On the way to the airport (my second home) had the chance to listen to an Economist podcast which featured the review of a new book entitled “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom” here the author Evgeny Morozo (Belarus-born researcher) took aim at the lens which we use to view the Internet and what it means to society. The book uses the lead example of Twitter in the Iranian up rising and the western media hype which touted it as leading the way to potential democracy in the wake of rigged presidential elections.
However the author points out this was really no more than about 60 people at the most and meant nothing in the scope of the uprising as a whole other then assisting western media to fill air time to sell advertising slots to detergent and cosmetics manufacturers. So can we believe everything we read, well that is a question as big as “Rose Bud” if you will and buried within San Simeon (where did Hurst get that name anyway). However it did get me thinking of something else in the same vein.
As a young lad growing up the night sky held the wonderment of infinity and anything which could be would be out there including the possibility of life. Now keep in mind while I still have hair, it is gray and this was long before space probes and the Hubble Telescope. In fact if I recall correctly we were only on Telestar-2 and the Echo satellites (just big balloons really). However the library was filled with books of our alter ego, planetary wise that is, who was named for the Greek god of war [Mars] due to its blood red appearance in the nights sky.
On the pages of these books one name pops out of the lists and that is Percival Lowell a wealthy east coast socialite with inherited money’s who struck out for the west to find the best views of the night sky that he could. In route he stumbled upon Flagstaff Arizona where he built one of the largest telescopes of the day with the primary purpose of studying our neighbor Mars. His tool was a powerful telescope specially made for planetary viewing with lots of magnification as you want get as up close and personal as possible right?
Well what does all this have to do with the Internet and the lens of the media? Well if you look back at some of these older books and periodicals you will find a lot about the canals of Mars or Canali’s where it was believed the Martian populous used these “waterways” for shipping and commerce. Well fast forward and we’ve gotten very up close and personal with Mars, with this we found no canals, nor liquid water or even bacterial life to ply any waterway. So what did Lowell see through his big lens? Well are you ready for this, the back of his eye. Yes that’s correct, the back of his eye and today we have a number of
rather good maps of not Mars but the back of Percival’s eye.
How did this happen, in the day cameras on telescopes weren’t common so therefore if you wanted to share what you were seeing with the world you had to sketch it by hand. So unknowing to Mr. Lowell was magnified light sources illuminate the blood vessels in the back of your eye making them visible to the retina, so if you stare long enough a bright [magnified] light source you can see them, don’t try this either it’s not good for you.
The point is Lowell swore he saw canals; however in reality he only saw himself (well at least his eye). So here the author’s point of caution is valid as while we want to believe as our minds are programmed to do so. We must also watch the “lens” which we view the world as so it seems even with the aid of magnification, our eyes can tell us lies too…