Yesterday in my lesson entitled "The Search for Life on Mars: 19th and
Century Myths," I repeated an experiment conducted by the English
E. Walter Maunder with a group of English school boys over a century ago
determine whether or not the martian canals were an optical illusion. I
posted a small 19th century drawing of Mars at the front of the room
the classical smudges that are usually seen on the red planet through a
telescope. And, again and again with each of my classes the students in
back of the room drew linear features and oasis that were not present on
drawing posted on the front of the room. I proceeded on to outlining the
whole history behind the canals of Mars and how an optical illusion led
Lowell to develop a whole scenario of an ancient civilization struggling
survive on a nearly desiccated planet.
The second part of the lesson dealt with the "face of Cydonia" on Mars
the numerous other faces that can be seen on the red planet (Happy Face,
Kermit the frog etc..). My students immediately made the connection
this 20th century myth and the 19th Century myth of the Canals. How come
bunch of grown ups can not do the same?
Alex Michael Bonnici.