HORN: On your website, there is a page where high-resolution spacecraft photos of Mars appear to show artificial structures. Tell us about these.
VAN FLANDERN: The biggest surprise of the space program to date has been the finding of several categories of anomalies on the surface of Mars that, if seen on Earth, would certainly be attributed to human activity. These include an abundance of special shapes not normally found in nature, such as closed triangles and pyramids; vehicle-like tracks and trails across otherwise featureless desert terrain; mostly underground networks of huge “glassy tubes” apparently extending for hundreds of miles, visible in places where the surface is cracked, and seeming to connect interesting surface places; odd patterns and symbols; and an abundance of large-scale “artistic” imagery such as the five known faces on Mars and some geoglyphs reminiscent of those on the plains of Nazca in Peru.
HORN: What stands out to you the most as special shapes on Mars that do not normally arise in nature?
VAN FLANDERN: Closed triangles with sharp vertices and straight sides are not normally seen in nature. 3, 4, and 5-sided pyramids are also rare. Yet many of these are found on Mars, but not on any other planet or moon yet examined in similar detail. On the Elysium plains of Mars there may be an entire field of pyramid-shaped objects laid out in linear arrays.
HORN: Describe the objects on Mars you call “glassy tubes.”
VAN FLANDERN: From an examination of hundreds of these objects, we know that they are tube-like shapes typically 50–100 meters in diameter. White bands wrap around the tube about every ten meters along its entire length. The material between bands is translucent, and we can faintly see the white bands on the underside through the tube. When direct sunlight is available, it reflects from the tube in a mirror-like way instead of just scattering the light. Where a boulder has damaged a tube, we often see a collapsed tube section, where broken white bands lie flat on the surface, and sharp, spine-like portions of broken bands jut out from an intact-but-torn tube section. Tubes are visible mainly in fissures or where a flood has eroded away the topsoil. In some places, they can be traced underground in infrared images that can detect such things if they are not too far below the surface. Some tubes cross one another (one above, one below) in perpendicular intersections, while others have junctions where one tube becomes two or vice versa. In a few places, many tubes come together in patterns suggestive of “terminals” for train stations.
HORN: What else is seen that might be of special interest?
VAN FLANDERN: In certain places on Mars, especially near the location of the former equator of the planet, we see “artistic imagery”, sometimes in abundance, although not always with distinct clarity. Moreover, the shapes seen are not random, but depict familiar terrestrial images in organized groupings. For example, in one region of Mars named “Cydonia”, we see an apparent mosaic scene showing impressions of sky, land, and water, with animal shapes organized in appropriate sections of the mosaic. Amphibious creatures are in the water area, animals on the land area, and aviary creatures in the air area. However, millions of years of dust storms and erosion have left many of the images more impressionistic than life-like. Had the images been as distinct as the words I must use to describe them, the shock waves from this discovery would have already traveled around the world.
HORN: What distinguishes the many artistic faces and other familiar shapes on Mars from faces and shapes seen in clouds and natural landscapes here on Earth?
VAN FLANDERN: It is possible to see even very detailed shapes in random, noisy backgrounds. But some of the Martian shapes appear against flat, featureless backgrounds. The context and relationship appropriateness is additional evidence these are not products of geology or random processes. But the most compelling proof, to a scientist at least, is the fulfillment of what we call a priori predictions. For example, if you are dealt a 13-card hand and get all 13 spades, you might wonder if that was an accident or the result of a fixed deck because the odds against that happening by chance are 635-billion-to-one. Yet every specific randomized deal of 13 unique cards had the same odds against happening by chance. So unlikely events, like unlikely card hands, can and do happen by chance. Yet if I predicted that on the next deal, your hand would contain 13 spades, and it did, you could be sure at odds of 635-billion-to-one that was not a lucky guess but the result of a controlled process. That’s how the a priori principle works—through the power of predictions.
When the Viking spacecraft saw an apparent face on Mars in the Cydonia region, that was interesting but could easily have been a “trick of light and shadow”. So scientists formulated tests to tell whether the object was natural (a product of geology and illusion) or artificial (a product of intelligences). The first eight such tests initially gave a split decision, 5 to 3 in favor of artificiality. Two of those tests were based on the fact that the Cydonia face-object cannot be seen from the ground but must be viewed from above, for example from an orbiting space station. So if artificial, it would logically be built on the equator of Mars and built upright. But the Cydonia face was far from the equator (latitude 41 degrees north) and was tilted from upright by an angle of about 35 degrees. Those statistics favored a natural origin. Then in 1996 we took a look at the pole shift of Mars to see where the face-like object was before the pole shift. The answer was exactly on the old equator and upright to within two degrees! The odds against that happening by chance were roughly 1000-to-one. So if the builders were active before the cataclysm that tipped the pole of Mars (the explosion of the other moon 3.2 million years ago), then both these tests indicated an artificial origin. By the end of that year, all eight tests favored an artificial origin over a natural one.
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