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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why the “Floating Spoon” Just Found on Mars May Be Exactly What It Seems To Be

The robotic probes landed on Mars have produced a series of astonishing photographic anomalies, some of which are shown here and here and here. The anomalies include a gigantic mysterious plume; an orb that seemed to move; what looks like a statue of a woman; a perfect sphere; a shape looking like a pelvis bone; an arrangement of matter looking like a traffic light; and a Celtic cross. Now we have what may be the strangest anomaly yet seen on Mars. The full NASA photograph (as shown on a NASA web page) can be found here. Below is a closeup.

Mars spoon
The "levitating spoon" can be seen in the center (Credit: NASA)

The photo shows what looks very much like a very long spoon floating in the air. Below this spoon shape, we see a shadow that seems to exactly match the spoon shape. How can we explain this wonder?

The initial explanation offered by mainstream sources in that of pareidolia – the tendency of the brain to interpret natural or random patterns as being meaningful shapes that resemble faces or artificial objects. But this is a non-explanation that does not explain anything.

When dealing with a puzzling occurrence, you only do something to explain that thing if you provide some account that causes some reduction in amazement, causing someone to think, “Now, I'm not so amazed.” For example, if I'm a farmer, and I find a giant hole in the back of my corn field, I might be very amazed; and you might reduce my amazement if you explain that meteors fall every day from the sky, and maybe this is just a meteor strike. But in the case of this “levitating spoon,” the idea of pareidolia does nothing to reduce our amazement. We are amazed by why what looks like a very long floating spoon with a matching shadow should be seen on Mars, and we are just as much amazed after the idea of pareidolia is suggested. So there is no reduction of amazement, meaning pareidolia is just a non-explanation in this case.

About the only natural explanation you can come up with to explain such a thing is the idea that rather than being a spoon shape floating in the air, the spoon shape is some rock connected to another rock. It could be that the “handle” of the spoon shape is connected to some other rock. Perhaps the wind somehow sculpted this long shape out of a larger rock.

But such a hypothesis doesn't seem to work. For one thing, there is the problem of how such a very narrow thing so far protruded without structural support could survive without falling, even in the weaker gravity of Mars. Then there is the problem that the “handle end” of the “floating spoon” does not at all seem to be connected to some larger rock, but seems instead to be floating to the side of a larger rock.

There is a very different hypothesis that we should seriously consider in this case. This is the “radical” hypothesis that this “floating spoon” is simply exactly what it appears to be: a spoon shape floating in midair. We can call this the levitation hypothesis.

It is rather easy to rebut the main objections you could bring against such a hypothesis. The first objection might be that levitation is impossible, that it contradicts the law of gravitation. This is not at all true. The law of gravitation in no way prohibits the levitation of objects. What the law of gravitation merely tells us is that there always will be a very weak force acting to push down an object on the surface of a planet. But levitation can be achieved whenever there is a sufficient force acting underneath an object, causing it to rise up. Levitation is actually achieved on our planet in things such as lottery machines (where balls are levitated by jets of air).

So it is possible that some unknown force was acting underneath this spoon-like object, causing it to be levitated in the air. The law of gravitation in no way prohibits such a thing. But what about the very idea of an unknown force acting mysteriously on an object – is that somehow prohibited by science?

It certainly is not, despite the claims made by some skeptics and scientists. Physics tells us that certain forces are always at work in the universe – the gravitational force, the electromagnetic force between charged particles, the strong nuclear force that binds together the nucleus of an atom, and the weak nuclear force involved in radioactivity. But nothing in physics or in any other science gives us a legitimate basis for assuming that the only force that may act on something is some force that we understand. Making such an assumption is unwarranted hubris, a case of advancing in a haughty manner some principle that has not at all been established. We are little creatures very ignorant of very many of the universe's mysteries, and we have no business claiming that the only forces that might operate on something are one of the forces that we understand. Making such a claim is like some 6th-grader claiming that the only process that may occur in history is one of the few historical processes that he understands.

Let's imagine a reasonable hypothesis that might explain a “levitating spoon” appearing in a photo of Mars.
  1. Let us imagine that there exists some unknown mysterious force capable of causing objects to appear in particular places, and causing such objects to levitate. Such a force might be divine, supernatural, spiritual, or extraterrestrial.
  2. Let us imagine that such a force wishes to demonstrate its existence to humans, by creating manifestations that demonstrate its power.
  3. Under such conditions, we might actually see a series of “signs and wonders” that might possibly include something like a very long spoon levitating on Mars.

There actually exists very substantial prima facie evidence to support the first of these claims. The history of paranormal occurrences since 1850 has included very many cases in which tables or other objects were seen to levitate, sometimes under controlled scientific conditions. There are also many reported cases of objects (sometimes called apports) that have been seen to appear out of nowhere, as if they had been brought into existence by some unknown force. For the sake of this blog post, I don't need to delve into such cases, because here I am not attempting to prove the likelihood of a premise such as the first premise, but merely its substantial possibility. The many reported cases of paranormal levitations and apports are enough to establish the substantial possibility of the first premise.

Many scientists like to think that “things like that don't happen,” and that the only cases of physical action that occur are cases of a type that they understand. But they are able to cling to such an unwarranted dogma only by ignoring or dismissing a large stream of reported observations that suggest the contrary – that, in fact, mysterious things happen for reasons they do not at all understand. One example among very many is the case of the Enfield poltergeist that occurred in England during the 1970's, where a dramatic set of inexplicable occurrences (including levitations) were reported by reliable witnesses.

It is therefore quite reasonable to imagine that what we may be seeing on Mars may be some manifestation of some unknown force completely beyond the understanding of current science. Given the reports of strange things that have happened on Earth, there is no reason why we should assume that equally strange things could not be happening on Mars. A scientist may think of Mars as his own exclusive wonderland, where there only occurs the type of things he is comfortable dealing with. But there is no reason to think that everything we will see in Mars will always conform to such an expectation.

One of the most amazing things found previously on Mars was a “Celtic cross” (although it might be just called an X within a circle). 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. Again, we have something that almost looks like some sign being sent by some intelligence trying to alert us as to its existence. 

The "Celtic cross" on Mars (Credit: NASA) 

The previous wonders seen on Mars can mostly be explained as some kind of traces of an ancient civilization, or of aliens who visited Mars long ago, and left behind some traces. But the “levitating spoon” wonder may hint that some mysterious intelligence may now be active on Mars.

I ended a previous post on the topic of a strange objects found on Mars with this observation: “I will not be surprised at all if we start to see more and more cases of artificial-looking things on the planet Mars.” Such an observations wasn't very explicitly predictive, so let me go out on a limb and make a more specific prediction. I predict (with only mild confidence) that some of the things we will see on Mars in the years ahead will be more amazing and inexplicable than any of the things that have been photographed so far.

Postscript: The original NASA photo seems to show 2 floating objects -- not just a "floating spoon" but also a "floating spatula." See here for more info.