Episode 104: Pyramids on Mars
Recap: Pyramids on Mars may not be as sexy, popular, or well-known as the "Face," but they are much more prevalent with many different persons pointing to many different features on the planet that appear to be pyramids. Now the question is, ¿Are they natural or unnatural?
I will be interviewed on "Reality Remix" internet radio on Wednesday, Marcy 26, at 11:00PM EDT (March 27, 3AM UTC): Link!!
Puzzler for Episode 104: There was no Puzzler in this episode.
Q&A: There was no Q&A for this episode.
- Audio Clips Used
- Star Dunes: Wikipedia || National Parks Service || United States Geologic Service || NASA's Earth Observatory
- Erol Torun's evidence of artificiality of "The D&M Pyramid of Mars"
- Examples of pyramids on Mars from Mariner 4 and Mariner 9 on Mental Floss
- "D&M Pyramid" discussion on Universe Today
- Pyramids on Mars via Wikipedia
- "Pyramids of Egypt & Mars" via Watcher Vault
- "The Face on Mars. And the Pyramids on Mars." via Moon Conspiracy
- Logical Fallacies / Critical Thinking Terms addressed in this episode: Fallacy of the Single Cause, Argument from Authority, Argument from Ignorance, Proving a Negative
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
Claim: The claim for this episode is a very simple one -- there are clear, distinct, obvious pyramids with artificial geometry on the planet Mars. So now, the simple way to go about this is to look at what evidence they put forward, see if it's real or valid, and if it is, see if there are other more likely explanations. Otherwise, you're invoking the Single Cause Fallacy (of Fallacy of the Single Cause) which is where you have a singular phenomenon that could have many different causes, but you think it can only have one.
The evidence used by proponents of pyramids on Mars is very similar to that used by Face on Mars proponents: They see buttes and mesas that appear regular, geometrical, and to have three, four, or five sides. And, the claim is that intelligence reveals itself through geometry: [Coast to Coast AM, February 13, 2002, starting 59:08]
Art Bell: "These pyramids, uh, how perfectly shaped, how perfectly pyramidal are they?"
Michael Luckman: "Uh, they're, they're, they're pretty, they're pretty perfect. Th-they're quite perfect. They're, they're, uh-- they look identical uh to one-another, and as I recall, there are five or six, uh, of them in the uh-- image, and there are at least-- there's at least one, and possibly two images that were put out."
Richard C. Hoagland is of course an advocate of the pyramids on Mars, and as with many, he draws relationships between it and the Face on Mars: [Coast to Coast AM, March 16, 2002, starting 2:14:40]
Richard Hoagland: "On the left, is the partial edges of a former tetrahedron. Which is a four-cornered, four-sided pyramid. Alright-and it's one of the so-called 'Platonic Solids.'"
Art Bell: "Yup"
RH: "Now the reason I'm so intrigued with this, if you scroll back up a bit, is this tetrahedron isn't sitting on Mars in just any old place, it's sitting about half-way between the face and this big massive pyramid to the south, called the 'D&M'--"
AB: "--I agree"
RH: "And it is, if you draw a line between the apex of the pyramid, and the mid-point between the eyes of the Face,--"
AB: "--It's 19.5--"
RH: "--Nineteen-and-a-half degrees to that line is this tetrahedral ruin!"
For more on 19.5° and Richard Hoagland, refer back to episode 26. And, while you heard over a minute of Richard talking about some of this geometry stuff, I spared you the next fifteen which is more of the same. If anyone is really really interested, feel free to contact me for the full clip.
Moving on, there's nothing to move on from. That is the evidence presented: These features look like pyramids.
Examining the Evidence
In examining that evidence, it's reasonable. Especially in low-resolution images from Mariner and Viking, these hills look pyramidal, and in these early images when contrast is especially high, they look fairly perfect because you see a nice bright side and darker sides that appear nice-'n'-smooth. And, you can reasonably draw angles and they somewhat come out to even things like 120° on a five-sided one. There will be some links in the shownotes that illustrate these.
But, that's about as far as it goes. Now-a-days, we have much better cameras, much better dynamic range (listen to Episodes 47 and 48 for that stuff), and we can see these features in much more detail.
