The ISS space fungi saga, and some nasty possibilities


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2The net-garbled furore over fungi growing on the ISS space station has been dragging on for a while. The information is detailed, to a point, but not detailed enough, and better still, not official, so nobody has to do anything about it.

There’s a lot of news about the space fungi, and that’s the good news. The other news is that things could get a lot worse, soon, and for the future. Let’s start with the quality of information available. The net takeaway from the “news” is that the fungi are aggressive, there’s a lot of them, and that microorganisms can live in space.

Fun so far, isn’t it? God knows what is growing away, damaging equipment, eating metal… It’d be a good science fiction movie, but this is supposedly real.

The internet has again turned everything in to a mix of fact and what looks very like fiction. (Thanks again, guys, you’re a great help. You could be the Breitbart of science, the way you’re going. Shut up if you’re not sure, and if you are sure, be clear.)

Established facts so far:

  • 200 known organisms can exist in space, including our old friends, the pneumococci.
  • The Soviet Mir space station supposedly had a ferocious mix of bacterial and fungal growths. They grew with exceptional speed and volume.
  • NASA acknowledges the existence of the various microfauna and flora, but isn’t committing to any statements so far, quite rightly.
  • The fungi are an operational problem, and have even managed to block water lines on the ISS. NASA is analysing data.
  • The survivability of fungi isn’t in question. Other tests have proven that some species of Antarctic fungi could effectively “live on Mars”.
  • Pathogen checks have been done on the ISS for the last decade, to deal with human microorganisms in the enclosed environment.
  • They’re very hard/impossible to eradicate.

Unproven facts and fictions:

IS the Mars rover being eaten by fungi? Maybe someone should go find out.

Fungi are eating Mars rovers. (Looked like a natural candidate for Photoshop to me, but some alleged growth patterns are similar to terrestrial fungi. See the Soviet Mir link above for the video at the bottom. Not entirely convincing, but I’m a fungi buff, too, so nice try, even if not true. You need to know quite a bit about fungi to do that.)

The fungi come from space. Maybe so, in fact that’s a theory for the beginning of life on Earth. Even so, you’d have to do some pretty fancy genetic sequencing to prove it, and that’s not happening so far. Space fungi, if they are, could tell us more about biological adaption in space than thousands of years of research. It’d be a real Rosetta Stone for multiple issues. The gene sequencing could also fill in a few blanks, too, maybe?


The fungi use acetic acid to dissolve tungsten? Huh? Acetic acid, aka vinegar, is great for breaking down things, and killing moulds in bathrooms, but tungsten? Fungi use enzymes, and enzymes which destroy metal could be called overkill. They don’t seem to do a lot of that on Earth, either. The other side of this very skeptical view is that there are obvious stains and visible effects on surfaces on the ISS. How? Seems like it’s a subject well worth exploring.

Fungus and fungal problems for the future

OK, so that was 400 or so words of semi-information for you. You’ll notice I’m not too impressed with the standard of information or depth of research. Looks to me like much more work has to go in to analysis, and much less speculation. If this is the real deal, the first case of managing biological hazards in space, kindly take it seriously.

IS the Mars rover being eaten by fungi? Maybe someone should go find out.

Irritating as some of this stuff is, none of it is entirely out of the ballpark. Fungi and some types of algae are the undisputed toughest organisms on Earth. They’ve survived all the major extinctions, every single one. They are incredibly efficient biologically, and can break down practically any type of organic or inorganic material. If anything’s going to survive anywhere, the fungi are prime candidates.

They can live through heat, cold, UV, etc., in fact they’re incredibly well adapted to do just that. If anything’s alive on Mars, nobody in bio science will be too surprised if it’s this range of organisms.

