Absolutely I think we can :)

Here’s the issue with Mars:

  • Temperature: Martian day averages to approximately 186K (-87 ˚C), and Martian night is approximately 268K (-5˚C), both of which is below the freezing point of water, and thus all water on Mars exists in solid form. It would be difficult to find anything to drink—need energy to melt the ice. Also, there would be no lakes/rivers/oceans to drive the water cycle. No water for plants and animals. Worst of all, no coffee!!
  • Atmosphere: Mars has a very tenuous atmosphere. It would be difficult to breathe because of the difference in pressure (again, we are used to approx. 1atm. Mars has about 6 x 10-3 atm).  Also, it’s mainly composed of CO2, although too thin to provide a substantial greenhouse effect, it’s still at a high enough percentage for carbon dioxide poisoning for humans. 
  • Weather: Tidal heating can lead to a dynamic cycle of CO2 sublimation/condensation. This can lead to high wind speeds, which would not be good for structural engineering, or aerospace engineering. Also, prevalent dust storms can lead to issues with…dust getting everywhere…visibility…etc. Dust storms can also change the albedo, though that might not affect human habitability as it would have by directly affecting the surface inhabitants. 
  • Nitrogen: There’s missing nitrogen in the Martian atmosphere. The nitrogen gas is an important component of the Earth atmosphere. While this might not be a huge deal, the nitrogen cycle itself is crucial to Earth life forms. Plants and bacteria are in an extremely intimate relationship via nitrogen cycling (ammonia to nitrates back to ammonia, etc). This would make it difficult for plant life to exist on Mars. If there’s nitrogen fixing bacteria around, theoretically, it can recycle the nitrates that we *think* is locked up in Martian regolith, and provide nutrients to plant/animals. Nitrogen is a crucial element for life (DNA, protein, etc). 
  • Radiation: Because of its tenuous atmosphere, and negligible (or non-existent?) magnetic field, Mars does not have a steady protection from the Sun’s radiation. So the surface is constantly bombarded with UV, cosmic rays, crazy electromagnetic waves etc. Humans wouldn’t be able to withstand this high amount of a radiation—we don’t have the biological capacity to reverse such damage (some bacteria might). 
  • Geology: Mars has a super thick lithosphere, no tectonic plates, and has many inactive (big) volcanoes. This inactive geology would make habitability difficult because there would be no movements of plates, thus no water, thus no ocean (it’s too cold anyway), thus no water cycle. Also because it’s so small, Mars may have already lost most/all of its heat. Regardless of how much energy we can pump into the system to make it warm/habitable, it’s going to become a frozen world one day, completely unable to warm up enough using solely internal heat. But this would take a very very long time, so it might not be a huge issue with temporary terraformation. 

Here is how to solve it:

  • Temperature & Atmosphere: If we pump up the heat a *little* bit (no, actually, a lot—but a little bit on a thermodynamic scale), we might be able to unlock the subsurface water that is buried underneath Martian regolith as ice. Something like this can be solved by increasing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, to drive up the effective temperature. Pumping CO2 would require possibly jump starting a volcano (how on Earth can that even be done??—not a pun). A more plausible idea is to build power plants all over the planet (as have suggested by Chris McKay from NASA). Or simply by seeding the planet with respiring life that uses inorganic molecules to utilize energy and produce CO2. Early microbial life forms do this (before the evolution of cyanobacteria/photosynthesis). Those microbes were methanogens, sulfur-loving, and can probably also metabolize nitrates. 
  • Weather: Dust storms can be mitigated by living in closed quarters. 
  • Radiation: The problem with UV radiation (and lack of magnetic field) can probably be solved by producing artificial magnetic field. This kind of engineering can only applied to small area, not globally. Again, it’s almost impossible to jump start the solid core again, therefore such an issue can only be tackled on a small scale. 
  • Geology: Mars would have a similar problem as Venus. While there might be enough water on the surface, there’s no convection in the mantle to drive tectonic plates. So while its geology might be change momentarily (lasting maybe about a billion years), it would be difficult to keep it stable as the planet loses more and more heat.  
  • Ethics!!: If there is no Martian life, yes, we should terraform it (although we could never be sure—ack, science!). If there is Martian life, we must do everything we can to preserve it—not necessarily protect it, but at the very least observe/study it without directly affecting it like we have done so for many other endangered species on Earth. 

This is copied verbatim from one of my homeworks from my astronomy class last semester, The Science and Fiction of Planetary Systems

The actual problem with terrafoming Mars is MONEY. Who will pay for what, and which nation should get what piece of land– It’s all politics that I’m not willing to discuss. 

But we will get there. I absolutely believe it. We will get there. 


Dedicating this blog’s 1000th post to Carl, my biggest inspiration. He was the one who taught me that science is a balancing act between wonder and skepticism. It is an elegant language that unites all intelligent beings. He was the one who taught me that within this incomprehensibly vast universe, we are all connected.

So here’s to you Carl–Hey There, Universe, a love letter to the cosmos, via the binary strings of 1’s and 0’s, words and jpegs, and all the musings in between. 

“A still more glorious dawn awaits.”


This Week’s Book Recommendation | Contact by Carl Sagan

Amazon’s review: “In December, 1999, a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who – or what – is out there? In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he predicts its future – and our own.”

My review: “What would you imagine our first time making contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence be like? What would we say? How would we approach them? What is it about humans that make us so curious as to what really is out there? This book was nothing short of the most humbling adventure, across space, time and humanity—it felt profound. It was like Carl put us into this kaleidoscopic view of the universe and made us question who we truly are.”

Only $5.78 with free 2-day shipping!

