IMAX Ban a Disturbing Precedent

Censorship of IMAX Films Threatens Integrity of Science, Leader Says

from LiveScience.com

The leader of the world's largest organization of scientists said the suppression of some IMAX films because they run counter to religion threatens the integrity of science and public education.

Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science, sent a letter Monday to 410 members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The letter prompted by recent reports that IMAX theaters in at least a dozen U.S. cities have declined to show films that endorse the science of evolution.

"We are writing now to express strong concerns about increasing threats to science that endanger our shared missions and to offer our support and partnership in dealing with them," Leshner's article said.

Some IMAX theatres have refused to show movies that mention evolution or the Big Bang because the ideas contradict the Bible, according to a March 19 article in The New York Times. The protests involve a dozen or fewer theaters, but the effect could be significant because only a few dozen IMAX theatres exhibit science documentaries.

"The desire not to antagonize audiences and to avoid negative business outcomes is entirely understandable," Leshner wrote. "Yet, the suppression of scientifically accurate information as a response to those with differing perspectives is inappropriate and threatens both the integrity of science and the broader public education to which we all are committed. It is also objectionable to many stakeholders-including many with strong religious convictions - who understand that religion and science are not in opposition."


Jesus Fucking Christ!

The Abusive Jesus.

"You don't fuck with the Jesus, man!"

Easter Kicks Ass!

Easter Bunny Gets Pummeled by Boy at Mall

from Associated Press

BAY CITY, Mich. - The Easter Bunny is hopping mad. Bryan Johnson, who portrays the furry character at the Bay City Mall, says he was pummeled in an unprovoked attack on the job. Police say the attacker was a 12-year-old boy who sat on Johnson's lap the day before the March 18 incident.

Johnson, 18, suffered a bloody nose. He kept his cool during the attack, deeming it inappropriate for the Easter Bunny to fight back. But he's not willing to forgive and forget.

"They (the sheriff's deputies) told me it was up to me, and I feel that the boy should be prosecuted," Johnson told The Bay City Times.

Johnson, meanwhile, is back on the job at the mall, where he had been working as the Easter Bunny for about a week before the attack.

Johnson said his 12-year-old attacker seemed perfectly happy the day before the incident. "Yeah, he came up and said, 'Hi,' and was sitting on my lap and talking," Johnson said. "He seemed OK."

But when he saw Johnson the next day, the boy didn't want to talk.

"He just started hitting," Johnson said.

'Easter Bunny' Arrested for Harassment

from Associated Press

Council Bluffs, Iowa - The bunny trail led to trouble for a mall Easter Bunny who got upset at a co-worker, police said.

Michael J. Desantiago Sr., 36, of Council Bluffs, was arrested Saturday at the Mall of the Bluffs where he had a job dressed as the Easter Bunny. He told officers he became upset when someone threw water and other items at him, police said.

Desantiago left the area, changed clothes and came back to tell a fellow employee he was leaving. The employee told police that Desantiago "got up in her face and started to yell at her."

Desantiago threatened another person if he didn't get out of his way, police said.

He was charged with two counts of harassment.

New York State Teen Arrested for Attack on Easter Bunny

from KXTV

ROTTERDAM, N.Y. - A teenager has been arrested on charges of attacking an Easter Bunny at a mall in upstate New York.

Police in the community of Rotterdam say the 16-year-old jumped the bunny, causing $600 in damage to the bunny's suit. The man inside the suit wasn't hurt. There's no word on the motive for the attack.

The teen is now facing charges of harassment and criminal mischief. He's being held in the Schenectady County Jail without bail.

The Rotterdam Square Mall's marketing director says she thinks "a lot of people will come in and give him hugs, because of everything he's been through."

SoCal City OKs Bunny Kill Days Before Easter

from NBC San Diego

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- Just days before Easter, the City Council of Mission Viejo has given permission for a gated community in south Orange County to shoot bunny rabbits on sight.

Residents in the 1,900-home Casa del Sol retirement community complained for years that a proliferating population of rabbits have been gnawing on native shrubs and plants and doing their bunny business on lawns.

The old folks wanted an exterminator with a pellet gun to thin out the herd. But the city banned rabbit hunting with pellet guns in 1997, adopting a state Department of Fish and Game regulation that prohibits use of firearms to ward off animals unless crops are threatened.

