No two weeks' worth of blog scheduling, especially when we've been having fun exploring the bizarre developments in science and technology that we have the previous week, would be complete without talking about that strange rock on Mars that in one picture taken by NASA, wasn't there, and then, later, suddenly was there. Indeed, so many of you sent me various versions of this story that not to talk about it would be a kind of error of omission.
I won't even bother trying to summarize this strange story, since the following article does that more than adequately. It does, however, remind me of the line of Shakespeare, which if I may be permitted a slight adjustment, that 'there are more things than are dreamt of in our cosmology." In this case, the "more things" are that rock that wasn't there in one NASA picture taken by the Mars rover Opportunity, and then, a little later, was there:
As the article makes clear, even Never A Straight Answer(NASA) is saying this "rock" looks like a jelly doughnut, which raises the question of just what did Krispy Kreme know, and when did it know it(and when did the Martian franchise open?)
Now when I first heard about this story, the first thing that crossed my mind was a similar episode, a few years back, when a Martian rover had suddenly and inexplicably just "died." Never A Straight Answer told the rest of the world that its solar panels had become so laden with Martian dust that it simply ran out of electrical power, and the little robot had died. Requiascet in pace. But then the little rover inexplicably sprang back into life(so we were told), as its solar panels were suddenly clear of dust. The problem here was, if I recall correctly, that there was no Martian wind storm to blow the dust off, and in any case, even if there was one of those periodical Martian wind storms, it would have blown as much dust back on to the panels as it blew off. Which left the Windex Hypothesis, namely, that some Marvin the Martian had very obligingly cleaned our solar panels for us so we could continue to explore his (uninhabited) planet. A hypothesis about as believable as the dust storm explanation.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Never A Straight Answer simply concocted the "it died of dust" story so they could go roaming about the Martian surface snapping pictures secretly.
This brings is back to the jelly doughnut rock and Krispy Kreme's Incredible Martian Adventure.
Now, I love jelly doughnuts in general and Krispy Kreme's doughnuts in particular, but I'm not travelling all the way to Mars for one, and I doubt NASA did, or is, either, which brings up my personal difficulties with this whole story.
We are faced with three basic logical possibilities:
- The rock wasn't really there at all, and Never A Straight Answer and the National Reconnaissance Office photoshopped the picture and put a rock in it, having a bit of social-engineering psyop fun at everyone else's expense, and frankly, given their track record, I personally wouldn't put anything past them, but here, my intuition says otherwise, for reasons I'll get to presently;
- The rock really wasn't there and someone outside of NASA photoshopped the picture;
- The rock wasn't really there, and then really was.
Now, when one reads the various versions of the story, it seems apparent that the NASA scientists were as surprised and, reading between the lines a bit, perplexed, as everyone else. It's the why of that perplexity that's important, for they are faced with the last two alternatives: either someone was playing with them(Alternative Two), or, much more significantly, the rock wasn't there, and then it was(Alternative Three, and forgive the pun)...
... and although I can think of a thousand quasi-scientific waffles to explain it (I would not want to be the PhD appearing before the cameras to "explain" the rock by whatever official waffle was selected as the "nothing to see here, move along folks" government explanation), in the final analysis it comes down to a simple though breathtaking proposition: someone put it there (See the Windex Hypothesis).
It's when one contemplates the implications of "someone put it there" that one sees the real source of the perplexity, for that someone perforce has to be either (1) someone else from Planet Earth, and thus to that extent we're looking at some evidence of someone's "secret space program," or (2) someone from somewhere else than Planet Earth placed the rock there, thus reassuring us that they have a bit of a sense of humor.
In my mind's eye, I see that calm scientist with big innocent owl-like eyes, calmly pivoting his head back and forth and blinking slowly like an owl at the assembled press corps, calmly explaining to us that the rock wasn't calmly put there by anyone, not even by another country's secret and unannounced but very calm Martian robot rover, and that current calm thinking is that the jelly doughnut rock may simply have calmly tumbled onto the scene because of "hitherto unknown Martian geophysical activity" or that it was an exceptionally light jelly doughnut, and calmly blew there on some errant but calm Martian breeze, or there's always the calming possibility that the whole thing may be some prankster's innocent and utterly calming practical joke of a rock calmly photoshopped into a picture...
Remain calm everyone, and calmly move along, there's nothing to see here...
It's either that, or the roosters are crowing.
See you on the flip side.