The rover Opportunity has been on Mars for years. It’s been sitting patiently on the rim of Emdeavour Crater, and every few days it takes a picture of its campsite. Then, a few weeks ago, something startling happened — a weird-looking rock suddenly appeared in the field of view, where it hadn’t been before.
The rock doesn’t look like anything from the nearby area, or any other rock Opportunity has seen. Instead, it looks like a French pastry, with jam in the center and thick frosting around the edge. Scientists are analyzing it, but . . . how the hell did it get there?
The scientists have two theories — a nearby impact flung the rock into the picture, or it was “flicked” out of the ground by Opportunity‘s wheels. Neither theory is very satisfying, and neither makes much sense. The only bit of debris thrown into the frame by a nearby impact is a large, unusual rock? And how did a rock of that size and shape get “flicked” by Opportunity‘s wheels, without any other sign of the landscape being disturbed?
The fact that the scientists have come up with only two boring theories just shows a lack of imagination. There are lots of potential explanations for the mysterious appearance of a weird rock on an alien planet. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, this confirms that Opportunity isn’t on Mars at all, but is parked in some dusty studio in Burbank where a studio technician inadvertently dropped a doughnut. If you’re a sci-fi fan, this shows there really is intelligent life on Mars that decided to have some fun with us, so they placed a weird rock in the picture frame and now are sitting back, laughing hysterically at the puzzlement on Earth. Perhaps they’ve watched TV broadcasts showing cops eating doughnuts and are trying to tell us to send some up to the Red Planet. Maybe a secretive scientist has developed a teleportation device and is using the Martian doughnut delivery as part of a marketing plan. Maybe there really is such a thing as magic. Or perhaps future humans have conquered the laws of time and space, and it is one of them who is pulling the prank.
Keep your eye on this story: I’m betting that, in a few weeks, scientists will announce that a steaming Starbuck’s grande latte cup has appeared next to the doughnut.