Mars Face (was Planetary SETI)
Sat, 17 Jul 1999 20:30:25 EDT

>Since I actually have seen both the old and the new photos, I can
>conclusively say that the rock formation does not in any way look like a
>face when looked at in any kind of decent resolution, and only slightly
>looks like one when viewed with the sun on the horizon, because the
>other side of the face is not in view and our minds interpolate a

The "missing half" you refer to is a problem; it was in shadow when Viking photographed it, and the Global Surveyor took a really aggravating angle shot that leaves some up to our imaginations. But I'd argue that the salient facial features are there, all right, just obscured by erosion. One compelling thing that was discovered about the new image is that the centerline crosses directly between the "crown" features, as well as between the nostrils. The "lips" (which actually do look like human lips, and appear bisymmetric) have an interesting centerline feature geologists are calling a "hairlip." This feature is in the exact center as well.

I was frustrated with the original enhanced version of the new Face picture and absolutely appalled by the image released to the media, since it hadn't been subjected to any processing to speak of. Also, NASA's final version was "orthorectified"--a perfectly legitimate procedure when mapping a planetary surface, but didn't make much sense re the Face because the Face had been photographed at a near 45 degree angle! The result is the Picasso-esque looking thing that's finding its way into books on the subject, and probably what you're referring to. So I agree with you that the facial resemblance, on this particular "enhancement," at least, is dubious at best.

Mark Carlotto enhanced the original "catbox" image, and the result is a much more honest view of what the Face looked like to the MGS. It's definitely more facelike. The right-hand side is obviously degraded, but retains the ruler-straight border seen on the left-hand portion of the so-called "headdress." I'm not yet willing to discount it, given that new analysis has shown that the left eye socket is an actual feature, not an aberrant shadow. It's even got a pupil--and _all_ the features--nostrils, lips, chin, etc.--match classical humanoid proportions to a tee.

What we need before this sort of discussion can achieve anything is an _overhead_ shot, preferably with a high sun-angle. As far as shadows go, _of course_ the Face (if artificial) relies on shadows! That's the nature of sculptures, and the Face dwarfs even Earth's biggest megaliths by a huge factor. And it's almost certainly much, much older, so the more we can learn about Martian weathering, the more we can ascertain whether the apparent degradation we see is accountable by erosion, mass wasting, vulcanism, etc.

The only coherent skeptical theory explaining the nostril features, for example, is hydrothermal activity. But they're so precisely positioned in relation to other facial details (and to each other) that it gives one pause.

I'm perfectly willing to "face" the fact that the Face is a naturally occurring landform. But I don't think we have enough evidence at this point to make any sort of final decision. The issue is too potentially important to write off just because we've got some mountains on Earth that possess transient, sun-angle dependent facial resemblances.

Lastly, Nanogirl posted on this thread commenting that this topic didn't really belong on an extropian mailing list. I disagree. ETI is a big issue, here. I understand that the Mars Face tack isn't popular, but it's a completely disprovable matter, and belongs in the speculative arena along with everything else, provided one can make a coherent case for it. I'm not out to change anyone's minds on this one, but I think it can be demonstrated that the Face and its attendant landforms are _extremely unusual_ and _might_ represent the evidence we're after.

--Mac Tonnies