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This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows the location with the most impressive known gully activity in Mars' northern hemisphere. / NASA

Scientists are re-thinking how to go about finding life on Mars, per a Scientific American dispatch from a recent conference of astrobiologists, geologists and others.

Key takeaways:

  • Maybe we don't have to find life in water. Here on Earth, there are organisms that can survive without water for years and come back to life when conditions are wetter.
  • We may have to drill into Mars to find evidence of past life. Yesterday, astrobiologists reported finding fossils of primitive microbes on Earth in what is today a hot, dry region of Australia that once had hot springs. Mars could have had the same environment in its past.
  • Microorganisms may have traveled between Mars and Earth on meteorites. Robert Hazen told me yesterday it is entirely plausible that life could have arrived here from Mars but, given the Sun's gravitational pull, it is unlikely it traveled the other direction.

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

5 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.