Now the problems:

  • Point(s) of origin, Earth or space, or both? The idea of taking some overachieving, potentially dangerous buts and fungi in to space where they become even worse isn’t appealing. Decontamination methods will need to be developed, and they’ll add to the load of space exploration. (There is absolutely nothing to be said for accumulating vast amounts of toxic contaminants in flight.)
  • Terrestrial microorganisms travelling in space naturally have affinities with Earth-based life. So when away from home, where’s the most likely place for them to set up shop? Anywhere near anything terrestrial, of course.
  • Does this mean humans will take their pathogens with them wherever they go? It might. It might be worse, too; multigenerational fungi and bacteria could become omni-resistant to decontamination, “superbugs”, and progressively more virulent. The trouble with this situation is that humans would make a great vector for just about every known disease. (There is a precedent for this; the housefly. Flies followed humans around the world. There’s no reason to believe microorganisms would object to a free ride, either.)
  • Are our pathogens toxic to other life? Probably, and that’s despite total alien-ness; super aggressive organisms are chemically They don’t have to find a biological dating agency to hook up with something and cause chaos. See what a fungus blight did to potatoes in Ireland during the Famine. Contact with humans could be fatal. Space travel may bring literal tides of microfauna in to space. If so, and the microfauna is dangerous, humans needn’t expect to be thanked for it. After all, we do know how dangerous some of these organisms can be on Earth.
  • Microorganisms are highly adaptive. We also know that these organisms adapt rapidly to any hostile environment. Ironically, we could use fungi as explorers, just to see how they cope with new environments. The obvious issue is that they’ll adapt to any countermeasures as quickly as usual, or perhaps even more quickly. (Why does nobody do generational studies on resistance, to see how the damn things adapt, by the way? Would have saved a lot of trouble with the superbugs.)

Nobody’s even mentioned viruses, yet, a substrate of the likely micro ecology on the ISS. No phages? If not, why not?

So – Is humanity going to emerge from Earth, bringing every known disease and pathogen with it? Or is this going to be another case of just blunder along, bringing plagues with the explorers? Great image for humanity’s first outings in to space, isn’t it?

This is a real challenge. Even if it’s only 1% of the possible problems as outlined, they’re still potentially huge problems.

The cosmic microwave background – Not all that self-explanatory, either. Just have a guess how many fungi could be living in that.

Ironically, some years ago I did a book which included Martian pathogens as part of the storyline, terrestrial microfauna which isolated a Martian colony.

The book, of course, was ignored, as usual. Pity, because it was so much fun to write.To hell with you alleged literati. If you can’t be bothered reading a fun book, I don’t want to know you.

(I can’t begin to tell you what I think of a society which doesn’t read, and usually doesn’t understand what it reads.) Nice to know my storyline has some vindication, though.


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

The truth about lack of leadership


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2Leadership is a very personal thing. It’s about the person leading. All leaders have different styles. No two great leaders have much in common except their ability to lead. Global leadership is currently at an all-time low. Western leadership not only lacks style; it lacks credibility.

The trouble with leadership is that some people really do need leading. I think the only people who “need strong leaders” are weak followers. They’re lost, unable to take the initiative in any direction. The lack of initiative, at any level, is a symptom of true failure.

You don’t beat problems by waiting for them to hit you like a train. That’s exactly what the world has been doing, for several decades. Intelligent leaders anticipate; the current herd of cattle procrastinate. They digress in to minutiae as the problems breed like bacteria.

You call this leadership?

Rhetoric isn’t leadership; it’s talk.

  • Ideology isn’t leadership; it’s an excuse for what is done.
  • No amount of media hype equates to a single atom of leadership.
  • Leadership means taking responsibility; seen any personal accountability recently?
  • Leadership means personal commitment; seen any sudden outbreaks of personal guts?

Consider the current range of problems, which now extend to even such basics as water, land use and generational futures:

  • Would you run your family on the basis of no water, no housing, no healthy environment, and not even a clear path to a future for your kids? That’s what the current “leadership” is doing, very badly.
  • Would you raise your family in a sewer, with a sewer as the future? It’s happening on a truly colossal scale. The sheer scale of global contamination of all kinds is raging unchecked.
  • Would you train your family to believe that failure is the norm? The mere idea of the public interest is now the synonym for losers.

