How nanowires and bacteria can create organic compounds on Mars. Just add water.

If humans ever hope to colonize Mars, the settlers will need to manufacture on-planet a huge range of organic compounds, from fuels to drugs, that are too expensive to ship from Earth.

University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) chemists have a plan for that.

For the past eight years, the researchers have been working on a hybrid system combining bacteria and nanowires that can capture the energy of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into building blocks for organic molecules. Nanowires are thin silicon wires about one-hundredth the width of a human hair, used as electronic components, and also as sensors and solar cells.

“On Mars, about 96% of the atmosphere is CO2. Basically, all you need is these silicon semiconductor nanowires to take in the solar energy and pass it on to these bugs to do the chemistry for you,” said project leader Peidong Yang, professor of chemistry and the S. K. and Angela Chan Distinguished Chair in Energy at UC Berkeley....

Read the rest of the piece on Berkeley News.

[H/t Alberto Gaitán]

Image: UC Berkeley image by Peidong Yang Read the rest

First city on Mars? No thanks

I have never taken the idea of large-scale colonization of Mars very seriously, at least not for the foreseeable future. Nothing about these two videos changes my mind.

When thinking about colonization, we often focus on the fact that Mars is pretty much hellbent on killing organics. But what about Lord of the Flies-like tribes of humans turning on each other in a desperate fight for resources or via the phantasms in their heads as settlers go loco from the deprivation and isolation?

I'm with Bill Nye. Exploration? Yes! Settlement? Hell no.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

The Porch of Doom: a Halloween haunt that sends visitors to a billionaires' Mars where they are expected to do all the dirty work

Pete Tridish and pals made a hell of a Hallowe'en haunt this year: on their "porch of doom," trick-or-treaters were sent to a Mars colonized by billionaires where they were expected to mine Mars rocks and put them in Amazon Mars boxes at a sweatshop Amazon Mars warehouse; Pete notes that the haunt was partly inspired by my 2011 young adult novella Martian Chronicles, which was recently podcast in two parts by the excellent Escape Pod podcast! Read the rest