Casa del Sol residents were forced to rely on the poison diphacinone to control the bunny population. Then, state officials banned the poison's use in urban areas in 2001.

The shooting will begin once the paperwork is filed.

Meantime, Mission Viejo celebrated its annual Bunny Days family festival Saturday.

Easter Bunny Hunted

from New Zealand Herald

OTAGO, New Zealand - It was more like duck-shooting weather, but the 14th Great Easter Bunny Hunt in Central Otago recorded a 20,000-plus kill.

Shooters left Alexandra on Friday morning and returned on Saturday afternoon in wet, cold weather.


Shroud of Turin: Just a Dirty Old Rag?

Teacher Claims Shroud of Turin Is Fake

from Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. - Nathan Wilson is an English teacher with no scientific training, but he thinks he knows how the piece of linen revered by many as Jesus' burial cloth was made. And he thinks it's not a physical sign of the Resurrection.

In other words, in Wilson's estimation, the Shroud of Turin is a fake produced with some glass, paint and old cloth. And that theory, especially with Easter this weekend, has so-called "Shroudies" abuzz.

"A lot of religious people are upset," said Wilson, 26, who teaches at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho.

Wilson is himself an evangelical Christian but said his views on the shroud don't change his faith.

"I'm a Bible-believing Christian who believes in the Resurrection completely without a doubt," he said.

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth, about 14 feet long and 3 feet wide, that has been kept in the city of Turin, Italy, since 1578. It bears the image of a man with wounds similar to those suffered by Jesus. Believers say it was used to wrap Christ after he was taken off the cross.

The English instructor believes a medieval forger could have painted the image of a crucified man on a pane of glass, laid it on the linen, then left it outside in the sun to bleach the cloth for several days. As the linen lightened, the painted image of the man remained dark on the cloth, creating the equivalent of a photo negative.

Wilson wrote his theory in Books and Culture, a magazine for Christian intellectuals. It was picked up by several Web sites and is being debated in shroud circles. Wilson's Web site received more than 100,000 hits from 45 countries in the first week of his article's publication.

Shroud expert Dan Porter said that while Wilson's theory is ingenious, it does not produce images identical to those on the shroud.

"It is not adequate to produce something that looks like the shroud in two or three ways," said Porter, who lives in Bronxville, N.Y. "One must produce an image that meets all of the criteria."

Porter contends sun bleaching cannot have produced the image, which he and many others say is the result of chemical reactions on the cloth.

"A problem with Wilson's hypothesis is that sun bleaching merely accelerates bleaching that will occur naturally as the material is exposed to light," Porter wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Eventually, Wilson's sun bleach shroud image will fade into the background as exposure equalizes the bleaching."

The shroud has often been displayed, sometimes in bright sunlight for days at a time, and no such image fading has occurred, Porter said.

Porter and others also question whether panes of glass at least 6 feet long were produced in medieval times, as Wilson's theory would require.

Radiocarbon tests of the Shroud of Turin were done in 1988, and dated the cloth at A.D. 1260 to 1390 seeming ruling it out as Jesus' burial cloth. But Raymond Rogers of Los Alamos National Laboratory recently argued that the tested threads came from later patches and might have been contaminated. Rogers calculated that the shroud is 1,300 to 3,000 years old and could easily date from Jesus' era.

Wilson said he wants to write a novel about his theory. The forger or perhaps forgers, Wilson theorizes, probably robbed a grave and pulled the aged shroud off a body, then crucified someone to obtain the blood and study the wounds of Jesus.

"Most likely it involved some real wicked people," Wilson said.


Theaters Ban IMAX Film for Evolution

IMAX Theaters Reject Film Over Evolution

from Associated Press

CHARLESTON, South Carolina - IMAX theaters in several Southern cities have decided not to show a film on volcanoes out of concern that its references to evolution might offend those with fundamental religious beliefs.

"We've got to pick a film that's going to sell in our area. If it's not going to sell, we're not going to take it," said Lisa Buzzelli, director of an IMAX theater in Charleston that is not showing the movie. "Many people here believe in creationism, not evolution."

The film, Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, makes a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes.

Buzzelli doesn't rule out showing the movie in the future.

