Life but not as we know it – for Keira and Heather wondering if we might be Martians changed into humans

Hello Heather and Keira,

Firstly, let me apologise for taking two weeks to reply to your question. It has been a very busy time working on a project for a choir but I now have two weeks before the next project starts so it's time to catch up.

I now have another post for you but it may be challenging to understand some of its content. I have found the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know. Checking ideas and information for you and others when I write a post can often challenge my understanding but its by challenging ourselves to understand we can learn.

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Back on the "How did Earth begin?" post I tried to answer your challenge. Like all good enquiring minds, one idea can lead to another so, in the comments section, you added...

 In one of the paragraphs, we noticed that you talked about possible life on Mars. Keira thinks that over time, the sun will come too close to Earth, and Earth might shatter. That might be a possibility. There is one problem though. Martians could have died, but Mars didn’t shatter. Do you think that WE are Martians CHANGED into human?

Our minds can be a very powerful weapon against ignorance when we have curiosity and a will to find answers. This is particularly important for science as it tries to find the answers to questions. As lovers of science, your curiosity can lead you in all sorts of directions. I know mine does as I try to find answers. Let's look at a simple answer...

Do you think that WE are Martians CHANGED into human?

It's possible.

Too quick an answer?

Let's put it this way, I'm not comfortable completely ruling out many ideas. It is possible first life on Earth came from Mars but I don't think it's likely.

Here's some mind blowing maths for you. Just say you shuffled a deck of playing cards and put four down on the table...

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

When you put down the first card, the chances of it being a 7 of Diamonds is 1 in 52 because there is only one 7 of Diamonds in a deck of 52 cards. To then put down a 3 of Clubs, the chances are 1 in 51 because there were 51 cards left.  For the King of Spades, it's one in 50 and, for the 10 of hearts, 1 in 49. So what is the chance of dealing just those four cards in that order from any normal deck of cards...

The chance of dealing those exact cards in that order is only 1 in 6,497,400 ... (52 x 51 x 50 x 49 = 6,497,400). It's not very likely we would get those exact four cards in that order if we shuffled and dealt four cards again but it is possible. Of course, a magician or a card trickster could cheat to get the results over and over but then the cards aren't random.

This type of maths looks at probability, i.e. chances of something happening. If we only have one card and it's the King of Clubs, the chances of dealing a King of Clubs is one in one or 100%. The chances of dealing a 7 of Diamonds is zero in one or 0% because we don't have that card. Can't maths be amazing?

For really mind blowing maths, go to the end of this post where I work out the chances of dealing out all 52 cards in an exact order, at least if I have the maths correct.

Where Did Life On Earth Come From?

I know of two main ideas for the origin of life according to science.

1. The Primordial Soup

This idea suggests billions of years ago, chemicals became concentrated (thicker) in pools of water (the primordial soup). By chance, these chemicals were able to form amino acids (the basis of life including us). In time, they combined to make more complex compounds and eventually life. This process is known as abiogenesis.

The chances of life in this way would be seen as very unlikely but, if this process is correct, it did happen. Look again at the card example in "The REALLY Mind Blowing Maths" at the end of this post. The order of cards I dealt was very unlikely but it did happen.

2. Panspermia

Some theorists suggest life might have evolved elsewhere and was brought to Earth on meteorites (Panspermia). This might be better suited to the idea life on Earth started on Mars. If life had started on Mars, a meteor strike might have thrown Mars rock into space and it may have made it to Earth but, then again, life on Earth and Mars might have come from anywhere in space. Remember, if it was life, it would have been very simple, possibly single cells, not animals like us.

No, if you watch the video clip to the end, I don't believe aliens are experimenting with us. It is possible but very unlikely. 🙂

What does Ross think?

The first idea can explain how life itself could have started, whether here or somewhere else in the universe. The second suggests how life might have made it to many places in the universe. Think of it, life might have started in many places in the universe and been spread to the stars, or at least their planets.

Did Mars Once Have Oceans and Rivers?

One of the important resources for life as we know it is liquid water. There is evidence rivers, lakes and oceans once flowed on Mars but liquid water hasn't been seen on Mars. Much of the water was probably lost to space long ago. There is plenty of evidence water as ice is found at the Martian poles and growing evidence it is to be found in the rocks and soils so life may well exist there waiting to be discovered but don't expect anything like animals running around. It's very unlikely intelligent life ever existed on Mars but is likely life did and/or does exist.

You have questioning minds so I suspect you're wondering, what happened to the Martian oceans and rivers?

Here is a video looking at the way Mars may have lost much of its atmosphere...

You may have understood the idea energy from the sun (the solar wind) caused Mars to lose most of its atmosphere so you might wonder why this didn't happen here on Earth.

Why did Earth keep its thick atmosphere while Mars lost much of its atmosphere?

Let's first look at the photo I prepared for you. It's made by placing a magnet under a piece of paper then sprinkling iron sand over the paper.

