Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

More weird features and changes on Mars

Some strange stuff on Mars
Click for full 2020 photo.

Overview map

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, was taken on September 28, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Uncaptioned and labeled “Reticulate Bedform Change Detection on Arsia Mons West Flank,” it shows a whole bunch of strange features in addition to a change that occurred sometime in the past two years.

I think it also well illustrates in one image how alien Mars is.

The main features in this photo are what scientists have dubbed reticulate bedforms. These features, found mostly in the high elevations on the flanks of the giant volcanoes in the Tharsis Bulge to the west of Valles Marineris, are thought to be ancient dunes made of volcanic dust and debris that has solidified into an aggregate. These dunes are found with a variety of patterns.

Aggregates on the flanks are transported downslope by katabatic winds and form linear and “accordion” morphologies. Materials within the calderas and other depressions remain trapped and are subjected to multidirectional winds, forming an interlinked “honeycomb” texture. In many places on and near the volcanoes, light-toned, low thermal inertia yardangs and indurated surfaces are present.

The photo to the right appears to show all three patterns, even though it is located on the northwestern slopes of of Arsia Mons, the southernmost of the string of three giant volcanoes in the Tharsis Bulge. On the overview map to the right, this photo’s location is indicated by the white box. The black boxes indicate the location of all the pits caves that surround Arsia Mons which I have previously posted about on Behind the Black.

It is intriguing that, at least at this point, these particular reticulate bedforms on the slopes of Arsia Mons happen to be in a region where few cave pits have so far been identified. It could be that the conditions that form each are mutually exclusive. If you get pits on the slopes of Martian volcano you can’t have reticulate bedforms. Or maybe not all the pits have yet been located, or the flanks of the volcano has many more reticulate bedforms that I simply have not documented.

Either way, this particular cool image has two areas of interest, as noted by the white boxes above.

Image from October 2018 before change
Click for full October 2018 photo.

Hardened dunes with decaying tops

The first, near the top, highlights the detected change that occurred sometime in the past two Earth years. The arrows in the 2020 photo above point to the same two distinct mounds in the 2018 photo to the right. Between these mounts a large dark slope streak has appeared.

As I have previously described, slope streaks are a unique phenomenon of Mars that remain unexplained. Though they look like avalanches, they do nothing to change the topography and show no evidence of material falling downslope. Instead, they appear to be a stain that suddenly moves downward, triggered it appears by some disturbance at the top, such as a rockfall.

The second photo to the right focuses in on the larger reticulate bedforms near the bottom of the first image. Not only do they not appear to follow any pattern, one ridge has some distinct holes at its peak. On Earth such holes could be created in hardened sand when rain hits it. The sand is easily washed away, and can form pits.

There is no rain on Mars. Why this particular ridge has that collection of holes is therefore a mystery.

But then, the slope streak to the north is a mystery as well. As I concluded in my first slope streak post,

The bottom line, as noted in one paper, “The processes that form slope streaks remain obscure. No proposed mechanism readily accounts for all of their observed characteristics and peculiarities.”

Mars is strange. Mars is alien. Mars epitomizes the universe in all its glory.

That last line applies to almost everything we see on Mars, not just its slope streaks.


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Your support is even more essential to me because I keep this site free from advertisements and do not participate in corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

One comment

  • Max

    I love looking over these Mars pictures.
    Some of my observations;
    The dark streaks in the first picture have impact crater anomalies that “block” the flow of darkness (streak wetness?) appearing like “Pitts” outgassing below the holes. (I see two nearly flat impact holes that look like shotgun splatter. Unusual)

    In the more recent picture where slope streaks are gone, I could only find one streak on the edge of the picture between the two lava flows. You have to zoom in because it’s not very big, but it is dark.
    I wonder if under ground fluid, frozen, rising to the surface during a warm day. Enough to make it wet, but not enough to cause erosion. it reminds me of fine oil, that evaporates not leaving a residue.
    I doubt that it’s water, water dissolves minerals and would leave it as a crust, that appears white on the surface.

    The pits at the top of the frozen dune appears at least a dozen times in the original picture. Another extreme case, as the one that is pictured, appears in the lower left.
    I believe your descriptions are correct, a hardened surface being eaten away so the loose sand beneath can blow away. Looking at the other Sand dunes in area… what would’ve been their pointed tops are collapsed inwards forming valleys at the tops of most of the dunes. They collapsed ages ago and no longer look dramatic as the ones that catch your eye.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *