The wild story behind one man’s fight to prove there is life on Mars
Plus: How five lines of code could revolutionize artificial intelligence.
You may have never heard of Rhawn Joseph, but he wants you to know he has evidence of life existing on Mars — if only anyone would believe him.
In a new paper, Joseph and his co-authors rely on images captured by NASA’s Opportunity rover as evidence of what they say are fungi on Mars — clear confirmation of life on another planet. Somewhat incredibly, this paper has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, but as Passant Rabie reports, the journal isn’t all that it seems on the surface, either.
I am Claire Cameron, managing editor of Inverse. Seize your Thursday and keep scrolling for more sizzling details from Rabie’s reporting and other stories on ancient feces and intense Covid-19 dreams.
Five lines of code could change the way we think about A.I. — It's easy(ish) to get A.I. to complete tasks if you have all the computing power in the world. But what can you get done if you're limited to five lines of code? Inverse reporter Jordan Golson explains:
With only five lines of code, researchers were able to create a team of robots that worked together to achieve a common goal with a single sensor and no ability to communicate with each other. The findings have potential impacts on everything from self-healing materials to medical nanobots.
“It’s a big social experiment,” Johannes Overvelde, an associate professor at AMOLF, tells Inverse. Each robot “is very greedy and wants to do what they want to do.” In a way, it’s a form of the prisoner’s dilemma, but with robots. If they work together, the robots can achieve their goal, but they can’t communicate with the other robots in any meaningful way.
“We aimed for simplicity over complexity. Robustness over optimal behavior.”
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Mushrooms on Mars: A “modern Galileo” fights to prove alien life exists — Rhawn Joseph has spent years fighting for recognition that he has found evidence of Martian life. But the scientific community has doubts, to say the least. Passant Rabie writes:
Rhawn Joseph is a self-proclaimed neuroscientist who strongly believes the proof for life on Mars is right in front of our eyes, despite most other members of the scientific community strongly disagreeing with him.
Joseph’s paper bases its claims on images collected by NASA’s Opportunity rover. The images show a Martian landscape that the authors claim reveals “fungus-like Martian specimens emerge from the soil and increase in size, including those resembling puffballs.”
“We published this work because the world deserves to see that specimens are growing on Mars,” Joseph tells Inverse. “Debate and discussion of the evidence is the only way to advance science.”
As Rabie reports, a peer-reviewed journal has accepted Joseph’s paper for publication. Will it lend credibility to his claims?
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What ancient feces can tell us about our modern diet — Research published in Nature on Wednesday uses microbial DNA to tell the story of how diet has shaped the human gut microbiome over time. Inverse reporter Sophie Putka has the story:
As studies of ancient microbiomes emerge, they’ve confirmed what some scientists expected: pre-industrial diets yielded more diverse guts.
Gut diversity is good. A wealth of bacteria helps break down food into nutrients, protects us from pathogens, and prevents inflammatory diseases that weaken our digestive system. When beneficial bacteria are hurt by antibiotics or dietary patterns, we can be susceptible to illness.
What the scientists say: “Under the hypothesis of the ‘disappearing microbiome,’ if you start reintroducing some of these quote-unquote ‘lost or disappeared’ microbes, you could see health benefits.”
The “disappearing microbiota” hypothesis posits that disappearing microbes have led to an increase in chronic disease over time. It argues beneficial gut bacteria were simply erased over time due to increased use of antibiotics and a transition to a Western diet rich in processed foods, red meat, sugars, and fats.
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Having intense dreams after your Covid-19 shot? — If you spike a low-grade fever in response to the vaccine, which is not an uncommon side effect, the likelihood of funky dreams is increased. Inverse writer Katie MacBride writes:
Are wild dreams truly a side effect of Covid-19 vaccines? The answer is no — but also, sort of. Dreams may not be caused by any vaccine, but they are associated with its aftermath.
Chelsie Rohrscheib, a sleep expert and neuroscientist with Tatch Health, has heard “many reports” of people having changes in their sleep. “Common changes [post vaccination] include increased or decreased sleep duration, issues falling asleep or staying asleep, and changes in dreams,” she tells Inverse.
None of these reports are “surprising from a medical and scientific perspective,” she says. To understand why people may have strange or vivid dreams after getting the Covid vaccine, she says it’s useful to understand why we sleep more when we’re sick.
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Let me know what you think of this daily dispatch by emailing email@example.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @ClaireHCameron, where I share some of my favorite stories from Inverse and elsewhere around the web every day.
May 13 birthdays — Stevie Wonder (71), Dennis Rodman (60), Harvey Keitel (82), Pusha T (44), Robert Pattinson (35) (Source: AP)