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Journal of Cosmology Contributor Sues NASA To Investigate Mars "Donut" 140

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the chewbacca-hungers-for-donut-fungus dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Rhawn Joseph, a self-described astrobiologist involved with the infamous Journal of Cosmology, is suing NASA, demanding 100 high-resolution photos and 24 micrographs be taken of the 'donut' rock that recently appeared in front of the Opportunity rover on Mars, on the basis that it is a living organism. The remarkable full text of the complaint, which cites NASA's mineralogical analysis of the rock as evidence against it being a rock, is available to read at Popular Science." Really, the lawsuit is worth a read.
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Journal of Cosmology Contributor Sues NASA To Investigate Mars "Donut"

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Doh!!

  • Very funny. (Score:2, Funny)

    by ls671 (1122017)

    Very funny, this makes my day on /.

    • This reminds me of the time Julia Childs sued Neil Armstrong because he bring back samples of the strain of cheese composing the moon.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @01:56PM (#46101669)

      Very funny, this makes my day on /.

      You won't be laughing when this guy wins his lawsuit, and we all find out that this "rock" is a piece of styrofoam knocked loose from one of the props in the back lot of Disney Studios. John Carter of Mars [wikipedia.org] was filmed to provide a cover story for the Martian landscape used for the faked rover landings. There is no other plausible explanation for that movie.

      • by bob_super (3391281) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @02:15PM (#46101953)

        Actually, the fact that it was filmed on location is the only plausible explanation for its budget.

      • by icebike (68054)

        You won't be laughing when this guy wins his lawsuit, and we all find out that this "rock" is a piece of styrofoam

        Actually, NASA would do well to drive the Rover back there and study the hell out of it, if nothing else than to put the whack-job conspiracy nuts to shame. Opportunity is probably less than a day's drive away by now, and after 10 years beyond its expected life it has probably done about all the science it needs to do.

        If it is simply kicked up by the rover's wheels, lets find out why it is so bright/white. If it rolled in from a meteor strike, it might be useful to see what direction it rolled in from. B

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, NASA would do well to drive the Rover back there and study the hell out of it, if nothing else than to put the whack-job conspiracy nuts to shame. Opportunity is probably less than a day's drive away by now

          Quite a bit "less" than a day's drive away, since they haven't driven away yet.

        • Re:Very funny. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by amRadioHed (463061) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @04:54PM (#46103589)

          Actually, NASA would do well to drive the Rover back there and study the hell out of it, if nothing else than to put the whack-job conspiracy nuts to shame.

          You're assuming that whack-job conspiracy nuts can be shamed, an idea which is not supported by the evidence.

      • Everybody has their pet theory.

        I think it's evidence that the martian police pulled the rover over for driving too slow.
  • NASA will send Inspector Gadget up there right away
  • Yawn... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @01:37PM (#46101407) Journal

    Translation: Some attention whoring quack is going to waste taxpayer money and NASA time to no good end.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anne_Nonymous (313852)

      Yeah, he ought to be suing those incompetents down in continuity.

    • Dr. Squyres and his team have already chosen to spend lots of time and effort investigating this object.

      How would releasing this data to the public, through existing channels that have already conveyed thousands of photos to the public, be a waste of NASA's time?

      NASA has already acknowledged that this is "a very special rock, with rare properties." Therefore, shouldn't it, at a matter of course, release more data about this rock than it releases about the average Mars rock?

      • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @02:11PM (#46101909)
        Rhawn Joeseph is trying to bully NASA into giving him access to the science data without having to wait for the mission scientists to publish their findings. There are procedures in place and Rhawn will just have to wait like everyone else.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by blue trane (110704)

          Why are those procedures in place? It's public data, why can't the public see it as soon as NASA gets it?

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Just from the depths of my armchair: perhaps because the data comes in formats that are completely useless to the public, and it takes time for NASA to decompress/deconvert/decrypt/convolve/whatever them? Maybe they can do their own analysis with the data in a raw-ish format, but to give us the real numbers and sort out the metadata flags that say "This sensor is currently busted" takes more time?

            • Why are those procedures in place? It's public data, why can't the public see it as soon as NASA gets it?

              The public does see it as soon as NASA gets it. All images are uploaded to marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/ [nasa.gov] as soon as they are received.

              The Exploratorium also has a feed of the raw images as soon as they come down: http://www.exploratorium.edu/m... [exploratorium.edu]

              Just from the depths of my armchair: perhaps because the data comes in formats that are completely useless to the public, and it takes time for NASA to decompress/deconvert/decrypt/convolve/whatever them?

