You’ve all heard of Richard Branson, right?  He started Virgin Records from the crypt of a church when he was a teenager and now he’s a multi-billionaire.  He also owns Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and 400 other companies.  He also tried to set the speed record for sailing across the Atlantic in 1985 (and failed), succeeded the next year, then set the speed record for crossing the Pacific in a balloon in 1991, then attempted to circumnavigate the earth in a balloon in 1995 (and failed), then set the record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle in 2004, then tried to set the record for crossing the Atlantic under sail (and failed), then set the world record for putting a round of mini golf in the dark in Australia in 2008.  So basically, he does everything that you would do if you had billions of dollars and gave zero fucks.

Yes, the ice cubes on my planes are shaped like my head. I don’t understand the question.

Anyway, he posted this photo on Google+ about a week ago because he thinks it’s cool (because it’s cool).

Now first of all, it’s worth pointing out that this is slightly misleading.  First of all, with all the stuff about the Curiosity rover recently, you might think this was from Curiosity.  It’s not.  It’s also not a sunrise.  It’s a sunset, it was taken by the Spirit rover (one of the tiny cute ones), and it’s from 2005.  So that’s cleared up.  Anyway, a veritable crapload of people have already pointed out that Branson mislabeled the picture, something about which I’m sure he also gives zero fucks.  That’s not what I’m concerned about.
What I’m concerned about is a select few of the 500+ comments that cropped up on the photo.  They seem to embody virtually every problem with attitudes toward science in the world.  For the record, I have no idea where these people are from or anything else about them besides their names.  I am judging them purely by what they’ve said here.  Let’s go.
Mohammed Rizwan Thinks This Is Fake
Maybe he’s a troll, maybe he’s an idiot.  Maybe he’s the kind of person that thinks the moon landings and everything cool anyone’s ever done were faked by the government so that … for some reason.  There were a lot of “fake” comments.
Marius Kristensen Doesn’t Make A Lot Of Sense
Marius seems to think that there’s terraforming already happening on Mars, despite this picture that clearly shows it as a cold, dark, barren desert.  He also thinks that nuclear plants create ozone, which they don’t.  Then he says that the ozone layer here on Earth was created by nuclear plants in central Africa, and then starts rambling about extraterrestrial life and intelligent, sustainable technomoly.  I’m not sure what technomoly is.  Marius is like the guy who starts rambling that Obama’s going to take away all his guns in the forums for Mass Effect 3, the kind of guy who sees something interesting and thinks “Hey, that’s interesting, here’s the entirety of my thoughts on a completely different subject.”
Clarissa Vincent Uses Huge Words To Complain
Clarissa is upset that Branson mislabeled his photo, and has decided that it’s an enormous, global problem.  Using unnecessarily large words.  Also, that’s not really what “crass” means.
Fahmiefairuz And Tosin Think This Is Evidence Of God’s Greatness
First of all the Bible doesn’t talk about other planets.  Second, let me point you to a verse in the Bible.  In Genesis 11, the whole world had a common language, and they had some sort of conference and decided to build a big-ass tower just for the sake of human achievement.  God, for no apparent reason, disapproves, and says this:
If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So he scatters them all over the place and confuses their language and construction on the tower stops.
Is God aware that we’ve now landed four rovers on Mars?  And not a single one of them was put there by a team that all spoke English as their first language.
John Fudala Doesn’t Understand Google+ Or The Internet
I genuinely don’t know what’s happening here.
Tim Heer Is Either Yoda Or Having A Stroke
I think he’s saying that there can’t be life on Mars, because the sun is going down.  But someone should probably check on him.
Dave Markel Is Hard To Please
Dave is unimpressed by most of the pictures from these missions, because apparently THROWING A FUCKING SUV 150 MILLION MILES THROUGH SPACE AND LOWERING IT ON TO THE SURFACE OF AN ALIEN PLANET FROM A GODDAMN SKY CRANE is pretty blase.
Simon Summerfield Doesn’t Know How To Look Things Up, 
And Julie Vanneyes Isn’t Helping
By the way, Julie, Mars is about half the diameter and a tenth the mass of the Earth.  Not really that close.
John Roadrunner Is A Dickhead
John thinks this mission was a waste of money, because apparently he thinks it only went there for the potential to send back kick-ass postcards.  These kinds of comments crop up on virtually every science story or published study on any topic, often accompanied by something ridiculous like “And yet cancer still exists, nice job SCIENCE”, and it’s because the people making the comments are morons.  There are several approaches to take here.  I could point out that you can’t make cancer research move faster by pouring money into it any better than you can make your car faster by pouring gas in the tank.  I could point out that NASA has had a return-on-investment into the U.S. economy of anything from three to 17 times what it costs through various technological innovations.  I could point out that we spend more on air conditioning for Army tents in Iraq in two months than on this entire mission, or that the world spent 8 times as much on the Olympics as it did on this mission, or that there are billions of dollars going into other fields of medical research that are not cancer and that YOU CAN’T JUST SPEND ALL THE MONEY ON EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE, but you know what?  I won’t.  I’ll just leave this here.
Jorge Nunez Has Never Learned A Single Fact About Mars
Seriously, I can’t think of any source of information that might have led you to believe that.  Also, if you did believe that, there’s nothing in this photo to indicate you’re wrong.  I don’t understand how this man thinks.
Several People Are Too Stupid To Describe
What … what do you mean, “what is it?”  There a caption on it that says what it is, there’s a link to more information that says what it is, there’s … are you people even literate?
Trevorj Corr Is Definitely Having A Stroke
In fact, he appears to have had one while entering his own name when he signed up for the service as well, unless his name is actually Trevorj.  Other than the last three words, I have no idea what this man is saying.
Lizzie Kelley Can’t Read Either
No, Lizzie.  It’s not the moon.  Mars’ moons are too small to see from the surface at that resolution.  Also it’s a sunset.  You know, like when the sun sets?  It’s that.
Justin Bleau Is A Triple Threat
Justin thinks the sunrise on Earth is way nicer (true, since we have an atmosphere and clouds that make for better colors, and also you can breathe here) and that NASA’s accomplishments are bullshit and fake.  So he misunderstands the purpose of the mission, thinks NASA is stupid, and thinks this is fake.  I’m not sure if he meant to type “accomplishments,” thus implying that NASA hadn’t actually accomplished anything, but hadn’t heard of quotation marks, or if he thinks they actually did all those things but not this photo.  I don’t think he knows either.
Julia Stacks Is My Crown Jewel
I’m not even going to say anything.
Just look on her works, ye mighty, and despair.

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