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.

Why does CNN pay Rick Santorum to appear in the news?

The “liberal” news media <snort>. Watch this and try not to throw anything heavy across the room.

There it is. There’s the great American myth. We are a nation that coalesced out of nothingness around two ideas: FREEDOM (for white landowners) and CHRISTIANITY (oh, judeo-Christianity) and the Ten Commandments and Jesus, despite none of those appearing in our constitution. Meanwhile, the people who were already living here were just sitting around slack-jawed and drooling, not a single thought in their heads, no art, no culture, no religion, no technology, no music, no traditions, so it was OK to slaughter them. It’s one grand smug lie, repeated over and over, and the rich white people sit there and lap it up.

The fact that that slimy fraud hasn’t been canceled and has in fact been prospering is all the evidence you need that cancel culture does not exist.

It gives me some slight satisfaction that I lived at a time in Pennsylvania when I could vainly vote against that horrible human being.

Hey, everyone! The creationists are over there now!

The creationists never, or rarely, show up on the blog anymore because they know they’ll all get dogpiled with refutations here — good work, gang. The new bottom of the internet which sucks down all the worst slime is YouTube, so if you want some real grade-A primo fine examples of the dumbest humanity has to offer, just trawl through YouTube comments. I haven’t made a new YouTube video in weeks, but the rancidity still keeps oozing out. Examples:

If only we knew the trugt about moon landings, communism, and the flat earth, and weren’t being paid off by “satanic bankers”…

This guy has a Masters degree in chemistry! Therefore he knows that evolution can’t work.

Yeah, I sometimes wind them up. They’re desperate for attention.

Who is Max Hodak?

And why does he say such stupid things?

To answer the first question: he’s a guy with a bachelor’s degree in engineering who developed some software to help colleges find “identify the next generation of high performers” which got bought up by some bigger company, making him relatively rich. Then he hooked up with Elon Musk (Warning! Danger!) to move to Silicon Valley and run Neuralink, despite having no qualifications in biology or neuroscience. He’s a wealthy techbro who has been promoted way above what his competence and experience should allow.

Wait, I think I just answered my second question, too.

New question: why does anyone pay any attention to him? Like me right now for instance?

Because he’s one of the new generation of hucksters whose sole claim to fame is grossly exaggerated promises, and also it helps that he’s associated himself with the crown prince of hucksterdom, Elon Musk. That gets him write-ups in the press, and then we all have to rebut his nonsense, which makes him more of a sensation, which leads to more press, where he gets to spew more nonsense. I don’t know how to get out of this cycle.

I don’t think Twitter helps, either. It enables these bozos to make quick blipverts to promote their idiocy even more. Hodak’s latest was to make this claim:

The co-founder of Elon Musk’s company Neuralink tweeted on Saturday that the startup has the technological advances and savvy to create its own “Jurassic Park.”

“We could probably build Jurassic Park if we wanted to,” Max Hodak tweeted Saturday. “Wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs but [shrugging emoji]. maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get super exotic novel species.”

Pure clickbaity bullshit. No they couldn’t, nor would anyone want them to. Hodak doesn’t even have the expertise to make such a claim, but that’s not going to stop a huckster!

We’re not even close to achieving such a thing, and Musk’s or Hodak’s company doesn’t have the tools to even start. It’s complete, arrogant hype.

Let’s break it down into a simpler problem. Let’s say tigers go extinct (unfortunately, it could happen in our lifetime). Super-rich uber-capitalist gets the fever and decides he’s going to reconstruct the species using “breeding + engineering” to modify house cats, and he gives himself 15 years to do it before his attention span flits off to something equally silly. Can they do it?

No. Maybe someday, but not in 15 years, and that’s a case where we have complete genomic information. Just to mention one obstacle, tigers have a generation time of 8 years. Even assuming the first couple of generations have breeding times of a year, like a housecat, that gives you virtually no time to work out the bugs in your production model. But worse, we don’t have any idea what all the genes that differentiate a housecat from a tiger are! We’re going to need a few decades of work to figure that out, which admittedly, would be an interesting research program, but doing it with the goal of making a tiger would be unproductive, especially given that we don’t seem to be able to keep the existing tiger population alive.

And that’s the easy problem, compared to resurrecting dinosaurs. The only templates we have for the dinosaur genome have been extensively modified by over 70 million years of drift and selection, and we don’t know what genes were lost or gained, or what their role in the complex outcome of “dinosaur” might be. It would be lovely to find out, but it’s not the accomplished fact Hodak thinks it is.

Also, “Jurassic Park” is fiction, based on a bad novel written by a hack writer of thrillers. I read it when it first came out, as an undergrad who was waffling between an oceanography and biology major, and it’s one of the first novels I recall ripping up and throwing in the trash because the science was so bad. It’s kind of a shame that it got rescued by CGI and movies.