              The raw images are uploaded within a day of when they get received. As you note, these are raw images, and there's some processing needed to make pretty images suitable for public release: flat-field corrections, photometric and geometric corrections, as w

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @02:42PM (#46102305)

            Why are those procedures in place? It's public data, why can't the public see it as soon as NASA gets it?

            The data is public data and anybody is free to intercept the 1s and 0s streaming back from Mars. OTOH, converting those 1s and 0s to images is costly and time consuming. Expediting the process is even more costly and time consuming and means either additional staff will be needed or people will be pulled off of other tasks.

            So the question is whether or not the access to this information is more important than whatever information will be delayed by diverting resources to obtain it more quickly? The answer depends on whether you want this piece of information or you are still in the queue.

            • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @04:03PM (#46103135)

              Costly and time consuming?

              Really, you are going with that?

              The 90 day mission has stretched to 10 years. They somehow found money to keep these guys employed all those years, they are on the payroll till the rover dies.

              What other random thing in the drive-able vicinity is likely to be MORE interesting? This Rover has accomplished just about all it can possibly do with its worn out tools, aging batteries, lame wheels, etc. There is probably nothing more interesting than this rock, and spending the effort (which surely they must be very well practiced and efficient at, considering the ten years they have had to perfect their craft) to evaluate it and release the data is no big deal.

              You can go to the JPL site and search all the photos [nasa.gov], so its not like they don't have more to give.

              • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @04:10PM (#46103203)

                They have been imaging the thing for days. So apparently they have plenty of time and money:

                http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gall... [nasa.gov]

                http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gall... [nasa.gov]

                http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gall... [nasa.gov]

                http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gall... [nasa.gov]

              • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                Costly and time consuming?

                Really, you are going with that?

                The 90 day mission has stretched to 10 years. They somehow found money to keep these guys employed all those years, they are on the payroll till the rover dies.

                What other random thing in the drive-able vicinity is likely to be MORE interesting? This Rover has accomplished just about all it can possibly do with its worn out tools, aging batteries, lame wheels, etc. There is probably nothing more interesting than this rock, and spending the effort (which surely they must be very well practiced and efficient at, considering the ten years they have had to perfect their craft) to evaluate it and release the data is no big deal.

                You can go to the JPL site and search all the photos [nasa.gov], so its not like they don't have more to give.

                When you obtain government records under the Freedom of Information Act, you still have to pay the cost to produce the records, even though the cost of the original record is a sunk cost. So, if you want additional information from Mars, there is the satellite time, the technician time and a whole slew of other costs associated with it. And, yes, those costs are quite expensive and legal to charge.

                • by icebike (68054)

                  You can be specific in your request under FOI, and simply ask for those records and data that are currently here on earth.

                  However, reading the actual court filing, I don't see any reference to the Freedom of Information Act. Rather, he seems to be demanding the court force NASA to do what he alleges is their responsibility, that they are somehow shirking.

                  He demands high rez close up photos, which he says NASA hasn't produced, yet there are such already on file and more coming http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gall [nasa.gov]

          • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @03:13PM (#46102663) Homepage

            As a sop to the scientists who, as the public's proxy, have spent years or decades working on the instrument that gathered the data. They took the risk to their careers, and as member of the public I have no problem with giving them first crack at reaping the rewards.

            • by icebike (68054)

              Yeah, working for NASA and JPL ten years on a 90 day mission has a lot of risk to their careers.
              Really? Nobody is "risking their careers" working on the single most prestigious off-world project in existence.

              The (many years worth of images), it takes time for all of them to be transmitted. [nasa.gov]
              Other data may not so readily interpreted, but its not like it would be totally beyond other scientists to evaluate it.

              • Yeah, working for NASA and JPL ten years on a 90 day mission has a lot of risk to their careers. Really? Nobody is "risking their careers" working on the single most prestigious off-world project in existence.

                You should read some of the books written by the scientist's on the MER (Spirit/Opportunity) and Curiosity rovers - for some of them it was twenty or thirty years of working on instruments that never flew before they finally got an instrument on a flight. And then, after working for years on a flight

                • by icebike (68054)

                  expressing the coin they pay

                  You seem to have overlooked the fact that they were paid rather substantial coin for their years of development, even when their project never left the lab. Their careers were sustained quite handsomely by the grants/salaries they were operating under. And the papers they may have submitted and the research they performed did nothing to hurt their career path either.

                  • Their careers were sustained quite handsomely by the grants/salaries they were operating under.

                    Their *paychecks* were so sustained, assuming they had grants or salaries the whole time. (And living on grants is no picnic, there's almost always of limited duration, which means there's always the scramble for another.)

                    And the papers they may have submitted and the research they performed did nothing to hurt their career path either.

