The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

Deserts on Mars and an old TRC essay.

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I wrote an essay a few years back about deserts that I am particularly fond of, which considers the notion of deserts on Mars. That essay opens:

 Deserts frighten me. I come from the Midwest, and with the exception of the anomaly in Wisconsin, we have no desert; we have trees and grass in abundance. As a natural landscape, deserts push against the forests I am familiar with and do not make sense beyond a raw, rudimentary notion of scarcity. I’ve been in deserts and I can not see them clearly; I want a way to see the desert clearly. With this hope in mind, I have been turning to the Encyclopedia of the Solar System. My human view may be too intimate. How does the place look from space? Discussing the terrestrial geomorphic process of weathering, the Encyclopedia reads:  “Aeolian, or fluvial, transport of fine material can only occur if a source of fine material is available to be transported.” Weathering is the process that produces fine material for transport. As consolidated materials are broken down into fine materials via weathering, the fine material is moved throughout the terrestrial landscape via the fluvial and aeolian transport systems.
Or, sand is moved by wind and water.

Is that it? Sand, wind, water. Is there something to fear here? The Encyclopedia relates that such Aeolian transport of grains on Mars provides “important information on current wind regimes and on the constitution of fine material based on observations and modes of terrestrial dune morphologies.” Those words don’t mean much to me, but I learn there is desert on Mars, and the prospect of alien deserts, like terrestrial ones, is frightening. The cosmic view, after all, cares little for my dread.

I thought of it today as I made the morning blog round-up and landed on a Bad Astronomy post about the dunes of Mars. It included this stunning picture which in my mind accompanies well that old essay.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Not only does the image itself address content of the essay, but the blue frost on the sand dunes of the red planet seems to coincide well thematically, and thus I thought I would package them together. You know, for my own self-promotion.


Written by Christopher ZF

February 27, 2012 at 12:00

Posted in Personal Entry

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