The pyramidal shape doesn't go away, unlike the Face on Mars. But, they are no longer in any way perfect. The would-be apex is distorted, the sides are curved, the edges are wavy, and the slopes are distorted. One could simply say that these are eroded features now and that's why they're not exact. But, under the meter- and sub-meter-scale resolution that we have now, they look much more like something else.
Star Dunes / Hills / Buttes
They look like natural wind-swept features. "But that's impossible!" you might say. Others would agree with you, such as Michael Luckman: [Coast to Coast AM, February 13, 2002, starting 57:34]
Art Bell: "You know the old, 'hundred monkey' thing, is it possible that faces appear where the human mind, uh-- I mean, after all, we all pour over these photographs looking for ANYTHING at all that, that registers in our brain as not-- possibly not natural. The human mind looks for that, you're automatically looking for life or signs of life--"
Michael Luckman: "--Absolutely."
AB: "Okay, so what about that theory, then?"
ML: "There's no, no question about it. We-we've looked at th-th-th-th-th-the things on our, in things we could understand. On the other hand, unless there's something very strange about the wind on Mars that creates, uh, you know uh, not only faces repeatedly, but-but-but perfectly formed uh, uh pyramids. Uh, for example, one of the places that the-- [unintelligible] mention is the uh, is uh, an area, uh uh, called 'Elysium,' uh, which Carl Sagan had spoken about. Uh, Elysium has uh, there's some photographs that were taken by NASA that shows huge pyramids, pyramids twice as tall as what, as the height of the World Trade Center [...]. For these pyramids uh to be ... naturally formed, uh, they would have-- the wind would have had to be blowing, geologists feel, in the same direction, from three different directions, I'm sorry, at the same speed."
AB: "How uh-- yeah, well that's not pos-- well, I don't think it's possible."
ML: "I don't think it's possible, either."
Or, You'd be in the same camp as Richard Hoagland: [Coast to Coast AM, March 16, 2002, starting 2:16:19]
Richard Hoagland: "We have this object we call, 'The D&M Pyramid."
Art Bell: "It's gigantic."
RH: "It's gigantic, it's about a mile and a half on the long side, a mile on the short side--"
RH: "I call it 'D&M' after DiPietro and Molenaar back in '87, when I was writing 'Monuments' and was doing the first investigation because they actually were the two Goddard imaging guys that found it back in 1979."
RH: "And I figured they deserved a place on Mars and, alright. Now you scroll a little further down, you'll see two images of the pyramid side-by-side. The one on the left is the enhanced version, kind of contrast-enhancement, and we've got an overlay showing five sides to it. This came from my friend Erol Torun, the geomorphologist at Defense Mapping who came to me in the late '80s, and said to me, 'Hoagland, this damn thing should not exist under any geomorophological analysis I can perform, there's now way that a five-sided figure like this can exist in nature because if it was sculpted by the winds-- the wind was blowing in one direction, Art, it would remove the other side."
AB: "[...] Yeah, so, nevertheless, there it is."
RH: "So the wind would move it around, would basically give it a dome, you wouldn't get a planar object with facets."
AB: "Okay, that's clear."
There are at least two formal logical fallacies in here, the first being the argument from authority - the geomorphologist says something - and the fallacy of the single cause. The problem is that you can claim something has only one cause because that's the only thing you can possibly think of, but that's an argument from ignorance just as much as it is an argument from authority.
Think of it this way: When I did episode 90 on the Billy Meier information on Jupiter and Saturn, one of the primary issues was that Michael Horn and others were relying on press releases and other documents that came out after Meier published his information. Whether purposely or not, they then said that therefore Meier was the first to know about the information because they couldn't or wouldn't find information prior to Meier's. I then did. All because you can't find something or think of something does not mean it does not exist, which is why "proving a negative" is practically impossible except in math.
In this case, the geomorphologist and Michael Luckman, Richard Hoagland, and Art Bell are apparently not familiar with star dunes. These are very neat, very NATURAL formations that we see all the time on Earth. They are sand dunes that, from the top-down, look like stars. They are five-sided, nice smooth sides, generally regular lines between them, and usually a slightly distorted apex.