The disorganized mess which global civilization has become is the epitome of failure of leadership at all levels. Instead of focusing on the obvious big issues, and charging in in a coordinated way with all guns blazing, the odd squeak is heard.

Instead of ferocious all-out counters to rampant crime, corruption and political excess at the expense of the public, a few clichés trundle out, and nothing – meaning absolutely nothing – is done. It’s endemic.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

Leadership HAS to be creative. You have to create solutions and plan achievements. This book is about putting people in touch with their own creativity.

The social leadership is now just about giveaways from the public purse to anyone or anything that happens to be able to freeload at any given time. Privatization was never about economic efficiency; prices have been rising and quality of life deteriorating ever since it began. Free enterprise built the modern economy; freeloading is destroying it, and it’s from the top, not the welfare class.

Deregulation is fine, for people who break laws. For everyone else, it’s just an opportunity to get ripped off. Another meaningless myth from pseudo-leadership with no ideas, just greed, as its raison d’etre. Even a game of football has rules, but not a society? Come off it.

Pollution is poisoning the world. Instead of being exterminated like it deserves, mindless subservience to greed is the excuse for a toxic mix of chemicals covering the entire planet. No leadership at all on this subject.

Leadership failure as a science

The failures are everywhere:

Instead of properly managing child sex abuse, it’s become an industry, and abusers, who’ve committed actual crimes, are protected by religions. It’s OK for people to pay to have their kids abused. Is that leadership, as you know it?

American ValhallaInstead of acknowledging problems and major economic disasters, like the finance sector’s highly destructive practices a la 2008, etc., they’re running things. No accountability. They should have got 20 years in jail; they’re still doing dangerous deals with ridiculous levels of credit. Again, see any leadership?

The failures are so systemic they can now be called a science. Every issue, every problem, becomes a job creation for people determined not to solve it. They get paid billions for achieving nothing, and usually doing more damage.

A real science would measure achievement. This science of leadership failure measures lack of achievement, and pays itself more to keep right on failing.

Why the failure of global leadership?

This routine failure to deal with ANY problems is no coincidence. I’m not going to mention the “usual scum” by name. There’s no need. Every failure eventually exposes itself as a failure of intellect as much as a failure of courage or even basic skills. The crashed corporation, the failed state, the symptoms of failure are always the same.

This book is about national problems. The leadership could be from anyone who understands those problems. Don’t hold your breath.

When the truly incompetent are in charge, this is what happens. Leadership is failing because it has incentives to fail. Every pathetic weakling in any sort of leadership role benefits from being the one in charge. Their actual leadership is horrendously ineffectual, but they have the influence. That influence translates in to “success”, like the idiot gambler who loses millions, but is holding everyone else’s money.

Gambling, in fact, is a good analogy. Everyone knows that wins are rare, and most gamblers lose. The psychosis of gambling, much like politics, is based on the theoretical chance of winning and the illusions of winning.

The illusions are deadly. To be appointed Head Idiot is a win. To be in front of cameras is a win. To be in charge of a herd of rich fools is a win. The ego rewards and the inevitable, endless escapes from blame are wins. Failed leadership, lacking real success, has to claim success in these ways.

The gambler is always looking for the big win that will put everything right. In lieu of that, the chance to win is the excuse for more failures and stupid moves. No need for in-depth psychology here; failure supports its own delusions. Therefore, it perpetuates itself.

Leadership can’t be based on failure. Illusions can’t be successes.  To progress, achievement, not non-achievement, is required.

Can you lead yourself? Leadership is based on oneself; if you can lead yourself, you can lead others. You might take a bit of convincing, but that means you may be honest enough to be a real leader.

The image of power and the exercise of power have very little in common. Any fool can portray the image. Very few have ever exercised power in its greatest form, the power to transform the world. Of those few, some did so despite leadership, rather than because of it.

Since the 19th century, the world has been transformed in the face of ancient tyrannies, mindless hatreds, festering crime, and putrescent people of all kinds. The real leadership came from basic human aspirations, in many cases.