As for the Neuralink connection, which I’ve written about a couple of times, that’s also bad science. The plan is to build a brain-machine interface, so you can just think at a computer and have your brilliance manifest in code, or control a fighter plane even faster. Here, though, is their great accomplishment:

Launched in 2017, Neuralink works on creating brain-computer interfaces with the hopes to one day help those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, paralysis and spinal cord injuries, among others.

In August 2020, Musk debuted Gertrude, a pig that Neuralink had implanted a small computer chip in its brain. The chip was planted near the part of the brain that controls its snout, so as Gertrude ate, a computer showed waves and spikes being emitted from the chip, monitoring Gertrude’s neural response.

Uh, right. My first year in grad school we repeated a classic experiment, placing hook electrodes on a cricket’s cercal nerve, and recording the pattern of “waves and spikes” as the insect processed sensory information. It was cool — you could see differences when you touched or moved the cerci, or with blowing on them from different directions, and this is just more of the same, only they’ve got it on a chip rather than the boxy little pre-amps and clumsy oscilloscopes we used. Congratulations. They’re catching up with JZ Young, who was doing recordings of neural activity 70 years ago.

One other difference: Young and that generation of neurophysiologists were working on organisms acutely — the animals were dead after the experiment was over. Are you willing to have a chip inserted in your motor cortex so you can play video games better?

The most biting sentence in the article is this one.

Hodak didn’t further explain what technology Neuralink could use to engineer the long-extinct dinosaurs.

Exactly. Hodak is talking out of ignorance, nothing more. Don’t listen to him.

We live on Stupid World

I never got the appeal of that Jeopardy game show. The questions were mostly shallow trivia — you didn’t have to be particularly smart to answer most of them, and the gimmick of having to answer in the form of a question was the most superficial of contrivances, leading to tortured language in generating both the answers and the questions. I was unimpressed, the few times I saw it.

The game host died a while back, so they’ve added a new level of gimmickry: guest hosts! And who do they pick?

“Dr.” Oz. That quack.

To their credit, maybe, past contestants have petitioned the show’s producers to not do that, because Oz is just a bad human being. It might also be because they’ve been under the illusion that appearing on Jeopardy meant you were a clever dick, and this decision might actually expose the scam.

In other news about the decline of intellectual life in the world, Jordan Peterson and Elon Musk have been twittering back and forth about appearing on a podcast together to massage each others’ egos. I’m cringing already. Never forget, this is what Peterson thought was worth publishing in his book, Maps of Meaning.

Fine. You had a weird dream, Peterson. What kind of narcissist thinks that constitutes an academic discussion, let alone that it has “meaning”? People actually think Jordan Peterson is a brilliant guy!

OAN discovers that science is international!

Shock. Horror. The Chinese have been infiltrating and colonizing US scientific research programs!

Concern has continued to grow over China’s infiltration of American virus research labs after recent reports highlighted three Chinese military scientists trained by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who arrived at U.S. universities and research institutions in the late 90s only to later become involved in the COVID-19 saga.

They don’t say who is “concerned”, but this is the most trivial news. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with Chinese students, British students, Canadian scientists, German scientists, French scientists, Spanish scientists, Chilean scientists, Indian scientists… That’s the way it works. We don’t care about your borders. I’ve also had American colleagues who studied in the UK, the EU, Russia, where ever (I don’t know any who studied in China — the language barrier is a major obstacle, I think). Are we horrified if, for instance, someone studied infectious disease in Toronto and then takes a position at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center? Would that be an example of colonizing Canada to steal their precious medical expertise? It is, I guess, but there’s nothing nefarious about it. It’s routine.

On part of this, many believe China has colonized U.S. virus research programs. Important to mention is these programs are funded by the U.S. government or in other words — the U.S. taxpayer. There’s very little these U.S. virology programs do that China isn’t aware of and for many that’s a threat far too large to be ignored any longer.

Yes. We shouldn’t ignore it. We should encourage more of it. The free exchange of ideas assists the progress of science.

I have to note, though, that they use an evasive construct again: many believe. Who? It’s a sign of bad journalism when the writer plays this game. Name your sources, guy. I’m sure “many” would agree that we’ve trained many Chinese scientists (and scientists of many nationalities), but few would call that “colonization” or think it was a problem. China has a cadre of US-trained virologists? Yes, please. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re experiencing a pandemic, more will occur in the future, and we need more virologists.

Of course, OAN has an agenda. Wouldn’t you know it, they’re trying to suggest that COVID-19 is the product of hostile Chinese military research.

One Chinese whistleblower claimed COVID-19 originated in laboratories overseen by China’s PLA by using bat coronaviruses ZC-45 and ZXC-21, which were then characterized and genetically engineered under the supervision of the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing and the Research Institute for Medicine of the PLA Nanjing Military Command.

