Other Work

New Findings Energize Case for Life on Mars
By Kathy Sawyer
The Washington Post | Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2001, pp. A03 and 24

Researchers penetrating to unprecedented levels of microscopic detail inside a meteorite from Mars report new evidence of possible fossil remains that closely resemble features found in bacteria living on Earth today.

Two different teams assert that the evidence they describe could only have been generated by living organisms. The work appears to strengthen the case for life on early Mars and, scientists said, is likely to stimulate a burst of new research.

Since NASA’s stunning 1996 announcement of potential life signs in the Mars rock, much of the evidence has been shaken or widely dismissed as too inconclusive to pursue. But one line of evidence has remained intriguing: crystals of magnetite (iron oxide, similar to rust) each one-millionth of an inch in diameter. On Earth, they function as little bar magnets, or compasses, to aid navigation when formed inside swimming bacteria. Magnetite crystals are also commonly formed in non-biological processes, however, and scientists have been hard pressed to sort out which is which. . .