Mars used to have a body of water bigger than the Arctic Ocean. What happened to it?
Nicholas St. FleurMar 16 2015, 2:31 PM ET
...a vast body of water larger than the Arctic Ocean graced the surface of Mars some 4.5 billion years ago. The primitive ocean covered 19 percent of the Red Planet’s surface and had a volume of more than 5 million cubic miles, according to a paper published this month in Science. But today almost all of that water is gone. The only evidence that an ocean ever existed there is in the planet's polar ice caps.
So what happened to the ocean on Mars?
“That’s one of the big mysteries,” said Michael Meyer, an astrobiologist and lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. But he and other scientists have theories. One way a planet could lose its ocean is from a meteorite or asteroid strike—one that doesn’t obliterate the planet but instead rips apart its atmosphere. “There’s a saying that ‘comets can giveth and comets can taketh away’—that refers to how comets can give water and life, or take it away,” Meyer said.
But the prevailing theory, he told me, is that solar winds wick away Mars’s water from its atmosphere. The sun constantly blasts charged particles from its hot surface toward its celestial bodies. Some planets, like Earth, are protected from the plasma onslaught because they have a magnetic shield that diverts incoming particles around the planet and to its poles. (This is the mechanism that creates dazzling auroras on Earth.) But Mars, unlike Earth, lost its magnetic field at some point in its history. Without the invisible shield, the planet is susceptible to bombarding solar winds. These same winds, the theory goes, are the ones that split exposed water molecules on the surface of Mars's ocean and knocked them into space—like a cosmic cue ball hitting billiard balls into the side pockets.
Samsung streamed a baby boy's birth to a virtual reality headset worn by his father nearly 2,500 miles away, in what it's calling the first birth ever live-streamed using VR. Samsung set the stream up for a man who, as its ad says, had work that took him out of town during his child's birth, with the intention of giving him something close to the experience of actually being there. Of course, VR is still quite a ways away from that — this is more like a glorified webcam, allowing the headset wearer to turn their head and look around the room. Except, unlike a webcam, there are giant VR goggles over half of his face.
The birth was streamed from one side of Australia to the other, captured by a multisided camera placed in the delivery room. Obviously, it was also all captured by Samsung as part of a promotional campaign for Gear VR, which makes it somewhat less intimate. Yes, it's very Samsung. And yes, a webcam probably makes more sense (it would, after all, let the mother see his entire face in return). But it's hard to argue too much with using tech to bring people closer together — even if this use is debuting as part of an overproduced ad.