SCIENCE AND INVENTION

The Call of Another World

This very striking article discusses in popular style most of the recent speculations about life on the planet Mars, and especially whether the Martians may be signalling to us.

THE LONDON MAGAZINE June 1 1907
SCIENCE AND INVENTION

The Call of Another World

This very striking article discusses in popular style most of the recent speculations about life on the planet Mars, and especially whether the Martians may be signalling to us.

THE LONDON MAGAZINE June 1 1907

The Call of Another World

THE LONDON MAGAZINE

This very striking article discusses in popular style most of the recent speculations about life on the planet Mars, and especially whether the Martians may be signalling to us.

STRANGE things were happening not long ago. For some time back, towards midnight, the wireless telegraphic stations had recorded a stange “three-point” signal, persistently repeated. After careful inquiry it was ascertained that no terrestrial station had despatched such a message at such an hour. When came, then, the mysterious call ? The three points of sound suggest the three points of light observed on the face of the planet Mars about the year 1901, and our ingenious contributor endeavors in this story-article to explain them.

Midnight. Toc-toc-toc; toc-toc-toc; toc-toc-toc. Three little strokes were heard distinctly in the silence of the Marconi station, and the drowsy operators started up, bewildered with a vague unquiet.

“Listen ! There it is again. What can it want to say? Who on earth has sent it?”

“Don’t you know your Morse code? Three dashes—that means S.”

“The needle goes on with S S S all the time, and no one can tell why. It is uncanny. Listen !”

Toc-toc-toc; toc-toc-toc!

“Yes; it is quite true! Every night about midnight it is at it. As soon as the transmitters send us S, the receiver registers it. When they are tired they stop

But at their post on the extreme point of a distant promontory, the telegraphic operators, already oppressed by the silence of the night, felt their marrows chilled by the mystery of the unknown message. For some days the three dashes had been obstinately repeated. As was known in every transmitting station throughout the world, no one had sent the call. There was, indeed, somebody who telegraphed, but that somebody was not on this earth. Whose was the little voice that called from the darkness, and transmitted its message

through the frigid immensity of interstellar space ?

Three dashes? They sugest something. In 1892 and again in 1901 the’ observers of the heavens had spoken of three points. In both years astronomers with powerful telescopes had been able to distinguish upon the planet Mars a triangle made of three luminous points, thiy to our vision, but in reality immense, the triangle having each side several hundreds of miles long. The three lights stood out white against the red hue of the planet. They had not formerly been observed ; and their regular disposition gave birth to the supposition that they might be artificial.

Three dashes signify S in the Morse alphabet, but In the telegraphic practice they also mean “Are you there?” “May I begin ?” or “Attention : a message follows

Perhaps Mars sent the three signals announcing the parting of a curtain which had been drawn since the beginning of time !

Are we, then, to give indifference for answer ? Shall we repel these fardistant friends—kinsmen by our common intelligence—who have made overtures to us? If the Martians seek to enter into relations with us, shall we refuse because they are not of our world ?

Mars is the first of the superior planets—that is, of those whose distance from the sun is greater than our own. She possesses an atmosphere of which the composition, studied under the spectroscope—that marvellous instrument which detects the elements by the light which they emit—is similar to that of our earth. It was probably because of her blood-red hue that the ancients consecrated Mars to the god of war, and that Mr. H. G. Wells peopled her with hideous and ferocious monsters.

Her diameter is half that of the

earth, and her volume is therefore only one-seventh. She resembles a Tangerine orange, to which the earth compares as the fruit from Seville. When in her course around the sun she approaches us to the nearest point she is 35,000,000 miles off, and the most distant point in her orbit is 250,000,000 miles away. These are the authorative figures of such high value fail to convey their significance to the human mind. They are approximate, and are correct within, perhaps, about 100,000 miles—within a “straw,” as the astronomer Lalande is reported to have said.

The Martian day has about the same length as our own: 24 hours 39 minutes 23 seconds. The planet takes a little over 686 days to make her orbit round the sun, so that her seasons are about twice as long as ours are. The atmosphere of Mars contains much water-vapour. Seas have been observed, and, at the Poles bundance of ice, which diminishes under the Summer heat. The variations of temperature are great. Mars receives only half as much heat as we do from the sun. The sun of the Martians is a celestial disc only half as large as ours, and the night is illuminated by two moons smaller than our own—Deimos and Phobos.

One pound weight on earth would weigh only about six ounces on Mars. The average man is able to carry upon his back just about as much as he weighs. If he were in Mars he could carry three times as much—say, about five hundred weights.

Mars, under the telescope, shows a clearly defined disc of a red color, and having patches of more or less bright. The green patches are the sea, and the others distinctly red are the continents, which, contrary to those of our earth, are much more extensive than the sea. Finally, the most brilliant parts are the ice-covered Polar regions and the floating clouds. The atmosphere of Mars is more transparent than ours, and her firmament is of a clear and brilliant azure.

