NASA scientists have determined that a primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth's Arctic Ocean and that the Red Planet has lost 87 percent of that water to space.
A primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean, according to NASA scientists who, using ground-based observatories, measured water signatures in the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
Scientists have been searching for answers to why this vast water supply left the surface. Details of the observations and computations appear in Thursday’s edition of Science magazine.
“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the new paper. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”
Perhaps about 4.3 billion years ago, Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 meters) deep. More likely, the water would have formed an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than a mile (1.6 kilometers).
The new estimate is based on detailed observations made at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, and the W.M. Keck Observatory and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii. With these powerful instruments, the researchers distinguished the chemical signatures of two slightly different forms of water in Mars’ atmosphere. One is the familiar H2O. The other is HDO, a naturally occurring variation in which one hydrogen is replaced by a heavier form, called deuterium.
By comparing the ratio of HDO to H2O in water on Mars today and comparing it with the ratio in water trapped in a Mars meteorite dating from about 4.5 billion years ago, scientists can measure the subsequent atmospheric changes and determine how much water has escaped into space.
The team mapped H2O and HDO levels several times over nearly six years, which is equal to approximately three Martian years. The resulting data produced global snapshots of each compound, as well as their ratio. These first-of-their-kind maps reveal regional variations called microclimates and seasonal changes, even though modern Mars is essentially a desert.
The research team was especially interested in regions near Mars’ north and south poles, because the polar ice caps hold the planet’s largest known water reservoir. The water stored there is thought to capture the evolution of Mars’ water during the wet Noachian period, which ended about 3.7 billion years ago, to the present.
From the measurements of atmospheric water in the near-polar region, the researchers determined the enrichment, or relative amounts of the two types of water, in the planet’s permanent ice caps. The enrichment of the ice caps told them how much water Mars must have lost – a volume 6.5 times larger than the volume in the polar caps now. That means the volume of Mars’ early ocean must have been at least 20 million cubic kilometers (5 million cubic miles).
Based on the surface of Mars today, a likely location for this water would be in the Northern Plains, considered a good candidate because of the low-lying ground. An ancient ocean there would have covered 19 percent of the planet’s surface. By comparison, the Atlantic Ocean occupies 17 percent of Earth’s surface.
“With Mars losing that much water, the planet was very likely wet for a longer period of time than was previously thought, suggesting it might have been habitable for longer,” said Michael Mumma, a senior scientist at Goddard and the second author on the paper.
NASA is studying Mars with a host of spacecraft and rovers under the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, including the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, and the MAVEN orbiter, which arrived at the Red Planet in September 2014 to study the planet’s upper atmosphere.
In 2016, a Mars lander mission called InSight will launch to take a first look into the deep interior of Mars. The agency also is participating in ESA’s (European Space Agency) 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing telecommunication radios to ESA’s 2016 orbiter and a critical element of the astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover. NASA’s next rover, heading to Mars in 2020, will carry instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Program seeks to characterize and understand Mars as a dynamic system, including its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential. In parallel, NASA is developing the human spaceflight capabilities needed for future round-trip missions to Mars in the 2030s.
Worldwide neuroscience research conducted under Obama's BRAIN project, as well as similar research sponsored by the European Union exceeds $1 billion combined. The goal is nothing short of decoding the human brain. While there are many embedded initiatives associated with this type of research, the production of artificial intelligence that can rival or even surpass humans is at the forefront.
One recent development aims to move beyond mere computational horsepower and incorporate the principles of Darwinian evolution in order to naturalize the process of robot evolution.
This initiative has become evident in the European Union's cloud network called RoboEarth where robots can do their own research, communicate with one another, and collectively increase their intelligence by mimicking family and cultural learning.
This drive for embedding evolutionary principles into robotics formed the cornerstone of the next phase of research begun at the University of Wyoming's Evolving Artificial Intelligence Lab, seen in the video below, where the stated goal is to introduce survival of the fittest to hopefully break through current evolutionary barriers toward fully intelligent robots.
As you heard, willful procreation is a natural outcome. This has been echoed by George Zarkadakis, an artificial intelligence engineer, who believes that intelligent robots will move toward procreation as they desire to produce superior offspring. Through a simple software swap, new intelligence could be created, as well as the likelihood of other upgrades like virus protection. Incidentally, the organic component of this is also being researched by geneticists as downloadable DNA via our own human Internet.
Just as we humans wish that our own children become healthier, more intelligent and longer-lived versions of ourselves, so too will increasingly self-aware robotic systems. The research at the University of Wyoming has embraced this potential.
