Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, December 20, 2014

MVNews this week:  Page B:10



Mountain Views-News Saturday, December 20, 2014 


NASA�s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a 
tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, 
in the atmosphere around it and detected other 
organic molecules in a rock-powder sample 
collected by the robotic laboratory�s drill.

 �This temporary increase in methane�sharply 
up and then back down�tells us there must be 
some relatively localized source,� said Sushil 
Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 
a member of the Curiosity rover science team. 
�There are many possible sources, biological or 
non-biological, such as interaction of water and 

 Researchers used Curiosity�s onboard Sample 
Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times 
in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the 
atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 
2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged 
seven parts per billion. Before and after that, 
readings averaged only one-tenth that level.

 Curiosity also detected different Martian 
organic chemicals in powder drilled from a rock 
dubbed Cumberland, the first definitive detection 
of organics in surface materials of Mars. These 
Martian organics could either have formed on 
Mars or been delivered to Mars by meteorites.

 Organic molecules, which contain carbon and 
usually hydrogen, are chemical building blocks of 
life, although they can exist without the presence 
of life. Curiosity�s findings from analyzing samples 
of atmosphere and rock powder do not reveal 
whether Mars has ever harbored living microbes, 
but the findings do shed light on a chemically 
active modern Mars and on favorable conditions 
for life on ancient Mars.

 �This first confirmation of organic carbon 
in a rock on Mars holds much promise,� said 
Curiosity Participating Scientist Roger Summons 
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 
Cambridge. �Organics are important because 
they can tell us about the chemical pathways by 
which they were formed and preserved. In turn, 
this is informative about Earth-Mars differences 
and whether or not particular environments 
represented by Gale Crater sedimentary rocks 
were more or less favorable for accumulation of 
organic materials. The challenge now is to find 
other rocks on Mount Sharp that might have 
different and more extensive inventories of organic 

 Researchers also reported that Curiosity�s taste 
of Martian water, bound into lakebed minerals 
in the Cumberland rock more than three billion 
years ago, indicates the planet lost much of its 
water before that lakebed formed and continued to 
lose large amounts after.

 SAM analyzed hydrogen isotopes from water 
molecules that had been locked inside a rock 
sample for billions of years and were freed when 
SAM heated it, yielding information about the 
history of Martian water. The ratio of a heavier 
hydrogen isotope, deuterium, to the most common 
hydrogen isotope can provide a signature for 
comparison across different stages of a planet�s 

 The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen has changed 
because the lighter hydrogen escapes from the 
upper atmosphere of Mars much more readily 
than heavier deuterium. In order to go back in time 
and see how the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in 
Martian water changed over time, researchers can 
look at the ratio in water in the current atmosphere 
and water trapped in rocks at different times in the 
planet�s history.

 Martian meteorites found on Earth also provide 
some information, but this record has gaps. No 
known Martian meteorites are even close to the 
same age as the rock studied on Mars, which 
formed about 3.9 billion to 4.6 billion years ago, 
according to Curiosity�s measurements.


 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@

CHRISTMAS CHEER By Christopher Nyerges 

Memories of Christmas Season 2008 

 [Excerpted from Christopher�s 
Kindle book, �Til Death Do Us 
Part?�, available from Amazon or 
as a pdf from the Store at www.] 

 In the days after Dolores died, 
I still spent my evenings with 
Nami and Fikret and Nellie (the 
little dog that Dolores boarded), 
cooking dinner, sharing dinner, 
talking over television. Both 
Nami and Fikret were living 
in rooms in the front part of 
the duplex. Nami was from Tokyo, working at a Japanese firm in 
downtown Los Angeles while she earned her CPA license. Fikret was 
a student from Germany who�d be going home in a few days. 

 That December was dark, pressing, my mind a constricted box of 
sorrow and loss. 

 A close friend had earlier suggested to Dolores that she take Nami 
and Fikret to see the annual Griffith Park festival of lights, and 
Dolores had mentioned it to Fikret. I brought it up to Fikret and he 
wanted to go. I think he was more concerned about me getting out 
and �getting normal� than he was about seeing some electric light 
display. Anyway, he arranged with Nami to go one evening after 
Nami got home from work, and I drove. 

 I had never seen the light show either, and though I was in no mood 
for �joy,� I wanted Nami and Fikret to feel happiness, and the joy of 
the American Christmas season that the youth can best appreciate. 

