Hoax Website Claims NASA Found Plastic Beads on Mars

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 29 2012 8:54 PM

No, NASA Didn’t Find Plastic Beads on Mars

Not a picture of plastic beads on Mars.
Not a picture of plastic beads on Mars.

Image credit: Xevier Jenks, PhD. Except not really.

I got a note from my friend Jules at Geeky Pleasures letting me know that a hoax website has turned up claiming NASA found plastic beads on Mars. Let’s be clear right away, folks: duh. It’s a hoax.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

I can see why some people might fall for it though; the faker put in a solid effort to mimic JPL’s layout and style. Actual NASA scientists are quoted, too, and a lot of it is based on just enough truth to squeak past some baloney detectors. Heck, this even got linked on Slashdot! Happily, it got shot down pretty quickly

Advertisement

Clearly, the hoaxer is counting on the recent foofooraw about NASA having found something on Mars, a rumor that was quickly shown here on Slate to be a big misunderstanding by a reporter who interviewed a NASA scientist.

Laugh it up, fuzzball.
Laugh it up, fuzzball.

Image credit: Probably not Lucasfilms.

[UPDATE (23:00 UTC November 30, 2012): Yup, this is exactly right: my friend Alan Boyle over at Cosmic Log has the inside scoop, including an interview with the site's author!]

I’m very sure this is just someone having some fun, but I also know, given my experience with the Internet, this’ll spread like wildfire. So what the heck. How do I know it’s a fake? Tons of reason, actually.

1) The picture shown is a pretty obvious fake. It’s an actual shot of Mars with what looks like Mardi Gras beads Photoshopped into it. I mean, c’mon. You can tell by the pixels.

2) The main page of the site has a picture talking about the Face on Mars. Again, c’mon. And the face has a Wookiee Photoshopped over it. Don’t believe me? The picture’s filename is “mars-wookiee-face.gif”. Kudos, though: he spelled “Wookiee” correctly.

3) Speaking of the main page, all NASA sites have a “.gov” top level domain, not “.us”.

4) The owner of the site, according to WHOIS, is Xevier Jenks, who once sent out an obviously joke press release about Bigfoot in New Orleans.

5) The page borrows liberally from actual NASA press releases, reusing quotes from scientists talking about different things on Mars.

6) Also? If they had found plastic on Mars, I’m pretty sure NASA would make a big deal of it. Mind you, they did find plastic on Mars a little while back, but it was from Curiosity itself. And that did cause quite a stir. So if this were real, you’d be hearing a lot more about it.

Whoever did this is perhaps not being malevolent, but instead just having a laugh. To be honest, I think it’s pretty funny, even if it means I have to sit at my desk writing up yet another debunking of silliness when I’d rather be getting my dinner. However, I’ll note the WHOIS info linked above is pretty fishy, and I suspect that falsely filling out some of that info may be illegal.

As pranks go, I’d give this a solid 6, on a scale where the Kardashians would rate a 2 and scientology is a 10. Not bad, but had he made the Face look more like Jesus I'd have given him an 8.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.