National Georaphic: December 2008

National Geographic (12/08)VISIONS OF MARS: Twentieth century gave birth to numerous fantasies about Mars, drawing pictures of ancient civilizations and superior minds, dying planet and horrific monsters. The magazine mentions Percival Lowell, an amateur but rich astronomer, as one of the first minds set on finding life on the red planet. His passion became contagious, when visions of new worlds transcended into the famous literary works of H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis. War of the Worlds recently caught my attention and this article reinforced the desire to submerge into the fantastic surroundings of Mars. I might also pick up Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, just because his description of brown-skinned, golden-eyed creatures with melodic voices somehow appeals to me. On an unrelated note, I’m glad to learn that rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been working on Mars nonstop for the last 57 months instead of 90 days like it was predicted. It’s amazing how science makes the most unbelievable things real.

MAN WHO WASN’T DARWIN: I’ve been interested in evolution and natural selection theories since early childhood. I remember going through bulky tomes of encyclopedias and copying noteworthy materials into my notebook. Even after so much research the only name associated with evolution for me was Charles Darwin. A man by the name Alfred Russel Wallace escaped my attention and no doubt attention of many other people. He was Darwin’s pen pal and an admirer. He travelled Malaysia back and forth for years collecting specimens of butterflies, beetles and birds of paradise. On his own Wallace came up with the idea of natural selection, the papers on which he sent to Darwin in hopes of approval. However, the co-founder of the revolutionary theory never got the same recognition as Darwin, and he probably would never be known to general public as much. The magazine contains a beautiful reproduction of the “Wallace line” that became the basis of his theory, along with bright photographs of tropical wildlife and part of  Wallace’s collection of Malayan species.

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