March 5, 2015
My Aunty Jeannie asked me a question back before Christmas: If there was life on Mars what would it look like? She makes beautiful things out of clay and beads and gourds and things and is really talented. She is also an amateur science buff, absolutely devouring any kind of scientific literature she can wrap her mind around. Now I’m no biologist/botanist/geneticist/evolutionary scientist but what I lack in formal training I make up for in unfounded faith in whatever science fiction novel I’ve read last. “The Long Mars” is actually all about this search for life on parallel “Joker” Marses and I have read about great whales that move through the Martian sands like it was water, giant fire breathing land dragons being chased by crablike hominoids, and the hardy Martian prickly pear cactus that can power a machine that allows you to step between parallel Marses. Taking a step back from my rather fanatical faith in this book’s incredible descriptions of the multitude and prevalence of life, I do have to restart the sciencey part of my brain (mostly because I am incapable of googling “possible evolution of life on Mars”). So Jeannie, here you are, Sophie’s reasoning through the possibilities of Martian life as influenced by the Euclidian postulates, I shall call them sMartians.
Assumption 1: Let us assume that life is made possible only by the presence of water, either in the air or ground.
Assumption 2: Taking into account A1 let us assume that somewhere on Mars there is water; this shall be called the Cradle and for the sake of my knowledge of physics let’s put it at the very bottom of the Valles Marineris.
Assumption 3: The Cradle is located at the bottom of the deepest and longest geological feature on Mars; it is mostly unexplored currently because the rough terrain makes it inaccessible to rovers and the very small angle for orbiting satellites to take photographs of it. The deepest part of the canyon, which just so happens to be where the Cradle is located, is approximately 7km deep and is therefore capable of sustaining a thicker atmosphere and warmer temperature due to its proximity to the interior of the planet.
Fact 1: Mars’ gravity is roughly 0.38 of Earth’s
Fact 2: Mars’ soil is slightly alkaline and contains elements such as magnesium, sodium, potassium and chlorine
Fact 3: Carbonic acid is the combination of carbon dioxide and water
Given the preceding assumptions and facts I will now begin to outline the type of mobile life I imagine on Mars based on physiology.
Sight: being in such a dark place with such small chance of direct sunlight the creatures of the Cradle have no need for eyes, instead they have evolved a system of echolocation that can also be used to detect subterranean caverns and tunnel systems.
Touch: like other sightless animals that have evolved on Earth, this animal’s sense of touch is very sensitive and capable of very fine distinctions between textures.
Smell: Although the Cradle is capable of supporting a much thicker atmosphere than the rest of Mars it still pales in comparison to Earth’s and with such a thin atmosphere the sense of smell is relatively useless.
Taste: The sense of taste is contained in the skin of the sMartian and it uses it to locate concentrated areas of magnesium within the Cradle.
Hearing and voice: The density of the air makes sound very difficult to travel through and thus ears were also never developed as organs and voice is not transmitted in the way we think of it. Thoughts are projected using a series of EMP based blasts and in that way the sMartians communicate.
Physiology: Having evolved in an area of much lower gravity the bodies of the sMartians do not have an internal skeleton to support themselves and have evolved a crude frame of a cartilage-like substance wrapped in thin muscles and covered with a very thick skin of some type of conductive material. The respiratory and digestive system of the sMartian is made up of a pressure container at the center of the body which is fed concentrated carbon dioxide via capillaries that absorb it and water vapor directly from the atmosphere. Absorbed water molecules are unable to pass through a blubber-like membrane just below the skin and become trapped. That water filled membrane acts as insulation for the creature’s internal heat source.
The carbon dioxide continues through the water insulation membrane to heart-like pumps that pressurize incoming gas until it is sucked into the pressurized “lung”. When fully pressurized the lung releases through multiple contained section of the insulating water membrane around the body creating carbonic acid which it bathes the surrounding area in. Before excreting the carbonic acid, the creature would have found an area with high magnesium content and proceeded to bury itself entirely within it. As the carbonic acid reacts with the basic magnesium in the soil and exothermic reaction would be taking place all over the creature’s metallic and conductive skin raising the temperature very quickly.
The nervous system of the creature involves a brain that acts as a power station and a command center. Nerves connected to the skin conduct heat to the central brain which is made of a natural ceramic alloy capable of translating heat to electrical signals that relay information from the other systems of the body to the command center. The creature’s thermal efficiency is unparalleled and from a single “breath” is able to generate massive quantities of concentrated and stored heat to be turned into thought, motion, and sensing by the creature for up to two months. Within that time the sMartian searches for another area with a concentrated source of magnesium in order to take another breath.
So there you go, this was probably the hardest blog post to write and I’m sure it is full of several impossibilities but also some fairly sound science, albeit based on some pretty funky assumptions. Stay tuned for some sMartian autopsy photos