Office Hours: Sidney Perkowitz and Life on Mars

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There’s a reason why the term martian became synonymous with creatures from outer space—and it predates Matt Damon by more than a century, although he makes it look pretty good. Of all Earth’s neighbors in the solar system, Mars seems the most likely to support life as we know it.

Sidney Perkowitz, Emory professor emeritus of physics and author of the book Hollywood Science, among others, explores this notion in an essay published in October in the online journal the Conversation. “How Close Are We to Actually Becoming Martians?” notes the collective and long-held fascination with life on the red planet, steadily fueled by sci-fi books and movies, from 1898’s The War of the Worlds to The Martian—in theaters now.

But recent discoveries by real-life NASA scientists, says Perkowitz, indicate that “the science and the fiction around missions to Mars are rapidly converging.” He goes on to illuminate a few pros and cons for anyone considering a visit to the next planet over from the sun.—P.P.P.

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