Further commenting on the potential of the "mutations" and code swaps, lead researcher Jeff Clune stated:
We’re trying to harness the power of evolution. It’s an extremely creative and powerful design force. Can we use that process to evolve robots? We can harness it, and when we do, evolution comes up with something smarter than humans can design.
We want to engineer robots that rival nature and are as agile and smart. (emphasis added)
However, robots that rival their human counterparts is exactly the scenario that is being warned about. Some of the many unintended consequences erupting from a superintelligence have been articulated by Nick Bostrom. The response to a "rival" humanity by this superintelligence could involve operational enslavement or eradication, just as it has among animal and human groups throughout history. Despite such tech luminaries as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk being moved by Bostrom's research and existential concern, research continues apace.
A similar program from Michigan State University "uses genetic algorithms operating on a mathematical framework called Markov networks to model a large population of robot 'brains' working on a particular task, like finding the exit to a maze. The brains that perform the task best have the largest number of simulated 'offspring.'" Researchers point to the ability to easily speed up the process of natural selection, which could theoretically produce intelligence and consciousness in the relatively near term. Team leader, Chris Adami, specifically cites the ability to equip a new robot brain with the results from "hundreds of thousands of generations."
Once equipped, robots can illustrate marked evolutionary principles such as cooperation and, eventually, self-awareness.
Adami believes that evolving robot brains in complicated worlds that force them to interact with each other is the best path toward self-aware intelligence. "When robots have to make models of other robots' brains, they are thinking about thinking," he said. "We believe this is the onset of consciousness."
Adami then issues a rather tepid dismissal of those who are worried about what these conscious robots would exactly wish to accomplish:
Thinking robots will be extraordinarily useful, Adami says, adding that humanity should have no reason to fear a rise of the machines. "When our robots are 'born', they will have a brain that has the capacity to learn, but only has instincts. It will take a decade or two of exploration and training for these robots to achieve human-level intelligence, just as is the case with us," he said.
At best, we see that there is certainty about the birth of conscious and self-aware robots operating on the principles of survival of the fittest ... and that humanity has a hopeful stay of execution date in a decade or two.
The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave
(Phys.org)—Light behaves both as a particle and as a wave. Since the days of Einstein, scientists have been trying to directly observe both of these aspects of light at the same time. Now, scientists at EPFL have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of this dual behavior.
Quantum mechanics tells us that light can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. However, there has never been an experiment able to capture both natures of light at the same time; the closest we have come is seeing either wave or particle, but always at different times. Taking a radically different experimental approach, EPFL scientists have now been able to take the first ever snapshot of light behaving both as a wave and as a particle. The breakthrough work is published in Nature Communications.
When UV light hits a metal surface, it causes an emission of electrons. Albert Einstein explained this "photoelectric" effect by proposing that light – thought to only be a wave – is also a stream of particles. Even though a variety of experiments have successfully observed both the particle- and wave-like behaviors of light, they have never been able to observe both at the same time.
A research team led by Fabrizio Carbone at EPFL has now carried out an experiment with a clever twist: using electrons to image light. The researchers have captured, for the first time ever, a single snapshot of light behaving simultaneously as both a wave and a stream of particles.
The experiment is set up like this: A pulse of laser light is fired at a tiny metallic nanowire. The laser adds energy to the charged particles in the nanowire, causing them to vibrate. Light travels along this tiny wire in two possible directions, like cars on a highway. When waves traveling in opposite directions meet each other they form a new wave that looks like it is standing in place. Here, this standing wave becomes the source of light for the experiment, radiating around the nanowire.
This is where the experiment's trick comes in: The scientists shot a stream of electrons close to the nanowire, using them to image the standing wave of light. As the electrons interacted with the confined light on the nanowire, they either sped up or slowed down. Using the ultrafast microscope to image the position where this change in speed occurred, Carbone's team could now visualize the standing wave, which acts as a fingerprint of the wave-nature of light.
While this phenomenon shows the wave-like nature of light, it simultaneously demonstrated its particle aspect as well. As the electrons pass close to the standing wave of light, they "hit" the light's particles, the photons. As mentioned above, this affects their speed, making them move faster or slower. This change in speed appears as an exchange of energy "packets" (quanta) between electrons and photons. The very occurrence of these energy packets shows that the light on the nanowire behaves as a particle.
"This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics – and its paradoxical nature – directly," says Fabrizio Carbone. In addition, the importance of this pioneering work can extend beyond fundamental science and to future technologies. As Carbone explains: "Being able to image and control quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale like this opens up a new route towards quantum computing."