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Malin Space Science Systems Requests Target Sites on Mars

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Malin Space Science Systems is asking the public to recommend sites on the Martian surface deserving of closer study. The Mars Orbiter Camera on board the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, now in its extended mission sequence, successfully acquired a high-resolution frontal image of the Face on Mars in 2001 as well as other anomalous features.

Some of the Cydonia features photographed by the Mars Global Surveyor. Note the alarming absence of an imaging "footprint" on the D&M Pyramid.

Intriguing features yet to be imaged include the Rounded Formation at the far west of the City complex in Cydonia, the D&M Pyramid (imaged by the Mars Odyssey's relatively low-resolution THEMIS camera with surprising results), and the tantalizingly artificial-looking "Runway" (aka "String of Pearls") atop Hecates Tholus.

The "Runway" as seen by Viking.

Let MSSS know that the scientific community needs more images of Martian anomalies by visiting the Mars Orbiter Camera Target Request Site at:


The Face on Mars: An Artificial Reflective Substrate?

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The Light Finally Dawns at Cydonia, presents an intriguing new view of the Cydonia region courtesy of a multiple-bandwidth false-color rendering. The image, which depicts the Martian surface moments before sunrise, shows the Face and D&M Pyramid apparently "glowing" in the faint morning light, as if polished to a mirror-shine. Hoagland insists that this effect is unique the the Face and D&M, writing:

"[J]ust what could make 'an average Martian mesa' [...] so incredibly reflective ... even in the semi-dark, pre-dawn twilight of Cydonia?"

False-color composite showing "anomalous" reflectivity on the Face.

What Hoagland fails to realize is that the "incredible" reflectivity referred to above is accountable by the portion of the Face exposed to the breaking dawn light; other features in Cydonia reveal equally "incredible" lighting effects, as shown by Chris Joseph (below).

For the full-sized version, click here. Image courtesy Chris Joseph/Sauceruney.

The bulk of Hoagland's argument relies upon the existence of what he describes as a reflective cellular matrix. It comes as little surprise that this elusive material takes the form of concealed glass paneling, explaining why it isn't directly visible. (Indeed, no such "paneling" has been noted in any of the high-resolution photos of Cydonia returned by the Mars Global Surveyor.) Since the image in question is an amalgam of infrared and visible light data, it's impossible to tell if the apparant matrix lies buried beneath the surface of the Face (and, apparently, beneath every other mesa in the area) or clings invisibly to the surface. It's possible that a heat-reflecting material concealed by the Face's western half could radiate in such a way as to produce the glare described by Hoagland in the infrared spectrum. But Hoagland is quite explicit that the anomalous glow should have been (at least momentarily) visible when the Mars Odyssey recorded the dawn image.

The Face on Mars. Note the relatively smooth surface on the feature's eastern side.

Elsewhere in the article, Hoagland revisits his "Feline Hypothesis," which possibly explains the difference in texture and morphology between the Face's two halves. Hoagland's scenario requires that the eastern side's controversial feline likeness is an intentional aspect of the Face' design. If he is wrong, as argued by Mark Carlotto, then the feline likeness is simply due to accumulated sand and mass wasting near the proposed eastern "eye." This debate is not likely to be solved soon. Conceivably, ground-penetrating radar aboard a future Mars probe could validate the blanket of dust required by Carlotto's model. (Shape-from-shading analysis suggests that the eastern half is significantly taller than the western half; whether this is due to a build-up of sand or to artificial structural casing, as argued by Hoagland and consulting geologist Ron Nicks, is a lingering and portentous question.)

Hoagland's article goes on to reiterate his certainity that the Face, if artificial, is certainly not a mere sculpted mesa, but a high-tech, incredibly durable formation supported by an internal substrate -- the same material that allegedly produces the "anomalous" morning glow. Circumstantial evidence indicates that Hoagland may be at least partly correct. For example, a rectilinear depression near the Face's "chin" looks very much like a cavern formed from an internal collapse, and unusual striations on the exposed surface look tantalizingly like the flattened remains of some form of Cydonian "rebar." Hoagland has argued that the multiple signs of inward collapse on the Face's "feline" half may be due to millennia of rusting: a provocative hypothesis, given Mars' oxidizing surface chemistry. Additionally, Lan Fleming has studied an adjacent dark crescent, which he proposes may be a deep chasm into the Face's (presumably hollow) interior.