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The lines you can see in the sand help us see the magnetic field of the magnet. You can see the lines run from one end to the other of the magnet. The Earth also has a magnetic field because of its rotating iron core in its centre. The iron core helps create a much stronger magnetic field than on Mars. It protects us from much of the solar wind. Think it of a little like an umbrella in the rain.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Earth's umbrella (magnetic field) is stronger than that of Mars so we get better protection. Below is a NASA diagram showing the magnetic field of Earth. If Earth's centre cooled and slowed reducing our magnetic field or solar wind became stronger, Earth would also eventually lose much of its atmosphere.

This NASA graphic was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public daomain.

This NASA graphic was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain.

 Keira thinks that over time, the sun will come too close to Earth, and Earth might shatter. That might be a possibility. There is one problem though. Martians could have died, but Mars didn’t shatter.

 Watch this video clip...

In this model of Earth's future, the Earth would eventually be pulled towards the sun and, in a sense, "shatter". Its matter would turn to plasma, a major part of the sun. I have shown Mars didn't lose much of its atmosphere because it shattered, it was lost because it didn't have a strong enough magnetic field to protect it in the way Earth is protected.

I found another video but it is harder for you to understand. It was made by a college student as an assignment looking at the life of the sun. At the stage where our sun becomes a red giant life would no longer be possible on Earth but we are looking billions of years into the future. In this model, it's not so much that the sun comes closer, it grows larger.

What will really happen in the Earth's future? Trying to find answers to what, how and why is the reason science is so interesting. We can observe, gather data, carry out experiments, discuss our ideas with others... When we have enough evidence, we can make an hypothesis (the next step up from an idea). If others find evidence supporting our hypothesis, it can take the next step and become a theory. Theories are the strongest ideas because they have much evidence to support them.

What's my idea about Earth's future? Perhaps when the sun starts threatening life on Earth, someone will press the reset button and the sun will return to a safer stage but that's even less likely than dealing the cards in the exact order below five times in a row. 🙂

The REALLY Mind Blowing Maths

Okay, the card maths at the beginning of this post seems mind blowing but it gave me an idea. If I was to deal out all 52 cards from a shuffled deck...

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

then shuffled the cards and asked you to deal them out in that same exact order, what would the chances be of dealing all 52 cards out one at a time in exact order without cheating or using magician tricks? Here would be the calculation...

Chance of dealing all 52 cards in an exact order = 52 x 51 x 50 x 49 x 48 x 47 x 46 x 45 x 44 x 43 x 42 x 41 x 40 x 39 x 38 x 37 x 36 x 35 x 34 x 33 x 32 x 31 x 30 x 29 x 28 x 27 x 26 x 25 x 24 x 23 x 22 x 21 x 20 x 19 x 18 x 17 x 16 x 15 x 14 x 13 x 12 x 11 x 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1

and what answer did I get?

The chances are one in ~80,658,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

In maths, the tilda (~) is used to mean approximately (about).

The chances of dealing all 52 cards in an exact order is so small most would think it's impossible but I had done it the first time and, by chance, you might be able to do it but it isn't very likely.   🙂

5 thoughts on “Life but not as we know it – for Keira and Heather wondering if we might be Martians changed into humans

  1. Heather

    Dear Mr. Mannell,

    I don’t really mind if you are late in the post, but what I really care about is if we get at least one answer. I could combine all of the videos and words to one conclusion to me. This post has been helpful, and after watching the second-to-last video, I think that Mars shifted its position in the solar system and was once closer to the sun. Then Mars’ pretty land like Earth got burned and made it into an ugly looking planet. After Mars got burned, it shifted behind Earth, and this is why Mars looks so ugly. You may know that I have a manifold of questions, and if you don’t mind, I am going to ask them. Where did you know all of these possibilities and facts? How do you know so much? Where do you get all of the photos and videos? Do you think these possibilities are real? Do you wish to go to space? Why are you using cards for a example? What do you use to find all of these impressing facts?

    You obviously don’t have to answer all of the questions, but if you could answer at least one, I would be pleased to hear your answer.

    Sincerely,
    Heather

    Reply
    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Hello Heather,

      There is a chance your idea of a moving Mars may have happened but I don’t know how likely. To explain this and some other ideas your comment gave me would need a new post but it may take some time because I am very busy with filming and DVD work at this time. I have two more shows to film before Christmas and will probably have little time until then to share some ideas. Let’s look at the other questions in your comment.

      Where did you know all of these possibilities and facts?
      If you mean ‘how’, it’s a little strange. We know facts and have ideas but it’s important to be able to organise our facts and ideas in a useful way. When you wrote your comment, you would have been doing this without really thinking about it. You read the post and had some ideas leading to questions (your way of using facts and ideas in a useful way). Here is what happened when I read your comment. You wrote…
      “I think that Mars shifted its position in the solar system and was once closer to the sun. Then Mars’ pretty land like Earth got burned and made it into an ugly looking planet. After Mars got burned, it shifted behind Earth, and this is why Mars looks so ugly.”

