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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, October 26, 2014

7 Possible Explanations for the Strange Objects on Mars

There has been a very strange series of unusual things found in photographs taken by unmanned robots on the planet Mars. One object recently noticed on this NASA data page is the “traffic light” structure shown below (which almost seems to have been placed on a smoothed surface to make it more noticeable):

Mars traffic light
 Image Credit: NASA
Then on this NASA page there was the Mars object resembling a femur bone:

Mars femur bone
  Image Credit: NASA
Then there was the Mars object resembling a small statue of a human:

Mars statue
Image Credit: NASA

This photo is cropped from a spot on the bottom left corner of the very large image here.

Then there was the Mars photo showing what looked like a perfect sphere:

 Image Credit: NASA

There were also two consecutive days on which a Mars rover showed a mysterious light on the horizon. Skeptics claimed that both were caused by cosmic rays that coincidentally appeared near the horizon, although a calculation suggests that the chance of this happening on two consecutive days is something like 1 in a million.

More recently, there was a NASA photo of what has been called a “Celtic cross,” although it can be more properly described as just being an “X” within a circle. The photo is below:

Mars Celtic cross
 Image Credit: NASA

Skeptics have tried to debunk this photo by claiming that it is a screw imprint from the APXS instrument on the Opportunity rover that took this picture. My previous blog post refutes this hypothesis. As I explain in that post, according to the NASA activity log for the Opportunity rover that took this picture, the APXS instrument was not used at the site where this photo was taken until the night after the photo was taken. That means this strange “X within a circle” cannot be explained as a screw imprint.

So we seem to have some anomalous observations on the planet Mars. It is time to look at what “out of the box” explanations might help to explain such unusual sightings. When considering such possibilities, we should consider a very wide spectrum of possibilities. Below are some of the possible things that might be causing some of these strange observations.

Possibility 1: Coincidences

This is the simplest explanation, although it seems to stretch credulity. For example, while it may not be too implausible to imagine that an X shape would coincidentally appear on Mars due to a random arrangement of matter, and while it may not be too implausible to imagine that somewhere else a circle shape would coincidentally appear on Mars due to a random arrangement of matter, it seems very implausible that an X shape would coincidentally appear within a circle shape only slightly larger, due to a random arrangement of matter (as shown in the “Celtic cross” photo above).

Possibility 2: Remnants of an Ancient Civilization That Naturally Arose on Mars

It could be that some of the things we are seeing on Mars are remnants of an ancient civilization that naturally arose there. This possibility is rather farfetched, but not totally unthinkable. We know that billions of years ago Mars was a lot more earth-like than it is now, and scientists think that it might well once have had flowing water. But scientists think that if flowing water existed on Mars, it only existed during a small fraction of the planet's history. For most of the past 4.5 billion years, Mars has apparently been very arid. Judging from the history of evolution on Earth, there would not have been time for intelligent life to have evolved on Mars during the time when there was lots of water around.

But it is just barely possible that life could have got a foothold on Mars billions of years ago, and then life could have moved underground as conditions on the surface gradually worsened. It could be that for billions of years life has been evolving underground on Mars, where there may be more water (along with shielding from cosmic rays). Just possibly, intelligent life and a civilization may have developed. Subterranean creatures on Mars might occasionally journey to the surface of the planet, just as earthly scuba divers occasionally visit the bottom of the sea. They might occasionally leave some junk behind, just as earthly scuba divers sometimes discard things at the bottom of the sea.

Possibility 3: Remnants of an Extrasolar Civilization That Colonized Mars

It could be that some of the things we are seeing on Mars are remnants of a colony or base that appeared on Mars because of interstellar colonization. Intelligent life could have arisen on some planet revolving around another star, and creatures from that planet could have eventually traveled to our solar system, establishing a base or colony on Mars. This possibility averts the objection that there probably wasn't enough time for intelligent life to have arisen on Mars itself.

One might object that if such a colony or base had been established on Mars, it would have left large traces that we would have detected by now – that such traces would have shown up in pictures taken by various Mars orbiters. Such an objection is not necessarily decisive. Extrasolar colonizers might have abandoned a colony set up on Mars, and might have decided to remove most traces of it, like natural park visitors cleaning up their campsite to leave their campsite area in its natural state. But such a cleanup may not have been perfect, and a few traces might have been left behind. Or, a colony or base might have become uninhabited because of mission failure, a plague, a supply problem, or some other reason. Then natural geological processes (and the ferocious Martian sandstorms) might have covered up almost all traces of the colony or base, except for a few scattered remnants.

