If men are from Mars, how come we can’t find them there?
“Further than the Pleiades” is a saying used by Arabs to express just how impossible a particular goal is to attain.
Mankind has always been fascinated by those bright stars up in the sky. The stars and planets have often been at the heart of inventions and innovation. Our fascination with space pushes us to search for that ultimate evidence of other life forms.
There are hundreds of websites dedicated to exploring and interpretations of “strange” phenomenon, photos and videos of shadows and images captured on the surfaces of the Moon and Mars.
From “Cat on Mars” where a rocky structure looks like a cat sitting on an outcrop, to “Dinosaurs on Mars” (yes, indeed two shadows do look like dinosaurs if outlined with a pen on Photoshop), sightings of strange objects are seemingly endless.
From specks in photos to structures with bright lights, it is quite an experience googling this area of interest. Everything you can imagine shows up, from “alien” corpses to stories of abduction by UFOs and all sorts of things. Some researchers have dedicated their whole lives to this, and have published books and theories on this.
One of the latest photos that went viral on social media was captured by Nasa’s Mars rover Curiosity using its MastCam. In it, a particular rock looks a lot like a femur, or thigh bone.
“Alien bones found”, “Life on Mars” and “We are not alone” were some of the headlines making the virtual news after the image broke cover.
But then Nasa shut down the hopes of all the space and UFO enthusiasts with its own headline: “No bones about it!”
The mission’s scientists think its shape has probably been “sculpted by erosion, either wind or water”.
Shutting down all these theories of monstrous aliens, the experts and scientists at the mission say the only “others” we may expect to be ever living out there “would be small simple life forms called microbes.”
“Mars likely never had enough oxygen in its atmosphere and elsewhere to support more complex organisms. Thus, large fossils are not likely.”
So there you have it. But who knows what future explorations will bring?
Space exploration is no small matter, with governments across the world at different stages investing heavily in the final frontiers.
The UAE is joining the space explorations and is set to launch its first unmanned probe to Mars by 2021.
“The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration,” said Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE.
Emirati investments in space technology have already exceeded Dh20 billion.
Those investments include the communications company Al Yah Satellite (Yahsat), mobile satellite company Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications, and Dubai Sat, whose second satellite was launched in November last year.
At the same time, Mars One, a Dutch non-profit foundation, promises the next “giant leap for mankind” by establishing the first human settlement on Mars in 2023.
Many of us, at some point in our childhood, wanted to be astronauts.
Back in 2006, I met and befriended one of the original cosmonauts of the Soviet Union, Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, when he was visiting Lebanon.
I recall asking him if he saw anything out there to indicate alien life form. He laughed and told me he was too busy being in awe of planet Earth and making sure he survived his historic spacewalk on March 18, 1965.
“You realise how small and insignificant you are when you out there ... so I doubt the universe just belongs to us,” he said. Until we find “hard” evidence, the speculation will continue on whether or not we are alone.
Either way, I could be persuaded to go to Mars, to be part of a chance to start a more peaceful new world. But only if I can take my cats with me, and then there will really be “Cats on Mars” footage.
Syrian refugee children in the town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley. Every time we turn around, there is a new group of refugees fleeing for their lives.
In the cafes, the talk is all about wanting an end to war
It is not an overstatement to say that the Middle East is a mess. Before we start, though, we need to remember that there are conflicts and disasters across the world, and often they go unmentioned because they are not in places of interest to the superpowers.
For now, let us focus on what is happening in this region. I’ll leave the in-depth political and historical analyses to the experts, and focus on what is being said on the ground and among regular people who, like me, are baffled by this ever-growing cancer of death and hate that seems to be engulfing the region.
“Crisis” has almost become synonymous with the Middle East.
It seems that every time we turn around, there is a new group of refugees fleeing for their lives, either from bombardment, as in Gaza, or from armed militants like the Islamic State fighters better known in the Arab world as “Daaesh”.
People are becoming refugees in their own countries, running from one place to the other, displaced several times, losing family members along the way. It has been horrible, and continues to be horrible, for hundreds of thousands of citizens across Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and Libya. It spilt over into Lebanon as hundreds had to flee their homes as battles raged on in the north. And it is not over in Lebanon, with the return of conspiracy theories as well as “civil war” rhetoric that exacerbates an already overwhelmed and overheated state.
There are so many armed groups these days that you can lose count. They get confused with each other when they are reported about and are misnamed or renamed.
But because many of them are on social media, it is like we are all sitting back, watching a movie where the bad guys are winning, posting photos of themselves killing and grinning to the camera. But the climax is yet to happen as we wait for a “hero” to show up and save the day.
The extremists – both the religious extremists and those who denounce all religion – are taking up the spotlight while the moderate voices remain quiet on the sidelines.
But you can hear them in shisha places and cafes, talking about the crisis. Most are fearful about where the Middle East is heading as groups like the Islamic State take over villages and cities, killing and pillaging, destroying homes as well as cultures and heritage on their way.
I always like to listen to the elders, as they have probably seen it all.
“It has happened before,” said one elderly Druze sheikh I met on my recent trip. He spoke of previous wars on the same lands. “The only difference is that you actually get to see it as it happens due to social media.”
Elders from other religions and sects were at the same meeting, and they all agreed: “We are always fighting, and we don’t even know why and what for.”
One of the more dramatic effects is the regularity with which families report members going missing, only for them to be found in conflict zones “doing jihad”.
Countries around the world have been trying to stop these overzealous, often very young Muslim citizens who have never even been to the Middle East. What is dangerous is to view it somehow as a “Sunni versus everyone else” war. In reality, groups like the Islamic State will kill just about anyone to create a “caliphate”.
The latest news is about a poor mother who discovered that her 10- and 11-year-old sons were taken by her Saudi ex-husband to join Islamist militants in Syria. He told her to count them as “birds in heaven”. I can’t even imagine her shock as she saw an Instagram photo of them taken in Turkey on their way to war.
They were pictured holding weapons, including an AK-47 rifle and a grenade. Do these children know who they will be fighting and why?
The bottom line is that we can’t just sit back and discuss issues like this in cafes; we have to take a more active role in weakening terrorists. Perhaps we should start by deactivating their social media, so they can’t get their message through.
Fighting back has to start somewhere.
Quelle: The National, Abu Dhabi Media's first English-language publication, has set a new standard of quality English-language journalism in the Middle East.