I had to end this week's blogs on a fun note, because many people spotted this story and passed it along. And if you're wondering what the heck "Barsoom" is, it is pulp science fiction author Edgar Rice Burrough's name for the planet Mars. And "'shrooms" are, of course, mushrooms.
Which brings me to the fun story, because there are some scientists saying that there are mushrooms growing on Mars ("pass the Martian mushrooms, please"):
Note the scientists in question, who are wondering why little fungi-looking things seem to have "sprouted" in the tire tracks of the Martian rover, are not credentialed from the sorts of mail-in universities one used to find in matchbooks:
A scientist dubbed the 'Space Tiger King' has claimed that strange 'puffball-like' blobs on Mars are actually mushrooms, despite NASA tests showing that they are merely rocks.
Dr. Rhawn Gabriel Joseph made the claim along with microbiologist Dr Xinli Wei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and astrophysicist Dr Rudolph Schild from Harvard-Smithsonian.
But, for the moment, I'll go with NASA's view: the pictures look both like rocks, and like the type of bulbous mushrooms and toadstools one encounters sprouting in the yard after a heavy rain. But NASA's view is they cannot be fungi, for some solid reasons:
'The images that are being posted are from the Opportunity rover, which discovered mineral spherules that were nicknamed 'blueberries' based on their size and shape. Scientists didn't rely solely on visual information to identify them; they used instruments on the rover to measure chemical and mineral information within these spheurles, confirming they were in fact minerals that formed in the presence of water.
'The blueberries are one of the best-known discoveries of the Opportunity mission, something countless Mars scientists from around the world would be familiar with and have studied the data for.
'The authors ignore other data that easily disprove their claims; for example, many features claimed to be biological are known to typical martian rocks, sand, dust, and ice that change in appearance due to weather, lighting, or rover interactions. Other features superficially resemble fungi but actually are commonly observed, abiotic features in rocks that occur from geochemical changes or by erosion from wind.'
Ok, for once, I can go with that. They're rocks, even though I still have a nagging little question about how rocks can sprout more rocks in a few days, and do so with remarkable regularity, but perhaps I'm unaware of some deus ex chemical-geological process known only to the wizards at NASA. So, for me, they're rocks, except they behave sorta like mushrooms.
But, as I said, this is a "fun" blog, so let's have some fun and do a bit of high octane speculation. Let's assume some of NASA's rocks aren't rocks, and are "Barsoom 'shrooms". Let's also assume all that other strange stuff that people (like me) see in those Mars pictures really is strange stuff and not just a mass psychosis example of pareidolia. Let's assume all that strange stuff really is debris from a very old civilization there. If so, then they had to eat something, and maybe the delicacy of the day was Barsoom 'shrooms. Now let's make one final assumption: that whoever was there may have come here. Now spores from fungi are remarkably resilient sneaky things. They can "tag along" and pop up in some unusual locations (like where there's water.... hmmmm....). So I have to wonder if some of our terrestrial 'shrooms might actually be Barsoom 'shrooms.
We might show up on Mars some day, and find that some of the rocks really were mushrooms, and we might even discover they may be related to, or of the same species as, their terrestrial counterparts.
All that is to say that I can see why there's a few scientists that can look at those pictures, and the sudden appearance of the rocks, and conclude that they're Barsoom 'shrooms.
See you on the flip side...