A team of US and UK scientists have invented a portable scanner that may be useful in the hunt for life on Mars. And it sounds a whole lot like a Star Trek tricorder: it uses a beam of ultraviolet laser light and detects fluorescence from organic molecules, so it works remotely and doesn't damage samples. Under simulated-Mars conditions, they've used it to detect polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (found on comets, thought to be building-blocks of life) in masses as small as 1.5 micrograms. Plus they think the tech could be adapted to be rugged and fitted onto a future Mars rover. Just wait for the handheld version, and for an astronaut to start going "widdlywee..." as they stomp around Mars. [Eurekalert via IO9]
"...it uses a beam of ultraviolet laser light and detects fluorescence from organic molecules, so it works remotely and doesn't damage samples."
Unless the samples are harmed by ultraviolet light. This could be detrimental to the vampire population of Mars.