IMAX theaters in Texas, Georgia and the Carolinas have declined to show the film, said Pietro Serapiglia, who handles distribution for Stephen Low, the film's Montreal-based director and producer.

"I find it's only in the South," Serapiglia said.

Critics worry screening out films that mention evolution will discourage the production of others in the future.

"It's going to restrain the creative approach by directors who refer to evolution," said Joe DeAmicis, vice president for marketing at the California Science Center in Los Angeles and a former director of an IMAX theater. "References to evolution will be dropped."

'Honey, Warm Up the Cloner!'

Scientists Recover Tissue From T. Rex

from Associated Press

WASHINGTON - For more than a century, the study of dinosaurs has been limited to fossilized bones. Now, researchers have recovered 70-million-year-old soft tissue, including what may be blood vessels and cells, from a Tyrannosaurus rex.

If scientists can isolate proteins from the material, they may be able to learn new details of how dinosaurs lived, said lead researcher Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University.

"We're doing a lot of stuff in the lab right now that looks promising," she said in a telephone interview. But, she said, she does not know yet if scientists will be able to isolate dinosaur DNA from the materials.

It was recovered dinosaur DNA — the blueprint for life — that was featured in the fictional recreation of the ancient animals in the book and film Jurassic Park.

The soft tissues were recovered from the thighbone of a T. rex, known as MOR 1125, that was found in a sandstone formation in Montana. The dinosaur was about 18 years old when it died.

The bone was broken when it was removed from the site. Schweitzer and her colleagues then analyzed the material inside the bone.

"The vessels and contents are similar in all respects to blood vessels recovered from ... ostrich bone," they reported in a paper bring published Friday in the journal Science.

Brooks Hanson, a deputy editor of Science, noted that there are few examples of soft tissues, except for leaves or petrified wood, that are preserved as fossils, just as there are few discoveries of insects in amber or humans and mammoths in peat or ice.

Soft tissues are rare in older finds. "That's why in a 70-million-year-old fossil it is so interesting," he said.

John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, said the discovery is "a fantastic specimen," but probably is not unique. Other researchers might find similarly preserved soft tissues if they split open the bones in their collections, said Horner, a co-author of the paper.


Thou Shalt Not Apologize [The Mail Bag]

From: Me
To: Michael [a co-worker]
Date: 01/06/05 09:14AM
Re: Training

Hello Michael...

I understand you need to attend one of the upcoming trainings. Let me know which date works best for you as soon as possible, as classes can fill up quickly.


From: Michael
To: Me
Date: 01/06/05 09:44AM
Re: Training

Hi Darren,

Please put me into the January 18 training.

Thanks, Mike

Work Hard - - Do Your Best - - Keep Your Word
Never get Too Big for Your Britches - - Trust in God - - Have No Fear
and NEVER Forget a Friend.

From: Me
To: Michael [a co-worker]
Date: 01/06/05 09:45AM
Re: Training

Thanks for the quick reply.


From: Me
To: Michael [a co-worker]
Date: 01/06/05 10:32AM
Re: Training

Hello Michael...

I'm compelled to say something about the signature in your emails. Specifically, "Trust in God."

I don't know if it violates any policy, but I think it's inappropriate to include a religious message - however well-intentioned - in an official government email, as not everyone who receives it will share your specific religious beliefs.

If you are Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, Satanist, agnostic, atheist, or have any religion or belief system other than a Judeo-Christian one, your signature can be exclusionary, even slightly offensive. Although I totally understand the good intentions behind it, it still seems inappropriate.

I fall into one of those categories, and your email made me uncomfortable. It's easy to forget that not everyone shares your religious beliefs, and that an official government email may not be the appropriate forum to express them. Imagine if you received an email from a government employee that included "Trust in Buddha," "Trust in Yourself - There Is No God," "Trust in Satan," or "Trust in the Great Mother," how would it make you feel? Would you say something to that person?

I asked another coworker - who is Catholic - what she thought, and she said it even made her uncomfortable, and she encouraged me to say something if it bothered me. So here I am.

I just wanted to let you know. I'm not writing this out of anger or trying to be confrontational, but I just wanted you to know how that signature made me feel, and how it may make others feel who don't share your religious beliefs.


From: Michael
To: Me
Date: 01/06/05 10:34AM
Re: Training

Point taken


Satan Destroys Pet Shop!

