Is There Life on Mars?
A Story About ...
A Contemporary Chapter of a Story in Progress

Early chapters

Pluralism (atomism, Leucippus, Democritus (470-400 B.C.), Epicurus, Lucretius):
Principles of Mediocrity, of Uniformity, of Plenitude


  • Stories start in experience
  • Stories can be about about things one doesn't know, haven't experienced
  • Different stories about same thing
  • Stories relate to/influenced by other stories

Middle chapters

Begins with Aristotle but ... Geocentric to heliocentric world view reflecting in part new kinds of experiences
  • William Whewel (1794-1866), On the Plurality of Worlds: An Essay

    ". . . God has interposed in the history of mankind in a special and personal manner; . . . that one, having a special relation to God, came from God to men in the form of a man . . . [Consequently] what are we to suppose concerning the other worlds which science discloses to us? Is there a like scheme of salvation provided for all of them? Our view of the saviour of man will not allow us to suppose that there can be more than one saviour. And the saviour coming as a man to men is so essential a part of the scheme . . . that to endeavour to transfer it to other worlds and to imagine there something analogous as existing, is more repugnant to our feeling than to imagine those other worlds not to be provided with any divine scheme of salvation . . ."

    • The ability to make new kinds of observations may (or may not) lead to entirely new stories.
    • New kinds of observations at a minimum require new versions of older stories ... and make predictions that may become testable by new observations.
    • There is some "inertia" to story types.

    Contemporary and In Progress Chapters

    • Stories can motivate new ways of observing that make the previously unobservable observable
    • New observations suggest new stories
    • Story telling is a never-ending process?

    Mars: The Story in Microcosm

    Percival Lowell, Mars, 1895Viking I Orbiter, 1980
    Mariner 4,6,7,9 (1965-1971) orbiters

    Viking 1,2 (1976) orbiters and landers

    Global Surveyor (1996)

    Pathfinder (1997) lander and rover

    Mars Exploration Rover (2004, current and 24 January, 9 pm)
    • "Smaller" stories are influenced by and influence "bigger stories"
    • Stories always derive from observations as well as from other stories, and contain elements of the as yet to be observed?
    • Stories both influence and are constrained by observations?
    • Stories both influence and are constrained by other stories?
    • There are always multiple possible stories?
    • Stories evolve?

    Life on Mars ... elsewhere in the universe ... does it matter?

    William Sheehan, The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery, University of Arizona Press, 1996