1905 : Leading Scientist Was Certain That Martians Are Smarter Than Humans

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8 Responses to 1905 : Leading Scientist Was Certain That Martians Are Smarter Than Humans

  1. QV says:

    The belief in the existence of Martian “canals” continued until the 1960’s when the theory was disproved by the Mariner spacecraft,
    Astronomers thought they could see them though Earth bound telescopes but this was probably due to an optical illusion, “confirmation bias” and “group think”.
    At least the astronomers had the integrity to abandon the belief when presented with contradictory evidence.

    • tom0mason says:

      Oh canali where art thou? Or who’s bad at translating Italian –
      Back in 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli reported his discovery:
      There were “canali,” or canals, on Mars. Since canals are artificial by definition, this caused a lots of speculation and theories about the possibility of a long-vanished race of Martians who must have made the structures to irrigate their fields.
      Schiaparelli however did not really get Martian fever going, that was left to an astronomer called Percival Lowell.
      Lowell read Schiaparelli’s work, and he just got so fixated on seeing Mars clearly that he moved to Arizona, constructed his own observatory and spent years looking at Mars and publishing highly speculative papers that theorized –
      A) Mars was once populated by a civilized race of brilliant engineers,
      B) those engineers created these canals as a last-ditch effort to save a dying planet.

      There were only two problems:
      Firstly – Lowell had just drawn canals randomly across his version of the map of Mars’ surface, apparently, er,um, but as no one has been able to correlate any of his lines with any of the actual views of Mars.

      Secondly – The important point is that “canali” doesn’t mean “canals,” it actually means “channels” or ‘trenches’, and Schiaparelli was just noting some changes in a totally natural terrain.

      By all accounts, Schiaparelli was understandably upset that his observations were being associated with Lowell’s lunacy, but by the time the truth actually got out, it was all too late.

      Lowell’s imaginative interpretation of the Martian surface spurred the science fiction fantasies of everyone from H.G. Wells, whose The War of the Worlds also featured the last-ditch efforts of a dying Martian race, to Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose novel A Princeof Mars is also about — guess what? A dying civilization on the planet Mars.

      All this from the mistranslation of Italian word canali.

  2. gator69 says:

    They are certainly smarter than some ‘leading scientists’.

  3. TheJollyGreenMan says:

    Prof Lowell wrote a few books about the Mars canals, and if you keep digging you find the frontpage of the Washington Post that reported: Life on Mars.

    The idea that there was life on Mars was used extensively by authors, and even Edgar Rice Burrows, who started the Tarzan craze wrote a number of Mars based adventure stories, The belief that there was life on Mars was very popular in the the early 1900s, and that is why the panic ensued in the USA when Orson Wells famously broadcasted the attack from Mars. I could never understand why there was such a panic until it dawned on me that the concept of life on Mars had such popular belief, a bit like global warming today.

    • geran says:

      The similarities are amazing!

    • Billy Liar says:

      Unfortunately, there will be no parallel with the first image returned by Mariner 4 showing craters on the surface which changed the view of the scientific community on life on Mars.

      It took 116 years to dispatch the theory of phlogiston (1667-1783) – how depressing.

    • A statistical survey of hundreds of unimpeachable historical documents documents (Burroughs, Brackett, Bradbury, et al) shows a 99.7% confidence of a 96% chance of muscle-bound, swordfighting warriors populating the planet Mars. It seems likely to the authors of this study that they may even have fantastic names such as “Malacandra” or “Barsoom” for their home planet. Carbon mitigation would only cost < 0.4% GDP per year to prevent the destruction of valuable Martian habitats.

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