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What do you think has been discovered on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover?

By James Dacey

Facebook poll

Speculation has been running wild this week after NASA scientist John Grotzinger told National Public Radio (NPR) that the agency’s Curiosity rover has helped uncover a “major” discovery about Mars. The mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Programme, which has a goal of determining whether life has ever arisen on Mars. Given that Grotzinger is the chief scientist of the Curiosity mission, people are naturally getting excited.

In the interview, broadcast on Tuesday, Grotzinger was talking with enthusiasm about the results coming in from Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), a suite of instruments aboard the rover designed to collect soil and atmospheric samples. “We’re getting data from SAM,” he said. “These data are gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good.” Grotzinger said that the mission scientists are eagerly analysing the data but that we should not expect an announcement for several weeks.

So when these findings do become public, what will they reveal? Let us know what you think by taking part in this week’s Facebook poll.

What do you think has been discovered on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover?

Conditions favourable for life
Evidence to suggest that life has never existed on Mars
A microscopic fossil
A living micro-organism
Something else (please share your suggestions as a comment)

To take part in the poll, please visit our Facebook page..

In last week’s poll we looked at the issue of physics education. We asked whether you believe that 16–18 year olds should be taught modern physics such as quantum mechanics? The question was inspired by the publication last week of an open letter to President Barack Obama lamenting state education in the US. The letter, in the form of a YouTube video, was bemoaning the fact that current curricula in the US focus almost exclusively on classical physics while excluding modern physics such as quantum mechanics almost entirely.

The poll had a lot of responses on Facebook, with 67% of respondents believing that these students should be exposed to quantum mechanics – but only the ideas not the complex mathematics. 28% disagree and believe that the students should be exposed to the “whole shebang”, including the maths. The remaining 5% believe that at this age, physics students should focus exclusively on classical principles.

Interestingly, the majority of comments that accompanied the poll came from the small group of people that believes that students should remained focused on classical physics. One respondent, David Peter Wallis Freeborn, wrote “There’s no point in teaching the maths of QM at the age of 16–18. They won’t have mastered linear algebra or any classical mechanics. You have to teach things from the base up, not just rush straight to ‘interesting’ modern theories.” Another commenter, Kristian Dominek Barajas, has a similar opinion: “My main concern is that students aren’t being engaged with the already complex and difficult topics in classical physics, which will ultimately stunt their growth in the field.”

Thank you for all your responses and we look forward to hearing from you again in this week’s poll.

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