The waters of Mars are widely scattered, being confined to inland seas which touch hands by long arms— sometimes curved, but more often almost straight—which cut up with sombre lines the bright face of the planet, as lead divides the glass panels of a cathedral window. These lines form an intricate pattern of rough symmetry which does not seem to have been the work of Nature. Such a regularity is probably evidence of the work of the Martian man ; and for a long time observers of Mars have been inclined to attribute these lines as canals scooped by the inhabitants to meet the needs of their civilization.

Mars, then, has conditions analog» ous to those of earth, conditions, which, according to our scientists, are necessary and sufficient for the support and development of life. The atmosphere is continually renewed and freshened by the great air-currents which pass from one side to the other, the soil has the water necessary for fertilization, and the heat imparted by the sun is sufficient for human needs.

M. Camille Flammarion, in his book “Uranie,” supposes that the Martians are greatly our superiors, both intellectually and physically. They possess senses unknown to us, including one that reads the thoughts of others without the necessity of communication by spoken word. Their bodies are similar to ours, but sublimed, made from finer material, free from the base need for food.

They have six limbs, so to speak— two arms, two legs, and an excellent pair of wings with which they fly through space when they wish.

In Summer they pass the time around the cooler regions of the Poles : in Winter they prefer to be near the equator. Unhampered by the need to perform any of the vital functions necessary to our life, they devote themselves to intellectual pursuits. They are, in a sense, angels. The higher animals on the planet Mars—who, according to the brilliant Frenchman, rank in intelligence with Man—(we are grateful for the compliment) — perform all the necessary work.

“Here,” said a Martian to M. Flam-

marión at an imaginary interview, “one eats nothing, has always eaten nothing, and always will eat nothing. The organs nourish themselves, renewing their molecules by a simple process of respiration as do your terrestial trees, of which each leaf is a little stomach. You—you have blood coursing through limbs. Your stomachs are gorged with victuals. Do you think that, with the gross organs which you possess, you can have healthy, pure, and noble ideas—or, I may say, if you will pardon my frankness —ideas of any sort?”

But if the Martians are the ethical beings that M. Flammarion would have them, free from the anxieties of material life, they would be content with their wings as agents of transport, and would be fools to trouble to sink the innumerable canals (some of which are 3,000 miles long and i2o miles wide,) which would serve no conceivable purpose, as they would have no use for commerce. Therefore, if there are, indeed, Martians— and there probably are—they are without doubt, more civilized than we, but still concern themselves with material affairs. No one would construct gigantic works like these canals merely for a pastime. In a world where only ideas require exercise, the inhabitants leave the seas and the land as Nature made them.

With a developed system of irrigation, Mars has a luxuriant vegetation in which red colors predominate, instead of the beautiful greens of our fields and woods. Some authorities suggest that the singular phenomenon of the doubling of the canals, which generally appears towards the end of the Martian Spring, which be believe to be the season of floods, is due to the rapid apeparance of vegetation on the ground fertilized by the retreated waters. But then why does this vegetation appear only one one side of the canals?

One may then suppose that the grass and the foliage of Mars are red. M. Flammarion suggests the existence of insects as large as birds, and he pictures sweet, soft landscapes under a brilliant sky and a clear atmosphere. Everywhere are deflected wondrous colors from floating vapors, and flowers enormous and brilliant carpet the fertile lands. The thin air transmits harmonies unknown on our mundane sphere.

A prominent American medium pretends that he recently made a tour of inspection to the red planet, while numerous witnesses attest to the trance into which he plunged himself before making the experiment. He alleges that he had difficulty in breathing as he traversed the ether. He was almost roasted as he passed in proximity to a fiery meteor ; then he almost froze in the regions of intense cold. Having alighted upon the summit of a Martian mountain, he saw the inhabitants beckon him. He is precise in his description :

“There are two sorts of Martians— giants, who are four times as large as man, and shaggy in apearance, wearing no clothes, and possessing voices of frightening harshness, and the second variety are a sort of creeping men, who are able, like flies, to walk up perpendicular walls. They have eyes at the sides of their heads like horses, and in place of noses, have merely holes in their cheeks. They live among animals who bear no resemblance to ours, and who are red, green, and yellow.” This remarkable tourist, Leyson by name, is said to be a serious individual of fifty-four. He claims to have made his extraordinary voyage three times, and has dreamed the same things each time. He has begun to instruct nine mediums, whom he proposes to take with him on his next excursion !

We may speculate a bit. But since many wise men held that we must believe that Martians exist, although it is difficult to decide how they look, how they act, and how they dress, is it too daring a suggestion that we should attempt to reply to the messages they seem to be sending us? How shall we set about it? Several systems have been proposed. That put forward most frequently is to erect on several points of the earth’s surface, and widely apart, powerful elec-

trie lights on a geometrical scheme, and to make these lights flash whenever the signs came from Mars. We should then, if the Martians noticed and replied to our signals, have proof of their existence.

Perhaps the universal brotherhood of man, in a wider sense than we yet comprehend may finish by establishing interstellar relations and by achieving a grand common fraternity at present far distant.