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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Library shows Mars fact, fiction”

    Vast, dusty canyons, giant-brained Martians and lots and lots of red dirt. These are some of the common perceptions of what it may look like on our neighboring planet Mars, according to traditional fiction and newfound fact.

    Those often funny and mostly fictional images were paired with facts last night in an event titled, “”Mars: A Fictional Perspective.”” Hosted by the science-engineering library, Carla Bitter, member of the Phoenix Mars scout team, and UA alumna Dr. Gloria McMillan presented the two sides and the benefits of seeing both.

    “”We are going to explore the visions . . . and the realities of Mars through the Phoenix Mars mission,”” Bitter said. “”We have tremendous evidence that Mars was once a much more Earth-like planet. One of the great discoveries of the Phoenix Mars mission is that the polar cap, in the north pole, truly is water ice.””

    Bitter’s half of the lecture detailed the Phoenix Mars mission and the discoveries it has made on the Red Planet, while McMillan’s half detailed the futuristic imaginings, particularly those presented by acclaimed author Ray Bradbury, and what they may offer for fans of reality and science fiction alike.

    “”Astronomy and rocketry give us this big picture view of the world and of ourselves,”” McMillan said. “”But sometimes, even (those) who are engaged in science and technology get bogged down in the little details. But science fiction . . . makes us reflect on the costs and benefits, the dangers and the opportunities to dream that science and inventions offer.””

    The two hosts were paired as a way of exploring the influences of science fiction on science reality and vice versa. Bitter, an advocate for Mars education, lectured on the mission from the moment of takeoff in August 2007 to present day. McMillan, an appointed teacher at the UA and Pima Community College and an advocate of reestablishing science fiction courses, lectured on the uses of science fiction and screened a film adaptation of Bradbury’s “”Martian Chronicles.””

    “”I am very pro-science and pro-space exploration,”” McMillan said. “”But I also know that there have been precedence. Bradbury’s text is full of conscience and, presumably unconscious, parallels to what we have done on Earth. No one can be uninvolved or can afford not to consider questions of responsibility that go with such great and historic deeds (as space exploration).””

    The conclusion was simple: Both fiction and reality complement one another, and neither should be discarded as unimportant. Though McMillan and Bitter presented different views, they both agreed on the importance of science fiction for propelling scientific exploration and conversely, the importance of scientific exploration on the future of science fiction.

    “”Even if you’re not a science fiction fan, we are explorers,”” Bitter said. “”And that is what has driven us to be where we are today. Because our ancestors decided to cross that river, to go over the next mountains, to cross the ocean and to finally offload ourselves off this planet once and for all to see what’s out there, we are all explorers.””

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