Friday, January 4, 2013

NWA 7034

Yesterday, January 3, a paper was published online in Science Express entitled "Unique Meteorite from Early Amazonian Mars: Water-Rich Basaltic Breccia Northwest Africa 7034."  

The paper, by a team of NASA-funded scientists who have been studying this particular meteorite (known as NWA 7034, because it was found in Northwest Africa) for over a year, concludes based on the meteorite's mineral composition and other characteristics that it came to earth from Mars, and that based on its high water content it must have formed during Mars' distant past.  The paper's authors report that its water content is an order of magnitude greater than any of the other thirty or so meteorites collected on earth which scientists believe to have come from Mars.

The oxygen isotopes in the meteorite also differ from other meteorites thought to be from Mars.  This oxygen evidence leads the scientists to hypothesize that "oxygen reservoirs" may exist in some parts of Mars, in the thin Martian atmosphere.

All of these findings are consistent with the reports sent to Edgar Rice Burroughs from John Carter and other earth-men who had managed to make the leap to Mars (or Barsoom), which he published in his fantastic Mars series, beginning in 1912.  Readers of those books know that Mars once had mighty oceans (now all dry) and that the thin Martian atmosphere was enriched with oxygen from an oxygen factory, which kept the Barsoomians alive.  Some have argued that these works were science fiction stories made up by Burroughs himself, although they seem too real for that.

Readers of this blog will also know that there is actually abundant evidence that water once flowed on Mars in large quantities, and that this fact is explained quite well by the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown, while posing challenges for conventional theories (see the discussion in this previous post entitled "Let's Go to Mars").  

According to the hydroplate theory, the origin of all or almost all meteorites which land on the earth today is the earth itself, which explains a great many aspects of meteorites (including the water and oxygen in NWA 7034).  In this webpage from the online version of his book, Dr. Brown explains that the force of the water erupting from beneath the surface of the earth (the "fountains of the great deep" described in Genesis and recorded in the sacred traditions of numerous peoples around the globe) launched fragments into the air with such velocity that some of them escaped earth's atmosphere.  He explains that many meteorites are apparently pillar fragments from the subterranean pillars that existed before the catastrophic flood event, which explains the iron-nickel composition of many meteorites, a composition that is extremely difficult to explain using other theories of meteorite origin.

In his recent Christmas letter (sent out before the publication of yesterday's paper about NWA 7034, of course), Dr. Brown mentions this aspect of his theory in conjunction with a discussion of the Curiosity rover:
The 7th and 8th editions explained how, during the early weeks of the flood, the fountains of the great deep launched water, rocks, and vegetation; bacteria accompanied the vegetation.  Some of that material impacted Mars, our neighboring planet.  The bacteria's food source, primarily vegetation, came with them.  (I know many reasonably intelligent people, relying on intuition, who have balked at the thought that the fountains could have been that powerful.  The 9th edition clearly explains the physics.
The 9th edition is the edition which Dr. Brown graciously makes available for reading online for no charge on his website.  Other aspects of Dr. Brown's remarkable Christmas letter from last month are discussed in this previous post.

In spite of the fact that his theory provides a scientifically supportable explanation for water and oxygen on Mars long ago, Dr. Brown does not believe that any meteorites which have landed on the earth originated from Mars.  In spite of the confident declaration that NWA 7034 originated from Mars made in articles published about this meteorite in the media, such as this one, or on NASA's own website (here), the scientists themselves admit that they have to deduce the origin of the meteorite, just as they do with all other meteorites (no meteorite so far has come stamped with a "Made on Mars" label).  

Here is an earlier scientific paper written by five of the same scientists who wrote the paper linked above, entitled "Basaltic Breccia NWA 7034: New Ungrouped Planetary Achondrite," in which they discuss the characteristics of the meteorite that help them surmise its origin, and give their arguments for the conclusion that it came from Mars.  The paper argues that its characteristics in many ways resemble the other meteorites that have been determined by scientists to be from Mars, but concludes with a final paragraph that begins with the word "if" in the sentence beginning "If NWA 7034 is a martian meteorite [. . .]"  

The scientists are now more convinced that NWA 7034 is in fact from Mars, but in a different part of his book, Dr. Brown provides some strong arguments against the conclusion that any meteorites found on earth actually came from Mars, including the meteorites these scientists used for comparison as they tried to determine where NWA 7034 came from.  See his discussion entitled "Are some meteorites from Mars?" at the bottom of this webpage in his online book.

Some of the arguments Dr. Brown gives against the possibility of Martian meteorites include:
To escape the gravity of Mars requires a launch velocity of 3 miles per second. Additional velocity is then needed to transfer to an orbit intersecting Earth, 34–236 million miles away. Supposedly, one or more asteroids slammed into Mars and blasted off millions of meteoroids. Millions are needed, because less than one in a million111 would ever hit Earth, be large enough to survive reentry, be found, be turned over to scientists, and be analyzed in detail. Besides, if meteorites can come to Earth from Mars, many more should have come from the Moon—but haven’t.112 Furthermore, all the so-called Martian meteorites are magnetic,113 whereas Mars has no magnetic field.113

For an impact to accelerate, in a fraction of a second, any solid from rest to a velocity of 3 miles per second requires such extreme shock pressures that much of the material would melt, if not vaporize.114 All 30 meteorites should at least show shock effects. Some do not. Also, Mars should have at least six giant craters if such powerful blasts occurred, because six different launch dates are needed to explain the six age groupings the meteorites fall into (based on evolutionary dating methods). Such craters are hard to find, and large, recent impacts on Mars should have been rare. 
These are serious objections to the hypothesis that NWA 7034, or any other meteorite, came from Mars.  They are by no means all of the objections that Dr. Brown presents -- interested readers are invited to go to his website using the link above and read all of his arguments on this subject.

It is important to realize that many conclusions which are presented to us as "fact" or "settled science" in the media and on the webpages of government agencies such as NASA are actually based upon the analysis of evidence by people who are doing the best they can based on the evidence that they have available and the paradigms or models that they are using to understand the universe.  Those paradigms or models may be flawed, and they certainly employ assumptions when necessary.  Analysts approaching the evidence using a completely different paradigm or model (and different assumptions) may well come to an entirely different conclusion.

In the case of the idea that meteorites could have somehow "broken free" from the surface of Mars and made the lonely voyage through space to land in Morocco in North Africa, it may be that more analysis is necessary by those who have reached this tentative conclusion. 

My recommendation would be to investigate the "Gridley wave" device described by Edgar Rice Burroughs, by which he was able to receive communications from Barsoom over a sort of ticker tape in Morse Code -- with such a device, we might be able to ask the Barsoomians if they know of any forces which might have been capable of launching rocks from Mars into space at a velocity sufficient to escape the Martian gravity and at a trajectory capable of intersecting Jasoom (their name for our planet).

Barring that, I would suggest that they consider the explanation -- backed by extensive evidence -- offered by Dr. Brown in his work.