                    Yeah, "Notes on the performance of a proposed Lyman Alpha spectromet

          • by McPierce (259936)

            Long story short:

            The reason data is held for a period is to give the scientists who were given grants to fund their research time to do their research. Otherwise, it's harder to get funding if someone else can take the data and publish it. The withholding period is usually fairly short (~6 months).

        • The vast majority of images acquired by space probes have been released directly to the public, not as part of a published scientific paper.

          If the data weren't acquired 100% at taxpayer expense, let the owners of the data sit and ruminate on it for as long as they please. But that's not the case, so there's not much justification for no timely release of the data to the taxpayers who paid for it.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Dr. Squyres and his team have already chosen to spend lots of time and effort investigating this object.

        How would releasing this data to the public, through existing channels that have already conveyed thousands of photos to the public, be a waste of NASA's time?

        NASA has already acknowledged that this is "a very special rock, with rare properties." Therefore, shouldn't it, at a matter of course, release more data about this rock than it releases about the average Mars rock?

        NASA should comply, thus saving the legal fees, right after he pays the share of the cost to obtain the information he is requesting. The Freedom of Information Act doesn't mean the government foots the bill for the requested info.

        • NASA should comply, thus saving the legal fees, right after he pays the share of the cost to obtain the information he is requesting. The Freedom of Information Act doesn't mean the government foots the bill for the requested info.

          That really does seem the most reasonable course of action.

          The ball's in the government's court now, let's see what they do with it.

          • by meerling (1487879)
            They don't have to release the info when he wants it, assuming they have it in the first place. Remember, he's not asking for the release of photos they already have, he's demanding they take a 100 new high res closeup images following his instructions, and 24 microscopic images, also as per his instructions.

            The Freedom of Information Act has nothing to do with his demands, it only covers information the government has, not stuff that hasn't even been done.

            He's not a NASA administrator, supervisor, project
            • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

              I agree with what you are saying. But to win his case, he has to have a standing and the only grounds he can use is the Freedom of Information Act. You can't sue the government to do something it is not required by law to do. At least you can't sue them and win.

    • by Laxori666 (748529)
      No look at the zoomed-in exhibit B. You clearly see regular patterns. These must be a sign of life.
      • by icebike (68054)

        My gosh, you are right. The closer I zoom the more regular the pattern gets.
        Its a grid of various shaded squares, like people in a stadium holding up cardboard squares to build a huge image...
        Wait, zooming up more it says, "Sochi 2014"
        Ah, crap, Damn you Putin !!!

  • Von Braun may have designed the rockets, but Sgt. Schultz drives the rover. NASA has a history of "Look over there. Isn't that interesting!", "Lets go this way instead..."
    • Kind of the entire point of having a little robot on Mars is to gander at each and every "interesting" thing they roll up to.

      Rover isn't a full blown laboratory, it's a slightly smarter than dumb camera. It will die. Catalog all the interesting things you see before it does so, then send another robot tailored to inspect instead of find.
  • i think it is just some gunk picked up by the rover, it was buildup of dirt probably made sticky by water or grease or oil or some other fluid and it finally fell off the rover
    • by atouk (1336461)
      If the rover had a fluids leak, then every time it stopped, it would leave a spot like a car with a bad transmission does on a driveway. And if it is a leak, then that's bad news for a long term mission, and NASA should be doubly concerned what it is to see how it will affect onboard systems, and modify rover behavior accordingly.
    • This isn't one of those glorious American autos from the mid-20th century. Opportunity doesn't leave a puddle under it ever time its parked nor do I see bottles of replacement fluids and magical self-sealing honeys in the trunk, nor a trail of empties strewn about behind it.
  • Dude, that's a shroom!
  • by drakesword (3203755) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @01:53PM (#46101625)
    its the arm off of one of my kerbals
  • by GPS Pilot (3683) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @02:01PM (#46101755)

    Dr. Squyres says that if this object has been recently flipped over, "we are seeing the surface, the underside of a rock, that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere for perhaps billions of years."

    Trouble is, unless he's proposing that the underside of this rock was somehow vacuum-sealed against atmospheric influence, it has very much been exposed to the gases of the Martian atmosphere.

    The undersides of rocks experience a different environment due to less exposure to wind erosion and the UV component of sunlight. But as far as being exposed to the gases that make up the atmosphere, the undersides are about as exposed at the topsides.

    Most if not all of the minerals observed on Mars have been seen before, on Earth. Can you think of a terrestrial example of a rock whose underside has a significantly different chemical composition than its topside? I can't.

    • by asmkm22 (1902712)

      I don't think he was trying to claim that the underside of the rock was somehow sealed in a vacuum or anything, so calm down. He's just expressing the fact that the underside of that rock has probably been dug into the ground for a long time.