      My thoughts coming from you: Mars shifting, once closer to sun, it got burned up, ugly Mars

      Some of my thoughts and ideas coming from memory: solar system formation, accretion disk, left over material, collisions, orbits, billions of years, gravity, Earth/Moon formation, Earth’s inner and outer core, iron, convection, magnetic fields, solar wind, probability, ugly is subjective, early Mars, core cooling, atmospheric stripping, graphics, animations

      Before long I realised to explain my thoughts I would need to write a new post to connect all of my ideas and information in a way you can understand (but not until some current projects are complete).

      How do you know so much?
      Memory is very important for all of us. Above I gave you a list of thoughts and ideas. I don’t always know where the information and ideas came from. I might have read a book, seen a documentary, read something online or simply connected other ideas. It’s not knowing so much, it’s knowing how to connect the ideas in a useful way. To do this, I often have to research information and find ways of organising what I learn. I don’t think I know a lot about anything but I do know a little and can learn more.

      Where do you get all of the photos and videos?
      A good source of photos is Wikimedia Commons. I search for useful public domain photos I can use. Depending on a post, I might use photos I have taken or graphics I have drawn. Most videos are embedded (put into) You Tube videos I find. At times I also use video clips I have created and added to my You Tube channel. As a clue, my personal photos, graphics, and videos usually have something like “Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.” written under them. I normally like to share what I create with schools and students.

      Do you think these possibilities are real?
      Probability in maths looks at how likely events are to happen. Many of our ideas might be possible but they could be so unlikely to happen we might say they’re impossible. I prefer to think of them as not very likely.

      Do you wish to go to space?
      It would be wonderful to travel outside Earth’s atmosphere and see our planet. It can be humbling to think all of our lives and all of our ancestors have only existed on one small bluish planet in the huge universe. My chances of going into space are not very likely but I can use my imagination to travel to the stars.

      Why are you using cards for a example?
      I could have used the toss of a coin but there are only three possible results… heads, tails or sides. A tossed coin landing on its side isn’t as likely as heads or tails but I have had that result. A deck of cards gives us many more options because there are 52 of them in a standard deck. We can also sort them in more than one way. Here are a few…
      Each card is an individual – the chances of picking any one card from a deck is 1 in 52.
      Red or black card – there are 26 red (hearts/diamonds) and 26 black (clubs/spades) in a deck. The chances of drawing a red card is 1 in 2.
      There are four suits in a deck (hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades) – The chances of drawing a clubs card is 1 in 4.

      What do you use to find all of these impressing facts?
      Memory, books, documentaries, Wikipedia, photos, slides – Remember, it’s not so much the facts, it’s being able to connect what we know or find in a useful way. I think this can be the secret of intelligence. The better we are at connecting seemingly unconnected facts and ideas the smarter we seem to be to others. Do you think that’s strange? I think many people would believe knowing many facts means you’re intelligent. Facts help but are of no use if we don’t know how to use them.

      Keep learning and connecting ideas in useful ways. 🙂
      Ross Mannell

      Reply
  2. Mrs. Y♥llis

    @ Marvelous Mr. Mannell,

    I wish you lived in our neighborhood so you could come by every day and we could learn from you! You have an excellent way of explaining very complicated ideas. I always learn from you! Thank you, too, for caring and supporting my students!

    It’s funny, the more we learn…the more questions we have!

    I will talk with the students about why cards are a good tool for explaining probability. We are moving into that chapter soon! The more complicated questions…I’ll try! 🙂

    Thanks so much for all you do to help educate the world! (That’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth!)

    Your friend,
    Mrs. Y♥llis

    Reply
    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Dear Mrs. Yollis,

      Thanks for the kind words. One of the strange things is what I do is almost unknown in my area because the schools only seem to blog to each other through our state’s education servers. I hope they start their global journey soon. I may have to see if they want a volunteer blogging helper. 🙂

      Learning leads to more questions seems to have been a lifelong driving force for me. It really is a case of the more we learn the more realise how little we know. It’s part of the reason I like blogging. Interacting with students leads to more personal learning. It’s a two way interchange.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  3. Keira

    Dear Mr. Mannell,

    Thank you for that wonderful post! I do not mind if the post took you so long, I am just happy that I got an answer to my question. In my personal opinion, I think that Mars was once a beautiful planet, and there was life on this beauty. Since Mars did not have a very protective ‘umbrella’, Mars’ ‘umbrella’ shrank. Overtime, Mars got closer to the sun, burned, and sent life over to Earth, right past its ‘umbrella’. As Earth evolved, Mars lost its magnificent atmosphere, and moved behind Earth. Mars soon lost everything it once had owned, life and beauty. Now taking Mars’ place is Earth. As you may know, I have a plethora of questions to ask you. Do you think my idea may be possible? Have you ever encountered someone who has an idea of how Mars lost its beauty that you think is true? Do you think there could have been life on other planets, too? Where do you get all these facts?

    Warmly,
    Keira

    Reply

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