Evident collapse near Face's "chin." Note faint parallel striations and possible crescent-shaped chasm.

The Face may indeed possess a durable metallic substrate. But, as can be seen in Chris Joseph's image, the prospect of the Face's "strange" glow being due to anything other than west-facing sunlight (in both infrared and visible portions of the spectrum) is witheringly low. Addressing the issue of which portions of the spectrum generate the reflections seen in Hoagland's false-color graphic is made difficult, if not impossible, by how little we know about the construction of the supposedly implicating image -- although even a cursory examination of Mars Odyssey data suggests that the "glare" is due to visible light.

Specifically, the misleading contrast cited as proof of a reflective substrate is probably the result of the Mars Odyssey's CCD imaging system attempting to compensate in the dim pre-morning light; this would amplify the brightness of surface features illuminated by daylight, however faint, resulting in exactly the same effect flaunted on the Enterprise Mission site. One has to wonder why such imminently prosaic possibilities were dismissed, or if they were ever considered at all.

Characteristically, Hoagland teases us with false-color extreme close-ups of the Face and D&M in hopes of showing us the "highly geometric" cellular arrays we're assured are there. Confronted with a screen-full of pixels, it's possible to "see" just about anything one desires. Try as I might, I don't see detail consistent with architecture (Martian or otherwise). Very simply, the Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Odyssey spacecraft lack the exquisite resolution necessary to discern such features -- if they exist. Mapping the interior of the Face should be a priority for future telerobotic missions.

"Occam's Razor" is a useful device for evaluating complex theories. More often than not, the simplest explanation for an unexplained phenomenon tends to be the most accurate. In the case of Cydonia, I tend to agree with the Enterprise Mission that extraterrestrial intelligence is the simplest explanation to account for the myriad anomalies found in Cydonia. But in the case of the proposed reflective matrix, notions of artificial manufacture are easily overshadowed by mundane considerations.


Michael Cremo and "Human Devolution": Archaeology Just Got Weirder

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[Note: The following essay began as an entry in my weblog, Posthuman Blues. --Mac]

Yesterday I received a review copy of Michael Cremo's massive "Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin's Theory." With Richard Thompson, Cremo authored the underground classic "Forbidden Archeology," a 900-page encyclopedia of "impossible" -- but scientifically verified -- archaeological finds that point to a human presence on Earth lasting millions of years.

As I read the introduction to "Human Devolution" last night, I realized I had read "Alien Identities," one of Thompson's independent works, without realizing his affiliation with Cremo. "Alien Identities" is an impressive cultural study that seeks parallels between the modern UFO phenomenon and ancient Indian Vedic texts. Both Cremo and Thompson are consummate scholars. Cremo, in particular, has some impeccable "mainstream" scientific publications to his credit. So it was most interesting to find that not only is he essentially a loner in a field governed by a crippling, monolithic paradigm, but an adherent to the philosophy of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

I promptly started reading "Quest for Enlightenment," a hardcover compilation of Bhaktivedanta's teachings, to learn what Cremo's "Vedic alternative" might be. As the title of his new book makes clear, Cremo thinks Darwinian evolution is flawed. This isn't an easy claim to support in today's academic and scientific climate. But given the wealth of archaeological anomalies described in his former work, it's clear that some explanation is in order, even if it merely compliments natural selection, as opposed to toppling it. As a fan of Darwin and evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins, I can appreciate the magnitude of what Cremo is trying to achieve.

The main reason I'm sympathetic to Cremo is because he's willing to introduce entirely new disciplines that deal with such "abstract" concepts as consciousness. Krishna cosmology views physical reality as a devolved plane of existence which we can occasionally break through via out-of-body experiences and "psychic" phenomena. Rather than subscribing to a "nuts and bolts" universe composed of matter, advocates of "Krishna Consciousness" believe that reality is fundamentally "spiritual" (whatever that word means; I honestly don't think humans have a proper syntax for nonconventional states of being, let alone a practical understanding).

