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Just out of Curiosity, did life on Earth come from Mars?

By Jonathan Borwein and David H. Bailey

In an announcement on 3 December 2012, NASA poured cold water on rumours that its Curiosity rover had found life on Mars.

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Curiosity found evidence that it had landed on an ancient riverbed, and it identified some interesting chemical species involving chlorine, sulphur, water and organic compounds, but nothing that could be construed as clear-cut evidence for life on Mars, past or present.

All of this underscores Carl Sagan’s caution, reiterated in his final book Billions and Billions, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

And even if one day NASA does find such evidence, this would only raise the question as to whether we are all Martians, since (as we shall discuss below) life on Earth may have originated on Mars.

Panoramic view from the “Rocknest” position of Curiosity Mars Rover – its “work site” in October and November. NASA

Search history

The current search for life on Mars is the latest of a series of observations (and controversies) extending back to the 1970s. In 1976 NASA’s...

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Jonathan Borwein is Laureate Professor of Mathematics and David H. Bailey is a Senior Scientist in the Computational Research Department at the University of Newcastle. This article was originally published at The Conversation. A previous version of this article appeared on Math Drudge.