'Satan' Said to Appear on Turtle's Shell

from Associated Press

MICHIGANTOWN, Ind. - Could it be... Satan? A central Indiana pet shop owner says a turtle that was the only animal to survive an October fire has developed an image of Satan's face on its shell.

Bryan Dora says it looks like the devil wants us to know that he was there.

Dora says he can see a goatee and a pair of pointy horns on the shell of the palm-sized red-eared slider turtle named Lucky.

He says Lucky is healthy and its behavior hasn't changed.

Investigators could not determine the cause of the fire, which destroyed the A-Dora-ble Pet Shop and several other businesses in Frankfort, about 40 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

Dora has produced a DVD of the turtle's story that he plans to auction on the Internet. He will also offer the winning bidder the chance to buy Lucky off-line.


Um, God Can Keep the Vagina...But Thanks.

Arizona State Students Being Preached At

from Queer Day / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The right of free speech came into question at Arizona State yesterday when students argued for the fourth consecutive day with a traveling evangelist. Jed Smock, author of Who Will Rise Up: A Call to Confrontational Evangelism, shared such insights as "a masturbator today is a homosexual tomorrow" and "God has a vagina for every homosexual." Smock also said the only thing Mexicans contribute to society is burritos and Jewish people are only good at making bagels and running banks before advising students against "fornicating outside of marriage, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or doing drugs." For the record, Smock says he found God while taking LSD.

"This validates our First Amendment right to make asses of ourselves," said Tom Monaco, a computer science senior and member of the mock devotee group "Jed-Heads."

Smock said he thought their mock group was "cute."


Neither 'Witch' Nor 'Doctor'...Discuss

Witch-Doctor’s Spell Backfired, Says Transvestite

from The Herald UK

A transvestite who is being prosecuted after winning medals and titles in women's athletics events has blamed a witch-doctor's faulty spell.

A Bulawayo court heard that Samukaliso Sithole, a Zimbabwean who competed in domestic and regional competitions for women, was actually a man. Sithole faces charges of psychological offence, reported the state-run Herald newspaper.

Prosecutors allege Sithole offended the dignity and sexuality of a woman who befriended him, confided in him, and felt comfortable being naked around him, while believing him to be female.

Sithole was identified to her as a man by an acquaintance when he was among a group of women preparing to travel by train to an athletics meeting. Sithole tried to sprint away but was caught, and police supervised a medical exam.

Sithole told the court he was born congenitally deformed. A tribal healer, known in the west as a witchdoctor, gave him "female status" but Sithole said the spell did not work properly because his family did not pay the healer's full fee. The Zimbabwe Athletics Association say he could be stripped of titles and prize money.

The world athletics body no longer conducts gender determination tests, and the Olympic movement ceased these in 1999. The International Olympic Committee legally recognises transsexuals provided hormone therapy ceased at least two years ago.

The 1932 Olympic 100 metres champion, Stella Walsh, was exposed as a man when she died in 1980. Her world records stayed on the books.

The Press sisters, Tamara and Irina, won five Olympic titles for the Soviets, but disappeared after sex tests were introduced.

Richard Raskind, an average male tennis player, became Renee Richards, lost to Virginia Wade, and is now a consultant to Martina Navratilova.

Heidi Kreiger used so many drugs to become European shot champion that she's now a man.

Zdenka Koubkova, a Czech who twice broke the world 800m record in 1934, decided the following year she was a man.

Ewa Klobuskova won European sprint titles in 1966, but later proved to be male.

Transsexual golfer Mianne Bagger, was cleared recently to play in the Women's British Open.


Fundamentalists: Shrek Evil

Anti-Gay Religious Group Targets Shrek 2

from Canadian Press

TORONTO — Uh oh! That other jolly green giant could be in trouble. Shrek 2 is the latest animated film title to be "outed" by Christian fundamentalists in the U.S.

On its website, the Traditional Values Coalition is warning parents about the cross-dressing and transgender themes contained in the hit DreamWorks feature, now on DVD.

"Shrek 2 is billed as harmless entertainment but contains subtle sexual messages," says the coalition, which describes itself as a grassroots inter-denominational lobby with more than 43,000 member churches.

The article then proceeds to describe one of the characters, an "evil" bartender (voiced by Larry King) who is a male-to-female transgender in transition and who expresses a sexual desire for Prince Charming.

