Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


The Viking landers and its possible discovery of extraterrestrial life

Link here. One of the scientists involved in the Viking project has written a memoir of her experience, and the article interviews her.

Patricia Straat served as co-experimenter on one of the most controversial experiments ever sent to Mars: the Labeled Release instrument on the Viking Mars landers. The experiment’s principal investigator, Gilbert Levin, insists to this day that the project found extraterrestrial life. Most scientists doubt this interpretation, but the issue has never been fully settled.

Read it. It illustrates how uncertain science can be, even when an experiment produces a result that everyone involved dreamt of. As Straat notes,

The results met the pre-mission definition of a positive life response. But of course as soon as we got it everyone came up with alternative proposals to account for the results nonbiologically.

The problem was that though their experiment found evidence of life, none of the other Viking experiments did. Most significant was the apparently complete lack of organic material (based on carbon) in the soil.

To this day, no one has a good explanation for these results on Viking. The results remain a mystery, one that really will only be solved when we can return to Mars in force, and find out what it is really like.

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5 comments

  • Ryan Lawson

    I am amazed I have never heard about this other than generic statements about how Viking tested for signs of life but they all came back negative or ambiguously unlikely. After reading this article I am stunned there was never a follow-up on this with something like Phoenix to include a simple digital microscope to look at the sample. You don’t have to see the individual microbes, give them enough time and you will see the aggregate structures they form like fuzz on a rotting fruit.

  • Ryan Lawson: You’ve been reading the mainstream science press too much. :)

    I have reported on these Viking results since the 1990s, when I first became a science journalist. It didn’t take much research to learn about them, just a willingness to do it.

  • Ian C.

    What would it take to replicate the experiments on Mars with today’s means? Assume I’d put things together in a somewhat hackerish approach, what equipment would I need, energy, communication, remote controlled actuators etc.? Could I do it rather low cost (just materials and engineering, excluding qualification, launch etc.)? Any idea how much mass and volume it would require?

    And would it even make sense or would it just satisfy the curiosity of people involved at that time?

  • John

    I recall, that at the time, the preponderance of opinions was that the detection of CO2, originally designed to be an indicator of biological respiration, was generated by planetary chemical peroxides when contacting the experiment’s liquid growth substrate. It was thought the intense solar radiation levels at the Martian surface would cause and maintain such forms of reactive peroxides. It was such an emotional letdown; similar to the initial photographs released showing vast fields of green and blue landscapes, later to be color corrected to the harsh reddish environment we frequently see today.

  • John: This was the explanation offered. Gil Levin, principal scientist for the labeled release experiment, never bought it, and offered many reasonable objections to it.

    There are too many uncertainties here. The truth is that we really do not understand what happened. It was likely a chemical reaction of some sort, but that is not certain by any means.

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