On from the face on Mars
The "face" on Mars seems to have disappeared, which must come as a great relief to NASA. In 1993 we reported that Mike Malin, principal investigator on NASA's Mars Observer camera, complained that he was spending a quarter of his valuable time responding to conspiracy theorists. Publication of high-resolution photos of what turned out to be a very ordinary hill obviously helped free up his time. But where have those conspiracy theorists gone?
(Via The Anomalist.)
The Face isn't just a hill anymore, folks. It's an ordinary hill. And not only is it ordinary, it's very ordinary. (Is it just me, or is this protesting just a bit too much?)
This mini-article goes on to get down and dirty with the usual "debunking" tricks, wiping out claims of ruins on Mars and the possibility of intelligent handiwork on Iapetus by skewering Richard Hoagland. Which leads to the rather surprising insight that Hoagland, far from being an enemy of orthodox science, is actually extraordinarily useful to mainstream skeptics.
Critics of exo-archaeology and planetary SETI need a bad guy to attack when the evidence itself is ambiguous, and Hoagland's all-too-frequent wackiness lends him to lifetime "straw man" status; any mystery he's addressed -- no matter how genuinely compelling -- can be discarded because he's dared to sell copies of "The Monuments of Mars."
It's a wonderfully efficient system. It works. Of course, it's based on a tissue of misconceptions and falsehoods, but who has time for details?