Fungi on Mars? Aaaargh!!

Prepare yourself for the shock of your life, dear reader. We found this news in the Daily Express, a British tabloid. Their headline is ‘There is life on Mars’ Bizarre study claims alien mushrooms are growing on the Red Planet, and they have an active comments feature. Here are some excerpts from the news, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

The search for life on Mars has been fruitless so far but a group of fringe ET researchers [Fringe? Really?] believe they have found the holy grail. According to a study published in the journal Advances in Microbiology, the Red Planet is teeming with alien life [Gasp!], although not the kind people might expect. Rather than little green men running around the barren, rusty-brown planet, the newly-published paper claims to have found evidence of lichen, mushrooms and other kinds of fungi on Mars.

Then they say:

The bizarre claim [Bizarre?] is based on a number of images taken at the planet’s surface as well as from orbit by the various rovers and probes studying Mars. What scientists at NASA have identified as rocks, the study claims are alien puffballs, possibly seeded on Mars through cosmic interactions with Earth. The researchers also claim to have witnessed mushrooms growing in real-time, comparing NASA pics taken many sols (Martian days) apart.

This is big news. Those alien fungi could be getting ready to invade the Earth! The tabloid tells us:

In one such case, a photo snapped on sol 1145 [Whatever that is!] appears to show nine “spherical and semi-spherical specimens” jutting out of the ground in the planet’s Meridiani Planum region. [So what?] A photo snapped just three days later shows an additional 12 objects appearing seemingly out of the blue. [Aaaargh!!] Could this be evidence of alien life? Or could it be wind sweeping away the soil and revealing more of the rocks?

Why take chances? Nuke ’em! Do it now! The tabloid continues:

In other cases, the researchers compared NASA pics of the “Martian specimens” to puffballs here on Earth, confidently stating these are very much the real deal. The researchers wrote in their study: “It is well-established that a variety of terrestrial organisms survive Mars-like conditions. Given the likelihood Earth has been seeding Mars with life and life has been repeatedly transferred between worlds, it would be surprising if there was no life on Mars.

Jeepers, they’re right! And even if there’s doubt, why take any chances? But for some reason — perhaps to avoid panic — the tabloid then provides opinions that are hostile to what we’ve already discussed. For example:

Among the study’s authors is Dr Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, a neurobiologist known for being involved with the pseudo journal Journal of Cosmology – a title that has attracted controversy in the past. In 2014, Dr Josephb [sic] filed a lawsuit against NASA, claiming the US space agency has failed to properly investigate evidence of alien life on Mars. He staked his claim against a picture of a Martian rock that somewhat resembled a doughnut that had been stepped on.

So what? He could be right this time! But the tabloid goes on and on, tearing into his reputation. They haven’t convinced your Curmudgeon. We say that it’s absurd to take chances. If there’s life on Mars — or anywhere else — we should regard it as hostile and act accordingly! Anyone who disagrees is nothing but an alien lover!

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

10 responses to “Fungi on Mars? Aaaargh!!

  1. Oh dear! As soon as I saw the claim, I knew which newspaper it must have come from.

    But the scientific paper it refers to is real! And states that ‘Sequences document that thousands of black arctic “araneiforms” grow up to 300 meters in the Spring and disappear by Winter’ WTF?

  2. Dave Luckett

    Lichen can grow on exposed rocks in Antarctica. It might manage Mars conditions. So, unless it’s actually impossible, it’s another way of saying, “It could happen”, which is in turn another way of saying “It happened, given enough event space”. Because Murphy’s Law.

    So I’ll give this one a big “maybe”.

  3. No. the paper claims actual observations;it’s bollocks. I suspect the journal is a predatory vanity press one with a sciency title

  4. PZ Myers had a complete takedown of this article last week at Pharyngula . “Marshrooms and araneiforms, oh my: the ongoing absurdity of Rhawn Joseph”.

  5. What is a sol?? A sol is one day on Mars, 24hrs. 36min. Earth’s rotation is 23hrs. 56min.

  6. A sidereal day is the measure of the rotation wrt the stars. A solar day is wrt to the Sun. Thus in one orbit of the Sun there is one more sidereal day than the number of solar days. The difference on Earth is about 1/365 day or 4 minutes. A sidereal day on Earth is about 23 hours 56 minutes. A sidereal day on Mars is about 24 hours 37 minutes. A solar day on Mars is about 24 hours 40 minutes. A “sol” is a Martian solar day, the average time from local noon to the next local noon.

  7. Theodore J Lawry

    “out of the blue?” Mars sky is red, except near the sun!

  8. The journal’s publisher, Scientific Research Publishing, is dodgy in the extreme: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Research_Publishing

  9. @Hrafn, I’d suspected something of the kind. There is a real problem of predatory pseudojournals offering open access and free subscriptions, using seemingly convincing journal titles, uncritically accepting papers that are either pure garbage, or very low quality science, and financed by contributions from authors, something that legitimate journals also sometimes levy.

  10. Nothing new here. With its spore drive, Star Trek’s Discovery uses the mycelial network in space to travel immense distances in short times. Science fiction comes true again!