Were Ancient Martians Vegetable Farmers?

If a petrified cauliflower garden was discovered on Mars would that indicate that ancient Martians were vegetable farmers? Again, images transmitted by Mars rover Spirit have ancient alien conspiracy theorists reveling in the possibility. Unfortunately, unless ancient Martians enjoyed a crisp, tasty salad of silica, no, they were not vegetable farmers.

Near what NASA has dubbed “Home Plate”, Spirit took some pictures of interesting mineral formations that looked like cauliflower. Now, just because something looks like something doesn’t mean that it is that something. Think of all the little fishies in the sea that believe they are about to snag a little morsel for dinner only to realize, much too late, it was actually a bio-lure attached to the head of a deep sea angler fish who is about to be enjoying some dinner of his own. See, although that glowing tidbit looked like food, it was actually a dangerous decoy and not at all what it seemed. So, no, the gringa does not believe that these cauliflower looking formations are actually petrified cauliflower. But, still, is there any exciting news attached to their existence?

According to researchers from Arizona State University, although the mineral formations are no indicator of ancient Martian farmers, they could still very well have been created by alien life. Just not the kind of alien life that walks about, flies in spaceships and probes your brain. We are talking about microscopic alien life in the form of microbes. Which, I guess, technically speaking, under the right conditions could get inside a human brain for a “brain probe”, technically speaking, of course.

Now these silica protrusions were first reported to Earthlings by Spirit in 2008. Why has it taken eight years for the media to find something interesting? Well, science takes its own sweet time in research and drawing the right conclusions. Part of this research involves studying similar mineral formations here on Earth to get some local answers. One place to do that is in the high altitude Andean Atacama Desert of Chile which has some shapes that look like a mirror image of what was found on Mars. Could the microbes that created the Martian formations have traveled to Earth and duplicated their work here? Is that a sign of a cosmic connection between our two planets or is it common for microbes to create silica based cauliflower everywhere? Are conditions simply present in lots of places remote from one another for this to happen?

Scientists Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer, who penned an article published by Smithsonian Magazine, believe that the Martian petrified cauliflower may be proof that at one time, way back when, Mars was teeming with the kind of life commonly found in the vicinity of geysers, even living within the geysers themselves. After their investigation of Chile’s cauliflower, the work of artistic microbes who have a penchant for sculptures resembling vegetables, they linked the microbes responsible to some ancient microbes found in New Zealand that were definitely from out of this world. More silica cauliflower cousins have also been found in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.

So maybe, just maybe, some space traveling microbes made their way here from Mars aeons ago. And the message they have left behind to get our attention are rock formations that look like cauliflower. Does that sound crazy or what? How would ancient microscopic Martians have ever known humans would ever develop the habit of even eating cauliflower and decide that would be their key way of making first contact or leaving behind a letter of introduction? The gringa appreciates the zeal of scientists but methinks this is all just an accident. Mars probably got slammed by an enormous asteroid, comet or meteor which sent chunks of Mars shooting out into space and one of these chunks happened to make its way to Earth and, bing, bang, boom, a kazillion years later we have cauliflower rocks just like Mars.

If that’s the case, there’s no telling what other bits of Mars may have made their way here and be right under our very noses. It makes rock collecting take on a whole new meaning. That little bit of quartz or gypsum you collect and stuff in a cubby hole or box today may prove to be of galactic origins tomorrow.

More interesting to the gringa than the thought of beings similar to us living on Mars long ago is the implication of space scraps making their way hither and yon from the vast reaches of space to finally land upon Earth. Who knows?! Maybe NOTHING organic on Earth actually originated here. Maybe our planet is a virtual junkyard of the Universe, with little bits from here and there surviving and growing up into what we have today. Hey, stranger things have happened!

Sources:  www.nasa.gov



Image source:  www.americaspace.com




Bosnia’s Sherlock Holmes of Big Ball Mysteries

If an archaeologist unearthed an enormous wheel in a dig of ancient ruins, it would be pretty self-explanatory what it was for, mobility of some sort. However, if the same archaeologist were to unearth an enormous ball with a 5 foot radius and most likely made of iron, surely the archaeologist would be scratching his head and thinking, “What the heck?” Well, that just happened in Bosnia. What could very well be the oldest man-made ball for who knows what has been unearthed  in a forest that lies outside the Bosnian town of Podubravlie.

The gringa is enthralled. Is it man-made? Is it naturally occurring? Is it the remnant of a croquet park from a by-gone era of Bosnian giants? Is Bosnia the only place on Earth where big mystery balls can be found?

The study of big mysterious ancient balls is the favorite field of archaeologist Semir Osmanagich, affectionately known as “Sam”. For the past 15 years Sam has devoted his life to the research of prehistoric stone balls. Despite being made fun of by archaeological peers, Sam remains dedicated to solving the mystery of whether these balls are naturally occurring or man-made. The gringa wants to encourage Sam and remind him that the “haters gonna hate” so follow your dream! And, since Sam has a Ph.D., the gringa believes that he’s not crazy, well, maybe crazy like a fox and on the scent of a mystery his archaeology peers who can’t think outside the box simply don’t understand.

