Narrator: This is Science Today. Amino acids are organic molecules that form the building blocks of life and they have very distinctive characteristics known as ‘handedness'.
Bada: It's a fancy concept, but basically if you hold your hands in front of you, you'll notice that your one hand is a mirror image of the other and amino acids have exactly that same geometry. So, amino acids can exist in either a left- or right-handed form. Life on Earth, for reasons that we don't totally understand, uses only left-handed amino acids.
Narrator: Jeffrey Bada, a professor of marine chemistry at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography is helping develop a sophisticated instrument that can detect if amino acids found on Mars are left or right-handed.
Bada: People have asked what would be the Eureka moment when you just say, "Yay, we've detected unique Martian life". It would be detecting amino acids that were all right-handed. We've never seen anything like that.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.