In another identified scene, Shrek and Donkey need rescuing from a dungeon by Pinocchio and his nose, which is made to extend as an escape bridge by getting the wooden boy to lie about not wearing women's underwear.

The TVC report, "A Gender Identity Disorder Goes Mainstream," raps DreamWorks for helping to promote crossdressing and transgenderism.

Charles Keil, a film studies professor at the University of Toronto, says the whole idea behind the Shrek movies is a general message of tolerance - that outward appearances don't matter and that it's what's underneath that counts - and such complaints defeat that larger, more important message.

"Targeting minuscule elements within a much larger work and then trying to extract from that some kind of argument that borders on the paranoid is really misconstruing the general aim of this entertainment."

The Shrek accusation follows hot on the heels of other cases of animated characters being accused of infiltrating the minds of America's children with pro-gay messages, much to the detriment of traditional family values.

Recently, PBS was upbraided by the group Focus on the Family - and supported by the U.S. secretary of education no less - for an episode of the cartoon series Postcards From Buster, in which Buster the rabbit encounters a couple of kids with lesbian parents.

Christian activists have also targeted SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney the dinosaur, and Sesame Street's Bert & Ernie as children's characters who are conduits for a soft-on-gays message.

It seems all of this began back in 1999 when Rev. Jerry Falwell described that purse-toting Teletubby, Tinky Winky, as a gay role model.

One wonders how far back critics could go, though, in seeing pro-homosexual context in cartoons. Remember when shotgun-toting hunter Elmer Fudd realized Bugs Bunny was in drag? He was furious, but only because he saw Bugs's cotton tail and learned he was a rabbit in disguise.

Can Science Disprove Zeus? Mermaids? Santa?

Scientists Battle Over Anti-Darwin "Intelligent Design" Theory

from AFP

WASHINGTON - The US science community is embroiled in a caustic fight over the theory that a higher intelligence and not Darwinist evolution is largely responsible for life on Earth.

"Intelligent design," which holds that only an unspecified superior intellect can account for the complexity of life forms, is increasingly appearing in science forums and journals as an alternative to evolution theory.

Evolution has been widely accepted ever since Charles Darwin's Origin of Species revolutionized biological sciences 145 years ago.

But the new theory's support by a handful of biologists and non-scientists has put Darwinists on the defensive, while encouraging conservative Christian groups who consider evolution hostile to Biblical teachings.

Pro-evolutionists brand the new idea an unscientific melange of politics and religion.

"It is at its bottom a Christian religious movement," said Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a leading critic of the intelligent design movement.

But supporters argue that evolutionary theory cannot answer some large questions on how certain life forms developed.

"Science doesn't progress by ignoring something that is staring you in the face," counters Michael Behe, a Lehigh University professor of biochemistry and an intelligent design advocate.

Essentially, intelligent design holds that certain structures found in living things, such as the flagella of bacteria or extra wings on certain fruit flies, cannot be explained by Darwinian concepts of natural selection and random variation.

Behe argues that the complexity of the flagella and various "machines" inside cells could not have evolved from other life forms. Like a mousetrap or a wristwatch, he says, it is evident that these were designed, though by whom he is reticent to say.

Darwinists, who still comprise the large majority of scientists, say that Behe and others are simply appropriating what is yet unknown to conclude that it must be created by a higher intelligence.

The debate has become more rancorous in recent months.

In one incident, biologist Richard Sternberg filed a legal complaint against Washington's Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for branding him a religious fundamentalist and denying him access to facilities, due to his editorial role in the 2003 publication of a scientific paper by intelligent design advocate Stephen Meyer.

While he has neither endorsed nor denied the theory, intelligent design advocates have compared Sternberg to 16th century astronomer Galileo Galilei, branded a heretic for challenging Roman Catholic dogma with his scientific discoveries.

Spearheading the intelligent design movement is the Discovery Institute, a conservative think-tank in Seattle.

Jonathan Wells, a senior Discovery fellow with doctorates in both cell biology and religious studies, said the debate is mainly about the "limits of Darwinism".

Scientists can conclude intelligent design exists through empirical evidence, he said. But defining the "intelligent designer" is "beyond the scope of science," he said.