Sam has been discovering mystery balls all over the world: granite balls in Costa Rica, volcanic stone balls in Mexico, stone balls on Isla del Cano, volcanic balls on Easter Island, Tunisia, and the Canary Islands, Antarctica, New Zealand, Russia, the U.S.A., Argentina, Albania, Croatia, Serbia and, now, Bosnia. Sam has been very busy! He has become so enamored with mystery balls that he has created his very own foundation, “Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun” to support the investigation of this fascinating mystery. Balls have consisted of volcanic material, granite, and sandstone. The latest ball in Bosnia has not yet had all of its analysis complete but because of its reddish color iron is highly suspected to be the material of which it is made up of.

The first Bosnian balls were discovered in the 1930s according to local records. 80 balls were unearthed and some were eventually transported by river to other locations. In the 1970s local legends surrounding the balls enjoyed a revival and many locals were hopeful that perhaps they were the hiding place of treasure hordes of gold. Many balls were destroyed in hopes of finding untold wealth. Only eight of the original 80 were recovered and are on exhibit at Sam’s archaeological park which has become a local tourist attraction.

Sam’s current project site can only be worked when winter breaks. By spring of this year excavation had advanced to the point that it was apparent that the largest European stone ball was about to be completely uncovered. With half of the ball exposed the radius is estimated to be about 5 feet. If the reddish material proves to be iron the ball would be expected to weight over 30 tons. That would mean that Bosnia can boast the biggest ball in all of Europe, third in the world to second place Costa Rica with a 35 ton ball and first place Mexico with a 40 ton ball.

But the gringa wants to know what the real significance is to finding these big balls other than just being curious and interesting. The gringa also wants to know what the alternative theories are that Sam’s mocking peers claim.

The naysayers claim that the balls are no big deal. They suspect they are just freaks of nature that occur through a process known as concretion. This occur when layers of sediment occur in layers then compact and over hundreds of thousands of years form into balls. It is easy to find images of naturally occurring spheres in nature created by concretion. However, two things set these apart from what Sam is studying.

  • #1. Naturally occurring concretion spheres are small scale compared to the ones Sam has found and claims to be man-made.
  • #2. Naturally occurring concretion spheres are not perfectly spherical, often having flaws. Sam’s big balls are perfectly round.
  • #3. Naturally occurring concretion spheres usually occur en-masse with variation in size and not-so-perfect round shape. Sam’s big balls can sometimes be found isolated from one another.

The gringa scratches her head and thinks that anything squished under thousands of pounds of earth would never form into a ball. It would be squished, like a pancake, maybe wavy, or even flaked from tectonic plate activity shoving things around but never, ever round.

Sam’s theory believes these balls to be man-made. If he’s right, this latest discovery of a 1,500 year-old enormous, man-made, iron ball would prove that European civilizations were much more advanced than was previously expected. Now why would such a theory be controversial among archaeologists? The gringa likes to think that people of old were intelligent, ingenious, clever and quite capable of innovation. How sad to be led to believe that ancient people were just big, ol’ dummies. The dear reader can enjoy a video  of Sam’s discovery and decide for yourself.

The gringa plans to keep Sam on the radar because I find this big ball mystery fascinating. And I wish him the best of luck in solving the mystery and having the chance to say, “I told ya so!” to all his haters!

Sources & Image Credit: http://www.yahoo.com, http://www.piramidasunca.ba



Warming Lakes & Rivers = Trouble

It’s pretty easy to find climate change articles discussing the changes that are taking place in the world’s oceans. But, the gringa asks, what about the lakes and rivers of the Earth?

I grew up on a river. I love rivers. I love canoeing and floating down rivers on tubes and camping out alongside the banks of a river. What’s happening with these rivers I love? And what about lakes? Every summer we take a traditional three day weekend family trip to one of the most beautiful lakes in Texas. What’s happening to this fabulous lake? Unfortunately, the research shows that these are all changing as well.

NASA’s response to this change is to create a “global water cycle budget”. It covers a ten year period of the Earth’s freshwater concerns. This will be the baseline by which future “global water cycle budget’s” will be compared.

The water cycle involves the entire environmental process of how water moves, in all forms, around this big, blue planet. As depicted in the image posted it is easy to trace how water evaporates from the surface of the Earth. As it rises into the atmosphere it cools, condenses into clouds, then returns to the Earth as precipitation (rain, snow, hail,  or sleet). This is the kind of science the gringa learned in elementary school but it is, perhaps, the most critical environmental cycle for the continuation of life on Earth.

From the year 2000 until 2010 NASA collected satellite data  to estimate how much energy from the sun was required to move water. Hotter days means more evaporation of water within the soil. More evaporation means more moisture in the winds that transport this moisture throughout the world. Because the Earth is a closed system, any water that evaporates from its surface can be accounted for in the water vapor that eventually accumulates in the atmosphere. It’s kind of like taking a jar of pennies to the bank and getting dollars in return. It’s an even exchange of the same thing, money, but it exists in two different forms, pennies or bills. Water on Earth is the same. It’s either here on Earth as water or in the atmosphere as a form of precipitation.