Those aspirations are dangerous things. They sometimes follow aspiring fools, “just do their jobs” in aspiring atrocities, and take Great Leaps Forward in to hellish years of misery.

Many disasters, in fact, are caused by aspirations with no real guidance. The other role of leaders is as guides. Leaders are supposed to understand the risks, know how to dodge them, and look out for dangerous situations.

So failed global leadership means the Great Dung Cart of Humanity isn’t getting steered. It can crash in to anything and everything, and usually does. The aspirations can’t really control anything, just create a direction for movement towards whatever fulfils it, however illusory or downright false.

“Heroic” leadership?

Historically, some leaders have been actually heroic. Heroism, however, can be a pretty difficult necessity. I think most heroic leaders would agree that:

  • Being heroic is all well and good, but it also gets in the way of doing the rest of the job, which is much more mundane and demanding.
  • Being heroic and doing something useful are basically the same thing.
  • They didn’t intend to be “heroic” as such; they just needed to get a job done.
  • They led because they had to; it’s not unusual for previously invisible people to take charge when nobody else will.
  • Their view of their own bravery is very different to that of others. Real leadership is done on a very subjective, unavoidably honest, level. Hard work can’t be done on a fictional basis.
  • If being heroic meant moving a mountain of shit with a teaspoon to dig people out, they did it. They often did it because nobody else would.

This book is about how an ideology can lead. Where it leads tells you everything you need to know about this type of leadership.

There’s a common factor here – Leaders get on with it. Non-leaders don’t. You don’t actually have to be a hero to lead; you just need to be willing to do the tough jobs, and credible enough to get people to follow you.

Another facet, “inspiration”, is also important. If you can inspire others to lead, you’re a leader of leaders, and useful. In the current totally demotivational circus of non-leadership, that’d be very useful.

Seen anyone inspiring lately? Mediocrity is now the substitute for success. Fools, frauds, and failures are portrayed as leaders. They’re not. The world will have to raise the bar, a lot, to achieve any real leadership.



Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Where’s the last place people look for anything? In their own minds.



In a culture so utterly devoid of real substance, it’s fascinating that materialism is still the default value system. Gizmos come and go, useless toil comes and goes, and the mind barely acknowledges its own existence.


The reality you experience is largely external. It, and its mainly useless values, are brought in to the mind and stacked up like groceries. The external defines the possible. The internal is some sort of spectator, baffled by everything and inflicted with everything. It’s absurd. It’s like surgically grafting yourself on to a YouTube ad, or anything else you can take or leave.

Everything is focused externally. It’s hard to avoid. After all, in its own obnoxious way, the external is relevant. The question is where and when does it stop being relevant?

People have been answering that question, vaguely or not, for millennia. The pity of it is that all this effort apparently hasn’t made the point – This Means You.

The “world” vs the mind

I have very little time for the idea of “emotional intelligence”. It’s a tautology, to start with. It also demands conformity with a set of “everybody does it” behaviours. A better approach would be “unique intelligence”, which is also very close to a tautology, but at least of use to individuals as a reference point. Every human being is unique. There aren’t any others. Why, then, the difficulty in simply acknowledging the inevitable differences? Even within yourself?

This is an off the rack world. It’s now truly pathetic. The tedious, grindingly banal and avoidable crap is spewed out like some omni-vomit. What right does this failed catalogue of an El Cheapo “civilization” have to dictate anything to anyone? Do you take orders from a Twinkie? You might as well.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?


It’s also a type of life experience pollution. From the staggeringly no-fun conveyor belt of what is now pseudo-childhood through the cement bags nailed to the head of teenage life, it just gets worse. Every damn pile of external garbage will be piled in to the storage zone, vaguely remembered for decades after.

The 20s throw people in to the ridiculous vacuum of careers and mindless acquisition. If you’re incredibly lucky, you may have a good relationship to share the insanity with. The 30s make it worse and often very hard to manage. You hit the 40s, in which Stone Age people were virtual athletes, and modern humans are train wrecks with life’s luggage piling up. And so on.


