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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 31/05/2001If you look south late at night at the moment, you'll see a striking red light in the sky. That's Mars, which is at its most viewable for over a decade: peer at it through binoculars and you'll see surface features, perhaps -- if you're lucky and it's a clear night somewhere dark -- even the polar caps.

Thursday
31/05/2001 If you look south late at night at the moment, you'll see a striking red light in the sky. That's Mars, which is at its most viewable for over a decade: peer at it through binoculars and you'll see surface features, perhaps -- if you're lucky and it's a clear night somewhere dark -- even the polar caps. The reason it's so visible is that it's at its closest for over a decade, so make the most of it. NASA is, with yet another Martian probe on the way: the European Beagle II is going later, with art from Damian Hirst on its outside to calibrate the cameras and a short song from Blur on it to... to... well, at least it's not S Club 7. However, Mars' proximity appears to correspond to a sudden upsurge in nutters online. My favourite haunts are peppered with high-grade poisonous loons, seemingly sprung from nowhere and claiming such unlovely theses as the Holocaust never happened, only white heterosexual American males are the legitimate Masters of the Universe (how come these Ubermensch can never spell?) and more besides. As an example of mass hysteria, it's of anthropological interest -- as a pleasant surprise every time I log on, it's not that much cop. But is it due to Mars? Have the aliens read War of the Worlds and decided to drop our species' IQ by fifty points before beetling over? If I were a conspiracist or astrologically biassed, I'd probably be writing a best-seller by now... but then I'd turn into one of those slavering clowns. Not that it's not tempting -- it must be fantastic to be right all the time. Hell, some of the time would be nice.