However, the water model is a bit more complicated. Consider that each penny represents a different data set concerning where the water is specifically located, formed, or used. Such as: ocean, lake, evaporation from soil and plants, streams, rivers, human consumption. To help scientists manage all of this data they divide the Earth into seven land masses (Eurasia, South America, North America, Africa, Antarctica, Mainland Australia, Oceania/New Zealand/Tasmania) and nine ocean basins (North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Arctic, Black Sea).

Over two dozen satellites provide scientists with data concerning precipitation and evaporation over the land masses and oceans. Researchers can track the movement of atmospheric water vapor, river runoff, groundwater reservoirs, soil moisture and snowpacks.

These important studies have already determined that lakes around the world are warming. This warming trend is affecting the ecosystems they are a part of as well as threatening the security of adequate freshwater supplies.

To come to the conclusion that lakes are warming, NASA used a twenty-five year compilation of data of ground measurements of over 200 lakes on six separate continents. On average, the lakes are warming about half a degree Fahrenheit every decade. Some lakes, the ones at higher latitudes, are warming even faster, one whole degree Fahrenheit per decade. That means that freshwater lakes are warming faster than the oceans.

As lakes warm, algal blooms increase. These rob the oxygen in the water from the fish. NASA’s models predict a twenty percent increase in these toxic algal blooms over the next century. Not only will this result in a chain reaction within the ecosystem wiping out the fish, as well as the wildlife and fauna that depend on those fish, but the blooms will also increase greenhouse gas emissions. Algal blooms are expected to produce methane emissions that will increase four percent over the next decade unless we Earthlings come up with a solution.

Solving the lake warming problem is a very important component of solving the climate change problem because methane emissions are 25 times more powerful than carbon emissions. A massive worldwide increase of algal blooms in freshwater lakes is a disaster we cannot allow to happen.

If the world’s lakes become a casualty of climate change, it won’t just be an environmental disaster, it will be a humanitarian disaster. These are important sources for drinking water, crop irrigation, and the production of food fish that are an important protein source for vulnerable populations around the world. Some researchers are already detecting evidence that productivity in warming lakes is already declining.

Out of the 37 largest aquifers on Earth, 21 are already past the sustainability tipping point and are being depleted. Another 13 are classified as “significantly distressed”. Eight are classified as “overstressed”. “Distressed” and “overstressed” means that these water sources have no natural replenishment to offset consumption. Five more were classified as “extremely stressed”, being depleted but with some replenishment occurring.

These were the conclusions of NASA’s study of ten years of data from the GRACE satellites. The GRACE satellites measure how Earth’s gravity is affected by existing masses of water. What NASA reports is alarming and difficult for the gringa to swallow, even with a glassful of water. That means that almost one third of our world’s groundwater is rapidly disappearing. And what’s even scarier is there is no reliable data that can predict just exactly when these wells will run dry. Yet, we continue to consume rather than conserve.

One of these overstressed reservoirs is the Arabian Aquifer System. It sustains over 60 million people. If we think there’s trouble in the Middle East right now over regional power struggles and the global fight to dominate the oilfields for profit, what the heck can we expect to see when these people have nothing left to drink? What kind of mass exodus will occur when that happens? This is a problem that must be solved. When climate change deniers scoff at the idea that climate change is the single most issue that threatens the national security of all peoples, they have no idea what they are talking about.

If Americans thought the California and Texas droughts were painful, consider what could occur in India and Pakistan, home to the second-most overstressed aquifer, the Indus Basin. Then there’s the third most overstressed water source, the Murzuk-Djado basin in north Africa. These regions are home to almost two billion people! Think about the Syrian refugee crisis. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

While working toward a solution, scientists cannot agree on any projected timeline of “time to depletion”. And when the gringa says they cannot agree, I’m talking about discrepancies of warnings of ten years to twenty-one THOUSAND years! However, one thing that these scientists DO agree on is that in a water-scarce society that is water dependent, this kind of ignorance is intolerable. Well, the gringa is glad to hear that.

Because groundwater reservoirs are so deep beneath the surface of the Earth, the only method to accurately measure just how much is down there is to drill, baby, drill. It’s gonna cost a lot of money, but the experts say it has to be done. NASA is committed to using its technology, personnel and data to help secure mankind’s future and improve lives around the world. By sharing knowledge freely with scientists around the world, the agency hopes to increase understanding that will lead to solutions.

The gringa waits to hear NASA’s announcement of a challenge like “Dig A Hole, Save The Planet”. The gringa has every confidence that NASA will continue to lead the charge to save us Earthlings from ourselves and the messes we continue to make. These challenges are simply a way for us to redeem ourselves after making such awful messes.

Source & Photo Credit: www.nasa.gov