Who Discovered Mars, Anyway? A Look Back at the History of the Red Planet

Mars, Bild: NASA
Who discovered Mars? That’s a trick question: Because the planet is visible to the naked eye, humans have been watching our rusty neighbor for thousands of years, and there’s no way to track down the name of the long-dead observer who first noticed its reddish glow.

By Meghan Bartels | SPACE.com

But just because we’ll never be able to give that sharp-eyed human a name doesn’t mean there’s nothing interesting to learn about the history of observing Mars.

Mars, like the other planets visible without a telescope, has caught people’s eyes for its unusual movement against the background constellations. Cultures from the Maya to the Chinese, and from the Aboriginal Australians to the Greeks, left observations of its wandering path across the sky. [Mars at Opposition 2018: How to See It and What to Expect]

That said, they didn’t know what Mars was — it was just a bright light that didn’t behave in quite the same way as the other bright lights did. „These [planets] of course never were regarded, as they are now, as their own separate worlds,“ Anthony Aveni, who studies ancient astronomy in Central and South America and who retired last year as a professor at Colgate University, told Space.com.

Early observers of Mars also prioritized different types of observations of the planet than we do today. Modern astronomers focus on the sidereal year, the time it takes Mars to orbit the sun — about 687 days. But for centuries, Aveni said, that wasn’t the number sky-minded people associated with Mars. „They recognize periodicities and movements that we don’t pay any attention to,“ he said.

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Indonesien – Ende eines islamischen Musterstaates

Verschleierte Frau in Jakarta Quelle: AFP
Der weltgrößte muslimische Staat galt lange als Beispiel für Toleranz. Aber es erscheint paradox: Seit das Land eine Demokratie wurde, sind die Islamisten auf dem Vormarsch. Die Fanatiker waren gut vorbereitet.

Von Clemens Ludwig | DIE WELT

Wenn Muslime in Europa, die einen toleranten und liberalen Islam propagieren, gefragt werden, wo es selbigen gibt, lautet die Antwort: Indonesien. Mit seinen 240 Millionen Einwohnern und 85 Prozent Muslimen ist Indonesien der größte islamische Staat – und der einzige, in dem die großen Weltreligionen gleichgestellt sind.

Das beinhaltet den Bau von Gotteshäusern und Religionsunterricht für alle, Glaubenswechsel in jede Richtung, Gesetze ohne Scharia. Und in den Metropolen existiert sogar eine offene Homosexuellenszene.


In honor of Saint Teresa

Bild: theaustralian.com.au
Bild: theaustralian.com.au
Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible God.

By Sam Harris

Countless children have been unlucky enough to be born in so dark an age, when ignorance and fantasy were indistinguishable from knowledge and where the drumbeat of religious fanaticism kept perfect time with every human heart. In fact, almost no culture has been exempt from this evil: the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Canaanites, Maya, Inca, Aztecs, Olmecs, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Teutons, Celts, Druids, Vikings, Gauls, Hindus, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavians, Maoris, Melanesians, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Balinese, Australian aborigines, Iroquois, Huron, Cherokee, and innumerable other societies ritually murdered their fellow human beings because they believed that invisible gods and goddesses, having an appetite for human flesh, could be so propitiated. Many of their victims were of the same opinion, in fact, and went willingly to slaughter, fully convinced that their deaths would transform the weather, or cure the king of his venereal disease, or in some other way spare their fellows the wrath of the Unseen.

In many societies, whenever a new building was constructed, it was thought only prudent to pacify the local deities by burying children alive beneath its foundations (this is how faith sometimes operates in a world without structural engineers). Many societies regularly sacrificed virgins to ward off floods. Others killed their first-born children, and even ate them, as a way of ensuring a mother’s ongoing fertility. In India, living infants were ritually fed to sharks at the mouth of the Ganges for the same purpose. Indians also burned widows alive so that they could follow their husbands into the next world. Leaving nothing to chance, Indians also sowed their fields with the flesh of a certain caste of men, raised especially for this purpose and dismembered while alive, to ensure that every crop of turmeric would be appropriately crimson. The British were actually hard pressed to put an end to these pious atrocities.

In some cultures whenever a nobleman died, other men and women allowed themselves to be buried alive so as to serve as his retainers in the next world. In ancient Rome, children were occasionally slaughtered so that the future could be read in their entrails. Some Fijian prodigy devised a powerful sacrament called “Vakatoga” which required that a victim’s limbs be cut off and eaten while he watched. Among the Iroquois, prisoners taken captive in war were often permitted to live among the tribe for many years, and even to marry, all the while being doomed to be flayed alive as an oblation to the God of War; whatever children they produced while in captivity were disposed of in the same ritual. Certain African tribes have a long history of murdering people to send as couriers in a one-way dialogue with their ancestors or to convert their body parts into magical charms. Ritual murders of this sort continue in many African societies to this day.

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Hans Joas: Westen hat kein Monopol auf Menschenrechtsidee

Hans Joas, 2014, Bild: wikimedia.org/CC BY-SA 3.0
Wesentliche Autoren der UN-Grundrechtecharta von 1948 seien ein Chinese und ein christlicher Araber gewesen, erinnert der Freiburger Religionssoziologe Joas im Deutschlandfunk-Interview


Der deutsche Sozialphilosoph Hans Joas will dem Westen nicht das Exklusivrecht auf die Entwicklung der Menschenrechte zubilligen. Wesentliche Autoren der UN-Grundrechtecharta von 1948 seien ein Chinese und ein christlicher Araber gewesen, sagte der Freiburger Religionssoziologe am Montag im Deutschlandfunk. Der Text sollte nach den Vorstellungen der Autoren gerade nicht Produkt einer westlichen Tradition sein. Joas kritisierte zugleich, dass viele Menschen zu Abstrichen bei den Menschenrechten bereit seien, wenn es zu Konflikten etwa mit der nationalen Sicherheit komme.

Bei der Entstehung von philosophischen, religiösen und ethischen Vorstellungen über die Menschheit könne der Westen keine Monopolstellung beanspruchen, sagte Joas. Auch im Buddhismus und Konfuzianismus gebe es solche Ideen. Der Philosoph wandte sich auch gegen Vorstellungen, es gebe eine klare Linie des Denkens in dieser Frage von der griechischen und römischen Antike über Juden- und Christentum bis zu den internationalen Menschenrechtsabkommen im 20. Jahrhundert: Zwar habe im 18. Jahrhundert in Europa und Nordamerika eine Transformation religiöser und philosophischer Ethiken in staatsbürgerliche Rechte und erste Menschenrechtserklärungen stattgefunden, erläuterte er. Im westlichen Verständnis im 18. Jahrhundert sei die Verankerung von Menschenrechten aber ohne Weiteres mit der Institution der Sklaverei vereinbar gewesen.