by David Talbott
May 16, 2005
Lower Credit: ESA
The greatest canyon in
the solar system, Valles Marineris on Mars, underscores the contrast
between two interpretations of the planet’s history. Now,
high-resolution images of the chasm cast new doubts on old
In recent years, no planet (apart from Earth) has received more
scrutiny than our neighbor Mars. The “planet of a thousand
mysteries” is more than an unusual member of the solar system. It
has emerged as a laboratory in space for the exploration of solar
system history. And the story it has to tell is so different from
the things we learned in school that a retreat from all prior
doctrines is now essential. Current geologic concepts, based on
terrestrial observations of volcanism, erosion, and shifting
surfaces, fail to account for the features of Mars, and the history
and geology of Mars that have been built on those concepts is
incomprehensible. But letting go of a cherished belief system often
requires a shock.
Fittingly, it is the electrical viewpoint that provides the required
“shock to the system”. The contributors to this page believe that on
the objective test of “predictive ability”—the only legitimate test
in the theoretical sciences—the electrical hypothesis will account
for the dominant features on Mars, where popular theory fails.
Often the simplest test of a new approach is to consider its most
extraordinary claim. Of all the enigmatic features on Mars, none is
more striking than Valles Marineris, the great trench cutting across
more than 3000 miles of the Martian surface. In our Picture of the
Day for April 08, 2005 “The Thunderbolt that Changed the Face of
Mars”, we suggested that Valles Marineris was created within minutes
"by a giant electric arc sweeping across the surface of
Mars. Rock and soil were lifted into space and some fell back to
create the great, strewn fields of boulders first seen by the Viking
and Pathfinder landers”.
But what will it take for planetary scientists to consider a new way
of seeing Valles Marineris? It will require a willingness to
reconsider all assumptions, without prejudice. A prejudice is an
unfounded assumption that leaves one in a state of partial
blindness. On the matter of Martian history in general, and Valles
Marineris in particular, the most powerful prejudice is an untested
supposition, the bane of space age science: the idea that planets
have moved on their present courses for billions of years. No one
should have the intellectual privilege of asserting such an idea as
dogma. The idea originated as a guess and then, in the absence of
any definitive evidence, crystallized into a doctrine held in place
only by the inertia of belief.
The second requirement is to allow for the possibility that the Sun
and planets are charged bodies so that, within an unstable solar
system, electrical arcing between these bodies may have been the
dominant force that carved surface features. Yes, this is an
extraordinary possibility, but it is also supported by an immense
library of evidence, as we intend to show in these Pictures of the
Forces external to the planet Mars have shaped its past far more
dramatically than any process in the toolkit of standard geology.
Look at the Valles Mariners as pictured above. The continental-scale
chasm lies on a bulge rising 11 km (6.8 mi) above the surrounding
plains. Did evolution of the planet in isolation produce this vast
bulge? And what of the trench itself? Traditional geology cannot
explain in a plausible way Valles Marineris! Here, for example, is
the “explanation” offered in a recent release by the European Space
“The whole canyon system itself is the result of a variety of
geological processes. Probably tectonic rifting, water and wind
action, volcanism and glacial activity all have played major roles
in its formation and evolution.”
The anomalies and exceptions to
this litany of standard geologic processes reduce the applicability
of standard theory to the point of leaving nothing that it explains.
In the electric view, the electric force raised the Tharsis bulge,
along with the surface “blisters” of Olympus Mons and its companions
to the west, and a planetary-sized electric arc cut Valles Marineris
into the bulge.
Today all but a tiny minority of geologists have dropped the idea of
creation by flooding. The most common agent currently cited is
surface spreading. But higher resolution pictures lend no credence
to this concept as well, and many high-resolution views appear to
categorically refute it. To illustrate the point we offer a close-up
view (lower image) of a small section of the western end of the
canyons of Valles Marineris—Tithonium Chasma and Ius Chasma (marked
by the white box in the context picture above). The second (lower)
picture, with a resolution of 52 meters per pixel, shows the neatly
“machined” look predicted by the electrical arcing hypothesis.
This is certainly not the appearance predicted by the popular idea
of a massive “rift” opening up on the Martian surface.
There is no evidence of lateral surface movement, and the stubby,
cleanly cut alcoves stand as clear witnesses to the removal of
material, as if by a router bit. So too, the sharply defined chain
of overlapping craters in the upper right speaks for the scooping
out and removal of material, not for rifting. Of this pattern,
predictable under the electric hypothesis, the Valles Marineris
provides many instances.
We have placed two examples
in below images:
For a time, the most plausible instance of surface spreading was
Labyrinthus Noctis, the chaotic region to the west (left) in the
upper top picture. In particular, that explanation seemed plausible in
the earlier Mariner probe image seen below.
Some scientists had
compared this region to the cracked surface of a loaf of bread as
the surface is raised and spread during baking.
But more recent pictures show something quite different.
Above we see
the same indications of cleanly cut trenches or channels now
revealed throughout Valles Marineris, though the pattern is more
chaotic and the depressions more shallow. From an electric
viewpoint, the stupendous arc that cut Valles Marineris was diffused
into secondary filaments before being quenched. As seen in numerous
counterparts on Mars, the depressions of Labyrinthus Noctis appear
as complexes of crater chains and flat valleys, cut by the same
force that created the overlapping craters elsewhere on Mars.
surface areas untouched by the arc thus remain as buttes and
surrounding plains above scalloped cliffs. The smooth surfaces above
the valleys show no evidence of rifting or of the supposed stressed
that are claimed to have "torn" the surface, just a complex of even
more shallow, flat-bottomed and often parallel grooves, a recognized
signature of electric arcing.