Possibility 4: Deliberate Signs Left by Current Extraterrestrial Visitors

It is possible that our planet is under surveillance by extraterrestrial visitors, as suggested by the many UFO sightings. Perhaps they don't want to suddenly land a flying saucer on the White House lawn, because the sudden shock might be too much for us. So is possible that such visitors are trying to gradually wake us up to their existence and presence. Having UFO's appear in our skies would be one way to do that, but it is almost as if we have stopped paying attention to such sightings. So extraterrestrial visitors might be using other techniques to gradually alert us to their existence.

One such technique might be placing artificial-looking objects on the surface of Mars, in the same places that the two Mars robotic rovers (Opportunity and Curiosity) are exploring. The plan might be to place more and more of such objects in the path of the robotic rovers, with increasingly artificial objects appearing. Eventually, perhaps, the whole world will gradually be alerted that man is not alone in the universe. Then, when we are psychologically prepared, extraterrestrial visitors might finally appear in some undeniable way such as a White House lawn landing.

Possibility 5: Deliberate Signs Left by a Divine or Angelic Power

It is fairly easy to adopt the previous hypothesis to make it fit more old-fashioned theological assumptions. We just replace “extraterrestrials” with “God” or “angels.” We can imagine that some divine or angelic presence wishes to leave some kind of sign, and is using Mars as part of that plan. Why Mars? Because it is harder to explain away any object left on Mars. If a divine or angelic being were to leave some physical sign on our planet, skeptics would immediately say: someone faked it. But if an object appears on Mars, there is no possibility that someone faked it.

Possibility 6: Deliberate Signs From the Other Side or Another Dimension or Plane of Existence

This possibility is not as outrageous as it may seem at first. Some people have reported that during seances (in which communication allegedly occurs between the dead and the living), there are sometimes physical objects that mysteriously appear – things such as coins and flowers. Such objects are called apports. Some believe that there is a spiritual dimension or plane that intersects or overlaps our physical reality, and that physical objects can sometimes be passed from this spiritual dimension or plane into our physical world. If that could happen on our planet, it could also happen on Mars.

Imagine that when people die, they go to some “other side” or dimension that overlaps or intersects our physical reality. Beings in such a dimension might want to leave a sign to our physical world that they exist. A physical sign left on our planet would probably be ignored or explained away, but an artificial-looking physical object left on Mars (and photographed by one of the Mars robotic rovers) would be much more likely to be noticed.

To many this idea will seem like a kind of concept clash. Just as we regard churches as only places for spiritual activities (and not places for chemistry experiments), we tend to regard Mars as a kind of scientist's playground exclusively for them, where any type of spiritual phenomena could not occur. But such an idea may be invalid. If there is an external spiritual reality, it might make itself known in any part of our solar system, not just on our planet. So the idea that “paranormal phenomena might occur on Earth, but never on Mars” isn't necessarily justified.

Possibility 7: A NASA Prankster

We must consider one other possibility designed to help materialists sleep better at night – the strange objects observed on Mars might be pranks. We don't know what NASA employees or subcontractors become involved with the NASA images before they are released on the NASA web site. It is just possible that someone is manipulating the pixels before they are released, inserting strange things and having a good laugh when others draw attention to them as amazing signs. This hypothesis can be a “last resort” for the skeptical.

While mentioning this possibility, I can also note that possibilities 4, 5, and 6 do not actually require material manipulation of objects on the planet Mars. Each of these possibilities could take place by some higher power merely manipulating the pixels that are transmitted from Mars to Earth. If you were some higher power wanting to make it look like something special was on Mars, you might merely manipulate the image pixels that are arriving on Earth from Mars, rather than physically manipulating something on Mars.

Part of a More General Phenomenon?

It is entirely possible that the strange objects discovered on Mars are aspects of a more general phenomenon, a phenomenon in which some unearthly intelligence or intelligence very gradually unveils its presence to humanity. Other aspects of the same phenomenon may include crop circles, orbs, and UFO's. We may see such strange phenomena occurring more and more often, with more and more dramatic manifestations. Eventually we may realize it is all part of some process by which some very patient unearthly intelligence (extraterrestrial or spiritual) very slowly makes itself known to us.

I will not be surprised at all if we start to see more and more cases of artificial-looking things on the planet Mars.