How could this substandard Rube Goldberg existence possibly work at all? There’s no room in people’s lives for themselves, their talents, or their individuality. You get crowded out of yourself, in effect.

Looking for something? Try your mind.

Pavlov’s dog had it easy. Humans have thousands of bells ringing all the time. Each bell generates a reaction, usually a conditioned reflex which is barely conscious. The reflexes can be wrong. They may relate to something which is truly unthinking. The human mind barely gets a chance to assess and evolve its own perspectives on these micro-dominoes happening all the time.

The fact is that people work better on their own terms. For over a decade now, I’ve been saying “Fit jobs to people, not people to jobs”. The same applies to the mind.

The human mind, if it ever gets a chance to get out of the bassinet before being swamped by ennui and mundane crap, can do better. A lot better.

Imagine a genuinely rational response to anything:

  • Do I like it?
  • Do I want to avoid it?
  • Is there a better way?
  • Does it need to be done at all?
  • What are the better things to do?

These aren’t material values, although they often transfer to physical acts. The fact is that most people’s lives are governed by the avoidable and the unavoidable. The unavoidable, however, is often inexcusable. It’s something you don’t want to do, be with, associate with, etc.

If your mind could get a word in edgewise, the advice about the unavoidable would be very straightforward: Forget it, I hate it. I’ve got better things to do and see. This advice would be backed up with genuine loathing, disgust, and quite reasonable disdain.

Now – Imagine 7.6 billion humans doing things they don’t want to do, in an environment where their minds are screaming for release. Fun place to be, eh? Stress through the roof, neuroses, wars, greed, et al of Nothing Land.

This is where “unique intelligence” can do a lot. Fortunately, the real inner person in everyone is strictly DIY. Nobody else has that frame of reference. There are ways out. As many ways as there are people.

Start a de-cluttering exercise, beginning with every damn thing you’ve always hated and despised. Respect yourself. If you want to believe in anything, start with yourself. It’s far better to believe in something you know, trust and understand. You’ll be a lot happier, and a lot more independent… And nobody can stop you.

The dying religions and their rotting corpses


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2I don’t usually knock religions. I know that for millions of people living in poverty and unbelievable squalor, religion gives them the only hope they have. I have to respect that. On that basis is this article written.

The utter betrayal of humanity by its religions is no minor thing. The fanatics, the pedophiles, the corruption and the total failure of religions to achieve their missions are inexcusable. Like politics, religion is now a simple executive task for plodders, a corporate business with no redeeming features. That’s not good enough.

The Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, no longer represent anything but political power. Communities live in misery. The message they’re given is nothing but excuses to hate. Spiritual life is the mere recital of doggerel, and the demand for money.

The greatest betrayal of religion

The greatest betrayal is simple enough –  The hope is given of a better existence. The fact is given of unredeemed poverty, tyrannical conformity. With this obscenity comes an ugliness of small, petty minds unworthy to mention any god, let alone claim to be experts.

Beliefs are supposed to mean something. In the Golden Age of Meaninglessness, you get a brochure, not a meaningful belief.

Cowering behind scriptures, the religions spread their hate and filthy horrors in the material world. Ancient hatreds, thousands of years old in some cases, infest the world. The resulting spiritual cowardice of the religions is extraordinary. No issue is permitted to intrude on this festival of failure, whether it’s the total mismanagement of human affairs or the hideous, poisoned world in which humanity exists.

If the original gods have gone, the gods of greed, crime, malice and the Great God of Endless Excuses remain. Tell the Devil he’s out of a job; the religions have done what no incarnation of evil could ever do. Those who live in this world need no hell, no Purgatory, and certainly no more smug fools making life worse every second of every day.