      • by fnj (64210)

        But, duh, just because it has been resting on the ground does not mean it "hasn't [been exposed to] the Martian atmosphere for perhaps billions of years".

        GPS Pilot said it all. Dr. Squyres sounds like an idiot.

      • Maybe we're looking at the "bottom" of the rock. When I look at the pictures, I don't see any indication that the rock was dug in the ground where is currently sits. It looks to me more like it blew or fell into its current position (perhaps the surface of mars just got pelted by a meteor or a secret North Korean rover landing or something and knocked that rock from its prior position). Someone else said "Just look at the two pictures. The first has a shape outlined in darker 'dirt' in the area where the

        • I just got a vision of a secret North Korean rover following Opportunity and tossing crap in front of the cameras.
    • by radtea (464814)

      Can you think of a terrestrial example of a rock whose underside has a significantly different chemical composition than its topside? I can't.

      You've never actually looked at a rock, have you? Or you live someplace really geologically boring?

      Where I live we have sandstones with embedded basalts, basalts with quartz inclusions, and so on. It is extremely common for rocks to have multiple compositions, and this rock appears to be a fairly pedestrian example of that.

      • this rock appears to be a fairly pedestrian example

        There must be some planetary scientists who disagree with you, because NASA has already acknowledged that this is "a very special rock, with rare properties."

  • If the thing was life, NASA would be highly secretive about it until everything has been checked and reviewed and the President make the announcement.

  • From the article "If the organism is biological, NASA must publicly acknowledge that the discovery was made by the Petitioner and must ensure that Petitioner appears as rst author on and has nal editorial approval of the rst 6 scientic articles published or submitted for publication by NASA employees which discuss and present this discovery." I hope this turns into something awesome, but it seems in his claim that he will get credit for the discovery even though NASA discovered the object first. I guess it
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Well he'd have to prove it was "overlooked" and not merely put off until later. There's only so much room here for back seat lunar rover drivers.

  • let me know. I'll be on the next flight out.
  • Hasn't that donut been eaten yet? Where are the police when you need them?

  • by ridley4 (1535661) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @03:38PM (#46102959)

    If this idiotic shitstain spent more than five hard seconds looking at the processed press release images, forgetting to take his meds, and crying conspiracy, he would've discovered that the Mars Exploration Rover site on JPL actually releases every single raw image the second it gets downlinked from Mars, including photos that deny claims of not taking micrographs, and also ignorant of basic traits of the MERs (well, MER now - RIP Spirit), such as the relatively low resolution of its sensors compared to modern standards, the microscopic imager just having a resolution of 1024x1024 and a working area of 3.1cm square at operating distance, and because it doesn't have an light on it like MSL/Curiosity's MAHLI, isn't as good at taking photos of things on the ground, like a little rock on the surface of mars.

    In fact, there's even hazcam images of the arm being swung into place, denying that the rover never got close, and that it's actually just the really small rock it is.
    Before [nasa.gov] arm placement, and after. [nasa.gov]

    Anyways - oh look, close up, in focus images of a mushroom. Not. [nasa.gov] I hope this fuck gets laughed out and never returns.

    • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @04:43PM (#46103497)

      But they only took 27 images. He demands they do 100.

      Because you know he's smart and stuff.

  • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @03:56PM (#46103085)

    "8. The refusal to take close up photos from various angles, the refusal to take microscopic images of the specimen, the refusal to release high resolution photos, is inexplicable, recklessly negligent, and bizarre. Any intelligent adult, adolescent, child, chimpanzee, monkey, dog, or rodent with even a modicum of curiosity, would approach, investigate and closely examine a bowl-shaped structure which appears just a few feet in front of them when 12 days earlier they hadn't noticed it. But not NASA and its rover team who have refused to take even a single close up photo."

    His claim for standing to sue is pretty funny too. It boils down to, "I did a bunch of impressive neuroscience work in the late 70s & early 80s, vanished for 20 years, and then reappeared two decades later in full Linus Pauling crank mode churning out books on astrobiology and 'proving' that the evolution of DNA predates Earth by 6 billion years, that upper atmosphere plasma are actually extremophiles, and that otherwise I'm super interested in Mars."

    "Oh, and I'm a taxpayer and really interested in this rock, therefore I deserved to have control over what NASA does in regards to it since they're too boneheaded to see how important it is."

    Here's [amazon.com] one of his other books. The reviews give you an idea of how far this man has fallen as a scientist.

  • I am suing! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @05:10PM (#46103729)

    I am suing NASA demanding 100 high resolution photos and 24 micrographs be taken of Scarlett Johansson, at various angles, from all sides, and from above, and under appropriate lighting conditions which minimize glare, on the basis that this is a living organism.

  • I'm wondering if it's even worth changing the comment threshold here to 3.

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