If we ever find life on another planet, it will probably be the biggest news of the millennium and you would expect it to be published in a highly prestigious journal like nature or science.
So, when a study claims that mushrooms growing on Mars appear in a vague and basically stupid publication, you don’t have to be a bit skeptical. Earlier this week, a printout of a new study was published online, bearing the headline Raising Eyebrows on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior from Secular Images Unfortunately, this is the reason why the paper was published in Advances in Microbiology, which is part of the Scientific Research Publications (SCIRP) portfolio. SCIRP has a history of stealing articles from other journals, given that it is very difficult to take any of its content seriously.
The research itself captures the scope and curiosity of NASA’s analysis of images taken by rovers, which have been observing the Red Planet in addition to images taken by the Reconnaissance Orbiter on Mars. Using red circles and arrows to highlight specific features, the study authors showed a number of structural structures that also show a small bit like a puffball mushroom. The authors write, “Fungi thrive in the intense environment of radiation.” “Secular photos document that the fungus-like Martian specimens grow out of the soil and increase in size, resembling puffballs.
They claim that after some of the images were destroyed by rover wheels, some of the mushrooms spread again and “black fungus-bacterial-like specimens” began to grow even in rovers. The paper noted that the number of white spots in a particular area had increased over a few days, suggesting that this could only be explained by the growth of new mushrooms. However, the authors acknowledge that “similarities in morphology are not evidence of life,” and that “mineral, weather, and unknown geological forces” may explain the characteristics of the images.
Naturally, we cannot completely deny the existence of mushrooms on Mars – yet the authors have a track history of making unsubstantiated claims, which makes their new research particularly hard to believe. In particular, the involvement of Rhawn Gabriel Joseph undermines the credibility of the whole project. Nicknamed the Space Tiger King – because of the photographs posted on his apparently ridiculous personal website – Joseph has falsely claimed for decades that life has already been discovered on other planets. In the 1970s, he began to complain that NASA’s Viking Lander had discovered organic matter, so the agency said the exact opposite.