The Odds June 2004

Life on Mars

More

In March, NASA scientists reported that the rover Opportunity had uncovered evidence that there was once water on Mars—significantly upping the chances that life, too, once existed on the Red Planet. In response, the London bookmaker Ladbrokes halted its decades-old practice of accepting wagers on whether evidence of Martian life would be discovered. A look back at how the Mars "action" has shifted.

1,000 to one Early 1960s: a London bookmaker accepts the £10 bet of one David Threlfall that man will walk on the Moon before the end of the decade. When Neil Armstrong does so, on July 20, 1969, Threlfall collects £10,000. Shortly after the Moon walk bookmakers begin taking wagers on the discovery of past Martian life.

50 to one August 7, 1996: NASA scientists announce that a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica contains traces of what appear to be cellular fossils. The evidence is inconclusive. Nevertheless, Ladbrokes cuts the odds.

33 to one September 30, 1998: Betting increases as the Mars Global Surveyor descends to a closer orbit of the Red Planet, with the expectation of more-detailed data. Ladbrokes cuts the odds.

25 to one December 23, 2003: After heavy betting anticipating the touchdown of the Beagle 2, the Mars Express lander, Ladbrokes cuts the odds. The Beagle 2 is lost, but the odds remain unchanged.

16 to one January 15, 2004: Ladbrokes becomes worried about its exposure on the Mars bets and cuts the odds.

Bets off March 3, 2004: The day after NASA announces that the Opportunity has found evidence that Mars was once "soaking wet," Ladbrokes stops taking bets.

Marshall Poe is an Atlantic staff researcher.
Jump to comments
Presented by

 Marshall Poe is a writer and historian. He is the editor in chief of the New Books Network.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

What makes a story great? The storytellers behind House of CardsThis American LifeThe Moth, and more reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In