The history of religions as actual arguments and practice is baffling:

  • The Christian idea of “man has no free will” is a case in point. If that were the case, is god a mere cheat sheet? If everything is preordained, what is the point of it? How do be fruitful and multiply apply to serial abuses by the clergy? Is anything really being done about it? No.
  • Islam was at one point the most progressive, enlightened religion in the world. More actual progress in the sciences was achieved by the original Islamic civilization than perhaps any other than the Chinese. Now, it’s at war with itself and the world, based on truly ancient hatreds, money, and current power politics.
  • Judaism was the foundation of the monotheistic religions. It has an unmatched record of genuine scholarship. Now, it seems dogmatic and insular. How are scholarship and dogmatic insularity reconciled? Not well, it seems. Even with good reasons in the course of history, Judaism of all religions should know that scholarship and dodging real issues with scriptural conveniences can’t work.

The religions can’t have it both ways. You’re given the privilege of teaching, and you start wars? You persecute the students, and only slavishly reciting the messages of hate permits them to graduate? This isn’t religion; it’s incompetence at best, blatant hypocrisy on average, and genocide at worst.

How many damn fools does it take to find a god? Far too many, apparently. Even the basics are ignored. The only reason religions have lasted so long in their hypocritically righteous stupor is by a curious, if appropriate, fact. Religions have survived not by their official pomposity, but by the work of their people who are rarely acknowledged, or more often ruined by their work.

In South America, the first to raise the issue of the slaughter and extermination of the natives was a Jesuit. Yes, a Jesuit, supposedly one of the most dogmatic, ferociously conventional forms of Catholicism. This poor man simply told the truth. Was he thanked? Hardly. Not for about 300 years, when modern history caught up with the facts.

We had a friend who was a refugee from communist Hungary. He wanted to practice his religion. When he came to Australia, he was astonished. In his home town, the priests were actual social workers, the real Christianity of the dim and misunderstood European past. He went back to communist Hungary, rather than worship in Australia. All he could see were priests going through the motions; there was no Christianity as he understood it.

There are endless stories of religion failing to live up to its tasks. The religions are dying of themselves. They’ve polluted themselves with the very thing they were supposed to cure. When the Romans became Christianized, there was an exchange of values. The Christians became Romanized. The most corrupt, venal society passed on its genes to those least able to understand them, the (relatively) simple Christians practicing their then much less complex faith.

The great betrayals of religion

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

The pattern has repeated often enough. Martin Luther went to Rome, went back to Germany, and planted the Reformation in the minds of Europeans based on the corruption of Rome as he saw it. The Inquisition created its own worst enemies out of its centuries of injustice. The net effect of the two religious forces was a century of war.

There is not, and never has been, any Scripture which condones injustice. Injustice is a plague on this world which everyone knows all too well.

There is no Scripture which condones abuse of believers. How many believers of different religions are abused on a daily basis, either by deprivation of needs or actual physical abuse? Hundreds of millions, directly or indirectly.

There is no Scripture which permits the abuse of children. Now pedophiles are betraying the children of worshippers, and the churches cringe behind lawyers, rather than addressing an actual issue. This is now discovered to be a universal problem with many religions.

Jesus, Mohamed and Moses were opponents of tyranny, physical and spiritual. Now their religions support tyranny, act corruptly, uphold the miseries of human life, and demand respect? It’s not likely to be forthcoming. The message of hate is failing.

Perhaps fittingly the religions also betray themselves. It’s hard to imagine any more thorough way of bringing religion in to disrepute than the usual evasive business of every religion every day.

Where and when does it end? Soon enough, apparently. The religions are losing their believers, and their practitioners. There is no longer a use for beliefs which aren’t even practiced by their most fanatical adherents.

Maybe the hope which all these people have will come true. If so, it won’t be as the result of the maniacal hatreds promoted by the religions. It won’t be because some simpering coward in a cassock refused to see the truth. It won’t be because some damn animal uses god as excuse for atrocities.

The hope will come from recognition of the irreconcilable differences between the true messages of the religions and the vermin who pervert those messages. When the hopeful leave the rotting corpses of the religions and simply pursue their hopes, the religions, and their obscenities, will be truly dead.