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11-3-03

A Parallelogram in Cydonia?

On the previous page I introduced a most interesting anomaly discovered by Bob Harrison, proprietor of the Cydonia Quest website. Further analysis of the "Diamond" (or "Parallelogram") reveals geometry thought to be consistent with the Society for Planetary SETI Research (SPSR). Unlike most Mars anomalies thought by some to represent intelligent design, the Parallelogram offers the potential for mathematically quantifiable evidence favoring artificiality. In a scientific arena fogged with accusations of "seeing faces" and "wanting to believe," such hard numerical data is precisely the sort required by researchers hoping to advance the Cydonia inquiry.

The "Cornerstone." Enlargement by Bob Harrison.

Investigation continues. If artificial, the Parallelogram would seem to be an unexpected extension of the Mound Geometry Hypothesis, in which the relative positions of various small anomalies in the Cydonia region comprise a mathematical "signal." Is it possible that an extraterrestrial intelligence has left a deliberate message encoded in the harsh Martian landscape?


11-13-03

Cydonia and the Arcology Hypothesis

The sprawling, dilapidated "starfish" of the D&M Pyramid, revealed by the Mars Global Surveyor, was disillusioning to some who expected to find a near-perfect pyramid. Seen up close, the D&M retains some of the curious geometry suggested by Viking and THEMIS images, but at least one of the presumed facets is largely missing. But does this mean that we're observing a purely geological formation?

The D&M Pyramid in Cydonia.

In "The Monuments of Mars," Richard Hoagland advanced the idea that the pyramidal features in Cydonia were not mere artworks left by inscrutable builders, but once-inhabited enclosures. Taking his cue from architect Paolo Soleri, whose experimental Arcosanti project employs organic forms in an attempt to counteract urban sprawl, Hoagland described the Martian enigmas in terms of arcologies, or "architectural ecologies."

Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti project, an experimental quasi-arcology.

The Arcology Hypothesis posits that the large-scale morphologies under investigation, such as the City Pyramid and D&M Pyramid (and potentially the Face itself), were designed as functional enclosures to shelter a beleaguered Martian civilization from some sort of planetary holocaust. This hypothesis is attractive to proponents of the more general Artificiality Hypothesis because it gives otherwise inexplicable formations such as the D&M a purpose. Planetary SETI is largely hostile to the notion of aesthetically driven "landscape art." If features like the D&M are artificial constructions, either constructed "brick by brick" or by the modification of existing landforms, then the Arcology Hypothesis allows us to address their builders in a utilitarian context.

Blueprint from Paolo Soleri's book "Arcology: The City in the Image of Man." Do similar structures await us in Cydonia?

It's edifying to consider what our own civilization would do if faced with imminent global catastrophe. Would we attempt to fortify existing cities against unstable conditions, or would we seek out alternative means of coping? Fallout shelters such as the one contained in fallout shelters such as those constructed in the 1950s were designed for small numbers of temporary inhabitants. It's likely that the features on Mars, if artificial, were built to house thousands -- or hundreds of thousands -- in relative comfort. Moreover, candidate arcologies such as the D&M may not have been temporary. Environmental limitations such as food and water supply may have resulted in their ultimate downfall, to say nothing of worsening surface conditions (i.e., meteor impacts, clearly observed in the Cydonia region).

Building-like formations atop a mesa in "downtown" Cydonia. Image courtesy Keith Laney.

Critics of the Artificiality Hypothesis have seized on unlikely arguments to dismiss the possibility that the features in Cydonia are anything but wind-sculpted mesas and buttes. The failure to find "roads" and "lawn furniture" (the latter suggested albeit jokingly) has been taken by the mainstream Mars science community to mean that Cydonia cannot possibly represent the work of intelligence. This "terrestrial chauvinism" fails utterly to take into account the Arcology Hypothesis, which specifically calls for enclosed living spaces, not the comparatively fragile acreage of New York, Los Angeles or Tokyo.

Dark partial square on the D&M Pyramid: evidence of eroded surface structure?

The mainstream perspective also overlooks the fact that surface detail indicative of below-ground architecture is likely to have been heavily damaged or buried by millennia of drifting Martian sands. Nevertheless, the base of the City Pyramid features interesting angled "terraces." And one otherwise inconspicuous mesa sports a row of bright rectilinear formations that look for all the world like terrestrial-scale buildings. Perhaps these are openings into a much more expansive subterranean environment. The D&M Pyramid itself has an odd dark square centered precisely on its southern facet.

A Soleri-like pyramidal arcology. What would such a structure look like after thousands or millions of years of neglect?

Architects such as Soleri have designed insulated, megascale arcologies as well as experimental open-air communities such as Arcosanti. Hoagland notes that some of Soleri's more ambitious designs take the form of vast pyramids and domes -- shapes not unlike those that have puzzled Mars anomaly researchers. Significantly, Soleri's designs call for extensive subsurface infrastructure. It's conceivable that the majority of livable space within the Cydonia structures is underground. While it would be difficult if not impossible to prove or refute this notion without on-site archaeologists, evidence of apparent structural collapse such as the recessed (imploded?) "Fort" provides circumstantial evidence that Cydonia may possess much more anomalous real-estate than meets the eye. The large City Mound, for example, is encircled by a shallow "moat" that indicates potential underground enclosures.

The City Mound, with "moat" and satellite features.

Compare the City Mound to the prospective arcology design below, notable for its reliance on below-ground architecture.

A city of the future?

Additional anomalous surface features, including a possible second Cydonia "city" complex (discovered by Bob Harrison), lend further support to the Arcology Hypothesis. While comparing Martian features to terrestrial architecture is inherently speculative, any determined search predicated on the idea of prior habitation of Mars demands this sort of approach. Until we have access to confirmed extraterrestrial ruins -- whether on the Moon or elsewhere -- our own conceptual habitations are all we have with which to evaluate the merits of the Arcology Hypothesis.


11-28-03

Strange Mars Surface Formation

The formation pictured above appears near the bottom of a Martian gully. Its geometry is most unusual. My impression is that this is a solid feature that has been partially buried. The abundant angles recall Cubist sculpture. Is this an artifact or an exquisite natural "sandcastle"?

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