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Cydonian Imperative: 4-20-01 - Mars Gets Weird

From: Mac Tonnies <macbot@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 07:00:50 -0700 (PDT)
Fwd Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 09:27:04 -0400
Subject: Cydonian Imperative: 4-20-01 - Mars Gets Weird

The Cydonian Imperative

Mars Gets Weird

by Mac Tonnies (macbot@yahoo.com)


The history of the controversial "Face" on Mars has achieved the
momentum of urban myth. And as with an urban myth, our reactions
to the enigma is poses betray a smug disbelief, a collective
certainty that the solar system we inhabit - though strange - is
still the lifeless Newtonian machine we've grown to accept.

At the same time, the notion of extraterrestrial intelligence
has begun to squirm its way into the mainstream. The radio
search for ET signals (SETI) continues, essentially with the
backing of mainstream media. Cybernauts across the world run
SETI@Home, a downloadable number-crunching program, out of
dutiful conviction that it's worth doing. Maybe the next
fluctuation on the monitor will be the moment we've all been
waiting for. Somehow the effort seems worth it. We seem to
possess a fundamental urge to reach out, if only fumblingly, for

Despite the laudable goals of mainstream SETI, alternative
evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence such as the Martian
"Face" and associated features have been systematically
relegated to the fringe: unwelcome guests, eccentric neighbors
best left ignored. Our dismissal and fear of the "Face" has
affected the very fabric of scientific methodology; when a
confirming photo of the anthropomorphic mesa arrived in April of
1998, unnamed technicians at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory saw fit to obliterate it with an arsenal of arbitrary
graphics filters. With the mainstream press placated by what
looked like a two-dimensional footprint, NASA hoped the mystery
(introduced by a single photo taken by the Viking mission in
1976) would vanish.

But instead, the "Face" and other features in the Cydonia Mensae
region became underground superstars. Hundreds of sites cropped
up on the Web clamoring for attention, many of them brazenly
claiming that the Martian face was artificial beyond all doubt
and going so far as to identify its builders(!). Neighboring
formations such as the huge, five-sided "Main City Pyramid" and
small-scale anomalies like the "Mound" features scrutinized by
Dr. Horace Crater and Dr. Stanley McDaniel crowded cyberspace.
Curious readers were assaulted by ambiguous close-ups of
features billed as "smoking gun" evidence of a prior
civilization on the Red Planet.

In the three years that have passed since the Mars Global
Surveyor space probe returned its first tantalizing glimpse of
the Face in 1998, the search for alien artifacts on the Martian
surface has achieved unprecedented inertia. Most of the
speculation (and rare moments of actual science) have occurred
online, effectively invisible from society at large.
Self-proclaimed "skeptics" unfamiliar with the 10+ years of
fastidious, moderated research that has established the "Face"
as a genuine scientific unknown, have seen fit to maintain the
status quo with sweeping denouncements of the features in
Cydonia (and elsewhere). Many of these attacks have achieved
print status, and gain a relatively large audience among readers
unaware of the controversy and unable to arrive at their own
reasoned conclusions. And NASA, unfortunately, has continued to
betray its public pledge to reimage the Cydonia region at "every
available opportunity," resulting in countless (partially)
justified conspiracy scenarios.

What little ideological camaraderie the Internet "Cydonia
underground" had in 1998 has since become a confusion of claims,
counterclaims and accusations of subversive "political" agendas
harbored by various loose-knit organizations devoted to getting
to the bottom of the Cydonia mystery.

At the same time, our understanding of Mars itself is in the
process of profound mutation. We now know that the rusted sands
of our sister world occasionally harbor liquid water, a
prerequisite for carbon-based organic chemistry. And the
discovery of magnetite particles in a Martian meteorite makes
the case for past microbial life on Mars virtually airtight.
Notables such as scientist and author Arthur C. Clarke have
publicly claimed that new images from the Mars Global Surveyor
show probable macroscopic lifeforms, while NASA, typically,
sulks in perplexing silence.

If we cannot officially recognize possible extant life on Mars,
how can we hope to democratize the results of a successful
search for extraterrestrial intelligence? Radio-based SETI is
ontologically safe enough for establishment science: by SETI's
definition, the "aliens" - if they're indeed out there swapping
pages of the "Encyclopedia Galactica" -  will be conveniently
far away. Mars, on the other hand, hovers enticingly in our own
celestial backyard. If the prospect of Martian fungus is enough
to upset our fragile existential balance, the presence of
megalithic structures - left by a civilization about which we
know nothing - carries with it nothing less than a redefinition
of our species.

If artificiality on Mars is confirmed - and there's nothing to
stop us from confirming it in the next few years other than
bureaucratic reticence - the ensuing transformation is,
literally, everyone's business. We cannot afford the attitude of
smug pseudo-skepticism and anti-scientific denial that now
permeates the subject, for whatever reasons.


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