They form in places where there's a lot of sand and the wind patterns are very complex. They can form with three, four, or five or more slip faces - or sides - with arms between them. On Earth, they tend to grow upwards as the complex wind patterns force more sand to pile on top and slide down other faces, while the next day you get wind from a different direction pushing sand up a different face. Combinations of that and cementing by a teensy bit of water or just even the interlocking, irregular grains, helps them maintain their shape as they grow. We see them a lot on Earth in regions of the Sahara, the Badain Jaran desert in China, there are some in the Great Sand Dunes national monument a few hours south of me in Colorado, and the tallest ones on Earth are up to 500 meters - or about 1/3 mile - tall.
And so right away, just from these very clear, very natural features on Earth, we have to throw out that argument from ignorance, authority, and single cause. What we are left with is, can these form on Mars, and is it more likely that they are therefore natural features on Mars, or unnatural ones?
Location, Location, Location
The answer, which I'll just jump right to, is that yes, these can form on Mars. It's true, the atmosphere today is around 1% of Earth's. It's true, some of these are bigger than 500 m, the tallest one on Earth. And it's true, these are not really sand dunes, at least not today.
In Episode 59, The Face on Mars part 1, I spent a lot of time talking about the context of the region of the planet where the Cydonia mesa lies. It's in the dichotomy boundary, the area between north and south that sees several kilometers change in elevation and is embedded within chaotic terrain that is still something of an enigma, though we have a reasonable idea of a lot of the processes that probably shaped it.
And, shaped the stuff within it, like the eroded mesa that under some lighting and a low-resolution camera with fortuitous data drop-outs looks something like a face. And, others look like pyramids. It is no accident that the vast majority of pyramid-like structures that people point to on Mars are ALSO in this region of the planet. The winds there blow in different directions as they get funneled around various large, topographic structures. Features get eroded and sand-blasted.
These probably are not star dunes, though it's possible that they are fossilized star dunes. That means that they were originally formed as star dunes, got buried and turned to rock, and then the material that buried them eroded away -- we see these also on Earth. We also know that dunes on Mars grow very, very tall, with ones that we see today being up to and over a kilometer high, so that's not a problem with this model for explaining the pyramid-like features.
Another way that these can form is by erosion itself. We know that mesas and buttes form through wind and other erosion, but if you have again this complex wind that shifts directions over the course of weeks or months, you will get erosion along multiple sides and can form the three-, four-, five-, or more-sided pyramid-like features. It's not as hard as you'd expect, and as long as the wind isn't completely even in all directions - unlike what Richard Hoagland said - you will get these features with sides rather than a smooth dome.
And, it's not just wind that will do it. Despite the news constantly announcing that we've discovered water on Mars for the first time, again, we've known that there is ice locked up in many rocks on the planet, both now and in the past. Mechanically locked, not chemically, in something that we call a "rock glacier," which is something I didn't know about until about a decade ago. The rocks surrounding the ice keep it insulated and frozen, but if it gets too warm, the ice will start to melt or sublimate (turn directly into a gas), and the rock glacier will become unstable. And fall. Just as an avalanche on Earth typically creates a smooth face rather than a rounded hill, a rock glacier collapse on Mars we would expect to give us a smooth face rather than a rounded hill. Combine that with multiple slips, and changing winds, and you would not NOT expect to see these pyramid-like features.
Another reason why it's no accident that these are found near the Face is that's where people are looking. Many Face aficionados are eager to show that the Face is real by not only the questionable analysis I talked about in that two-parter, Episodes 59 and 60, but also by association. They claim that not only is the Face real, but it's in this large artificial complex with not only the face but also pyramids, a fort, and other features. Since that's where they're looking, and that's where they want to find the features, they find them.
The point of this episode is not to prove that there are no artificial pyramids on Mars. Just as I explained that Hoagland and others claiming they could NOT form naturally is like proving a negative which you can't do, me claiming that there are no artificial pyramids would also be asserting and then trying to prove a negative.
Instead, I hope that I've at least convincingly demonstrated that these features not only CAN, but they DO form naturally through various processes, and we see them on Earth so there is no excuse to claim that they can't form naturally, especially if you spend years studying this stuff.
Then, it's simply a matter of where you stand philosophically: Is it more likely that these formed by natural processes, and they look like the ones that naturally form on Earth, or is it more likely that aliens built them and they look the way they do because of erosion? For me, I go with the former.
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12:43am on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016
Very well put, especially the bit about star dunes.