The "Face" on Mars
popular "government conspiracy" theory held that NASA
has actually discovered a human face (as well as pyramids and other
structures) on Mars, but was withholding crucial information from
the public about the profound implications of this discovery. The
real story is a lot less exciting and involves a perfectly natural
geologic formation on the red planet. In spring 1998, the Mars Observer
spacecraft took a much more detailed close-up image of the region
in question, and found no evidence of anything that looked unnatural
or like a face.
D. "MGS Photographs 'Face on Mars'" in Skeptical Inquirer,
Jul/Aug. 1998, p. 23.
D. "UFO's and Aliens in Space" in Skeptical Inquirer,
Jan/Feb. 2009, p. 30. An update on the "face" on Mars,
and a bit about supposed astronaut encounters with aliens. (See:
Carl "The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars," Chapter
3 of his book, The Demon-Haunted World. 1995, Random House.
G. "The Face Behind the Face on Mars: A Skeptical Look at Richard
Hoagland" in Skeptical Inquirer, Nov/Dec. 2000, p. 20.
The full story of the writer who has spread the myth.
G. "Putting a Better Face on the 'Face' on Mars" in Skeptical
Inquirer, May/June 2001, p. 65. Update.
Educational Discussion of "Face":
for fun, here are a few more "faces" on Mars, as found
in old images:
The Full Moon and Lunacy
idea that more crazy behavior takes place during a full moon is
well ingrained in folk wisdom. Statistical tests, however, show
that there is no such effect, except perhaps in the mind of witnesses
and with legends that associate the Sun with good and the Moon with
evil. Since the full moon is bright and up all night long, it is
more likely to reveal events that also happen during other phases,
but are more likely to go undetected.
(An overview of the many studies.)
R. "Did the Moon Sink the Titanic?" in Skeptical Inquirer,
Jul/Aug. 1995, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 30.
G. & Kelly, I. "Crisis Calls and Lunar Cycles: A 20-Year
Review" in Psychological Reports, vol. 71, p. 779 (1992).
R., et al. "Moon Mechanisms and Myths: A Critical Appraisal
of Explanations of Purported Lunar Effects on Human Behavior"
in Psychological Reports, vol. 62, p. 683 (1988).
I., et al. "The Moon Was Full and Nothing Happened" in
Skeptical Inquirer, Winter 1985-86, vol. 10, p. 129.
I., et al. "World-wide Disasters and Moon Phases" in Skeptical
Inquirer, Spring 1990, vol. 14, no. 3, p. 298.
J. "Moonshine" in Skeptical Inquirer, May/June
1997, p. 44. A detailed review of a book by the most famous author
who has claimed connections. (On-line at: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/moonshine/)
J. & Kelly, I. "The Lunacy of It All: Lunar Phases and
Human Behavior" in Mercury, May/June 1986, p. 1988.
Moon and Lunar Effects: (Part of the Skeptical Dictionary
The Dogon Tribe and Sirius B
popular authors have touted the story of an African tribe that somehow
acquired knowledge of the dim white-dwarf star around Sirius (which
is visible only with the aid of larger telescopes.) Some see this
as evidence of extraterrestrial visitors, but the real explanation
probably involves the European visitors who were gathering
information about the tribe and had read about the discovery of
Sirius B before they left and discussed it with the tribe.
K. "Sirius Enigmas" in Brecher, Kenneth & Feirtag,
M., eds. Astronomy of the Ancients. 1979, MIT Press.
E. "Observatories of the Gods and Other Astronomical Fantasies"
in Krupp, E.C., ed. In Search of Ancient Astronomies. 1977,
Doubleday. Debunks von Daniken and Velikovsky's ideas, as well as
the Sirius myth.
de Montellano, B. "The Dogon People Revisited" in Skeptical
Inquirer, Nov/Dec. 1996, p. 39. Excellent up-to-date review.
I. "Investigating the Sirius Mystery" in Skeptical
Inquirer, Fall 1978, p. 56.
Carl "White Dwarfs and Little Green Men" in Broca's
Brain. 1979, Random House.
Matters: The Chandra Observatory site has a short, skeptical introduction
to this issue.
Mystery: Space journalist James Oberg takes a skeptical look in
an excerpt from a 1982 book.
Skeptical Dictionary Entry on the Dogon: