Saturday, November 15, 2008

1897: A Trip to Venus

This is from the book A Trip to Venus, by John Munro, written in 1897.
You can read the book on-line for free, or download it, at the Project Gutenburg site. A fantastic site by the way, that offers thousands of books in the public domain.

"What strikes you as the likeliest of these notions?"

"Mountain peaks catching the sunshine."

"Might it not be the glare of a city, or a powerful search-light--in
short, a signal?"

"Oh dear, no," exclaimed the astronomer, smiling incredulously. "The
idea of signalling has got into people's heads through the outcry raised
about it some time ago, when Mars was in 'opposition' and near the
earth. I suppose you are thinking of the plan for raising and lowering
the lights of London to attract the notice of the Martians?"

"No; I believe I told you of the singular experience I had some five or
six years ago with an old astronomer, who thought he had established an
optical telegraph to Mars?"

"Oh, yes, I remember now. Ah, that poor old chap was insane. Like the
astronomer in _Rasselas_, he had brooded so long in solitude over his
visionary idea that he had come to imagine it a reality."

"Might there not be some truth in his notion? Perhaps he was only a
little before his time."

Gazen shook his head.

"You see," he replied, "Mars is a much older planet than ours. In winter
the Arctic snows extend to within forty degrees of the equator, and the
climate must be very cold. If human beings ever existed on it they must
have died out long ago, or sunk to the condition of the Eskimo."

That last line is, unfortunately, is an example of the common idea of man's whiteness supreme over all, but, there you go.

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