As of now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to confirm the origin of the virus. However, efforts to investigate have largely been obstructed.

Research into the origins of the virus has not been obstructed, unless by obstructed they mean that it fails to support the usual conspiracy theories. SARS-CoV-2 is not remarkably artificial at all — it is closely related to bat viruses, there is no discernable obstacle to their natural origin, and no evidence that they were manipulated in a lab. Novel variants have been popping up all over the place — do they think Chinese scientists around the world are tweaking the virus? (I shouldn’t say that, they might think that.)

Also, the Chinese military must be remarkably incompetent to have released their deadly engineered virus in China and disrupted their own economy, first.

Naomi Wolf’s brain worms have to reach the brain stem soon

As you should know, Naomi Wolf, former Clinton advisor, is now on the COVID denialism bandwagon. She has gotten worse. Much worse. She has come out with a video denouncing the COVID-19 vaccine as a nanotechnology upload that can be manipulated by developers. Mind control! Tracking! Who knows what nefarious schemes these people are up to.

Note: I have not seen the video. It’s banned everywhere because she’s spreading gross medical misinformation. She has talked about it on Twitter, though, and affirmed that she really wrote this.

You know, I read the Moderna website and the sources in my video about how the mRNA is not actually a vaccine but a software platform. I actually work with developers who create software so I understand how dangerous it is to have a tech in one’s body that can receive ‘uploads’.

Here’s a link directly to it, if you can’t believe she would say something so stupid. Oh, yeah, she works with software developers so she knows this is possible. She’s also the CEO of a data tech company so she has inside info on Apple’s time travel technology.

Untrue. ‘Time Travel’ as noted in my much-banned video, is an Apple product. A self-described Apple employee reported a product unveiled at a secret Apple product demo that used ‘Time Travel’ in a medical nanoparticle delivery technology. I am CEO of a data tech company so…

Oh boy. Time travel. That’ll be one killer app.

As a branding exercise, though, Wolf has some potent kool-aid. She’s got a fog of science denialists cheerleading everything she writes, and she got invited on the Tucker Carlson show. That’s peak internet famous, right? Getting to promote your nonsense on Tucker Carlson?

She’s so full of herself that now she has offered to join the Republican team in South Dakota.

I’ve been a lifelong Dem, Clinton/ Gore team advisor. I don’t agree w/many GOP positions. But basic liberty is being destroyed by Biden/Harris. If you run for Pres., restore freedoms, I’ll do all I can to mobilize support. Heck, I’d join your team if asked.

Please, please, please do.

Remember Milo Yiannopoulos?

Boy, that guy plummeted from far right wing darling to persona non grata fast. Now he has been banned from Parler, the “free speech” website, or more accurately, the “free speech for fascists and racists” site. You’d think he’d fit right in there.

He had taken to declaring that he was going to publicly post Ben Shapiro’s phone number, in the name of free speech, and then he started suggesting that he’d give a $500 bounty to people who murdered immigrants.

Fabulous. Soon I’ll never ever have to hear about Milo again.

I don’t find this BS soothing, either

I’m up at 4:30, and I don’t even have the excuse of going fishing. I’m just a jangly ball of stress right now, and also, we’ve got the bathroom taps open a little to prevent freezing, so all night long it’s drip-drip-trickle-gurgle, and it gets to you after a while. So I gave up trying to sleep and got up to get some work done and check my email.

Oh boy, the Noah’s Ark/DNA guy sent me more email about his “theory”.

On Rosh
Dear PZ Meyers,

A few weeks ago, I sent you a copy of my theory on human genetics and Noah’s Ark. Today, I am sending you a second part to my theory that gives special attention to the Scythian Horse Riders that I believe descend from Rosh the son of Benjamin. The theory will only take a few minutes of your time and could dramatically alter your view of the world. Next week, I plan on uploading my theory to youtube and I hope that it will get a lot of views.

This is what he sent me.

Sorry, I’m not going to bother uploading the “figures”, which seem to be random images extracted from various publications. This is not a theory. This is a guy plucking something out of Bin A, the Bible, and something out of Bin B, various scientific publications he barely understands, and declaring “Ha ha! They fit!” even if they don’t.

My view of the world continues on unaltered, my idea that there are a lot of loons out there sadly unperturbed. Confirmed, even.

He might actually succeed and get a lot of views on YouTube, since the YouTube algorithm is undiscriminating, except in the sense it seems good at launching talentless hacks into bewildering heights of popularity.

Yeah, I’ve told the Noah’s Ark/DNA guy to go away and stop sending me his lunacy, but another property of the deeply delusional is that they can’t imagine you wouldn’t be interested in their ravings.