Monday, September 25, 2006

Back From the Breach.

After a long break, I'm back. Ahh, how fate conspires to keep this blogger from his appointed rounds.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter has been puking up photos of Mars' surface for a couple of weeks, now, and of course a good deal of attention is being directed at the Martian "face."

For those of you who don't know what the face is, Google it. Where have you been for the past thirty years? Under a rock? Perhaps the infamous "C" rock?

Yeah, you'll have to Google that one, too.

Well the Martian face is the one conspiracy that I can truly understand. While yes, I can psychologically trace the reasons for any given conspiracy, and explain probable reasons for its existence, I can not, on a personal level, understand. Kennedy, Area 51, men in black, I don't get any of them. But the Martian face, oh yes, do I understand.

We have always been interested in Mars. From the very moment that that Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered canals and Percival Lowell popularized them, the idea that a civilization far more ancient and wise than our own had lived, or was currently living, on mars has captured the imagination. It certainly captured mine. It's an idea that is both wild and otherworldly, yet accessible.

They're different from us, but so close that they couldn't possibly be too different. They are very much like us, but different enough to be exciting. It's a breathless idea. Lord knows, it's certainly an idea that has paid dividends in science fiction. As recently as just last year, a War of the Worlds remake directed by Steven Spielberg and headlined by Tom Cruise charged its way to over $200 million in the US box office.

It all boils down to the fact that at our core is a drive to explore. If we look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, those of our ancestors that were more curious were more likely to find new resources, new lands, maybe new friends. Curiosity didn't kill the cat, it helped its species survive. We are the most curious animals to ever walk to Earth. We love it. We wandered about the entire globe before we could brew beer. There is no rational reason to go out into space, at least not yet, and still, millions of people read newspapers, magazines, and look to the stars every night.

The idea that something so cool could be so close is an idea so intense that it's hard to even deal with. I can totally understand why people believed the myth and, against all logic, continue to do so. It's just like the idea of Atlantis, just grander and all the more enticing for it.

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