Has Arthur C. Clarke Lost His Marbles?

I see a story on space.com which mentions Clarke, so I click on it to see what it says, and I get this

Que? I think that Arthur, Richard Hoagland and a few other nutters are the only ones saying there’s life on Mars. Then, of course, there was his business with the “Great Glass Worm” which he claimed was visible in shots of Mars taken by the latest NASA probes, implying that there were some Dune-like sandworms burrowing around the red planet.

So, has Clarke lost his marbles or is he trying desperately, by spinning wild stories he knows aren’t true, to use his influence to boost space exploration?

  1. I was under the impression that he’s starting to slip due to old age, and

  2. How did you post this a full hour after everyone else on this board couldn’t get on?

Sounds likes he’s getting credulous in his twilight years.

He’s in his 90’s isn’t he? It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s starting to lose his marbles a little bit. He’s made his career out of combining fantasy with science and he may be starting to lose the ability to distinguish one from the oher any more. It’s sad, I guess. He’s one of the really great sci fi writers.

This image is one of many that purportedly “show” deciduous trees or coral.

From The Hindu, his words seem to be ringing in someone’s ears, at least.

My personal belief is that, like the “canals” which partially drove the Viking (although apocryphal at launch time), Clarke may have been pushing for a manned Mars expedition in his Winter. After all, he seems to have been driving at Europa, unheeded, since the 70s or earlier. Only now are we taking him somewhat seriously.

Just food for thought.

Oh yeah, Tuckerfan, how did you pull of the feat of accessing the Board? I’ve been relegated to panicked self-posting all day. Mrs. B has not been delighted by this. I’ve even resorted to bad poetry. Sad sad sad.

Just lucky, I guess, Mr. B. Though I haven’t gotten any notifactions that anyone’s replied to this, and when I pulled up GD, it said that there were no replies.

Oh dear. The very phrase he uses:
“I don’t think there’s any doubt anymore on that.” shows a definite loss of touch with reality.

Whether there is life or not, no-one on either side of the argument could possibly contest that the issue is settled. There is most definite doubt.

This phrase is a very popular one amongst cranks and the like. It works on the idea that if you declare an issue closed and resolved in your favour often enough, no matter how unconvincing your argument or how much opposition you encounter, people will start to accept it. And once people accept it, well that as good as makes it a cast iron fact, doesn’t it?

It’s the only route to making something a fact when you’re totally lacking in any credible evidence.

Hmmm, I wonder what the shapes are? I’m thinking volcanic. Anyone got any ideas?

Geez, some pictures of the ‘trees’, like the one Mr. B linked to, sure are suggestive of organic processes. Just looking at that picture, the gradation in shading is particularly striking, as if the dark structures at the top of the picture are ‘fresher’ than the lighter mass of whateveritis towards the bottom of the picture.

Is there anything in Mars orbit (or planned to soon be in orbit) that could image this area in colour, at high resolution? Or anything that can look for the spectral signature of chlorophyll, like the Pathfinder lander camera?

jjimm, I’m not a planetary scientist, but those formations remind me a lot of some structures which were recorded by Magellan’s survey of Venus back when I was muddling through my planetary science course.

I’m also really bad at finding images, it would appear. I did find this three-dimensional image of a volcanic formation which appears to have some superficial similarities to Clarke’s Mars “vegetation.” Here is another similar-looking formation.

Wow, I’ve just had an epiphany: we’re talking about photographs of other fucking planets!

Amazing. Who’d a thought it? Go back a hundred years and they’d call you mad, mad I tell you.

On the other hand, someone who rants about photographs from other worlds could easily be considered “mad” today.

What, I’m a mentalist because I think it’s amazing? C’mon, this sort of thing’s only been around for 20-something years. It’s still pretty fascinating. :slight_smile: Or do you mean Mr Clarke is perhaps a loo-la?

Oh, and thanks, Sofa King. I wonder if there’s any stuff from Venus that is more detailed.

It’s amazing – just looking at the Pathfinder images chokes me up. Oh, BTW: six regions of the Superpan matched positive for chlorophyll. Pretty neat, I must say.

Thanks Tuckerfan, for bringing this back up to the surface. I think Clarke is a mystic – every bit as much as Sagan was a philosopher – and has been right on the money enough times to suspend disbelief on this one.

IIRC, those structures, and their seasonal changes, are created by frost deposits. They do occur near the poles (i.e., NOT where you’d really be expecting to find life, eh?)

Erroneous, spectroscopy from Mars Global Surveyor or Mars Odyssey would pick up chlorophyll in a heartbeat. There’s nothing green there. Astronomers who study Mars today dissect the spectra of the surface minerals in excruciating detail, and they find . . . rocks. Mars is light red, red, dark red, really really dark red, and red, with a little red thrown in for variety. The greenish appearance of some dark areas as viewed by eye through telescopes was dismissed decades ago as an optical illusion.

It is the general consensus of the astronomical community here is not enough liquid water at the surface of Mars to support life in the present epoch. 3.5 billion (yes, kids, I really mean billion!) years ago, well, we could have a good debate about that. But if there is life on Mars today, it is underground aquifers.

Much as it pains me to say it, Clarke should not be taken seriously regarding this subject. Mr B’s hypothesis is intriguing.

I’m with you on this one. It always astounds me when I find myself casually discussing the features of another world.



** What does your status as an entertainer who claims to possess psychic powers and performs elementary tricks of “mindreading” have to do with your opinion of extraterrestrial photographs?

** Sir, you speak to the Vorlon ambassador’s aide. Nothing surprises me any more.

Note: try going to NASA. They have some lovely false-color images of the surface of the sun that look like phoenix wings.

Ditto. I have a folder of space images (Hubble, Pathfinder, etc.) that I use as my screen saver slide show, and every now and then I’ll pause and really look at one of the pictures. Holy crap, I’ll think, we landed a little robot on freakin’ Mars and it took a picture and beamed it back and I have it right here on my computer. :cool:

There’s a whole potential thread, I think, in “mind-bogglingly cool stuff in the modern world we take for granted without a second thought.”

Hasn’t he always been?
He’s got a lot of marbles to lose…

Nah, you see they had this thing called a “telescope” and people had been using it to take pictures of other planets for some time.:slight_smile: