alternative theory is that the universe was never at the point of singularity and there was no Big Bang. Instead, the universe is infinite and doesn’t have a beginning or an end. The researchers arrived at this theory by applying quantum correction terms to Einstein’s theory of general relativity using an older model of interpreting quantum mechanics called Bohmian Mechanics. And no, we’re not exactly sure what that means, but good for them.

Their method of testing the theory will also help account for dark matter. If their theory is correct that the universe is infinite, it would mean that the universe has pockets of a superfluid filled with theoretical particles, like gravitons and axioms. If the superfluid matches the distribution of dark matter, then it’s possible that the universe is infinite.

4. The Universe Should Have Never Existed

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once wrote, “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” And according to a model based on the Higgs boson particle from King’s College London suggests he couldn’t have been more right, because the universe shouldn’t exist.

The problem is that 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10-33 and 10-32 seconds, the universe underwent something called cosmic inflation, which was a rapid expansion of the universe. If that is true, the inflation would have caused quantum fluctuations, or jolts, in the energy field. These jolts would have been so strong that they would have pushed the universe out of the Higgs field, which is responsible for giving particles its mass, and the universe would cease to exist. Of course, since you’re reading this, you know that this model isn’t correct. So why does the universe exist when it shouldn’t?

One possibility is that the findings are wrong. Another is that there may be some new physics or particles that have yet to be discovered. However, until we figure it out, we should just feel lucky to be here when we theoretically shouldn’t.

3. The Universe Started Off One Dimensional

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A commonly held belief about the universe is that the Big Bang was an exploding sphere, but another theory posits that for the first thousand-trillionth of a second of the Big Bang, it was actually a one dimensional line. Energy would race back and forth before creating a fabric, which is the second dimension. Then it morphed into three dimensions, which is the world we see.

If the model is correct, it would help address a few problems with the standard model of particle physics, such as the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity, and cosmic inflation. However, if this theory is true, it would only lead to more mysteries, like what mechanisms were used to make the universe morph into the different dimensions?

2. How Many Dimensions Are There?

In the last entry, we talked about how the universe may have evolved into three-dimensions; however there are many more dimensions than that. According to Superstring Theory, there are at least 10.

Here is how it works: the first dimension is just a single line, the second dimension is height, the third is depth, and fourth is duration. Where it starts to get a little bit weird is dimension five. That is where the multiverse theory comes into play. In the fifth dimension there is a universe that is very much like our own and we would be able to measure similarities and differences. The sixth dimension is a plane where there are parallel universes with all the same starting conditions, so if our universe started with the Big Bang, so did theirs. The seventh dimension is a plane full of worlds with different starting conditions.

Now, if all that wasn’t confusing enough, the eighth dimension is where things start to get really complicated and humans have problems understanding it. Basically, the eighth dimension is all possible worlds, all with different starting conditions, and they branch out infinitely. Of course, things only get more brain melting from there. In the ninth dimension, there are all possible universes that start with different initial conditions and the laws of physics of these universes can be completely different. In the 10th and final dimension anything is possible, and that is just something humans cannot even fathom.

1. We’re Living in the Distant Past of a Parallel Universe

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The term “time’s arrow” was first introduced in 1927 and it aptly describes the flow of time. Humans perceive it as always going forward and it also obeys the second law of thermodynamics so entropy always increases; eggs are cracked and scrambled and they never unscramble and reform inside the shell.

The problem is that if time only goes forward, many of the best equations about how the universe works, like James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electrodynamics, Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation, Einstein’s special and general relativity or quantum mechanics, would be incorrect. However, if time ran forwards and backwards, then they would all work perfectly. One way that this is possible is that at the Big Bang, two parallel universes were started. One where time moves forward, and a parallel one where time flows backwards.

The reasoning is that, if entropy increases in our universe, then when the universe started, it would have begun in a low-entropy and highly ordered state. That could be the end of another universe. That universe would start at the end and time would flow backwards, while ours flows forward.

If we could see the other universe, we would see time going backwards and we would probably see into the future of our universe (presuming that we’re not past the middle age of the universe) and we’d be living in the parallel universe’s distant past. That is, of course, if we’re not the reality that is living in reverse and don’t realize it.


Theories About the Universe

WIF Space-001

– WIF Space