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The Sciences

Hoagland still wrong about “Face” on Mars

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Update (Sep. 22, 2006): I'm getting lots of visitors from Slashdot and Fark. Welcome! Also, NewScientist.com has a short article about these images as well, and talks a little bit about how the Mars Express scientists got emails from people asking them to image Cydonia because they "don't believe NASA". Not that these new images will change their minds! I heard Hoagland was on Coast to Coast AM last night -- as I predicted in this blog entry below-- whining about the new images too. I'll have to get a copy of that segment!

Longtime BABloggee John Parejko clued me in to a European Space Agency press release today about new images from Mars. The Mars Express took images of the Cydonia region on the Red Planet, where antiscientist Richard Hoagland claims there is a giant "Face on Mars". Here's the overview of the region:

marsexpress_cydonia.jpg

The region is pretty cool, actually. There are craters, buttes, and lots of other interesting eroded features. Note the scalebar at the bottom: it represents 10 km (6 miles). There is a pretty nice high-res image available, too (warning: 2.1 Mb file). The actual data from the orbiter has a resolution of about 14 meters per pixel! To put that into context, 14 meters is about the size of one side of a tennis court. Mars Express wouldn't get great shots of Anna Kournikova playing tennis, but that's still pretty impressive. You can see the face near the center of the image. Here's a higher-res closeup:

marsexpress_face.jpg

Even better, Mars Express took multiple images from different angles, allowing a 3D perspective image to be built. Here's that:

marsexpress_face_3D.jpg

[sarcasm] Wow, it's just overwhelmingly like a face, ain't it? Golly! [/sarcasm] Or not. Sure, it looks a little like a face, but not a whole lot. Of course, if you've based an entire website on the idea that it really is a Face, and that there is a city near it, and this holds the key to a new type of physics that will allow you to build faster-than-light drives, control hurricanes, and tear toilet paper exactly along the perforations, then you might be motivated to say it still looks like a face. But I've seen better faces in my shower curtain. To me, that 3D image looks more like the guy who gets hit by the toxic waste at the end of "Robocop" than a real, human face. So if you have any sense of reality, you'll look at it, laugh at how it kinda sorta looks like a face, and move on with your life. I have to say that I like the way the press people handled the whole "Face" mythology in their press release. They were rather gentle, but still made it clear that this whole thing is nothing more than a modern myth. They also never link to Hoagland's site, which will no doubt steam him. Stay tuned, though; I'm sure he'll be on Coast to Coast AM soon enough talking about how the Europeans are in on the cover-up by NASA. Sigh. As usual, my work will never, ever be done.

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