Messages about the Mars Face

Messages about the Mars Face

Date: 08-20-88 09:19
From: Jerry Lewis
To: All
Subj: Mars, again EID:b4f4 11144a6b

(Sorry to all sick of the Mars face. I’m sick of the B-2 discussion.)

Now that I’ve had a chance to take a close look at Mark Carlotto’s article (“Digital Imagery Analysis of Unusual Martian Surface Features,” Applied Optics, Vol. 27, No. 10, 15 May 1988, pp. 1926-1933), I’d like to comment on it.

In spite of his title, Carlotto makes the elementary mistake of assuming what he is supposed to prove. Instead of discussing the “object, the “anomaly,” or whatever, he begins by talking about “the face.” Later, he identifies “teeth” in the “face.”

There are not enough data for a conclusion as sweeping as the author makes in this paper. It’s a case of making meaning out of background noise. As Martin Gardner notes, “If you search any kind of chaotic data, it is easy to find combinations that seem remarkable.”

There are only 4 images of the object from the Viking photos, and 2 of those do not have sufficient resolution to be useful. Of the 2 high-resolution pictures, 35A72 and 70A13 are both in afternoon light with a sun zenith angle difference of only 17 degrees. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have hi-res photos of the area taken at other times of day. They would undoubtedly settle this once and for all.

Figure 3 on p. 1928, a local contrast enhancement of the object by Carlotto (from 70A13) is an interesting picture. Turn it upside down so that your mind doesn’t see a “face” so easily. Now you can see that the object looks more like an unusual – but probably natural – geological formation. The tendency for humans (even humans with Ph.D.’s) to find patterns where there are no patterns is certainly powerful, particularly where faces are concerned. Date: 08-20-88 09:20 From: Jerry Lewis To: All Subj: Part 2 EID:b4f4 11144a97

The author concludes that “the close proximity of unusual objects…to the face increases the likelihood that this collection of objects is not natural.” I don’t see anything terribly unusual in anything southwest of the object at all. All I see are natural wind-sculpted formations. Typical Martian terrain.

Even if one of the objects does turn out to be a pyramid, it proves nothing. It looks much cruder than the many pyramids found in natural rock formations in Arizona.

Finally, I was extremely surprised that Carlotto cites “The Face on Mars” (Pozos) and “The Monuments of Mars” (Hoagland). Scientific papers don’t normally cite flim-flam. It’s like finding a reference to a Shirley MacLaine book in a scholarly paper on geology.

I find it significant that Carlotto cites none of the experts who actually work with the Viking photos. Pietro and Molenaar, who Carlotto does cite, have no expertise in Martian geology or in photo-interpretatio (according to Conway Snyder who was a key figure in the Viking project at JPL).

I’d like to see the referees’ report on this paper. Perhaps they were so facinated by the computer enhancement techniques (which are state of the art) that they ignored the ridiculousness of what was being enhanced. So far, in the latest issues of Applied Optics I could find, there have been no rebuttals.

I wish Dr. Carlotto would now use his image enhancement techniques on my two other favorite Martian formations: the 5-mile wide Happy Face and the Kermit the Frog formation.

— * Origin: Verbose Ink * WOC’n with Words * Big D * (Opus 1:124/125)