Marshrooms and araneiforms, oh my: the ongoing absurdity of Rhawn Joseph

Rhawn Joseph is back. Two years ago, I posted a comprehensive list of my engagements with that fraud, so if you want, you can review it there. There’s a lot. It’s all very silly. I even made a video about his claim to have found Marshrooms. Last year, I made a post about his latest publication, in which I wrote, “Let’s hope this is the end of Joseph and Wickramasinghe.” Hah! Right.

Here, in May of 2021, he has again published a Martian mushroom paper titled Fungi on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior From Sequential Images in the journal Advances in Microbiology. It’s 63 pages long! Of course, most of it is photos cribbed from NASA that are blown up and processed to make his imaginary point. To quote some legitimate scientists:

Michael Brown, an astronomer at Monash University in Australia, said “there’s some pretty horrible over-interpretation of blurry photos,” while Gretchen Benedix, a geophysicist at Curtin University in Australia, noted “increasing image sizes to investigate the objects of interest does not change the resolution of the image and therefore does not give better analysis of the objects of interest.”

Rocco Mancinelli, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Astrobiology, called the science and logic “completely flawed,” and said he would recommend it be rejected for publication.

Yet various versions of this garbage hypothesis were and are being published. Here’s the abstract for Rhawn Joseph’s latest:

Fungi thrive in radiation intense environments. Sequential photos document that fungus-like Martian specimens emerge from the soil and increase in size, including those resembling puffballs (Basidiomycota). After obliteration of spherical specimens by the rover wheels, new sphericals-some with stalks-appeared atop the crests of old tracks. Sequences document that thousands of black arctic “araneiforms” grow up to 300 meters in the Spring and disappear by Winter; a pattern repeated each Spring and which may represent massive colonies of black fungi, mould, lichens, algae, methanogens and sulfur reducing species. Black fungi-bacteria-like specimens also appeared atop the rovers. In a series of photographs over three days (Sols) white amorphous specimens within a crevice changed shape and location then disappeared. White protoplasmic-mycelium-like-tendrils with fruiting-body-like appendages form networks upon and above the surface; or increase in mass as documented by sequential photographs. Hundreds of dimpled donut-shaped “mushroom-like” formations approximately 1mm in size are adjacent or attached to these mycelium-like complexes. Additional sequences document that white amorphous masses beneath rock-shelters increase in mass, number, or disappear and that similar white-fungus-like specimens appeared inside an open rover compartment. Comparative statistical analysis of a sample of 9 spherical specimens believed to be fungal “puffballs” photographed on Sol 1145 and 12 specimens that emerged from beneath the soil on Sol 1148 confirmed the nine grew significantly closer together as their diameters expanded and some showed evidence of movement. Cluster analysis and a paired sample ‘t’ test indicates a statistically significant size increase in the average size ratio over all comparisons between and within groups (P = 0.011). Statistical comparisons indicates that arctic “araneiforms” significantly increased in length in parallel following an initial growth spurt. Although similarities in morphology are not proof of life, growth, movement, and changes in shape and location constitute behavior and support the hypothesis there is life on Mars.

I admit, I perked up at the mention of araneiforms — that’s spider-like shapes. It’s not about spiders on Mars, darn it, it’s about these complex dendritic shapes that appear and disappear on the Martian landscape. Joseph wants to claim that that is evidence of fungal life, based on over-interpretation of photos from Mars rovers. It’s not. No one is denying that there are ongoing changes on Mars — seasonal variations, windstorms, erosion, shifting dunes, all that sort of geological stuff. The question is whether it is caused by biology, and so far, the answer is it is not. There are better explanations for the araneiforms, for instance: The formation of araneiforms by carbon dioxide venting and vigorous sublimation dynamics under martian atmospheric pressure.

The local redistribution of granular material by sublimation of the southern seasonal CO2 ice deposit is one of the most active surface shaping processes on Mars today. This unique geomorphic mechanism is hypothesised to be the cause of the dendritic, branching, spider-like araneiform terrain and associated fans and spots—features which are native to Mars and have no Earth analogues. However, there is a paucity of empirical data to test the validity of this hypothesis. Additionally, it is unclear whether some araneiform patterns began as radial and then grew outward, or whether troughs connected at mutual centres over time. Here we present the results of a suite of laboratory experiments undertaken to investigate if the interaction between a sublimating CO2 ice overburden containing central vents and a porous, mobile regolith will mobilise grains from beneath the ice in the form of a plume to generate araneiform patterns. We quantify the branching and area of the dendritic features that form. We provide the first observations of plume activity via CO2 sublimation and consequent erosion to form araneiform features. We show that CO2 sublimation can be a highly efficient agent of sediment transport under present day Martian atmospheric pressure and that morphometry is governed by the Shields parameter.

You’ve got a thin atmosphere where the repeated freezing and sublimation of carbon dioxide is a major factor, and you want to claim that mushrooms are thriving to the point that they spring up overnight in the tracks of Mars rovers? OK, pull the other one, guy.

By the way, Joseph still touts his affiliation as being with, his vanity website where he publishes articles about the Quantum Physics of Time Travel and the consciousness of the universe. That’s the fake journal I trashed, which he then put up for sale for $100,000. If you check it out now, he’s selling it for $50,000. I’m waiting for the price to get down around $1.98, and then I’ll snap it up.

Or…hey, Rhawn, I’ll take the responsibility off your hands right now, no charge, and keep the site up as a historical curiosity, with maybe just a little front-page editorial commentary. You know it’s an embarrassment, just dragging you down, pass it on to someone who’ll keep it alive a little longer.


  1. Bernard Bumner says

    A “Scientific Research Publishing” journal. Ergo, it must be Science! QED.

    It really doesn’t matter that this is inconsistent with all of the other available data. Nor that it has apparently been overlooked by every expert in the field and the space agency with a massive vested interest in demonstrating life on Mars.

    Anyone in doubt of the quality of the journal and the publication can check right down to the references: poorly formatted; often containing partial and incorrect, contradictory information; nearly 20% of indeterminate year or predating the 1990s. Of the 53 later than 2010 in date, 15% are self-references.

    Citing “Studies of Independence and Conformity: I. A Minority of One Against a Unanimous Majority” from 1956 and “Effects of group pressure on modification and distortion of judgments” just doesn’t seem very relevant to putative Martian mycobiology. The latter is cited twice, apparently published in 1951 and 52 (it was published in 1951). Opinions and Social Pressure, 1955 gets cited. (It is almost as though they found a review on peer group pressure from the 60s and used that to crib primary citation information, neglecting 60 years of social science in the process.)

    And I really want to know why “Electrical stimulation of partial limb regeneration in mammals” from 1972 is relevant. Or do I?

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Somebody- I think it was at Ed Brayton’s blog- mentioned kooks who think the establishment pedophiles have set up sites om Mars where they keep children.
    If you pass this on Rhawn Joseph and get him to look for signs of the illuminati operating a hidden space program the new iteration of his website might get much more entertaining.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    About things with sciency-sounding names:
    The conservative Family Research Center has absolutely nothing to say about convicted pedophile Josh Duggar having worked for them.

  4. blf says

    @2, No, NASA is not hiding kidnapped children on Mars (July 2017):

    We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride, Robert David Steele said Thursday during a winding, conspiratorial dialogue with [Infowars’ Alex] Jones about child victims of sex crimes. So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.

    […] Steele appeared to connect the kidnapped children being held captive on Mars to pedophile rings who allegedly use children for their youthful body parts and energy.

    Pedophilia does not stop with sodomizing children, Steele said. It goes straight into terrorizing them to adrenalize their blood and then murdering them. It also includes murdering them so that they can have their bone marrow harvested as well as body parts.

    This is the original growth hormone, Jones said.

    Yes, it’s an anti-aging thing, Steele replied.

    Killing children for their blood, etc., is a dog whistlefoghorn for the antisemitic blood libel.

    More about that Steele kook at Encyclopædia of American Loons (January 2020):

    Steele is currently Chief Enabling Officer of the Earth Intelligence Network and CEO of Open Source Everything. His insights have appeared for instance on the globalresearch webpage, including his article The Soft Coup Collapses — CIA Bluffing, Russia Did Not Hack, Blackmail Revealed — What Next? about the alleged deep-state conspiracy against President [sic] Trump, presumably because Trump’s tireless work against Zionist child abuse on Mars is a threat to their machinations.

    His entry makes clear he’s an antisemitic, so the blood libel foghorn is not a surprise.

  5. opposablethumbs says

    Despite the built-in advantage of actually existing, Rhawn Joseph is still clearly far less of an authority on the subject than Ziggy Stardust.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    I just read an egregious piece of shit written by Joseph, called “The Myth of the Big Bang“.

    It’s chock full of bullshit and gobsmacking misunderstanding of physics, but a couple of things stood out. He claims Lemaître’s expanding universe theory has not been borne out by observation, and that Einstein never accepted it. Einstein certainly dismissed it on first sight (on aesthetic grounds, basically), but recognized its value within a couple of years. If Joseph has read anything about the history of cosmology, he must be lying.

    That anyone takes this horrible little man seriously is dumbfounding.

  7. unclefrogy says

    I think the thing about this guy and the many others who dream up these farcical ideas from basically smudges and ignorance and resemblances, is how small it makes everything (the cosmos) and short as well. there certainty of knowledge of the “truth” It resembles the madness people are said to experience when they first look into “the infinite perspective vortex” and run away screaming “that it is not real i know the truth!!!!”
    uncle frogy

  8. blf says

    @4, Apologies, I just noticed my borked link to the Encyclopædia of American Loons for Robert Steele. He’s the kook asserting there are pedophiles & child-killers on Mars.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    P Z Myers @7 “Patriarchy Research Council”
    To be specific, it should be “Gilead Research Council”.

  10. PaulBC says

    A credulous Popular Mechanics “Scientists Believe …” headline about this appeared on my phone and I finally saw a picture. Aren’t these just the Mars “blueberries” that showed up all over the place when Spirt and Opportunity landed in 2004? Those were identified as hematite, definitely of mineral origin. Are these something else or does the popular press have no memory whatsoever? I guess there could be other types of spherical rocks.

  11. brucegee1962 says

    Yeah, I saw this a few days ago in my newsfeed from some no-name “science” rag and thought “If we do ever find out about life on Mars or another planet, the news will be coming straight from NASA itself — not some guy staring at photographs and publishing in some journal nobody’s ever heard of.”