Apparently anything vaguely spheroid with 2 dark spots on it is considered an alien skull these days. So says The Telegraph which published the following picture the other day with the title “‘Alien skull’ spotted on Mars”. At least they used quotes around “alien skull”. But then they have this gem of a picture caption:
An oddly shaped space boulder appears to show eye sockets and a nose leading to speculation it might be a Martian skull.
Who is speculating? Other than cranks who have nothing better to do, and The Telegraph, I can think of no one who would bother to speculate about a rock with no apparent size markers being an alien skull. However, as the sentence was written in passive form, the reader is left to speculate as to who is doing the speculating. Seeing as how this article appears in the newspaper’s science section, it’s not so far a leap that people might assume “some” means “scientists”. I can tell you that no credible scientist is remotely speculating that.
So despite the glaring lack of scale in the photo (as presented — perhaps they are consulting another version of the photo), the vast collective intelligence and scientific rigor of the internet forums tells us that:
The skull is 15 cm with binocular eyes 5 cm apart. The cranial capacity is approximately 1400 cc. There appears to be a narrow pointed small mouth, so this creature most likely is a carnivore.
I need to start a new feature called “Are you kidding me?” A carnivore because of a narrow pointed small mouth? I’m thinking that was a kind of poe, because they appear to be making this assumption based on some kind of information, and the only information they have is Earth, but these carnivore skulls that I found on the most cursory Google search do not resemble this alien.
Even if they had matched though, how would it be possible for anyone to determine based on skull shape alone what an alien’s diet is? Answer: They couldn’t have, because there is no reason to believe that an alien carnivore would have necessarily evolved typical Earth carnivore characteristics (or any predictable characteristics, for that matter) based on a given diet.
The article vaguely pokes fun at this speculation, but does not bother to interview anyone who would know about space rocks and could give an appropriate analysis. Probably because what they would say would amount to: “It’s a rock, you hosers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some groundbreaking science to do.” Nevertheless, this article propagates nonsense by failing to clearly label it as such and by promoting this information at all in a widely-distributed newspaper under the “Science” section.
What this headline should have read: “Slow news day: Completely unremarkable rock found on Mars”
That article is a perfect example of what is wrong with newspaper science sections. Journalists should not be writing these sections, scientists should — maybe instead of blogging… hmmm…