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New data about the history of the red planet has been gleaned from the observation of ancient meteorite craters on the surface.
Based on these observations, scientists believe that the Mars has never been particularly warm or wet -- at least not for any extended period of time. Its atmosphere has also always been relatively thin.
The density of the atmosphere has been established by analysing the size of the craters which cover its surface and rely on the fact that the minimum size of impact is related to that density. A thicker atmosphere tends to burn up small meteors before they reach the surface, a thinner atmosphere allows those small rocks to penetrate and create surface-impact craters.
So it's increasingly looking as if Mars has never had any significant life -- but perhaps it could in the future.
I'm having a little trouble working out why NZ has changed so much over the past 50-60 years.Back in the 1960s, NZ had the highest standard of living in the world (or so I'm told).
Our wages were high compared to our cost of living and a robust but not overly generous welfare state meant that there was very little poverty in this country.
It was said that Robert Muldoon new the names of every single person who was unemployed -- because that number could be counted on the fingers of a single hand.
Kiwis didn't demonstrate the outrageous affluence of many US citizens - but then again we didn't have the awful ghettos and numbers of impoverished that America carefully covered up.
Now we find ourselves a long, long way down the ladder when it comes to our standard of living.
Housing is becoming outrageously expensive but wages have not kept up with costs and now many Kiwis are finding it impossible to afford a home of their own.
Despite (or is it because of) the welfare mechanisms we have in place, the gap between rich and poor has widened immensely -- as levels of unemployment continue at levels that were unthinkable just half a century ago.
Kiwis are still working hard and now our nation is riding the cow's back instead of the sheep's -- so why are we in such poor shape?
Is it because we've sold so much of this nation's productive capital to offshore owners? Is that resulting in much of our hard work being repatriated as profit to other countries?
Is it because our banking system is now almost entirely Australian owned -- also resulting in the repatriation of profits away from NZ?
Is it that the Kiwi spirit has been weakened by years of apathy, fostered by successive governments who have seen the opportunity to promote welfare dependence as a method of leveraging power over voters?
I can't answer these questions -- but they are questions that should be answered because unless we can identify the reasons for our decline, we can't address them and turn this once-affluent nation around.
If things keep going the way they are, pretty soon NZ will become very much a nation of haves and have-nots as the richer become richer (and fewer in number) while the poor become even more impoverished (and greater in number). Such stratification does nothing for social harmony and the stresses this produces will undoubtedly lead to rising levels of crime, substance abuse and the other symptoms of a dysfunctional society.
If we keep selling-down the nation's productive assets (as the present government is doing) then even more of hard-working Kiwis' efforts will be sent overseas as profits -- rather than remaining in this country for the benefit of all.
If the Australian banks, aided by politicians and "haves" with large property portfolios are allowed to continue driving up the price of property, our children and their children will largely become tenant serfs, living in rented accommodation and working for foreign bosses.
Can we really allow this to continue?
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