 My mental state was very constrictive, narrow, even subdued 
horror. It was as if I�d been hit in the face with a 2x4, and I could 
not see beyond my shocked pain. But I tried, with great effort, to 
�enjoy� an evening out with Nami and Fikret as best I could. It was 
the weekend after Dolores died. Nami got home early from work, 
and it was already dark. Fikret made a very light meal � more of a 
snack � for everyone before we drove off to Griffith Park in my Jeep. I 
was preoccupied with now living a life turned upside-down, with no 
perception of light at the end of my tunnel. 

 Fikret and Nami were noticeably happy, upbeat, and they seemed 
to be happy to be doing something with me. Fikret had come on a 
few field trips with, but I�d only gone out rarely with Nami. I know 
they were both fully cognizant of my pain and I think they were 
being happy because they wanted me to be happy. To me, the lights 
of Griffith Park were a very minor attraction. 

 As we drove, we spoke about their day, and other light matters. I 
always enjoyed talking with Nami over dinner about what sort of day 
she had at work, and what new English words she learned. We drove 
into the large expansive parking lot east of the Los Angeles Zoo, and 
drove around until we saw where to park for the festival of lights. 
People parked their cars, and then boarded buses which set sail every 
15 minutes or so, or until the buses were full. The three of us were the 
first to enter a bus, so we got the seats we wanted. A few adults filed 
in, and then a whole group of school children came in and filled the 
bus. The driver turned off the lights, and we were off down the two 
miles or so of the electric light display. 

 The children spontaneously sang Christmas carols at the tops 
of their voices. Nami and Fikret tried to follow along: Jingle Bells, 
Rudolph, Silent Night, all the classics. Mostly, the children sang 
enthusiastically and loud with lots of laughter for the first verse until 
the song faded as the children didn�t know the words. After loud 
laughter, another song would begin. 

 I could tell they were all having great fun, though I was barely 
there. I had to shut off most of my painful feelings and emotions 
and turn on only that part of me that was needed for ordinary 
interactions with others. I was glad that there was so much happiness 
in the world, but I was in pain. 

 I was in a darkness of my own, alone, as if I was severely and 
suddenly cut off from all that was important to me. Which was, in 
fact, what happened. After the light show, we returned to the Jeep, 
and I drove on in a stupor. I asked Nami and Fikret if they wanted to 
see more Christmas lights, and they said yes. Christmas Tree Lane 
was impressive, but monotonous to me. Nami and Fikret just said 
�Oohh,� and �Ahhh,� and �Look at those, wow!� I tried to explain 
the history of Christmas Tree Lane, how I grew up just around the 
corner, and I drove by our family home on North Los Robles. 

 I didn�t want to go home quite yet. �Going home� would mean 
that I would go back home alone, would sit there for awhile listening 
to music or watching TV, feeling the full grief of losing Dolores, by 
myself. It meant I would go to sleep with my grief, unable to find 
solace in music or TV. I would turn off the TV and music, and in the 
darkness I would fall into my abyss of sorrow until I awoke the next 
day. No, I didn�t want to go home yet. 

 I told Nami and Fikret that I knew of another Christmas light 
display and we drove across town looking for it. We never found 
it, but they got a tour of East Pasadena and Sierra Madre before we 
stopped for some snacks and finally went home. 

 We then went into the front kitchen when we got home, and 
enjoyed some cookies and coffee. We all laughed together and we 
watched a little bit of a Christmas movie on TV. It was a good evening 
overall, but it would be a long time before I could feel joy again. 

 That was six years ago this December. Life goes on. I learned to 
love again, and I realized that one does not want to �forget,� as we 
often hear. For me, it was a truly unique and special time to assist 
one in their final days. It made me feel the value of each day, of each 
breath, of each moment. 

Saturday, December 20: 9:00 � 10:30am


$20 per workshop/$17 for Arboretum members

(Fee includes Arboretum admission)

To register, please call the Education Office at 626-821-4623

The final month of the year often finds us in a frantic state of shopping, decorating, traveling and other high-energy activity. Yet, 
instead of having fun, we often end up feeling ill, anxious or depressed. The reason, according to Taoist philosophy and traditional 
Chinese medicine, is that the action-packed schedules we keep at this time of year fall out of sync with the earth�s natural cycles. 

This workshop is designed to aid us through the next few weeks, helping us conserve and increase our energy and stay balanced and 
centered. It will be a lovely gift to give yourself!

Based on the ancient practice of Hatha Yoga we will combine asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (healing 
yoga in the hands) and guided meditations chosen to help us flow with ease and grace into the next season.


Dolly Paul

Education Assistant

Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Gardens