Friday, August 12, 2011

Science stories of October 1935,
Part 1: "No Men on Mars..."

Returning again to those clippings from the late-October 1935 issues of the St. Paul (Minn.) Dispatch1, here is the first of a trio of science-related stories that jumped out at me.

In this article, Harvard professor Loring B. Andrews declares in a public lecture that Mars is "definitely not inhabited."2 Loring states:
"The old question, 'Is there life on Mars?' has been definitely decided by recent observational evidence which shows that the atmosphere of the planet contains only one quarter of 1 per cent as much oxygen as does the earth's atmosphere at sea level.

"Human beings, such as inhabit the earth, would find life very difficult under this condition, far more extreme than the lack of oxygen at the top of high mountains."
Andrews -- surely to the delight of science-fiction writers -- does leave the door open for the possibility that there had been life on Mars in the past:
"If in the past there was greater abundance of oxygen, human beings might have dwelt there, for the temperature conditions are not too extreme and there is available a supply of water, even though it is a meager one."
The topic of water on Mars was in the news again recently. NASA issued this news release on August 4, 2011:
PASADENA, Calif. - Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration."
One final note: I find it interesting that, almost exactly three years after this St. Paul Dispatch article about Mars was published, Orson Welles sent the nation into a panic with his Halloween radio performance of "The War of the Worlds" by The Mercury Theatre on the Air.3

I'll put up the other two 1935 science stories, spotlighting telescopes and gold, as bonus posts over the next few days.

1. Previous posts to reference clippings from these Dispatch newspapers include:
2. A longer article about Andrews' 1935 Mars lecture has been archived online by The Harvard Crimson.
3. Did you know that Norman Lloyd, who was a member of Welles' Mercury Theatre, is still alive and will turn 97 in early November? Lloyd, whose career included working with Alfred Hitchcock and portraying Dr. Daniel Auschlander on "St. Elsewhere," and his wife Peggy celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on June 29, 2011.

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