The first thought: Oh, here we are again.
The “Mushroom on Mars and Fungus on Venus” theory is a shabby, debunked idea, about once a year, like a clockwork. The headlines are certainly interesting: imagine if we found fungus on Mars or Venus! It will literally rewrite our view of life in the universe-but these articles rarely ask for scientific evidence about wild claims.
Part of me wanted to make it slide down, because in some cases, any publicity is actually good publicity, but this is a bad science, and some websites use the words “Scientists have found evidence that fungi grow on Mars.” “The title of the article is wrong, but it is not the case.
So let’s kick off the curtain and explain what really happened (again!)
Space Tiger King
At the center of these weird statements, or sometimes just on the side, is a man named Rhawn Gabriel Joseph.
According to his web page “brainmind.com”, Joseph was a late neuroscientist who made significant contributions to the field of neuroplasticity in the 1970s. Joseph (Joseph) has published statements about life on other planets on his website and the pseudo-scientific journals he manages for more than a decade.
His claims sometimes enter the major leagues and spread to the press, but in most cases, they have not yet entered legal scientific journals and have not been censored by other experts in space science.
It wasn’t until 2019 that Joseph’s ideas really entered the major leagues. In November of that year, Joseph entered the “Astrophysical and Space Science” magazine after peer review and received a paper. In June last year, I published an article about Joseph and these claims, which eventually led to the journal’s withdrawal of Joseph’s article, and pointed out: “This article lacked sufficient critical evaluation of the materials provided and the literature cited. Can provide a solid basis for speculative statements. They believe that the conclusions of the article invalidate the conclusions reached.”
But on Wednesday, Joseph’s claims made it into another journal called Advances in Microbiology.
According to a report in “Nature” magazine, “Progress in Microbiology” is a relatively obscure journal published by “Science Publishing”. “Science Publishing” is headquartered in China. It was previously attracted by republishing scientific papers. It is accused of being a predatory publisher, charging scientists for publication in its journals without checking the quality of submitted papers.
The new paper, titled “Fungi on Mars? Evidence from the growth and behavior of sequential images,” available on ResearchGate, uses inaccurate methods to re-summarize some ancient ideas about life on Mars. In most cases, Joseph and his co-authors used images obtained by NASA’s rover and drew red lines and arrows to point out features they thought corresponded to fungal growth.
“The claim that mushrooms germinate on the entire Mars is an extraordinary statement. It requires better evidence than the known cranks to analyze the photographic morphology. The crank claims on the basis of the same analysis that he is already on Mars. I saw the skull area,” says Paul Myers, a developmental biologist at the University of Minnesota Morris, who has been following Joseph’s work in the past.
An experiment conducted by the author is to analyze the size and movement of the “spherical specimen” in the paper. It usually quotes Joseph’s previous work as evidence of its conclusions. The research team believes that if there is no life on Mars, it would be “surprising”-but this is not true. We have a lot of data to show that the condition of Mars is not conducive to life as we know it. Can fungi circumvent these conditions? Maybe, but the evidence is insufficient.
After receiving an alert about the new paper on Wednesday, I sent an email to the associate editor of Advances in Microbiology, asking for clarification on the peer review process. They have not yet responded to a request for comment.
I also emailed members of the editorial board listed on the SCIRP website, including Jian Jian, a microbiologist at Monash University in Australia. He said that he has not been on the editorial board of the journal for at least five to six years, nor has he dealt with any papers in the journal.
One of the biggest problems in publishing Joseph’s claims is getting bad science into public view.
The pandemic shows us that misinformation can be harmful, weakening confidence in science, researchers, and research institutions. We have seen time and time again how erroneous reports spread, which were then used to imply that scientists were backtracking on previous claims. To be clear, there is no backflip here. Most scientists believe that the conditions on the surface of Mars are not suitable for fungi to thrive.
Brendan Burns, an astrobiologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: “All the available evidence suggests that the surface of Mars is not pleasant.”
When publications uncritically promote the unscientific “Mushroom on Mars” theory, it can cause damage to scientists like Burns and organizations that try to disrupt science like NASA..
If we were to find life elsewhere in the solar system, it would not first appear in the journal Advances in Microbiology. Readers should be skeptical of any fungal claims they see, especially those issued by a group of scientists.
Moreover, I am very happy to make a mistake here. If it turns out that this is a fungus on Mars, I will be the first person to say “we are stuffed”.
I hope NASA’s perseverance roamer, May be able to find the first signs of life that once existed on the red planet. The mobile station to be delivered in China, , Can also help understand whether Mars contains extraterrestrial life forms. We will have to wait and see.