The Curiosity Rover Captured a ‘Doorway’ on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover found something that has the internet momentarily spellbound: a formation that looks like a doorway in the distant reaches of the Red Planet.
It looks too perfect and symmetrical to be a naturally-occurring formation, and yet, it might just be that. Mars just experienced a “monster-quake” earlier this month — the biggest recorded on any other planet — that could explain the formation. Others have speculated that it could just be a “shear fracture,” or a geological breakage due to strain or force on its surface.
But many internet users have put on their tinfoil hats already, allowing science fiction-esque conspiracy theories about ancient and ruined extra-planetary civilizations to abound. We don’t have a sense yet of how big this cavity is, but it could well be that it’s only about a few feet tall. “[S]o what if it’s only a few inches? how do we know what size our overlords will actually be?” commented one Reddit user. Some have zoomed in to the doorway’s surroundings to point to what looks like written engravings on a “hut”. Others see what looks like patches of water near the entrance.
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Why this particular “doorway” has spawned reams of discussion threads and endless fascination has to do with why we love conspiracy theories too. Research also suggests that the need for cognitive closure has a role to play in how we weigh evidence for or against particular conspiracy theories. It could be that people see huts, water, and writing near the structure because of a confirmation bias that allows them to see what they want to see.
Theories like these could also help people cope with their anxieties about the world. “Other studies echo this, suggesting people are vulnerable to the guidance of conspiracy theories when they feel anxious or out of control. Perhaps that’s why so many conspiracy theories revolve around the threatening — events of violence, like terrorist attacks and genocide, or phenomena, like unusual lights in the night sky,” wrote Liesl Goecker for The Swaddle earlier.
As another Reddit user commented: “[D]on’t open it. [W]e are in enough trouble at the moment…”
While healthy skepticism is important, it’s nevertheless delightful to speculate. But as Amanda Kooser writes for CNET: “[P]erhaps what’s most magical is that we have a wheeled robot tootling about in the Gale Crater, beaming back photos from another world.”