Monday, August 10, 2015

Errr...No, That's Not A Real Woman Photographed By Curiosity on Mars

Image as released by NASA

Close up image - with  Mars "woman" circled.

It appears some crannies of social media and the internet have recently erupted with images purported to be of a human (or "alien") female, standing on a flat rock on the Martian surface  - as captured by the Mars Curiosity Rover, e.g.

The skinny is that the image shows a real living entity. But here is where skepticism must come to the fore, because first, no actual living being is going to be able to survive on Mars without space suits for more than a second. There is no breathable atmosphere - mostly CO2- plus the temperatures are absolutely frigid from minus fifty to minus 100 F.  Then there is the scale of the image. Is that really a being only a few inches high? Well, if so I guess you're going to tell me fairies and Leprechauns exist on our planet too.

Look, the human brain has the remarkable propensity to see patterns and objects where none really exist. Look at how the ancients put together all manner of creatures from the constellations. Here's a large bear (Ursa Major), then a small bear (Ursa Minor), there's a hunter (Orion) and even a scorpion (Scorpio).

The point is these creatures and objects didn't really exist in the sky, the brains of the ancients "filled in the gaps" between stars to connect them.  Indeed, in many cases the stars weren't even close to each other and only seemed so in the line of sight. In some cases the "connecting" star was hundreds of light years farther away.

One sees the same brain tendency when people observe clouds. Stare at them long enough and all kinds of cloud patterns become visible - you can see butterflies, giant fish, pitchers of beer or basically whatever you want to see. That's how your brain is made. Blame your 'creator' if you like, I blame evolution. (See the book, “Faces in the Clouds” for how humans project imagery because of a basic brain wiring defect in the frontal cortex) )

Mars' images have caused consternation before as with the 'face on Mars' that was observed in the region called Cydonia decades ago e.g.
Image result for face on mars wiki
Years later (1998) the Mars Global Surveyor went over the area and actually got detailed photographs using laser altimetry - and Voila!  With much higher resolution for a 3km x 3km area, No more "face", e.g.

Simply a geological formation whose shadows  and tricks of sunlight on it  earlier fooled people into seeing a "face" - when it was viewed with far less optical resolution by the Mars Viking probe.

The moral of the story in all things to do with space, is don't always believe your eyes  - or brain - they can and will play tricks on you!

See also:

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