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.

Baffling ridges on Mars

Baffling ridges on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image is one of my “what the heck?” photos. The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here and taken on September 3, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a strange dune field of many parallel long dunes, cross-cut by larger ridges.

Are the larger ridges dunes? Or are they some form of volcanic or tectonic ridge, which is also very typical of this region, called Tempe Terra and located in the transition zone between the southern cratered highlands and the northern lowland plains?

Or are they eskers, ridges frequently found in places that were once covered by glaciers? At 35 degrees north latitude, it would not be surprising to see glacial features here, but as far as I can tell, the full image has no obvious such features.

Based on this paper as well as a quick review of the literature, it appears that scientists tend to favor tectonic or volcanic processes for forming the larger fissures and ridges in Terra Tempe.

However, the ridges in the photograph are relatively tiny compared to the many-mile-wide tectonic wrinkle ridges often found in Terra Tempe. These small ridges are also only found in patches, generally flat low areas filled with dust and dunes. In the full image most of the terrain does not have such small ridges, and is instead covered with a rough eroded plateau interspersed with craters and depressions.

That these small ridges are only found in the flat smooth dust- and dune-filled patches is another puzzle.

Maybe they are dikes, extrusions of lava through cracks. Once again, however, why would these cracks be only found in such distinct patches?

It is unlikely (but not impossible) that these ridges are dunes, since we can see the smaller dunes climbing up their slopes, suggesting the ridges are older and more solid. While they are thus likely older bedrock, such as dikes, they could also be older larger dunes that have since solidified into rock. That the ridges do not align (as dunes would generally do because of the prevailing winds) however argues against a dune origin.

So, what do you think? Guessing by everyone is allowed, though it does pay to do some research and learn some basics about geology first so that your guesses are a bit more than mere hand-waving.

But only a bit more. And always remember, you are guessing, as are the scientists (though with greater knowledge). Until we can walk this ground all our theories about its geology are uncertain, and should not be taken on faith without some skepticism.


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  • Terrence

    My Guess is that water arrived by way of comet or wayward ice planet. The water soaked the dust and caused the the dust to expand. The ridges are expansion ridges.

  • Chris


    For a “what the heck?” I would have shown the ‘eyeball’ at the top of the full picture.

  • Chris: It’s just a crater with a shadow. I think you are perceiving it reversed (which happens sometimes), as a hill.

  • Chris

    Hi Bob,

    It was just the overall effect of the appearance of the eye and the line of whatever it is from the “pupil” that made me say “what the heck”

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