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Home: The Toast

mars1Socrates famously declared that “the only thing we can know is that we know nothing.” Descartes created four rules in order to avoid making specious claims to knowledge:

“I thought the following four [rules] would be enough, provided that I made a firm and constant resolution not to fail even once in the observance of them. The first was never to accept anything as true if I had not evident knowledge of its being so; that is, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to embrace in my judgment only what presented itself to my mind so clearly and distinctly that I had no occasion to doubt it.”

And yet our latest batch of Science-Men have taken the Space Pulpit hastily — suspiciously hastily — to assure us that the gleaming points of light popping up over the landscape of Mars are not, indeed cannot be alien bonfires:

Recent photos taken by NASA’s Mars rover might appear to show a gleaming alien bonfire burning in the distance—at least according to some Internet loonies—but that’s not exactly what’s happening.

The provocative, shiny smears of light appear in two images snapped by rover Curiosity’s navigation camera, one on April 2 and the other on April 3, provoking excitement among some in the UFO-spotting crowd.

The photos come courtesy of the camera’s right eye and show nearly vertical bright smudges emerging from a spot near the horizon. Photos of the same spot shot by the camera’s left eye, meanwhile, show no such things.

Rather than emanating from an underground Martian disco, the bright spots are probably caused by cosmic rays colliding with the rover’s camera or by glinting rocks reflecting the Martian sunlight, said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Justin Maki, lead imaging scientist for the Curiosity team.

He said that glimmers appearing in similar spots on two consecutive days are oddly coincidental.

Oddly coincidental! And yet he claims proof positive that these lights are not bonfires gathered together by moth-white, slithering hands in the dead of night; nor a swaying, shimmering figure that wobbles sickeningly against the horizon every night, when he refuses to travel to Mars to discover the truth for himself, despite the fact that the Moth-Skin pods leave on the Space Elevator at least once a fortnight.

Does it not seem logical that the villeins at NASA would seek to dull our curiosity by naming and dismissing the most probable cause for these Martian lights? Why, was it not merely forty years ago when men still refused to believe that the Moon existed? Were not women illegal until Saturday last? Have we not all heard the strange, dark, suckling sounds that come from Mercury on nights when the wind blows south-south-east? Glinting rocks forsooth. As for myself, I’ll not believe Mars is without bonfires until I see the land for myself, and can satisfy my own eyes. Lights flicker on and flicker off on the quiet darkling wastes of Mars, we may be sure of that. Where there are lights, there are shadows. Where there are shadows, there are eyes. Where there are eyes, there is hiding. Where there is hiding, there are secrets. Do not allow them to pacify you.

[Images via National Geographic]

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