If my preview of "Human Devolution" is accurate, then Cremo thinks that we can transform ourselves into an entirely new, enlightened order of beings. (Shades of the people in "The Matrix" shedding their subservience to enforced virtual reality; Vedic literature warns us that the world we think we inhabit is a flawless illusion composed of maya.)

Will Cremo succeed in dethroning Darwinism? I don't know, although I will concede that he's already made a dent. It's disturbing -- no, terryifing -- to consider that we really might not know who we are and that our "rational" questions, while well-intentioned, have been somehow perverted by the fact that our consciousness, acting on a physical level, lacks the requisite dexterity.

What does all of this have to do with possible artificial features on Mars? Simply, both Cremo's research and the work of Mars anomalists threaten to undermine human heritage as we know it. If the Face on Mars is human, then our evolutionary history will likely beg revision. If our genetic origin is indeed linked with Mars, then a skeptical yet open-minded approach to outre theories such as Cremo's may turn out to be intellectually invaluable. Some cosmologists, notably Frank Tipler, argue that our mere existence is an inexplicable anomaly unless the universe (or multiverse) was specifically constructed to enable our presence. In light of such incendiary existential questions, we owe it to ourselves to examine all possibilities.


Exclusive: Mars Global Surveyor Photographs D&M Pyramid

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In terms of controversy, the D&M Pyramid in Cydonia has at times rivalled the Face as potential evidence of extraterrestrial engineering. A new high-resolution image of the enormous feature, taken by the Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) may assist attempts to decipher what the D&M is and how it came to be.

The best image to date of the mysterious D&M Pyramid. Click for official MSSS release.

Named after its co-discoverers, Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar, the D&M Pyramid has always revealed a significant degree of symmetry, prompting advocates of planetary SETI to include it among a list of sites for future imaging opportunities. When imaged by the Mars Odyssey's THEMIS camera in 2002, researchers were surprised to note a "new" corner that made the D&M appear more bisymmetrical that originally thought. The discovery of the previously hidden corner forced speculative reconstructions of the D&M's "floor plan" to "morph" into an elongated "arrowhead," best seen in the animation below.

The D&M Pyramid as revealed by THEMIS. Animation courtesy New Frontiers in Science.

The new MOC image suggests that the "new" corner is composed of shallow, partly buried tier-like platforms, possibly sculpted by wind. The sides of the D&M -- in particular the brightly illuminated western facet -- reveal extensive erosion. The northeast and southeast quadrants (assuming they were once intact) are almost wholly ravaged, a finding consistent with earlier observations. A radiating "spine" leads from the pyramid's center to the so-called "bottomless pit" seen in the Viking image. Upon closer inspection, the pit, thought by some to be a tunnel entrance into the D&M's interior, appears less architectural than accidental. It remains to be seen if this is the result of geology or of partial structural collapse.

Enhancement showing possible rectangular "buttress" formations at the corners of the D&M's southern facet.

It bears noting that the new image is actually a mosaic incorporating data from multiple overpasses. This has the unfortunate effect of masking tantalizing detail near the center of the formation. It also obscures what appears to be a square-shaped "buttress" at the formation's base. This alleged buttress is complimented by a more severely degraded feature on the southwest corner, as seen in the THEMIS enhancement above.

Animated reconstruction of the D&M's primary angles based on infrared data. Animation courtesy Donovan Colbert.

I think it is too early to chalk up the D&M's badly damaged appearance to a purely natural origin. As with the City Pyramid and the Face itself, there are indications of symmetry and structure consistent with the "modified landform" hypothesis. Since archaeologists are deprived ruins the size of the D&M on Earth, it is difficult for us to recognize what, exactly, we are looking at. The numerous correspondences and alignments in the Cydonia region provide cicumstantial evidence favoring some degree of intelligent design in the remote past; the D&M is thus more properly viewed as a component in a much more challenging evidential arena rather than as an isolated anomaly.

See page 30 for additional analysis of this unique feature.

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