Re: Re: Re: Mars: "Rogue" memes and the laughter curtain
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 22:05:04 EDT

Hal wrote:

>There is much we don't understand about Mars. But the last thing to
>assume is that mysteries are explained by the activity of intelligence.
>This is the same point I made earlier with regard to attempts to
>explain missing mass or missing neutrinos by invoking intelligence.
>Experience has shown that we do best to exhaust all possibilities based
>on natural explanations before we conclude that intelligence was involved.

I agree with you 100%. But how are we to honestly eliminate the prosaic options unless we rephotograph Cydonia?

>In the case of the examples you listed, many of these points were made
>by Hoagland on the basis of the Viking orbiter photos, and some of them
>have been basically refuted by the new pictures. We have good images
>of the main pyramid and the upper part of the D&M pyramid. There is no
>buttressing, and the facets are not precise and never were (they don't
>meet at a point, for example).

The "buttresses" were noted on an enhanced photo of the D&M Pyramid: portions that _haven't_ been rephotographed at all. So I'm still waiting to see if it was some sort of processing artifact or simply an interesting example of erosion. I'm intrigued by the new images of the Main Pyramid. You're essentially right: only two facets meet at a point. The rest is grossly bisymmetric, with the larger facets meeting in a sort of middle "spine." Personally, I'm not yet ready to discount it.

>We have good images of most of the "City" and it all looks natural.

_Most_ of it, I'd say.

>We have the western portion of the "Fort" and it looks natural as well.

Megalithic structures, if they are structures, will invariably take on some of the entropy of their terrain, given thousands of years. In the case of the Fort, the western portion you refer to is so small it tells us very little. What's needed is a good shot of the enclosed space in the middle of it and the straight "walls."

>We don't really know what the Face looks like when viewed from the surface,
but >the early reconstructions based on Viking cannot be trusted now.

Actually, the new reconstructions conform quite well. It was the position of the shadows that caused the uproar, not the underlying morphology.

>I don't see anything here which can't be plausibly explained by natural
>processes of erosion. We have pyramidal rocks on earth, and even
>mountains and hills that resemble faces. Obviously the details of
>erosion will be different on Mars, and there are still many unknowns.
>But we should explore natural explanations and not jump to the conclusion
>that unexplained phenomena are due to intelligence, just as in other
>forms of scientific investigation.

Good points.

>> It's interesting that you don't think it's prudent to "waste money" (a
>> myth--we've already got a craft there ready to take pictures without
>> anything)

>It's not a myth that there are huge costs to image and re-image this area.
>The cost of anything is the foregone opportunity. There is only a limited
>amount of bandwidth available for returning pictures, time on the deep
>space networks necessary to pick up the transmissions, time to plan the
>pictures and to process them when they come back. When we take another
>picture of the Cydonia region, we're missing out on the opportunity to
>photograph some other part of Mars.

I think the Cydonia region is interesting enough _without_ the presence of the anomalies. It was, you will remember, where NASA wanted to land one of the Viking landers, but the terrain was too tricky. And NASA has already shown an interest in the probable water ice photographed in the region in '98. So I'm betting that more pictures will be taken of the region, but not necessarily the anomalies.

>Another thing to consider is this. Suppose we did take more photos of
>Cydonia, and we saw what we have seen so far. The rest of the D&M pyramid
>looks like an eroded outcropping.

We have't seen this so far, but I like your line of thinking, so go on...

>Same with the Fortress. Same with the other structures. The Face looks
>vaguely facelike, but no more so than
>any number of natural landforms on the earth. What then?

>Would that satisfy you? Would you then say, okay, no more pictures?

I'm enough of a Mars enthusiast anyway that I'd have to content myself with the prospect of more rigorous future missions. (If, of course, a round of new photos leaves doubt as to their origin.)

>If so, what about the others, who aren't satisfied? Some people
>will continue to see hints of structure in the photographs. Look at
>Hoagland's web page at He saw all kinds of
>stuff, castles and streets, in the photos from last year. Others will
>agree with him. Do we have to keep taking pictures until every last
>person on Earth is satisfied, at the cost of scientifically useful
>photographs from other parts of the planet? Or do we simply stop when
>you personally are convinced there's nothing there?

Excellent point. Science is peer-reviewed (and rightly so), so I would endorse laying off on Cydonia if enough _informed_ aerologists thought there wasn't anything to it. But the climate right now is different: scientists either don't know about the Cydonian anomalies or they brush them off, victims of the laughter curtain.

--Mac Tonnies