Last Week In Pareidolia | Vol. 4 / No. 10.1

Because it’s Monday, and because I love you all, here’s something crazy people are saying on the internet. Hint: it’s not aliens (it’s never aliens).

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Pareidolia is the habit of human brains to see things that aren’t there — be it Jesus on a piece of toast or a face on the surface of Mars. It’s a perfectly normal part of the human pattern-recognition software, tuned as it is by millions of years of evolution that said false positives were safer than false negatives: it’s always safer to assume the rustling in the bushes is a tiger, even if it’s just the wind 50% of the time.

Which is why last week, for the second time now, crazy people on the internet have decided that there are Martians and they’re signaling their existence to our rovers by… leaving spoons lying around.

Yes, spoons.

Not a spoon on Mars | Photo: NASA
Not a spoon on Mars | Photo: NASA

The one above is the most recent, but there was another Martian “spoon” spotted back in 2015:

Photo: Physics-Astronomy.com
Photo: Physics-Astronomy.com

In reality, these are just rocks known as “ventifacts,” formed by the slow, gentle, but very persistent blowing of Martian sand in thin Martian atmosphere against Martian sandstone in low Martian gravity.

But that doesn’t stop the Daily Mail and its ilk from breathlessly reporting “NASA rover discovers a large SPOON on the Red Planet’s surface,” based entirely upon — I kid you not — a freaking YouTube video. But in the interest of science (and Mondays) here’s the video in question. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy Monday, everyone.

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Thanks for reading! Except for the very *very* occasional tip (we take Venmo now!), I only get paid in my own (and your) enthusiasm, so please like This Week In Tomorrow on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @TWITomorrow, and tell your friends about the site!

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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.

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