Page:Mars - Lowell.djvu/207

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If lines be drawn haphazard over the surface of a globe, the chances are ever so many to one against more than two lines crossing each other at any point. Simple crossings of two lines will of course be common in proportion to the sum of an arithmetical progression; but that any three lines should contrive to cross at the same point would be a coincidence whose improbability only a mathematician can properly appreciate, so very great is it. If the lines were true lines, without breadth, the chances against such a coincidence would be infinite, that is, it would never happen; and, even had the lines some breadth, the chances would be great against a rendezvous. In other words, we might search in vain for a single instance of such encounter. On the surface of Mars, however, instead of searching in vain, we find the thing occurring passim; this a priori most improbable rendezvousing proving the rule, not the exception. Of the crossings that are best seen, all are meeting-places for more than two canals.

To any one who had not seen the canals, it might occur that something of the same improbability would be fulfilled by cracks radiating from centres of explosion or fissure. But such a supposition is at once negatived by the uniform breadth of the lines, a uniformity impossible in cracks, whose very mode of production necessi-