The return of the Martian canal-builders

Richard A. Crowe

The human brain has an astonishing ability to find familiar patterns embedded in chaotic backgrounds. After all, clouds sometimes take on the appearance of faces. Gardner relates that the Canadian one-dollar bill had to be re-engraved because the face of a demon accidentally turned up in the Queen's hair just behind her left ear. The surface of Mars gives us two more examples: Mars has an impact crater that seems to have a "smiling mouth" and "eyes," apparently fractures caused on impact. This five-mile-wide feature has been dubbed the "Happy Face."5 Elsewhere on the Martian surface is a lava flow with a small impact crater that looks like Kermit the Frog.6 Neither of these are of artificial origin. Why then should one assume that the Mars "face" is more than just a rock formation? We should not make such an assumption unless there is strong evidence that the "face" is not an isolated feature.

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