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    This Man Is Suing NASA For Ignoring a Jelly Donut-Shaped Rock He Thinks Is Life on Mars

    Written by

    Ben Richmond

    Contributing Editor

    The jelly doughnut-shaped rock (right), and the same spot 12 days earlier (left). Image: NASA

    In that cheerful NASA way, the space agency announced that the Opportunity rover had gotten a picture of a pretty weird rock on Mars—shaped like a jelly donut, replete with a red center, and what’s strangest, it seemed to appear out of nowhere. Pictures of the same spot taken 12 days earlier, pictured on the left above, didn’t have a jelly donut-shaped rock (JDSR).

    Though they didn’t know where it had come from, NASA guess that the rover had kicked it up somehow, or less likely, it was some space detritus that had landed there during that 12-day gap. Not only was it mysteriously moved, but NASA also noted that the JDSR was oddly composed: It’s high in sulfur and magnesium, and has twice as much manganese as anything they've ever seen on Mars, reported the Los Angeles Times .

    All very cool, very exciting stuff, as far as rover discoveries go, right? Well, it got NASA sued.

    On Monday Dr. Rhawn Gabriel Joseph filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the US District Court Northern District of California in order “to compel and order the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its Chief Administrator Charles Bolden, to perform a public, scientific, and statutory duty which is to closely photograph and thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism which was identified (and thus discovered) by [Joseph].”

    Joseph’s petition alleges that NASA is being careless and ignoring what seems obvious to Joseph: The JDSR didn’t move to that spot, it germinated and grew there, because it isn’t a JDSR at all; it’s a Martian relative of the mushroom-like fungus Apothecium, “a composite organism consisting of colonies of lichen and cyanobacteria.” He explains his theory on the theoretical science site Cosmology.

    According to Joseph, “NASA’s explanation is bizarre, absurd, ignorant, and little more than magical thinking,” so he wants the judge to order the space agency to take 100 high-resolution photos of the JDSR and 24 microscopic in-focus images of its exterior.

    Should NASA be listening to Joseph? He is a doctor after all—he has a Ph.D. in neurology.

    Now—not that this is proof of anything—but the degree situation fits Joseph into a certain archetype of pseudoscientist. Just as the dubious aquatic ape theory of human evolution was started by a whale and plankton expert, and a medical doctor-psychiatrist popularized a now-almost-completely ignored theory that Venus was ejected from Jupiter and passed by Earth causing the events of the Old Testament , Joseph’s doctorate doesn’t have much to do with what he’s talking about.

    He also doesn't relate much to the larger world of astrobiology, publishing just in the online journal Cosmology. In fact Joseph appeared in their very first journal. This is another warning flag. 

    He does have a larger and extremely varied publishing history on his website, Brainmind.com. There’s a lot of his neuroscience work cited and available there, but there’s also his work on Nazis, on sexuality (“The human female is the sexiest female on the planet...willing, and capable of having sexual intercourse regardless of season, ovulation, and at all times throughout year”) and anti-Darwinian theories of evolution. The biography talks about how "although he has certainly had his wild times, chasing women and carousing late at night, Joseph lives the life of a scholar and scientist who sometimes runs with the wolves," which I appreciate for its candidness more than anything. What the website seems to lack is any contact information; which thwarted my efforts to talk to him (if you know how to get ahold of him, let me know; I owe him a call). The pages of his site also seem to be on a timer that redirects my browser to his Amazon page while I’m in the middle of reading.

    Joseph also has a large body of documentaries on YouTube, explaining his history of Atlantis and life on the Moon.

     

    So, there’s no question that Joseph is driven and prolific. Does this mean that NASA needs to grant him “the authority to act as an observer at the rover command facility to insure that the Court’s orders are carried out in good faith, and ... the authority to appoint two NASA astrobiologists to the rover team” as his petition suggests?

    He claimed in his petition that NASA is downplaying the discovery of life on Mars as “a purposeful attempt to deceive the public and scientific community so that administrators at NASA can continue gutting planetary exploration programs and diverting funds to private corporate interests without opposition.”

    Given that the JDSR was revealed—and highlighted—by NASA itself, it doesn’t really seem like they’re trying to hide much. Given that NASA and its administrators are paid by those public funds, it doesn’t really seem like they have much reason to divert funds to private corporate interests.

    People working on the mission openly dispute where the rock came from and how it got there but one thing they're not disputing is that it’s a rock. Still, Joseph does raise a point: what's the harm in a second look?

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