Here’s the 1997 movie depiction of the book on DVD, which was GREAT, though I would recommend reading the book first. 

[To get Amazon Prime, join now as an Amazon Student (all you need is a .edu email) and get one year of FREE 2-day shipping!]


In theoretical physics, the fourth dimension is referred to “spacetime”—the fabric of space with the arrow of time incorporated into the geometry of the universe. I don’t think in this case it’s something that can be physically visualized.

I did a little digging though and found that in mathematics, the fourth dimension refers to an additional vector in coordinate geometry (Euclidean space). Humans are slightly capable of “observing” the fourth dimension, but it’s very ephemeral, and it’s entirely dependent on the length of objects, angle between and line segment. Here’s a paper on the spatial intuition in virtual reality.

I’m not sure about Euclidean principles, but in particle physics, the 5th dimension refers to the unification of gravity and electromagnetism. As to whether it not it allows us to “see through” things,  I really highly doubt it. Here’s stuff on higher dimensions.



This Week’s Book Recommendation | A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Amazon’s Review:  "One of the world’s most beloved writers and bestselling author of One Summer takes his ultimate journey—into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.“

My Review: "From the Big Bang to life, from the earth to the heavens, from the night sky to what’s beyond– A Short History of Nearly Everything takes you on a vast journey of scientific discovery, starting from the very history of mankind itself to the interwoven path of scientific discourse– the search for truth and what it took for us to reach the understanding of the world around us today. It’s funny, and humble, and delightful, and expressive for people of all ages, expertise, or experience.”

Only $10.90 on Amazon!

[Join Amazon Prime now as an Amazon Student (all you need is a .edu email) and get one year of FREE 2-day shipping!]


This is an incredibly strange question. Hmm. The notion that the human body is a depiction of the universe is right—on a grander scale, humans are essentially a collection of atoms that are part of the universe and have manifested into beings with consciousness (this is a whole other study in itself—neuroscience, cognition, etc, etc). 

The thing about “cures” for the human body is different though. We get sick because our biological order has to fight the entropy of the universe. No matter what sentient life forms exist, the battle is always with the idea that energy becomes more disorganized. In our world, on the Earth that we live in, the human-centric, carbon-based, four-limbed chimpanzees that we are, death is inscribed as soon as we are born. Here are some pre-determined factors from the top of my head: free radicals, reactive chemistry, cancer, telomeres, and infections—these are the reasons why we age and get sick. It’s a physical problem.

But I don’t think we can look to the universe as a way of discovering cures. The universe has no business aligning itself with the human culture. We think that because we are a part of it that it has a responsibility or an answer to our growing problems. But we aren’t perfect creatures, nor do we have the privilege to be. We are just the lucky result of atomic configurations. There’s always give and takes, much like for a reaction, there’s always an opposite and equal reaction—if we want to live in a disordered universe, we must succumb to its reality.

The point is, we must look at ourselves to discover the cure for ourselves. The universe is there for us to ponder upon, to ask about our beginnings, and to find the transcendental truths or physical laws that may explain our thirst for knowledge. Sicknesses and disease is a separate thing. It’s a byproduct of reactions. And in order to combat it, we have to look at the reactions itself. 

Hello! Yes, yes, definitely agree, mirrors are very Interesting. Here’s how they work:

When a ray of light travels and hits a surface, it bounces off in certain ways. (There is a law that dictates the type of behavior—that is called the law of reflection). You have angle of incidence and angle of reflection, which is basically saying that light itself is invisible until it bounces off something and hits your eye. When that happens, we detect the scattered light. This is called diffuse reflection

The conventional mirrors that we use everyday is made up of a thin sheet of glass with a coat spray of aluminum, which is the reflecting material (from what I understand, its inherent properties do not absorb *much* light—and it is not “white” because it’s not chemically energetic). Okay, a mirror reflection is called specular reflection, which is when light comes from a single direction and the ray is reflected into a single outgoing direction (the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection). When this happens , the light proprogates the image but changes the orientation. 

Also! I found out that some of the light is actually absorbed by the material, but it doesn’t necessarily affect the reflection. It’s all dependent on the material behind the surface. (thicker glass might render different, larger image). 

Aluminum reflects approximately ~90% of visible light. [Source]

Here is Richard Feynman on mirrors. I absolutely loved this explanation!

Source: Law of reflection


My dear followers, I just wanted to share some exciting news with you!

I have been accepted to graduate school in Chicago! After much debating, I’ve decided to take this offer even though I still have 2 other schools to hear back from.

At the present moment, I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences, with (I hope) a focus on Geomicrobiology and Paleoenvironments . What’s cool is the type of research I will be involved in, as my professor is an organic geochemist who works with extreme microbial life using an organic chemistry approach, as well as changes in the environment due to the domination of ancient bacteria in Early Earth.

All this, of course, has applications to life in the universe. I’m hoping this road will lead me eventually to a project that tackles astrobiology directly, especially in search of microbial life in our neighborhood planets. Perhaps not during grad school, but maybe after :) –pending that NASA decides to up its game in space exploration, hehe.

I’m so freaking EXCITED. There’s quite a bit of traveling involved as we would have to do sample collection–so I’m looking at possible expeditions to Antarctica, mid-Atlantic Ocean voyages, and many hikes/trips to our backyard mountain ranges, caves, hot springs. 

I mean, what better way to spend your early twenties than doing science in the most exotic places in the world?

I can only thank the many people who have supported me throughout the years. Topping the list, of course, my parents. My boss/mentor of my undergrad research at the FDA. And then the endless encouragements from friends and scientific peers. I will be mentioning all of them in my Ph.D. thesis.

And you guys! For sharing the same love I have for science and wonder.