JF Ptak Science Books Post 2744
A friend of mine forwarded an article to me that in one clear paragraph would seem to demolish the widely hypothesized belief in Martians (of some sort) building the relatively-recently discovered “canals” of Mars. As succinct and logical as it was, it seems not to have made much of a dent in the popular belief system of Martian structures having been built by intelligent life forms. The note was written by a Miss M.A. Orr and was published in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association (vol 5, 1895, p 209) and which also appeared in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in their volume 7, April 1895, though this time the author was evidently mis-identified as “Mr. J. Orr”. The extraterrestrial debate for life on Mars is an old and long affair that I don't want to set in motion in this short 20-minute post, so we'll leave that for another time. For now, I'd just like to reproduce the body of the argument, which looks very sharp and compelling and has a nice hallmark of insight to it, and which I think could have been delivered as a debate coup de grace from which the opponent just could not recover without direct ET interference.
Schiaparelli's canali as shown in a map from Flammarion's book on the planet Mars, 1892.
The short version of the short note is that the canals as identified in 1895 were iterated by Ms. Orr to have an average width of 33 miles, an average depth of 70 feet, and an average length of 2000 miles, which is basically digging a ditch as wide as the English Channel but 2000 miles long (or from Dover to Moscow plus another few hundred miles)...for just one canal.
Ms. Orr reckons that this would be the equivalent of constructing “1,634,000 Suez Canals”, and which would occupy a workforce of 200 million (Earthlings) for 1000 years.
It is quite a mental image, no?
No doubt there were many who dismissed the reasoning (as Edward S. Morse did with peppery ridicule and vinegar in his book Mars and its Mystery in 1907) because the life-on-Mars bit continued on for some time, exemplified by the astronomer Percy Lowell in his highly popular works on pro-life views of Mars, Mars and its Canals in 1906 and Mar as an Abode of Life in 1908.
Why this argument didn't pose a major roadblock to the thinking crowd of ET folks, I do not know, but from my brief survey, Ms. Orr seems to have had little impact on the debate with what looks like sound and simple reasoning.
Here's the text by Ms. Orr:
“The Canals of Mars”, by Mr. J. Orr. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 7, No. 41 (April 1, 1895).
Mr. Pétrie read a paper by Mr. J. Orr, a member of the West of Scotland Branch, on 'The Nature of the "Canals" on Mars.' The paper, which had been read at Glasgow at the meeting of the Branch, was to show the almost absolute impossibility of the belief, which at one time somehow obtained popular currency, that the so-called canals were of an artificial character- the work of a supposed Martian race.
By ruling grooves on a globe illuminated by a strong light, Mr. Orr calculated that the minimum breadth for visibility of the Martian canals must be about 33 miles. The length of an average canal, as measured on Schiaparelli's map, is about 2000 miles; and since on our terrestrial canals a minimum depth is required, to insure a constant supply of water at the center (diminished by leakage, evaporation, etc.), a depth of at least 70 feet would be required in the case of such a Martian canal as Tartarus. Even granted that the diminished force of gravity on Mars would render the work of excavating a ditch 70 feet deep equal to a terrestrial one of 26 feet, it was calculated that the canals would contain about 1,634,000 of our Suez Canals, and would require an army of 200,000,000 of men, working for 1000 of our years, for their construction. Assuming that the population varies with the surface, since the area of the earth is about 3^ times greater than that of Mars, we should get a Martian population of about 409,000,000. All the adult males, and a large number of the women, must, herefore, have engaged in the great work.
* The writer supposed the ' canals ' to be great fissures caused by the cracking of the surface in contraction due to cooling, the planet having reached a considerably more advanced stage in its life than the Earth.
* Ά slide having been shown, representing the general canal system as given by Schiaparelli, the President (Mr. E. W. Maunder, of the Greenwich Observatory,) said he hoped that Mr. Orr's statistical, but, nevertheless, amusing and instructive, paper might prove one more nail in the coffin of a very absurd idea, which had certainly got most undue currency – namely, that the canals on Mars could possibly be the work of human agents. The mere fact that the whole of the resources of one of the greatest nations in Europe had failed to dig a little ditch some 26 miles long, and, comparatively speaking, only a few feet wide, might, he thought, convince us that the people on Mars, supposing there were any, could scarcely excavate 80,000 or 100,000 miles of canals, 40 miles wide.