Canals of Mars

Please join us on January 6, 2020 at 7PM at the Santa Fe Basque restaurant for a discussion of modern science and the Canals of Mars.

The Canals of Mars are a cultural icon.  Bradbury wrote about them in the Martian Chronicles, as did Heinlein and Burroughs in their epic fantasies.  But there are no Martian canals.  The science underlying the discovery of these nonexistent icons, especially at the great Lowell Observatory, is explored in this presentation.  We show that the Canals are the result of human psychology, specifically in the realms of individual differences, Gestalt reconfiguration, and sociocognitive factors such as cognitive dissonance, rather than the result of physical reality on the red planet. This can clearly be seen in the research of Douglass at the great Lowell Observatory, and in recent research in which we at the California State University, Fresno, showed that an average of 30% of modern human beings saw nonexistent features and structures on a planetary stimulus somewhat like Mars if we set the experimental task up right.  The canals existed in the mind, not on Mars, and the importance of this fact is discussed in terms of our current understanding of how the mind influences scientific observation and interpretation.

Professor Matthew J. Sharps teaches cognitive and forensic cognitive science at California State University, Fresno.  He has published extensive in representation theory and the psychology of law enforcement, and is currently working on the application of forensic principles to observation and interpretation in the sciences.

Who: Professor Matthew Sharps, Department of Psychology, Fresno State

When: Monday, January 6, 2020 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N. Maroa Ave, Fresno, CA 93704

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