archiv~1: SETI The Search for Life On Mars: 19th and 20th Century Myths!!!!

SETI The Search for Life On Mars: 19th and 20th Century Myths!!!!

Alex Michael Bonnici ( bonnici@ix.netcom.com )
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 04:54:52 -0500

Hello Gang,
I currently teach a course entitled "Planet Earth" an
interdisciplinary course developed by the New York City Board of
Education
and the American Museum of Natural History at the Manhattan Center for
Science and Math High School.

Yesterday in my lesson entitled "The Search for Life on Mars: 19th and
20th
Century Myths," I repeated an experiment conducted by the English
astronomer
E. Walter Maunder with a group of English school boys over a century ago
to
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
showing
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
the
back of the room drew linear features and oasis that were not present on
the
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
to
survive on a nearly desiccated planet.

The second part of the lesson dealt with the "face of Cydonia" on Mars
and
the numerous other faces that can be seen on the red planet (Happy Face,

Kermit the frog etc..). My students immediately made the connection
between
this 20th century myth and the 19th Century myth of the Canals. How come
a
bunch of grown ups can not do the same?

Alex Michael Bonnici.
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/8505