Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World Hardcover – Oct 4 2002
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As Oliver Morton shows in his superb new book, Mapping Mars, Mars has clouds, winds, and shorelines. It has river valleys, mountains, volcanoes, and even glaciers. Even were it lifeless, it could support life, albeit of an almost unimaginably marginal kind. What Mars lacks is places. There are no "theres" there, nor will there be--until our feet make an impact on its soil.
Oliver Morton has a sense of place and a hunger for Mars, and a thrilling manner of communicating both. His account of our nearest neighbor's history, geology, and human potential is exhaustive. Morton touches on just about everything, from soil composition to survival techniques; from Martians to maps (maps, above all: they are his abiding subject, metaphor, and organizing principle). His artistry is to hide his daunting range of interests under a passionate and gripping human narrative: this book is about what Mars has meant, means, and may one day mean for us. And he has a wide-ranging definition of who "we" are. Like a good military historian, Morton knows to pay attention to the foot soldiers of science, as well as to the achievements of their celebrated masters. He understands how different the sciences are from each other, and how rivalries between them arise. Further, Morton understands where these people and their institutions sit in the general culture. He understands the crossover between science and science fiction, between space advocates and space fans.
All of which makes Morton's book something more than just "the story of Mars." It is, in addition, an astute study of how we go about exploring our world. --Simon Ings
From Publishers Weekly
Well-known British science writer Morton, a contributor to Wired, the New Yorker and Science, traces scientists' efforts to map and understand the surface of Mars. Because much of the planet's surface material is basalt, which is porous, Morton explains, it is very probable that water from Mars's now dry canyons long ago sank into underground aquifers and froze. Mars has often been regarded as the planet most similar to Earth, but the author describes graphically how startlingly different its topography is. Mars is a planet with mountains larger than whole American states and plains the size of Canada. Our Grand Canyon would be dwarfed by the massive erosion canyons that surprised us a decade ago with their implication that titanic floods once rushed across the planet's surface. Olympus Mons, its largest volcano, is taller than two Everests, contains more than four times the total volume of the Alps and has a circumference larger than the distance between the northern and southern tips of the home islands of Japan. Morton writes eloquently and displays a breadth of knowledge not often found in science writing. He summarizes how science fiction authors have imagined Mars as well as how pre-computer artists used airbrush techniques to depict Mars's monstrous contours. The book might have benefited from being more tightly focused, but astronomy and geology buffs will be sure to snap it up. 16 color photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
"This is a splendid book and a major achievement in the study of Mars.... A number of authors might fairly claim to have written the best Mars novel, but this is the best factual book on Mars that money can buy."
-- New Scientist, Google for online review
"When the investigator, having under consideration a fact or group of facts whose origin or cause is unknown, seeks to discover their origin, his first step is to make a guess." --GK Gilbert, Science 3(53), 1896 (which codified the method of multiple working hypotheses). Gilbert, of course, was "one of the happy generation of American geologists who...took their impressive beards and intellects to every corner of the American West."
Tidbits: Gene Shoemaker's first map of Meteor Crater, in 1957, was done for the old AEC, as part of a truly crackbrained scheme to manufacture plutonium by detonating uranium-wrapped A-bombs underground. Which, thank heavens, never got very far. Gene didn't like the idea, either, but who's to turn down funding?
No map of exotic lands is complete without exotic names, and the map of Mars is well-stocked: Noctis Labyrinthus, the Labyrinth of Night. Tithonium Chasma, Albe Patera --a volcano that occupies an area about equal to that of India --Claritas Fossae, Utopia Planita... Olympus Mons! Formerly Nix Olympica, the Snows of Olympus --and the highest mountain known to humanity. Mauna Kea, Earth's biggest volcano, would fit comfortably inside Olympus' summit caldera. OM contains some 3.5 million cubic km of rock--or the area of Texas, if excavated 8 km deep. This is one *humongous* mountain.Read more ›
Mapping Mars is concerned more with the "big picture" of Mars than the Traveler's Guide. As such its illustrations are more concerned with showing the evolution of our maps and our mental images of Mars. Part of that "big picture" is our cultural view of Mars through our science fiction, art and exploration plans. He spends quite a bit of time on these topics - but does not sacrifice the science content.
The book reads like a series of personal vignettes of the people involved in the illumination of Mars - people like Hartmann, Michael Carr, Michael Malin and Bob Zubrin.
Mapping Mars reads well and draws the reader into the personal and scientific journey of understanding Mars.
Morton shows how the struggle to understand Mars is faced with limitations. The usual path of comparison with features on Earth prove feeble and vague. Antarctica is one model, the Hawaiian volcanoes another. Neither fits sufficiently to provide valid comparisons. Mars, he urges, must be understood within its own framework. That implies the picture must be built up from a fresh foundation. The foundation has only been sketched by the various probes sent to Mars during the past generation. The interpreters of data transmitted from fly-by probes, landers and surface rovers are the heroes of Morton's account.
Mapping Mars had its origins in Berlin in 1830 when two astronomers sought to establish the length of the Martian day.Read more ›
For the better part of the book the author informs the reader on the geology of Mars along with history of mapping the surface of Mars early on with telescopes... and then later on the Mars explorer robotics that landed a few years ago.
The author's writing style is easy going and very informative. You can read the book with ease... quite frankly once you start you'll find it hard to put down, with the intellectual history and the engaging writing style you'll quickly be engrossed in the book.
Mars is cratered much like our Moon and has a most beguiling landscape. There are picture in the book that gives the reader a good sense of what the author is taking about when it comes to the geology of Mars. Only after our spacecraft reached its orbit could we see Mars for what it is, a planet with a surface area as great as that of the Earth's continents, all of it as measurable, as real as the stones in the pavement outside your door.
This book is about how ideas from our full and complex planet are projected onto the rocks of that simpler, empty one. The ideas discussed are mostly scientific, because it is the scientists who have thought hardest and best about the realities of Mars. It is the the scientists who have fathomed the ages of its rocks, measured its resemblance to the Earth, searched for its missing waters, and always wondered about the life it might be home to.
Engagingly fascinating are the two words that rightfully describe this book, enjoyable without technobable.
Most recent customer reviews
I highly recommend Oliver Morton's Mapping Mars. Not only does it frame the debate about the likelihood of life on Mars, but also does a great job of explaning our changing... Read morePublished on Jan. 31 2004
Mapping Mars covers more ground than its title would suggest. Not only does it give an enjoyable account of the attempts to describe Mars' topography, it also tells of how... Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2003
I bought this book on a whim after getting interested in Mars colonization after reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, to which Dr. Read morePublished on Jan. 21 2003 by Amazon Customer
Most of this book was actually very interesting. The author describes martian geography, the Mars Global Surveyor, and the evolution of martian maps for the first 3/4's of the... Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2003 by Amazon Customer
Mapping Mars by Oliver Morton is an excellent book! Morton takes the reader on the very human journey to map Mars from Percival Lowell to the folks planning the 2003 rovers. Read morePublished on Oct. 20 2002 by Bruce Crocker
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