Life on Mars
Both fantasies of communication with intelligent aliens at interplanetary distances and fantasies of global communication titillated the collective capacity for imagining the social limits of new media. They likewise instructed collective imagination to explore the possibility of dramatic shifts in the social order in an age of communications transformed. Since laying a cable to outer space seemed unlikely, signaling schemes to strike up a wireless conversation with extraterrestrial beings received wide publicity. One suggestion was offered by Amos Dolbear, who proposed that a powerful searchlight
“such as was exhibited at the Columbian fair, having the power of millions of candles, can be directed in a dense beam and can be made intermittent; signals can thus be sent the same as from the tops of mountains. Once out of the air there would be no loss from absorption and the beam would speed on, reaching Mars in about four minutes when it is nearest to us.”¹
He added in his regular Cosmopolitan column, “The progress of Science,” in 1893 that communication with Mars would be possible “if it should chance to be peopled with intelligences as well equipped with lights and telescopes as we are.”²
¹ “Future Electrical development.” Science Siftings (London), Nov. 16, 1895, p. 77.
² Amos Dolbear, “The Electric Searchlight,” Cosmopolitan, DEC. 1893, p. 254.
- Marvin, C. (1988). When old technologies were new: Thinking about electric communication in the late nineteenth century. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 188. Sources: p. 259.