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No. 5: November 1978

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Petrol channels on mars?

The many channels on Mars closely resemble terrestrial river beds. But Martian models that assume water to have been the eroding agent encounter difficulties, because Martian gravity is too weak to hold the hydrogen when water is dissociated by solar radiation. A better bet, say Y.L. Yung and J.P. Pinto, is liquid hydrocarbons; i.e., petrol. Starting with a methane atmosphere, at 0.1 earth's atmospheric pressure, the natural loss of hydrogen would lead to the polymerization of hydrocarbons and eventual condensation. "Petrofalls" from this atmosphere could cover the Martian surface to a depth of one meter and lead to heavy erosion.

(Anonymous; "Martian Surface in Good Spirits," New Scientist, 79:19, 1978.)

Comment. There is an obvious connection here to the long-debated origin of terrestrial petroleum and, to be complete, Velikovsky's ridiculed claim of ancient terrestrial "petrofalls"!

From Science Frontiers #5, November 1978. 1978-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987