Page:Mars - Lowell.djvu/196

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MARS

still makes a desperate stand against their peculiar appearance, dubbing accounts of their straightness and duplication as sensational, whatever they may mean in such connection; for that they are both straight and double, as described, is certain,—a statement I make after having seen them, instead of before doing so, as is the case with the gifted objectors. Doubt, however, will not wholly cease till more people have seen them, which will not happen till the importance of atmosphere in the study of planetary detail is more generally appreciated than it is to-day. To look for the canals with a large instrument in poor air is like trying to read a page of fine print kept dancing before one's eyes, with the additional disadvantage that increase of magnification increases the motion. Advance in our study of other worlds depends upon choosing the very best atmospheric sites for our observatories.

It is interesting to recall, in connection with this incredulity about the canals, that precisely the same thing happened in the case of the discovery of Jupiter's satellites and with Huyghens' explanation of Saturn's ring. We are apt to imagine that our age of the world has a monopoly of skepticism. But this is a mistake. The spirit that denies has always been abroad; only in early days he was reputed to be the devil.