Two Weeks on Mars
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One's visual memory and facility with mental images clearly enter in. People who are "hyper-imagic," like the German perceptual psychologist Titchener and, presumably, most visual artists, have an obvious advantage over people who are more verbally-minded, like William James and, one suspects, Lowell, who had weak imaging abilities. There can be no doubt that when confronted with a bewilderingly detailed and nuanced disk of planetary details, imaging ability is not the least relevant of the "engineering" features of the mind, and serves both as a memory aid and as a computational tool.

These observations illustrate R.L. Gregory's point quoted above: drawings represent a belief in what the object is really like. This was for us the profound insight. Historically, there were two schools of Mars observers. The first group, beginning with Schiaparelli, approached the planet as an object to be known, categorized, and named - indeed, the meticulous Italian observer set about drawing a map that fixed the features with micrometric precision and proceeded to cast them into hard and sharp outlines. It was also no accident that he was also the deviser of the wonderful set of names for the planet. Lowell once remarked that to name a thing is the next best thing to creating it. Lowell was also someone who approached Mars from a literary and mathematical perspective rather than, primarily, as a visual feast - he represented as something to be known rather than as something to be seen. These observers were concerned with boundaries and categories and the names to be applied to specific features and thus transformed it into a literary artifact. Literary men, they recreated Mars in their own image -- or rather lack of image! They depicted it as a blueprint and an outline and a plan. Obviously, Schiaparelli - abetted by color-blindness - and Lowell had extraordinarily sensitive line-detectors. Faced with the sudden appearance of a feature at the threshold of vision, they had to decide what it was they saw - if anything - and their typical response was, "a line."

Admittedly - and this is important - Schiaparelli himself was aware that the schematic forms he gave to the Martian surface did not represent the planet realistically, as it actually appeared. His intention was to produce maps; he did not aim to create realistic paintings of the Martian landscape.

Lowell, on the other hand, seems to have taken what were intended as outlines - schematic diagrams - rather too literally. His tendency was to see Mars as a flat object, like a map, rather than a globe or a landscape; a tendency brought out by the fact that he and later astronomers regarded Mars as a world of little surface relief. In the telescope, Mars does appear rather as a small flat disk rather than a globe, and when it is closest to the Earth, near opposition, it is, like the Full Moon, viewed under the excessively glary and flattening illumination of high sun. It appears like a cardboard cutout, not a world of depth - of rotundity - of topographic relief.

Strangely, Lowell even seems to have tended to view terrestrial landscapes as flat and maplike. At least this is suggested by the following passage of his 1891 book Noto: An unexplored corner of Japan, where he is describing the view from the summit of the Arayama Pass:

"Panoramic views are painfully plain. They must be mappy at best, for your own elevation flattens all below it to one topographic level. Field and woodland, town or lake, show by their colors only as if they stood in print; and you might as well lay any good atlas on the floor and survey it from the lofty height of a footstool. Such being the inevitable, it was refreshing to see the thing in caricature. No pains, evidently, had been spared by the inhabitants to make their map realistic. There the geometric lines all stood in ludicrous insistence; any child could have drawn the thing as mechanically."

It does seem, in retrospect, that the canal system was generated, or at least perpetuated, as the result of a confusion of categories: replacing landscapes with maps, then turning around and interpreting the maps too literally, as if they were meant to be naturalistic representations of landscapes.

Very different was the second school, whose father-figure was Nathaniel Green, the British astronomer who was a professional artist and who gave lessons in drawing to Queen Victoria. While Schiaparelli was producing his map of the planet in 1877, Green was in Madeira approaching the planet as one might approach a landscape in finding a meadow and sitting down to draw it. Set Schiaparelli's map next to Green's, and one sees the difference immediately. It is hard to believe one is regarding the same planet. Rev. T. W. Webb, a contemporary of both who commented on the astronomical scene in Nature, wrote:

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