Wells rejected critics' branding intelligent design as "new creationism," referring to a Bible-based explanation of life.

However, creationists in several states have cited intelligent design in trying to introduce their teachings into public schoolrooms. In November, school officials in Dover, Pennsylvania ordered teachers to include intelligent design in ninth-grade biology courses.

Wells criticized the Dover action, saying: "We are not pushing intelligent design in high school classrooms."

Forrest points out, however, that a 1999 Discovery fund-raising document specifically endorses the conservative Christian agenda.

"Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions," the document reads.

Intelligent design advocates have also been encouraged by a statement made in 1999 by then-Texas governor, now President George W. Bush that he believed that "children ought to be exposed to different theories about how the world started."

Yet in February Bush's science advisor John Marburger reportedly told a group of science journalists that "I don't regard intelligent design as a scientific topic."

Amid growing animosity, both sides agree that proving intelligent design in traditional scientific terms is next to impossible. "Can science show you whether God exists? No," said Wells.

"It is difficult to reconcile science with Christian philosophical questions," said Vittorio Maestro of Natural History magazine. "We aren't going to convince them and they aren't going to convince us."


Love Is Not an Ideological Evil, Asshole

Important Work Being Pope: The Pope blesses breakdancers. Way to stay relevant. Next up: The Pope blesses pet rocks and Olivia Newton-John.

Pope Calls Gay Marriage 'Evil'

from PlanetOut

In his new book, Pope John Paul II describes same-sex marriage as part of "a new ideology of evil" that is insidiously threatening society.

The comparison comes from the pope's fifth book, to be released Tuesday, titled Memory and Identity. It is based on conversations with philosopher friends in 1993 as well as on talks the pope has had with his aides.

In a section about the role of lawmakers, the pope refers to the "pressures" on the European Parliament to permit same-sex marriage: "It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man."

David Smith, vice president of policy for the Human Rights Campaign criticized the pontiff. "Religious leaders should be focused on bringing people together not ripping them apart," he told the PlanetOut Network.

Jewish groups and Germans are also decrying the pope's book. In it, the pope compares abortion to the Holocaust. A leader of Germany's Central Council of Jews called the comparison unacceptable.


Life on Mars?

Exclusive: NASA Researchers Claim Evidence of Present Life on Mars

from Space.com

WASHINGTON - A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting here Sunday that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water.

The scientists, Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, told the group that they have submitted their findings to the journal Nature for publication in May, and their paper currently is being peer reviewed.

What Stoker and Lemke have found, according to several attendees of the private meeting, is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth.

Stoker and other researchers have long theorized that the Martian subsurface could harbor biological organisms that have developed unusual strategies for existing in extreme environments. That suspicion led Stoker and a team of U.S. and Spanish researchers in 2003 to southwestern Spain to search for subsurface life near the Rio Tinto river — so-called because of its reddish tint—the product of iron being dissolved in its highly acidic water.

Stoker told SPACE.com in 2003, weeks before leading the expedition to southwestern Spain, that by studying the very acidic Rio Tinto, she and other scientists hoped to characterize the potential for a chemical bioreactor in the subsurface - an underground microbial ecosystem of sorts that might well control the chemistry of the surface environment.

Making such a discovery at Rio Tinto, Stoker said in 2003, would mean uncovering a new, previously uncharacterized metabolic strategy for living in the subsurface. For that reason, the search for life in the Rio Tinto is a good analog for searching for life on Mars, she said.

Stoker told her private audience Sunday evening that by comparing discoveries made at Rio Tinto with data collected by ground-based telescopes and orbiting spacecraft, including the European Space Agency's Mars Express, she and Lemke have made a very a strong case that life exists below Mars' surface.

Stoker and Lemke's research could lead the search for Martian biology underground, where standing water would help account the curious methane signatures the two have been analyzing.

They are desperate to find out what could be producing the methane, one attendee told Space News. Their answer is drill, drill, drill.

NASA has no firm plans for sending a drill-equipped lander to Mars, but the agency is planning to launch a powerful new rover in 2009 that could help shed additional light on Stoker and Lemke's intriguing findings. Dubbed the Mars Science Laboratory, the nuclear-powered rover will range farther than any of its predecessors and will be carrying an advanced mass spectrometer to sniff out methane with greater sensitivity than any instrument flown to date.


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